Ladakh Journey Preface
Now I can relate to those people who abandoned everything just to be on the road and to travel all around the world. Experience is the magical word which leads them to such paths. I can feel some change in me after this journey. Now I feel I am more optimistic, calm and punctual.
Its 29 June 2015 Monday, 1 PM. I just arrived Pune after completing the ride of my life which I called as “Highway To Heaven” and now after an hour I am sitting idle at the my office desk, listening the song ‘I am on a highway to hell’ (perfect for the situation, came back to same old shit)and waiting for the HR call. I had to report to my HR in the morning to justify the reason of my absence in office. I was declared as absconder 3 days back. I used to get panic on such situations but now I learned how to remain calm from my last expedition.
I have encountered a different aspect of traveling. Experience and lessons which I gained from this road trip would never be the same if I would have done this trip from train or flight. Best part about road trips is that your journey starts from your home and bad part is, you are not excited about your destination because you are busy in enjoying the ongoing journey. Now if I have to go to any part of the country whether its 200 or 2000 km, first thought came to my mind, can I do this on my bike. Means, certain situation can’t permit me to do that. Like I can’t go to my hometown on my bike, reasons are obvious.
I relive my 17 days, 4000 miles journey, every time I share my journey experience with other people. Feels like I am still on road, riding on curvy paths with icy mountains on one side and roaring rapids on the other.
Ladakh considerd as “Mecca” for bike riders. I am not a professional rider, but what I have experienced is every biker’s dream.
Story Behind This Journey
First I want to share some background, what it was, which driven me to go for such a long road trip of 6506 kms on my bike. So sit back, enjoy the ride and relive the ‘Once In A Lifetime’ journey with me.
I prefer road trip while travelling and that too on my bike. But why ? Yeah I know its dangerous and tiring yet adventurous, fun, challenging and gives you a tough guy look at the sametime. But none of these were my primary reasons. Why I prefer road trip? As I said one can experience more while on the road. All those magical moments I have shared in this blog. But why bike ? Sitting inside your air conditioned car won’t give you proper connection with outside climate, hence my main motive of doing road trip is not going to fulfill. Cars are like cages and bikes are liberating me from these cages. You are outside and feel like you are in the environment more. Drenched in rain while riding your bike has its own fun. Appreciating the spirit of like minded bikers on road by Waving hands or giving thumbs up, only a biker can understand this. People on road side, either small cart owner or other traveler become more friendly with you when you are on bike rather than car. People usually connect easily with someone who in their opinion is too poor to buy a car even if your bike costs more than a sedan car.
When I got a job and had enough money to burn petrol around Pune, within six months I bought my favourite bike – Bajaj Avenger 220. Why Avenger ? I have grown up admiring it for its stylish cruise look and It’s pretty comfortable for long rides as well. Within its first week, I did a long ride of around 400 km to Kashid beach. I progressed from one small adventure ride to another, longest being my Pune-Goa-Pune (1175), Pune- Hampi-Pune.
I wanted my next road trip to go beyond the one which I have already done. My obsession to be on the road increasing gradually. And now it reached that level where I can think about Ladakh.
I shared my plan with my riding partner Ravi with whom I already did couple of long rides. He is the only person I know who can go with me. And after some discussion he said Yes. Does it sounds like proposal? Ofcourse No J.
Ravi told me about his friend who is a travel agent and organizing Leh Ladakh bike trip every year. They start their ride from Chandigarh and have their own mechanic, medical facility, backup vehicle with them in whole journey. They had all the hotel booking in advance. You have to go with their fixed route and itinerary. Initially Ravi was little sceptic about going on our own because we had no experience for such a long road trip and it was about Ladakh, riding on most dangerous road in the world.
Leh Ladakh road trip is also about ‘Adventure’ but not limited to and in my opinion adventure trip is nothing but a little less planned trip. If you get backup of each and everything then there will be no thrill or surprise in your trip. This is the time where you get a chance to experience and learn new things or to apply your past experience to handle such situation.
