Thursday 27 October 2022

We have been planning a Ladakh trip for almost 3 months. September as it turns out is the best time to visit Ladakh. It is off-season. Tourists are fewer and the weather is not yet too cold.

We don't like the word “tourist” because we don’t want to equate ourselves with those people who visit “tourist destinations” or “hill stations” demanding luxurious comforts, and shopping opportunities for themselves and family members. But we can't really call ourselves adventurists either. I mean, we would love to but we are not doing mountaineering or something crazy like that. Who are we? Let’s just say “travelers” without indulging in metaphysics. And why did we go to Ladakh?

I can think of one good excuse. We want to try Instagramming, aka making “reels”. Just think about it, who wouldn’t want to roam in the mountains if all expenses are paid by photography and videography? Can this really happen? I don’t know. Have you subscribed to our channel? Are you sharing our reels? Have you been clicking on the like button? Or are you going to be a jealous bastard? Lol?

To my surprise, Gagandeep told me a few days before departing that he needs this trip badly. He had been going through a “messy breakup”. I don’t know if I can call it another excuse, but good enough for me. I have helped friends in such a situation. God bless.

I've had a series of bad luck trying to reach Leh. Each time I tried, the mountain passes would be blocked by snow or landslide. I've tried 4 times, once on the bike as well. But Gagandeep has been to Leh 3 times successfully. This would be his 4th time.

It’s going to be confusing, me saying Gagandeep a lot. Yes, my name is Gagandeep. But here I am referring to my dear traveler friend’s name. His name is also Gagandeep. This fact is going to get us into funky situations later on. So, it is both Gagandeep and Gagandeep who went to Ladakh.

Kurali to Manali –

Such wise travelers we are. We started our journey at 1 PM on a Monday! Gagandeep had a patient appointment that he needed to take care of. And, we both suffer from insomnia. There was no way we could sleep the night before and wake up at 5 AM on the day of undertaking an epic journey like this.

As expected, we got royally fucked by traffic at Swarghat in the afternoon. Crossing Mandi was even more horrible. What used to be a 4 lane highway in Mandi was reduced to a single shredded lane. Thanks to the landslides and heavy monsoon of August.

It took us probably more than 12 hours to reach Manali. We reached our hotel at 2 AM! Now, you may be thinking, how is this fun? It sounds brutal.

We did what we could. We bought a bottle of Apple Cider in Bilaspur and we started taking small sips. This would not be drunk driving, I assure you. Just little something to get us through, way below the legal limit. As Gagandeep was going through a “messy breakup”, he took the liberty to play Himesh Rashamia songs for the rest of the drive. I know, how cheesy! I don’t like this music personally. But empathy, bad roads, traffic, and Apple cider created an aura. I started listening to it carefully for the first time. It started to fuck my mind. Especially in the song Aashiq Banaya Apne when he replies to the female singer

“Tere bin raat kat ti nahi hai
Tere bin pyaas mit ti nahi hai
Tere bin doori ghatti nahi hai
Tere bin....”

I fucking liked it. We made a bad situation Fun!

Manali to Jispa; Day 2

Gagandeep was proud of the fact that he got us a hotel room in Manali for 1000rs with breakfast. Breakfast was crap, we ate anyway and resumed our journey.

Atal Tunnel gets boring after a few minutes. They should paint the walls with something. Something that is not too distracting but keeps the driver awake.

We stopped at the Sissu viewpoint. We went into the woods. Shot a couple of nice videos and took photos. We drank lassi that Gagandeep brought from his home and drove ahead.

About 20-30 Km before Keylong, we got fined for overspeeding. The road leading up to Keylong is extremely smooth. If you are not paying attention to the speedometer, you can easily cross the posted speed limit of 55 km/h. We were at 63. We pleaded with the policemen to let us keep our driving licenses as we are the only people two driving on the Ladakh circuit. If one of us gets our license blocked, a single person cannot drive for so many kilometers and back. They agreed, praise the Lord.

We stopped at Keylong and had mutton tupka and mutton momos. They were satisfactory. We brought our cylinder for cooking. We brought it empty because no flammable items are allowed through the Atal Tunnel. We asked around in Keylong for where we might get it filled. People pointed us to a shop near the Keylong bus stand. 

