After my Feb 2013 Ride to Kanyakumari, i was very eager to visit the Top of the world or i say once in a life time journey to LEH and Ladhak Vally. its just not only a place but its more to do with my desire to visit both Top and Bottom places of India in one stretch. Although i could not able to do it in single ride due to issues with office leaves and other things [technically speaking one needs at-least 25+ days to do it]. but i was happy that at least i was able to do this ride, not to forget the fact that i was planning for this from couple of years and ended every-time missing it by miles.
Now, Visiting LEH and Ladhak valleys is not just reaching a marked place to say i have been there done that, its more than just a ride or journey. its THE place which tests one's Physical and Mental strengths , its a test of one's WILL to do things which others hesitate. and yes this is true at least for me and add to it, the time constraints. well that's makes a recipe for my greatest once in a life time adventure. and friends let me take you along with me to this adventure, which i will cherish for the rest of my life.
One should also give due respect to all those boys and girls , men and women who done this and who are planning to do it and will do this wonderful journey.
Planning : Planning is not Execution
well planning word doesn't do justice here, its a fact that these rides will take pretty long time to plan and execute for most of us and for me planning started from past 4 years and every time i was backtracked due to many reasons. so last year i made all the arrangements and more than arrangements i made up my mind to do this ride. but again due to my job change, i have to abandon the plan.
This year  i have done Kanyakumari ride of almost 2000km in 4 days and some how i was very sure that this year its gonna happen. from that time onwards i was planning alone mutely and the big problem was the number of days needed. As i had only 10 days in my hand and i had to plan for that only. i tried to ask many of my friends who were riding to LEH and all of them are with 2 full weeks of time.
Time passed and the Manali-Leh roads opened and i was keeping a close watch on these developments. And one day i was delighted to see one mail from my old trekking group and these wonderful people have great taste for adventure and they are also planning for LEH ride and it's there first ride from the BASC [Bangalore Ascenders ] . It given me great opportunity and as many who are interested to ride are OK with only 10 days time frame. and quickly plan developed and everything put in place.
Finally Me,Deepak,Vijay,Rishad,Mahendran,Raghavendra,Kiran,Jatin,Prashanth and Adarsh became Riding group
we decided to start the journey from Chandigarh instead of Delhi to save time and we made plan exactly for 10 days with only 1 day buffer in case any problems arise. and Dates are fixed from July 13 to July 23 and we booked the flights.
It was decided that 5 of us will take our own bike after convincing that taking our own bikes will give us more freedom and confidence. five of us took our own bikes and the rest who were unable to take there bike decided to rent the bikes in Manali.
Day 1 : "All iz well" not really!!
Our Flight was around 8:45AM and we didn't had any problems reaching airport, i took ride with Vijay on the way to airport and that time i didn't had any idea that we both gonna do more riding than others in coming days.
Once reached airport we met rest of the ppl and in total 10 members Eight of us will be taking the same flight. the rest 2 guys will be flying from Delhi to Manali directly via Chandigarh town.
Flight took almost 4 hours with one stop in Mumbai [Yeah, that's what cheap flight tickets will get you]
Once we reached Chandigarh, we decided to collect our Bikes from the warehouse of MMLogistics from who we sent our bikes to Chandigarh, after searching for the warehouse we took lunch break and when we came back, our bikes were standing out of warehouse and at the first look everything seemed ok but after inspecting further we were having shock of our life.
all the bikes were damaged with varying degrees. sadly my R15 took big beating and the Tank on Left hand side was severely dented. and Deepak who brought his pulsar 150 was having even bigger issue that his handle bar is totally bent.
This made our moods to nosedive and it took lot of time to get these things repaired in nearby mechanic shop. for our respite all the bikes were got fixed and it was already 6PM in the evening.
We already decided not to waste time further and moreover we are short of days for the rest of the journey. it gave us no flexibility for staying that day in Chandigarh and we had no choice either.
