The stay at Bodh Karbu & Fotu La pass & the next destination – Part VIII

Our stay at Bodh Karbu was memorable. The Ladakhi family running it were simple, very friendly and warm. They kept giving us chais, even their home made butter tea was delicious. Please note this, if you ever are this side, don’t stay at hotels but Homestays and definitely don’t drink butter tea from restaurants, you will gag. Home made ones are slightly salty, texture is amazing and tasty. Even Archana who swore off butter tea after previous experiences ended up relishing this one.

As for our red flag Swati, she was kind of upset we got a better room than her’s. I don’t know what was better really. Our room was tiny while they were given a huge room, but yeah her complaint was, the beds were not facing the windows like ours. Oh well nothing could win her over.

It was so bright and so hot that we kept moving from our room to the outside verandah where the dining table was kept. It was a nice open terrace with shelter and one could sit out and relax. Sonam got us a whole watermelon as a snack. Watermelon in Ladakh years ago would have sounded impossible but now I saw even mangoes were brought here in markets!

We kept chatting and resting on and off. And let me give you a tip, it might embarrass you, or you would think it’s too intimate but if you ever go on cycling rides like this, The golden rule first is to immediately get out of your gear, most important. The sweat the grime gets into you, mostly in the parts where you sit on the seat, get it? The whole area as such reddens and worsens if you don’t change into something airy and comfortable, you need to give it space to breath. I have to mention this, as I said before it’s not fun and adventures only. These things are never discussed but I had to. Plus unlike trekking in the Himalayas where it’s so cold it’s ok not to bathe, here with the grime and sweat you still can’t take a bath as there is not enough water, second the kind of altitude changes we were going through in hours, to have a bath was impossible in the evenings, you could get very sick.

We met another cyclist from Thane, Maharashtra whom we actually saw earlier crossing Drass town. Archana mentioned she had met him briefly in Drass. He was doing a self supported ride which was commendable as well as scary. Sonam mentioned later his bike was a basic one and he actually had a cardboard at the back seat for all his luggage. A solo rider he was talking about his previous experiences and all. But one significant thing I remember him telling us. He also faced the hostility and greed of Kashmiris in Srinagar. So one day he got the courage to ask a Kashmiri Muslim, how did revoking article 370 affect them? To remove special rights of Kashmiris and it was a state just like rest of the country, and for anyone could now own land in Kashmir.

That Kashmiri man’s statement shook us all. He said, look we want all the facilities and 4G connections and all infrastructure that ‘India’ gets but as for owning land, you think anyone will keep quiet? The moment an outsider owns a piece of land, he will be shot dead in months, so no difference for us if the article was revoked! This made my blood boil. So you arseholes want all the facilities huh?! This was the reality. Plus this guy said he was always cautious in Kashmir but once he was reaching the region of Ladakh he could be free again.

Sonam frowned on it and later said to us, You see? Most tourists tread cautiously in Kashmir but the moment they enter Ladakh, they go wild. They drink, they abuse, have no respect for the locals nor the region, trash the whole place and bully us. I wish the laws were tougher here, even the people.. This was another reality. All their fears and let me put it bluntly in Kashmir was, you couldn’t upset any Kashmiri Muslim there, you wouldn’t know who would take a gun and shoot you. This is the effing reality while in Ladakh it was the complete opposite. People were peaceful here, it comes because of Buddhist culture so they could do what they want. I wanted to address this ‘white elephant’ in the room. It must be said.

It was so bright even at 8 pm, yet we had to finish our dinner and sleep. Tomorrow would be another tough day and another pass! Yes! 3rd pass – Fotu La. By now I had enough of ‘La’s!’ Even though the distance was 37-40 kms. It was a freaking pass alright after crossing Bodh Karbu, on an ascent and reaching our next destination, La Mayuru. It was well known for it’s monastery. It was one of the oldest and very beautiful. And Sonam mentioned there was a 3 day festival going on and tomorrow would be the last day.

We woke up, had a hearty breakfast and were ready to go. The Homestay would get really busy from August. Archana knew a bunch of cyclists from Pune who would be staying there, and they were driving all the way from Pune loading their cycles in the vans!

