I haven’t driven the bike yet but I am doing the bike tour – something I feared as much as I wanted it for a long time. I am feeling so grateful and fall asleep while watching the biggest and brightest full moon I have ever seen.
Day 2: From Koksar (3,500m) to Sarchu (4,290m) part 1
I wake up with the sunlight touching my face and look through the window, enjoying the view. Today we have to cover a distance of 125 km and at an average speed of 25km/h, it will take some time. I get up, prepare some hot tea and coffee, eat some dry fruit and coconut cookies to keep my strength up, put on my protective suit and I am ready.
As we drive along I notice for the first time that every now and then there are signs along the road, telling drivers to drive cautiously. They have some very creative messages, like: “Don’t talk, let him drive”,”If you sleep, your family will weep”, “After whiskey, driving is risky”, “Drive with horsepower, but not on rum power”, “Enemies of the road are liquor, speed and load” and everytime we read them we have to smile.
Another surprising thing is that the road is in a much better condition than yesterday, but unfortunately not for a very long time. After driving for maybe one hour, we face our first problem; a big patch of the road has not been constructed at all, there is a pile of gravel with sand on top, creating a lot of dust and a very slippery road. We are driving behind a petrol truck and all the dust comes in our face, making it almost impossible to breathe or see anything.
But there is no time to reflect on it since we have to go to the petrol station, as this is the last one before Leh, which is now still 353 km away. We decide to fill up our tank and two full canisters (approx. 16l). Soon after we arrive in Keylong, which is the last “big town” (1,150 inhabitants) until Leh so we take the chance to have a bike check and buy some supplies.
About two hours past Keylong we reach a settlement called Darcha (3,360m), which is the last checkpoint before driving towards Bara-lacha la, our 2nd pass of this trip, at 4,850m. We show our passports, use the “open-air” toilet, have lunch and are ready to start the climb.
As we climb higher and higher, initially negative horror thoughts keep coming in my mind, like “What if we slip and fall down this canyon?”, “What if we need some medical attention? We can’t even contact anyone”… but thankfully I manage fast to replace these bad thoughts with good ones. So as soon as we reach a certain height with no more trees around us, but only enormous high arid mountains and very deep canyons, we now have to face the next challenge: crossing water streams, one after the other.
I hop off the bike, since it is easier for one person to control it. Sourabh passes the water stream slowly but his shoes are now totally wet. Thankfully I managed to keep mine partially dry, as getting wet feet and facing this incredibly high altitude isn’t the nicest thing in the world to experience!
Right after taking a sharp bend, we finally see a dhaba (roadside restaurant) and a wonderful lake: Deepak tal lake. There is another group of people and we feel some kind of relief knowing that we are not totally alone. We have a small rest, freshen up and glance over the crystal clear water, before heading off towards the top of Bara-lacha la.
We almost missed it, because for some reason I was looking out for something BIG, as if we would be given a trophy once we arrive because we have done something extraordinary by driving on these roads, but of course it was not at all like that. There we are, along with a few other drivers, taking some memorable pictures.
It’s a really priceless feeling to look over this wide space of NOTHING in front of me and these mountains which now have a huge similarity with a painting, with different shades of brown and pink – kind of like they are dancing with each other and playing along to the sound of nature. It is something that you cannot imagine while reading, but something that you need to see and experience with your own eyes.
To be continued …