Initially we decided to transport our bike from train to Delhi and then start our bike journey from Delhi to Leh. But while planning I thought what if we start our ride from Pune itself. That would be a life time experience covering 7 states all along the route Pune to Ladakh. On each day will have different climate, people, food, terrain, culture and other new experiences. I never got disappointed in my previous road trips whether it was a 100 km or 1000 km ride. It was always a pleasure to be on road, riding across the countryside on your bike. I always tried to think beyond custom targets, and if I found them challenging, adventurous and yet feasible for me. I would love to do that.
But again, million dollar question strikes with respect to feasibility. What about leaves. I had only 10 working day leaves in my account which is equivalent to 16 days after incorporating weekends in between. I know for Pune To Ladakh road trip thats not enough. I calculated that if we do Delhi to Leh to Delhi, then this circuit itself would be of 3000+ km in which 1000 km is considered as the “world’s toughest roads“. At that time I put on hold my idea to ride from Pune and started preparing for Ladakh. But while preparing, riding from Pune was constantly striking my mind. Now riding from Delhi looks lackluster to me. My vision, curiosity and lust for adventure keeps on increasing now.
We didn’t got the assurance from the railway parcel authority that our bikes will be transported in the same train in which we are traveling to Delhi. Although that was not a big issue but my idea to ride from Pune starts gaining some potential from here. At that time I have already made my mind that if Ravi won’t convince than I will ride solo from Pune and directly meet him in Delhi. While preparing for journey I came through one blog (Parikshit Vaidya’s blog), a guy rode from Mumbai to Ladakh on his Yamaha RXZ. When a guy can do it on his 125 cc bike, then why can’t we do it with our 220 cc bikes. Ofcourse I didn’t wanted to force him. Anything which won’t come from your inner self and still if you are doing forcefully then definitely it will not be fruitful. But what I saw after two days that suddenly that blog becomes Ravi’s motivation. He said “Lets try to make itinerary from Pune To Ladakh, check whether its is feasible or not in 16 days”. I replied “Where there is a will, there is a way”. So now plan has modified to PUNE-LEH-PUNE.
Now extended trip requires a lot to be prepared. You have to think about each and every aspect of the trip. Replaced bike’s chain sprocket, clutch plates. Took some spare parts with us like clutch and accelerator wire,spark plugs, extra tyre tube etc. Renewed my bike insurance which was about to expire. We have decided to take the mighty NH-8 route(Pune-Mumbai-Valsad-Surat-Ahmedabad-Udaipur-Ajmer), a bit long but safe and quite scenic. Before entering Ladakh I wanted to take blessing form Shri Harminder Sahib. So we did some changes in our route to incorporate Amritsar(for Golden temple). We took some printouts of google maps as well, as these were handy for aiming our next target destination in case internet stops working. We took printout for Ladakh map as well which contains info about road conditions as well. Medical kit is must in every trip, we had included some medicines related to AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). With all these stuffs not much space left in my bag when I tied it on my pillion seat. So I kept minimum cloths for the trip to avoid extra luggage. Travel light is always my priority.
Best time to visit Leh Ladakh is in June or July. Rain starts in August and path becomes more slippery and you will find more road blockade because of landslides. We planned our journey in mid June so that roads will get stable.
Hence Its very important on such a long and challenging road trip that you know your vehicle. If some minor failure will happen, you should be in a position to fix that. On my final bike servicing I spent my whole day with my mechanic to understand my bike thoroughly. Before D-day, we practiced on curvy roads at weekends near Pune and did a ride of 500 Kms in a single day just to know how our bike and body behaves.
