“After whiskey driving risky,” warns the road sign the chronic drunks who are still capable to read it. The terrain is rough, but sill lets the Yaks feed on dry bushes. Driving into Leh through the avenue of snow-clad peaks couldn’t be more magnificent – And besides, after spending several weeks in the continuous rain, I feel content knowing that the monsoon isn’t in its full swing up here. These days, the harsh climate of the so called little Tibet „Ladakh“ in India’s northernmost state Jammu-Kashmir allows its dwellers to earn valuable money. Money, which the Ladakhis (as well as the Tibetan refugees and their children who grew up here) desperately need to survive the eight-months long winter – Until now, most of the people live without having a heater in their home. For visitors venturing to Leh and its surroundings, the climate might play a secondary role. Anyway, all seasons have their own charm.
I’m scouting for a proper motorbike to explore the area. Mr. Numboo double-checks my experience, while I struggle finding the gears on his Royal Enfield 350cc (the Asian Harley). “Are you really sure you have ever ridden a motorcycle before?” Actually, I won’t let him know that this my very first time sitting on a saddle – but instead of revealing my incompetence, I give him the most confident nod I can. And continue playing with the kickstarter. The machine roars up and jumps forward. I hear Numboo mentioning the limitation of liability again. After some more attempts, I’m somehow able to steer the motorbike out of town. Finally! Riding free – A new biker has been born, I daydream as I navigate the moto through gravelly plateaus, over bridges covered with buddhist prayer flags and alongside the meandering Indus river. Every now and then I jump off my bike to take a look at the various stupas and monasteries where the monkhood humbly roams the holy grounds in their burgundy-colored robes.
I’m amazed by all this peaceful but rough nature. Some nomads herd their woolly pashmina goats on the foothills of 5-7.000 meter high mountains. Instead of driving to the well frequented Pangong lake I find myself accidentally on a bypass – a hardly travelled route, which leads me along picturesque salt lakes, pinkish mountains, alpine deserts, a unique pastel-colored landscape and (surprisingly) over the second highest motorable road in the world back to Leh.
„Unfortunately, I do not have a toothbrush,“ the barely recognizable pharmacist sighs behind a stack of medicine. But marijuana would be on offer. Even the manager of laundry kiosk has a trump up his sleeve to earn some cash. Since I have no dirty laundry, he offers me an “ear cleaning service”. I notice the lousy impression I probably made on him. When Mr. Tsering (currently busy with his LSD intoxication) hands me over a new motorized two-wheeler for the next few days, he forgets to mention that the road to Diskit in Nubra Valley is a hell of a ride. Just to say, it’s not only cold, it is arctic cold on the world’s highest pass. Immediately I feel somehow unfortunate not to own any motorcycle clothes. Instead I have shredded woolen gloves “made in China”, wet shoes decorated with icicles, a studded helmet and lungs full of carbon dioxide from all the passing lorries. Shockingly, a little avelange dissolves next to me (no, Mr. Tsering did not mention anything of that, but hey, I know how many women he had been with) – This is it for today, I have a quick break in front of the sign which proudly informs that I made it to the highest motorable pass Kharungla (5.602 meter), I get rid of the icicles and ride back to town.
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