Day 3 of our trip was a mix of good and bad. A little after Sarchu, Ram’s Bike had an issue. The axle that holds the tyre together broke. Bantu had not kept its spare as in his lifetime he had never heard of the axle breaking off! We stopped almost all bikers to ask if they had a spare part, but unfortunately, none of them did. Few of them didn’t even know that such a part even exists. It was heartbreaking for Ram as he had to leave his Bike here and travel in Gypsy till Leh.
Between Sarchu and Leh lies two remarkable stretches of land – the Gata Loops and the More Plains. It is a series of twenty-one hairpin bends that takes you to Nakeela Top.
On one of the turns, you will see a pile of water bottles. The story goes like this – several years ago, a truck with 2 travelers (cleaner and driver) was stuck here. It was sometime in October and it was snowing heavily and there was no help around. One of them decided to walk to a nearby village and get some help. But because of the bad weather, no help could be arranged. It took several days for the weather to clear. Finally, help came from Manali and they all hurried back to Gata Loops, to the spot where the truck broke down only to find the cleaner dead. Stranded in no man’s land, he had died of thirst, hunger and cold. Next year when the highway reopened, people started observing strange things around this area. Some said that they saw a beggar/ghost-like figure who would stop all vehicles and ask for water. Hearing such stories, the locals set-up a small temple at that spot and made offerings of water. Since then, whoever passes by and is aware of the story leaves some water at the temple, as an offering.
More Plains is a barren stretch of land that lies after Pang and it gives way to a steep climb to the Tanglang La. The stretch till Pang is bumpy but the view covers up for it. We crossed Upshi, Karu, Thikse and Shey and reached Leh. The city had prayer flags all over. They are made of small pieces of cloth of various colours, tied in a row of long ropes and strung out for the winds to catch. The idea is for the prayers to reach the abode of the gods.
The landscape changes spectacularly as you enter Leh… majestic mountains on both the sides… sky that is bluer than blue! And the clouds playing hide and seek with the Sun! The weather was little warm and our jackets and beanies started coming off. We were staying at Deva guest house and our host, Tenzin and Amo were super sweet. Amo helped us to settle quickly. The rooms were neat and clean and they also had a dog named Karma. We freshened up quickly and went out to explore the market. We had dinner at Summer Harvest – their Mutton Momos, Schezwan Lamb and Noodles made us drool!
Back at the guest house, we were discussing the next day plan over a game of cards. We had to make a tough decision to chuck Nubra Valley as we were on a strict timeline. We decided to head towards Pangong the next day.
We could also see Shanti Stupa from our guest house. It is a white-domed stupa in Chanspa region of Leh. It was built in 1991 by Japanese Buddhist Bhikshu, Gyomyo Nakamura and part of the Peace Pagoda mission. And it was inaugurated by the 14th and current Dalai Lama. The Stupa provides panoramic view of Leh city. The Stupa is open for tourists between 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Thikse Monastery is about 19kms from Leh and is located at an altitude of 11,800 ft. While we were at the Monastery, one of the Lamas was explaining the teachings of Buddha to a group of people. We got to know later that His Holiness The Dalai Lama was in Leh (the day we were leaving for Tsomoriri) and would later also visit Spiti.
The nearby tourist attractions also include Hall of Fame, Druk Padma Karpo School (where 3 Idiots was shot), Magnetic Hill, Leh Palace and Zanskar point.
You can read rest of the trip details here: