Tip for the day – carry mouthwash for days when it is too cold to rinse your mouth out with the tap water
I discovered just how cold the water can get at 5.15 in the morning when I made some attempts at brushing my teeth. The rest did not fare better. We were ready to be off by 6.30, as usual half an hour late.
We were taking the picturesque Leh-Manali road. In about an hour’s time, we reached Taglang La, the world’s second highest motorable road. Despite the cold breeze, all of us jumped out to take ‘I have been there’ pictures. Then we jumped right back in and continued. The scenery was beautiful, especially the trees which stood out after days of no greenery.
Stanzin decided to reload the diesel in the car and nonchalantly strolled to a store to pick up a can of the stuff. Then he casually lit a cigarette and got down to switching the diesel from one can to another. Priya and I gasped as the vision of all of us being blown into a huge red fireball loomed in front of our eyes. But nope, the man just grinned when we pointed out the idiocy of it. Our secret suspicion that he was some kind of a super hero in disguise began to grow.
After breakfast at Upshi, we turned into the road for Pangong. After several hours, we began to get the news that the road to Pangong had been flooded. By the time we reached Pangong’s nearest village, Tangtse the news had been confirmed. With no other options, we decided to check into a guest house in Tangste and fantasize about our tents in Pangong. Though secretly, I was happy to be in a warm room with an attached toilet again after two days of freezing in a tent.
Our guesthouse seemed to be quite large and had a beautiful picture of a well developed city in a terrain similar to Ladakh’s. Priya ventured that perhaps it was China’s vision for Leh. Which was a pretty reasonable one given how close we were to Tibet, the huge Indian army presence and how many areas seemed to be accessible only through permits. As it turned out, the picture was actually that of Lhasa. It was difficult to believe Lhasa was this large and commercial.
The evening’s entertainment involved walking up Tangste’s single street, noting the army depots and camps. Dinner was at the guesthouse, where we were served in traditional low Ladakhi tables and given chopsticks to eat with. I played with my food for a long time, swallowing tiny pieces of noodles and rice, finally discovering why all Chinese women looked so thin. There is no way anyone can have a full meal on those sticks.
We went to sleep, warning the boys that we really had to be on time the next day given that the road to Pangong would get flooded before 10 a.m.