Overlanding in the Himalayas #4: In & Around Leh (Day 4-Day 5)


Day 4: Lamayuru to Leh city

“I explored my options and chose the corner room on the first floor which gave a beautiful view of the valley below. With the orange – black clouds hovering around, it got colder that night and the first-floor room in a hotel on top of the hill meant it was exposed to strong winds; They howled all night as I tried to get some shut-eye. In colder regions, it is a common practice to keep water bottles under the blanket/inside the sleeping bag to keep it warm and drinkable. After I had a sip, I laid my bottle below the sheets without fastening the cap well. Within a minute one side of the bed got completely wet. Luckily, I moved before my sleeping bag got wet. I shifted to the other side of the bed and was forced to keep the bottle outside fearing another disaster! 


Acute mountain sickness, lovingly abbreviated as AMS is described as the physical distress caused due to difficulty in adjusting to lower oxygen levels at higher altitudes. Many recommend Diamox (Azetalomide) tablets for acclimatisation while others warn of its possible side effects. The natural way to get acclimatised to high altitudes/low oxygen levels is by not exerting physically for the first few days, eating and sleeping well, consuming less or no alcohol, smoking less (if applicable) and most importantly drinking lots of water. Although one can assume that one wouldn’t feel thirsty due to the lower temperatures (lesser sweating), the higher altitudes make you pee a lot more. And breathe more which lets out the water as vapour and you do sweat a little inside the many layers of insulation. All this leads to a loss of water without which the efficiency of the red blood cells to carry oxygen drops, giving rise to Acute Mountain Sickness. 


The abandoned water bottle picked up the temperature of the room, which I estimated to be around -5 degree Celcius and deemed itself undrinkable. With dehydration setting in at 3 in the morning, I had no means of quenching my thirst and woke up with a headache. Fortunately, a hearty breakfast proved itself as a cure. I went to the monastery to make some videos and in an hour was on my way back to Leh.


back to Leh

The road which had mesmerised me the previous day caught me by surprise yet again. It seemed like an entirely different road. In all the roads I’ve ridden on in India I had never seen such, how do I put it? Magic!


I continued with my usual practice of stopping often to click the views that this POV had to offer. The black clouds from the previous evening had covered the sky and made it really cold that day, but as a blessing it made the snow-capped mountains look splendid. I reached the top of one hill and had my jaws drop to the floor looking at the beauty that was Ladakh.



As I closed into Leh, the clouds gave way to clearer skies. While passing through the peak of another hill, I saw a strange wonder below, the Zanskar – Indus confluence. From the peak, it looked spectacular! The Indus was greenish in hue while the Zanskar was more turquoise. And their Sangam (confluence) appeared as a marriage made in heaven, blending in with each other with perfect harmony to form a colour which was an equal mix of both. I rode down to admire it from close but preferred my top-of-the-hill view.


It was around lunchtime and I walked into the cafe there to feast on the staple food of Ladakh – Maggi which is generally had with another popular beverage – chai! I was gazing at the cloud play through the door of the cafe when an Indian looking guy with a non-Indian accent walked in asking if he could have a Maggi. I looked down at my riding gears and wondered what gave him the impression that I worked at the cafe. When I looked up at him with a confused look, we broke into laughter. The Indian looking “banda” was from Kerala but spoke that way as he was a resident of Abu Dhabi. His name was Saaji and shortly we were joined by his friend Arun who shared the same history. We had a good ten minutes of conversations and they told me about the hostel that they were staying in, where I eventually decided to stay the night. They made their way to Nimoo and I got back on my way to Leh.


way to Leh

I crossed the Magnetic Hill which for some reason didn’t fascinate me that much. It’s a flat spot on the road which gained popularity for moving vehicles when parked there in neutral, by means of magnetic force. As a bike can’t stand vertical without the centre stand, obviously, I couldn’t verify the phenomena. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it if I had a car and saw it roll.


Ever since my visit to The Golden Temple in Amritsar, I’ve been in love with the energy, love and hospitality ever-present in a Gurudwara. Thirty kilometres from Leh is the Gurudwara Pathar Sahib which has a legend that says that the Holy Guru Nanak Ji was meditating at the place many centuries ago to rid it of a demon. The demon hurled a bowlder at The Guru with the intent of disturbing him, but the moment the boulder hit The Guru’s body it melted and took the shape of his back. Infuriated, the demon came down and kicked the bowlder which took his imprint. Acknowledging The Guru’s power the demon stopped tormenting the locals. The legend was forgotten over the centuries and was rediscovered in the ‘70s when the Leh – Nimoo (towards Kargil) was being built by the army. The army then along with the locals and a few Lamas constructed the Gurudwara and is being maintained by the army since then. I have high reverence to the Guru and walked in to seek His blessings. I had the Langar – roti and sabzi with chai and walked out bowing down to His might. The boulder still has the imprints of the Guru’s back on one side and the demons foot on the other. 


I reached Hearth hostel where Arun and Saaji were staying in and along with Geraldine, we went out to Amdo cafe in the market. I tried out my first Ladakhi food which was ‘Thigmu with Shapta’ – Tibetian bread with mutton curry. It was out of this world! This is a must-try for anyone going to Leh. Oh! and make sure you ask them to make it spicy!

make it spicy


Day 5: Attempting travel to Khardung La only to be faced by issues.


I crawled into my sleeping bag but was woken up mid-sleep as I ran out of water. I looked around but could not find any and was not going to disturb anyone at 4 in the morning for a glass of water. I woke up with a terrible hangover, which this time was not cured by a hearty breakfast. I struggled to pack up and make my way to Khardung La but was lagged by another problem – the delay in getting my permits. It had snowed the previous week and the tourism office had stopped giving permits to motorcyclists for Khardung La and I had to approach the LAHDC (Leh autonomous Hill development council) to get one. I spoke to the Dy. Commissioner and submitted a letter stating my purpose and riding credentials to get the papers. In the office, like never before I found government staff eager to help. My letter signed by the Dy. Commissioner was submitted at the Judicial office where I met Angchuk, who helped me with everything else I needed and in an hour handed me my permits. A traveller himself, we got to talking and he took me out to lunch along with his colleague and her sweet kid.


My head still throbbing, I reluctantly popped a Diamox and went back to the hostel to get more rest, resting my plans for the day along with me.


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