Both Keylong and Reckong Peo bus stations look similar and I have a special connection with them. Before we had bikes or cars, I used to travel in buses to see these places. I was happy to see Keylong bus station again. That cylinder, however, betrayed us. It couldn’t be filled properly and it was leaky. Our cooking plans were thwarted on this trip.

We reached Jispa in the evening. We found cozy tents there for the night. The tents were beside the river. Which makes them scenic. We met a delightfully charming dude named Kartik from Gurgaon. He was traveling solo in his Thar. I mistook him for a rock guy with his long curly hair but he said he prefers hip-hop. After we got acquainted, we started drinking.

We started discussing healthy organic eating and the keto diet. This is our new fascination/hobby/thing. Gagandeep has some radical notions about not eating fruits and taking a fat-based diet. I am concerned about borderline pseudoscience but he assures me that he follows studies. I don’t care either way. I am getting great results following his advice. "I am fucking fat as fucking fuck” as Eric Cartman would say. I am too lazy to read studies myself. It’s not big of a deal but rather a lifestyle choice and I trust him.

Tent owners kept asking us for dinner but we kept on drinking. We started discussing religion and politics. I busted out John Lennon. Kartik was in strong agreement with our humanistic philosophy. We kept drinking more and more as we indulged in discussing music and so forth.

Tent owners finally had enough of us. They closed the kitchen. Kartik went to his tent and came out with ready-to-eat packets of chicken and daal. We had a stove, a cylinder with a little bit of gas, kulchas, sauces, and organic eggs. We made our meal. One would say drinking excessive alcohol on your first day of acclimatization is a bad idea. Let's find out.

Jispa to Leh; Day 3

We woke up early as the journey ahead would be a long one. Didn’t get much sleep last night either. We skipped breakfast and took ibuprofen with coffee. Lol. What would you rather prefer? Being gentle with the gastrointestinal system or taking care of the massive hangover?

We made our first stop at Deepak Tal lake. There I washed my face and applied sunscreen. The water was so pleasant I wanted to dip in it. Maybe next time. We stopped a few kilometers afterward again at a dhaba for breakfast. The dhaba lady had two puppies. One was kept tied. Apparently, the tied one was a problem child. He goes down to the river and wanders far off. Would you let your dog wander off in the mountains for several kilometers? My pug will be dead or eaten.


While still recovering from the hangover, we started experiencing AMS about the time we reached Baralacha La pass. We had to stop there for 1 hour as JCBs were working. With more time spent there, our AMS symptoms began to exacerbate.

The views beyond Baralacha La were beginning to get immensely beautiful. That’s when I decided to get out of the sunroof to capture them. I must have spent 10-15 minutes outside the sunroof. Yeah sure, the wind was chilly AF but I didn’t care. When I came back in, my AMS started getting worse.

Gagandeep was no better either. His headache was beyond his imagination. No amount of physical fitness can defeat the biological effects of less oxygen in the atmosphere.

I couldn’t describe what was happening to me. I felt like I was going to die maybe. We stopped for a moment. I remember my face started getting numb. You know the feeling when your leg goes numb when you sit on it funny? That was happening to my face! And, I had a heavy feeling in my abdomen. I blamed it on the dhaba breakfast. I asked Gagandeep what was going on in his brain. He said, he is contemplating what he is going to do if I faint. I asked what? He said, maybe find a military hospital and take me there. How nice of him, a true friend.

After an hour, I took the driving position. I reasoned, maybe if I start to drive, my mind will be busy, too busy to feel the AMS. We crossed Sarchu. This was my first time reaching Sarchu because Baralacha La pass always screwed me over.

Gagandeep took the wheel at Sarchu for 10 minutes to cross a difficult water crossing. We couldn’t film that crossing. Our GoPro was out of battery and my phone wasn’t recording because I pressed the stop button accidentally. After that water crossing, I took the wheel again. Meanwhile, Gagandeep’s AMS started getting worse and worse. He was truly disappointed in himself. After losing so much weight, doing a healthy diet, and doing everything right, he still got AMS albeit mixed or possibly caused by a hangover. We crossed Lachung La and Nakeela passes. Both of them were captivating. However, couldn’t take many photos due to AMS. 

