Article first published as Raid de Himalaya – The Incredible Journey Ends on Technorati.
Continuing from where I had left… There was no spare tyre at our disposal even now and the distance to cover was huge. Driving slow and steadily was the only option we had. We arrived at Pang after crossing Nakeela Pass at 7 P.M and took permission from the Army check-post to go further. It was dark and we had a decision to make. Should we spend the night at Pang and leave early morning for Leh? The logical mind was saying yes, considering that we had to cross a notorious Pass (Tangla-la) and Moore Plains at night with NO spare tyre! Our heart was saying that we should leave. Ultimately we followed our hearts (except one person who decided to spend the night at Pang) and headed towards Leh. One more drawback of leaving at night was that we would cross Tangla-la and Moore Plains during night, which meant no photographs of the beautiful landscapes :(.
We reached Tangla-La at around 10:30 P.M and then started the descent towards Leh. Next we crossed Moore Plains with much difficulty, we could only cross Moore Plains by following existing tyre tracks! Without any visible markers on the road, Moore Plains becomes scary at night. It is very easy to drift in the wrong direction. Anyhow after crossing Moore Plains, we felt kinda safe. The road conditions had improved and Leh was not very far. Just as we entered Leh at 4 A.M and turned at the entry round about – BAM! We had the third tyre puncture! Thank God, at least now we were safely in Leh. What did we do then? We just parked the car at a nearby petrol pump and slept in the car :).
After a few hours, when the Sun had risen, we got the puncture repaired and bought a new spare. We had now missed capturing even the Leh leg of Raid de Himalaya. The only option left with us now was to head directly to Rangdum. Rangdum was the last leg of Raid de Himalaya. We left Leh at around 1 P.M after having lunch and taking some pictures. I must say that the route from Leh towards Kargil is extremely unique and beautiful. The roads were pretty much smooth throughout and the views were majestic and amazing. On the way we crossed some passes, saw the amazing Lamayuru Monastery, saw the amazing Tiger Hill and met two brave women from Holland, who were cycling all the way from Leh to Kargil! We reached Kargil at 8 P.M, filled up our tanks and at 9 P.M we were back on the road towards Rangdum.
Reaching Rangdum camp was an adventure in itself. There are absolutely no markings whatsoever on the entire 125 K.M of something which can be called a road! For the entire stretch, you are at your own mercy and clueless about the direction in which you are heading. Unfortunately, this for us meant no sleep at all. We were actually lost for about an hour in the valley, until we met an official vehicle from Raid de Himalaya by sheer luck.The officials guided us to the correct route.It was 1 A.M and we were still 35 KM away from the Rangdum Camp. When the officials were guiding us, I quickly seized the opportunity to take some awesome night shots of the Suru Valley. It took us another 3 hours to navigate that 35 K.M stretch. Finally we reached Rangdum Camp and dozed off in the vehicle.
The race started at 6 A.M and we quickly rushed to the starting point to get some shots. I almost froze to death as it was -15 Degrees Celsius outside. After taking a few shots my fingers had become numb and I just could not take any more shots despite my best efforts. The racers returned at 3 P.M in the afternoon but unlike morning, we were able to get some decent shots. It was a pretty relaxed day with no travelling and the sights were something to behold. I especially remember the sunset at Rangdum. The colors were simply out of this world. We were back in the car at 12 A.M ready to roll towards Srinagar, the last checkpoint.
The way back from Rangdum to Kargil was equally daunting. We again lost our way, but this time I was least bothered. The sleep was overpowering. The only thing I remember is that we had again met an official vehicle, which guided us towards the correct route. The next thing I remember – Waking up at 6 A.M, ready to take some shots of the vehicles. We moved on towards Drass, Sonmarg, Zojilla Pass and finally reached Srinagar in the evening at around 7 P.M.
Sign Off at Srinagar
Srinagar is an amazing place to be and Dal lake is the place to be when in Srinagar. When in Srinagar, do stay in a House Boat, just like we did :). Trust me, it was an incredible experience! A perfect way to end our trip. Here are some pics of the Prize Distribution ceremony. Despite our service team lagging behind all the time. Kudos to our biker Ashish Moudghil, who finished second in the raid after Helly Frauwallner. 13th Raid de Himalaya 2011 had finally ended leaving an engraving so deep in my heart and mind.
To say it was an experience of a lifetime is an understatement. It is an experience which makes me proud whenever I close my eyes.