Saturday, June 30, 2007

Mission Ladakh Zanskar Siachen 2007 - Day 15

Kiratpur – Ambala – Sonepat – Delhi

Last evening, 3 things were enough to irritate me with HRTC – Unauthorized Luggage handler asking for 5 rupees a piece AGAIN; 60 minute halt at Kullu and the final dinner halt at HP Tourism Pandoh CafĂ© where there was no other option and the Dinner, a pathetic one, was on buffet at 60/- per head. We had opted to go hungry and eat some dry-fruits instead.

I woke up in broad daylight around 7, switched on my cell phone and fell asleep again. Soon I was woken up by a call from home. When I hung up, people were coming out of the slumber as the Bus prepared to stop over at a Dhaba. According to my estimates, we were an hour or so away from Delhi. It was apparent that the Driver is loitering time in order not to reach ISBT before time. We touched ISBT at 8.30 sharp – hired an auto and when we reached home – I could only hug my father and say “You have to go there, Papa”.

And Papa could merely take leave of a narration of my experiences!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Mission Ladakh Zanskar Siachen 2007 - Day 14

Patseo – Manali – Mandi – Kiratpur

The morning started early with Bed Tea and Rest Room Management meanwhile Hari and I stepped out for some photography.

Patseo - a small Station covered by Cliffs all around

Hari with his Tea Mug outside our Barrack

Pahaadon ke beech mein Vaadi aur Vaadi mein Main
Once again, the bridge at Darcha banged loudly with us crossing over. The yellow BRO board at Baralacha La had been replaced by a new Light Green HP Tourism Board and we got to know the name of that beautiful lake – Suraj/Vishal Tal because of a new HP Tourism board.

First Sight of a full-grown tree in 14 days!

Waterfall that was not there before!
We were enjoying our way down from there. Our eyes were feasting on the beautiful newly created waterfalls and recently sprouted shrubs and lush green grasslands – especially those around Sissu, Koksar and Keylong. I must have been fast asleep when we crossed Gramphoo because I couldn’t see the bifurcation to Kaza again.

Argh! Almost unanimously, we nodded our heads in frustrated negation and sneered our noses as we approached Rohtang La. Drivers became crazy and were on an overtaking spree – our poor “mature” Ladakhi Driver was abusing the Himachali’s :-) Now I understood why he wanted us to change the car again after Darcha – The condition of the traffic is a reason simple enough for anybody to be afraid of.

We had crossed Rohtang Top at 11.20 AM and touched Manali Bus Stand at 1.40 PM. By the time, we confirmed the departure point for our Bus and subsequently, cleared the accounts with Rigzim, it was well past 2. We decided to head straight for a restaurant, expecting that we could keep our luggage there only, for the post-lunch couple of hours. We were trying to buy more time but as expected, the surd restaurant-owner turned drastically hostile immediately after our lunch and asked to keep our luggage at the Cloak Room rather. We decided to spend our time in the Park. Leaving Hari and Bikiran there, I and Farhan decided to go and check out the conveyance options for Leh near Hotel Himadri and yes, there were a flurry of JK-10 vehicles waiting for the day. To our amazement, we met Rigzim again with other senior drivers from Leh and discussed all the issues involved in taking the passengers back.
On getting back, I didn’t have the energy to explain the entire details (with the issues) to others and hence, Hari went out with his discontent over the cost of the conveyance. His logic was we could have booked a direct bus from Delhi to Leh or Manali to Leh because for him “Destination was important – How we get there, Does not Matter”. I replied “For this trip, Journey was more important than the Destination itself” – to which nobody could reply anything. I also felt low for a moment at recalling how much I had toiled for this trip to be successful and immaculate. To my content, all my team mates soon consoled me and convinced me that there is absolutely no problem with this trip and this is one of the best trips they could have ever had :-)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Mission Ladakh Zanskar Siachen 2007 - Day 13