We decided to stop at Pang for lunch. But let me tell you about the best part of the Manali-Leh Highway. About 30 Km before Pang the beauty I saw tore my ass. This stretch of road is the most scenic of all. Please forgive me I cannot put into words why it was so beautiful. Perhaps because mountains have carvings on them. Maybe, because the view towards the valley is stunning. I can't really remember due to AMS. What I do remember is tears rolling through my eyes. The tears flew like two streams continuously, rolling down my cheeks and dripping from my chin. My mouth shivered and my soul danced in my body.

At Pang after lunch, Gagandeep took a nap for half an hour. We decided that I will keep on driving till I can drive no more. I drove up to Tanglang La Pass. Driving in More Plains could have been exhilarating due to the astounding beauty. But AMS kept me from major goosebumps.

People often ask How are the roads in Ladakh? What is the amount of risk to the car's underbelly? All the major roads were just fine. I would say about 70 percent of the Leh-Manali highway (depending upon the month). But I learned a new word in More plains. There are warnings put there saying "Undulating roads, drive slow." Well-built roads in More plains can compel a driver to drive fast. But you can get your car's underbelly busted due to "undulating roads" if you are driving fast.

I was done at Tanglang La and Gagandeep took over the wheel again. It would be nightfall before we would reach Leh. We stopped near Upashi for tea and took another tablet of ibuprofen. After that our AMS symptoms began easing. We put on the music again and eventually reached Leh. We high-fived.

At night, from the guest house window, I saw a dog sleeping. He had a bowl beside him that had some kind of food. He must be saving it for later. A bird came from above and stole some of his food. The dog suddenly woke up to the sound of the bird's flight. Confused by what happened he spotted a cat nearby. The dog blamed the cat and started chasing him. Another dog awakened by the commotion joined him in the chase and barking. This was amusing, better than TV.

Leh; Day 4

I woke up early to take a stroll in the guest house garden. I saw a cat sneaking inside the guest house. I thought this is my fault as I didn't shut the door close. I would be blamed if this cat gets into the kitchen and drink the milk or something. I followed him inside and it took me several minutes to find and shoo him out. Just a minute later the guest house lady came outside. I greeted her and told her that this cat came in. She said it’s okay the cat comes and goes. Wow, all my effort was for nothing! The lady then went to the prayer room and prayed. She came outside again after 10 minutes and fetched a bowl of thupka for the cat. And what do you know another black cat came from inside the house and joined the meal. That black cat was a permanent pet. There are two things common in Ladakh. All guest house and hotel owners maintain a neat garden and keep cats as pets.

This would be a Leh-only day. It is mandatory to stay in Leh for 24 hours for acclimatization. I suppose I should mention that none of the prepaid sims work in Kashmir. The guest house had Wifi which they provide to the guests. I used it to download offline google maps. I started looking for places to visit in Leh. But we never in our entire journey made concrete plans. People often rush to cover all the places. Why make things hectic? See what you can, and skip what's left for the next time. Anyone who asked us what our plan is, we always said we have none. We are going to take it easy and relax.

Gagandeep had been here multiple times, he knew the places. We went to the Lamayuru restaurant for breakfast. I gotta say, this was probably the best breakfast I ever had. They offer multiple types of cuisine at a somewhat reasonable price. I won't get into the food details as I did with cat and dog stories. Lol. But, it was delicious. Masala omelet, stir-fried vegetables, and musk melon juice are the best items for breakfast.

We covered the Tibetian Handicraft market, Spituk Monastery, Sangam, Pathar Sahib Gurudwara, Leh palace, and Shanti stupa in that order.  

A few things I would like to mention. All these are your typical tourist places, so expect crowds even in the off-season. Although, I am not sure if there is any “off-season” anymore.  Gagan says there are throngs of tourists in season.

Sangam is a really nice place where two rivers, Indus and Zanskar meet. Both rivers have different colors of water depending upon the time and sunlight. I was amazed to see how there was a clear demarcation between the waters. At the junction where they meet they become one. It was a gorgeous sight. 