When my other friends and roommates came to know that I am going to start my Ladakh road trip from Pune itself, reactions were like “Are you mad”, “Its not possible”,”Dude, you don’t have Super bike, Its just an Avenger”. Some others appreciating my idea and the effort that we are putting in, to make this road trip a success. Some provided their valuable inputs related to safety. One thing about which we are worried is our own stamina. Will we able to do 6500 km bike ride in 17 days (that’s all leave I have). We targeted to cover an average of 650 km everyday on highways and in Ladakh and Kashmir region it totally depends on road and climate conditions that how much you can cover. We made our itinerary for 16 days and it looks pretty tight in schedule with no buffer days. But one thing we have decided that we will not going to push ourselves (our stamina) and our bike (rush riding) even if we are running behind the schedule, let the trip extends one or two more days. So this road trip was not only about testing our own physical strength but our mental strength as well. In our road trip, we faced couple of ups and downs in our journey(either it was a bike failure, misguided by people, fever, or even harsh climate), but we remained calm at the same time, otherwise one can ruin their upcoming journey.
There are others as well who also wanted to join us but stepped back after knowing our plan to ride from Pune. Even I didn’t want more people in this trip. Long ride requires proper tuning with your fellow rider, specially when you are on tight schedule. Me and Ravi developed this from our past rides. One of our college friend Aditya also wants to join us. So he decided to join us directly in Leh. He booked his flight from Delhi to Leh.
I was excited and wanted to carry Indian National flag on my bike. But carrying national flag on vehicles is restricted to constitutional bodies like MPs,MLAs,IAS officers etc. Besides this people are using national flag on their vehicles, may be because they were not aware about this. But now I know about it, so I will not going to do this. So we decided to make our own flags with some motivational quotes or some awareness message. I made a flag with permanent fabric colors. Wrote names of all the major cities and famous destinations which came in our journey. My Friend Tushar also made some more creative and inspirational flag for us.
I have already asked my parents for the permission to go on this bike trip. But I have asked them with the modified version. I told them that I will start my bike journey from Jammu, till Jammu I will travel from train. Initially they were reluctant to give permission as nine years back I have done a trip to Kashmir (Amarnath and Srinagar) with my family and they know how dangerous are roads there. And now Ladakh, this is even more high in altitude and climate is totally uncertain. I was wondering that my parents are not allowing me to go even from Jammu. So definitely I cannot tell them about my idea to go from Pune to Ladakh on bike. We were going to start our journey from 12th june ,friday on our bikes and I told my parents that I will travel from train. I picked a train which will not passing through my hometown Gwalior. Otherwise my mother will definitely come station to meet me. So I picked a train which is not passing through Gwalior. But in the end moment a new twist came in. My parents are coming Delhi for some personal work on the same day and around the same time on which my train is expected to pass from Delhi. So my father called me two days before that they will going to meet me at Delhi station and asked me, do I want them to bring something for me. I said ‘what’??. For one second I was blanked. How can I tell them that I will not going to travel from that train. My mother said that she will bring some ‘Allo Paratha’ for me. I just said ‘ok’. At that time I felt really bad because my parents are really excited to meet me even for 10 minutes. And I am here keep on lying. I was really tensed, what to do now. I really wanted to do this trip anyhow. So I came up with another false story. I told my father that we were not able to parcel our bikes in that train and now we are going with another train which will not even passing through Delhi. After giving this false story, I felt really bad at that time. But there is nothing I can do about at that time. I have to do this road trip successfully anyhow.
So finally the day has arrived,12th June 2015 ,Friday. Preparing from past two months, Saw hundreds of videos, read tens of blogs, lied from my parents, for what ? For this day. If you are planning for something for long and if suddenly it seems real, I think goose bumps feeling is also normal at that time. I hold my hormone horses and tried to remain calm. I know this will going to be the ‘Ride Of My Life’ and certainly the toughest one as well.
We came back from our office at around 12:00 PM. It took two hours for me to do the final packing, loading the luggage on pillion seat, tied our pride flags. My dream ride started at 2:00 PM from Ravi’s flat after a flag off pose.
Its time to leave the rat race that world is running in, its time to turn the page of my life to the next chapter, its time to find my road and as Avenger tagline states, its time to ‘Feel Like God’. Here I am, on the road again.
