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Camping at Gumbo Ranjan

Ever since I returned back from my Laddakh ride, I was thinking of pinning down my experience of camping at Gumbo Ranjan which happens to be a sacred mountain in Kargyak Valley.

It’s 25th July 2022, 4 in the morning and I’m yet to catch up on sleep. I thought to finally reflect on how the thought of camping came out, and how awesome an experience it was.

To begin with, I “was” never fond of Laddakh and that’s why I kept on procrastinating whenever the idea of riding to Laddakh came up. I think partly it has to do with how crowded it has become since everyone wants to flock it the region when the weather is favorable.

Having said that, I also know that one should never have any preconceived notions and approach whatever we intend to do with an open mindset. I think it was early March 2022, that I decided to ride to Laddakh and explore the valley. So, I started to watch YouTube videos and take a closer look at the route map and that’s when I came to know about Zanskar valley and the majestic Gumbo Ranjan mountain.

I also wanted to do some star gazing, and Gumbo Ranjan seems to be a perfect place to take photos. However, I was not quite sure about the stay though you do have the option of staying in tents that locals rent out near the mountain. So, I thought to camp myself and ordered the bare essentials from Delhi which are:

  • Tent
  • Camping light
  • Stove and Butane Gas Canister
  • Multi-Functional Hand Tool Kit
  • Sleeping bag and a few other items

The idea was to get some camping experience, before investing too much money on fancy stuff. I would probably write another blog about the whole journey from Gorakhpur to Laddkah, but for this blog post, let’s start with Jispa.

I wanted to camp in Jispa, but upon reaching Jispa from Manali, it started raining and it was quite a windy evening. Since I didn’t have any camping experience, I thought to stay in a proper tent. I searched a few camping sites, and most of them were already sold out. I found one campsite, and they also had those Quechua single-person tents, however, the owner suggested not staying in that because of the rain.

With no option, I continued my search and found a campsite, wherein I opted for a shared tent. After unpacking the luggage, I took a short walk around Jispa and got some interesting photos.

The next day I started a bit early, and via the Atal tunnel, I reached the Sinkula Top in a couple of hrs. Not sure, but it was a bit emotional moment when I reached the Sinkula top, and after taking some photos I started my journey towards Gombo Ranjan.

So, the road from the Atal tunnel to Sinkula Top is butter smooth and I would say 80% of it’s a tarmac road. However, from Sinkula to Gumbo, it’s extreme offroad, and work is in progress. After crossing the Atal tunnel, a few cab drivers kept on nudging me to not travel solo on Sinkula which got me quite intrigued. I started my descent and found a few patches were indeed a bit tricky. However, since I was descending I didn’t face any issues and the bike performed well.

I reached Gunbo Ranjan at around 2 in the afternoon, and meet two riders from Punjab at Lakhang Tea stall which I think is the only canteen in that area. I took a Tea break and had some Maggi as I was also feeling hungry.

Since the tea stall is right next to the Gumbo Ranjan mountain, I started the journey in search of a good camping location. After crossing a few water crossings, found a camping location that was a bit isolated from the nearby campsites, but close enough to Kargyak village which I think was about 15-20 mins. The idea was to find a location from where I could take photos, and safe enough so in case of emergency I could get some help. I also noticed a bunch of BRO vehicles crossing the area, so that was another comforting sign.

After spotting the camping location, I thought to explore the Kargyak village. I reached the village in about 20 mins, and right after the police check post, I found a canteen wherein I meet a bunch of local villagers. They were kind to invite me to the ongoing Wedding function, but since I had some other plans which I shared, I politely declined the offer with a promise to join them the next day. I was in Kargyak village for a few hours, and at about 5 in the evening I thought to return back and set up the tent.

I reached the campsite, and gosh it was quite an experience to set up the camp when the wind and weather are not kind to you. Somehow, I managed to set up the camp, and in all things, I realized that I had forgotten to bring water from the village. Though I had set up the tent nearby a freshwater source, it’s always better to carry water just in case. My hydration bag didn’t have much water left, so I filled the bag from the nearby stream which was cold I must say. I thought that I would boil the water, however, for some reason, I couldn’t open the Gas Canister. I’ll share the whole experience of how I got the tent and other items delivered in another blog post, and how frustrating an experience it was, but that day I just couldn’t open the Canister and hook it into the stove. I was also feeling thirsty and kinda exhausted after setting the tent. So, I thought to keep the Canister aside and let the water temperature normalize before drinking. For dinner, I had carried Maggi and a few green veggies, but since I couldn’t light up the stove, I ate a bunch of dry fruits.

It was already dark, and thanks to clear weather I was able to see stars. I had already set up the camera, and tripod and I started taking photos at around 9 – 9.30 Pm.

It was quite freezing and the wind was also making it a bit difficult to shoot. After some test shots, I got the idea of using the camping lamp as a prop and was quite pleased with the images that came out. To make the photo a bit more interesting, I thought to fit myself in the photo. I set up the camera on a 10-second timer and then would sprint to the location which was quite an exhausting experience. However, I was really happy with the images, and I thought the effort was worth it. It was already 10-10.15 Pm so I thought to check again at around 2 Am hoping to see a glimpse of the Milkyway. I woke up at 2 in the morning, and it was a full moon and the view of the valley was breathtaking. Though I couldn’t see the Milkyway, I thought it was an amazing learning experience.

With those sweet memories, I packed myself in the sleeping bag – Bhai Ghode beech ke soya mai.

The next, morning I woke up at around 6 Am and poked my head from the tent that’s when I realized it was snowing. I thought the weather would improve after some time, but it kept on getting worse and water had started to seep into the tent, that’s when I thought to pack the luggage and make a move. Now when I look back, I think it was a hasty decision but since I didn’t have any camping experience I think it was a good decision in the end.

I quickly packed the luggage and reached Kargyak Village. I was feeling hungry and thirsty. The marriage function was still going on, and the locals gave me water, tea, and bread to eat. After spending some time in the village, and by that time whether also opened up, I made a move towards Padum.

So, all in all, I think camping near Gumbo Ranjan was an amazing experience wherein I got the chance to camp, made a bunch of mistakes, and learned from them which I’m sure will help me to plan better whenever I get a chance to camp again.

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