Pathar Sahib Gurudwara is tremendously exquisite. It is well-decorated and well-maintained by the army. We had langar there in the afternoon. There were both chapatis and puris. Dal and a mutter-paneer subzi. Armymen serve the langar, just like they serve our country by protecting her borders. Jai Hind. Please don't take selfies there with blessed hashtags. They let you take photos but selfies are not allowed in there.

You need a permit to venture beyond Leh. We applied for the permit online in the morning. We received a "sexy" hassle-free permit within an hour or two. What's sexy? Sexy is an adjective that we used a lot on this trip. Whenever we see something awesome, for example, a view, a river, a mountain, or a dish, we called it sexy. On the Pathar Sahib road, we were stopped by a Tibetan girl. The government has employed female workers for checking the permit. That girl saw our permit which had 2 names written Gagandeep Singh and Gagandeep Singh. When we explained the reason/confusion, she was over the moon. Her laughter and cute smile made us both blush to death. It was extremely amusing to her. She must have said goodbye greetings to us 5-6 times. That made our day.

The view from the Leh palace's terrace is extraordinary. Entire Leh at glance. We reached Shanti Stupa at night. It was seriously peaceful as the name suggests, especially at night.


We returned to our hotel at night after having dinner at Lamayuru restaurant. Again, the dinner was exceptionally good. We had chicken tikka butter masala. Out goes the keto, bring in the carbs, tandoori rotis, lots of them. We slept tight that night. AMS disappeared since the morning itself like it never happened.

Leh to Nubra Valley; Day 5

We woke up well-rested and had another magnificent breakfast from Lamayuru Restaurant. Gagandeep has created massive hype around the Khardung LA pass. He had a few intense worries up his sleeve. First, he wanted to cross Khardung La as early as possible to avoid the tourist rush and to avoid military convoys and trucks. Fair point. Who can forget Rohtang pass days? Before Atal Tunnel, all the traffic went through Rohtang pass, people going to Leh or Spiti, and Manali's tourists all crowding at Rohtang to see the snow.

We were feeling well. Though the fear of AMS hitting us again at Khardung LA was a genuine one. But we also knew that our final destination, Nubra is not so high. I had no clue what Nubra is going to offer, I mean sure, I thought it must be beautiful. Gagandeep kept asking me about my expectations of Nubra. I always replied I don't know we will see. We will talk about it when we cross that bridge.

I drove up to Khardung LA. Gagandeep was relaxing and playing music. It was a fantastic drive. The best I ever had in my life. The road was narrow but we did manage to avoid major traffic by leaving early. While I was relishing the steep uphill drive, AMS was building up inside. It did hit me when we reached the top. There were a lot of people up there. I think people who reach Leh by flight take taxis to visit Khardung LA and turn back. But, many of them do get to Nubra as well. We will soon find out. At Khardung La top, people were taking turns to get their photos and selfies taken with the Khardung LA milestone. It was a mess. Total shitshow. Will remind you of the queue at Banks. We took one or two quick pics and just moved ahead from there. Not lingering saved us from bigger AMS too.

We soon reached the road which runs along the Shyok river which is the starting point of Nubra valley. Our destination was a town called Hunder. We did have permits to go up to Turtuk village but again, that would be rushing. We skipped that and Warsha village. There’s always a next time, especially for mountain freaks like us. Ass-tearing views start from the Deskit village only. The entire landscape is desert and barren. There are bushes along the road and in between. These bushes are multi-colored. Shades of green, purple, pink, yellow, brown, magenta, and golden colors. In Deskit, I almost caused a traffic jam. There is a very narrow road with tall bushes on both sides. I stopped the car there and insisted we should film this on GoPro. While we stopped, Gagandeep started mounting GoPro which was kept on charging at that time. Within 2 minutes trucks came from both sides. One from our rear and one ahead. We were blocking both of them. And in yet another 2 minutes another truck lined up. We said, fuck it, we will film this road coming back, let's give them a side.

Moving ahead reaching Hunder, we saw Sand dunes. You wouldn't expect sand dunes in mountains? We will return to them after we find a room in Hunder.

