This is 5th Part of the series Budget Trip To Ladakh. To reiterate again, we are on our 15 Day trip to Ladakh following the below itinerary (roughly).

28th July : Day 1 : Kolkata – Srinagar / Sonmarg
29th July : Day 2 : Srinagar / Sonmarg – Drass – Kargil / Lamayuru
30th July : Day 3 : Kargil / Lamayuru – Sham Valley Sightseeing – Alchi / Uleytokpo
31st July : Day 4 : Alchi / Uleytokpo – Dha and Hanu Villages – Leh
1st Aug : Day 5 : Leh Local Sight Seeing + Arrange Inner Line Permits
2nd Aug : Day 6 : Leh – Khardung La – Diskit (Nubra Valley) – Hunder / Diskit
3rd Aug : Day 7 : Hunder / Diskit – Turtuk – Hunder / Diskit
4th Aug : Day 8 : Hunder / Diskit – Agham – Wari La – Shakti – Chang La – Durbuk – Tangste – Pangong Tso / Nubra Valley – Agham – Shyok Village – Durbuk – Tangste – Pangong Tso
5th Aug : Day 9 : Buffer Day
6th Aug : Day 10 : Pangong Tso – Man – Merak – Kakstet – Chusul – Tsaga – Loma – Hanle
7th Aug : Day 11 : Hanle – Loma – Nyoma – Mahe – Sumdo – Tso Moriri (Karzok) / Hanle – Salsal La – Charchagan La – Tso Moriri (via Chummur)
8th Aug : Day 12 : Tso Moriri – Tso Kar – Moore Plains – Pang – Sarchu – Baralacha La – Darcha – Jispa
9th Aug : Day 13 : Jispa – Keylong – Rohtang Pass – Manali
10th Aug : Day 14 : Manali Sightseeing. Manali – Delhi (Evening Volvo)
11th Aug : Day 15 : Delhi – Kolkata

NOTE : (1) For Permits, you’d need to mention the exact name of all the places, and not only the destinations. Thus it’s very important to make a note of the possible routes too. (2) In case of Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri, you may see that I have used or sign (/) as there were two possible routes, and accordingly based on various parameters we had to opt for one.

The Budget Trip To Ladakh Series :

5th Aug : Day 9 : Pangong Tso – Man – Merak – Kakstet – Chusul – Tsaga – Loma – Hanle

Today we woke up around 5:30 AM in the morning and quickly got ready after getting over with our morning chores. However we choosed to skip bath considering the shortage of hot water. Later around 7:30 AM we were called for Tea & Breakfast. Shortly after having our breakfast we bidded goodbye to the staffs for such a wonderful stay within such wonderful budget and left.

The route followed along the bank Pangong Tso, however this side of the lake is kind of different, as contrary to the deep blue colour, it’s mostly bottle green and crystal clear and transparent. Pangong Tso is around 600 KM although only 40% of the same is in India which measures to around 130 KM roughly and remaining 60% is in China.

However, this side of the lake is a delicate region due to the LOC between Indo-China. The opposite side of the lake is China and my vocabulary is limited to explain how close the border was. However as Achu told us, one cannot cross the border through these regions, it’s mostly the local villages though. We took a breif halt for enjoying the beauty of the lake for the last time before bidding goodbye!!

Pangong Tso

Well, we’d always remember the ride for next 2 hour or so, as literally there were no road and we were driving through the pebbles in between a secluded desert. In between we had various adventures because of which it was a fun filled ride for us. At one instance there was a large lake in front of us and achu couldn’t figure out how to cross the same. Thus he started driving on another direction to find a way to cross the same. And finally we found some marks of tyres following which we crossed the lake. Well, I must mention again, it’s totally a desert region, with views of mountains at distance having no road neither any marked ways. So practically one really needs to have prior experience, as the drive is completely directionless!!

Lake in Desert

In between, we came up across some animals freely running through the desert and we couldn’t identify the same. It looked like a horse but wasn’t exactly a one. Upon asking Achu he informed us that locally they call it a Zebra. However we couldn’t believe him in this case. In the meanwhile we noticed a person was standing there out of nowhere with a tripod like device. We stopped there and went ahead to the person and upon enquiring we came to know, he’s a field worker of some security company based in Srinagar which have it’s head office in Pune or somewhere else (I forgot). That device is a GPS Data collecting device which can collect all the data in the range of upto 4 KM’s. We felt really curious, however after speaking to him, it seemed that he’s a mere field worker and have been trained to operate the device and that’s it. He knows nothing more than that. However we were very curious that how he reached here in between a desert out of nowhere and how he’s planning to move out. Upon enquiring him, he further informed us that, there’s a vehicle which keeps dropping him and his team members at specific distance and the vehicle would come again and pickup all of them after 4 hours, as the device takes around 4 hours to collect and record all the data.