Karzok – Polakongka La – Tso Kar – Pang – Sarchu – Darcha – Patseo

Last Day in Ladakh started at 5 AM. The hues of the lake were astounding – we had a quick tea and some cookies and boarded the Car. On our way ahead, we were supposed to cross Polakongka La and Tso Kar before meeting the Leh – Manali Highway.
A Woman guiding Pashmina Goats (and a School in background)
The Shooting Hot Spring
The road, for most part, was a dirt track. We retraced till Sumdo and then took the other way. It was difficult to believe my eyes as we kept staring as a passing School. Soon, we found another Hot Spring, from which hot water was shooting out, rather than oozing out. As we proceeded, the terrain changed and we climbed Polakongka La. A small Tibetan temple with flags all around, amidst stones and a dirt track was all that was visible on the pass. Few other small lakes dotted the way to our next destination. When we reached, it took us few seconds to believe that this was Tso Kar. There was not even a single person in sight – Not a single person! Rigzim asked us to walk to the shore – and when we insisted on taking the Car – he replied “It’s not hard soil and the tyres get jammed in the quick soil”. We agreed to walk and thought it would not be more than 800m. However, when we started, the shores didn’t seem under reach until 20 minutes later – that too at a constant Brisk Walk speed.
Tso Kar
The line dividing the Dirt Track and Quick Soil
Touched the shore of Tso Kar
Rock Salt (Sendha Namak)
Trying to find Stability over Quick Rock Salt Soil
The soil near the lake was very quick and was stinking due to some obnoxious gas. The adjoining shores were covered with Rock Salt, which initially seemed snow to some of us. My shoes, which I had realized were broken at Siachen, were letting lot of that quick soil to get inside as my feet started drowning in the soil. The only solution was to retain as much of your weight with you as possible and walk faster.
Walking Back - Foot in Foot, cautiously
Back to the Car - Tired!
Quickly clicking some pictures, we walked back to the car and the entire trip took us more than 45 minutes. Phew – We were tired! At a distance, we found a small settlement with a Gompa where a Lama asked us for a hitchhike. We couldn’t help him as our Car’s back was full with luggage. The most virgin part of tourist Ladakh was what followed Tso Kar. This was the km stretch where we did not see even a single tourist – only 6 PWD workers. Terrain changed dramatically and it took us time to realize that we had entered More Plains. We were back from a different side and soon, joined the Highway.

And now, the entire route was being retraced. All of us felt the pressures of Nature’s Calls; we stopped at Pang Transit Camp – the World’s highest Transit Camp to answer them. The Officer there feasted me to Suji Halwa there – it seemed heaven with that hunger. As told by Uncle, I arranged for a message to pass to Sarchu Transit Camp for lunch. Immediately after Pang, the bridge on the Pang river was blocked due to some repair work going on.

We stopped at Sarchu Transit Camp for lunch. Although we were late, they took special pains to treat us with the delicious homely food. As told, we had crossed the JK-HP border and after paying the bribe at the newly created HP Check point, proceeded to Patseo. It took us a little time to get a room at Patseo but I must say – due to the rains and greenery there, that place seemed to be the best Hill Station. Surrounded by high peaks all around, the place looked like a miniature eye as compared to the vast expanse of Mountain peaks.

What a Name!
The Officer-in-Command invited us to have dinner when we stepped out in Bathroom Slippers. It was quite late when we realized that this was a major mistake as we read the Rules at a notice board. The Assistant there, however, calmed us and said “Now you’re here and there are no Officers, Peace!” We enjoyed our dinner and went in deep slumber. This would be our last night in the lap of this natural Air Conditioner.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mission Ladakh Zanskar Siachen 2007 - Day 12

Leh – Upshi – Chumathang – Mahe – Karzok

As promised, Farhan and I woke up early and reached Alpha Mess at 7.30 Sharp. We could see a Scorpio parked outside and Uncle greeted us with a smile. He said the car is arranged but the rates are too high. The Officer in charge explained the rates to us and we had no other option, than to agree. In Ladakh, anything is better than nothing! :-)