Sometimes, nostalgia is not nice. Compelled by raging nostalgia Gagandeep made me drive through the entire village looking for the camp where he once stayed in. That camp was beside the river. When that camp couldn’t be found we went looking for a hotel that his friend once stayed in. I wasn’t complaining because I was enjoying the streets of Hunder. This place is so magical that if a professional photographer comes to Nubra Valley that person will go nuts. There’s sheer beauty on every turn, on every corner. We finally found a great hotel with a beautiful garden, and a pet cat and dogs hanging around to reap leftovers. The food was out of the world good. The hotel had WiFi which was finicky at the best. Besides a photographer, a writer can live in Hunder for a week or month to find inspiration. It’s peaceful and beautiful.


We head out to see the Sand dunes after having noodles. We reached there in the evening and saw hoards of tourists hanging out. Camel riding and other activities are available for them. I thought this is like Shimla's mall road without shops. We felt a little disappointed to see the crowd. “Off-season” camel's ass. The crowd we saw there felt like the entire Hundar's accommodation will be occupied till nightfall. We felt lucky that we found a room at the right time. I am dead sure people sleep in cars in the season when they can’t find a room. Well, anyways. We ventured away from the crowd walking in the sand. We thought we should find some sexy locations for taking videos and photos tomorrow morning in the golden hour. We then sat on one sand dune away from the crowd. We started at the sky and the mountains. We laid down and started relaxing and soaking in the landscape. There I saw a Caucasian couple also fed up with the crowd. They were also finding an isolated place to chill.

We came back to the hotel and started drinking. Oh no, there won’t be a single day when we didn’t drink on this trip. But within limits, we learned our lesson at Jispa. It was very cold in Hunder that night. We hit the sack soon after.

Nubra to Pangong; Day 6

We went to see the sand dunes again in the morning when we knew there’d be no tourists. We stopped at Diskit monastery on our way to Pangong. There is a big statue of Buddha at Diskit monastery. The time was just right. The sun was just behind his head producing a natural Halo.

Our earlier plan was to skip Pangong and see Tso Morori instead. I will explain why? But first, the road from Nubra to Pangong is shockingly beautiful and broken at the same time. They make new roads every year and they break down every year. It took us a huge amount of time to reach there. Although the distance is not that great, we must have stopped for 3-4 hours combined at several places due to JCBs working. The excessive delays were diminishing my dopamine. It turned evening when we were beginning to see Pangong. Gagandeep asked me If we should switch because he said and I quote “ the lake is very distracting, are you sure if you would be able to drive?” No, I said and we switched. I kept staring at the lake. Couldn’t keep my eyes off it.

Wikipedia says that Pangong is 134 km in length. I don’t know how much of that lies in India, it's just long. Unlike smaller circular mountain lakes which look like ponds in comparison. We stayed at a village/camping site called Spangmick. They have tents a few meters from the lake, where you can stay and admire the lake all night long. Tents in Spangmick sell like hotcakes. Over time, Pangong has become a must-see tourist destination. This is why we wanted to skip Pangong. It has been overrun by tourists. We finally found a tent that was within our budget. There were 20 tents in our camp. 18 of those were booked by a Gujrati family. The entire family and relatives were traveling together. They also brought their own cook with them.  We saw the buffet and it read weird names of the dishes. We never even heard of them. But all the items looked so good to the eyes. In the dining hall, it looked like we two have crashed into a family function or something. They kept staring at us wondering who are we. Eventually, a lady asked us who we were, and I explained we are independent travelers and Punjabis. I told her everything tasted delicious. That’s when she told me it was all Jain food.  I wonder how they don’t use garlic, or onions and still manage to make their food that is so tasty.

Pangong to Tso Morori; Day 7

We intentionally delayed breakfast for two reasons. First, the kitchen/dining hall was crowded with the Gujju family. There were no tables left to sit at. Second, Pangong’s blue color won't show up till the near afternoon. In the morning, the waters are grayish.

After breakfast, we were on our way to Tso Morori. But the lake wouldn’t let us leave. When the waters turned blue we lost our marbles. We kept stopping along the way. Soaking its beauty, taking pictures and videos. And sometimes, stopping for no other reason just to stare at it. Making every excuse in the book to stop one more time. Oh! I need to pee. But really, just to stare at it. We dilly-dallied to Chusul (a village on Pangong's banks).

