Time to start heading back, I’m afraid. Back to Manali then home in a few days. Our plan to was leave the main Leh-Manali highway, head off-road for a couple of days staying in camps next to two massive lakes.
Day 21: Leh to Tso Moriri – 220 km, 7 hours
I have been very lucky to avoid the dreaded Delhi Belly on this trip, but the closest i got to it was in Puga. Now, to describe Puga as a one horse town would be an insult to one horse towns. It is, in fact, a one hotel, one cafe, one phone, one hot spring town in the middle of nowhere.
The dark square on the right hand side is a concrete hut, with a satellite dish outside and a phone inside. There was a bloke running it, to be honest I think he lived there, even though there was nothing inside other than a table and a telephone and a bed. Still, Moti managed to call the office and confirm my flight home.
‘Enjoy Hotel’ the hotel-cum-cafe in town was an experience. One that I doubt will feature in the Lonely Planet guide any time soon. I suspect we were the first customers that day. We might have been the only customers that day. Or even that week. The woman running it (the sign outside called it a ‘mini shop organised by women’s group for income generation’) certainly wasn’t ready for customers, she had to root through piles of stuff to find a colander to prepare veg, had to wash some pots under a tap down the road and then took 40 minutes to prepare momo (pasta dumplings) and soup.
While we were waiting we watch two kids playing. Playing with some chairs, playing in a ditch and playing with an upside down tractor. Unfortunately the tractor won and one of the kids cut his hand open. Panic in the cafe, what to do? Fear not, I have a first aid kit. Somewhere. In the bottom of a bag… I managed to find some sterile dressings, some tape and some iodine spray (thanks to Alan on day one of the trip for that!) and with a jug of water we managed to patch him up. Doesn’t this picture tug at your heart strings? When we rode past again the next day he was playing outside again and waved at us, so all was ok. Which is more than can be said for my stomach after his mum’s momo and soup…
After Puga it’s a short ride to our destination for the day at Tso Moriri (Lake Moriri). But on the way it’s always good to stop for photos at a shrine, a lake and, as a general rule in life it’s always good to stop for yaks. Yak, Yak, Yak.
Tso Moriri is a massive lake with a tiny town on its shores and a small gompa (monastery). If I’m honest, I was a little underwhelmed. I could go in the gompa because of building works, could ride around the lake because much of it is a nature reserve and the luxury camp we stayed in was, well, a camp. OK, so I had a challet rather than a tent, but if this was luxury, I’d hate to see basic.
I met this woman and child by the stupas next to the closed monastery, I didn’t ask for a photo, but she just stopped and turned to show off the baby and waited for me to snap. So I did. And I’m really please with the shot.
Now, I’m no Buddhist scholar, but I’m pretty sure this reads ‘Om Mani Padme Hum‘
I probably shouldn’t have ridden the bike so far into the nature reserve and on to the shores of the lake… sorry. And these kids wanted their photo taken, although you wouldn’t believe it by the look on their faces.
Day 22: Tso Moriri to Jispa via Tso Kar 313 km, approx 11 hours
Today was meant to be a short 90 km ride to Tso Kar, but I’d been so under whelmed by Tso Moriri that I didn’t fancy another day sat around a disappointing lake so we decided to plough on to Jispa – which would give me an extra day in Manali at the end of the trip.
The day didn’t start too well as I got my first puncture of the whole trip, just 30 minutes into the day. By now we had become very experienced wheel monkeys… and within 30 minutes we were back on the road.
Now, while I always stop for yaks, I also stop for pashmina
When we got to Tso Kar the weather was grim, low cloud obscured the view, I’m glad we decided not to stay here…
We didn’t go to the camp where we had booked (sorry if they are still waiting for us) but did go to a tent near by for a cup of tea. I found this little chap playing in the back of a pick up truck – which is the first time I’ve ever seen one being used s a play pen. Still, he was playing with a motorbike, so all is well. His mum was inside the tent running the cafe and looking after a baby.
Not sure this photo is very veggie friendly… I think it is (was) an Ibex.
From Tso Kar we re-joined the Leh Manali highway again and stopped off at many of the places we stopped at on the way north – Pang to see the Tibetan women running the camp and Peace Cafe (4320m) on Zing Zang Bar
We rode the Gata Loops again, this time top to bottom – photos are in a previous post
Just before we got to Jispa, Moti got another puncture – his fourth of the trip. So, spanners out…
The water crossing you can see in the background was interesting. Several cars paused for a very long time before risking it. This cyclist actually crossed it three times – once to film it, once to recover his camera, and then when I took his photo.
We stayed in a hotel in Jispa this time, which was lovely… depends what you are looking for in overnight accommodation I suppose, but a working hot shower, English language TV stations and decent food tick all my boxes.
Just one more days riding to go before the trip is over now…