Day 1(12 June 2015, Friday Pune To Vapi)
Initial target was to reach Valsad (Guj) by 8 PM. Its 330 km from Pune. But we ended our first day journey in Vapi, 30km behind Valsad. One thumb rule which we adopted in whole journey is not to ride in Night. But why? Yeah its dangerous and your km/hour also gets reduced. You must enjoy your ride but now you are just covering the distance. Doesn’t make any sense to me. Route which we took (Pune-Thane-Vasai-Virar-Vapi). Near Lonavla I found that on Pulsar there is no Flag. We won’t able to understand how can flag detached from its stick or may be someone pulled it off. But that possibility was rare as we didn’t stop anywhere. Ravi feels irritated because he painted that flag with his favourite quote in which he truly believe, “I am the master of my fate and I am the captain of my soul”. I said “Keep calm Ravi, Its just a beginning”.
While riding on the highway near Vasai , I felt some dragon flies hitting me and As we move forward their density increased to the level that I felt like I am riding in flies cluster, hitting me hard on every part of the body. Now it was deep dusk after sunset so I cannot ride with tint helmet visor. But at that time I cannot open my visor as well. So we were riding at around 30 kmph because of less visibility in tinted visor. If even a single fly entered in my helmet, that is enough to put me in trouble and panic mode. In that scenario I cannot ride with fly in my helmet and cannot stop my bike as well as they were creating havoc all around.
After 8:00PM we checked in a decent hotel on highway bypass. We got decent room at Rs 900.On coming back from dinner, a guy on reception asked us exactly where we are heading towards? I said we are going Ahmedabad. Still he gave us strange look and suggested that its not safe to ride for such a long distance. On the same day near Thane on asked by someone the same question, Ravi replied that we are going Ladakh. People started their rapid fire questions. Why are u going from bike, its not safe. How many days it will take. Are u guys on any campaign. Your bike mileage. Are u guys from army ? Don’t you feel tired ? One man asked me is this Modiji’s new campaign “Ride Safe” , by reading the message written on by flag. So we decided not to tell people that we are going Ladakh, instead we gave our next destination of the day as our target destination just to avoid the rapid fire rounds.
Day 2(13 June 2015, Saturday), Target- Udaipur, Route(Vapi-Valsad-Surat-Ahmedabad-Udaipur)—>
Looked outside the window, its sill dark and raining heavily. Last night I hardly slept for three hours. Yesterday we drove around 300 km and today as well a long day to come. My thoughts were wandering in my head related to this journey the way they always do. Its 5 on the clock and now I even got tired from trying again and again to get myself dozed. On the other side of the bed Ravi keeps on snoring. Is something gone wrong me ? Let it be. Its time to move forward now but its still raining outside. We have raincoats, rainling jacket inside our riding jacket. We had large size plastic to cover our bags. So what we are waiting for then. We tied our bags on pillion seat and starts riding at 50 kmph constant speed. I love to ride in drizzling rain. All the sensors in my body become active at that time. I took a deep breath to enlighten my body from the offerings of the nature God and keeps on riding on a long and lonesome highway. I listen to the engines moaning and let my thoughts wandering, the way they always do. As we were riding slow, trucks were passing by us, showering mud water right on to our body. But I liked that part as well. But sometimes my myopic eyesight turned this zest into irritation. All the riders with spectacles can relate this. Ravi kept his mobile in his riding jacket which is water proof but somehow water makes it way and his mobile stops working.
Near Surat, I saw another Avenger with Mumbai registration which carried lot of luggage, wears all safety gears like they are also going on long road trip. I placed my bike parallel to them, gave a thumbs up as a sign of appreciation and asked “Are u guys going on long ride”. Avenger rider opens viser and I got surprised to see a lady behind the glass. She said ‘Yes, we are going LADAKH’. Actually they were two bikers (Husband and his wife) both aged around 35-40. We had a little chat with them, specially about their story of wanderlust. Anurag (husband) told us about his adventures, he already did Ladakh two times before and some international trips as well. Initially his wife used to get concerned and upset when he left her alone and goes on such trips. So his wife also starts going on these trips as a pillion rider and gradually learned riding. And now she is an independent rider. I was really glad after seeing such a passion and readiness to explore new things. Near Ahmedabad we came across Akshardham temple. Wanted to go inside, but time won’t permit us. I thought that it would be better if we have 2-3 days more in our trip. No worries ! I am enjoying and admiring its beauty even from outside the temple.
