There can’t be many reasons to visit Leh in the extreme winter except the charm of Chadar Trek. My trip to Leh with two office colleagues in January was also planned for Chadar Trek only. But, just 10 days before the scheduled departure, we found that Chadar Trek got cancelled for the entire season due to a major landslide in the area. We were eagerly waiting for the trip, so this news was a big disappointment. We decided to move ahead as per the schedule, so as an alternate, we quickly planned for Markha Valley Trek through Hemis National Park.
On the planned day, we flew down to Leh. As our flight approached to Leh, we glimpsed the first view of that heaven through the window of our plane. The heaven known as Ladakh Region, a mesmerising landscape with the snow, valleys, glaciers, peaks and mountains.
When we de-boarded the plane at Leh airport, we could sense the cold weather around us. It was a clear day with bright sunshine, but surrounding atmosphere was very cold. The snow patches scattered around us were clear indications that our Leh journey was destined to be a super thriller and the very next day, we indeed had the trailer.
Before starting our planned trek, we wanted to spend two days in Leh for acclimatization. We already had a booking in an army guest house with the help of a friend, so we took a taxi and went directly to the guest house. The guest house was situated in the middle of an army establishment and equipped with the facilities like hot water, wi-fi, delicious meals etc. It was a pleasant experience to stay there for two nights.
There was no special plan to visit any place on the day of arrival, so we were completely relaxed. We took the bath and had an awesome breakfast . After breakfast, we thought to move out, but chill in the air and warmness of the guest house turned us lazy. So, we didn’t go anywhere.
In the evening, we went to the main market of Leh, but since it was Sunday, most of the shops were closed. It was hard to spend two days in the city only, so we decided to visit a nearby place on the next day. We spoke to some taxi drivers and a day trip to Lamayaru, Alchi and Magnetic Hill appealed us instantly. We booked a taxi for the next day trip and returned to the guest house.
Next day, the taxi driver arrived on the planned time at 08.30 AM, but due to our laziness, we couldn’t left the guest house before 10 AM. We wanted to visit the Magnetic Hill, Lamayaru, Alchi, Likir and Phayang Monasteries on that day. It was a nice plan to enjoy the snow-capped high mountains as well as the cold desert of Ladakh, and the glimpse of Indus river was supposed to work as an icing on the cake.
We moved on the national highway from Leh towards Kargil. After a while , we got the first sight of Indus River flowing through a beautiful village Spituk. Many young people were enjoying the ice hockey in an ice ring adjacent to the river. Mighty Indus, that is considered as one of the greatest river in the history of civilisation, looks like a simple mountain river divided in 3-4 streams, while flowing through Spituk Village. However, the view of those streams covered by the beautiful trees is pretty awesome. Indus left us near the Phey village to join us again later on the way. Moving ahead, we reached in front of the beautiful Phayang Monastery. The monastery is about 4 kms off from the main road, but looks magnificent from that distance also. We were supposed to visit the monastery in the evening at the time of sunset, so we didn’t turn towards Phayang Village.
The landscape around us was an indication that we were cruising through the cold desert of Ladakh. In a short span of time, we reached at Gurudwara Patthar Sahib, that is just adjacent to the main highway. But, we were neither heard about that before nor we were aware about the legends related to the gurudwara. Our driver also didn’t tell us anything special about the Gurudwara, except the name. We found nothing interesting, so moved on. Later, on the internet, I read a lot of legends and stories associated with the Gurudwara as well as revered Guru Nanak Lama.
We reached near the magnetic hill. It is still an unsolved riddle for many people. It is well known that this place defy the phenomenon of gravity, and thus on the slope, the vehicles start ascending instead of descending while in a neutral gear. The vehicle can be parked on a designated spot on the road to experience this phenomenon.
We also parked our cab on that spot, but nothing happened. We parked our cab here and there around that spot, but even nothing happened. There is a hill, where “Magnetic Hill” is written in bold letters on a side of the road. We thought, that might be the right spot. So, we moved towards the hill, but nothing happened there also.
Our driver also didn’t know the right spot. I thought that whole story of the magnetic hill is fabricated and it’s a mere propaganda, but even then, I never heard or read a single claim on the internet, which says that all the phenomenon of magnetic hill were wrong. Almost everybody experienced that phenomenon. We confirmed with 2-3 more people who were passing through the road. But, nobody was able to show the right spot. Disappointed, we moved further towards Nimoo.
