“We went to bed as Pakistanis and woke up the next day morning as Indians”, he said, referring to the Indo-Pak war of 1971 and the consequent reclaiming of around 30 Kilometers stretch of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir by the Indian Army. I could see the spark in his eyes, a sense of courage in his heart and immense determination in his mind and limitless love towards Bharath while he was explaining the history of Turtuk and the contribution of his small but elegant and historically enriched community to the well being of the Nation. He, Mr Hussain, proud of his Mongolian lineage, short but strong build-up and Balki Language, had ecstatically explained to us about the role of his society in providing support services to the Indian Army, of Siachen and other military bunkers, which are highly uninhabitable to normal human beings like us.
On 18th August 2022, few days after the 75th Independence Day, We reached Turtuk, a small border village of Leh District in the Ladakh range, 205 kilometres away from Leh town, from where we embarked on our legendary bike trip. Noticeably, all the houses of Turtuk, where 100% of residents are believers of Islam, had proudly unfurled the Indian tricolour flags, which shows their immeasurable belief in Indian governmental systems and its proud army. The memories of the second highest motorable pass in the world, Kahrdung La[ 5,359 m (17,582 ft)], which connects the Indus river valley and the Shyok river valley, through which we drove on the very first day of our trip, had started fading away as the mesmerizing sceneries throughout the way from Hundar, a small village in Nubra Valley, to Turtuk, had slowly overlapped the icy winds of Khardung La.
The beautiful blue skies of the Ladhak range astonished us as the Border Road Organisation (BRO), which has fashioned wonders on the risky mountain ranges with unbelievable roads. The way to Pangong Lake, the lake which changes colours on the India-China borders, will surely take your breath away with steep roads and windy passes. On and off, the roads to nowhere will give you surprises with sand dunes, water crossings and white wild horses, and your boots will get wet to keep you chilled throughout the trip.
Enroute to Hanle from Pangong, the gripping voice of Mr Amithab Bachen in the video footage played at Rezang La war memorial shall make you proud about the contributions made by Indian Army under the courageous leadership of Major Shaitan Singh Bhati, who fought the Indo-China war at Chushal Valley, a mountain pass on the Line of Actual Control between Indian-administered Ladakh and the Chinese-administered Spanggur Lake basin. The 55 Kilometres of gravel-filled dusty off-road to Hanle had brought out the best rider in many of us and made me proud of my off-roading skills!
Hanle, a small village with a handful of the population with Tibetan beliefs and culture, will amaze you with its starry night skies and beautiful valleys. Enroute to Umling La, 5,798.251 m (19,024 ft 0.73 in), a mountain pass located at kilometre 24, part of the 52 kilometres on Chisumle-Demchok road, the highest motorable road in the World, had made us proud, may be more than the iced cladded mountain peaks, about the strength of BRO and its contributions to strengthening the security of the Nation in Indo-China Boarders.
Sandy roads to Tso Morori, a mighty blue lake at an altitude of 4,522 m (14,836 ft), the largest of the high-altitude lakes entirely within India and the Ladakh Range, had made me taste the sand on the road twice in a row, thanks to the protective riding gears for passing it without any injuries.
While driving back to Leh from Tso Morori, the words of Mr Aman Singh Gulati, our guide and the owner of High Mountains, the tour operator from Manali, echoed in my mind “ It’s not the destination that matters but the way to the destination”. It was true in every sense; a big thanks to Mr Aman and his team, as by the end of the day, I love to go back to the mighty roads of the Himalayas once again, surely on a Bike.
BIJOY P PULIPRA