One good thing about our group was that we did not panic in any situation. Things seldom go according to our plans and when you are in Raid de Himalaya, things not going according to plan is implied (with a double underline!). After crossing Bara-lacha la and covering some distance towards Sarchu our own little adventure started (as if Raid de Himalaya was not enough already). Precisely at 3 P.M, 17 KM from Sarchu – we had another flat tyre. This time it was more serious though. The tyre was actually torn and had become unusable even for future use. We once again unloaded our extremely loaded vehicle, took out the previously punctured tyre and waited. Waited because we did not have any spare tyre left. There was no chance of any other Raid-de-Himalaya service vehicle coming behind us on that route as we were already too much behind schedule. There was no other option but to wait for some other vehicle/truck driver passing by, who would be kind enough to take one of us to Sarchu along-with the punctured tyre. The traffic was almost non existent on that deserted road but luckily a truck came by and we sent our driver with the tyre to Sarchu. There was a hope that the tyre would get repaired at Sarchu or at least, if nothing else, there would be some kind of help available.
Two hours down and there was no sign of our driver. The frequency of vehicles passing by was also dropping pretty quickly. With no cell phone reception and no other source of information, we were stranded in the cold desert. To add to our woes the sun was quickly disappearing behind the mountains leaving us in extreme cold and depleting oxygen levels. Just then a Mercedes came by and the helpful guy stopped. We explained our position to him and he offered to take two of us to Sarchu. He left the rest of us(3) with some drinking water and snacks. Another hour passed by and now the three of us had no news about either our driver or our two friends. The three of us were now contemplating our few options. We decided to load everything back in the car and leave with the next vehicle that comes along. A few minutes later the driver came. I can’t tell you how relieved we were to find an inflated tyre in his hand. The relief however was short lived when we found out that the punctured was not repaired. The driver had just inflated the tyre using someone else’s portable compressor, hoping that it would make at-least 17 KM to Sarchu. We were so close but yet so far. 17 KM seemed like 170 KM in that situation. With prayer on each of our lips, the longest journey of the trip started. It was now completely dark and silent outside. The road conditions were not at all helping either. Each bump sent a wave of fear in our minds. I would say that it was only the power of our fervent prayers that helped us cover those 17 KM. The driver stopped about 500 meters before the Sarchu camp and instructed us to walk to the camp and bring the portable air compressor back. There was a stream of water gushing on the road that had to be crossed. The tyre had completely deflated again and so it was impossible to cross the stream. Thankfully the tyre was still in good condition and so we walked to camp and brought the compressor. With the tyre inflated once again we crossed the stream and reached the camp safely.
I can not describe the feeling of relief which I had felt after reaching the camp. The family managing the camp was extremely helpful. They were extremely polite and kind hearted people. I must mention that they took great care of us and did not even charge us for many of the things as they knew that we were stranded and helpless. I believe, that it is the extreme conditions of nature that shapes the attitude of the people who live in these places. It teaches the people to be kind and helping as they know the importance of building relationships, which will ultimately help them, if they land up in adverse situations. I found the same trait in people of Iceland as well, despite being a developed nation and despite the people having all sorts of rescue services at their disposal.
Our next plan of action was to get the tyre repaired at Pang. Pang was another 80 KM away from Sarchu. The plan was to send the driver and one more person to Pang with the tyre early next morning and get the tyre repaired. They would then come back to Sarchu and then we will continue our journey towards Leh. This meant losing another day of race pictures but we had no other option. Before going to sleep, I decided to capture some pictures of the amazing night view of Sarchu. Actually I wanted to capture star trails but unfortunately that was not possible as the night sky was flooded with moon light. The temperature had dropped to below freezing point as well, which was another reason I could not stay outside and capture for long… and I was tired! The next morning at 7 A.M one guy along with the driver left for Pang as planned. The rest of us simply had no other thing to do apart from waiting. 8 hours is what it took for them to come back. They returned at 3 P.M and that is when we finally left Sarchu.
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