Friday, July 07, 2006

TangTse- Phobran-Lukung-Leh-Khaltse (22nd June 2006)

22nd June 2006 – TangTse- Phobran-Lukung-Leh-Khaltse & The Marsimek-la Story
Start Trip Meter: 1875.7 km
End Trip Meter: 2159.9 km
Route: TangTse- Phobran-Lukung-Tangtse-ChangLa-Shakthi-Karu-Leh-Khaltse
Stay & Cost: Khaltsi 70 bucks

I Wake up at 5 AM and mount the bike, and check the tyre buildup pressure. I eat 2 laddakhi rotis with lots and lots of butter between it.

I then gulp some glucose, thank the lady owner and head out of tang-tse. Next to the Major Shaitan Singh memorial, I meet a soldier who wants a 30 km drop to Lukung. My tyre pressure is great at 40 and I accept his request. We then ride towards lukung.

This soldier was from rajasthan and I could relate to him with ease because I knew the terrain well. I see the road that goes to marsimikla on my left and this soldier helps me take some snaps.

The road on the right goes to chishul and Pangong Tso. I then drop him at pangong-tso military post. He requests me to have tea at the camp, but I refuse as I have to be at Marsimekla really soon.. my adrenalin is pumping. With a smile on my face, I head to phobran.

There is just a bit over 3 km of tarred roads and then the dirt trail begins.

Another local walks to be and asks me where am I going. I say phobran and he has a son of 15 who has to go there to get ration. He requests me for a drop and I gladly accept.

I then head towards phobran. I reach Phobran at 8:40 AM. I duck and ride under the army stop-gate. And I see a lot of tents. And 2 trucks. I am asked what was I doing and I tell them I need to be in Marsemekla.

Phobran is a camp with atleast 40 soldiers. Its headed by a captain

Then a sergeant walks to me and asks me where am I from. I said Bangalore. He asks me

“Khaana waana ho gaya ?” (Have you had your breakfast)
Chai Peeyoge? (Will you have tea)

Then the Captain comes over. Capt GS Rana.. A hariyanvi guy. Tough, Strong and majestic.

And so does the tea come.

I tell him about myself, I am from Bangalore, he asks about my profession and I say software. I give him my business card, show him I a genuine, and tell him that I want to do marsimikla.

He asks me:

Capt. Rana: “I don’t know why you want to do marsimek-la. I have trucks here that have to go to a forward area called “Hot Springs”… This strikes me.. so Phobran is not the last ITBP post.. There’s one called “Tso-Galu” its pronounced that way.. no clue what it is… never been there.

Capt. Rana: “There is 18 inches of snow… my trucks and the tents that you see are the drivers in transit”

I sip in to the tea, show him the pass.. go a bit aggressive and try a final stunt.. “but the district magistrate has signed this paper”,..

I was so desperate that I was ready to clear some snow and get my bike there.

Capt. Rana: “I cant take the risk of sending you there…sorry.. and moreover you have already crossed higher passes than this”

I say: “But marsimekla is the highest pass!”

Capt Rana: No khardungla is higher,

Me: “Can I just photograph the part of your army satellite topography map that shows the height of marsimikla?”

Capt Rana: It’s confidential. I will not let you photograph. But I can tell you the height of Marsimekla.

Me: That would be a great help.

Capt Rana comes back in a few minutes as I finish my tea.

Capt Rana: “five-five-nine-zero meters”

The height of Marsemek-la or Marsimek-La is 5590 meters (18340 ft MSL), Khardung-La is 5602 meters (18380 ft MSL).. Pretty Close Though!

Theres also a debate that Tanglang-la is higher than Khardung-la!

I try again to convince Capt Rana that I am a seasoned biker who has done west, south, central and north India. He holds to his ground.

I knew I cant shake this guy into sending me to Marsimek-la. I shake his hand, thank him for the tea and hospitability, and go back to my bike

I request the escorting sergeant to click a snap against the bike. So that I remember Phobran and the STRICT COMMANDING CAPTAIN RANA.

(Me with Phobran Camp In the Background.)

The Phobran army gate that I ducked while riding


Its just wrong timing to visit Marsimik-la. I should have come in when the snow cleared. But anyways, Marsimik-la wasnt the only reason i undertook this ride.

I ride back to Lukung/Pangong Tso in the muddy roads of phobran

I see a strange guy with black face, laddakhi look and tall! Out of curiosity I stopped the bike and stared at him with a smile while he was gazing at me.

His finger tips were cut, and slightly bleeding. Extreme Cold has Its toll on this poor man. I request for a photo which he gladly poses for,

I wonder what are the above.

Between Phobran and Pangong Tso


The road to phobran village

I then reach pangong tso.,, and I see an helicopter! Some VIP must be here! The soldier I dropped in the camp told every one about me. And I suddenly get flanked by 2 soldiers.. “Aaapne hamare ladke ko drop diya, aaiye, chai peejeye”.

So army chai again.. I find out that it’s a Lieutenant General from Udhampur who had come over. There goes my plan of doing a lake circuit.. Spangmik-Mann-Merak-Chushul are out of range as the General is here and I need to rush to kargil now !!!

Joyous Adarsh.. I’ve never seen such a blue lake that is Salty in my life !!!

My Bike with a trail

Against the Himalayas

Clear Water of Pangong Tso!

The General arrived in a motorboat from the pangong waters and then took a snap of his against the Pangong Tso lake and flew away.

Heres a video of the general's chopper Flying off (Check the video post!)

Heres a beautiful video of Pangong Tso that I did Solo riding the bike with my right hand (Check the video post!)

The builders of these amazing roads.. Their office in shakthi from the top!

Its 3:33 PM and I rush back to leh.. I find leh costly so I attempt to reach kargil

Zero gravity (Magnitic Hill) on the Leh-Srinagar highway. In the night I enter Khaltse thru really bad roads.. I ran over shattered glass and after some time, I have my second puncture. A glass piece went thru the tyre making a hole in the tube and a long scratch in the tube.

Luckily I was already in the village at Gongma Guest house and the puncture shop was just 200 ft away.

I sleep well after having the worst food of my life.


At 12:30 AM, Anonymous jedi said...

:) they do let u do marsimek la. went beyond phobrang to upto 5 kms from the top camp. did it in the late afternoon, so got screwed. had to remove air filter and then push. but couldnt even breathe (heavy smoker :( ). so turned back.

do try it. after phobrang, the road is a gentle upward slope for kms and kms, slowly takes ur bike and spirit to the max.

good luck.

At 12:49 AM, Blogger Ady said...

I am sure they do let you do marsimek la now! I know of a bike tourist who did it :)

But you know those were those days when i could not be left in due to heavy snow and no pass.. priceless!

Thanks and welcome!

At 12:11 AM, Blogger dwarak said...

Hi Adarsh Kini,

Amazing feat. Travelogue is superb.

I still ponder over the marsimek la height. Every where it is quoted at 18,634 ft. and is highest of all passes. Khardung la is only 18,380 ft.
That Army captain Rana is not correct is saying K'la is highest. I believe he mentioned to discourage you going further and because of the road condition.

Any way better luck next time.

I had ridden ladakh on my bullet 500 cc in june 2008. M'la we dropped because my co- riders fatigue.



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