Today we rode 600+ kms. Still we were 100 kms behind our target Udaipur. Its already 8:00 PM and we were still on road but this time we were not searching for a hotel but a desi dhaba. We have already decided to have dinner at dhaba, specially in Rajasthan which can be used to stay for the night as well. Ofcourse for a different experience and by this you can save some money as well.
At Gujrat – Rajasthan border there was thorough checking at the tollbooth for almost all the vehicles . We didn’t find any lane for two wheelers, so we entered in some random lane where there is no vehicle. Two policemen shouted at us “Hey ! where are you going ?” I told Ravi “Dude ! I think we will going to be in trouble now”. One policemen came closer and told us that after some meters there is a blockade in this lane. He asked “Where you guys are going?” Me and Ravi paused for a second and gave a look to each other. We know the repercussion of telling the real destination. He stared us and our bikes for couple of seconds and said “Are you guys going to Ladakh”. Me and Ravi smiled and in sync said “Yes Sir.” He immediately called his subordinate and told him to get some cold water from water cooler for us. He told us about group of riders whom he met here one week back were also going Ladakh. After some chit chat we asked him whether we can find some desi dhaba which can be use to stay for the night as well. He advised us Pandit Dhaba which was around 10 km from there and quite good for both the purpose. Not all policemen persecute common people . In past four years while on road I found helpful policemen more than those who harass common people. One should not make his/her perception on others perception.
In these dhabas, menu is fixed, daal baati only. But If there were other things as well on the menu then also we would have the baati only, one of the famous dish in Rajasthan. Nowadays we can find almost every cuisine at part of the country. But its real taste comes at its original place, cooked by local people and dining with local people .For all those who heard baati for the first time, its made up of wheat floor and baked in microwave. Ghee is the main ingredient here.
Ravi, enjoying 50 Rs plate unlimited daal- Baati
No AC, no fan, still today I was able to sleep properly. Initially I thought it would be uncomfortable to sleep on Khatiya(rural bed),but I was wrong. It was cold out there at night and I didn’t had any blanket, so we cover our upper body with riding jacket. Upon seeing open sky above my head, I don’t know when I got dozed.
Day 3(14 June 2015, Sunday), Target- Hanumangarh, Route(Udaipur-Ajmer-Baiwar-Kishangarh-Hanumangarh)—> You don’t need any alarm if you are sleeping under open sky, mother nature wake you up. I already know but still I asked one of the children working at dhaba, “Do we have any toilet around”, for necessary morning nature’s call. On facing farm behind dhaba, he spread his arms and said “You can go anywhere”. Dhaba stay experience was good but I didn’t wanted to come across this part. We decided to hold nature’s call till the next petrol pump where one can find clean toilets. People around stared at us as usually these toilets were use by truck drivers in the morning. Riding in the same T-shirt and jeans from past two days. On an average I even don’t have a pair of clothes for three days, but I changed my clothes today as my T-shirt starts stinks. We followed one more funda in our whole trip. Usually when we go on long road trip , before starting our day we used to have tea and some breakfast. But here we start our day with some 100 km ride. When we wake up in morning we were charged enough, so we choose to ride some distance first and then stop for breakfast so there we can save our half an hour time.
Around Udaipur we found lot of Elephants and Camels going by road side. I felt bad for them as their real home is in Wild not on the road side. But at the same time I was glad to see these giant animals in this mighty road trip. In Rajasthan,for around 50kms we had desert on both sides of the road after Udaipur. It reminds me of my Jaisalmer trip at that time. At some places sand got accumulated on road, so we had to slow down our bikes to avoid slippage. Saw one live desert snake as well on the road side. I felt sometimes that we were on the wildlife safari not on the highway.