Well, it seemed a bit fishy, but then we thought, due to it’s strategic placement, Ladakh is known for heavy military presence all over the area with almost every turn requiring seperate permits. And the jawans keeps patrolling throughout the region now and then. Thus it’s almost next to impossible for them to avoid their preying eyes. Considering the same we thought of moving ahead!! However before we left, he seemed to be a local, thus we asked him, whether he have any idea about these animals throughout the desert. He confirmed that they are horse indeed, but they are Zanskar Horse and looks a bit different than the ones we generally see.

Zanskar Horse

Zanskar Horse

P.C. : Avik Manna

Next after driving a bit further, we came up over a highway with deserts on both the sides as far as our eyes can see. On another instance, our car got stuck in the middle of the desert. Finally after trying sometime, achu asked us to get down and push the car to help him out. After trying the same for several times, we got scared, as we were really unable to get out of the situation even after trying really hard. Then achu came up with an idea and informed us that, this way the car will get more stuck into the sand, as it’s dried up. So he asked us for the water bottles that we were carrying. He emptied some water over the sand near the tyres to turn them into semi-solid and moved back to streering wheel and asked us to push the car again. This time we suceeded!!

Stuck at Desert

P.C. : Sushmita Nandi

We were glad to get out of the situation and then we started proceeding again. This part of the road was beautiful and heavenly. Green meadows, a small river stream, zanskar horse running by the side of stream and all these overlooking the mountains at distant. Well we were like “Wow!!”, it felt like we were in Switzerland. If we haven’t travelled through Loma – Nyoma bend, we’d have never known that such beautiful palces exists in our country. However you have to live with imagination of how the place looks like by my description (which is not upto the mark I know), as I won’t be able to produce any pictures as the same is an restricted area prohibiting photoghraphy due to the same being Hanle Checkpost.

Loma Nyoma Bend

Loma Nyoma

P.C. : Avik Manna

Next part of the road was very smooth and I slept throughout that part. However when I woke up I overheared other people laughing about some kind of roller coaster ride. Although I couldn’t get the context at first, but later Avik, Sushmita and Suparna asked me to just wait and watch. Well it took me no time to understand what they were talking about!! The road actually is a highway and being very smooth, although uneven, goes a bit up and then down again and as achu was driving fast, it felt like a roller coaster ride.

Although the whole route being very remote there were no shops throughout the way and thus we didn’t got any scope to have our lunch in between. However thanks to the snacks that we were carrying!! Finally we reached Hanle by around 2:45 PM. Achu drove us to a homestay and we went ahead for enquiring. A lady came up noticing us. We informed her that we’d need 2 rooms, a dorm for 4 pax and a double bedroom as Ayan wanted to have a seperate room.

Well, next 15 minutes, we did a lot of bargaining and requesting that we being budget tourists won’t be able to afford the quoted rate. Finally the lady agreed. We being very hungry, we asked her if she can provide anything for lunch, but the lunch hour being over almost nothing was left. But she informed us, she can prepare us khichdi if we are okay with it and that it’d take her around 15-20 mins. We were more than happy to get khichdi after a long time!!

Hanle Portrait

Well, while she prepared our lunch, we offloaded our luggage and went ahead to the rooms. The 4 bedded room was great, we just loved it. Generally the scenario is different with us, as we 4 always loves to stay together unlike other couples. The room was very cozy, comfortable and warm. We loved the place and the road that we travelled. Hanle being offbeat, we hardly noticed any tourist here except a group of 4 people who was there for birding. Ahh BTW did I mentioned that Hanle is a paradise for bird watchers?

Soon, we were called for lunch. Believe me, I don’t know to express in words, but no matter how much I praise about the Khichdi, it would still be considered less. It was so fingerlicking and heavenly that we ate like we got something to eat after a week. It was definitely a stumptous lunch and we thanked the lady a lot for offerring us such great food. She instead pointed to an old person standing there and told us that “Thank him, he’s the cook“. We like hugged him for serving us such a great food. He was very happy by this of our behaviour!!

After taking rest for a while, we thought of going for a walk around the village. We went ahead towards the valley and then we caught up with some kids playing around the village. Luckily we were carrying chocolates and we were happy to offer them the same. However they were more happy than us for recieving such a surprise.

Kids at Hanle

Kids at Hanle

Kids at Hanle

Kids at Hanle

Kids at Hanle

Later we came back to our homestay and left for a trip to Hanle Observatory. Well if you are not aware, then, Hanle Observatory which is also known as Indian Astronomical Observatory, which is famous for housing the world’s 3rd highest optical telescope. The observatory houses several optical, infrared and gamma-ray telescopes.

