Friday, October 2, 2015

To Tso Moriri and back

To all those who have been following my blog post about our Ladakh trip, this is Day 5 and we are still in Namgyal’s house, near Mahe Bridge. Reaching Tso Moriri seemed like a distant dream. We were woken up by Saveen’s voice in the morning. He was telling us to get up quickly and be careful as water was dripping from the roof.  Within minutes the mud form the roof mixed with water fell in the center of the room like a thick blob. Saveen was scared that the mud roof could collapse anytime. It was 5:00 AM.  We were all awake by then, scared thinking that the adventure was not yet over. It did not seem safe to stay back longer in the house. Namgyal came in hearing our voice. He was the one who had climbed on to the roof. While he was moving on the roof the loose mud fell in our room. To him, this was normal and he said that when it rains heavily this happens. Our eyes were refusing to open but we had to force ourselves to wake up. The loud and violent Himalayan dogs were barking in the background making us mentally even more disturbed.

We discussed with Namgyal about our plan for the day. He told us that he would be able to take us till Tso Moriri in his camper and bring us back till Thadsang. Yes, the place where we were stranded at night is called the Thadsang village with the Thadsang Karu Lake which was the shiny water body I had observed to my left the previous night. The village is inhabited by Tibetan nomads. They pitch tents and stay there when the weather conditions are good. 

Do check some of the amazing photos of this lake taken by travellers :

Viren was extremely tired and sick. He told us that he was not in a state to drive 230 kms back to Leh. We asked Namgyal to take Viren’s bike on his camper on our return from Tso Moriri so that 4 of us could sit in the camper while Yd and Saveen would drive from Thadsang to Tso Moriri. The sun had already risen and there wasn’t any sign of rain or snow storm so Namgyal readily agreed. He quoted some amount for taking us back till Leh and also asked us to pay whatever we felt was appropriate for the travel from Thadsang to Mahe Bridge and Mahe Bridge to Tso Moriri.When we asked him about the cost of the accommodation, he told us that it would be unfair on his part to charge us for the stay at his house where the roof was leaking. Yd and Saveen realized that their helmets were still wet, their shoes were soaked, the saddle bags were wet, our bags with dry clothes and also dry shoes and socks were still wet after the snow deposited on them had melted inside. They also realized that it would be difficult to drive 230kms again. They were equally exhausted and tired without proper sleep.  We called Namgyal and asked him to arrange for another camper where the other two bikes could also be loaded. We would split ourselves in both the campers and reach Leh. He readily agreed. He said that his friend had a camper and he would take us provided we start early from Thadsang. We had to reach Leh before 7:00PM as they did not prefer driving after sunset. We finalized the amount we would be paying him and left immediately for Tso Moriri. 

We had not had a single drop of water from last night. Our throats were dry and we were still half asleep when we had to be up and ready to leave. I had a pair of dry socks left which was helpful for Deepa. She had not yet recovered. Ideally, if body fluids at lost, they need to be replenished by giving Oral Rehydration Solution. We had carried medicine and Electrolyte powder but it wouldn’t help without water. So we started picking up our luggage and put it one by one in the camper deciding to leave as soon as we could. It was still cold outside. What we all saw next made us just exclaim with ecstasy. Every mountain around was covered with a thick layer of snow. Those barren mountains which we had passed by at 7:00 PM the previous night were now covered with a thick layer of snow. They certainly seemed like the snow white mountains which I have only seen in photographs and on television. 

We could now get a clear picture of the place we were in. There were small houses where only a handful of people stayed. They were mainly shepherds and nomads. They were not poor but their income was sufficient for their needs. During winter months, which start from late October- early November in Ladakh, this terrain would remain frozen with a thick layer of snow. That is when they shift to other places of the country for a living. When the temperature comes back to normal they are back to their village. While we were admiring the beauty around and feeling amazed at the sight we also realized that it was a wise decision taken by Namgyal to bring us to his house. If it had snowed so much at Mahe Bridge what would have been the condition at Tso Moriri or Thadsang, where we were stranded? Had we stayed in that tent we could had suffered extreme conditions because of the snow storm. 

