Himalayan Bike Expedition
Team size – 10
Organizers – Nagaraj & Deepak Saran
- Jatin Rawl
- Prashanth Thakur
- Mahendra Hegde
- Vijaya Raghava
- Adarsh Reddy
- Raghavendran Dharani
- Kiran raj
- Deepak Saran
Before you start reading, let me warn you all. My writing might not be eloquent.
Thanks to BASC for giving me an opportunity to organize this event.
Also, Mr. Sathish!! Thank you for making it possible. If it wasn’t for you the trip would have been impossible.
Trip duration- 12 days (13th -24th July)
Day 1- Took a flight from Bangalore to Chandigarh, reached around 2pm and took a taxi to collect our bikes.
We only reached there to see our bikes in the vilest condition possible. It was as if they had finished the road trip and waiting for us to get them serviced. The overall confidence had come down looking at the condition of our bikes.
Thanks to the mechanic near the crappy warehouse, got our bikes fixed and were able to ride it till the next service station. The team was split into 2, 1 with bikes and the other without bikes.
The team without bikes (Mahendra, Kiran,Rishad) took a bus to manali and reached there the next day.
We rode our bikes to a fuel station and got our tanks filled.
The co-ordination between the riders was the toughest part till we hit the Chandigarh highway. The reasons were obvious. The roads were crowded and the team lost track.
Adarsh, vijay and I were way ahead of the Nagaraj and Raghavendran.
We stopped at a dhabha near so called manali HIGHWAY.
It was already 10.30 by then.
We all gathered, ate and started riding again.
The roads were hopeless to some extent and the rest were fine. We reached bilaspur at around 1am and thanks to the Raghavendran. If it wasn’t for his hallucination (he saw horse on an empty road) we would have continued riding further. This guy knew exactly when to stop. He told us we should all rest, and we decided to call it a day.
Found an accommodation at some place and spent that night at billaspur and the time was around 1.30 am.
We packed our bikes and started our journey to manali.
Raghavendran and I road together but I was leading most of the times.
And we stopped at a small falls and had a nice bath.
On our way we found small stream and the water was a bliss. By far the best water we’ve had in our lives. We got our bottles filled and continued riding.
Next stop was manali.
Have to mention about the tunnel.
On the way to manali you’ll find a tunnel which is almost a 4km stretch.
I wished the tunnel would go on forever. I was scared before I entered the tunnel and it was something else riding through that, water dripping all over the place and it was lit perfectly as well!!
Jatin and prashanth took care of the accommodation as they reached manali directly from Delhi on 14th morning. These guys found us a nice place to stay. After all those tough ride the last thing we wanted was a crappy place to rest. They had also arranged for bikes for people who hadn’t got their own.
We all reached THE BEAS at around 6pm, got freshened up and headed out for shopping.
Basic needs were energy bar, rain coat, tarpaulin etc. Sometimes it can also be inners and much other stuff.
Manali is a place where you can buy all the basic things to protect yourself from the cold. And that’s how you can make your baggage light while traveling a flight.
View from my room at BEAS
We met Prashanth and Jatin after our shopping. Then the whole team minus Raghavendran went out for dinner and got acquainted.
We got back to hotel and the briefing session started. It was decided that I’ll be leading front while nagaraj will be the tail ender and rest all will fall in-between.
Next day we all started our journey at 6am and hit the road to ROTHANG pass.
The road was good and the ride till RANINALA top was heaven. The clouds would hit your face and you can literally touch them.
A second ago you would see a mountain and the next second it’s gone. The mist was blissful.
We all left like taking pictures at every turn. Less did we know that Himalayas had more to offer?
We continued riding only to see a tea stall outta nowhere. We all stopped by and had a cup of chai.
There were old people from Karnataka and both the gang were happy to meet each other. How often you get to listen KANNADA in Himalayas?
As we continued further, sluggish roads were waiting for us. This point was one of the best rides of the whole trip. The whole idea of riding in that excited the team. As I was leading the team, lost track of the tail.
