Lachalang La, the 4th pass in our itinerary was right in front of us from where we were at Whisky Nala. When we started cycling at 6 AM, there was still frost on the saddle and handle bars. I had never before felt as happy when the sun came out as today. The body warmed up and slowly, the energy levels increased. In 1.5 hours, we finished the 7 km, 300m climb.
The scenery is never the same on two consecutive days and here, after Lachalang La, we seemed to have landed in some alien planet. Looking at these, I felt the Ladakhi architecture is influenced by this landscape.
On the way down to Pang, the tires on mine and Uli's bicycles cracked. While Uli borrowed a tire from the 'Unventured' group, I fortunately found a truck tire repair shop at Pang. The boys there did an amazing patch job on the tire which took me through the rest of the journey. The job took considerable time though and I had to sit in the jeep for 5 kms to catch up with the rest of our team. I repent not having another spare tire now.
5 kms from Pang, at Moray plains, Ladakh is different again. It is hard to imagine a place like this at 4600 meters above sea level. The amazing Moray plains:
About 75 kms from our start point, we reached our camp for the day at the Debring-TsoKar junction. This place has a few camps with nomadic people and their hundreds of yaks, pashmina goats, sheep. Here, you may like to think that you have time traveled a few centuries back where horsemen are still herding their huge herds along with the shepherd dogs.
Next day, we left well after the sun came and the target was to cross the highest pass on our route, Taglang La and then reach Lato. In my previous posts, I have used various adjectives to describe the difficult uphill at the various passes. But there can be no adjective for the difficulty of Taglang La. I'll give some facts though. 20 kms of loose-stone road. 700 meters uphill. 5328 meters altitude. Atmospheric oxygen level half that at sea level. Sunny and dusty with no shade. And the effect was a lungs that worked so hard, it began to ache so much and I could feel it pushing hard against the rib cage. Nobody had enough energy yet most carried on. Today would be the finale in terms of climbing up. Those 6 hours are the toughest 6 hours of my entire life. Half-marathon and 10K runs now look silly. The body's limits were tested today.
And the climb would not have been possible if not for the motivation from Pip, a New-Zealander exploring the charms of the Himalayas. I, Venu and Pip finished together gloriously without pushing the bicycle once through this most difficult terrain.
From here till Lato, it was all downhill. This was reward time. The landscape now was changing faster than ever. One moment, it was snow. Next, it was a river, then rock mountains, then green fields, rivers, gorges, monasteries and we finally stopped a picturesque village called Lato.
We had finally made it. What was remaining was just some more feathers in the trophy.