It is a very cloudy day in Sumur and all our plans of using the solar bath are not working at the moment. We go to the dhaba in the market and have a breakfast of aloo paranthas with dall at around 10 am. According to the locals, there is a bus in the morning for Sasoma. Sasoma is on the way to Siachen Base Camp.
For the earlier part of this story check – Winter in Ladakh : Revisiting Turtuk from Leh
While we are having breakfast, the solitary bus of the day to Sasoma leaves without us and we are left waiting for a ride. Our plan is to take a day trip to the end of the road near Warshi and possibly see the monastery at Stongstet.
We sit on the main road and are delighted when the sky looks like its going to clear up. It feels very cold and is pure luck when an army truck gives us a ride at around 1130 am. It is the start of very informative and enlightening discussions with the army troops about Siachen Base Camp and O P Baba Mandir.
They tell us that there are 3 levels of Siachen Glacier Posts and how difficult life there is for a 3-4 month posting. They drop us 2 kms before Sasoma check post even though they are going ahead too. Apparently the army truck guys are not allowed to give civilians a ride and they don’t want to get into trouble especially because Sasoma is one of the farthest check posts.
We thank them and start walking towards the check post. Nubra / Siachen river is flowing on the left side and there is fine white sand on the road. The weather is quite bad and a sandstorm seems to be brewing with very cold wind blowing! There is fresh snow and clouds hovering on the nearby mountain-tops.
This area also leads to the Old Silk Route track that was the trade route to Yarkand and Khotan. I am fascinated to say the least when I spot a signboard with directions for Saser La. The road to Saser La / Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) and the farthest we can go towards Karakoram Pass is restricted to civilians.
There is a solitary chai shop at Sasoma and we can see a bridge that connects to the villages on the other side before Sasoma Check Post. The bridge is called Kobet bridge. As expected, we are denied entry at the check post and no reason is given. The return bus from Sasoma is scheduled at 2 pm. Thankfully, we are just in time and are the only 2 passengers to board the bus.
Even though I am very keen on visiting Ensa Gompa, the locals inform us that there is no certainty of a vehicle and in a practical decision we feel it is better to leave it for another time.
Ensa village and Ensa Gompa are on the left of the bridge. I had been fascinated reading names like Barma village, Yarma Gompa, Aranu, and the likes. We could also have seen the confluence of Shyok and Nubra Rivers on the way to Yarma Gompa close to Hargam Bridge.
When the bus starts, I am able to spot the stunningly located Ensa Gompa on the other side of Hargam Bridge. 2 young kids climb into the bus and get down in some time. We decide to get down in Panamik at one dhaba where the bus stopped. The dhaba looked like a dull place and had only dall and rice for lunch. It didn’t look very appealing and we decide to not eat anything here.
Panamik is also home to the hot springs and we make the gentle climb. We had carried our towels with us in the preparation for a bath. On the climb, we notice the stream flowing down with vapours and conclude that the hot water springs are up and running. The distance between Panamik to Sumur was hardly 20 kms.
The Tourist Complex of Panamik Hot Springs is locked and closed. There are 2 rooms in an open space and they are both occupied by local women washing clothes. There is also a young guy waiting outside. We wait for a while and after some time request them to empty one of the rooms. Our tentative question is answered itself when a young guy also emerges from one of the rooms!
It is a memorable time in the hot water spring room. It is a small room with barely any light but there is a pipe of hot water and that is all that is required in the cold winter of Ladakh. It is an art to undress ourselves from the multi-layers of clothing that we are currently wearing. We scrub ourselves clean and thoroughly enjoy the feel of the hot water on the skin. Its been 8 days since we have last had a bath and it was before boarding the flight to Leh.
We hurriedly wear our clothes and make sure to dry our hair before stepping out of the room. There are only two dogs outside and we close the door and walk to the main road. We eat the dry apricots and giri almonds that we have carried from Turtuk and wait for a ride back to Sumur. It is around 330 pm.
We are given a ride by the flag hoisting guys who are also staying at the same homestay as ours in Sumur. They are 2 guys, one from Rajasthan and the other one from Himachal Pradesh. They are on duty here for a private company and have been entrusted the responsibility of hoisting the Indian Tricolour at Siachen Base Camp. Thanks to them we are back to Sumur in quick time and there is still plenty of daylight left.
We walk to Samstenling Gompa located on a high hillock near Sumur (around 3 kms) and feel the vibrations of the evening prayer. The lamas are offering prayers at the monastery and it is a serene and spiritual moment. The weather changes in the evening and we get lucky when Rigzen drops us at the homestay as he is also heading the same way.
We are overjoyed with the comforts of the homestay upon returning. It was one of the biggest reasons we stayed here for another day to rest and relax and prepare us for the next leg of our journey in difficult parts of Changthang.
The flag hoisting guys have told us that they are leaving the next day and will be going to Leh. They have offered us a ride back to Leh. We tell them to drop us at the diversion at Agyam. It is a memorable last evening in Sumur. Dinner is a grand affair of aloo capsicum, dall and rotis at the Gyal Restaurant dhaba. We eat heartily and thank the guy responsible – Mingma for the excellent food!
We come back to the warmth of the room and our cozy bed with a super fluffy quilt. Tomorrow is just going to be the start of another leg of adventures to continue our journey in the cold winter of Ladakh!
We apply the apricot oil procured from a local in the morning as a moisturiser. Sleep comes easily.