Now looking up from the Homestay, we had to walk all the way up to the road taking our cycles. Huffing and panting we made our way up and rode on an uphill climb. Man this was not ending was it? 😊

Uphills and ascents you know it by now don’t you? . We were only ascending, and here is the thing, when Sonam said the pass is 11-13 kms ahead I assumed it starts right from Bodh Karbu! The next 7 kms was on an ascent so I assumed in 5-6 kms we will reach the pass until Archana gave me a reality check. Nope to reach the start of the route to the pass was 8 kms and then another 13 kms! Freaking hell! I groaned, here goes again!

What do I say? With every pass it looked tougher, the sun harsher and we knew Leh would be even hotter. Oh god the ascents, the same grind again and again and.. again!

How did I console myself? Archana and I as usual continued our strategy like yesterday. Go slow, even though it was achingly slow, just keep going. And of course the countdown to the pass with every painful kilometer we were crossing. This seemed more difficult than the one yesterday even though the overall distance was shorter. At times I felt I was moving 5 metres, just 5 metres, what do you do? Simple, keep pedalling, just keep pedalling. You signed up for this, you take the responsibility of finishing it with dignity and patience.

One thing I have realised about myself over the years, I can’t do ‘normal vacations’ anymore. This is something I have been in denial for years. I am like this. Period. I like putting my body and mind through the grind. Call it guilty pleasure, whatever.

We kept going up and up and getting tired and it was getting colder, thin air and suddenly the route became flatter, the ascent suddenly turned into a route where we could go faster! It took us by pleasant surprise and Archana and I were ecstatic! Then Archana guessed it right. We had already reached and crossed Fotu la pass which was always at the top and now we were reaching Fotula top which would head towards a flatter route! Just knowing that the next 3 kms would be like this till the top made us both scream in delight. I remember us speeding through, shouting Woo Hoo with happiness!

There was no need to stop, our endurance had increased, our body was on constant adrenaline even with the joints creaking and body aching. It’s amazing how the human body takes in all this pounding.

The tourists were far lesser than the last pass. In fact other than one jeep, there were no one else except a few army jawans initially with an army outpost right at the top. It was cold and windy, really cold with hot sun, yup that’s how it was. Our throats were already showing signs, our voices became croaked with the cold. Promptly an army jawan rushed and got us a flask of hot water, no questions nothing. We thanked him profusely.

Karma was with the rest. So Archana sent a text message to Sonam that we were descending down to the hotel. It was too cold to wait for the others. We had the hotel name and saved gps location. It was a complete descent to La Mayuru and I mean steep descents. The loops are mind bending I tell you. Truly can screw your mind in a good and bad way. Incredible speed happens but you must have the presence of mind to see the sudden bumps and sudden speeding vehicles. If one could see the descent loops from above, the mind would spin! So beautiful and dangerous.

Archana was scared of descents and rightly so, one small mistake and slip here and you know.. She always went about cautiously. I kept speeding ahead crossing lorries, vehicles and having my heart in my mouth at the steep descent turns. Not for the faint hearted.

I reached right in front of the beautiful La Mayuru monastery. I wasn’t sure if I had to go ahead. The hotel name was Moonland and we earlier saw it was just a few hundred metres away. I waited for Archana and later we descended further down to land into a really nice hotel. I guess we reached way before time because the hotel guys were shocked seeing us. They were expecting us at late lunch time. They went numb when they saw us walking in and saying hey Sonam booked these rooms, they were like, so soon? We told them not to worry about giving us the rooms right now, that can wait but can we get something to eat? 😊

Archana and I were at peace sitting in the restaurant and sipping Chai. She got a message from Sonam that the others were still 4-5 kms away from the pass. This would take time and we had plenty of time to kill. So we decided that we would go to the monastery right away. It was now or never. We would not have the patience to do this in the evening. Yes it was scorching hot and we would have to walk back up a kilometre till the monastery and then ascending again till we reached the main temple. But it didn’t matter.

We had an incredible experience in the monastery. To be continued 🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️

The name says it all

At the top

Had enough of the La’s!

The signs say it all

First glimpse of the monastery
Had to click this one
Look at the terrain and the monastery
The ancient monastery site
The cool looking window in the restaurant

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