Hanle Observatory

However the weather being cloudy, we couldn’t wait much and moreover the observatory was closed anyway. Avik being an avid bird watcher requested achu to take him to places where he can capture some birds on his camera. Achu drove through the valley and asked him to get down at one point. Ayan too went ahead with Avik and then achu drove us to a point nearby and parked the car hoping that they would walk to the car and in between they would get lots of birds.

However as times passed by, there were no signs of them. Finally as we started getting bored, we asked achu to drive back and take a look. We noticed, they didn’t proceeded a single step from the point where we left them. And thus upon boarding the car we started mocking them. However they informed that they went up the hill and got an Eagle.

Later achu drove us here and there, however we couldn’t understand whether achu was trying to take Avik to another place or just mistakenly took wrong turn. Finally after sometime, we drove back to our homestay.

Hanle

Upon reaching, the lady came up and asked us to have evening Tea. Well the thing I always love about homestays is the attachment with the hosts. All of the family members gathered together and we started discussing various aspects, starting from their way of life, the Hanle Village, Hanle Observatory, Birding and all.

Later around the evening, it started raining badly and electricity went off. Although within few minutes they started solar . Thus we choosed to stay within the room and chit-chat among ourselves. Suddenly Avik remembered that he completely forgot about the Milkshake that the doctor gave him at Army Hospital (again for free!!). Well as the trip was coming to an end, we choosed to have it instead.

Later around 8:30 PM we were called up for dinner. It being raining outside and Hanle having no connectivity, achu too joined us today. Else most of the days he’s busy speaking with his girlfriend!! The whole family was there and it was a great experience to spend some time with them.

Later we went ahead to our rooms respectively and without wasting much time, we called off the day, considering tomorrow we again have to cross such glacial streams, which in turn means we have to wake up early morning tomorrow again!!

6th Aug : Day 10 : Hanle – Loma – Nyoma – Mahe – Sumdo – Tso Moriri (Karzok) / Hanle – Salsal La – Charchagan La – Tso Moriri (via Chummur)

Today we woke up at around 5:30AM and got ourselves ready within an hour. However again all of us chose to skip bath because of no availability of hot water at such early morning. Considering the altitude, temperature and the unwanted rains it could turn up too risky if we’d have gone for chilled water. Later we were served breakfast at around 7:00AM. Post breakfast, when we went ahead to pay the bills to the lady, she gestured us to wait as that birding group was already there paying up their bills. Later when we went ahead, she smilingly said “aap logo ko bahut kam karke diya na isliye” (Well, I gestured you to wait because yesterday I have lowered the rates for you guys)!! Finally after paying up all the bills, we thanked her and all the family members whole heartedly for such a wonderful stay and heavenly food. Soon, we loaded our luggage and left by 7:30 AM.

While driving through the valley, we noticed a Rainbow appearing in, which made us very excited to spot such a rare sight. Soon, it started raining badly, which made us a bit tensed about our luggages loaded above. Although they were covered by a tarpaulin, however we had prior experience of our luggages getting wet at Pelling. Right at that moment, Avik, Sushmita and Trisha exclaimed “Abar sei rollercoaster” (The roller coaster road is back again). Well, while coming to Hanle yesterday, I slept throughout this part of the road, so this was my chance to experience the roller coaster ride that I missed yesterday!!

Finally after driving through the roller coaster road we came up to the same checkpoint from which we took the diversion instead towards Karzok which would lead us to Tso Moriri – Our destination for the day.

Well the journey afterwards was mostly uneventful except that we halted 2-3 times in between for releaving ourselves. Soon we came across a small lake and achu exclaimed again “Kuch Dikha?” (Did you notice anything?). This time we noticed a small lake in front of us. But it seemed a bit dull and very small considering the stories we heard about Tso Moriri. We asked achu if this is Tso Moriri and if yes then let’s go back to Hanle again!! However achu denied and said “Yeh to chota lake hai, Tso Moriri ka baccha hai, Tso Moriri age ayega” (No no! This is a small lake instead. We are yet to reach Tso Moriri).

Small Lake before Tso Moriri

Listening to this I asked him back “To iska Maa or Baap kaun hai?” (Who is the father and mother of this lake then?). He replied “Tso Moriri maa hai or Pangong baap” (Tso Moriri is the mother and Pangong is the father) going by the gender of general naming conventions. And out of fun I blurt out “Ohh to Pangong ne ake Tso Moriri ko thok diya?” (So Pangong made out with Tso Moriri?) and listening to this he burst out of laugh and covered his face with his hands out of shyness!!

After spending some time by the lake we started proceeding towards Tso Moriri. For next few turns, to excite us, achu started taking various shortcuts and driving faster through the streams to make the water splash. And soon we could notice a huge blue lake – Tso Moriri.

