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.

worried for anna
worried for anna

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

“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.

@ leh - manali highway


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.

changla pass

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.!

me and sharma
(me and sharma)

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.

stuck at pangong

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,

indo-tibet border
At changla ,our dear army men invited us for lunch and we had a great time there. After all, Sharma ji ki shaan hi kuch alag hai.. 😛

sharma ji with Indian army
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..


….Until I noticed that the speedometer wasn’t working and there was some jerk every time Anna raised the accelerator.. But somehow I convinced Anna that it must be due to some loose bolt and he managed to convince me that speedometer is the last thing that we needed. Bunty’ a local builder who had helped us get the plate all the way from Kullu.. was guiding us till Udaipur which was 60kms ahead. Being the only well experienced driver, Anna decided to drive on the off-road track till Udaipur.


I was ordered to sleep.. but sleeping in a Nano.. that too on off-roads.. was next to impossible.. So I took my camera and Gopro and began to capture the amazing wide scenery of Pangi Valley.. We were told by Bunty to avoid any turns and continue straight on Tandi road.

rock cut roads

After covering 35kms we reached Mindhal.. a small settlement of 15-20 houses.. Even they were surprised to see a Nano on that road.. and assured us that we were not going to reach Keylong on the same day. By this time we had learned to ignore everyone who used to say that we won’t make it or the car wont make it till Leh…
We halted for few minutes, took some snaps.. some chips.. and Real Juice that too.. Pomegranate flavor *Yuck* and moved ahead..

It was getting dark and we were told about few streams that could be dangerous to the car. So we hurried up but the avg speed just increased from 18km/hr to 20kms/hr. Somehow we crossed those deadly rock cut roads and entered Lahual region by 8pm.

entering lahaul
I was lying on the back seat and was wondering, “what if this journey never ended..??” and the sudden smile which came straight from the heart can’t be described in words. Lying on the back seat.. with your favourite track playing.. legs half out of the window.. watching mountains n valleys turn by turn.. with your loved ones.. heading to your dream destination.. and memories of past few days spent at a Village whose name you never heard of.. those Punctual faces.. some that I talked with.. some I wished to talk with… funny moments at the govt. hospital… view from the Hotel.. watching Enfieldmaniacs making their way.. Ahh.!! Life had never been so happening before.. 😀
And as I was lost in those happy memories.. Ganesh Anna woke me up and said.. “Machan, we’ve got a stream to cross ra..”

enjoying solace
As I opened the door, I could hear the same familiar noise of the running water of the stream… and the chilling water brought me back to my senses. Though the streams were wider than Saach’s, they were easier to cross as if the pebbles were paved..
The slowly increasing speed showed the frustration of Anna.. Until we saw the river.. Chenab was showing it’s wrath and that made us go slow from there onward.. I had seen Chandra River in Spiti but Chenab’s Flow was worse.!!


As we had a lot of distance to cover, we kept on moving.. After crossing 3 streams and covering a stretch of another 45kms, we reached Udaipur. But we didn’t halt as it was the Tar road which was our main target and not the town. Finally we came across a dhaba and Anna stopped the car. It took us 6hrs to cover 85kms..We met a very nice guy at the dhaba who was happy to see kids who were addicted to travel rather than anything else. It always makes me feel good when someone admires what you do.. rather than making you realise that you are riding in a Nano.! 


Moving ahead.. we crossed few more police check posts and villages..and at last we came on the Manali-Leh Highway at Tandi.
Before starting this trip, Anna and me had decided that we are not going to refer anything on the net regarding the route from Jaipur to Leh. That was so foolish of me.. but Anna being the eldest had got information from which we came to know that there was a petrol pump in Jispa which was 19kms ahead of Keylong.. The place where we stopped to exchange the drivers.. I came across this..


It was 1:30am, Niraj took the wheel and continued the journey.. I could see Lightening behind the mountain ranges.. that made me worried.. also I saw some trees and electric wire poles fallen along the road.. Sharma Ji always looked sleepy whenever he used to concentrate on driving. He never noticed anything going on along the roads.. And that use to make me scream out loud..