Our journey Hence started towards Manali which is almost ~350 km and we knew its not possible to ride the entire stretch in one night given unknown terrain and hilly roads. So our plan was to make a stay in SundarNagar which is nearly 200km. By the time we reached out of Chandigarh, of-course many time we got severely confused by seeing similar junctions in this highly planned city,it was getting Darker.
After Traveling 70km roads started to get worse and it became really difficult to ride behind those countless lorry/trucks with tons of dirt/dust raining on us.
Finally after driving till late night we decided to stay in nearest town and we reached "Bilaspur" around 1:30AM and thankfully got nice stay. Later we come to know that there is ACC cement factory was responsible for these heavy dust and traffic of trucks.
Day 2 : Its Green, Its High and With a Twist
The day started with early morning Breakfast and soon after that we started riding towards Manali, Thankfully the Roads were good and here we started to get first glimpse of the Himalayan Mountains and at first we really awestruck just by seeing the height of these mountains. One can't take there eye's off the River "Beas" which runs parallel to the road till all the way to Manali which make the entire route very scenic and refreshing.
After the Lazy ride all the way, we reached manali and checked In on of nearby hotel which is just besides the Market and on the way to "Rothang pass". that day we spent in shopping and local site seeing.
Note: Its important to get Permits for the outside private vehicles including Bikes to go beyond "Rothang Pass" and this rule already there since 2011 but the Manali SDM started enforcing it from 2013 although its rarely checked but make sure you get your passes which costs 120/- Rs from SDM office or from Green Tax Office, yes from Green Tax Office you can get on Sunday's also.
Day 3 : Great Things are done when Men and Mountains Meet
The Days plan was very simple, Hit the "Rothang pass" as early as possible to avoid traffic jam there. and true to our plan we started from Manali exactly 6 AM in the morning chill. As soon we started we started encountering like planned ppl climbing the mountains road towards "Rothang pass" in bikes, cars and Hired vehicles. and fact is we couldn't able to resist our-self from taking breaks regularly and clicking pics.
The view is magnificent and when i say magnificent that means you never saw anything like it till now, in your entire life. the mountains were almost touching the sky's and the huge range of these mountains covered with snow on the top of the peaks are seems like taken directly from dreamy imagination.
Finally we reached "Rothang pass", the great pass which is at the height of about 13,054 ft above sea level. You should know that the word "Rothang" means "Pile of Corpses" due to its dangerous path and many have died while crossing it.
Due to melting snow and very narrow pass there was lot of slush and road repair was being done at that time and the slush itself was about 2-4 feet in some areas. Luckily most of the bikes didn't face any problems and we passed it. but after some time we realized that one bike still has to pass that path and after checking it was found that the rented bike broke down and it was not moving an inch from that place. well we didn't had any choice but to spend an hour there trying to fix the bike, but we failed and we called that Bike rental person who was in Manali to come and fix the bike.
After coming down the hills the view gets even bigger and thankfully roads also newly laid, i tried to do couple of fast runs but still couldn't able to do due to group ride and bike not crossing 120km mark. and this is the last time i hit 120kmph mark in the entire trip that too for just 3 min. i overtook the others and stopped ahead of them and started to take some pics of the members riding on this wonderful roads.
Soon after i realized that my bike back tier air pressure is almost nil and took a break there to fill it up using my foot pump. meanwhile rest of the group went ahead and Vijay decided to stay with me and he took this opportunity to click pics of those mighty hills. Soon after that we started towards "Tandi" which is very small place and only fuel station for the next 350+kms and by the time we reached there, we can see lot of Bikers,cars were waiting in the fuel station which had no power for the time being. After waiting for an hour we filled up our tank and took additional 2 ltr petrol as reserve and headed towards "Jispa" where we planned to stay for the night.
Once we reached it was very relaxing moment and after getting fresh, we were able to see the location properly later in the night. and "Camp Jispa" located just next to the River and soon we sent one text msg to Prashant&Jitin who's bike broke down earlier in "Rothang pass" that we are staying in "Camp Jispa" and hoped that they can check SMS where ever they get signal. Luckily they did and able to come to "Camp Jispa" 2 hour later.