Tso Moriri Town

P.C. : Avik Manna

One needs to drive quite a bit by the side of Tso Moriri to reach the main town. However this end of the lake seemed to be the home for various birds. Avik being a bird watcher went down and clicked few shots before we moved ahead towards the town. Upon reaching the town, we noticed, lots of people have gathered together by the side of the road in their cultural attire. Achu enquired a local person there and we came to know that, some reknowned Lama is going to pay a visit due to some occassion and thus the whole town have gathered here to welcome him.

Achu drove us further and stopped by a cottage nearby. Me, Avik and Ayan along with Achu went ahead to check out the same. The cottages were really nice and seemed very cozy and comfortable, however unfortunately they were not in mood to bargain and we couldn’t agree with their quotation. Moreover we didn’t like their attitude towards the guests. They were like “rehna hai to raho nahi to jao” (If you want to stay, stay, else go, don’t waste our time). Thus without going into much argument we left. However as we were about to leave, one of them taunted from behind which made Me and Avik went back and it lead to an heated argument.

Well, having fixed rates is not an issue, but one should have welcoming attitude towards their guests, no matter they ends up staying or not. Next, we walked in to a camp beside the cottage, however we couldn’t find anyone there to speak to. It seemed that all of the staffs went to the gathering.

Achu drove us to another camp nearby and asked us to check them out. We went ahead and checked out 2 camps one after another, however again, we couldn’t spot a single staff throughout the premises.

Well, now we were getting a bit tensed as we checked out almost all the options available, however we couldn’t find any staffs at any of the camps due to their ongoing cultural festival. We went back to achu and asked him whether there are any homestays around and if we can go there. Achu nodded positively however informed us that, homestays are all within the town and we won’t be able to drive there due to the ongoing cultural gathering.

Achu pointed towards another 2 camps and asked us to check them out. Well those seemed to be our last hope, else we’d be stuck till evening until the gathering is over.

Although first one seemed a bit shady in comparison to the other one, however noticing the 2nd one, we could easily guess that it won’t be within our budget considering the rates here. So we went ahead to the first one only. Glad that this time we could find the staffs there. Well the owner seemed to be a local unlike the one at cottage who seemed to be a Punjabi / Hariyanvi going by his dialect.

Well, frankly speaking, the property and the tents were really clean and well maintained, however, although I can’t express it in words, something didn’t feel right. I can’t say it to be unhygenic, however it was kind of saturated or damp. I reached out to Avik and Ayan who was there with me for an opinion and both of them approved considering the non-availability of any other option.

Golden Mark Camp - Tso Moriri

Finally a few rounds of bargaining and we got it within our budget. Although lunch is generally not included in the meals, however considering it to be just around 12:30 PM and we didn’t had our lunch, the owner agreed to prepare something for us without any extra charge.

We went ahead and informed the girls, and as expected they expressed their dissatisfaction towards our decission of staying here. However we tried making them understand that there’s no other option left for us to explore, but the same went into vein. Fianlly we unloaded our luggage and went ahead to the tents.

Soon we were served tea. Well unfortunately a heated argument started between the girls and us regarding our choice to stay here over the cup of tea. They had no complains regarding the cleanliness of the palce or anything as such, however their main concern was the tents doesn’t seems to be of good quality. And if it’s rains, of which the probability is very high, considering the cloudy weather and that it’s been raining since yesterday afternoon, these materials might not be enough to stop the water from pouring in. Although I agree, we knew, these tents are nowhere close to the quality of tents we got there at Pangong, but we didn’t had much option considering the scenario.

Noticing us having argument over something and that achu couldn’t understand a single word, he left, informing us that he’d be back by lunch and then he’d drive us to a view point nearby the lake.

After achu left, to proove their points, the girls took us to the tents and spotted that the extreme corners of the tents are still wet which means it’s been raining here too and that these tents are incapable to stop the same from getting in. Well, considering we have already checked in, and that they are preparing lunch for us, we cannot leave right now, as that would be very rude thing to do so. At last, mutually we decided to stay here for the day and leave tomorrow to Tso Kar.

Finally we were called up for lunch and unexpectedly going by the expectation, it was really great instead!! Unfortunately, we couldn’t spot achu anywhere, and thus after having our lunch, we chit-chatted for a while. Later, Avik and Sushmita decided to go for a walk towards the lake, whereas rest of us decided to take an afternoon nap.

Later we woke up at around 4PM and found that Avik and Sushmita both are present in their tent. Upon asking them, they informed that they went ahead towards the lake, however came back after sometime due to latrine emergency. Still we couldn’t spot achu anywhere. We were really counting on him so that we can go by the lake and the view point he was taking about. We are kinda getting bored leisuring around there by the camp. Thus we decided to go for a walk together. However as we were about to start, it started drizzing and thus without taking any risk we quickly made our way back to the tents.

