Ladakh to Kanyakumari on an Activa – Lamayuru to Leh
The crash actually shook us both. Srivadana was utmost worried more so as it was all of a sudden. As we took the home stay in Lamayuru, we immediately asked for tea as we were craving since a long time (since ascending Namik La). Once we had some nice tea, we were back to normal. The Lamayuru monastery, which is one of the oldest in the region was very nearby. The monastery houses 150 permanent monk residents and hosts two annual masked dance festivals (Cham) during the second and fifth months of the Tibetan Lunar calendar. Srivadana wanted to go, however I was not in a mood to take the vehicle out again. The poor girl had to walk uphill for about half a kilometer to go to the monastery. I felt really bad and finally took the vehicle to pick her up as she came out. We returned back, relaxed and had a nice dinner and slept early.
The plan next day was to start very early at around 6 AM and head out to Leh, which is around 130 kilometers from Lamayuru. As planned we started off. The roads of Lamayuru are very narrow and and steep. It was all steep descending and I had to ride slowly and carefully. Somehow, the previous days experience had made me more careful but not scared. The beauty of the Srinagar Leh route is that one can see different terrains after each pit stop. While it was green till Kargil, there were barren mountains till Lamayuru. Now, the whole scene turned rocky. The terrain here is compared to the one seen on the Moon, and one can see this terrain from the road. The best view of the moon land I believe is from above the hills near the Lamayuru monastery which we did not visit.
Both sides of the road are high rocky mountains, and the area is known for small stones suddenly falling up from above. And while falling, the stones travel at a rate of 600 kilometers per second. It can easily put a hole on ones head. We had half the fuel tank and an additional 2 liters in bottles and could reach Leh possibly. However, decided to stop at Khaltse which is around 35 kilometers from Lamayuru to refuel. As we completely descended Lamayuru, we were again riding along with one of the Indus tributaries Yapola, also called Wanla. Sun had come out already and was blinding, however the temperature was great for riding. The road was pretty decent all the way except for a very few patches. We had crossed all mountain passes in the stretch so it was on ground level most of the time. We finally reached Khaltse, refueled and took a tea break.
The road after Khaltse was excellent. We still could not go beyond 40 as the terrain is sometimes steep which slows the down the vehicle. Also, the fuel also burns slow due to the low oxygen in the atmosphere. We were still riding along the river for most of the time. Then even the river vanished and we rode in the midst of plains with elevated roads. This road is not a mountain pass, however crosses the plains along many mountains. We stopped in a village for a long break as were hungry. There we had one of the best Maggi ever. The restaurant had a unique way of cooling the water and soft drink bottles. After an awesome break we proceeded ahead. We ascended to a small hill from where one can see the confluence of the Indus and the Zanskar rivers near the Nimo village. The confluence of the clear waters of the Indus and muddy waters of the Zanskar is so vivid and is a treat to watch. During rains the Zanskar river will be overflowing and the rafting expeditions are conducted. This time of the year, the water level is low.
Further ride was pleasure with awesome tarmac. We were in plains again. We had hydrated ourselves with Electrol during the break and I was bursting with energy. Though it was hot, both of us were not tired and were enjoying the ride tremendously. It was a straight road with not much of an elevation and I was able to ride at a speed of 60 kmph despite the low oxygen. About 40 kilometers from Leh, suddenly the vehicle slowed down on its own and was not going more than 20 despite the straight road and good tarmac. There were not even crosswinds. I could not understand and was afraid that some issue has cropped up. Little did I know that we were nearing the Magnetic hill. For some weird reason, all vehicles small or big struggle to move forward in that region. In fact, even if you stop the vehicle it goes backward.
We stopped at the Magnetic Hill. There is a cafe run by the Indian Army, and a mud track has been made with ATVs being run. A couple traveling to Ladakh from Bangalore on their bike spoke to us. We in fact met them the previous day between Kargil and Lamayuru on the road, however I could not recognize them. Srivadana rode the ATV, and she had enjoyed it very much. We were there at the spot almost for an hour, properly rested and moved ahead. The next stop was the Gurudwara Pathar Saheb. Srivadana funnily asked if we will by hit by stones or if we need to throw stones somewhere (Pathar means stone in Hindi). I had no answer. Gurudwara Pathar Saheb was constructed in the year 1517 to commemorate the visit to the Leh region of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of the Sikh faith. Some Tibetans revere Guru Nanak as a Buddhist saint under the name of Guru Gompka Maharaj. One can find a boulder inside the Gurudwara that contains a hollow imprint of the Gurus head, shoulders and back. More details are providing in the page http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Gurdwara_Pathar_Sahib. The gurudwara is maintained by the Indian Army all through the year.
A few kilometers after the gurudrwara, we were at the outskirts of the Leh town. We had information that our accommodation was booked in one of the army camps, but we did not know which. There were too many of them. We went over to the Army canteen, gave the name and rank of our contact and we managed to get in touch on phone. Our accommodation was indeed booked and we had one of the nicest guest houses allotted to us. It was late afternoon and very hot. Both of us were very tired and wanted a bath immediately. We requested for tea, bathed and relaxed for the evening. A nice dinner was served in our room itself and after a delicious meal, we slept off looking forward to take rest the entire next day.