Reaching Back to Hotel….. we found out that Anna was no more..
“Where is he.?” Giri sir asked me the moment he entered the hotel room… “He was okay when we left the hotel”, Anuj replied.
Every effort taken were in vain, because anna couldn’t make it and that was the saddest part after giving up on summit attempt.
An hour later, Ganesh’s phone got connected and it had a lady say something in tamil..
Though it meant that “the person you are trying to reach is unavailable” for us it meant “The person you are calling is ALIVE and is probably back to Chennai.
That prediction was made by us when she spoke in Tamil.
An hour Later, the hotel manager arrived and he told us that it was difficult for anna to sleep at night and so he headed back to Delhi. Later, anna explained all that happened to him and apologized for putting us in worry. So, after solving the mystery of Missing Anna, it was time to have a look at my darling.. My Nano! We had to leave the keys at the reception as the car was parked in a public parking which was under maintenance. The hotel manager told that he wanted to take a test drive so he had taken her away. When I started the car, I was @#%#$$^&*^%* to find out that the test drive was 108kms long. But that wasn’t the problem, the problem was that the car had started making noise which was horrible. And so, all the plans that we made of visiting Kargill and Dras had to be cancelled. Next day, we dropped Chirag at 6am to IXL airport and returned to the hotel. Giri and anuj were supposed to join us to manali but our nano turned auto-rickshaw didn’t seem to be ready for that tough journey with 4 people. We had 4 days to travel and the first half of day 1 went in fixing the car.
I had noticed the Tata service center on the way to stok and so we went there and got it fixed. To my surprise, they charged us almost nothing maybe because we had got a Nano the way from Rajasthan. Once the car was fixed, I called up Giri and anuj to join us till Manali but they din’t answer the call.
So, all the plan had to be changed and we decided to visit khardung la which was the closest & highest possible place where nano should go 😛 So we took a turn from the market and began our journey of 39kms.
“Khardung la” as hyped is the highest motorable pass of the world. we were stopped at first check post and the police didn’t allow to go ahead. After a short discussion he said, “Hum log itne mehnat se raste banate hai aur tum log Nano leke uska kachra kar dete ho!” and also he told us to click a photo at the top with the car or else he won’t allow us to return. Though it made us think again whether to go ahead or not, I couldn’t stop laughing on the way he said. But this wasn’t the first time some one had stopped us from going ahead nor we ever backed off from any road so without thinking much Niraj continued the drive. It was very motivating to see people running and cycling at such heights.
After the second check post, the road was not built so it was a task for Niraj to drive. And on top of that, every other car tried to overtake us and that was the most irritating part.
On the way, I managed to click few pictures of the car as well as of Stok which could be clearly seen from the pass. Reaching the pass, We were welcomed not by the riders, not even the hippies But by the Indian Army and that was a moment of pride.
After clicking few pictures, I took the wheel and continued our return journey. Yes! we did show the police our summit photos and made it back to Leh by 2pm. It was too hot to drive and so Sharma ji preferred to continue with the journey rather than halting somewhere and wasting time. And without a second thought, we just took off on the not-so-easy Leh-manali highway. We had no set plan, no idea where we would spend the night, where we were going to stop for dinner, nothing, just drive on that smooth road till Karu and capture the immense beauty of the barren desert in the small eyes for the last time.
We halted in between at thiksey for Lunch, had thupka and continued till Karu. It was 5 when we reached Karu and I saw the Board which showed Pangong Tso and Changla on the left 116kms away. Niraj calculated the number of days left and we decided to go. The road as usual wasn’t that good to cover 116kms in 3hours. Chang la turned out to be the toughest pass of the entire journey.
Reaching Chang la, we were greeted by Army men and offered Tea. When asked for name, “Sanket Sharma, hum dono bhai bhai hai.. ” And the look on Niraj’s face as if some one had bursted a balloon in front of his face.. It was funny moment. But then I realized why the army people were so good to us, because our number plate had “RJ” return on it. Having someone from your local place is always a happy thing. And I have that habit of greeting these life-savers where ever I come across them.
It was 7pm when we left Chang la and Niraj was terribly tired and it was getting dark which meant that it was my time to drive. Also, another reason for me to drive was that I showed Niraj few accident vehicles fallen in the Valley which scared him to death.. 😛 Sorry for that Sharma ji.!