Most tourists turn back from Pangong. There is a widespread misconception that if you saw Pangong, there is no need to see Tso Morori because they are both alike. People have their own truths. And they are far away from the objective truth.

Most of the travelers take the route of Hanley from Pangong. They go to Hanley from Pangong and go to Tso Morori from Hanley. We skipped Hanley. It was a week already since we left home. We would cover Hanley and Uming La pass some other time.

The other reason we wanted to travel to Tso Morori directly from Pangong was even more intriguing. We found a new road on the map connecting Chushul to Tso Morori. The interesting thing about this road is that it is less traveled. It starts from Chushul and ends at Mahe Monastery. It's not a shortcut. Google shows an ETA of a few minutes more than if you travel via Nyoma which is on the way to Hanley. ETA will increase more so because you are definitely going to stop at one lesser-known mountain pass and two lesser-known smaller lakes on this route. The road is not broken probably due to less traffic. We haven’t seen a single vehicle, not one! Along the entire route. The landscape surrounding the road is magnificent. The first lake we encountered was Mirpal Tso. We couldn’t go down to its edge. There might be a trail leading to it. But it will take us a huge amount of time. We saw it from the road itself. It is beautiful. Waters are dark blue/teal sort of a shade. Something unique. It's surrounded by lofty-looking mountains. If someone camps there, it will be a thrilling experience. But be warned, we saw no tents or camps at its banks, just wilderness. Temperature and elevation are quite high as well.

The road elevates even more so up to Kasang LA pass. It was windy, chilly, and lonely there. Not a single soul except two of us. Wild! Then comes Yaye Tso lake. Its waters were light blue surrounded by brown mountains. White clouds permeate the sky. Beautiful.

After Mahe, we were beginning to get hungry. By now we have started to take hunger seriously. You don’t want hunger turning into or inviting AMS. We found a little dhaba on Mahe Bridge. The lady made us Maggi. It’s better than nothing.

The road from Mahe to Tso Morori was under construction. It looks like they are making a world-class broad road to attract tourists. We lost our way in between. There was a brand new narrow road but we didn’t take it because we couldn’t decipher where it will lead to. We stuck to a broader broken road. The entire road on which we drove on was etched. Grooves on the road were giving off vibration, something a massager would do. But not to relax the body but instead to shatter it.

An analogous village to Spangmick at Tso Morori is called Karzok. But it’s also different. In Spangmick tents are near the lake. In Karzok there are rather cemented hotels/guest houses and tents but they are at a considerable distance away from the lake. I bet the lake-facing rooms will be more expensive. There is also a lot of new construction going on.

When we reached Karzok, we found out that the entire village is suffering from a power outage. There would be no electricity this night. Few hotels have diesel generators. We got a cemented tent-type room for 2500rs with dinner and breakfast. Supposedly that was a bargain and we got it “cheap” because of no electricity. The dinner was so bad it’s not worth writing about. We asked the handyman to provide us with at least something to drink alcohol with as there was no possibility of snacks. He gave us some cut onions, radishes, and cucumber. We planned that we are going to do astrophotography tinkering with the mobile’s manual settings. But it was very cold that night and we were exhausted due to the bad roads. We thought of doing it after dinner. But we fell asleep. I took some shots with auto night mode. The stars were gorgeous. I had never seen so many colored stars. Some of them might be planets. I think I saw a couple of blue and red ones. No, I was not on mushrooms. This was real. Possibly an optical illusion.

Tso Morori to Jispa; day 8

Tso Morori is wilder and bluer. We enjoyed being there on this lake even more than Pangong. Ripples were glittering in the sunshine. Vast views and no sounds except for breeze and water. Every minute we spent there was enchanting.


