We already knew from Alok that a bridge on the way to Dha Hanu was removed and they had caught in surprise while coming back. So I started preparing some plans as I didn’t understand the exact location of the bridge. First name came to mind was that of Harsh, I called him straight away (as I usually do whenever I am in trouble in HP/ Ladakh, as I know the most authentic map, you could get from him only) to understand the possible work around in case the bridge is not restored. I remembered Harsh covered Dah Hanu from Lamayuru via Chikan, as usual he explained me quickly about the roads there and thanks buddy you are so helpful always. Alok had an impression the bridge might get restored in a day or two, so we were hopeful as well but Regzin understands the ground reality of Ladakh much better than any of us, he asked us to be prepared in early morning as it was a day trip and we had to cover a lot of distance. So we had a quick breakfast and I must say Tso Kar Hotel was very cooperative, at such a low minus temp, they were ready with Alu – Paratha at 6 in the morning. Understanding morning sky when lights are not fully out is always difficult and Sanjay did the mistake of finding it as a clear day. I was confident it won’t be, IMD is quite good in WD forecasting and I have been observing that almost for last 4 years. Locals told me immediately it was going to be a gloomy day with fair chance of snow, only hope was IMD predicted it as a weak WD. The moment we started, we understood it’s absolutely cloudy, the peaks of stok Kangri and other ranges were not visible and there was a grey colored sky all around. The more we were going, weather was getting worse further. At Nimmu, it started snowing and thanks to Almighty we got a chance to see a completely different view of Ladakh in less than 24 hours.
We had a quick tea break at Nimmu and then enjoying the snow ride towards Khaltse. One thing we noticed, Regzin was keep entering in all the fuel stations enroute and tried his best to get fuel, though his tank was full. When enquiring about that, we came to know he was trying to get diesel for one of his friend / relative who got stuck in Khaltsi. Now that early in a snowy morning no pump was open, Regzin had to wake up people in a fuel station finally get his Jaricane filled up. We kept moving with keeping Indus in left and enjoying the amazing views all around of NH1. He stopped before Khaltse and picked his friend up, now I knew him, he was Sonam and he was one of the driver of a group from Kolkata in 2011 October, incidentally I recognized him from my last trip and then understood that his brother’s car (the one Alok used too) was still on the other side of the Khaltsi bridge and the bridge was still going on. Regzin planned everything carefully and that’s why he was so frantically looking for diesel in so early hours of day. Anyway we parked the car in this side and started walking towards other side. With so many cameras, they thought us as a group of reporters and asked us to meet the boss of the team working there. When we told we were just visitors they were happy (everyone is scared of media), reason was clear as since 2 days before they were telling everyone the bridge would be commissioned in 24 hours, Alok also heard the same 48 hours back and locals in Khaltse said the realistic dateline should be another 4 days at least. Just imagine how thin the traffic was between Kargil and Leh so they could easily keep the highway dysfunctional for a week without anyone’s notice. Alok rightly pointed out, they brought heavy artilleries and crossed the bridge capacity and that broke the bridge but anyway it was amazing to see how adjusting the locals were, you should learn patience from the people living here in so harsh conditions.
On the other side, Regzin had to put lot of efforts to heat up the diesel of Innova and we almost spent an hour there before we could start our journey towards Dha. Soon the road bifurcates and first time in life I took the Batalik route and it was amazingly beautiful, at least because of semi frozen Indus and colorful mountains, I found this road more scenic than the fork via Lamayuru. We reached Dha quite late and started to walk up towards the village, now after initial few steps, the whole village was situation as racks in the mountain wall, you know you have to go up to next higher level but finding the road was difficult in snow. Regzin was somehow trying to show us couple of natives as Aryans which when we challenged he confessed as they being Nepali only. The village and the people were amazing and we really didn’t have much time to explore as we had to go back to Leh all the way and it was almost 4.00pm by then. We started our return journey and yes again left the innova on the other side of bridge and crossed walking and yes Mr. X had a nasty fall while returning, he was lucky as he was with a thick gloves that saved his hands, he got some minor injuries in knee though but yes it was an experience too to touch the water at that late hours. Once again a tea break in other side of bridge and finally we started from Khaltsi around 6.00 in evening in middle of dark for Leh. Regzin was expert in such a snowy and frozen track in dark and controlled the car very well in slippery condition without reducing the speed much.
The moon rise behind Stok was amazing and the whole ambience with snowy peaks, mighty Indus got changed in the silvery touch of moonlight. Awesome scene, hardly can be expressed in words. We reached Leh quite late around 8.30 and next day we had to check out from Leh as we were proceeding towards Chumathang.
Painting in a snowy morning:
Indus flowing lazily:
Note the water freezing on lens (The spots on sky):
Fabulous colors in white mountains:
Villages on Other side:
NH1 – Leh – Kargil – Srinagar in the month of January:
The mountains are at their best
The mountains are at their best
Locals lead quiet life: