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Ladakh 2014 – Phalung Shumo

PHASE 2 (Phalung Shumo)

Going easy for a couple of days at a lower altitude, when you’ve exerted at high altitudes for a while, can do a world of good for one’s mind and body. No wonder folks spend close to two months climbing Everest, which involves shuttles between the base camp and higher camps. Of course it would be unfair to compare my little adventure to an Everest Expedition, but the idea was to just present a thought; a thought that after 6 days spent between Leh and Kang Yatse on some treacherous trail with a heavy pack, I was extremely sore. But a couple of days rest in Leh and some good food truly refreshed me. I went around town on 13th talking to agencies about transportation to Korzok for the next phase of my trip. I left my number with a couple of them and took their numbers too. After lunch I went to Chospa, a general store in Leh, to replenish my rations; more of the horrible noodles, soup and same old, same old. I went for different brands for a change. Tang and some chocolates were definitely part of the pack. I also decided to pick some plums and apricots, since I found fruits to be a lot more palatable than anything else. I am just a terrible eater at high altitudes. Most of 13th was spent in the market place, where I would go to pick stuff that was either missing or insufficient, and in the guest house where I would come during the day for an hour or two to relax and

respond to mails from friends, especially Tomek, who was to arrive at Leh on the 25th and had a bunch of inquiries which needed my attention. I also found time to have a steak for lunch at Korean House and say hi to my new friend Pops. In the evening I had a brief chat with John about Kang Yatse and also discussed strategy for the next phase of my trip before I went to sleep.

14 Aug 14

I woke up quite late. It was 8 in the AM if I remember correctly. By 9 I was out on my way to grab a bite. That’s when I received a call from an unknown number. On the other end was a chirpy, sweet voice speaking in an oriental accent, asking me if I was going to Korzok, near Tso Moriri. I was able to guess straightaway that one of the agency guys must have given out my number. The inquiry was a pleasant start to my day. Since I was excited about getting out of Leh as soon as possible, I decided to skip breakfast and just picked a doughnut which I hogged on my way to the office the agency that the girl was calling from. I asked the girl about the name and location of the agency she was calling from, and then headed straight for the office which was on the road that leads to Changspa, a part of Leh which probably has the most restaurants and guest houses. I reached the place, which was managed by a Kashmiri, called Manoj, in less than 10 minutes and there they were, a guy, probably in his early twenties in the company of 3 pretty girls. Some guys just have everything going FOR them. Anyways, as it turned out, the guy and two of the girls, including the one who I had just spoken with a few minutes ago were Koreans who were on a sightseeing trip to Ladakh. The third girl was from Kerala, possibly Muslim and had just met with the other three, moments before I walked into the office.

The group, especially the Koreans were a lively bunch and they were quite inquisitive too. They seemed quite intrigued by my solo adventure and had so many questions about it but I did my best to downplay the whole thing. I asked them a few questions about Korea and Seoul, their hometown, before I decided to make a move. They were all in their twenties, just out of college perhaps. The bunch were just looking to bring down the cost of travel to Korzok and me going with them was helping them in a way. One of the girls asked me to join the group for breakfast. I politely refused citing the big doughnut, that I had before meeting them, as the reason. We all agreed to meet at the agency at 7 the following morning. I was set to leave for Korzok on the 15th in any case. If none of the cab agencies had contacted me, I would have gone with Gyatso in his mini van. Of course it would have cost me quite a bit, but I was there to climb; so no point in cringing over cost. But the Korean connection was beneficial for me too I suppose. On that note, I walked out of Manoj’s office and rushed to my room to do a final check on my stuff, so that I could get things from the market, if in case I was missing something. I was pretty much sorted out. But I thought a trip to the market, after lunch, would do me no harm. I went to Chospa, a general store in the main market and picked some nuts and tuna. In the evening, I had a chat with John, who advised me to try a peak called Sara Shuvo.

