Pangong Tso Mountains India Ladakh

Motorcycling India (Part 5)

Read Part 1, Part2, Part3, and Part 4 to get up to speed!

110: Descending the Chang La. The scenery was gorgeous. The gravel roads had occasional water crossings…

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111: Such as this one. This crossing was a little hard, thanks to all the loose stones that caused the front to slip and slide.

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112: My mountain friends were present here as well… Yak Yak Ladakh!

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113: As far as the eye can see, there were nothing but mountains. The one constant in the entire Ladakh region.

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114: Wild horses and mountain yaks made for good company!

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115: Yours truly: The Footloose Nomad…

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116: Oh, the joys of such roads!

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117: The first view of the long, narrow, enchanted lake!

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118: At the shores of the Pangong-Tso. the blue colour of the water was simply mesmerizing!

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119: I had to find another place to take in the magnificence of this amazing place!

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120: This was the perfect place. Far away from all the tourists and the other motorcyclists. The eastern shores of the Pangong-Tso on the Indian side of the border.

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121: The blue…. The colour of the water is mesmerizing!

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122: The evening sun casts a haze over the mountains around the lake…

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123: A very special moment, in a very special place…

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124: I set up camp for the night, a good distance from the water and on high bank…

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125: Dawn came with incredible views…

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126: Such as this one… The expanse of the Pangong Tso extending into the Chinese occupied region of Kashmir…

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127: Time to get some breakfast…

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On the way back, I had to stop at the village of Tangtse. The road ahead was blocked and traffic was at a standstill. The reason: A 21km landslide along the Chang La! After further enquiry and some snooping around, I found out that it would take four days to clear the pass for normal vehicular movement; Time I did not have. Pondering over my maps, I found out that there existed an alternative route from Tangtse to Leh, via Chushul and Loma. While this part of Ladakh was restricted for travellers, this was the only alternative. An Indian Navy officer, who was also touring Ladakh on his bike was interested in my plan, and he managed to get permission from the army superintendent at Tangtse. With that, we were good to go!

Chushul to Leh

128: There was a thrill riding in these areas which were restricted. There were probably a dozen or two motorcyclists and tourists stuck at Tangtse. Yet, only three of us elected to do this route.

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129: A Tibetan Wild Ass (or Kiang) regards me suspiciously from a distance…

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130: On top of one mountain pass on the route to Chushul. The local maps have the name mentioned. Sadly, I lost the map after it got blown away by the wind.

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131: The views were heavenly. The clouds parted to give such magnificent views over and over again…

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132: We were nearing Chushul..

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133: The three Horsemen..

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I was the fastest rider in the group, and I would often end up riding solo most of the time. The other two were more cautious, and careful (which I should have been). After Chushul, the road was gravel for most part. “Don’t go to the left of the road, you may end up in China” were the ominous words of the soldier at the army camp in Chushul. Sure. only, the road would disappear at times and I was wondering what to do. I didn’t want to be caught in a national crisis situation!

Eventually at Tsaga La, A water crossing made my life hell when I hit a huge boulder that was hidden under the surface. My left foot took the impact, and the gear lever got twisted, and the engine crank casing broke, leaking engine oil all over the place. I didn’t know any of this until I got out of the water. The first thing I noticed was that I could not get my left foot to bear any weight. Then I noticed the drops of oil and the broken crankcase cover. The bent gear lever was not a problem to fix. But the crank casing was out of my hands. After I fixed the lever, I was back on the bike, and I slowly kept going. I couldn’t shift the gear with my feet in the usual way. The pain was so much that even a slight movement of the feet in shifting the lever would make me writhe in pain and grit me teeth. To overcome this, I started shifting with my heel. I started using my heel to move the gear lever up for shifting the gears. In this fashion, I came to the army checkpost at Loma, where I got some pain killers and hot tea.

134: The views were just as grand. 160km to Upshi. I decided to take the chance and do the ride!

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135: Assuming the road stayed like this for most part, which it didn’t. The hardest part of my ride was this stretch between Loma and Upshi which I did in pitch dark for most part. Twice I saved the bike from crashing.

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136: Dusk was falling fast and I was no closer to getting to Upshi. Still, I couldn’t help but marvel at the views.

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I reached Upshi at 22:00 hours, and just hit the bed. It was a nerve wracking time on the road. The day’s incident meant that I had to effectively abandon my plans to go to Tso-Morriri, Hemis, and Shimla, and just hit the road back home.

137: Tanglang-La, the highest pass on the Leh-Manali highway.

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138: The views were the same. Yet different.

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139: The Gata Loops. Fast roads with 21 hairpin bends in which you descend a 1000 feet!

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140: Gorgeous views from the Barlacha La. One of the hardest passes on the ride back.

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141: Ice melts make for tough water crossings at the Barlacha La.

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142: Like an oasis in the desert. The Suraj Tal with the mountains in the background.

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143: Oops… That wouldn’t have ended well at all.

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144: Suraj Tal glittering in the evening sun…

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145: Fast and furious, the river Chenab in full flow near Tandi, Himachal Pradesh.

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146: The calm before the storm. The road is good until the ascent to the dreaded Rhotang La (13,050ft, 3,978m) starts. Rohtang means ‘ pile of corpses’ in Ladakhi.

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147: Roadblock number One.

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148: I was consistently fast compared to the other motorcyclists on the road. Eventually, the huge roadblock at Rohtang made everyone wait for nearly two hours. It was maddening on that narrow pass, with sheer drops on the left.

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149: Everyone was having an adventure that morning.

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150: The rain made things worse.

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151: The top of Rohtang La was empty. The madness was over…

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152: Fog filled roads to Manali, Himachal Pradesh!

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153: One of the best rides I’ve had after I descended the Rohtang La.

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154: Hightailing it to Chandigarh!

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155: And finally, Delhi! Mission accomplished.

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I hope you enjoyed the photos and got a glimpse of the journey. Let me know in the comments below!

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