Tso Moriri

Soon it started raining heavily. Suddenly we noticed drops started pouring in from the corners. As the beds were placed towards the corners itself, we hurried and moved it to the middle. Although the corners of the bed already got wet by then. Meanwhile we noticed, the floor matress too is getting waterlogged. Noticing all these the girls started panicking as expected. Me and Avik quickly pushed the bed further towards the middle and put our luggages on the bed. And soon we realized that the case would be same at the tent Avik is staying. Me and Avik quickly grabbed an umbrella and made our way to his tent. We noticed the condition is more or less same as of our tent. Finally we returned to our tent after pushing the bed towards the middle and putting all the luggages over the bed.

Actually the problem was, the tarpaulin cover was only there on the upper side and lacks any cover on both the sides, thus in case of rainstorm, the walls of the tents gets wet. All four of us sat quitely. Well, it really turned into an adventurous moment!! However considering the high altitute and temperature, this kind of adventure is not really good for health though!! The girls were still stressed out. Noticing them Avik assured them not to worry, and that, if required, we 4 would spend the entire night on one tent keeping all the luggages on another tent over the bed. It’s just a matter of one night and we’d easily overcome the same.

Way To Hanle

Later after around an hour or so the rain stopped and we went outside. Hearing our voice, Ayan came out and upon asking him, it seemed that the situation is same at his tent too. Noticing the owner, whom we used to call Uncle, we reached out to him and explained the situation. He came in and took a look and suggested us that, we could take up the tents on the other side. Technically those seemed to be of better quality with more protection. As when we went ahead to check them out, we found them to be intact after all these, which gave us all a peace of mind.

The staffs helped us moving our luggages to shift us to those tents. We started looking out for achu however we still couldn’t spot his vehicle anywhere. Meanwhile, Ayan came in and informed us that Piu is sufferring from mild breathing issues. We asked him to give her a dose of Diamox and in case it gets worse we asked him to inaugerate the oxygen can.

Considering the worsening situation and achu being not there yet made us furious. Well, he promised that he’d be back within an hour or so, however it’s been around 6 hours and still we couldn’t spot him. We asked Ayan to be with her and we 4 went ahead to look out for achu. As we were about to start, Suparna proclaimed, pointing towards a car that it might be of Achu’s. However the car looked a bit different thus without wasting much time, we went ahead looking out for him.

We went through the other camps nearby incuding the cottage where we had a heated argument before while looking for accommodation, however we couldn’t spot him anywhere. On our way, we were wondering what if we have choosen to stay in the next camp, which we never went to bargain. Just to check out our intution, we went ahead and asked for the tariffs and we were quoted an whopping amount of Rs. 5000/- for 2 people with meals. Well if one quotes Rs. 3000/- it can be bargained down to Rs. 2000/- or less, but you can’t really expect to bargain down a quote of Rs. 5000/- to Rs. 1500/- or so, considering the exotic location.

Well, after looking out for achu for quite some time, we lost all our hope and instead decided to take a walk towards the lake. The lake, as we visually experienced, seemed to be mystic realm of colours. Finally after spending quite some time there, we returned back to our hotel.

Tso Moriri

P.C. : Avik Manna

Noticing us, Ayan came up and informed that Piu is doing good now and there’s nothing much to worry. Rest of the evening, we spent by the river stream, behind the camp. Soon we were called for Tea and later we gathered together at one tent and spent the evening chit-chatting amongst ourselves.

Later at around 8:30 PM, we were called for Dinner. We went ahead and noticed achu sitting there. I got very furious and directly charged him of not returning and leaving us at this secluded place alone. However he pleasingly said that he was there from the afternoon waiting for us to take us to the lake, however we never came and he thought that we wanted to take rest instead. After having a heated argument for next few minutes, Trisha interrupted me and asked him whether that car with a violet backlight parked beside the road, belongs to him or not and surprisingly he nodded positively.

Well, the story is, we noticed that car since we came out after having lunch. Even Trisha pointed towards that same car when we were about to go and find achu. However it’s been 10 Days that we are travelling with him and never noticed that. Achu interrupted us in between and informed us that, he went to wash his car and came back before our lunch. However as the vehicle seemed to be new we couldn’t identify it.

I felt really bad for charging achu like this. I know these people are generally very dependable and not like us, city dwellers. However, due to misunderstanding it came up to this. I apoligised to him for this of my behavior. Next, we had dinner together and again, unexpectedly the food was really great.

Later achu informed us that, he won’t be driving us to Manali. Instead Rigzin has fixed a new driver who would be picking us up from Debring and continue the tour onwards. We were very upset to hear the same and together we decided to speak to Rigzin tomorrow morning.