Driving at night.. that too on curves and driving a Nano is like a water park slide.. smooth.. and fun, especially when you are with a guy who doesn’t have faith in your driving at all and screams on almost every single turn you take and all it does is make you drive faster. We reached Dubruk at around 8 and halted for Tea. Ah! I can never forget that place, it totally felt like I was in some other Country like Kazakhstan or some where up there. To my surprise, the truck drivers who had halted there had a laptop and many pen-drives. I was caught by them and made to transfer songs from laptop to all pen-drives and some other technical stuff. Even though our time was getting wasted, I had no option but to do what they said, because a truck can easily crush a Nano 😛
Somehow, we managed to move out and resumed our journey. Road from Tangtse is super cool as it is totally under BRO. After an hours drive, we came on a junction and had no idea where to go. I found a hotel where a person was sitting inside on a table. I asked Niraj to ask him which was the correct route. Niraj, already scared, went on the door, knocked it, no reply, I could see the whole scenario from the car, pitch dark night, a hut with a big window from which i could see the guy sitting and a green door where niraj was standing and knocking. After getting tired of knocking on the door niraj began to bang the window pane, But that shitty thing din’t move an inch. I realized that something was terribly wrong so I came on the driver’s seat and began the car and asked Niraj to hurry up. We took the road ahead and didn’t stop for few kilometers until we found a police check post and they told us that it was the right way. Relaxed, after that I continued the journey, the skies were never seen so beautiful nor were the silhouette mountains. We were so happy and relaxed that I was ignoring the streams and just rushing through that cold flow of water. Li’l ahead, I saw a milestone which stated Pangong Tso 12 kms. So I drove faster and ran into a stream.. a stream which didn’t seem to get over and before I could realize anything, the whole Nano was sunked in mud. Niraj shouted and stopped me from turning off the car. Neither of us had the balls to get down in that cold water and check what had happened.. but Sharma Ji got down and checked the tyres.
With every round that he took around the car his face was pissed more and more. I realized that this time the condition was worse because the moment i opened the door water came in the car and which meant that the entire Tyre was under water. Luckily the exhaust tip was just 4 fingers above the water level. Niraj tried to push the car but all our efforts only made the car go deeper in the sticky mud.
That was the worst scenario of all time because it were just the two of us on Indo-Tibet Border, no one to come for help in 10 kms radius unless an National Emergency was declared. We had eaten up all the sweets given by Bapuji and had nothing left except 6 candy and a super scared friend who couldn’t think anything in that freezing temperature. Why did we decide to visit this creepy lake and again all the invisible fingers pointed at me. But sharma ji were so scared that he had no energy left to scold me. I went all the way back to check what were we into. And i found out that the nullah’s wall was broken and so the water had covered the road. Temperature was falling and there was no point in pushing the car as the exhaust pipe would get inside water. So I asked Niraj to take some stones and put it under the exhaust to prevent water entering in it. After that we got in the car, and convinced each other that this is just like anyother times and that we’ll make it through this too. We tried to sleep but the cold was so much that it was impossible to sleep, so I took off Anna warmers, and pulled over. Luckily, anna had forgotten his bag at the hotel.
At 3 am. when I woke up, I opened the door to check the water and to my surprise the water had reduced. That was kinda magical but whatever it was, was a good thing. I woke up Niraj to show that and turned off the car. The next moment i tried to start, it didn’t work and all the smile that Sharma had by looking at water ran away with the flow and he broke into tears. I was laughing at myself because i knew that the car wont start ever again and that it was over. I had no energy left to convince niraj and so i told him to sleep. Poor chap, he dozed off crying and me too. Next, we woke up at 5:30 in the morning and we decided to get help i mean Sharma ji decided to get help and so he took his jacket and went back from where we came. The stream had almost dried up and I saw the reality. But it was so cold, i got back in the car and dozed off. After an hour later I could hear a trucks noise and before i could get up and check, Sharma banged the door and told me to get the rope and carabiners as he had got an uncle for help. We made the setup and he began to pull, It was difficult for him too as the tyre were stuck deep in. but the moment it came off.. he took the car like the Villain takes the hero who is tied to his car in Bollywood movies. He took us for 4 kms and told that the road ahead is pretty good. We reached Pangong at 7 in the morning.
And that was the Pangong Tso, less known for its spectacular beauty and more for the “3 idiots” scene…
We had the typical maggi breakfast, took few shots and moved ahead to check if we could meet our friends sandy and anurag who were supposed to be there the earlier night. We turned back and headed back to Changla. On the way i came across this,
While descending Chang la, one of the Enfield’s Himalayan rider pissed me off and thus we got into race.. Luckily Niraj was asleep, so i had full freedom to drive in full swing.. As i got down, the heat and the rage got more and more… And before i could loose it, Niraj woke up and i slowed down. By the time our race ended, we had made it down and i let that Anna riders go.
While having Lunch at karu, we found some Maharashtrians who were amused to see us. They had noticed my “race” and so they started asking me about everything. The funny part was that they called the “Passes” as “ghats” and I was like “some people never change.” That was one hell of a experience, the night we spent, the time at the lake, the mile stone, the army people everything was written. We didn’t miss a day, we lived it. We had 2 days left and so we had no other option but to refill our cans and tank and began our return journey to the land where we came from.. The Land of Rama..