He told me that he had never climbed the peak but had seen it on his way to the Mentok peaks. He gave me a general orientation of the area that the peak was in. I told John that I would definitely check out the area and if possible attempt an ascent. After the chat with John, I packed up my sack and tried to get some rest because the drive to Korzok was long, arduous and exhausting.

15 Aug 14

I woke up by 5 and was ready by 6:30. John had woken up a little early to see me off. Since I was departing quite early, I couldn’t eat breakfast because none of the restaurants were open. Manoj was at my guest house with his MUV and driver by 7. We were to drop Manoj at his office and pick up the Koreans and the girl from Kerala from there. I said goodbye to John and thanked him for his services before driving off with Manoj. We were at his office in a couple of minutes; the group was waiting while we arrived. Manoj and the driver helped load up their luggage on the roof. They were carrying a lot of stuff for a bunch who were going to Korzok only for a night. I took the seat in the front, the three young ladies were in the middle row whereas the guy chose the rear bench, so he could stretch himself during the drive. He was good at it. He actually managed to sleep well for most of the journey. Anyways, we were on our way by 0715. The girl from Kerala (I think her name was Asmina – I looked at the Innerline permit which had all our names) wanted to stop in the market to get some cash, which worked out well for me too. One of the two Korean girls had an upset stomach and the other girl wanted to have some tea. So we stopped at Choglamser which was to everybodys benefit. The driver, Sonam and I had breakfast at a restaurant, where as the three girls got their tea, medicine etc. I think the guy just kept sleeping in the back of the MUV. Anyways, after breakfast, I got a kit kat for everyone. Since Sonam was reluctant to take the chocolate, I had to shove it in his hand. Over the next few hours, Sonam and I became good friends. We were soon on our way and I assumed we would stop at Chumathang for lunch and may be at 2 or 3 checkposts. Since Sonam was playing some Ladakhi music, which was fine for a while, but it was beginning to get to me after a while. So I paired my N8 with the system on Sonams car and we were good; Coldplay, A R Rehman, Lata Mangeshkar etc and it was much better. At least Asmina and Sonam seemed to like some of the music that I was playing; cant say the same for the 3 koreans. We did seem to have a semblance of a conversation once in a while; but I am terrible at dialogues or conversations.

Since the BRO was working on widening the roads, most of the route was ruined and we were even held up at a small bridge crossing for about 15 minutes. This was a blessing in disguise, because Incidentally, our left rear tyre was flat. The 15 minute hold up afforded us useful time to change the tyre. We arrived at Chumathang by noon. Apparently the Koreans, and Asmina too, had not done their homework and were probably only keen to get to Korzok. Only when I told them that there was a hot spring in the vicinity of Chumathang near the river bank did they get out of the vehicle. Even then I had to describe the hot spring for a few minutes before they even started walking to the river bank. For some reason the girls decided not to go together, so I was tasked with the job of showing them the way to the spring one by one. I would basically walk them to a spot from where I could show them the way to the springs. The guy finally woke from his slumber and needed a place to relieve himself. Yes I had to give him directions to a spot around the corner too. Apparently, “this is India, go anywhere you like” didn’t make sense to him. Anyways, after my guiding and navigation skills were tested, I went to a small restaurant for lunch. Sonam was there too and I sat next to him. He was almost done when I got there. By the time my lunch was served, the group joined me at the restaurant too. The Koreans ordered some noodles and coke, whereas Asmina had Rice with Dal. Somehow, lunch was about how impressed the Koreans were by my solo effort. With that background, I felt obliged to pay for their lunch as well. By 1 we were on our way to Korzok via Mahe bridge. The route between Chumathang and Mahe was fine. I was mostly busy shuffling tracks on my phone which was being relayed to Sonams system. I cant say for sure if the Koreans were too thrilled about the choice of music, although I mostly found them sleeping. At Mahe, Sonam and I had to report at a checkpost and had the innerline permits checked. By the time