Later we went ahead to uncle, as while booking, we informed him that we’d be staying for 2 nights, however considering the situation, specially about Piu, we decided to move out tomorrow. Well I must mention here, that this camp, might not look exclusive like the other ones nearby, but don’t undestimate the food and service they provides. And the behaviour is something to praise for. The person, might be a bit poor, however his behavior is something that impressed us. Unlike the cottage which might have been more comfortable, but who knows, with that behaviour towards their guests, they would not get irritated for any help that we ask for.

Later we gossiped for a while before calling the day off.

7th Aug : Day 11 : Tso Moriri – Tso Kar :

The plan for the day was to drive to Tso Kar which is a mere 3 hours drive, so there was nothing to hurry. Thus, we started our day a bit leisurely. Gradually we realized the tour is now coming to an end which made us a bit sad. But what made us more upset is achu would be leaving tomorrow.

At around 8:30 AM, the staffs came up asking if we needed hot water for our morning chores. Although they won’t be able to provide us hot water for taking bath, but basics can be done. Later after few minutes, they came up with morning Tea. The day seemed to be another dull day, as it was still cloudy. Well, it seemed like, our luck is not going by our side for the last leg of our trip.

Later at around 10:00 AM, we were called for breakfast. After completeing our breakfast, we left towards our destination for the day – Tso Kar, after paying up all the bills and bidding him and all the staffs goodbye. Well, frankly speaking, we couldn’t thank them enough for all the help and everything they have done for us. Although the beginning was messed up, but rest of the stay was really cozy and comfortable.

First, achu drove us to the view point that he mentioned yesterday. While we clicked few pictures of ours in various poses, it started drizzling again. Thus we quickly made our way into the vehicle.

Tso Moriri

The rest of the route was mostly uneventful, except that achu again started taking those shortcuts, which made us excited!! Meanwhile, it started raining badly again, which made us a bit worried about our lugagges that are loaded on top of the vehicle.

In between, Achu connected us with Rigzin, and I requested him to make him stay if possible, as we have developed a bonding while travelling with him for last 10 days. However Rigzin informed us that, he got lots of tourists at Leh and that he’d need him to cater them too. He further informed that, he’s glad our tour went fantastic with him and he respects our emotions. However he have a business to take care of which feeds his family and achu both.

He assured that, although for a short period, but we’d definitely love the next driver who’d be completing the remaining trip. But requested me not to hold him as that would really affect his business. Well, frankly speaking, hearing all these I couldn’t utter a word anymore. Whatever it be, our emotions cannot be a reason for a loss for someone else.

Meanwhile, we reached Tso Kar by around 3:00 PM. This time we requested achu to take us to a homestay instead. As girls were still frightened with yesterday’s situation and considering the AMS issues of Piu, we can’t take more risk.

Way To Tso Kar

Achu drove us to a homestay and asked us to go ahead and check. Noticing 6 people, the lady informed us that, she can only provide 2 rooms as she have already got booking for the remaining 4 rooms. She informed that some group is coming from Sarchu and that they would be reaching by the evening.

Well, we 4 people were anyway about to stay in a room, so we informed her that it’s completely fine with us and that we 4 would be managing in a room with one extra matress and Ayan and Piu would be taking up another room. While bargaining, we somehow took reference of our stay at Hanle. And surprisingly, she exclaimed, the lady at Hanle is her sister. Well this played a positive role for us and without bargaining much, we got it within our budget.

Achu parked the car inside the hotel premises and helped us unloading our luggages. Meanwhile it started raining heavily again. Although we were planning to pay a visit to the lake, but it seemed that weather is not going by our luck. Thus we decided to gather together and decided to play Dumb Charades. While Ayan and Piu were new to this, but they grabbed the idea quickly.

Later as rain came to halt, we went ahead outside for a walk. Although we thought of going by the lake, but later we decided not to disturb achu. And anyway after Pangong and Tso Moriri, it’s something that we can easily give it a miss. Because of these rains, the peaks, seemed to have been covered with snow. Ayan, Avik and Sushmita went ahead towards the valley whereas rest of us stayed back.

Tso Kar Valley

Later around the evening we came back and realized that we haven’t yet consumed any of the Knorr Soups that we were carrying. Thus we tried preparing the same, however it was a bit time consuming due to the voltage fluctuation. Rest of the evening we spent chit-chatting amongst ourselves, before we were called for dinner at around 9:00 PM.

The food was really great and nothing to complain for. Today being last night with achu, we kept gossiping and having fun for quite sometime. Later we realized that the group, the lady was taking about, has arrived and we must clear out the dinning hall, making space for them to have their dinner.

Meanwhile, it started raining again like cats and dogs and thus without wasting much time, we called off the day.

