Ascent of Zozila was as usual was on dusty road but it was completely dry.No problem faced and we quickly reached at the place where a green sign board welcome us-
The board Says-
“Welcome to Ladakh Region”
This was not an ordinary board for Doc Victor and Jassi.Jassi started shedding Tears after seing this board.He was finally in Ladakh.He had been trying to seeLadakh for many years but failed.Finally he was standing at the soil of Ladakh,the land of high passes.He became emotional,he behaved humanly.Doc was also going through some kind of upheavel.This place,the Zozila deserved a prolonged stay.We had to spend little long time with this sign board,and we did.
We moved ahead after a hearty long stay at Zozila and started our descend into Ladakh,towards Gumri.towards Drass.Reached at Drass War memorial.Jassi went for a quick visit to see musuem while Doc and I decided to enjoy a cuppa at army run canteen in the memorial.10 rs a cup.Jassi came back and started hurling abuses at enemy of operation Vijay in 1999.Quite a sentimental person.Lol.
Diversion to Umba la was around the corner after Drass war memorial and within few minutes I will be traversing on Umba la still elusive to me after two prior attempts in 2012 and 2013.Adrelaine filled in my stomach and infused me a electrifying energy.Lets go to Umba la pass and see what lies there.Lets go to see the unseen.It was definetly a off the beaten track,very few have been on Umba la pass.No info about road condition.Al i had was little info gathered from locals who had always discouraged me against attempting this section.They said there is nothing to see there,no villages,no human for miles many miles.But I was stubborn,I will go there and see what lies behind those mountains??
And with this uncertain thoughts in my mind,with a heavy anxiety in my heart I turned my Scooter towards Umba la Pass.The first village appeared after 5-6 kilometers and to my surprise,this is not Umba village,this is Bairasa village.And this is the first village on this route.After this we no human habitation for miles,it is forbiddenland.only sheaperds roam the land beyond this village for search of greener pastures.
A broken,potholed,slushy,gravel filled and katcha road is all we have for company for unknown distance.We kept riding and reached the first Pass of thsi road.But journey we covered to reach here was ardous,dangerous and terrifying.Sharp hairpins bends,narrow roads with deep gorge and lack of oxygen.We had to manually push our bikes many times.Road was strewn with loose rocks at many places.A breakdown at this place was suicidal.No help for miles,no passing vehicle,nothing.
We were literelly in NO MAN LAND.
We started our descend from first pass and after few minutes I was able to spot some tiny blue tents deep in the valley.What a relief,humen are there,our own kind is there.Who are they???I zoomed my camera lens and found that they are BRO GREF worker.Thank god.God is listening to my prayers and will give me a passage to reach UMba village finally after two failed attempts.
I reached at the BRO site and found a Jharkandi labor boy.He told me that Umba la road is open and it is just 6-7 kms away.I was ecstatic at the news…but how wrong this boy was,how wrong his info was???Ye mujhe baad mein pata chala.
Entire BRO camp was bewildered to see us and everyone came out of their tents to see us like we were some strange creatures for them.Clearly they did not expect any tourist here.But I was a happy man…this BRO colony at this place mean route is open and trucks were plying between here and Umba village at the other side of high mountains.I am of beliefi”If there are truck tyre marks on the surface,i can follow them on my scooter”.
Few kilometers after this BRO colony,i met a GREF Tipper driver.This place is named Labar,pasture for Sankoo bakarwals and told me that we are good to go to Umba la but only after crossing a high mountain,another pass.
He calculated distance around 30-40 kilometers…Bomb exploded on us.It was dusk and riding off roading for 30-40 kms was a tough task.But we were gang of three,no problem.Lets Go and make a final attempt to cross over to other side,reach Suru valley,reach Umba village and finally reach Sankoo.
After talking some moments with truck driver,we started our journey towards Umba village but road condition was very bad and steep too.We had push Doc’s bike because he was breathless but somehow we covered the steep incline and reached the another pass on this route and this time it was the fame UMBA PASS.The elusive hidden unseen UMBA PASS.But I found it,tread on it,ride on it,see it,feel it finally.I could clearly see scattered houses from this pass.The scattered houses was Sankoo valley.No more steepness for us,only downhill…downhill till Umba village.This downhill uplifted my spirit with a sense of joy and achievement.I could feel it that finally I put my old scooter on Umba pass.A dream fulfilled,an item from my bucket list struk off.Finally.
We reached Umba village around 6-7 pm and it was getting dark,but my heart was filled with gratification.After a very tiring,scary and terrifying journey on Umba La section,we were at a place teeming with kids.Yes,kids gathered around us.No outside come to their village from this side.They were surprised.They surrounded us.A gentleman also invited us to their home for a cup of tea and he insisted many time but in spite of our willingness to go to his home we could not accept his invitation as Doc Victor had already left this place and we did not want him to make him waiting in dark is this unknown place.So we moved ahead and reached Sankoo in pitch dark,all shops closed.After registering our details at police check post we entered inside Sankoo JK Guest house and found it occupied.No room for us,only dingy dorms.But who cares.All we needed a place to crash to rest our aching bodies.Food was not available so Maggi came to our rescue.
A difficult day came to end,but it was a very good day for me.I would sleep peacefully tonight.Tomorrow will be a very ordinary day for me but today,it had been very exciting day for me.
After all after two previous failed attempts I was able to cross over two mountains,reached elusive Umba La and the Umba village of Sankoo valley.
Devastating flash floods had almost killed our Ladakh ride 20 days ago but we were finally going to Ladakh.Our ride was blessed by god’s blessings.
Route=Sonmarg-Zozila Pass-Gumri-Matiyan-Drass-Bairasa-Labar Plains-Umba La-Umaba village-Sankoo
Distance=150 kms approx