Uncle got us served hot tea and ensured if we had enough money, meanwhile Aunty woke up and greeted us. Soon, we bid good byes to both and Uncle started explaining the conditions to our new driver – Rigzim. All his contacts were taken and he was cautioned to ensure our safety and comfort. Back to Lasu House, we caught some quick pictures with Meme, Uncle and Oliver and headed off for breakfast in the city. The poor guy must have been under military effect already, because when all 4 of us asked us in succession about the CD player, he tried to arrange for it – while we stopped for breakfast. The breakfast was not at all good. My Veg Thukpa, Farhan’s Mutton Thukpa – nothing was good. I decided to leave it half way and call home. I also called one of my batch mates to know about the results and was quite glad that all of us had passed all the courses. Rigzim returned and told us that he could not arrange a CD player. My CD Pack must be getting rotten, by now.
Farhan, Me (Ankit), Bikiran, Oliver, Uncle (Sami's Dad)
sitting: Meme (Sami's Grandpa) - Hari behind the Cam

As we left Leh Gate, each one of us thought “I would be back soon”. We took the diversion from Upshi towards Mahe. We crossed Chumathang at 12 and decided against stopping there for Lunch. We did not know the way ahead so we decided to reach Karzok as soon as possible. Our permits were checked at Mahe Bridge Check Post, where the road to Tso Moriri takes a diversion. As soon as we were told that the road from now on is under PWD; we started getting the threats from the Zanskar road; but to our delight, a lot of work had been done there and roads were new and smooth. For some part, we felt like we were cruising in Afghanistan (tracks similar to those shown in Kabul Express). On the way, we got some excellent views of another smaller lake – Tso Kogyo.

Don't be a Gama!
Tso Kogyo
reminds me of Kabul Express...
but naah... India is much more beautiful than Afghanistan

Soon, we got the first views of Tso Moriri – looking like a starry blue eye. The area around it is strictly barricaded by Wildlife Protection Agency – and we could see why. Numerous varieties of Birds were flying around. We went ahead to Karzok and found that the PWD Rest House was closed. On checking other places, to our horror, we found the rates for Tents as high as 1850/- for a Tent (for 2). Finally, we settled at a Resto-Tent (similar to those at Sarchu or Pang) for 50/- per Bed.

Driving along Tso Moriri to reach Karzok

ITBP welcomes you to Karzok (really :))

Tso Moriri - across the abandoned house - from Karzok

Karzok village across the abandoned house - from the Lake
After the lunch, we went to the shores. It was a long trek and the wind was chilling. We reached the shore around 4 and for next 3 hours, apart from clicking Pictures and Videos, it was all discussing FMS – inside out. Several secrets – both hidden and obvious – were shared. All in all – the only other (apart from Rangdum) excellent Bakar session! Dinner happened amidst drunk local Drivers – happened to meet few ITBP men who calmed our apprehension by explaining that these local people don’t cause any harm.

Watching the pebble bounce over the waters...

and I thought 'Wild Horse' is just a fragrance...

Taking Off!! (Beautiful Shot)

A routine Cyclone getting diffused!
Sunset over Tso Moriri from Karzok

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Mission Ladakh Zanskar Siachen 2007 - Day 11

Leh – Karu – Sakti – Chang La – Lukung – Leh

As decided, we picked CMP Officer from Alpha Mess again at 6 AM sharp. Learning from the previous day, all of us had decided to decrease the clothing because of hot weather. How could we have imagined what was in store for us ahead? As we proceeded, Prakash cruised ahead past the Taxi Check Post – without stopping – shouting “Army” out of the window. We could see his exhilaration on driving one of the VIP vehicles in Leh, right now.

I had done the mistake of having Tea without cookies in Leh, and as we approached Zingral, I started experiencing pangs of Acidity. My stomach was paining excessively and I needed some food urgently. I decided to have Eno only after breakfast. Meanwhile, during rest, I got to know that due to some miscommunication, No arrangement had been made for our Breakfast and there was a Major General, with his family, on the way. Luckily, soon we were served Breakfast and my stomach ache started subsidizing.

Mist and Rains and Snow as we climb the Mighty Chang La...

The ascent to Chang La is really tough and steeper than any other passes, we did. That is the reason behind calling it “The Mighty Chang La”. When we reached there, the weather was very bad – It was extreme cold – surrounded by Clouds and Snow everywhere – and the precipitation was changing from rain to snow without any warning in a matter of seconds. I had a pressure to piss for quite some time and when I tried to do it there, I could not. I tried hard but I could not. I gave up.