 We stopped for a considerable time at Puga hot springs. There is a single geyser in the matches which squirts out hot water 24/7. There’s no path from the road leading up to it. You need to walk through the marshes to reach it. I walked till the ground was dry. After that, I refused to take my shoes and socks off. I can’t get a proper grip with naked feet. Gagandeep went ahead and made up to the geyser. I elected to stay behind. I filmed a dog roaming around in the marshes. This dog wouldn’t respond to me calling him. Later I found that this was an independent dog. He was hunting rodents in the marshes and eating them raw instead of relying on human food. No wonder he wouldn’t come to me. He walked away from me every time I approached him.

After some time Gagandeep came back with a big smile on his face and his lowers soaked in dirt and his shoes all dirty. He said it was worth it. And then he fell and got his lower even dirtier. That’s exactly the type of thing I was trying to avoid.

We didn’t stop at Tsokar lake. As we have decided to journey all the way back to Jispa. The banks of Tsokar lake have a unique look. It’s white with salt deposits. We saw Kiangs running wild parallel to our car. They must be spooked by the sound of our vehicle. We filmed them running and they crossed the road and went up the hills.

Reaching the next village, we bought coke for the first time. It’s been a while since we quit sugary drinks. Who in the right mind consumes coca cola in this day and age? But lol it tasted so freaking awesome. No wonder why this stuff is so addictive.

We ate lunch at Pang at around 4 PM. When we left Pang, I thought to myself that we will film that beautiful stretch of road that we couldn’t film going up. But after a few kilometers from Pang, we got stuck for 2-2 and a half hours. Reason? There are bridges on which only one vehicle is allowed to pass at a time and for a good reason. But people are idiots. Two vehicles passed at the same time. Both going towards Leh. A Toyota Fortuner and a Mahindra XUV 300 driving behind it, not even keeping a proper distance. Fortuner lifted a loose steel plate of the bridge and XUV driver behind it managed to ram that plate into its chamber. XUV got stuck there with its chamber destroyed. First, the road workers towed XUV to the side and then they started welding the loose steel plate. The result was a heavy traffic jam.

Hence we couldn’t film that entire beautiful stretch of road on our journey back either. We lost the light. It grew dark when the traffic resumed. We reached Sarchu at around midnight. Couldn’t film that water crossing either. For half an hour we stopped at Sarchu, in dilemma. Weather to stay here or continue towards Jispa? We continued.

And what do you know my friends? If there is something called bad luck, it is me and my old nemesis Baralacha La. It screwed us over pretty nicely. The whole pass is under construction. People say it is like a puzzle navigating Baralacha La. Try getting lost in this puzzle at night. We did such an offroading there. If we were to see in daylight from where we drove, we would be shocked too. This was not intentional. We couldn’t find the main road. There are several broken roads. There was no way to know which was the main road as it was also broken. The roads (if you can call them that) are like treks. We found ourselves in a similar situation as trekkers but driving a vehicle on treks. Just as a trekker would do, go a little ahead to see where the trek leads to, we drove on those roads back and forth looking for the main road. Finally, at one point we could spot the main road and milestone reading Baralacha La but how to get there? Gagandeep was driving here on these patches and I was going out constantly in the biting cold guiding the vehicle. We found a stretch that would connect us immediately to the main road but it had a huge bump. We decided not to drive over it wisely. If we get our chamber broken in such a time and place there will be hell to pay. Luckily after some distance, we were finally united with the main road. We saw a new milestone being made for Baralacha La we bowed our heads to it. In the daytime, it would have been obvious not to take these zigzag stretches and stay on the main road, especially for the traffic coming from the Manali side.

We reached Jispa at 1:30 AM. Found camps near the road and stayed a night. This is what happens when you have made a sure decision about your destination. We could have avoided this ordeal if we had stayed in Sarchu. But we were beginning to get homesick and internetsick. Jispa was the only place where there'd be internet. Lol.

Day 9 – We resumed our journey back home. I drove up to Mandi and managed to get 25km/l mileage (overall) going downhill till Mandi. It reduced to 15.2km/l (overall for 2000 km trip) due to traffic and fuck up of bad roads from Mandi onwards.

We reached our homes at night. A tremendous trip. Ladakh is a vast wilderness. There’s something new at every corner, at every turn. Something beautiful. New scenes, changing landscapes. Different trees, different roads, different colors. It is the ultimate cure for a soul thirsty for the Himalayas.