I was waiting for rest of the team to catch up as I crossed the loose road.,
I went back and saw that Jatin’s bike had a problem and wasn’t starting. Thanks to KIran we filled the engine oil and started moving further. Alas, the bike broke down again and wasn’t starting.
The team decided to move ahead as Jatin and Prashanth were waiting for the mechanic to fix up their bike. The time to pass the hill is 11am after which they’ll not allow you.
As we moved ahead we stopped at check post near keylong for lunch.
The road from keylong to jispa is amazing. I was waiting for a reason to rip and wasn’t disappointed.
Our target was to reach sarchu or darcha by night. But we decided to call it a day once we saw a beautiful place called jispa valley, which is 5km before jispa. I.e. if you are travelling from manali.
We stayed there and were little upset and more worried about Jatin and Prashanth. We dropped a message to their cell phones saying we are staying at jispa valley. Thank god they saw the message near jispa. Otherwise, they had decided to ride till sarchu that night, just to catch up with the team.
Jispa > Darcha>Sarchu>Pang
This was the longest ride of my life. Not cause of the distance, but the terrains and the heat was way too much to handle. I was about to give up somewhere between sarchu and pang but managed to ride only to find a shelter to stay.
The roads were horrible and. The last 5kms to pang was like forever. From sarchu to pang the roads are terrible. But, challenging. I don’t remember how many pit stops I took on the way.
I was the 1st one to reach pang and my back had gone for a toss by then. The time was around 8.15pm, was worried about others as it was getting dark.
I knew Raghavendran and Adarsh were behind me and they made it 20mins later. The best part was I had company now. We started worrying together!!:D
On the way to Darcha!!
We halted at the 1st tent in pang.
If you’re planning to stay at pang, do stay at this place only. Highly recommended!! It’s the 1st tent if you’re coming from sarchu and it’s on the left hand side.
Somewhere between darcha and sarchu!!
The female was the sweetest we’ve met in the whole trip. And the hospitality was outta of the world. They did everything to make us feel comfortable and offered anything and everything we asked for during dinner and breakfast.
That night I strategically placed myself for a good night sleep. To keep myself warm I slept between the Rishad and Nagaraj. Rishad was in the corner and was freezing from cold, even though he had enough rugs and quilts to cover himself. The temperature then would have been around 0 degrees or probably less than that. I woke up in the middle of the night to see others suffering due to lack of oxygen and they were having lots of water. I went back to sleep as that was making be more conscious about the way I was breathing.
The lady charged us 100 per cot and food came around 2500. Mind you!! that includes hospitality charge water bottles and many more. We have no count of what all we asked for.
We felt what she charged us very less for the kind of hospitality we got.
Day 5- Pang to leh-
Next morning was a new start and everyone was pumped up.
The toilet there brought us back to reality. So far the worst place I’ve ever been in. i feel nauseated as am writing about this. I’ll skip to the next part.
The road from pang to leh, the 1st 50kms was heaven. We could only see mountains in the sky.
Kiran and I decided to stop and put on our ear phones. My god!! That feeling can never be expressed, one has to feel it. I now have Goosebumps as am writing this part..
And after the 50 km stretch the fun part was over and the road threw more challenges at us. Bumpy all the way, till we started ascending. The roads were fine as we started ascending and all I could remember is ripping at 90kms on the mountains. Almost lost my grip at one place, good god!!, managed to stop before I could hit a rock bottom.
I was 100 kms away from leh; a guy outside a car stopped me and asked for petrol. He said he’ll also pay me for it. Fortunately my tank was almost full. Even if it weren’t all I needed was 3 ltrs max to hit leh. I gave him 5ltrs and took money and felt.
Next I stopped at upshi; from here it was 45 kms for leh.
I decided to stop by and wait for others; less did I know, they were way behind me.
Adarsh was the 2nd one to reach upshi but, reached 2hrs after me. Then came Raghavendran and Kiran.