We started descending and soon, we crossed the Check post at Tangtse. We were just sitting mute expecting the sights of lake when it first appeared. As soon as I saw the signboard saying “First View of World Famous Pangong Lake 4 KM” I asked him to stop and went running to click pictures. Now, it was just a matter of few minutes, when we would be standing at the shores of the lake. When we took the final right turn towards Lukung, there it lied – The Largest Highest Brackish Lake in the World – Pangong Tso. The L-shaped Lake is 145 km long and 5 km wide, and two-thirds of its portion is with China. When the car stopped, we immediately ran towards the shore and got ourselves clicked. I removed my cap and to my distress, the wind was so strong that within few minutes, my ears started paining severely. I replaced my Cap.
Our CMP Officer asked us to go for boating right now as we are the first ones and there is no crowd right now. We agreed and fastened the Life – Jackets. Leaving my bag on the shore only, we boarded the Boat – a Military Boat. As the engine roared, we were shipped in the middle of the lake and then the Boatman stopped the engine and started telling us the facts about the lake. He showed us the point where India ends and China starts. He told us the names of the Birds flying there – including the Chinese Seagull.

Those 2 opposing slopes protruding in the Lake form the Indo-China border!

I was still trying to get back my senses and believe that it was all happening with me actually, when the wonderful ride ended. The lake was changing color – every few minutes. There was no amount of pictures that could capture the beauty! We waited for Prakash to come back and take us ahead to Spangmik. Now, he acted smart and told us that this is Spangmik – little did he know that I was smarter; but I did not say anything because everybody else also seemed less interested in going ahead. We went a little further and on our return, entered a Bay formation; where we got ourselves clicked numerous times and shot quite a few Videos also.

We proceeded for Lunch at Lukung Military Camp – Excellent Rajma with White Rice on the shores of Pangong Tso; after which Farhan and Hari went to climb Garnet Hill. On the other hand, Bikiran and I decided not to fly as much as them, just after lunch. We went on looking for our CMP Officer, who didn’t have his lunch because of money. We insisted on paying for him but he decline outright.

On the return, however, we made sure he had something. This time, however, the road was blocked due to some Landslide just ahead of Chang La. We crossed Chang La and joined the short queue – waiting for the road to clear. I was tired and the high altitude was affecting me when suddenly, I heard a strong loud blast. Alone in the car, I was shaken so much that I climbed out immediately. Our CMP Officer went ahead to enquire about the situation, and returned with a band news that the Blast had been unable to clear the road. A second – even stronger blast – supposedly cleared the road and it was around 1 hour, when we were allowed to pass.

On crossing Zingral, I asked Prakash to stop at the point where the road bifurcates to Wari La and then to Agham village and Khalsar. I had seen a signboard, near Sakti, telling all the distances so I thought it would be a good catch. He did, as told, and to our surprise, we found that Wari La is the 4th Highest Pass in the World. We smiled to ourselves, feeling proud of the achievement of BRO.

Wari La - 4th Highest Motorable Pass - also in BRO's belt!

As soon as I told him to take to the Army’s Transport Company for Billing, he got distressed immediately and started calling the Car’s Owner. He started blabbering and showing his tantrums, although very mild but we chose to remain silent. After dropping our CMP Officer, we reached the company and were asked to wait in the Officers’ Mess but when the wait grew longer; I decided to go out myself to the Office and settle the account. I could see the agony on Prakash’ face but one thing was sure – The loss, he is cribbing about, is the Opportunity Cost – not any actual Cost. C’mon 16/- per kilometer is not less.

We were asked by the Officer there to go to Uncle’s house for scheduled Dinner and meanwhile, the final payment amount would be finalized and we can make the payment to Uncle. Prakash was asked to drop us at Alpha Mess and we didn’t say anything. We could not thank him properly also due to the overall circumstances growing around but we couldn’t have helped it. An extremely delicious food awaited us at Uncle’s House, where our friend and her Mom attended us while Uncle was busy with his Guests. Aunty even exclaimed “Today, you look really tired, unlike previous occasions”. We explained the delay to Chang La blockage and the wait at Billing Office.
Uncle explained to me how difficult it was getting to arrange for a transport to travel from Tso Moriri to Pang. He told me “In case, nothing is arranged, there would be 2 options – Either, do a Day trip or give it amiss”. Our meal ended with the tasty dessert and since it was quite late, I asked for a drop home. Uncle “hijacked” some other gypsy and dropped us home.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Mission Ladakh Zanskar Siachen 2007 - Day 10

