We were taller but never as desolate, remote and steep as Wari La Pass. Are we nervous? Yes. Are we scared? Yes. Do we fight? Yes. And yet, we want to come back repeatedly for adrenaline and endorphins.
Here is our experience.
Hunder (Nubra Valley) – Khalsar – Agham – Tangyar – Wari la – Sakti – Karu – Leh
We took the Agham route to get back to Leh from the Nubra Valley. The way to Agham is good; a bit of broken asphalt in some places and a patch where they’re putting a new one. From Agham to Tangyar, the road is a mixture of bad and broken asphalt. Once you reach Tangyar and climb about a kilometer, you will find a bridge that will take you across the river that you have been traveling all the time. This is when your vision changes; and you will begin to climb the beautiful valley until the passage.
Wari La Pass Route
The road from Tangyar to the top of the passage is all gravel and broken asphalt, with some waterways; mainly due to snow melting. These crossings can be challenging, threatening or just a puddle, depending on the time of day and season when you were there. If it is cold and early in the season, snow will not melt at this rate, as when it is a little warm and later in the season.
During the last 15 kilometers to the top of Wari La, you will be constantly on the lowest gears. You will feel that the air is weak. Your bike will be fighting for oxygen and so will you. It will soon become apparent that the famous low-end torque, which was always the strongest of RE, would have reached its limit. Even when you keep spinning the throttle; the bike will scream louder, but it won’t have that force. This will continue and get worse over the last 5 kilometers. By the way, I was in a relatively new Royal Enfield Standard 500, with only 10,000 km on the odometer; in case you’re wondering which bike we were riding. This is something we do not face in any of the high passes, be it Khardung La or Tanglang La.
Now, not only the bike, but you will also fight due to the thin air. Also, add the fact that in the last 25 to 30 kilometers you would not have seen a single soul or anything made by man. Then you accumulate it knowing that the next human settlement is the city of Sakti, on the other side of the passage; which is another 28 kilometers from the top of Wari La Pass.
With the bike struggling to climb, all these thoughts were going through my head. I had a rump with full luggage mounted on the bike and that’s when I started to get goose bumps. What happens if I get a flat tire? Or if the bike refuses to climb higher? The cherry on top of this misery will be the bike running out of fuel because we have just arrived at the reserve a few miles from Tangyar. Anyone planning a trip from Leh to Nubra – Turtuk – Wari La should plan to have Leh own extra fuel transport. Gas station in the city of Diskit is not reliable. They had no gas for three days straight when we were there.
With all this in mind, there came a time when we decided to take a break because the situation was not improving. The thoughts that accumulated in the brain were not good either. The bike was almost saying it would not reach the top and needed some rest. We were in first gear for a long time and the throttle was almost all open. That’s when I remembered that my mechanic showed me a screw in the carburetor and told me to make two laps feel that the bike is not going up, and that’s exactly what I did.
The air at that moment was so thin that dismantling the bike and opening the screwdriver toolbox was a task in itself. The inclination was so steep that even after resting the bike on the side stand, I still kept it in gear to restrict any movement. In addition, I also pushed a rock behind the rear tire so it wouldn’t reveal. Maybe it was me who panicked, but looking at how steep the road was, it seemed like the right thing to do.
We soon realize that the longer we get, the worse it will be, as low oxygen will begin to affect the mind and body. The only way to get over it was to move on. Wifey said the top should not be that far away and, according to her calculation, we should be there very soon. This statement gave courage. I took a few sips of water and started again.
She was right! I guess we could hardly have walked a few miles and were on top, and oh boy! What a feeling that was. This cannot be explained. She quickly dismounted, clicked on some photos from the top of the Wari La Pass and we started down.
To our pleasant surprise, the downhill road was a good asphalt, with some really bad miles. The views were simply amazing. (That’s when the achievement factor kicks in and your body releases happy hormones.) We also found some yaks on the way. They ran like crazy seeing us coming, as if they had never seen anything like us before. And as they ran, I hoped one of them wouldn’t bump into us.
The fuel story
Wait, there’s more to it. The history of gasoline is not over yet. Well, to be honest, I didn’t mind that after we got to the top of the pass. I knew I could make about 50 and that would be enough until Sakti. So in Karu, we can restock. So I stopped worrying about it and enjoyed the view of the descent.
However, we ran out of fuel. And since we trust that someone was watching and blessing or would have heard my wife’s prayers, we have just arrived at the entrance to the bomb in Karu. I pounded my fists in the air like I’d won a medal or something.
I told my wife and argued on our way and often heard you mumble something? I thought she was cursing me. After getting married, I learned that ignoring is the best way for men to avoid it. Finally, I asked her about all the discussions and if she was feeling well now that we got to Karu. And that’s when she told me she was reciting Hanuman Chalisa and not just muttering nonsense. Well, Jai Bajrang Bali!