By the time we finished eating, rest of the team joined us. We found out then Jatin’s bike broke down on the way and decided to leave the bike behind, and continued as pillion.
We 5 of us started and hit leh in 1 stretch.
Jatin and Prashanth had met a guy named Saurabh in sarchu and he had suggested a place to stay.
Hotel horizon, alas, the rooms were booked, but the manager, Zahir managed to get a nice accommodation at his friend’s hotel.
Sky desert, Manager- Ayub Khan.
The guy was genuine and we didn’t have to negotiate much. He charged us 1000 per room.
We booked 5 rooms and settled in.
At that moment I realized how badly we were craving for a nice bed and quilt. One of the best stays we’ve had in the whole trip.
Leh to kardungle,
The team was all set for this. The main motto of the trip was to hit kardung-la without any hassles on the way. And that’s exactly what happened.:P
Getting up and deciding whether to go get permission ourselves or to get it through our hotel manager was the question. The permission ticket will cost 320 if you get it done on your own. However, the manager charged us 400 per head.
We decided to get it done through him and meanwhile, got our bikes serviced. By the time we got our bike serviced it was around 3.i got back to my room only to see people decide whether to go to nubra valley from kardungle or get back to the hotel..
Finally it was decided that Nagaraj and Vijay would continue to Nubra from kardung-la, rest would head back to the hotel from Kardung la top.
Since, it was sunny I didn’t gear up well, less did I know about the temperature drop after 6.
It was bright and sunny and we ascended without any issues. Half way through, Vijay met with a minor accident and he was lucky to get away with it.
Fortunately, we were carrying a First aid kit, even otherwise the guy was all set to ride further, but I decided to put the first aid kit to use and made sure he had bandage on him :D
Lucky chap, he will always have a story to tell.
As we started ascending we could feel the harsh weather. It was getting cold. Finally we reached the top and what a feeling it was.
The team had made it to the “World’s Highest Motorable Road”.
This was the main agenda of the whole trip to leh and objective was achieved.
After the photo session the team go divided into 2. Nagaraj and Vijay headed to Nubra and rest of the team started descending on our bikes, heading back to the hotel.
Descending was so much fun here. I didn’t have to waste my petrol here, I decided to go on neutral and bike was hitting at 80-85 kmph.
I almost lost my grip at one point and thought this is it.
Luckily I managed to pull it off. I was at the edge of the cliff. Couldn’t see the road any further and I hit a brake. If it wasn’t for my pulsar I wouldn’t have been here writing about all these.
It saved my life, consistently!!
Then the whole team – Vijay and Nagaraj, reached hotel by around 8.30-9pm and called it a day.
Leh > Pangong Lake.
Next day we started around 10am in the morning from the hotel and we checked out telling the manager that we would come back tomorrow night. He said “payment thab hi kardo, problem nahi”.
Few of us left few our luggages in the so called clock room and started our journey to Pangong .
Leh to Pangong is quit more challenging than kardung – la or even pang for that matter.
The terrains are really tough, you will find almost everything on the way, sand, grass, loose soil, streams, everything.
While going to pangong, we didn’t know what to expect as it was 1st time for everyone.
It was sunny and it wasn’t too late before I knew that I was dehydrated, was falling asleep constantly, as I was riding. Twice I missed an accident.
Once was about to hit a jeep which was coming on the other end and the second time it was the military truck. It was then I decided to take a break for some time.
There was one point where my bike wasn’t able to move up due to the gravels and big stones. I almost lost my breath pushing my bike; a lady who was working there came to my rescue. I was really moved by what she did. There were many of them working there, but this female came walking and started pushing my bike. She had no reason to do that. It was when I decided to get off my bike and push it to some distance with her help.
Sunrise at pangong.
I wish I could understand what she said. All I could say was thank you so much and she replied jolu jolu or julo julo. That reminded me of j lo :D. n that’s how I still remember what she said.