Sasoma – Khalsar – Diskit – Hunder – Khalsar – Khardung La – Leh
Sun's first rays play with Siachen's snow - from Sasoma
The morning happened quite early. By now, we were well acclimatized and habitual of waking at 4.30 AM :-) Tea served was amazing, again. We clicked few pictures of the surroundings but truly speaking, the beauty cannot be captured with any Cam. The In charge there told us about the nearest Airport in Thoisse and the Military Hospital there ahead of Hunder.

We retreated back to Khalsar and when we took the turn to Diskit, the road was beautifully created in the Shyok valley. Vast expanse of plains on either side of the road ended when the road started climbing the mountain because Nubra takes a U-Turn to meet Shyok and the valley narrows again.

The terrain changed dramatically. I was waiting to see the Desert but I realized that Diskit was supposed to be before the Sand Dunes, where we stopped for Breakfast. Again, I guess, we were quite early there to our dismay but luckily, one guy reluctantly agreed to serve us. I had 2 Plain Paranthas for the same rate as 1 Omelette, which others had. It was quite filling. Meanwhile, our CMP Officer went on cribbing how we could have had a good breakfast at Khalsar.

We proceeded till Hunder and on the way, got to see the majestic Sand Dunes. We took the U-turn for the Desert there from before Hunder and went till the Jungle in the middle of the Desert. There was nobody to be seen. On observing carefully, all the Bactrian Camels and their owners were resting inside the Jungle – on enquiring, they said, Indians can’t afford the rides so we didn’t come outside. The rate was 150/- for 5 minutes. On bargaining, they had come down to 10 minutes but not any less. I was fuming, absolutely.
Tribute to our Rajasthan trip - and missing comrades
We enjoyed the sand there. Hari tried to capture many terrains in one frame, while we paid our tribute to the Rajasthan trip and our other missing comrades Kannan, Ravi and Swamy. We decided not to go ahead till Thoisse and go back to Leh.
I tried to capture all terrains in One click - Grass - River - Snow - Dry Cliff
On our return, we reached North Pallu, again for Lunch. And for a change, I met a very rare species there – A Baniya Army Officer. We had a good chat and a good lunch :-) We thanked them profusely and left by 2. This time, when we reached Khardung La, the Sun was on the opposite side and we got down to click another round of pictures. Also, the Souvenir Shop was open and I got inside to buy something. Coffee Mug was out of stock; hence I got a Beer Mug, on much pondering. Meanwhile, I had invited Hari to click all the not-for-sale memorabilia of the Place inside the Shop.

JK Tourism's Logo shows the bias against Ladakh - Just a Shikara and that too Sweet Blue!
Terrible Marketing Myopia!

Ribbon-Cutting at Khardung La in 1973

We reached Leh well in time and found Javed there. Today was the day, when we were supposed to finalize whose Car we would take for Tso Moriri and Manali. Pangong Tso trip had been changed to a single day making us come back to Leh.

We got out to the market and started trying Uncle’s phone but it was either unreachable or no reply. Eventually, I decided to go to his home. We reached there and Aunty told us that his cell phone must be silent otherwise there is no problem. And yes, it had been silent. Well, Uncle explained all the future plans ahead and the place to do billing the next day, after we return from Pangong Tso. He told us that the rule with the Army hired Civil Taxis is that they would take 50% of the return journey. We calculated the distances and told that Leh to Manali via Tso Moriri is 610 km and return would be 475 km. So Total Bill would be for around 850 km and hence, it was decided that we would go ahead with this plan.
They offered to have the meal with them but we had to refuse them as the Julie Aunty, back home, had prepared special dishes for us. It was well past 9 when we got back, and found a new member there. It was my friend’s friend – Oliver – a Frenchman, who teaches Skiing for 8 months in French Alps and runs this Guest House in partnership for 4 months. We had a good chat over the delicious meal, although, Aunty and Uncle looked bored simply because we were talking in English. We wondered – how they talk with Oliver for the rest of the time. I made the call to Javed, explaining him that we would not take his Car for even the final time. Inside, I was very guilty of taking back Business from him but I couldn’t have helped it.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mission Ladakh Zanskar Siachen 2007 - Day 09

Leh - Khardung La - Khalsar - Sumur - Panamik - Sasoma - Snout - Sasoma

And the day finally arrived when we were supposed to do the honours – to cross the Highest Motorable Road in the World!

