DEBRING -- UPSHI We'll start our ascent into the Tanglang La in 5303 mts/17393 feet, the world's third highest motorable pass. From here, we'll occur after the switchback road that slides down to the Indus Valley and 56 kms afterwards, we'll get to the little village of Upshi. We'll camp at the oases such as Gya campsite place atop a yawning canyon and revel in an overnight stay.
Day 9 → Upshi → LehWe woke up in the small, but cozy guest house in Upshi which we had found late on Day 8 after crossing Tanglang La and had chosen to stay as it was already dark with Leh a good distance ahead. But this was supposed to be our highlight day; the day we target the famous pinnacle of Khardung La (claimed by BRO as the tallest motorable road in the world). We were a day behind our schedule (coz of the break day in McLeod Ganj) and were aiming to do K-Top and visit places near Leh on the same day.But as soon as we left the guest house, the police checkpost ahead of us halted us and informed that due to Leh city marathon, all roads to the town were blocked till 2pm. We felt crest fallen and all the enthusiasm of the morning suddenly started vanishing. But something in the air made me positive and i encouraged the guys to ride back along the Indus river to find a spot where we could wash our vehicles (dusty and worn they looked); and we did find a perfect spot where the car could go off road and stop just next to the clear waters of the Indus (Sindhu river as it used to be called ages ago). Ansu and me got the empty cans filled with river water and started washing, Kuttan helping and Anand as always, clicking away. Although it was tiring, at the end of it, when the machines gleamed in sunlight, i recall saying to Ansu that it was good we did this, we never get to do this back home. Somehow, the bond between man and machine strengthened that day.After spending around an hour more on the river bank playing blackjack with pebbles (instead of cash), we headed back to the checkpost by around 12pm hoping to persuade the policeman. He did relent and let us proceed on our way warning about blockades ahead. Luckily for us, as we approached the city all blockades had been removed and after a quick lunch, we were off to Leh and through the town took up the ascent to Khardung La. And it was an ascent to remember.The pass was infamous for it’s bad roads and i had warned my brothers about same basis my past experience. However, BRO had re-laid roads half the way uptill the checkpost where we stopped only to be informed of another permit to be obtained, which we hadn’t. Anand convinced the cop that we were not planning to cross over to Nubra valley, and will return by evenfall and blessedly, he waved us off.But before we sat back on our rides, the weather changed and light particles of ice started descending in slow motion from the atmosphere (yes, a snowfall, but it was my first ever). It was also a first for Kuttan and both Ansu and Anand were also beaming. Not wanting to waste daylight, we started off again, only for the snow to worsen and the roads did the same too. I was driving, Kuttan with me and Ansu and Anand on their own bikes; it became much colder with the snow getting thicker and visibility started reducing. Suddenly the snow vanished, the clouds moved away and sun shone upon us revealing a scene across the valley below which is best seen, than described.We completed the ascent with sun shining on our backs and the snow which had accumulated on the biker’s jackets quickly dissolved. Customary photoshoots and tea/maggi on the cafe at the top followed before we headed back and me and Kuttan chanced upon the red fox (native to Ladakh region) twice while riding down after twilight.Many days later (Day 15), when we were discussing about our best memories from the trip, me and Ansu pointed out that it was Day 9, but the memory was the one near the Indus river when we bonded with our machines. It was an activity which was never in our plans and a setback led to one of the most cherished memories.
By afternoon we had descended 60 kms from Tanglang La and were entering the mesmerizing “Indus Valley”. The colossal river Indus was flowing along the road and the first village we came across was the beautiful “Upshi”. It was after 24 hours that we encountered a densely populated human settlement. A peaceful, beautiful and serene set up with some amazingly colorful rock creations ( the red and purple mountains) inhabited by agile and cautious “Blue Sheep”. Our driver stopped near a spring for car wash and we enjoyed the crystal clear natural spring water having unparalleled taste and freshness. Nearly all the houses were accompanied by three to four “chortans” of different sizes. A humongous Buddhist prayer wheel situated in the center of village evidently gave an idea of the religious faith of the residents.
Finally we were welcomed to the valley of Leh after entering the Julley Gate and crossing the police check post at Upshi.