20th September 2014, Saturday…..Day(10) Sumur-Leh 116 km
It had been an amazing day, the previous day. I felt as if I was roaming in a fairyland beginning with my stay in Diskit, Diskit Monastery, 32 feet high imposing Maitreya Buddha, amazing road to Hunder, cold desert at Hunder and fairy like ride on double humped bactrian camel, the vast expanse of Shyok Valley, the emerald green bluish waters of Shyok, greenery all around, and a chance encounter with red fox on the road.
Stay at AO Guest House was amazing. Got up to an amazing view from my room which was on the first floor of the guest house. The guest house has a beautiful garden, apple orchard, lots of flowers, a hammock, camping site and chairs for sitting. I went walking in the garden. Stanzen helped me with nice hot cup of tea. Little photo session and I got ready for the day’s ride. Stanzen cooked wonderful paranthas for me. Tsewang gave me enough blood apples for the road.
After saying goodbye to my wonderful host at Sumur I rode back and around the village to reach at this beautiful monastery perched little above the village. The monastery named Samstem Ling Gompa was built in 1841. The Gompa is home to over a hundred Gelugpa monks, aged between seven and seventy.
From Sumur monastery I rode to Sand Dunes Leisure Park, Sumur. The road was all gravel and around one kilometer down the valley towards Nubra River. The road was lined with ripe orange Lehberries. I plucked few of those getting stung with sharp thorns in the process. Berries tasted heavenly though. The park was vast, beautiful, criss crossed by many water streams and a great landscape. There was a hut, bench for sitting and a beautiful bridge on the softly meandering stream. There was no one around except a shepherd and few sheep grazing on the grass.
I walked around the park, sat near the stream, played with the sheep and chatted with the shepherd. To my surprise the shepherd was busy talking to someone over his cell phone most of the time I was around. The vastness of the valley, grassland spread miles together, meandering streams, grazing sheep, sand dunes, the solitary bridge and bare mountains all around…it was an amazing setting. A kind of setting to get me lost. I stood there, sat for a while, walked a little as if I belong to all this. As if I was a part of all this. It was such a joy all around. I felt like staying there forever.
After about an hour or so I returned back to reality and rode back on the main road to Sumur. From Sumur I rode to t-junction from where one road bifurcates to Diskit, Hunder and Turtuk. The ride was amazing. Weather was pleasant. sun was out. Sky was clear azure. Road was tarred and devoid of any traffic. Rivers Shyok and Nubra were meandering along merrily. Landscape was just amazing. Perfect setting for a memorable ride.
While riding after the t-junction I saw a smart man clicking pictures near shyok river. I also saw a parked car and a lady sitting inside. I smiled and asked the man where are they from and what are they doing here. The man smiled back and told me that they have driven all the way from Mumbai to explore the remote areas of Ladakh. I was impressed. I always wanted to drive in these areas with my wife which has not happened so far. After meeting them I got inspiration and hope that one day this dream of mine will materialise. I asked them to pose for me as I wanted to capture the moment for the times to come. From their body language and aura I knew we are going to be friends forever.
Riding merrily through the beautiful landscape and after meeting some wonderful people, It was wonderful feeling reaching Khardung la one more time, the 2nd time within a span of two days. I took this opportunity to click few pictures and write down my goals for the next five years. I went inside the army cafeteria ordered black tea and wrote down ten goals which I am going to achieve in the next five years. Sitting on one of the highest mountains passes of the World I reviewed my life and this ride so far and felt happy that most of the goals I had thought and written about have come true. This gave me belief that whatever I was writing now is sure to come true in the times to come.
After having an amazing time at Khardung La top I rode down towards Leh. The ride continued to be wonderful. Just near Leh we were stopped by some locals saying that it was ‘chakka jam’ in Leh and that all vehicles would be allowed to move after 5pm. It was 4pm, still some time to 5pm. I took this opportunity to walk around and observe other bikers, I chatted with few of them. Some of them have become my friends now. I noticed one particular group with West Bengal registration numbers. I felt humbled to find that all those bikers have come all the way from Kolkata to explore Ladakh on their own bikes.
We were allowed to leave at 5pm. Although the place I stayed in earlier was good one too still I wanted to find new one. After a little effort I was able to find a wonderful place to stay. In the evening I went riding through the lanes of Ladakh to check for the night life. I noticed few restaurants at Changspa Road which kept open till quite late. I went inside one of those. Music was playing on, lights were dim and people of diverse nationalities were chatting merrily.
Being alone I sat at one of the corners of big open restaurant. I ordered a bottle of beer and some snacks. It was wonderful watching happenings around me and contemplating on the ride and life so far. Being solo helps, there is a continuity of your thoughts. There is no one around to interrupt you. After about an hours nice time I ordered for the dinner which was nice one. After enjoying the dinner I returned back to my guest house.
Wrote few notes in the diary, called back home and went to sleep.
This ends the 10th day of my Solo Bike Ride to Ladakh 2014!!!