As instructed, we reached the Alpha Mess to pick the CMP Officer, who had been placed by Uncle to accompany us throughout the forthcoming trips to Inner Line Areas. We directly left after a short while and soon we were climbing the winding roads north of Leh. We reached South Pallu, well before the scheduled time when the Tourists are allowed to cross. Because of us, the Check Post had to allow few other Tourists also to proceed. We could see the wind chilling our spine again and the snow was growing in quantity. The tower was visible from a distance and when we reached there – the adrenalin flowing through my vessels was unexplainable. We had reached the places of all – Khardung La – The Highest Motorable Road in the World!

I remembered Uncle’s special warning (in addition to the precautions, I knew) not to spend more than 15 minutes on the Top. Hari clicked loads of pictures – as instructed – with the board – on top of the Marble, with the Flags. We were treated with Hot Tea and to our amusement; other tourists were indeed staring at us with curiosity wondering at the fact that we are getting tea at the Top of the World :-)
Highest Motorable Point on the face of this planet!
We started descending ahead and it was time for Breakfast, when we reached North Pallu. The Breakfast was absolutely ready in the camp – I was wondering – is it a place to relish such delicious Gobi Paranthas with Butter, Pickle and “beautiful” Curd? Well, we proceeded ahead and when we stopped at Khalsar, we were confused. Not later, we were served Tea and then we realized that it was all a part of the hospitability. We were overwhelmed and just went on discussing how it would have been, if we were accompanied by any liquor-loving friends.
Quite true!... Literally! BRO Zindabad!
On reaching the bifurcation, we took the road towards Panamik and the next stop was the Hot Sulphur Spring. The weather had turned hot yet this spring was welcome for my Cervical & Spinal Aches. However, on observing, the place was haunted (nobody to be seen for miles) and the source of the spring was untraceable. We soon reached the Panamik Check Post where the Tourist Area ends. Our CMP Officer got down and soon, we were on the No Tourist’s Land. The milestones started showing Sasoma but there was no sign which showed that we are close to the World’s Highest Battlefield. Road was fairly good and the tracks showed tyremarks of only the Military Vehicles. The weather was hot for the most part and the terrain was dry – peaks capped with snow.
Treating my flesh and bones with sulphur spring - Panamik!
My eyes wanted me to sleep but my mind told me not to – and soon, we were past Sasoma, where there were no milestones. After sometime, we could see some activities and developed blocks at a distance. We knew this had to be the Base Camp!

As we crossed the Huge Bridge over Nubra River, my conflicting thoughts of clicking that bridge were smoothened by my friends. We were stopped by the Guards there, but soon let into the Base Camp. As we proceeded, we saw Jawans working on something or the other – most of them must have just finished their lunch.

65 kilometer after the Tourist Permitted Area, finally – for the first time, in my life, the Road Ended and we saw "Siachen Dwar". We stopped much before the Gate where the Jawans guided us into a Camp. Upon entering, everything blacked out – in contrast to the outside Sun that it took us some time to see comfortably. The room was full of Officers having their lunch and the TV showing some advertisements. It was marvelous to see the centre position being grabbed by the stoutest and the most powerful Officer among all. He enquired Farhan about our relationship to Army – and we could just say “Friend”. We had our lunch in the back room of the Lounge, the walls of which were jutted by all the details about the Battalions, which have been posted there since 1984.

On waiting for sometime in the Lounge, we met a Captain – who, supposedly, had been held responsible for showing us around. At first, when he got to know that none of us are from Army Background, he was annoyed and expressed it subtly. I was very irritated by the way he taunted on Farhan – “There should be some purpose in life. Money is not everything.” And etc.

