14th September 2015 (Monday)….Padum…24 km
It was very cold in Padum that night. Even two layers of blankets over sleeping bag could not stop me from shivering. Still had some sleep inside the car parked at tourist bungalow in Padum (Zanskar). It was not even dawn but the urgency to pee made me beat the cold as I alighted from the car and relieved myself.
Inspected the surroundings and found it to my liking. Except chilling cold everything looked good. I had exhausted drinking water the previous night, so walked into Padum bazar in search of water. Found a government hospital open nearby and filled a bottle from the tank placed outside the gate.
Came back and inspected the flat tyre. Found a big hole in the tyre. It felt like beyond repair. Still I tried filling air with the help of electronic pump but of no avail. Walked to a tea shop nearby and became the first customer of the shop that day. Tea shop owner was a nice man. He told me lot of things about Zanskar and Padum besides directions to tyre repair shop. After tea I went walking around Padum to explore the area and locate the tyre repair shop.
The tyre repair shop was around a kilometer or so from the main bazar. On enquiry came to know that the tyre repair man was from a neighbouring village and shall open the shop at around 10am.
After loitering around for some time I went back to the tyre repair shop. It was 10am but the shop was still closed. I was waiting when a man appeared on the scene. He asked me if I needed any help. On learning about the tyre and inspecting the tyre he advised me that the tyre was beyond repair and that it would be better to change with stepney. I told him that I did not know how to change the stepney. He told me it was easy and asked me to bring jack from the diggy. Then he told me to place the tyre on a small stone.
In the meanwhile someone called him and after telling me that he would be back he left the scene. I waited for him and the tyre man for some more time but when none of them turned up I decided to try myself. I placed the jack under car body and rotated the lever. Lo and behold the car got lifted easily. The jack was real good and did not require much effort.
Before applying the jack I had loosened the bolts of the tyre. Changing tyre thereafter was a very easy affair. When I was finished with the entire work and was about to drive away, the man who had promised help arrived and walking right behind him was the tyre repair man. Smiling with triumph I thanked both of them as their services were no longer required.
My car has already clocked more than one lakh kilometers and this was the first time I had changed its stepney myself. I felt very good about it. How true the saying is….adversity is the best teacher.
I rang up my friend and the service manager at Ford Amritsar, Mr Nikhil Kumar without whose help I could not have made these solo driving trips. I asked for his advice as to what should I do as I was without stepney now and still half of the trip was still pending. He advised me to buy new tyre with the original specifications only. There was only one car tyre selling shop in Padum. The man at the shop did not have specified tyre instead advised me to try some other non specified tyre.
Going by my gut feeling I decided not to go for unspecified tyre instead try finding right one at Kargil. But Kargil was still 240 kilometers away and the car without stepney now.
After the tyre incident, most of the time was spent resting and relaxing in the hotel that day. In the evening I went for a walk followed by a drive to nearby villages. In the glowing afternoon sunlight the landscape around looked fantastic.
Padum bazar is not very big but has all the basic amenities. Petrol and diesel was available at a shop at a premium. There was a drinking bar which was full in the evening. BSNL network was available but very weak. There were many shopkeepers were from Uttarakhand.
Presence of labourers from Bihar and Jharkhand was a big surprise. A man from Jharkhand told me that it takes around Rs.5000-one way fare and 4-5 days to reach Padum, still they come here every year for work even though the peak season is only for two months July and August.
There were not many tourist out there still I noticed few from foreign countries. There are about 40-50 guest houses in Zanskar and ample basic restaurants.
It was almost 2pm now and I was bit tired. I wanted to rest and relax after the tyre incident. Searched for a nice budget hotel and found a good one right at the entrance of Padum bazar, Hotel Ibex and Restaurant.
Padum (12037 ft) is named after Padmasambhava and is the only town and administrative centre in Zanskar. The other famous place is Zangla 32 kilometers away. It has only one road 240 km to Kargil. Another road Darcha-Padum-Chilling is under construction.
Padum is largely inhabited by people of Tibetan descent. It has some minority muslim population too. Karsha and Bardan Monastery are the main attraction of Padum. Infact Karsha is the place where I got lost mistakenly while driving to Padum the previous night.
Padum is also famous for Zanskar-Lamayuru and Padum-Phuktal Monastery trek.
Crossing the main bazar I drove upward to a village along Tsarap River. There was a mosque at the end of bazar on the right side and a little further, a gompa to the left. Thereafter the road became steep and narrow from where I returned back to main bazar.
Tsarap River crosses the town of Padum and joins Doda River to form Zanskar River a little downstream from Padum near Pibting village. The Zanskar River then flows down to meet Indus River at Sangam. This route is also famous for Chadar Trek in winters. These three rivers are also famous for river rafting in summers.
The best thing I liked about Hotel Ibex was its large garden and sitting area right outside the room. I spend quite a good time there walking and basking in the sun.
The other thing I liked about Hotel Ibex was a small but secured parking area in the back side of the main hotel which has a separate gate.
Then I drove to Pibting village through large flat area. Both men and women were busy ploughing fields with yaks. Children were seen playing merrily. Women were carrying haystack on their backs.
In the fading light of the day, Pibting Gompa, perched on a small hillock presented a beautiful sight. Driving through the vast open areas and villages was a memorable experience that evening.
After a relaxing drive I returned back to hotel room. Went to the bar where all kinds of drink was available at a premium. This was in contrast to Kashmir where drink was hard to find. Bar was fully packed and seemed very popular with locals and tourist alike.
I walked into a small dhaba in the main bazaar and had simple meals. Bit tired I was feeling sleepy. After a little walk in the market and I went back to my hotel room and had a nice sleep!!!