2016 Rumor Mill : The “Official” Closure of Manali-Leh Road

A news story nearly a week ago in The Times Of India claims that Manali-Leh has closed officially for the winter . And that it does so every year on October 15th.

A few reality check questions :

1. Every year , October 15th : this is easily debunked by reading what Times of India has written themselves earlier  . Prime example from 2011 :

MANALI: The Border Roads Organization (BRO) has decided to keep the strategically-important Manali-Leh highway open till November 30 this year. Earlier, the highway used to be closed officially after October 31 every year.

2. Official source : the first hand source here would be the Border Roads Organisation , which is responsible for keeping the road open. BRO isn’t mentioned , and their website doesn’t do updates on road status. The official Leh site has a roadmarker , and it shows both roads as open. The source quoted in the TOI story is a police official saying that the Sarchu check post has been abandoned . This is à bit odd , since it’s a Lahauli policeman talking about Sarchu : not only a different district , but a different state ( Himachal Pradesh vs Jammu & Kashmir ) .

3. Is the road actually blocked ? Neither the policeman or the journalist suggest this. They talk of possible imminent snowfall.

4. The Rohtang La pass receives the brunt of the snowfall , closes first, and is still  very much open . First light snowfall was on the 12th , now long gone : nights barely below zero at the top , and nearly ten degrees plus daytime. Open road both to Keylong and ( over the Kunzum La ) Kaza according to Keylong admin.

In in one or two years there will be a different dynamic after the opening of the Rohtang tunnel , bypassing the actual pass.

Updates in the news sticky on top ( http://korta.nu/sticky )

 

 

 

 

Srinagar, day 41

Thursday , August 18th : yet another ambulance arrives at SMHS  , Srinagars main hospital. Last in line to the emergency room is the ambulance driver , who has managed to complete the run with shotgun wounds in his hand from a roadblock. The frustration of the docs  in Srinagar has now reached the point where they have started to leak X-ray pics to the press , pics that are gruesome enough to make laymen pause.

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The theory behind CPRFs armament and strategy is  that their pellet shotguns  are non-lethal when aimed below the knees. In actual practice they have had a devastating effect all too often from the abdomen and up , shown on a near daily basis on the front page pictures since July 8th. Punctured lungs , abdominal bleedings and , the icon of 2016 : the permanently blinded. Last estimate was 400+ with severe eye injuries to one or both eyes.

Little reason to believe in any immediate changes for the better , with announced plans for continued strikes and protest marches over the weekend.

The tourist perspective checklist :

* flights to Srinagar : airlines offered full refunds for tickets at least up to the 16th.

* Jammu-Srinagar road is  open again, out first two weeks

* travel insurances are basically void during curfews etc – check the  official travel advisory back home.

* Srinagar-Leh road is open , see the updates at http://korta.nu/sticky

 

 

 

 

Third Highest Airport

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End of my 2015 tour in Kham , driving past worlds third highest airport serving Kangding @ 4280 meters . Looks like a interesting landing , with the four thousand meter long runway ending as a ramp . Think cutting of the top of a cone , and flipping it to extend the flat surface.

 

Kangding town  is forty  klicks away and seventeen hundred meters lower : flat real estate is scarce in these parts.

Handkerchief Parachutes

“I guess this is a horrible thing to say , but I felt better when I heard the guy in the next room also vomiting . I didn’t feel alone anymore.”

Wang is one of the now – being a weekend – two handfuls of Chinese who are visiting the Larung Gar institute hotel ,image in mid-December. She has spiky Laurie Anderson-y hair and her head rests on a wide triangle : chin down on the narrow breakfast table between us , fingers propped up against her temples.

” -I didn’t expect it to be this bad .. I got this headache right when we got here , and then I started to vomit ..

– Yes , I would expect that . ”

Cold is the known and working deterrent here . It is cold , every last inch of the water pipes are covered in arm thick insulation , and the electric blankets in the beds are a neccessity , not a luxury.

Altitude obviously isn’t . Had I heard or seen Wang the other night I wouldn’t have been calm or nice , now I find myself being curiously detached : yes , that could have ended badly. But now … well , she made it down to breakfast , and has actually eaten . And kept it down. On the mend.

” I thought there would be a small pharmacy or something…”

Not really . What is to be had is one of the never proven Chinese herbal remedies , and disposable oxygen cans. I usually refer to these as handkerchief parachutes ( right idea , totally wrong scale ) but these are the biggest ones I’ve seen so far . Not exactly table cloth parachutes – lets stretch it to shopping bags. The English specs say it contains fourteen liters – a few minutes worth for example for post op patients who aren’t fully awake yet.

“You slept where last night ?!”

I didn’t see this coming – Wang and all the others ( or at least the ones I could speak with , mostly indirectly ) all had made the same journey : from Chengdu ( 800-ish meters ) to Sertar …at 4000+ meters. Nonstop . One day. I continue my callous streak by mentioning my pet AMS trivia : two percent of soldiers flying in to Lhasa start to develop pulmonary edema. And that’s nearly four hundred meters lower than the Sertar hotel. There is the known option of sleeping down in the village – Wang mentions this – that would make it to a first night around Lhasa altitude instead. The other option , valid enough for a first night at Lhasas altitude would be to medicate preventively , and this is virtually unknown in China. After the great Yushu earthquake China sent in thousands of rescue workers higher than Lhasa , unmedicated and rushing straight to the front . This became a minor catastrophe in itself , as local rescuers had to shift focus to rescue their colleagues , and have them flown out after less than a day.

The others around me were not far off from Wang : the two other Chinese in my four bed dorm obviously would have benefited from going down. One said he spent the first four days in bed , the second still had splitting headaches after the second night.

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Working out at 4000+ meters : stair  excercise with yaks up to the top ridge with the institute hotel and the mandala , and photo op break during the kora around the mandala.

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