This post is in continuation with Day 3 of the travelogue of one of my Ladakh rides. We reached Pang on Day 3 and traveled from Pang to Leh on Day 4.
Journey so far: Day 3: Jispa to Pang
Nights at Pang were always difficult during my previous visits to Leh. Feeling sick due to AMS, we spent the nights tossing and turning in the bed and I was expecting the same to happen this time as well but surprisingly, we all slept like babies. Though the friends complained of a slight headache in the morning, I felt no sign of AMS and was again the first one to get out of the bed to get some morning captures of the place.
Just outside our camp, I found a Scorpio parked with driver sleeping inside. As we were to learn later, it belonged to a couple who for themselves rented a separate tent but left the driver to sleep in the car, out there in cold. They did not even have the courtesy to shed a 100 bucks to get the poor guy a proper bed in one of the shared accommodations. Weird people huh?
Our host at Pang, a very gentle lady and an amazing cook.
Pang to Leh
After a hearty breakfast and quick photo session with our generous host, we soon started towards our 4th high altitude pass, Tanglang La and to cross Moore Plains on the way.
Road from Pang through Moore Plains was a pleasure to ride on but turned into a nightmare as we got closer to Tanglang La. Finally, with shaken bodies and aching butts, we were atop Tanglang La, our 5th high altitude pass.
The moment we started on our descent from Tanglang, I felt the rear wheel of my motorcycle bubbling a bit. My first thoughts were of a flat tyre again but that was not the case. I ignored it and continued; soon to realize that it was worsening by the minute, specially around the turns. Fearing the worst, I got off the motorcycle to check but everything seemed OK. Still, to be on the safer side, I took the wheel out and bolted it in again but the bubbling continued. There was not much that we could do but to keep going at a slower speed which we did till Upshi.
Trying to fix the wheel while descending from Tanglang La, but in vain.
Trouble at Upshi
I was hoping to find a mechanic at Upshi but the only option available was a puncture repair shop. As expected, the guy had no idea why the wheel was bubbling when everything was intact. I asked him to take it out and bolt it in again, rearranging everything. I said this from the thought that I may have not arranged the wheel properly the last time I took it out; and that maybe when this guy does it all over again, the problem would go away.
The puncture guy on the other hand decided to do a little digging in himself. After taking the wheel out, he went further in to check what was wrong and found the culprit. The ball bearings were broken causing the wheel to shake. But this is where the real trouble started. Without asking me, the guy literally hammered out the ball bearing and since the case was broken, soon we had all the balls lying scattered on the ground and the mechanic looking at the broken case like an idiot. But wait, that wasn’t all.
A Buddhist monastery in Bihar was attacked with serial blasts a day ago causing anger in the Buddhist community of Leh. To protest, they decided to call a 2 day bandh across the town and the day when we reached Leh happened to be the Day 1 of the Bandh which means that no other shop was open anywhere from Upshi to Leh or elsewhere. There were locals driving around in Jeeps forcing people to close down their shops. Even our “genius” mechanic was also trying to hurry up so he could pull the shutter down.
So now there we were, standing at a puncture repair shop in Karu with the rear wheel of my motorcycle out and a broken ball bearing in our hand. Our 6th breakdown of the journey on Day 4.
With no way to get a new ball bearing, I asked the guy to put the broken one in back again so that we could at least continue to Leh, still at least 40 kms away. But putting the balls back in with the case broken was not going to be an easy task. With another hour spent, situation remained the same and I started to lose my nerve.
“Ye nahi jaayega” Said the repair guy.
“Toh kya karna hai ab?” I asked.
“Mujhe kya pata, aap dekho” He replied, still fumbling with the ball bearing.
“Aapko kisne kaha tha ye nikalne ke liye? Maine kaha tha ke wheel nikal kar dobara betha do, aapne ball bearings kyun nikale?” I finally vent out my anger that had been building from the moment the guy hammered out the bearing.
I guess he was equally frustrated because the moment I said it, he threw the bearing down on the ground.
“Aap tourist log aisa hi karta hai sab. Main bola tha ke theek nahi hoga toh kyun bola nikalne ko?” He said.
“Maine wheel nikalke dobara bethane ko kaha tha, bearing nahi” I almost shouted.
“Main nahi kar raha theek, jo hota aap karo” He replied.
I swear I could have slapped the guy right there if it was not for Shoaib who walked over to us, seeing us screaming at each other and tried to keep us both calm and reasonable.
This is where all this drama happened.
With Shoaib interrupting, we both cooled down a bit and I, realizing that losing my nerve would only worsen the matter, requested the guy to arrange a way out. He suggested that we go to Karu and see if we can find a mechanic there and to my surprise he himself agreed to come with me.
With the mechanic as pillion, holding the rear wheel of my Enfield between us, I started towards Karu on Sunny’s CBZ, leaving the other three still at Upshi As expected, every single shop was closed but that was not the only thing that was worrying me. CBZ started to show sign of stress and the engine would suddenly die, specially at an ascent, only to come back to life itself a few seconds later. Fearing that our day was about to get worse, we kept looking for a mechanic at Karu and finally spotted one. The shop was closed as expected but the mechanic was sitting right outside, chatting with a friend.
The Gluey Way Out
Luck still did not favor us because that mechanic did not have a spare ball bearing and the ones that he could manage did not fit in. After another hour of fumbling around, the only possible solution we came up with was to glue the balls back in the bearing case and put it back in wheel using a plastic adhesive. Surprised? Trust me, it happened.
So with the bearing glued back in the wheel, we came back to Upshi and very carefully arranged the wheel back in the motorcycle. I thanked the mechanic at Upshi for his help, apologized for losing my temper, prayed to god to not make this day any more exciting and started on our way to Leh.
The last 40 kms to Leh seemed like a journey in itself. Every minute I feared for something to go wrong in the wheel but thankfully nothing happened and we comfortably made it to Leh.
We went straight to the hotel that we last stayed in, Shanti Palace; but the charges seemed a bit too steep this time so we decided to find another hotel. After another hour of search, we finally found one that was reasonably priced. Little did we know how we were going to regret this decision later.
After checking in and freshening up, I went to meet my contact at Leh to collect our passes to Chushul that he had already arranged. There was still plenty of daylight left so the next destination was Shanti Stoopa.
Once back in the hotel, we realized why checking in here was a mistake. Service was so poor that even getting a cup of tea seemed like a task impossible. They were only interested in servicing the foreigners and the Indian guests seemed invisible to them. We literally had to run after them to get ourselves something to eat or drink.
With our minds set on returning to Shanti Palace the next morning; we finally tucked ourselves in the blanket, calling end to a day of trouble and excitement.
Pang to Leh Distance
Distance between Pang to Leh is approximately 175 kilometers. Road is a mix of good, bad and ugly. The ugly part is mostly aronund Tanglang La and rest of the stretch is usually good. Total travel time for the journey can be 5 to 6 hours.
Pang to Tso Moriri Distance
Distance between Pang to Tso Moriri is about 150 kilometers via Debring. The same distance increases to about 300 kilometers if travelled via Upshi and Chumathang. Travel time via Debring is about 7-8 hours and 10-11 hours via Chumathang.
Pang is at an altitude of about 15,400 feet, 4,700 meters. Due to which most of the people traveling on Manali Leh highway suffer from AMS here.
Journey Ahead – Day 5: Leh to Khardung La to Leh
Planning a trip to Ladakh? Got questions or need any help? Feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.