View as soon as we came out of the house

We stuffed ourselves back into the same camper. I sat with Yd in the front seat this time. Yd was very energetic after a nap and was busy capturing videos and photos. I was least interested to even answer his questions for the video footage. I was relieved that we survived. Spiti was still in tears and it took time for her to come back to normal. Deepa’s health condition was worsening. The fact that we were able to see sunlight in our normal conscious state made me so overwhelmed with joy that I gave Deepa a tight hug. We were alive and ready to move. Whatever happened was past now. We decided that we would not head back to Leh without seeing Tso Moriri. 
With Namgyal’s help we started on our journey. The entire route till Tso Moriri was snow clad. Everything was white. We could spot a few Yak, wild horses, and herds of sheep around. It was just 7:00 AM and everyone in the village was awake. We could see people. There were few school kids who were also in the camper. They had to be dropped to Korzok village. Life for them was extremely tough. Namgyal told us that their income was generated by rearing sheep and gaining money from the Pashmina wool. They sell the wool and earn money out of it and also use the same sheep for curbing their hunger. He also told us that they were Tibetans and not Ladakhis, including the kind couple who helped us in Thadsang village. When he mentioned about them we remembered about our tent and the condition of our bikes. Saveen realized that he was not able to find his bike keys. We were wondering if the tent was still intact or had it been collapsed too in the snow storm? What would have happened to them and their baby? Where would they have slept? 

While we thought about all this and recalled our experience from the previous night we moved forward closer to our destination. We were able to see the beautiful landscape around, which we weren’t able to view the previous night. It looked surreal but we had to suffer a lot before witnessing the beauty around. We were talking continuously and also debating whether we did the right thing by not halting at Chumathang or Mahe Bridge. Namgyal bought us water from a hotel where we were supposed to halt the previous night. We were feeling so cosy and comfortable inside the camper that we did not feel like coming out even to get water. We took sips of water after an overnight fast. We had to wait for another hour or so to find washrooms. Our aim was to reach Tso Moriri as early as we could. We reached a stretch where there was snow everywhere; not only on the mountains but also on the plains. Yd and I couldn’t resist but touch the snow and play with it. It was soft ice. For the first time in my life I was in a place where I could play with snow. Our hands and feet were freezing but we still managed to throw snow at each other. Seeing our excitement, Deepa also joined. We wouldn’t get a chance to witness such a thing any sooner so we thought to make the best of the moment. We were in a terrible state but our spirits were still high. 

Snow everywhere

Oh!!! I loved this moment!!

This picture of Deepa standing with open arms, ready to hug the surroundings amidst the snow covered mountains reminds me of just one word: Liberation. 


Finally, Deepa’s dream of getting lost into nowhere and enjoying snow fall had come true. She said that she wanted nothing more as whatever she had wished for had been granted in extremes.


In these terrains as the sun becomes brighter and brighter the snow starts melting and increases the water level on the roads making it difficult for the vehicle to cross. This was the ideal time when travellers who had halted at Tso Moriri for the night would start leaving for Leh . While we were still travelling to Tso Moriri. 
Namgyal stopped at Thadsang for a while, spoke to his other Tibetian friend and arranged for another camper. We could enjoy the beauty of Thadsang only then. It seemed like paradise. 

Deepa and Saveen boarded the second camper. We left for Tso Moriri. It was close to 8:00 AM. We crossed the same route to reach Tso Moriri. Namgyal pointed out the place from where we had to return last night. It was covered with thick snow. The distance to Tso Moriri was only 19 kms but the terrain was not a smooth one. The route was narrow, melted snow water had formed narrow streams and water crossing by then. 


It took us about an hour to reach a plateau from where we could spot Tso Moriri. Finally, Yd spotted the plateau where there were multiple paths leading into different directions. There wasn’t a single sign board indicating the route to Tso Moriri/Korzok village. He told me that it was that place he had been referring to from yesterday. He was confused and lost at this point during his night journey to Tso Moriri in 2012. During the day, the route was easy. The terrain had sand which was wet and bikes could easy get stuck here. We were in the camper so we managed to move fast. Had we come here at night yesterday we could certainly have got stuck in the sandy soil. 