That night it was very cold due to our camp site is next to river and sadly i got cold, fever,headache and body pain that night and whole night i was unable to sleep :(
Day 4 : A Very Long Day
As yesterday night i was down with cold and fever and the fact that i couldn't able to sleep took a big toll on my body and i was having headache and body-pain. Morning i took some cold and fever tablet and started our day towards "Pang" which is on the way towards Leh. we had breakfast just outside "Jispa" village and i had maggi with egg which made things worse. I had to mention here both Raghavendra and Adarsh were also suffering from bad health and last day ride took a beating on them also.
Again Vijay and I started at last and by the time i reached "Baralach la" and near to "Suraj tal" which is sacred lake, it means "Lake of the Sun". I was totally exhausted and couldn't able to drive anymore. my head was paining like anything and coupled with body pain and difficulty in breathing made things worse.
So i stopped on the side ways and couldn't able to stand as i had almost no strength. I switched off my bike and slept on the bike sitting. After about 10 min i tilted my head right side and i can't explain you guys that how amazing scene it was. i was just next to the lake and its crystal clear water was so calm and the background of the lake was filled with amazing peaks and its reflection was mirrored on the lake, trust me it was my first out of dream scene, which i dreamed on my entire life. for a sec i forgot my body pain and lifted my head and turned around, now i can see all our friends were awestruck and some are standstill like statue and some very busy in clicking pics even forgetting its difficult to breath for all due to lack of oxygen.
I got down quickly from "Baralacha la" and once came down i stopped and took full one hour rest in one small hut like hotel. Took out 3 packs of ORS and mixed with one ltr of water and drank it quickly. after an hour i had some energy and i decided to push forward, took one more painkiller and now i was alone as all of them i asked to push ahead and i will catch with them.
Those 2+ hours of rest did a great job and it was life saver. I was started to recover and soon we started our journey towards "Pang". the landscape was totally different this side with lot of plane grounds surrounded by sky high sand mountains and River flowing in between them it was totally worth to visit this place.
The roads are very well laid out and there are no bad patches, the most exciting part of this stretch is "Gata loops" a 21 hair pin bends which elevates to 1.500 feet above the sea level.
The 2+ hour loss did some great for our health but also did some damage to our timing, as by the time we are nearing the Pang, it was totally dark and bad roads added more problems. we had to ride in dark for almost 2 hours and in full dust and windy conditions.The time we reached the Pang stay it was almost 9:30pm and i was totally tiered it was a very long day for me.
I took some soup and just went to bed.
Day 5 : Brighter the Day, higher the Mountains
Due to last night good sleep, i was fully recovered and it was very sunny day. Me,Vijay,Mahendra and Rishad started late and we four rode in good pace. and we hit the famous "Mori plains". its almost 40km stretch that is flat at around 4000mtr.it has some stunning scenery of Sand and Rock formations on the mountains and sides. the whole area is uninhabited and offers stunning visuals.
we took break for photo shoot in one of dried "Sumkel Lunpa River" bed.and started our journey towards "Tanglang-La" Worlds second highest motorable pass. from here the climb starts and reaches to the peak which is around 17,480ft.
On the way to Leh after "Tanglang-La" Descent was nice flat road with one side river running alone and other side mountains.
We reached Leh city pretty quickly and we stayed in "Sky Desert" hotel which is near Leh Market and has very good rooms.that evening we spent relaxing and roamed around city.
Day 6 : The Darker the Night,the Brighter the Stars
Morning woke up early and most of our guys went to check/repair there bikes and also getting Leh Inner circle permit.
Here important to mention how to get a permit - the SDM office opens 10AM on working days and issuing of permits will be done from separate office which has board in the same premisis. One has to go to nearest xerox/photo copier shop which is just behind the SDM office road and get the forms which will cost Rs15/- and fill out the forms along with places to visit and give dates usually some 7 days range and also write all the places to visit, else you won't be allowed in the checkposts.Now submit the documents along with ID proof copy to the office with a fee of 340/- per person [120 for permit, 220/- for environment tax]. wait for the permit, within 15min you will get permit, so basically it will take 30min to get permit if you go early. else it may take upto 2 hours but not more than that.
