Some really stupid ideas. We have just arrived in Leh, the capital of Ladakh at an altitude of 3,500 metres, and Birgit wants to ascend to Shanti Stupa immediately. Because of the great view. It’s only 560 steps. Bridget says. Useless objection. Each painful step, the lungs gasping for oxygen, which becomes noticeably weak at this height. We struggle at a snail’s pace, supposed to be good for acclimatization. Oh, okay. But we are rewarded, at last marveling from there in an utterly alien world, over the verdant Indus Valley to the snow-capped peaks of the Stok Range 6000m and in the desert-like mountain ridges of the East, with the ancient Gompa Namgyal Tsemo as striking, in the perfect orchestrated strong evening light. Delightful panorama, almost too good to be true. What a start of our Ladakh journey!
Adjustment to altitude
Three days later, after we got used to the hike, our little group was complete. Eight Germans plus young guide Agip and mechanic Bawn and Gunschuk, who drives the escort. In front of the hotel stands nine black, rustic-style 500-disc Royal Enfield glamorous single-cylinders of the 1960s, all of which are conspicuously in operation. When nine bullets appeared in the hotel courtyard, the ground trembled. Outside Les, a cautious friendship with an unfamiliar machine. Driving is the same as before: comfortable seating position, footrests far forward, paddle shifter a bit awkward at first, deceptive sound – definitely not Euro 5 compatible – then the engine! Blessed with plenty of flywheel mass and the most personal dose. There is nothing soft here. Is this the start of a great friendship?
Les are soon behind us, huge barracks in the suburbs, the terrifying noise of fighter jets taking off, barbed wire fences with clear warnings: “Intruders will be shot.” This is the downside of this tense region between the nuclear powers India, China and Pakistan. Fat lump in my stomach. But Enfield simply massages him away with his soothing pulse, meditative driving at 80 km/h through the vast Indus valley, barren mountains of all shades of brown, unreal blue skies, and every now and then a snowy peak on the horizon. Melt water from the Karakorum glaciers in the Indus turns milk chocolate brown. Sometimes the mighty river flows softly, then again it roars and floods the fearsome cliffs with waves three meters high. Is he cute here!
Internet, conflict in Kashmir, Kargil
In the evening in the tented camp in Da, Aqib explains why there was no network or internet for three days. The Indian government is escalating the Kashmir dispute, revoking the autonomy status of the Muslim region, closing borders and shutting down all communications networks. political censorship. This is how easy it is to isolate people from any information. scary. The next day, one of several military controls prevents us from continuing to reach Kargil in Kashmir, even though Akip has all the necessary permits ready. Strictly without opportunity for discussion. What now? We have to go back, Aqib organizes the alternate route, and looks for free hotels. We climb the 4,108-meter Futola Pass by motorbike, arriving at Lamayoro in the evening. The ancient mud houses are located below the great and ancient monastery. Behind him, strange mountains hang in the most beautiful light. What a wonderful picture! A place of calm, peace and spirituality that we feel closely inside the monastery. Miles away from the turmoil of the political present.
Meanwhile, Aqib has rearranged our schedule and wants to go back to Leh, which not everyone likes. But then the Khardung La lures, at 5,602 meters in length, is traded as the highest pass in the world. Well acclimatized, we leave Leh early in the morning, cross two military roadblocks and follow the arid desert-like valley uphill. Dark clouds hung in the mountains, smelling like snow. The GPS on the steering wheel determines the meters up. The tar soon gave way to a rough path with greasy stones, deep grooves, and opaque puddles. Unlike us, Enfield isn’t excited at all, he’s rolling higher and higher. GPS shows 4500, 5000, altitude does not seem to bother her. Who knows how many times you have succeeded this way. Are you performing at this height? Good enough.
Crowds at an altitude of 5375 meters
Another curve and we’re at the top, GPS shows 5375 metres. Folow what’s going on here? The crowds, easily 100 motorcycles, are certainly the highest Enfield encounter in the universe. Even a few cyclists struggled here. respect! Everyone wants to take their selfies in front of the famous yellow Khardung La sign, Indians love selfies. Neither fresh snow nor icy wind seemed to bother anyone, nice atmosphere. Where is our unity? Long on the way to the hotel in Nubra Valley, first beer of the day is tempting. Birgit and I take our time, deal well with this hike and know Gunchuk will stay behind us with sweeper, unobtrusive, patient, and always smiling, no matter how many times we stop to take pictures and be amazed. Thanks for that!
Finally, a hailstorm in the Cheok River Valley leads us to the hotel in Disquite. The next day we follow the wild glacier 100 kilometers down the valley to just before the Pakistan border. Don’t go further. Once again, the scenery is astonishing but very different: unexpected sand dunes with camels roaming above, rocky and dark craggy mountains of Karakorum on the north side of the valley, ocher-coloured, peaks of 5,000m on the south side. K2, the second highest mountain on Earth, is barely 150 kilometers away, but unfortunately it is not visible from the valley. The rugged, snow-covered K25 pyramid, which is at least 6,518 meters high, should give us an insight into the world of Karakorum. Small, quaint villages in green oases, five-year-olds with laughing children, curious looks, and a tourist rarely drives that far into the valley. This is also because of the sometimes difficult road with just a few labors.
yak dung for heating
Back in Diskit we discuss the other way. The group would like to lead the direct route to Pangong Lake, a promising adventurous route through deserted heights, which Jeoncheok considers completely drivable, and which would save us from the unpopular detour through Leh. knows the way. But not “Aqab”, he prefers to stay on familiar ways and refuses to persuade. He is the president. So we hiked to Khardung La again – again the trail is very interesting – stay overnight in Leh again and refuel Enfields on the way to Pangong. Mine sucked only 2.7 liters per 100 km through the carburetor, an interesting value on these roads at this altitude. Respect the seemingly outdated technology of the old single cylinder.
Under a deep gray sky, we leave Leh early in the morning and aim for Chang La. Another asks for 5,000 passes. Cute – good. The initially good trail is accompanied by barren mountains, which gain altitude in wide loops. Until the tar ends, it turns into a coarse and torn path. Enduro Territory. Holes, gutters, cloudy puddles, a bad mess at the onset of frost. Passage in fog, GPS shows altitude of 5380 metres. There is nothing pretty here, just take some pictures and move on. In Tangste Valley, a small place without any charm at an altitude of 3900 metres. Ladakh changes the usual dimensions. Hot tea is good for you, delicious pancakes wake up your spirits and your hands and feet are warm in the rustic oven lined with yak noodles.
Furthermore, on the slippery muddy track, some harmless fords provide an adrenaline rush, and colorful mountains peel off from the mist. Suddenly, 130 km long Pangong Lake is in front of us, 4300 meters above sea level. The sky opens, the sun’s rays shine on the unreal turquoise waters of the lake, over the yellow-red-brown mountains on the other bank, deep black clouds move east towards Tibet. What a beautiful frightening sight, what a huge reward for the agonizing kilometers that are hiding behind us! Suddenly, the mood shifts from frightening depression to extreme excitement.
Ladakh is great, especially in the Enfield saddle. Glad we dared to take this adventure. Some really cool ideas.