I assumed she meant your welcome. I smiled at her and bid off. People working with her started laughing at me and I could only smile at them.
As we started moving further the roads started getting better. Crossing those streams was the toughest part. Thanks to Adarsh and Jatin the team crossed safely.
Next came the sands, crossing it was fun. Most of us decided to do it again. And we did.
Puddle of water on the road helped us in cooling the engine off. And I almost ran into Jatin when crossing one.
By the time we reached pangong lake it was around 8 45 -9. We started scouting for a place to stay.
I lost my key somewhere near the camp while taking my gloves off,
Thanks to my head torch and Jatin bhai I could find it at ease.
(It is always advisable to carry a spare key along with you)
We found a place to stay and got settled.
Thanks to Jatin bhai, he managed to negotiate with the manger and arranged for a lake side view from the tent :D
Our tent was in the end, facing the lake. It was freezing the whole night. Had it been any other tent in the middle, we wouldn't have felt that cold.
We had dinner and settled down. Late night around 1, someone started screaming my name outside the tent. It was Vijay and Nagaraj...
We all were glad that they could make it safely. Prashanth arranged for sleeping bags and quilts for them to sleep inside out tent.
Day 8 Pangong to leh
Next day morning, Jatin’s wish came true. The lake side view woke us up early around 5am. Jatin and I decided to take a walk along the shore and the sun rise was BEAUTIFUL.
We got few amazing snaps and decided to move ahead on our bikes. We headed back to the tent and took our bikes. Kiran and Prashanth decided to join us.
We almost reached china border, but din gear up enough to reach we thought!! :D n decided to head back after taking few more snaps.
The best part about the lake is its calmness and the way the water changes its colour as the sun goes up.
We headed back to our tent, freshened up and had breakfast. We packed all our bags and decided to put it on bikes later.
We all headed out to the spot where 3 idiots was shot, and it was good fun.
Got back to the tent, loaded all the bag packs on bike and we headed back to leh.
The getting back part was tough. Cause this time we knew what to expect.
What could possibly go wrong here! we thought, and it started raining. There were few workers taking shelter near the stream. And 1 guy helped us a lot and made sure everyone crossed the god damn stream.
All that I had in mind was for everyone to cross this 1 damn stream safely.
Cause, had we slipped there we wouldn’t know where we’ll land. Luckily, the team was too good, helping each other cross the streams. Alas, water entered our shoes. Mahendra and I stopped our bikes on the way to get ourselves geared up as I wasn’t feeling my fingers. The silencer was cold as ice, didn’t help much.
Finally, Rishad stopped by to the rescue and his engine was boiling.
Military canteen on the way was there to save us all .We got ourselves all warmed up, awesome free chai and under-priced momos helped us get back to our senses.
As the roads were getting better, Mahendra and I decided to rip.
We both were at sonic speed and decided to stop by few places to click pictures; we reached karu and decided to wait for everyone to catch up.
It was raining on the way and that’s one thing I enjoyed most about the whole road trip.
Riding in raining test’s your skills and endurance.
We reached our room around 8pm.
Everyone picked up a room and settled in.
Day 9 >
Most of us decided to ship our bikes from leh as it was too much for it to go any further.
Except for nagaraj everyone decided to end the bike ride here.
People who got their own bikes decided to ship the bikes to Bangalore through gati logistics.
And we hired 2 bikes in leh to roam around.
1st we visited hall of fame and from there Kiran Prashanth, Jatin and I decided to visit gurudhwar!!
Rest of the team headed out to see Shanti Stupa.
The road from hall of fame to gurudhwar was killer and we reached there in no time. This was my 1st visit to any gurudhwar and I was glad that I didn’t go to Shanti Stupa with others.
From there we thought we could still make it to Shanti Stupa and i ripped.
Cops caught us on the way as I was ripping at 110kmph. I can never forget what he said.