The Budget Trip To Ladakh Series :

Important Points To Stay Safe :

  1. In Jammu & Kashmir, only postpaid connection works. So get yourself a postpaid connection before hailing to Kashmir. Also throughout most part of Ladakh, BSNL is known to work best and then Airtel.
  2. Even with BSNL, you would be out of network at most regions. So inform your family beforehand about the situation. Although at places, you’d get local options to call your home and inform. Most hotels offers that service for free or for a premium for their guests. In case it’s free, use it wisely and make room for next one. Your amazing travel stories can wait.
  3. Ladakh is a land of Cold Desert, and thus during the day, it too hot. Unlike Kolkata, the humidity is very low, thus you won’t be sweating, but the heat feels like burning a hole on your skin. Use Sunscreen, Body Lotions, Lip Balms etc. daily.
  4. However the nights are cold and depending on the region nights can be really chilly.
  5. Most importantly, whatever it be, whether starts changing post 4:30 PM – 5:00 PM, and one shouldn’t be without a basic winter garments like pull over / windcheaters / thermals etc. As that’s the time when the weather changes and if you are not protected / covered, it easily affects you. Believe me, we are the sufferers.
  6. In this part of the country, sun sets late, during 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM. However don’t be misguided that sun rise late too. Unfortunately that’s not the case and thus you get a lot of daylight to travel and explore.
  7. Most regions in Ladakh is situated at very high altitude and thus Acclimatization should be given top priority if you really want to enjoy Ladakh and stay safe.
  8. Ladakh can be approached in various ways – (1) Starting from Srinagar i.e. travelling through Srinagar – Leh Highway, (2) Flying to Leh, (3) Starting from Manali i.e. travelling through Manali – Leh highway. Considering the Acclimatization, the options are given in order i.e. 1 is best, second best is 2 and worst option is 3.
  9. Unless you are travelling with very less number of days in hand, I’d always recommend Option 1 i.e. travelling through Srinagar – Leh Highway
  10. Well Ladakh is known for harsh weather i.e. too hot during the day and too cold during the night. Also the thin level of oxygen plays an important role for your dissatisfaction. Unless you are acclimatizing properly, it’s really hard to enjoy the trip. Instead you’d always think of going back. During first few days, we felt same. But when we had a first glimpse of Pangong Tso, everything changed!!
  11. There are lots of guides available in internet regarding AMS. So I’ll refrain from writing a story about the same again. In short, AMS depends and varies from person to person depending on their health, age and various other factors. However below are few important and helpful tips which would help you enjoy Ladakh safely.
  12. Never rush it. Better do it some other time with more number of days in hand and properly acclimatize at every 3000 ft gain. Although you don’t need to follow this rule hard and fast, however don’t change altitudes everyday. The idea is to acclimatize every other day with every possible altitude gain.
  13. Don’t compete. Don’t be a superhero / superheroine. Well as I said, every person is different. So is their health. So don’t compete and take your own sweet time and instead enjoy the beautiful landscape.
  14. While at high altitude, you’d feel exhausted even by going to toilet or loo. It happens because of the thin layer in oxygen. Steady and Slow wins the race. Don’t walk faster or run as you’d do in your hometown. Keep it slow.
  15. Communication is a key point. Never feel ashamed and hide it when you are having issues. AMS can strike anyone. Thus if you are having any kind of problem, communicate with your Team Members. May be you are affected with low level however if not communicated and treated in time it can turn into severe. And in that case everyone have to leave and descend.
  16. At all points you’ll come across Army Hospitals / Base Camps which can come to your rescue in case things turns worse. So there’s nothing to fear.
  17. Keep AMS Medications handy like Coca 30 / Coca 6X / Diamox. We started taking Coca 6X twice daily (5-6 drops) from Kargil onwards. Remember these medicines prepares you for the high altitude, i.e. these are considered as preventive medicine. Once AMS had striked, these might not come to resue depending on the condition. Don’t be a doctor yourself, instead in case of any issues contact the locals and go to Army Hospital / Base Camp nearby.
  18. Drink lots of water. Yes hell lot of water i.e. 3-4 lts. minimum per day. This is very important to keep yourself safe. If possible mix ORS to it, which is even better. We carried 2 packet ORS per person per day.
  19. You might be a foodie. But to stay safe the myntra is to eat light. Avoid spicy foods and avoid over eating. Infact eat a bit less than what you generally eat. When your body is getting low oxygen, most of it is driven to your brain to function properly and thus indigestion is a common issue if you are eating heavily.
  20. Very importantly, avoid Smoking, drinking Coffee (or any kind of Caffine) and Alcohol. This single point will keep you fit and fine. People have even died due to drinking alcohol. You might not face issues while drinking alcohol, however your body might get collapsed after you sleep. This has happened to a lot of people already. You might notice foreigners drinking and smoking, however again as I said don’t compete. Their upbringing and yours might not be same.
  21. Most importantly, be positive. Yes there’s no medication or nothing than being positive and believing in yourself.
  22. Last but not the least, your god’s sake keep your plan flexible and don’t be a stubborn to stick to an specific itinerary even if your health is not permitting it. You are the best person to know if your health is permitting or not. And if not, descend. Because, if you don’t, it can be a life risk and a lot more risk for other team members. And Ladakh is not a top priority than your life.