That water body is Tso Moriri

Tso Moriri as seen on the route to Korzok

Deepa had started feeling sick again. We were at an altitude of 14,836 ft by then. She was suffering from altitude sickness which had enhanced because of the fluid loss. She vomited again on the way to Tso Moriri. The smell of the diesel had triggered the nausea.  We reached Tso Moriri and showed our ID proof and permit paper. We immediately went to a dispensary/hospital of the Korzok village.
That was the first time in the entire trip I saw Saveen loose his calm. He seemed extremely worried and tensed. He was worried about Deepa’s health. She had never suffered with bouts of vomiting before. He rushed into the dispensary in search for a doctor. The doctor was not there and neither were there any staff. The hospital staff were having tea nearby. Namgyal went and called them immediately. The doctor spoke in Hindi and a bit in English also. Deepa was not in a state to even walk till the hospital entrance. Her shoes and socks were wet and she was feeling weak. Saveen carried her in his arms into the hospital. I had seen a lot of this in movies when a hero carries his heroine in his arms when she is pricked by a thorn while walking. But for the first time I witnessed something like this in real life. I saw the romantic and caring side of Saveen that day. I saw him tensed doing everything possible to keep Deepa comfortable and warm. I saw true love. Yd and I stayed there to help them out. I sat close to Deepa rubbing her hands. Her face had lost its charm and colour. The doctor examined her vitals and said that she was normal except for the fact that she had lost a lot of fluids and it was a common symptom in high altitude regions. He gave her an injection and also gave a bottle of ORL solution. Her pO2 levels were normal. We also got out PO2 levels checked. Our oxygen saturation was normal. When Deepa was given the injection, she cried as it hurt a lot. She had become extremely weak that time. Saveen couldn’t bear the sight of Deepa taking the injection. I saw pain in his eyes. 

Spiti and Viren were fast asleep in the camper. They were too tired to even walk out of the camper. They were also feeling very cold. All they needed was some rest and some food. Before we could have something to eat we all needed to freshen up. While Deepa was resting in the hospital Yd and I went to Yak Camp in one camper. We went to buy shawl to keep Deepa warm. Namgyal’s friend took us to Yak Camp, where we spoke to Stanzin who was Dawa’s friend. He said that there were no vacant tents because he had allotted it to people who came asking for accommodation at night. He had waited for us but since we did not inform him about our delay they were allotted to other travellers. Just because he was a close friend of Dawa he gave us one tent which had been vacated sometime back. We could freshen up there for a while and then we could leave for Leh. He also offered us breakfast but we decided to have breakfast somewhere else. We checked the tent that was allotted to us and went to buy shawl, water resistant gloves, and socks from a shop near the Yak camp. Stanzin told us that there was water and sanitation problem because of the previous night’s snow storm. The drainage pipes were blocked and there were chances of water contamination. We did not use the water to wash our face or brush. We went to the hospital with the woolens. Deepa was feeling a little better by then. She was advised not to eat oily food that day. We left with everyone for Yak camp. You can check out my review about Yak Camp on this  link : TripAdvisor

We freshened up and went to a hotel to have food. Yd remembered the old lady who was at the counter. He had stayed in that hotel’s tent in 2012. She had given them accommodation when they had come there at night in 2012. When he reminded her about that day she smiled. We had Yippee noodles, bread toast and tea. The food was warm and tasty. After picking up some snacks from her shop we left. While we walked back till our camper we saw many Tibetian ladies, the locals of Korzok village dressed in traditional gowns. They were ready to welcome the Lama of that region. He was going to visit Korzok village in an hour. That is why Namgyal was hurrying us up as we had to leave the place before the village started getting crowded. 

Our saviours

The hotel where we had breakfast in Korzok

We could only get the view of the beautiful Tso Moriri while walking back to our camper. We manged to click a few snaps but couldn’t enjoy being there. Yd had had a great time in 2012. There are beautiful captures of Tso Moriri by his camera. He could also get a chance to sit on the stones near the lake and spend time admiring the beauty. 

