23st August 1994, Tuesday……………..Day (5) Pang-Leh 184 km
Pang was bone chilling cold that morning. There was a kind of storm in the night. The wind was strong and at times we felt as if our tent would blow away. A cup of tea and a photo with Stn later, we began riding to Leh.
The first challenge of the day was to beat the hostile weather and cross Tanglang La, the highest motorable pass on Leh Manali Route.
Initially the road climbed steeply. Then we entered a very large and beautiful valley, the largest I have seen at such a height. It was a huge grassland surrounded by tall majestic snowclad mountains. Many shades of wildflowers bloomed in it. Sheeps were grazing and a shepherds was whistling, perhaps to communicate with the herd.
That was by far the best part of our ride.
We came to know later that that was the famous Mure Plains. BRO has done a wonderful job. The road was metalled and smooth. The landscape around was amazing. Meeting a lone French cyclist in that vastland was a delight. Once again I saw that a mouse like creature which I had seen in Zanskar in 1988.
Later I came to know that that was a mormot.
It was so beautiful that I felt like singing and dancing. It was such a joyous sight. It felt as if we were in heaven and there was nothing beyond. Suddenly tears started rolling down from my eyes. These were tears of joy, a feeling of extreme happiness.
My dream had come true. It felt so unreal, like a fantasy. As if there were no sorrows and blissful all around. It was as if mountains, streams, birds, grass and all living beings were all in harmony. To me it was enaction of heaven that I had visualised while reading our scriptures.
Singing and enjoying, by then, we were climbing on the road to Tanglang La. The road was all slush and slippery. There was fresh snow and solid ice on the road as well. suddenly it started snowing. We slowed down considerably. I was using both my legs as support to the bike in order to avoid slipping. There was snow and snow all around us.
It was all white. We were riding very very slow now. A storm started building up. Suddenly prayers started coming out of our lips without our knowing. We sang songs in praise of God. Doing so, slowly and steady we reached Tanglang La.
On reaching Tanglang La we felt as if we were in the Kingdom of God. As if we were face to face with Him, as if He was standing in front of us. It was a moment of sheer bliss. A moment of sheer joy. A moment as if we have achieved something great.
We felt a sense of achievement, a sense of accomplishment, as if we have won the world and now we were in the lap of God. There were no sorrows, no worries….no past, no future, just that moment. As if clock had stopped ticking. It was joy all around.
While describing the whole thing, a song by legendary Kishore Kumar from hindi movie, Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein (1964), flashed into my mind.
आ चल के तुझे मैं लेके चलूँ, एक ऐसे गगन के तले जहाँ ग़म भी ना हो, आँसू भी ना हो, बस प्यार ही प्यार पले
जहाँ दूर नज़र दौड़ाए, आज़ाद गगन लहराये जहाँ रंगबिरंगे पंछी, आशा का संदेसा लाये
After having memorable time at Tanglang La we rode down towards Leh. For few kilometers, the road was bad. Took tea break at Rumtse. The road became much better thereafter. After crossing Upshi, Thiksey and Shey, we reached Leh at around 2pm afternoon.
The first thing that we did was to get the engine oil topped up. Then we rode to Tourist Reception Centre. We got to know that Khardung la was still 40 kilometers away and we need to get permits from DC office to ride up there.
We met some of the members of Amritsar group in the market and then later at DC office. When we told them that we won’t be accompanying them to Khardung la pass, they returned our fees.
We stayed that night at Chopsa Hotel for Rs.150-. In the evening we went to Choglamsar where we had camped with YHAI in 1988. After spending some time at the campsite we got the bike washed. The wash was great until the gentleman asked Rs.50- for the wash.
We came back to our hotel and slept without food. We were not feeling hungry. On enquiring, we were told that it was normal on the first day in Leh. Normally, It takes around 48 hours to acclimatise to weather conditions of Leh.
We were double minded as to what to do next. In about three days time I had my daughter’s 2rd birthday coming up. If we go for Khardung la pass and Nubra valley, we were almost sure of missing that. I decided to leave Khardung la and Nubra for next time instead chose to return back home to celebrate my daughter’s birthday.
In the hindsight now I feel good that I took the right decision……….!!!