(Continued from Post 1)
The blankness has a definite beauty and purpose. Dust swirls in all directions, the roads get choppy, and life indefinitely stretches uphill after Darcha. Road construction teams also multiply, while general conversations steer around weather and road conditions on the looming mountain passes ahead.
And suddenly, you reach a mirage – a crystal blue lake, compact enough to camp next to, even as a howling wind shreds the barren silence. At Deepak Tal, 16 km from Darcha, one is introduced to the concept of parachute tent dhabas that remain a hallmark of the Leh road. These temporary rest stops bloom at strategic locations, providing tea, snacks and much needed company along the bleak way. The next stop is Zing Zing Bar, where truckers check their vehicles before ascending Baralacha La (4890 m), a mean and mighty pass that sternly tests human integrity, as well as the durability of your bike.
A rough descent through crooked roads and a narrow, rocky chasm leads you into the Gorges of Pang, which is straight from the pages of a Tolkien fantasy.
32 km down, Sarchu is a bitterly cold overnight stop with numerous tents and dhabas at the state border.
Leaving Sarchu, one gets into J&K officially, and the scenery along this last lap to Ladakh is achingly spectacular. The road soon zigzags up 21 hairpin bends to form the Gata Loops, only to drop slightly at the immense flats of the curiously names Whiskey Nallah – a temporary truck stop with few dhabas also offering beds. At this point, life in comfortable Leh seems like an impossible reward. But it’s not over yet. A short but hard road takes you right up to the 5060 m Lachlung La offering views across the khaki colored mountains of the Zanskar range.
(To reach Leh shortly - to be continued)