So by the time everyone finished there bike checkup/repair it was 4pm and as none of us wanted to waste the time, we decided to head to K-Top or "Kardung-La" top which is regarded as Worlds heighest motorable pass. which stands at a height of 18,379ft.
This time Vijay exchanged his unicorn with Impulse just for change and let Jatin ride his Unicorn, but in midway Vijay Crashed while negotiating a small rock on the road,luckily he fell on his right side rather left side otherwise he would have fallen off the cliff. He was fortunate enough to walk away with small bruise on hand and leg. after getting first aid Vijay was able to ride again.
we reached "Kardung-La" top around 6pm and boy!! it was every biker dream to reach the top of the world, the experience is unmatchable and feeling is totally out of this world.
Soon afer me and Vijay decided to head to Nubra vally while others decided to skip it as we are running short of time. So plan was other will go back to Leh and next day morning head towards "Pangong Lake". while me and Vijay will head towards Nubra vally now and next day morning will start from "Nubra" to "Pangong Lake". well plan is perfect but the risks are huge. most of ppl we checked with told its impossible to do "Nubra" to "Pangong" in single day given the bad road conditions and unpredictable land slides and rain. its gamble to play this plan.
But both of us are in high aderline and crazy, and we don't think we just ride, no matter what it may come. and i liked this guy Vijay attitude. well its always pointless to discuss whether to go or not-to-go about something which you really wants to go. so we decided to go.
We started towards "Nubra vally" around 7pm in the evening and first 15km from K-Top the roads were pretty bad and adding to that was my bike front right side fork/shok absorver was leaking oil from first day and it lost all its repulsive strenth and moreover the leaked oil was spilling directly over the fron disk and its callipers making the front disk stopping grip useless.
After some 20km we found an Army camp and we cheked with some army personal about the road and also what all there in Nubra, as we didn't have any idea what's there in Nubra vally and what to see or where to go. and that army guy was very helpful and he given us all information and we were happy from the fact that he said roads will be good till the end.
So we decided to go for "Diskit" and it was already dark but there was nice moonlight all along the way. the Night was Dark and there was no vechicles at all on the roads. its just two of our bikes and there headlights, there is immense silent on those hills apart from our bikes motors singing in relaxed tune.
Riding night was really fun and i can see all the starts in the sky, which usually i miss in Bangalore. we took couple of breaks just to get this lonely feeling in far away land and fact was roads were better which made the journey even better. we found two more bikers along the way and they asked us whether they can join us till next village and we agreed although they are not Indians and might be from EU ,they were riding plusars. we departed from them in next village and we directly head to Diskit. As we entered Diskit we were welcomed by around 30 dags on the street, barking at us and even couple of them running towards us. so we were little bit scared of these dogs and strangly no one is around the town and we didn't see any person strolling the streets apart from those dogs.In a bid to search for stay we come across one hotel and deicided to had food there, and trust me we had a wonderful food that night in whole journey compared.
We met a cab driver from Srinagar in that hotel and he became friendly in short time and he suggested us to head to "Hunder" which is some 10km from "Diskit" for stay and he took us to one resort there, where we stayed for the night. It was night 11:30 when we went to bed. So the day come to an end.
Day 7: Night Riders and Mighty Chang-La
The Day was bright and today we planned to reach "Pangaong Lake" by evening. Yes it was difficult one to ride from "Hundar" [Nubra] to "Pangaong Lake" which is around 280km distance.
We already decided to go for Duble Hump Camel safari in the white sand dunes and it was next to our stay only. So after having breakfast which is also part of our stay package, we headed towards sand dunes it was morning 8AM and outside temparature was unbearably hot, we were sweating like anything in our riding gears.
we took a camel ride and spent some time in the desert and without wasting much time we headed towards "Kardung La" top, which was our only way back towards Leh city. our plan was to reach K-Top by 1PM and true to our plan we reached there by 12:30PM and during this journey we didn't wasted our chance to feel the Nubra vally and some Buddist temple. once we reached the K-Top we decided to take some break and spend some photography time and we stayed there till 1PM.