Reviews :

Padma Homestay, Hanle : Hanle is itself a quaint town and very beautiful and scenic. Being offbeat, not much accommodation options are there. Our stay at Padma Homestay was one of the best accommodation we got throughout our stay at Ladakh. The homestay is run by the family members themselves. The owner lady is an wonderful person and very helpful. The behaviour of the lady is something to praise for. The property, rooms and the washrooms are very clean and well maintained. The rooms were really warm, cozy and comfortable. The food is fingerlicking and heavenly. For enthusiasts, Hanle is bidwatchers paradise.

Padma Homestay - Hanle Padma Homestay - Hanle Padma Homestay - Hanle Padma Homestay - Hanle

Golden Mark Camp, Tso Moriri : Frankly speaking, one the cheapest camp available throughout the town. The tents were really clean but I must not say well maintained. As you can notice in the picture, the tents lacks tarpaulin on either sides thus in case of rainstorm, the water starts pouring in from the corners. However the owner, and other staffs are very nice, welcoming and very helpful. The food is also great. What pleased us most is the behaviour of the owner and other staffs.

We were first allocated the tents on the right hand side (in the picture below), which after a hell of a rainstorm, got wet and couldn’t keep up with the same. However upon notifying them, they shifted us to the tents on left hand side which were of good quality and standed still even after the rainstorm. Well I really cannot say one should avoid staying here, after all the helpfullness and behaviour they showed towards their guests. But it’s definitely best to avoid during the monsoon. During other season, I’d not hesitate to recommend this to you!!

Golden Mark Camp - Tso Moriri Golden Mark Camp - Tso Moriri Golden Mark Camp - Tso Moriri Golden Mark Camp - Tso Moriri Golden Mark Camp - Tso Moriri Golden Mark Camp - Tso Moriri

Druk Resort, Tso Kar : Tso Kar being an offbeat spot to halt, has limited accommodation options. Druk Resort is the nearest to the lake and the valley. We really enjoyed our stay here. The property, rooms and washrooms were really clean and well maintained. The owner, lady, is related to the lady at Padma Homestay, Hanle. She too is a very nice person and welcoming. The food served here was really great.

Druk Resort - Tso Kar Druk Resort - Tso Kar Druk Resort - Tso Kar

Costing:

Padma Homestay, Hanle : Rs. 5200/- (1 x 4 Bedded Dorm @ Rs. 850/- per day + 1 x Double Bedded Room @ Rs. 1800/-). This includes Breakfast and Dinner. Lunch was charged Extra @ Rs. 100/- per pax.

Golden Mark Camp, Tso Moriri : Rs. 4800/- (3 x Double Bedded Tents @ Rs. 1600/-)

Druk Resort, Tso Kar : Rs. 2800/- (2 x Double Bedded Room @ Rs. 1400/- + 1 Extra Matress)

We were travelling with flexible plan and had a budget of Rs. 60k per couple + Rs. 10k as buffer (i.e. Total 70k with Buffer per Couple) which we were carrying in cash accordingly, excluding Flights & Manali – Delhi Volvo Bus which we booked in advance. Finally we made it within Rs. 70k per couple for the whole tour Kolkata to Kolkata including the Fights and Manali Delhi Volvo Bus. That means we made it within 54k per couple excluding the flights and Manali – Delhi Volvo Bus.

CCU – DEL – SXR : 7334/- (For Me & Suparna)
Manali – Delhi HPTDC Volvo Bus : 2840/- (For Me & Suparna)
DEL – CCU : 5126/- (For Me & Suparna)
Vehicle : 64000/- (For the whole tour)

NOTE : I have omitted the costs of personal in nature and meals to keep things simple but informative.

Contacts:

Padma Homestay, Hanle : Sonam Dorjay – +91-94692-24302 / +91-70510-39046 / +91-94198-34944 / sonamdorjay19@gmail.com / Facebook / Padma Homestay

Golden Mark Camp, Tso Moriri : Mr. Namgayal – +91-94193-70663 / +91-97974-45829

Druk Resort, Tso Kar : Jigmat Gyalpo – +91-94196-58740 / druktsokar@gmail.com / Facebook

Bakir (Our Achu, The Driver, Very friendly young chap, Works for Rigzin) : +91-94696-66401 / +91-70514-45539. He drove a white Aria which belonged to Rigzin, under registration number JK 10A 4036.

Mr. Rigzin (Driver, The single point of contact, The Showstopper) : +91-96229-54779 / +91-94694-72772.

The Budget Trip To Ladakh Series :