Day 7 Leh City and permits

Important Notice: While on the trip out of goodwill I had shared my pics with some of fellow travelers. It might well be possible that you might see my pictures that are shown here, posted somewhere else on the web too. It was not very wise of me to share my pics without proper attribution (watermarks) done, but if you do see such pictures please report it to me.

Day 7, 10 July 2010: Leh City and getting permits in Leh on a local holiday

Day 7 was a rest day for me. I was half way through my trip. I had planned for the customary Khardung La visit (K-Top) and after this as earlier planned, a visit to Pangong Tso.
Morning I woke up and first thing decided to get my bike washed and get the fork tightened once and for all as I was really frustrated with the rattling sound and the vibes the fork was giving.
Came out of my room for going out and was greeted by the hotel owner. Told him that I will be going for bike things to the bike workshop named "Juma Autmobiles". Apparently the mechanic is pretty well known in Leh as he has been in this business from a long time and respected for his work. The last trip the guy had helped me a lot fixing my broken key issue, read this for details:
Day 6 Leh - Getting Permits and Learning photography 

As I mentioned in the previous day's log, 10 July is a local holiday in Leh and none of the government offices are open on that day which means one can't get permits to visit places around Leh for e.g. Khardung La, Diskit, Pangong Lake, Chumathang, etc. I asked the hotel owner if I can get the permits or do I have to just wait for the next day. Waiting for the next day meant losing one day totally and on top of that 10th was a Saturday. If I couldn't get permits on 10th I won't be able to get it on Sunday. Also the news I have been getting about the Leh to Manali highway wasn't good. Apparently Rohtang La was blocked due to landslides also I heard Baralacha La was totally under snow. And so I couldn't afford for waiting for one day for permits and visit Pangong Tso, come back to leh and start my journey towards Manali.
While I was talking to him another visitor who came on a car joined us. He took the Manali - Leh highway and told that the roads are in really bad condition.
I was worried about the road condition because if at all the roads are bad and my bike gets stuck somewhere in the snow, it will be very difficult for me to take it out alone. Knowing that it is not the first time I'll be going on the Leh - Manali highway, in fact this will be my third time, the hotel owner said to me "Why do you worry sir, the guys have come here for the first time and never driven in this region, they will obviously feel the road are worse comparing with normal city roads. It won't be as bad as you think". Hearing this was kind of an encouragement.

The hotel owner also told me that there is a new rule that has come out in Leh that if there is a holiday on a weekday the Commissioner's office will open for one hour from 2 PM to 3 PM in the afternoon.
That was another relief that I can get permits on the same day.

The hotel owner told me not to worry and if I decide to skip Pangong Tso, he can make an itinerary for me to visit places around leh.
I came out and went straight away to Juma Automobiles to get my bike fixed but it was closed and will only open after 9AM. I thought of getting the bike washed first and then come back and in the meantime I can finish my breakfast. I roamed around the city to look for a place for bike wash. Took this picture:
The Leh City gate
Unfortunately couldn't go further back sitting on the bike to cover the whole view, still decent pic eh? :)

Last time we got our bike washed in a Maruti showroom situated on the road to airport. But they were too busy to wash my bike. Hence went to Tata Showroom just ahead on the same road. There also the guys were busy but somehow I convinced them to at least wash the bike with water so that all the dirt and mud can be removed. They charged me 50 bucks for that, expensive but no other option :(

 A view from Commissioner's office

After the wash while waiting for the garage to open, went in a restaurant to have breakfast. All the while I was trying to figure out my options to visit places. I had to come up with a plan in which I could visit at least one place around Leh, head towards Manali and this all should happen keeping in mind that I can get stuck due to bad weather.

I had to reach Delhi by 17th July evening as I had my flight ticket for Bangalore on 18th July night and I should have enough time for getting the bike packed and shipped on train. So basically I was left with 5 days with me. Hence going to Pangong Tso was out of option as I would be having 4 days exactly for reaching Chandigarh. This is possible normally when the climate is favorable but it wasn't.

I was thinking all the time I have already visited Pangong Lake once and this time I can plan for something else. I had heard a lot of Tso Moriri and Tso kar, situated beyond Chumathang, and also heard that there is a route that opens towards Pang which is on the Leh Manali Highway. But I had not seen many itineraries/trips through that area and wasn't sure about it. Still I thought I'll inquire and plan for it.

Got my bike fixed from the workshop. Surprisingly he also remembered me that he had fixed my bike two years back.
At 10 AM I reached the Commissioner's office and it was closed and people there told that it'll open at 2 PM only. I came back to my hotel room and asked the owner about the route towards Tso Moriri and towards Manali Highway from there. He told the way towards Tso Moriri is the usual one towards Mahe Bridge through Chumathang. Once I reach Tso Moriri and Korzok village there is a route towards Pang through a place called "Sumdo" and the route will join the Manali Highway in Moore Plains to Pang and this way I'll skip Tanglang La, Second highest mountain pass in the world (17,582ft above MSL). The route also covers Tso Kar, another lake, which has now dried mostly.

