The ‘Mecca’ for Bikers: Ladakh, India

Battling the pre travel jitters:

My adrenaline levels knew no bounds when we started planning Ladakh trip. The ‘What if’s haunted us day & night. What if our bodies gave up in the high passes, what if the harsh climatic conditions of Leh didn’t support us? Pre travel jitters made it extremely hard to concentrate on our day to day activities. The trip went through lot of ups and downs and it had its own challenges. It ended up in an unexpected way. The adverse climatic conditions and political restlessness didn’t support us in the beginning and in the end. We battled & fought them, which makes our Ladakh story unique.

Day 1: Bracing ourselves for the adventure ahead: Chandigarh : 

As we landed in Chandigarh, I was in love with the neatness of the city. Chandigarh welcomes you with ‘Open Hand Monument’ a fine work of Architect Le Corbusier. We had sent our bikes one day prior by train from Mumbai to Chandigarh. We were happy to notice that our Bikes were unharmed. Our first day ended with delicious Punjabi food from Pal Dhaba.

Day 2: Decent Day: a ride from Chandigarh to Jammu:

Geared up, sorted, we started our journey at 7:00 am to Jammu. Superb 400 km ride on an excellent 4 lane highway, we couldn’t ask for more. We hogged on Parathas at a typical road side Punjabi dhaba. It was all hunky dory till we reached Jammu. We came to know about landslides that had occurred on Jammu Srinagar highway. Our tour helper explained us that we might have to make some changes in our route.

Day 3: The epic landslide:  Jammu – Srinagar ride: 

We woke up at 6:00 am highly determined & focused. As bike for the couple in our group was arranged at Srinagar along with the escort van, we had booked a taxi from Jammu to Srinagar for them. We were told that road was closed and that no cab was willing to go because of landslide incident. We were stuck at Jammu disappointed and saddened.

Finally journey began:

After loads of discussion we decided that 3 members from our group would reach Srinagar by flight with our luggage and the rest 4 of us would go on 3 bikes. So we left Jammu at 12 noon, the target was 300 kms. We kept riding & took a 20 min break for delicious chicken lunch at a government canteen. Our estimated time to reach Srinagar was 10:00 pm. But! Some adventure was waiting for us!

The epic experience:

Just about 22 km before Anantnag and 75 kms from Srinagar, our avenger’s tyre was punctured in a remote ghat area. Agitated and angry at our luck, we parked our bike there itself & headed onward hoping to find some shelter adjusting on the other 2 bikes. We spoke to our driver & instructed him to come to Anantnag. A typical decent localite from Ladakh region our driver Dorjee and one of his friends left Srinagar to pick us up.

Thank god for the good luck:

After riding for about 4 kms, to our brilliant luck, we reached ‘Lower Mundah’, a brightly lit toll plaza, which had Kashmir willow cricket bat shops & eating joints. Rounds of filter coffee, bread butter, munching on dry fruits; we spent good 2 hours on this life saver check post. At around 10:30 pm our driver came and we started the backward journey to where we had parked the bike. We mounted avenger in the van & resumed our journey to Srinagar. Driving through thick blanket of fog, we reached our house boat at around 1:15 am. This epic day, this epic journey will never be forgotten.

Day 4: Chatting with Indian Army: En-route Srinagar-Kargil

We hardly slept that night, in the excitement of staying in a houseboat. It was extremely scenic ride as we passed through the Sindh River. We got avenger repaired at sonmarg and resumed the ride. We passed the high mountain pass – Zozila conformably and the landscape started to change. We had delicious food at Ali Dhaba, Dras, which is second coldest inhabited place in the world. Road from the war memorial to kargil had fierce Suru river flowing aside. We met the Maratha Battalion on duty at a check post on our way. Our chatting session lasted till about an hour, we left the place with heavy heart, pride and admiration for our Army men.

Day 5: Touchdown Leh district

We left kargil for Leh, conquering 2 high mountain passes – ‘Photula’ and ‘Namikla’. We finally reached Mulbekh, we crossed the famous standing Buddha. We hogged on delicious Tibetan dishes while the Day ended at Kartok Guest house surrounded by Himalayas all around.

The 5 day transition from city like Chandigarh to tall pine trees and ghats of jammu to spotting first snow tip mountains at sonmarg, to rugged arid landscapes of Ladakh was worth the efforts and worth the money!

Day 6 : Waking up at 4:22 am : Exploring Leh

It was 4:22 am I woke up with a breathing issue. I crawled out of my bed and went outside in search of some fresh oxygen. First light greeted me. Full day was spent well with local sightseeing but some frequent breathlessness attacks.