“yeh highway hai freeway nahi” :D
And for my luck I wasn’t carrying my license that day. Thanks to Jatin bhai’s talking skills, they cut us loose.
We finally hit Shanti Stupa and it was getting dark. Glad we reached there while it was dark.
The stupa was beautifully lit up and was a treat to watch.
Hall of fame!!
From there we all started descending and decided to go shopping. We landed at a funny place to eat.
It said free Wi-Fi. I was so very excited as I read that.
We settled down and placed our orders. Meanwhile, I asked Wi-Fi hai?
Waiter – 2 ghante pehle soh gayee.
I wondered what’s wrong with him.
He came back again to place our orders on table.
I asked him again. “WIFI hai?”
W- ( this time his voice being little aggressive) woh delhi chali gayee!!
We all were amused at what was happening.
Later we understood that he was referring to his wife.
W- 2 ghante pehle so gayee
W- woh delhi chali gayee!!
It all made sense then :D we were laughing our heart out.
We all went back to our rooms and had a sound sleep.
Day 10 & 11 Leh> Srinagar> Jammu> Chandigarh
Next day morning Jatin Prashanth and Raghavendran had a flight back home from leh.
By the time we woke up they had left. We decided to drop our bikes in leh which we had hired from manali and hired an innova to reach Jammu.
The car driver was amazing; he knew what he was doing. He was hitting at 80’s and 90 in pin curve. We almost pissed our pants.
We 1st stopped by some place to eat and headed towards Jammu.
Our next stop was kargil and what a time was it to visit kargil.
Vijay diwas was just around the corner and there were rehearsals happening for it.
We got a chance to witness flag hoisting. It really was a proud moment for everyone.
Next, we stopped at dras for chai!! Dras weather can be really harsh in the evening. We were freezing as it was getting dark.
We reached Srinagar at around 12am, only to find out the vehicles can’t get inside the city due to curfew.
We managed to get some sleep in the car and were waiting for the gate to open.
At around 2 am the vehicle started moving. I was in deep sleep. But the team described this incident as the best of the whole drive from leh to Jammu.
The roads were jam packed and our driver was belting at 100kmph inside the city,
We reached Srinagar city at around 4am and changed our taxi.
The guy dropped us at Jammu station at 12pm. The city was just like our shivajinagar.
We took a bus to Chandigarh and reached there around 7pm. Auto drivers helped us find a room in section 52. KK residency!! I felt the leh stay was luxurious after seeing the room.
For a small room with a/c we were charged a bomb.
Nevertheless, got settled and headed out for dinner, ate and then got back .
Took a flight back to Bangalore from Chandigarh.
Now the routine continues!!.
Day 1- Bangalore to Chandigarh to bilaspur-13th
Day 2- Bilaspur to manali-14th
Day3- Manali to Keylong to Jispa-15th-
Day 4- Jispa to darcha to sarchu to Pang-16th
Day5- Pang to leh-17th
Day 6 – Leh to kardungle-18th
Day 7 – Leh to pangong lake-19th
Day 8 – Pangong Lake to leh-20th
Day 9 – Leh-21st
Day 10- Leh to Srinagar-22nd
Day 11- Srinagar to chandigar-23rd
Day 12- Chandigarh to Bangalore-24th
Distance covered on bike – 1509kms.
Total distance travelled,
Chandigarh >Manali>Rothang Pass>Keylong>Jispa>Darcha>Sarchu>Pang>Leh>Kardung-la top>Pangong lake>Leh>Kargil>Dras>Srinagar>Jammu>Chandighar-2780kms
Tips and suggestions
1. It’s always good to take your own bike, but at the cost of damages during transport
2. If it’s your own bike never get it serviced anywhere during the trip, except for the oil change part.
3. Always advisable to carry a spare bike key.
4. Your luggage must be as less as possible.
5. Avoid carrying sleeping bags.
6. Pack of garbage covers will always come handy
7. A minimum team size of 5 and max of 12 is always a better choice to ride along with.
8. If you are a team a 6. Split it into 2. If its 10, split it in to 3. (3+3+4).
9. I was always ahead, it actually is an advantage. If your bike breaks down in the middle you know that your team mates are behind and they’ll help you.
