25th September 2014, Thursday………………Tso Moriri-Jispa, 322 km.
At a height of around 15000 ft, Korzok village lies on the right bank of Tso Moriri lake. It has a 300 year old monastery and is one of the oldest permanent settlements at such a height. It is mainly occupied by Changpa nomads whose main occupation is rearing of goats, cows and yaks. It is one of the highest areas in the World where cultivation of barley is done. Some of the natives are also engaged in the trade of pashmina (yak’s wool) and salt extracted from large salt fields near springs of Puga.
Korzok has many home stays besides few high priced tented colonies. I stayed at Snocock Homestay. Incidentally, the three travellers stayed here too. It had basic facilities and was reasonably good considering the remoteness of the place. Few restaurants near the monastery served basic food, tea and snacks.
I barely slept for few hours as it was too cold during the night. Woke up quite early and after two cups of hot tea from a restaurant near the monastery, went walking through the small, up and down lanes of the village till the farthest end.
It felt good walking through the fairy like lanes of Korzok, one of the lanes lead all the way to the lake. Soaking in the charm of the place I found a nice place near the lake and sat silently for a while. For sometime I was kind of lost in the vastness of the lake and surroundings. Soon it became overcast, murky and cloud started building up over the snowclad mountains. A storm looked imminent. Korzok village looked like a fairyland from a distance.
After some time I left Korzok. The road from the village till main defence road is in pretty bad shape. Once on the tarred road, riding became a pleasure. I rode for few kilometers along the lake until I was stopped by army men as no civilian vehicle was allowed from that point. Ride back along the lake was again pretty good but not as much as the previous day when the Sun was shining in full glory and sky was flawless azure blue.
Clicked few pictures with Tso Moriri lake and snowclad mountains in the background.
And another one of the beautiful lake and vast desolate vistas.
From Korzok (Tso Moriri) I rode back. The road till the village of Sumdo was the same on which I had ridden the previous evening passing Kyagar Tso and Namshang la.
At Sumdo the road (dirt track) turned left through wide marshy lands along Puga hot springs.
It was good to see a school at such a remote place. Further enquiries revealed that this school was established in 2007 to facilitate education to the children of the Changpa tribe, which lead a nomadic life. They frequently move to different locations which made it difficult for children to attend the school.
So originally the school took classroom to the tribes, with the staff travelling with the tribe, staying in tents and transporting all their equipment. But now the school has started providing boarding, food to the students aging between four to sixteen.
Situated at an altitude of around 15000 ft, Puga village is famous for its hot springs and thermal pools along the Puga nala. I was feeling cold, homesick and lonely, so did not stop and venture out to see the springs which was a walking distance within the vast grassland. Also being solo, I did not want to leave the bike unattended and expose myself to the fear of dogs and stray animals.
The landscape however continued to be mesmerising. Dark clouds were looming large in the horizon, snowflakes also started falling. It became so cold, I started shivering.
The landscape was arid, vast and barren. Snowclad mountains peeking out from in between brown one’s presented a very unique look.
Soon I reached Polo Kongka la the highest point on the route situated at approximately 15000 ft. Not much of ascent though. While I was busy clicking pictures a European couple alighted from a taxi and greeted me with a big smile. They were the same couple whom I had met at Leh castle and had given few apples to eat.
After exchange of few stories, the couple left and I was solo again. The road was unpaved, pot holed dirt track, not very tough though. The traffic was scant and can be a worrying factor for a solo traveller.
Situated in Rupshu Valley, Tso-Kar Lake, smallest of the three important lakes in Ladakh, is also known as ‘White Lake’ because the white salt of the water deposits all over the lake shores. It is important breeding grounds for Bar-headed Geese, Great Crested Grebe and various terns and gulls.
There is another and smaller lake just before Tso Kar called Startspuk Tso.
I parked the bike on one side of the road near the lake and went for a little walk. Weather was cloudy, windy and a storm was building up. Although the vastness of the landscape was very tempting but I decided against going further near the lake. Instead decided to ride on further lest I got caught up in the storm.
The pictures are clicked from an ordinary mobile phone and do not justify the beauty and ruggedness of the place, one needs to visit personally to have the real experience of the place. It’s just marvelous.
The cab parked in the vastland near the lake had few overseas travellers in it. They were carrying big cameras and equipment. It looked like they were to pitch the tents and stay there for the night.
Thukje village, near Tso Kar lake looked like an abandoned one, hardly saw any soul around. The residents of this village take their cattle out in the Morae plains for grazing in the summer months and come back to this village in the winters.
I learnt later the village has a home stay and a basic eatery.
The ride from Thukje to Debring was all along grassy marshlands. The grass had gone all red and yellow. The mountains in the background were all bare and brown. Quick glance around and one gets the feeling as if pure gold was spread all over.
Mighty snow clad mountains in between were a feast to the eyes. The magnificent landscape around is unique and endowed with raw beauty.
I kept on riding through the vast beautiful landscape. Pretty soon I was at Debring, a tiny stopover before the start of the climb to Tanglangla, one of the highest motorable pass in the World. The road between Tso Kar and Debring is quite okay but very desolate, I hardly met anyone on the road. So arriving at Debring, on the main Leh-Manali highway and a signboard of a restaurant and place for night stay was very comforting. I took a little break, refreshed and was quickly back on the road again.
Usually riding through the Morey plains is a sheer joy but things were a little different that day. A high velocity wind was blowing. It was followed by light drizzle and snowflakes. I kept on riding though. Bike was swirling in the wind. At times it felt like it would blow away with the wind. It was becoming difficult to keep the bike on road. I kept on riding though, stopping for a while here and there. Somehow reached Pang.
After sometimes blizzard subsided. Time was around 5pm evening, I thought I might reach Sarchu if I tried. Followed my heart and rode towards Sarchu. Weather held up, crossed Bisky Nala, Nakeela and Gata Loops without any trouble, reached Sarchu before the night had fallen. Body and mind was in full momentum so thought let me carry on until I got tired.
In the heat of things I was riding bit faster than I am used to. Had a narrow head on collision escape with a speeding car from the opposite side just after Sarchu, first time in the trip. Told myself to cool down and ride safely, the rule which I have followed for the last 28 years.
Crossed Killing Sarai, Bharatpur city, by the time I reached Baralacha la it was pitch dark. Tiny snowflakes were falling. Time was around 8pm night. No one was around. I was alone at the pass. It felt like everything was for me. The whole pass and many streams originating from there, all belonged to me. The feeling was out of the world. Will never forget in life.
Suraj Taal looked beautiful in the starlit night. Zing Zing Bar arrived and gone and so did Deepak Taal, Patsio and Darcha, I did not stop anywhere though. Finally reached Jispa, found a nice place, had a nice dinner and went to sleep in a cozy bed, end of another dream day and a dream ride………!!!