After continious riding back to Leh we took break in Leh for Lunch at 5PM and again started towards "Pangaong Lake", we also made mistake of over shooting a cross by good 30km , we were suppose to take left turn in "Karu" but we missed it and directly went to "Upshi". after knowing that we did mistake by missing that turn from an Army checkpost we headed back to "Karu" and we reached that turn but sadly it was already evening 7PM and it started to rain, which was first monsoon rain reaching this region.
Well we already made up our mind that no matter what, we have to reach "Pangong Lake" and trust me Human Spirit and mind is very powerful, it can over come any obstacles in its path. we started riding in medium speed and as soon as we were climbing each hair ping bend curve the temperature was kept on dropping. i am not sure about the time but when the bad roads started we knew that we were very near to "Mighty Chang La" and the cold in surrounding air started to buildup. my hands were started to pain and my R15 quietly started to loose its power as we climbed more and more. Finally we reached "Chang La" top and our bikes started to struggle to climb. Due to night, the water level of the streams were higher and cold is unbearable adding to that my riding shoes torn near the sole, giving way for water to enter.
Now sitting in my home i still can't believe that we did actually rode and climbed the "Chang La" in the night with bone freezing cold and with all the odds against us. well its all in the mindset of a person to overcome challenges and we did it. we were keep on riding till our destination "Pangong Lake".
after crossing countless freezing cold streams, Sand dunes, broken bridges finally we arrived to "Pangong Lake" and its another story to tell that we reached there by 12:30 AM midnight and spent another hour, just to check our other fellows who skipped Nubra and came to Pangong early in the day are sleeping in which tent. as there were some 30 tents and every one in deep sleep and we both checking each tent for our friends.
Day 8 : If you Climb UP,eventually Have to come DOWN
Morning we woke up and sadly it was cloudy and sunrise was not completely visible. we took tour of beautiful "Pangong Lake" and spent lot of time in and around the lake side.
we decided to enjoy today ride back to Leh as last night we couldn't able to see any landscape in the night. so true to our plan, we rode very slow and stopping wherever we could feel to stop and take pics,and it was the most relaxed ride in our entire journey.
the day went without any Major adventure for us by considering the last 2 day's standard :).
Day 9 : Strength not lies in Numbers,But in will of a person
Day started with lot of confusion and arguments, as this day was decisive one. now we have only 3 days including today to spare, and have to go back to Chandigarh on third day so that we can catch our flight. but things seemed pretty bad.
First there was curfew in Srinagar yesterday and today from morning its started raining heavily. along with all these we need to cover more than 1000km in rest of these days.
Few of our friends were in pretty bad shape due to health problem and rest don't wanted to take risk of riding in rain as there may be landslide or even we end up in Srinagar curfew lockdown. so after lot of disscussion and argument all of them decided to end the journey there in Leh only,
and packed bikes and if possible take flight from Leh itself. But for me its challenging and once again i made up my mind that i have to finish this journey on my bike by completing the whole stretch.
first was "Magnetic Hill" as the name implies, its something that difficult to believe, just google it for more info. i spent a good photo session there in rain. the next one was "Likir","Alchi" and "Lamayuru" Monastries and the ruined village of "Bosgo".
after covering all of them in quick session. i reached a small village and it stated raining heavily and i was in no mood to stop, i kept on riding but the clouds and rains were very much fierce and i can see that due to this rain there was heavy water stream rushing towads road and its filled with mud and sand.
the first wave of water and mud hit the bike with full force and the bike started to wobble but thankfully the roads were newly laid tarmac and before that road turned in to a big muddy water stream i crossed it quickly.
after some time the rains stopped and i was just 50km away from "Kargil", then suddenly infront of me there was landslide happened and all traffic come to halt, until the BRO cleared it and it took almost 1 hour for them to clear that slush of mud and water. and i was waiting in the front.