Day 7: Leh to Diskit : Passing one of the  highest motor able road.

It was a big day for us as we were going to conquer Khardungla pass, 18,000 odd feet high from sea level. Our journey began alongside snow covered Mountains, roads became miserable each minute. Finally we reached the top; there were colorful flags, sikh bhajans playing and had some great vibes. Happy tears rolled on my cheeks, as we looked at our machine which once stood in our garage back  home was now proudly standing at the highest motorable road. We had camel ride at Nubra and the day ended with joy & glory.

Day 8: Totally Acclimatized! : Dancing on Bollywood songs

We had to pass the Khardungla pass yet again to come back in Leh. We danced on many bollywood songs back in our guest house. The breathlessness vanished as we were totally acclimatized. Meanwhile we realized that we had forgotten our life back home & were in different kind of world altogether! We loved every bit of it.

Day 9: Cloudy Pangong : Heartbreak !

Today was the day to visit the much talked about Pangong Lake, known for its blue water and conquer the Changla pass, claimed to be the second highest motorable road in the world. Pangong Lake is geographically located in such a way that 1/3 part of lake is in India and 2/3 in China. After a 160 km awesome ride we reached Pangong and were left disappointed. The Blueness of the sky was no where found as it was extremely cloudy. Sad, but hopeful, we comforted ourselves in our cozy tents and went into deep sleep.

Day 10: Beautiful Blue Pangong

We woke up early as we wanted to make time lapse video of sunrise. Sky was crystal clear, and that awesome blue was back. We started our journey back to Leh. We made the most of our last day in Leh by some apricot shopping. So prepared for Tomorrow, we were ready to start our descent journey back home – Sarchu- Keylong- Manali then Chandigarh. A 3 day journey perfectly divided.  But destiny had different plans for us.

Day 11: Stuck at Upshi check post:

It was time to say goodbye to our perfect Ladakhi host and we were all set to start our return journey! We were stopped at Upshi check post and were refrained to go ahead, as a pool had been washed away in sarchu due to heavy rains. After lot of negotiations with the authorities, we went back to our guest house. We got news of some Local transport strike in Leh, so we decided to leave Leh early by 4:00 am and planted our driver at upshi check post in the night itself before the strike would begin.  Worried for Dorjee, but happy that we will move on with on our journey we had butter tea and relaxed at our guest house.

Day 12: Disaster: Stuck again!

We woke up at 4:00 am, left Leh in the hope that we would cross upshi post before the problem began. It was going to be a long ride to Keylong with bad roads & strenuous passes. But yet again we were stopped at Sindhu ghat, merely 2 kms from our guest house by some young rebels. We were stuck again! We realized that doing a 3 day split journey in merely 1 day and that too on a 2 wheeler was next to impossible. So we couriered our bikes from Leh directly to Mumbai hired a sumo and decided to do Leh-manali in one day. That was enough of an adventure. Night rains were so scary that we hardly slept.

Day 13 : Super Ride: Leh – Manali

So we left Leh at 12:30 am in the night but were stopped again at Upshi and were told to wait till sunrise. We were at upshi post throughout the night, waiting patiently with 8 other jeeps loaded with tourists like us. We started to lose patience as it was 8:00am now and we were still stranded. In desperation we started checking direct flights from Leh to Mumbai. There was a problem at our route ahead of upshi at Rumtse so we were supposed to take the Tso Moriri route which would add another 100 kms to our target. Our super driver Neeru was confident and I guess he was just what we needed that time. Finally at around 8:45 am we got a clearance from police.

Conquering deadly passes in the night:

We hit highway at Debring, had lunch at Pang and started from Pang to cross Nakila pass by 6:00 pm. We crossed the deadly Baralacha pass at 8:00 pm, had dinner at Keylong, and passed the deadliest Rohtang pass at 2:00 am in the midnight to find dense fog before us. After 26 hours of anxiety, tiredness, craziness, we finally reached Manali at 4:00 am!

Day 14: Manali- Chandigarh: Trip ends!

We left at 12 noon, after some shopping at Manali, and reached Chandigarh at 11 pm. Next day we were back in Mumbai, our home, our land.

“Travel leaves us speechless and turns you into a story teller!” a famous quote holds true for us. Our story telling is still on; leaving the audience spellbound every time! It makes me wonder sometimes what made us sail through the task, which would have been the best thing for us- the one that happened or the one that was planned.

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