India trilogy – part 2

Written by Sebastian on October 31st, 2011. Posted in Allgemein

dsc_0106-2_0Sebastian: Sooo, where were we…? In Leh, the turning point for all tourists who want to travel the wonderful area of northern India. We got everything arranged for the necessary permits and on we went to conquer the highest mountable road in the world to reach the Kardung La pass.

We get up early with the idea in mind that we might see a beautiful sunrise on top but get surprised by the chilly temperatures on the way up. Nevertheless that doesn’t change that yet again sun is shining (we didn’t leave in time so the sun had already rosen) and we are enjoying a great view over the + 6000 meter high mountains right in front of us. It is, as so many moments on this trip, just breathtaking. We are happy when we get a chance to take some pictures with a group of ladies who are on the way to their yaks for milking them and surprised when they almost pose like models:).

p1080100_0On the way up there is yet another „message“ from the local street authorities which catches my attention and makes me laugh a lot. It says: „You are driving up on the highest motorable road in the world and not a shortcut to heaven! Drive save.“ I somehow love the ironic way they let you know that you should take care while driving :)).

We finally arrive on top but the weather had changed in seconds. It is cloudy and freezing cold and there are even a few snowflakes falling from heaven. Somehow I have a hard time to enjoy as my fingers start to get numb. Martin, trying hard to film the arrival at the top and therefor driving back for a couple of 100 meters (he realized that he didn’t actually record during the “first” arrival), decides to lay down his bike in the snow and after getting her up to her feed again we drive back… me personally a little bit disappointed since I expected much more of it (still the views are amazing – I think I am getting a little bit spoiled :p ). On the way down me too I decide to give my bike a rest laying her down at the side of the street…

After a couple of days we leave Leh to find out more about the Pangong lake. The moment I saw a postcard back in Dharamsala I knew that we had to go there. To reach it we have to cross the Chang La pass, which is the 3rd highest “motorable” road in the world and which more than satisfies my expectations. The way up the pass, the way down the pass, the way that finally leads us to the lake are all just wonderful. On top snow covers the area next to the street, on the way down we enjoy a view through the whole valley back to a mountain range of a height of an estimated 6-7.000 meters. We see mountain goats, yaks (what impressive animals!) and horses grazing in sump like water while driving next to a small river that finds his way through the green, soft fields (we can hardly resist to camp there but do not have any food with us).

p1080333_0When we arrive at the lake it’s already dark and we are not even sure if we are still on a road or just driving over some rocks next to it so bad is the condition of it. The first night we spend in a let’s call it “tent hotel” where we meet two girls from the south of India. We have some interesting conversations about social work, cultural differences within India and the “important things” in live and are happy to finally have meet local people who explain us a little bit more about their country. The same day (after I jumped into this so incredibly beautiful lake) we get to know a group of travelers who inform us that just 500 meters away we could sleep in a so called “home stay” (staying in the house of local people) for a 10th of the price that we were paying for the tents – 10 minutes later we checked out here and checked in again over there 🙂

Sitting and watching the mountains behind us I ask Martin if he was in the mood to climb the closest one and after 2 minutes of thinking we decide to stay one more day and to see how far we get. As we start the next morning I am very excited because it is our first real hiking since we left. Walking for 1-2 hours we notice that this is not an easy task to accomplish. There are no paths and the way is steep and rocky. At one point I step on a loose rock and you can’t even imagine how fast I was doing a somersault to land horizontally on the ground. At first I am in pain but after auto-scanning my body and sitting for 5 minutes I figure that knee and shoulder are not really hurt and we can continue.

p1080345_0Well, after a total of 6 hours we arrive at a point quite close to the top where we decide to stop and enjoy the unbelievably beautiful view. On the way we quite suffered from the thin air making it necessary to stop every 5 minutes to recover. But it was worth it big time. In my whole live I have never enjoyed such a panorama! A deeply blue lake surrounded by chocolate & caramel cake like mountains and in the far back the high white peaks of over 6000 meter high mountain ranges. Also we are quite sure that we are about to see until China, since the border is not far from where we are (2/3 of the lake are actually in China).

dsc_0147After a couple of days we sadly leave this place of dreams (could have stayed here much longer) to drive direction south to Manali. We enjoy one night in yet another home stay which we really start to like a lot (the hosts even leave us their own living room!) before attacking the 2nd highest pass in the world, namely the Tanglang La. After what we have seen crossing the Chang La we do not expect a lot (don’t want to be disappointed 🙂 ) but are once again surprised. But it is not the pass itself that we enjoy but the plateau after the pass. Driving on a great road (and were it is about to be built next to it in the water like sand) we enjoy and endless few under the bluest of skies. After a long day we decide to stop in Pang. What seems to be a small village on the map turns out to be just a couple of tents run by families during the summer (for 6 months). Hard to decide which on to take since they are copies one of the other. So we just go for the first one and have an interesting evening as it gets quite chilly at night.

At a moment the daughter of the people who run the place shows up with two friends (guess they are daughters from other tendowners). We “talk” a little bit with them and have quite some fun even though we do not understand a lot. As they girls giggle about us Martin and me we make our jokes and have a laugh. As one on them starts to explain us that she is a naughty girls both of us get a little bit insecure if this is just a normal tent or maybe a “massage place” for truck drivers… would make sense. The funniest moment though was, when the 3 girls take a match all at the same time and start cleaning their ears… sticking the matches inside and cleaning them off on their hand palms. Martin and me look at each other eyes wide open both hoping that the girls are not about to get ready for action! Surprisingly this is the moment when Martin decides to have a cigarette and leaves me alone with our princesses. Unfortunately neither of them joins Martin for a smoke (for once that I wish that the girls smoke they don’t!) so I have to handle all 3 of them by myself. Normally I’d say no problem, but in this case I felt a little uncomfortable :D. In the end nothing happened, none of them jump on us and we saved ourselves going to bed quite early.

p1080717The night turns out to be the worst since we left home. Temperatures go down to estimated -10 to -15, our sleeping bags turn to fridges and I have a hard time breathing at night – waking up from time to time gasping like as if I was about to suffocate. From 5.00 a.m. on I only wait for the time to pass by and at 6.30 I get out… where it is warmer than inside! After a while the sun crawls into the small valley and warms up my body and Martin gets out of the freezer too. When we start to pack our stuff we witness another hygienic highlight as we see that the dishes are washed in the soapy water that people have used for washing themselves… burk! But ok, as so often we laugh about it – we accept it as part of the game and so far we didn’t suffer any major problems (actually none at all).

After all that we leave quite early that day (surprise surprise) hoping that we will not run out of gasoline… but that’s another story 🙂