These pictures of Tso Moriri are from Yd’s 2012 trip

We left from Tso Moriri at around 10:00 AM. In an hour we reached Thadsang. The sky was clear and the sun was shining bright. We wanted to meet that Tibetan lady and thank her again for her help. She was smiling happily looking at us. We also saw that little girl who was scurrying around at night. She was dressed in a cute traditional gown. She was going to welcome the Lama who was arriving to their village shortly. That Tibetan lady had also kept Saveen’s bike keys safely. She handed it over to him when the bikes were loaded on to the campers.  The tent where we stayed in was intact and the locals were behaving as if nothing had happened the previous night. It was just another normal night for them. The carpets in that tent that were damp were put outside for drying. That was when we observed the fenced area where the sheep were kept at night. We also saw horns of sheep lying around everywhere and the disgusting smell still persisted.

A beautiful composition

The helpful lady

The tent we stayed in

One camper had two bikes and the third bike was put on the other one. Our wet shoes and socks were dumped behind in the carrier. Our bags were kept on the top carrier. Another interesting fact about the people there is - Unity. They all work as a family, be it anything. While our bikes were being loaded many came for help, shockingly Namgyal’s 70 + old mother also came to help them out to load the bikes. She told Saveen, Yd and Viren not to do anything and she was able to lift a Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 cc bike on to a camper. They were able to tie the bikes to the camper so strongly that even if one tried to shake them, the bike’s stood still. Hats off to the spirit of the people there!! We were amazed seeing their unity and strength. We bade them good bye and left. 

The landscape

The journey till Chumathang was covered in a few hours while we switched between our sleep and wake cycle. We spoke to Namgyal in between. Deepa and Saveen were in the other camper. Deepa was not feeling well again. Her nausea increased while travelling in the camper. We stopped at Chumathang in the afternoon for lunch. We couldn’t see the hot springs closely but could spot that area from the from the restaurant. I also washed my face with the water coming from the hot water spring. It was warm and fresh. My skin was totally chapped, sun burnt and completely dry. I tried dabbing some moisturiser on it but that didn’t help either. My skin was peeling. I could see white patches which were pulling my skin. Damage had been done especially around my nose and mouth as I had not covered my face well. It took three weeks post our Ladakh trip with  session of de-tanning for me to get back to my original skin colour. 

We also managed to sell the petrol which we had carried in the cans. The journey from here was long and tiring. We were not interested in enjoying the beauty outside. We were all sleepy and tired. All we longed was to go to Leh and rest in our hotel. We got to know a lot about Namgyal and his friend on our way back. Namgyal’s friend also knew Gujarati and he had been to Baroda. Deepa was able to find a Gujju connection in Ladakh too. She was still not keeping well. She needed one day’s rest to recover well. Spiti also suffered from bouts of headache which was relieved only when she had medicine.

We reached Hotel Druk at 7:00 PM and were relieved to freshen up with hot water. We had dinner in the hotel. When we went to remove our bags from the camper we saw that Saveen’s ,Yd’s, Viren’s shoes and my socks were soaked in diesel which had leaked from the can Namgyal had purchased. We had to discard the socks and keep the shoes outside for drying.

We spent the evening describing about the incident to Dawa. We had an early dinner and retired to our rooms soon. We wanted to be energized and geared up for the next day’s trip to Khardung La.  


Unknown said...

As usual, fantastic description ! Keenly looking forward to the next day's trip.

Unknown said...

As usual, fantastic description ! Keenly looking forward to the next day's trip.

Ydntn said...

Awesome awesome :)

Ydntn said...

Awesome awesome :)

Unknown said...


Unknown said...


Arun Muthusamy said...

Stunning pics. Nice.

Anonymous said...

Wowww.. too good photos..

Power of Words said...

@Arun Prasadh - Thanks a lot!!

Power of Words said...

@Ostepstogether- Thanks a lot :-)