After all, each one of us is doing something or the other for the country. I respect the Army men utmost, above all, for their work and the responsibility. But saying that we are nothing – is incorrect. If India is considered among the top countries today, it is not because of the Army – it is because of the Economy and the boon that Outsourcing has been to this country. I wanted to tell him that we are part of that community which is working to uphold India’s respect as a Good Service Provider to the world. I know if you wouldn’t be there, there would be no existence of India but we are no less. However, I didn’t say anything thinking that might worsen the matter. Let the Captain take his time to pacify.
Can you tell me what is beneath these rocks? - Frozen Earth!
Soon, he started explaining about what the Glacier is and explaining to us the plan ahead. As he guided Prakash into Siachen Dwar, we just sat there speechless, under huge thrill factor and waiting for more. The dirt track culminated in a temple which was named after a Jawan who saved the entire Glacier almost single-handedly, when it was first attacked in 1984 by Pakistan. Captain did explain to us about the strategic importance of the Glacier for India – one, It is natural protection against Pakistan and China – two, It would create a very short route from Pakistan to China which is undesirable by India and – three, Pride (which means whatever Pakistan wants, will India give it to them). We paid our tributes to the Temple there and strolled ahead near the Glacier.
Temple of OP Baba - the sole Siachen savior from 1984
The Ice wall was huge and it seemed that a simple knock on the wall would make your hand bleed. I couldn't believe when I could actually touch the Glacier with my own fingers and big icicles were constantly breaking from the glacier on the mouth of Nubra and were flowing in that beautiful river. He asked us to pose in front of it – although I was skeptical of the ice-stones falling from the top. Fortunately, it didn’t happen with our heads. We moved ahead and he showed how the seemingly Black Soil was actually all Snow and Ice. Black, I guess, due to the regular Artillery Firing. Tough Frozen Land - Just Rock-hard Ice!
Snow n Ice everywhere - Blackened and Damned!
He explained that it takes 22 days for jawans on foot to reach the Actual post from the Base Camp and every Battalion hangs a Bell at the temple before leaving. We retreated back because we were quite late to be able to visit the Training Area, let alone our physical capability to even reach there. We moved on the other side of the Nubra and to our astonishment, there was a good enough developed area with many cannons dug in the earth – all pointing towards North-West i.e. Pakistan :-)

He explained to us that when the original Amarnath Shiva ling melted for the first time in 2005, a second Amarnath appeared here. From then on, it has been called the Second Amarnath and the trek that leads to it, has been jutted with Steel gates bearing the names of the Regiments and the battles they have won in the past. From a distance, the trek and the stones encompassing the 2nd Amarnth seemed exactly similar to the other Amarnath. On the way back, when I told him of my friend, who recently turned Captain; he confirmed that my friend is 6 months senior to him. From then on, he turned quite friendly and less taunting – actually, no taunts :-)
Most Interesting list of Battles!
We proceeded ahead to Siachen War Memorial, whose architecture is spectacular. It bears the names of all the people who died on the post (after all, on an average 40 people die every year on the Glacier - let alone those who lose their limbs, digestive power, breathing power or snow-blindness…the list is endless.
You just need to read them to comprehend our feelings!
Hari clicked all the quotes written there – they were very motivating and emotional. One, which he couldn’t capture – I wrote down in my Diary:
“One who ”

You just need to read them to comprehend our feelings!
Getting back to the Camp, we were served Tea and Cookies while Captain got his laptop to transfer the pictures. He showed some of his pictures on the post and I could just imagine how difficult it would be to just stay there. We soon bid goodbyes and proceeded to Sasoma for the night stay. On the way, however, we were blocked as the RT Drill was going on. We reached Sasoma, well in time, with unforgettable memories of India’s largest Glacier, which is the World’s Highest Battlefield – Thanks to Pakistan and China.

Again just read the Board - and keep on imagining our feelings on achieving what an Indian citizen could only dream of! We cannot thank you enough Brig Uncle!
Back in Sasoma, we were treated like VIPs and the food was awesome beyond explanation. I found a copy of Jagmohan’s book “My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir” there and read first few pages of it. That is one book, I want to read as soon as possible – a topic which is very close to my heart. I slept with the dreams of this place getting peaceful, which I know is not possible. In fact, that day is awaited when the entire Glacier would disappear due to the enhanced Warming effects due to Battle.