Just before the Nimoo village, there is a place named as Sangam, where Indus River meets with Zanskar River. The confluence of both rivers is visible from the main highway itself. The panoramic view of both the river and surrounding mountains looks mesmerising and very refreshing.
While I was clicking the pictures from the main road, Tanvir Sir suggested that we travelled so far to Leh for Chadar Trek and it got cancelled. But, Zanskar is right in front of us. Why not to walk on the Zanskar for the immediate feel of Chadar Trek? And thus, rather than going straight to Nimoo, we turned towards Sangam. The confluence of both rivers is an ultimate beauty. The two colours of water from both the rivers are clearly distinguishable. Beyond the meeting point, the single river becomes the mighty Indus and runs violently containing lot of broken ice cubes flowing on the water.
Some tourists were walking on frozen side of the Indus. So, Tanvir Sir and D.K.Sir also joined them, while I was clicking pictures from the river bank. Both were posing for the pictures, while slowly walking towards the running water. I was also walking on the frozen river bed. Suddenly, Tanvir Sir sat down to touch the running water of the Indus and an incident occurred. The frozen layer of ice under his feet broke down and he plunged into the river. The water was very cold. He started screaming as well as struggling. His hands and the face was wounded by the sharp corners of ice cubes.
Suddenly, he grabbed a leg of D.K. Sir to get the support. I pulled D.K. Sir towards the riverbank, but the surface was very slippery. We both slipped towards the river. Our cab driver quickly came forward and laid down on the ice floor. The driver instructed us to hold the legs. I and D.K. Sir held each of driver’s leg. But, since Tanvir Sir was continuously moving a lot, we were unable to pulled him up. We advised him to calm down a bit. Another cab driver also came forward, and grabbed his feet in the water. After that, we could pulled him up on the frozen surface. The entire event occurred within 2-3 minutes. We were lucky that while rescuing him from the river, the ice sheet under our feet didn’t break down, else we could also plunged into the river.
We were only few minutes away from a big disaster, but after pulling him up, we felt a big relief. He was shivering with the cold and the clothes were completely wet. Our driver offered him a blanket, while I and D.K.Sir gave him a layer of our clothes and socks. After that, we moved ahead to Nimoo Market. We purchased some clothes, grabbed some snacks and the hot tea. We were very relaxed by then and the tension was disappearing slowly. We were still in the need of first-aid facility, but it was’t available in the market. People suggested us to go to the army dispensary that is outside the Nimoo village on the main highway.
We reached to the dispensary and narrated entire event to the security personnels. They allowed us to go inside. A doctor came forward and provided him the first-aid to stop light bleeding from the wounds. He advised us to take some rest near a fireplace in the dispensary. After having the first-aid as well as some warmth, Tanvir Sir became very comfortable to continue that journey towards Lamayaru. One hour later, we were again cruising on the road to Lamayaru, laughing, clicking and enjoying as nothing happened few hours earlier.
I always think that we should enjoy our journey as much as we can and always try to do something adventurous, but there shouldn’t be any misadventure. We should always know the consequences of our adventures in our best capacity. I also had very bad experiences during some of my trips, like a life-threatening accident on a highway in Rajasthan, or falling from the balcony of second floor to the first floor in Bangkok or falling down in the garden of Kokernag to get the severe pain for two weeks…When we move on the road, these incidents become an integral part of the life. We can not avoid them, but still, we should be careful to avoid any misadventure. I hope you also enjoy your life with a lot of adventurous trips, but always stay calm and careful to enjoy your trips for a longer duration.
I think , I should stop this post here only. I will write a separate post on the remaining journey to Lamayaru and Alchi monastery. But, before leaving, I again takes you to the mystery of magnetic hill. While returning back from Lamayaru, we again stopped on the road near magnetic hill. We parked the vehicle at designated point, but the result was negative again. The cab driver moved ahead towards Leh. We felt very frustrated. After two kms, we again returned back to the magnetic hill and parked our vehicle ahead of the designated point. Suddenly, the wonder happened. Our vehicle started moving upwards on the slope. Finally, we experienced the magic of magnetic hill and all frustration disappeared instantly. It was getting dark, so there was no point to visit the Phayang Monastery. We directly went to our guest house with some crazy experiences on that day.
In the next post, I will take you on a memorable trip to Lamayaru and Alchi Monastery. I hope you enjoyed the mystery of Magnetic hill in this post and learned your lesson from our scary experience at Sangam. Happy Backpacking.