Well… after getting down to Jispa, I felt asleep but Sharma Ji woke me up and said that there was no petrol pump till Jispa. So we took those printouts and checked for the nearest pump. It showed Tandi which was 26kms behind, the same point where we joined the highway. Sharma’s pissed off face made me realise that again we were in deep trouble.. because we were already driving on Reserved petrol.. (usual thing) and that the car could go only 21kms.
Without thinking much, we took a detour and started back journey to Tandi.. It had started raining by that time.. Sharmaji used to drive in full swing and then used to take the car on Neutral to save petrol.. I felt asleep as I didn’t sleep during the entire journey.
A loud screeeching sound made me wake up and as I looked in the rear mirror I saw a live electric cable stucked with the wheel..
“Gaadi rok Bh******” I yelled at Niraj… Sharma applied urgent brakes.. and I opened the door, but then I saw the pole from where the wire came and it was sparkling out blue sparks. My eyes were wide open.. Without any thought… I told Niraj to take the car back slowly..
And the moment the wire got off the wheel.. it was pulled by the falling pole and it went off the road like a snake with sparks coming out of it..
Damn.!! What was that..!!?? I Looked at Niraj with a BIG ? mark.. Then I realized what was I about to do.. Free a Live wire with bare hands..??
I imagined myself like those people who touch the Railway’s current wire and get turned down into ashes.. That moment still brings goosebumps as I describe it. Then came the funny part, I turned back to Anna and he was looking at me and niraj with a blank face as he had no idea what could have happened a minute ago. That didn’t stopped me scolding Niraj.. but we had to continue as we were running out of fuel.
Two kilometers after that horrible incident.. Sharma ji had almost taken us into Heaven… YES.!! He had missed a sharp curve and the tiny little car was hanging on a cliff with only two tyres on road and front tyres was almost hanging…
As I looked back.. Anna had already jumped off the car and I couldn’t stop laughing… I still remember Sharma half crying and half laughing..
Until the car moved a bit and made us realize that it can fall any moment and that we should be saving our lives rather than laughing like idiots..
So I came out of the car.. called anna and pushed her back and somehow got her back on road.. Phew.! The roadtrip was getting worse with every hour.. As I got in, I could see sharma ji getting sentimental.. and saying “Saale, marte waqt bhi mera sath nahi chda..”(Din’t leave me even while dying) And I forgot all my anger.. Phew.! Shit happens.. that’s all I could say..
Anna took back the wheel and drove the car till petrol pump.. last 3kms stretch on neutral mode.. amazing he is.. during that time Niraj was trying to explain that he wasn’t sleepy..
We reached The pump at 4:30am.. and had one more problem.. that was the pump opens at 6:30am. So we stood in the que and slept off in the car itself. As we woke up, we saw 50more vehicles in the que and those who had returned from Leh told us that they took 12hours and some took 10hours..
We refilled the extra fuel gallons and estimated that we would require 14hours to reach Leh. Unfortunately, we had spent all our time i.e. 3days in Khillar so we were running a day behind. Anna drove till Deepak Tal and had missed a check post that got me worried as I didn’t want any more trouble. But the dhaba guy told us to get it done at Sarchu. To my surprise, I saw a group of foreigners littering around the super beautiful Deepak Taal.

Deepak Tal
As we crossed ZingZing la, all we could see were barren brown shades of mountains, army camps and cantt. and army trucks.. “Trishul”
On the way, there was a bridge being repaired so every bike, car, truck and Cycles.. were stopped.


It was no new thing so see Majority of People from Maharashtra. Those who were more adventurous, took the alternative route of the stream. People were praising each other and their rides.. and as we joined the cue, everyone was like.. “Fuck dude.! That’s one hell of a ride..” In reality, all they meant to say was that.. “saala nano kaise aa gayi.!?” 😛

Adventure trip
Journey resumed and it was noon when we crossed the famous Barala Cha pass and I realized that the car wasn’t moving anymore.


