Day 9, September 7, 2014
Hundar to Thikse
At last, we woke up to the Ladakh-blue skies!
The tent-bathrooms at Eco-Resort had piped hot water and a bucket-bath was in order. The 150 km drive to the next campsite, just a little beyond Thiksey, was a short one so there really was no need for a rushed morning though Vikas and I were ready, as directed, by 6 a.m. There didn’t seem to be anyone about as we ambled over to the dining area and prepared to sit down to rounds of tea as we waited for the rest to awaken. Preparations were on to get our breakfast-to-go orders ready but as Vijay joined us, we decided there was much wisdom in eating our paranthas hot. The 7 a.m. departure? Not bloody likely. Quite a few of us managed a hot breakfast before the whole gang was up and ready to roll.
Abhey decided we take an alternate route instead of retracing our way to Leh and thence to Thikse. This would take us through Warila. The sun shone bright and the sunshine-starved travelers took every opportunity to pause and enjoy the scenic drive. The convoy was less disciplined today with some of us taking out time to capture the scenes on our cameras, but the walkie-talkies kept us in touch. Pictures can hardly do justice to the majesty of the Ladakh Himalayas.
From Hundar to Warila, along the river Shyok
We managed to stretch a five-hour drive to eight hours with a very quick lunch stop at an ubiquitous Maggi-noodles-shack. We drove through an unbelievably picturesque landscape and the blue skies brought much cheer; fresh snow at Warila was the icing on the cake.
At Warila, altitude 5250 m.
Himalayan wildflowers and wildlife
It was 5 p.m. and the sun was setting as we neared Thiksey. We took a few shots of the monastery in the setting sun and hurried over to the camp where the rest were waiting for us. The campsite has a beautiful stream flowing alongside. In the recent rains one of the tiny drainage channels had eroded and become a water-crossing challenge. Bharat warned that the SX4 was better parked on the roadside. Vijay and Vikas had switched vehicles at the Monastery. Vikas, behind the SX4 at this moment, was still in his Pajero-frame-of-mind, and we found ourselves thoroughly stuck in the muck!
Out came the tow-rope, and Abhey, in his Scorpio, and Vijay behind the wheels were able to pull the SX4 to safety. This scene was re-enacted the next morning – first, with the Ertiga, and then a repeat performance with the SX4! It would be an ominous start to our final day through the Ladakh Himalayas on this road trip.
Sunrise at the campsite, the following day (near Thikse)
But, today, we were back at the Thikse monastery. By the time Vikas and I made our way up the hill, the main prayer hall had been closed for the day. The friendly monk directed us to the rooftop where we stood for over an hour taking in the panoramic views, watching the sun set and the moon rise. Vijay had also made his way up slowly, taking no chances in the rarefied air.
With the light fading we headed down only to find that there was another entrance, the formal ‘front’, that one can drive-up to! Here is housed a small cafe where some monks were enjoying their evening tea. I enquired about local food and was disappointed to learn that there was little chance of finding any around. A hot cuppa was what we needed. Some tea, pakoras, and thukpa later, we climbed down to spectacular moonlit views of the Monastery.