10. If you are being a tail ender make sure your bike is in good condition and has tubeless tyres.
11. Ride with the team. Make sure they’re in sight.
12. We started our journey from manali to Srinagar, but people also start from other end. It has its own advantages and disadvantages. Manali to leh is the best way to take your trip. As we had completed the toughest part at 1st, we were at ease by the time we reached leh.
13. Getting acclimatized is the first and foremost thing before you start your journey. Take a day to settle down before you start your trip.
14. Gum boots are a must, especially when you’re crossing the streams- you can buy them in manali
15. Carry an eaxtra pair of spare gloves.
16. From manali to keylong do stay at jispa valley
17. Jispa to pang – stay at the 1st tent on the left
18. Pang to leh- stay at either hotel horizon or sky desert-
19. Buy your saddle bags from cramster. Buy nowhere else.
20. Never ever ride with woodland boots. Once its wet, there’s no way its getting dried up in those weather condition,
21. Carry at least 8pair of socks.
22. There will be no network once you cross manali. Only BSNL post-paid works there. In some place other networks with prepaid connections work as well, but post-paid, there is no hope till you cross Jammu border.
23. Be cautious when hiring bike. Know that if you’re hiring bike from manali you have to return it there. Otherwise, your deposit and id proof are withheld. Most of the guys in team decided not to ride back the same route to manali and dropped their bikes in leh.
24. Best time to visit leh-t July till September. They have a closing ceremony in leh every September.
25. Never get conscious about the way you breathe there. It’ll only make things terrible. Drink lots of water in such case
26. Diamox is a useful medicine to get acclimatized. So is garlic water. Or even raw garlic will do.
Expenses: - 6k, includes food and accommodation if you’re in a big group.
Expenses- Food and Stay -6k
- Petrol – 4k max
- Bike transport up and down – 13k
- Flight charges-12k
- Miscellaneous – 4k
Your expenses can’t go beyond this.
About the team!!
Jatin and Prashanth – Delhi boys, desi boys! What not they were called. If it wasn’t for them the trip would have been incomplete. I personally felt they added spice to the whole trip.
Adarsh- The senior most in the group. Was also, the most energetic of all!!He’s a father of child and he alone knows how he managed to make it for a 12 days trip! He has loads of wisdom to share.
Mahendra – Pure from heart. Very rarely you meet such people. He was always calm and composed
Rishad – If you’re planning to go to pathankot please take him along with you!! He knows the place in and out :D:P This guy is fun to be around with.
Vijay – I envy this guy for the kind of knowledge he has on shares and also, for the kind of salary he gets :P!!
Raghavendran – Advice that he gave me was priceless. You’re life begins now!! :D a genuine chap.
Kiran – Had met this guy before, but wasn’t enough to know him well. Thanks to pallavi and Vinuthna for organizing Ramdevar betta trek. This guy was my roomie most of the time in this trip. Someone, who you can always rely on, Bhai hai mera,.
Kaminey hand gloves return kar pehle :P
Nagaraj – Thanks for organizing this together. If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have gone this year to leh.
It was a complete team effort. Everyone put in so much effort in each other, that we all came back safe.
It was a good learning experience for me.
The fortunate part about the whole trip was that no one had a flat tyre. If that had happened to anyone of us during the trip, we for sure would have struggled a lot. No one in the team had done it before.
It’s always good to ride with tubeless tyres on those roads. Hiring the bike is a risk that you should afford. Get in proper terms with him before you a hire a bike. Remember, if you’ve hired a bike from manali, you have to drop it back there: else the deposit and your original id proof are withheld.
Ride safe, ride as a team.
Video Courtesy- Mahendra Hegde
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Event organized by: Nagaraj & Deepak Saran
Written by: Deepak Saran