As I opened my eyes, I saw both my takudoos sleeping.. which was quite obvious thing after previous nights incidents.. So.. it was my time to take the wheel and complete the journey. Sarchu to Pang is a stretch of 190kms with 2 passes in between..

That's me

As I was the only one who was awake.. I decided to wear my gloves which I had specially got for this drive and play Martin’s UMF’16 set while driving. I used to calculate time with the track. So I drove for 3 hours on the challenging Gata Loops and crossed Nakeela Pass(15,547ft), which I found as the 2nd most difficult pass after Saach(14,000ft).


Also, I managed to escape from 2 close to death incidents which my friends are still unaware of.. 😛
We halted for brunch from where Anna’s health started worsening.. Now I had many things to do at the same time.. to keep Anna and Sharmaji motivated.. to capture the amazing scenery around.. change the tracks every time and most important of all.. to drive carefully..!
Later, sharma ji took the wheel as he wanted to drive on atleast 1 Pass.. so he completed lalchung la(16,616ft) and made it till Morey Plains.


Niraj was driving in full swing on the buttery roads of Morey Plains.. The terrain changes so drastically as you climb you from Pang. Morey Plains offers a view of what you call as the exact definition of Ladakh.

Morey plains

By the time we reached Debring.. the sun had began to set and we had to stop for a refill. During the whole journey, Petrol was leaking off the gallons so the whole car was smelling petrol. We had a relief as we emptied a can into the car. I continued to drive.. but my happiness was short lived as I saw a thin line drawn on the mountain ahead.. it was a pass.. a big one.. The car was already tired after a day’s non stop journey.. It never crossed 60kmph.. Also it never ran in 2nd gear.. so.. every time it used to get slow Sharmaji used to laugh at me.. Being the only source of entertainment, I continued the driving.. As we reached the top, we were overwhelmed with joy to see that our Takudoo had made it to the second highest pass i.e. Tanglang La(17582ft). Also, we were glad that this was the last pass of the journey and the road was in very good condition.

Tanglang La
It began to snow as we crossed the pass. Things changed, and my driving skills too.. I finally understood how to save fuel by driving in Neutral gear.. 😛 As we got back on the curves, Sharmaji’s fear came back.. but he couldn’t stop smiling.. I knew that it was due to High altitude sickness.. so I ignored him and continued to drive. But, after some point of time.. I felt like a hand was coming close to me and adjusting the rear mirror.. I felt it many times and then it clicked me that I was getting hallucinated too and that we should lower down as soon as possible.
It got dark and as we reached Rhumtse, we realised that sharmaji didn’t make any calls to his beloved Bapuji. The only place where one can find a network is Upshi which was 52kms ahead. So Without thinking much we continued the journey. Anna was sleeping since afternoon due to headache.
For some reasons, my driving skills were exceptionally well.. and I could make that out on Sharmaji’s face.. with every curve he used to tell me to slow down and I used to speed up.. The more I drove the car, the more I fell in love with it. And finally we made it to Upshi by 9pm.

Entering JnK was a headache.. We were forced to pay Excise duty for which Sharmaji questioned the authority and got into a quarrel but unfortunately we had to pay. After the most important call of the day, I somehow got in touch with our teammate Chirag, who was supposed to join us for the expedition. He assured us that all the arrangements had been made and that we need not hurry. After listening to Chirag’s word, I was relieved. Next important thing was Food.!! After rejecting 2 dishes, Anna finally had half chapati.
So after so much of adventure in a day we finally reached Leh. Anuj and Giri Sir greeted us but we were too tired to tell them about the entire journey. The next thing that came in my mind was the expedition.. Stok Kangri.. for which all this efforts were taken…


To read about the whole expedition, please read “Journey from Land of Rama to Land of Lama(Part-3)