Zangla 1/undefined by Tripoto

Zangla

Located in the sub-district of Zanskar, Zangla is a small town that is an important nodal point in the Padum – Strongdey – Zangla – Karsha round trip. It is also home to the Zangla Palace, that is often mistaken to be a monastery. You can visit the palace for its paintings and to interact with some lamas. Zangla can be reached by jeep or horseback from Padum, which can be reached from Kargil. The nearest airport is in Leh.
Harsh Vardhan
Day 11 (19th July): Around Padum - End of Road-Zangla and Stongde (130 kms, 7 hours)It was a very lazy beginning to the day and I was out to get some tea for the both of us when I met Col. Vohra. He was also staying at the JKTDC hotel in the room next to ours, and was traveling alone with the first leg of his journey being Zanskar. He further planned to cover a lot of areas in Changthang, and being from the Army, his Safari could go to regions where us mere mortals can only dream of going! Over tea, we exchanged stories, and finally parted after taking some shots of all of us together - the three of us and our two steeds, one black, the other white. It was a matter of real coincidence when we got to know that Col. Vohra camped right next to our friends’ tent at Chandratal two weeks later. The world is indeed small for like-minded travelers. The facilities at JKTDC were poor, to put it mildly. There was hardly any water in the bathroom, the rooms were quite dirty and there was also no provision for hot water because the kitchen was not working. After getting ready, we checked out from there and went straight to Geyskit hotel where we first checked in, and then sat down for a longish and tasty breakfast in their cosy restaurant. Finally, at about 11 am, we left the hotel to embark on our plan for the day. We got to know from the locals that Gustor, the annual festival of the Stongde Monastery, was going on. Gustor is typically celebrated in November end, by which time the entire Zanskar valley is disconnected by road. This year, however, they had decided to celebrate it during the ‘tourist’ season, as this would also lead to more money flowing into the local economy. One could call it commercialism, but I would prefer to call it smart thinking. We decided to first check out the end of the road beyond Zangla (yes, the journeys-to-the-ends-of-roads are back with a bang!), which was also on our agenda for the day. The road moves east out of Padum and is tarred almost all the way to Zangla, which is about 30 kms away. As one leaves Padum, the confluence of the Stod and the Tsarap Lingti rivers can be seen and the mighty Zanskar river is born.We crossed the Stongde village, which is about 10 kms from Padum, without stopping there. It took us about an hour to cross Zangla, and we moved on further, all the time driving next to the Zanskar river. The last village on the road is Zangla, after which all the villages lie on the opposite bank of the river, connected to the road with pedestrian bridges. The road beyond Zangla is also tarred, and remains that way till where the road ends. The valley before Zangla is VERY wide and really barren. However, beyond Hanumil, a village 25 kms from Zangla, the valley gradually narrows down, and becomes quite dark and more like a gorge. It probably stays this way all the way up till Chilling, where we’d described the valley in a similar fashion when we’d checked out the end of road beyond Chilling. The road extends a good 10km beyond Hanumil village.A few switchbacks later, we saw a landslide - a heap of stones on the road - and knew that this is where the road ended for Kiyang. We walked a bit up the road, but decided to take a U-turn about a km ahead. A few workers informed us that the road was complete till about 3 kms from there. We were back in the car by 1:30 pm.We headed back towards Zangla, and reached there in an hour flat. The climb towards the Zangla fort is pretty steep and it was the first time 4WD was engaged in Zanskar so far. The fort looked pretty much deserted, and we had forgotten to take the keys from the owners in the village below. We knew about the key part because of our know-it-all guidebook! When we reached the fort, we made a small discovery - the road extended beyond the fort as well! We thought of exploring it further, but hardly 500 m ahead the road came to an abrupt end while descending. It was a difficult spot to take a U-turn and after probably 10-15 odd tries, we managed to finally do it. According to our Leomann map, a trek went from there all the way to Sarchu. It was almost 3 pm by the time we reached the main road again and immediately started moving towards Stongde. The climb to Stongde is a little steep but manageable for a non 4WD. The sputtering of Kiyang’s engine returned with vengeance on the climb and it once again lost power. It was quite baffling for me since we had got the filters cleaned at Kargil, and the car had responded well to that. However, here on this climb things were again going downhill. We decided to try the climb nevertheless. A climb on which I would not even have engaged the 4WD mode, I had to actually turn to the 4L mode for more torque. I made a mental note to make calls to some experts back home (read Tanveer) to resolve this issue when we reached Padum.When we finally reached Stongde, the festival was about to end, and apparently the last ceremony was underway. We’d seen photographs of the Hemis festival, but it was great to actually see the Cham dancers perform live. We positioned ourselves on the roof of the monastery and started clicking away to glory. The sun was very harsh and we were sweating even in our light clothes, but the dancers seemed all happy and cheerful even in their heavy costumes! We witnessed the ceremony for about 20 minutes before it ended, and then made our way back to the car. In the outer veranda of the monastery, we stopped to have some bananas being sold by some local vendors, being hungry as hell. Around 5 pm, we finally left for Padum. As we reached Padum, I dropped Aarti to the hotel, and then referred to the guidebook to see possible causes of problems with Kiyang. On not coming to any conclusion, I made a call to Tanveer next, who thankfully took out a good 30 minutes to attend to my call during a working day. He diagnosed water in the sedimenter as the probable cause of the stalling of the engine. With detailed inputs on how to drain the water from the sedimenter from him, I went under the vehicle to get the job done. Afterwards, I took the car for a spin to test if things had improved, and they had considerably! Thanks buddy for helping me out, wonder what I would have done without your help. Once this was done, I realized how tired I was, and how badly I smelled of diesel. A quick shower was all I needed to get the stink off me, and get rid of some of the tiredness as well. Later, as we were sitting in the restaurant looking at the shots of the day and waiting for our pizza (Yes, pizza. Contrary to what one may think, they serve pretty good ones.), a guy came up to us to ask if we were working at the new dam site nearby. We, of course, responded in the negative, and he was pretty surprised to know that we were actually tourists. He explained that Indian tourists were quite uncommon in Zanskar, and it is primarily the foreigners who deem Zanskar fit to be on their itinerary. Hmmmm. The pizza was fantastic, and sleep came as soon as went hit the bed.