I got up today morning quite early. I was looking forward to this day for quite some time. I put on three layers of protective clothing in anticipation of the cold place that I am heading to. I wanted to go to Khardung La, a pass which is the highest motorable road in the world. I enquired with the host here and they knew a person who conducts such biking trips around here. It is only 40km from here, at an altitude of 18,380 feet or 5600m above MSL. For any biker, it is the ultimate place to ride. There is no road higher than this on earth. And again, I still won’t be taking the Diamox.
But first, I need to get the innerline permits. Since most places around Ladakh are close to the international border, it requires an inner line permit to visit. So I went to the Deputy Commissioner’s office and wrote an application to the District Magistrate requesting him to grant me permits to visit Khardung La. For just 10rs, which will be donated to the Red Cross, I got my permits issued in half an hour. However, it is always advisable to take the permit as soon as you get here so that you don’t run the risk of the permit issue getting delayed if the Magistrate is out of office. Now that I got my permits, I can start on my way to Khardung la. There were many bikers, mostly on bullets, most of them foriegners, who all want to take the ultimate route. We started off. The road was quite good and was not so steep unlike what I expected. It was not at all difficult to ride on. Just with a prior experience of riding on ghat roads, going slow, honking on the curves, is all that you need to do. As I climbed on, the chill factor came in. Though I was wearing a biking gloves, I still felt cold in my hands. But that was manageable. At a check point in South Pullu, I was asked to produce my inner line permits. There were breath taking views from the road that I was riding on. But, it was difficult for me to stop the bike, take off my gloves, pull out the camera and shoot. So I decided to enjoy it myself. It was now just 10km to the top of the pass. From now on, the roads are not surfaced properly. But still, it is very much motorable. There were patches of snow by the side of the road. But now, snow was such an ordinary sight for me. I moved on and after close to a 2hr ride, I reached the top. Took a lot of photos. It was indeed a place to be. 5600m above MSL, much higher than the passes I have been through, but still I never felt tired or affected by the altitude. It was the 36hr stay at Ladakh that made the difference. My body was now quite adapted to these altitudes. Since I was not feeling tired, I decided to try out something new. There was a stupa a little above the pass which was covered with snow. Also the way to reach there was also covered in snow. I thought of trying to get there. I asked the army men if I could climb and they answered in the affirmative. I decided to try out a technique that I had seen in the Discovery channel to climb through snow. The idea was to first kick on the snow and harden it enough and after making sure that it can take your weight, climb and repeat for next step. I tried it and it worked easily. I was able to climb through the snow. Atop, I again took some photos. I felt that coming down was a little more difficult even though I had the compacted snow footsteps that I made.
The Khardung La pass had a small army presence and had a canteen. Though it might not have been the tastiest tea that I have ever had, it was certainly the most refreshing one. I met a couple of army men, Bijoy Deora and Imran Khan. They asked me where I was from and how my journey was so far, etc. As expected, they were very surprised at the journey I had so far. They advised me not to stay there for long as it is a very high altitude. Also they told me not to take a bath immediately as it can cause complications. I don’t know the science behind it though. We wished eachother good luck and parted. I then moved down slowly. There is a trend here to salute each rider you cross enroute. I also joined in that and found it quite good in building the biking spirit. After coming back to Leh, I had my lunch and went to see the Ladakh Shanti Stupa. From there, you also get a full view of the beautiful Ladakh town. I then returned my bike and came back to my room with wonderful memories of visiting yet another extreme place on earth in my trip.
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