I saw the map that I had with me and it showed the place Sumdo but no clear route towards Pang, Manali highway. Also there are no petrol bunks on the way which meant I will have to carry petrol with me.
Tso Moriri is 230kms from Leh and I had no idea how much far is the next petrol bunk (or a place where petrol is sold unofficially) after Tso Moriri.
I knew that Leh is around 440kms from Manali and my bike goes for roughly 350kms full tank. 
I also knew that I can get petrol unofficially in Chumathang though a little expensive than normal price. Hence I decided to keep around 10 litres of petrol extra along with a full tank of 17 litres in my bike, fill petrol in Chumathang again and it should be enough for me reaching a place called "Tandi" in Himachal Pradesh which is the first place to have petrol bunks when one goes from Leh to Manali.
I didn't have much space in bags hence I bought a 5 litre can and some smaller bottles to keep extra petrol.
So it was decided that I would go for Tso Moriri lake and find out my way towards Manali Highway. Kind of adventurous eh? As I mentioned earlier too that now that I was riding solo, I was more interested in an impromptu route than whatever I planned initially.

This way if the information, that I had got, was correct I would reach Manali in good time and will have enough time in hand if at all I get stuck somewhere due to bad weather though one can't estimate the time (days) it will take for me to get out if stuck. But I was willing to ride my luck on this one...

It was 11.30 something and I had a lot of time till the commissioner's office was supposed to open and hence thought of visiting the Leh Palace. 
On the way to the palace took this picture from a distance.
Gave the picture a little treatment :)
A different Processing

The entry of the Leh Palace has this board giving information about the Leh city and the palace itself.

Some info on Leh City
Bought a ticket at the entrance for 5/- and took pictures where ever allowed. Not much to tell here but the palace is magnificent. The place where exhibits are kept, photography is not allowed.
 The Leh Palace Entrance

From the Palace terrace the famous Shanti Stupa can be seen. Below is the pic. 

Shanti Stupa

The truth is out there, get off your couch!!!!

Leh City as seen from the Palace

Leh City as seen from the Palace


While roaming around inside the Palace and adjoining gompas I met a monk and spent some time talking to him. He was very inquisitive and interested about me riding solo, where do I work, etc... It was nice talking to him. He told me he'll be in charge of the gompa for the next two years and he asked me to visit him again whenever I visit Leh in these two years. But he said next time he would like to me to have a partner (a girl friend or wife :D) I just promised him that I'll meet him for sure.

Old wall paintings. You aren't allowed to take pictures of these paintings with your camera flash on as the flash can damage them

Rays of enlightenment?

Didn't go to the top

At around 2PM I reached back at the commissioner's office to get the permits and I already saw quite a lot of people waiting.
I parked the bike and suddenly I heard a voice calling my name. I checked around and in the parade ground (in front of the commissioner's office) I saw a person waving at me. And that person was a friend of mine, Santosh, who started his Leh trip 1 day before I did. 
This came as a surprise because I thought he had already started for places around Leh since he started earlier. Went to him and talked about the trip. He told that they took the usual route from Srinagar to Leh i.e. through Lamayuru. They were three of them of Santosh got separated from them and hence reached Leh a little late.
He also told about a sad incident that he lost his DSLR camera on way somewhere.
We all went together for the permits. They asked us to get the permit form from the local stationary shops around and fill it up. I filled up the form mentioning Tso moriri, Tso kar, Khardungla, Chumathang, Mahe Bridge. I had to pay nominal charges along with the application and got the form stamped though it took a long time as there were a lot of people especially agents who gave multiple applications for their guests.
Santosh and friends filled their applications for visiting Pangong Tso.
I met quite a lot of riders who came via Manali route and again I got mixed reports of the weather condition. But one thing was sure and that was the landslides in Rohtang Pass.
By 5.30 I got the permits work done and it was wee bit too late for me to visit Khardung La Top. I had earlier thought that I will visit K-top on 10th itself so that next day I can straight away start for Tso Moriri. But since the distance till K-Top wasn't small, it is 42kms one way, and there won't be any light while coming down from the top even if I make it to the top in good time. Hence thought of visiting the place early morning next day.

I ended my day with usual roaming around in the city. Got 5 copies of the permits as I would have to submit it at each check post where ever they ask for.

Will scan a copy of the permit and post it here soon, right now I don't have the copy with me.

One more thing which I had not discussed all this while was the problem of AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness). My last trip wasn't a good experience with high altitude as I was badly struck with it. Read more about my last trip's experience here.
This trip I had to be extra careful because if something bad happens there will be nobody around to help me. Hence I did some reading on the web and found an informative link.

For first time visitors it would be better to take the Srinagar route and then come to Leh as the height increase is gradual and human body will acclimatize better compared to the Manali - Leh route.

So next day would be a long as well as an interesting one. First I'll be visiting K-top and then will be starting the most unpredictable part of my trip. 
Firstly I do not know the route fully and not sure if there is way through Tso Moriri to Manali Highway, secondly I wasn't sure about the weather conditions in Baralacha La and beyond.
I took the pill, Diamox, at night as prescribed in the above mentioned link, 24 hrs before the altitude change, since I will be spending the night at 15000+ ft which will be more than 500m height difference from Leh in a matter of one day.

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