Thankfully i met the same 3 Bangalore riders whom i met near "Karu" after coming from "Pangong Lake" and along with them there was one more group of Punjabis, suddenly Biker brotherhood evident and we all decided to ride along and we rode together till "Kargil" and then we decided to halt in "Drass" instead "Kargil".
we continued our journey till Drass where we halted for the night. and before that we visited the "Kargil was memorial" in the night and also decided to give it a visit in the morning again.
Day 10 : Road Runner on The path of Martyrs
A visit to "Kargil War Memorial" brightened our day. it was beautiful place and more important its the highest respect and resting ground of brave soldiers who fought for the country. After paying respect and hearing there stories of bravery we started our journey towards "Srinagar".
our plan was to reach "Jummu" by night and it was really a challenging journey of 410+km, highest in the whole journey by numbers. so we started in full swing and the landscape started to change drastically, it was more beautiful than ever and each kilometers traveled it was new sight everywhere.
our aim was to Cross the famous "Zozilla Pass" as early as possible to avoid congestion and traffic. "Zozilla Pass" is also the highest pass in J&K region and without a doubt its the most dangerous pass. there is no space or barricade for safety, its all loose gravel/mud road and prone to land slides.
but view from the pass is unbeatable and its all the green hills which greets one in to the Vally of beauty.
During all this i got separated from the group and riders from Punjab also got separated somewhere in midway, so again i was alone and it given me good opportunity to ride non-stop. i reached "Srinagar" in the afternoon and due to last day Curfew and some trouble in that city, i decided not to make halt in "Srinagar" and continued towards "Jummu". the "Srinagar" to "Jummu" highway is in very good condition but worst traffic that one can imagine, that entire stretch was really pain in A**.
Lot of hairpin curves coupled with lot of mindless lorry drivers and insane tourist vehicle passing through a narrow road in the mountains is really a scary and tiring ride.
every hour passed by i was getting more and more impatience and tiered and that took its toll, just before "Jummu" in one of curves i was negotiating a Lorry, then suddenly a car come in opposite direction and we were in directly head on, thankfully we both braked and that moment onwards i became extra careful. i reached "Jummu" by 11PM and i was so damn tiered that i just took one nearby Lodge/stay and crashed to bed. and it was one of the worst hotel rooms i have ever stayed :(
Day 11 : The Final Run
Due to bad Hotel room i woke up early and started exactly 6AM in the morning from "Jummu", but too bad it started raining so heavily that most of the city roads filled with knee deep water within couple of min. and i was in no mood to stop, anyway my pant and shoes already got wet and i felt there is no point in stopping.
i kept riding and thankfully the "Jummu" to "Chandighar" highway is 4 lane wonderful road and its Flat, suddenly my R15 felt so homely that it was just matter of time before i reach Chandigarh.
Due to last night half sleep, i started to get Sleep during last 30km ride and it was so heavy sleep that, to cover 30km i took 12 breaks and everytime i stop drink water, walk a bit , sit a bit and ride again and after few km, repeat the same.
After reaching Chandigarh, i checked in one good hotel and that evening only i sent my bike back to Bangalore via GATI packers and movers. i should really admire them for sending back bike in such a good packing and care :)
Day 12 : Back to Home
Nothing spl on this day, just woke up and relaxed till afternoon and then took flight back to Bangalore along with rest of the team, who also come via same route as i did, but in hired Qualis instead of bike. well its completely one more story of there own adventure in the 4 wheeler.
Final Say :
1. It was one of my toughest and memorable Bike journey so far, with so many places, adventures, risks and pushing one's limit to the brink, its indeed truly once in a life time journey.
2. Thanks to my friends who rode along with me and to those bikers who in midway joined with Biker bond to ride together.
3. The Punjabi group of 4 ppl were one of the fun loving guys i have ever met :)
Note: Couple of pics are from my friend Vijay.
Hope you guys enjoyed the journey :)
Pics : https://picasaweb.google.com/102729674108102165962/BeyondMountainsLEH