Till Amritsar people used to stare at us, as we were aliens here. After Amritsar, bikers were common. On highway, after crossing my bike people usually turned back to see what’s wrong there. Wearing Heavy jacket in this hot weather, some shield on knees, so much of luggage. But our pride flags highlights our presence on the road not only on highways but in Ladakh as well.
Today we were able to ride 650+ km. We checked-in one hotel near Kishangarh. We got room for 2 at Rs 800.Today we had ‘Besan ke Gatte ki Sabji'(Famous Rajasthani curry) in our dinner. Today we wasted our one hour time as Ravi’s mobile was not working and we lost communication. Ravi told me how people behaves when he ask them for a phone call, as he won’t able to find any phone booth around. Well dressed shop owners denied his request by just giving no balance excuse, then finally a cart owner helped him. Ravi was not angry for this and told me that educated people won’t trust strangers easily. There is nothing wrong about it but it’s a dark side of the world, terror activities around the world force us not to trust strangers. Next day first thing we did was to buy a cheap Nokia handset for Ravi.
Day 4(15 June 2015, Monday), Target- Amritsar(Golden Temple)-—> Day started with a mesmerizing view from window, saw some peacocks browsing in near fields. Still Our lifeline of this journey were performing well and already crossed the 1500+ mark, before starting today’s journey we did a little checkup of our bike. Did chain lube and setting, tightened the brakes, checked the tyre pressure and all.
It was hot and humid on that day, specially after entering Punjab. In Punjab we found people on roadside offering refreshment (Sharbat or some sweet) on the occasion of Purnima festival. Stopped at one of these langars, there one child relates my avenger with Ghost rider’s bike. He asked ‘Brother, does fire came out from your silencer when u ride your bike’. I gave wide smile and said ‘Yes’. Had our lunch in dhaba, this time Pure Punjabi Dhaba. Had ‘Dal Makhani’ over there, little spicy yet delicious. We both together won’t able to finish one Patiala Lassi there. We planned to reach the golden temple by evening 6, so that we can spend time over there. This was the first time that we reached our destination on time.
After taking shower and some refreshment we entered the temple. Temple was huge and crowded, yet everything around was so pleasing. Lake around the temple gave you a sense of calmness, seated with our legs in lake gave us much relief, for us it was much needed after a long ride of around 2000 kms.
Everything was very well managed by the volunteers either it was at shoe racks, que for temple or all the arrangements in langar (Sacrament). Serving thousands of people 24/7 , 365 days a year, requires great hospitality skills and these volunteers around the temple were not the employees or permanent worker of the temple. They are normal people who came here with the feeling of devotion towards their religion and society. Irrespective of their status or caste, anyone can come here and serve towards humanity.
There was a long que for the Golden Temple but I was feeling hungry and there is always a meal for the hungry at the temple, so we decided to have ‘langar’ first. Get your plates and bowls, stand in que to enter the big hall and get seated on the floor and you will be served kindly.Simple, healthy yet delicious food. One curry, dal, rice,Kheer(sweet dish) and chapatti. If you want chapatti you have to put your both hands forward, as this is considered as the offerings from god.
I don’t understand Punjabi, still gurbani (hymns) sounds pleasant to me. Almost every hymn ended with common line “Wahe Guru Da Khalsa Wahe Guru Di Fateh”, so I repeat this line with other devotees. Before the journey begins, we decided to stay in the temple halls for the night. But lying around the lake on a marble floor under the open sky has no comparison.
For visiting the golden temple in our journey we ride around 200 km extra, but after this visit I must say that its worth for it. It was on my mind to visit the golden temple from long time. Now its done.
Day 5(16 June 2015, Tuesday), Target- Srinagar(Dal Lake) —–> Another morning in open sky, now this time it was not the mother nature who woke me up in the early morning. It was the Volunteers who were washing the marble floor. So after thanking god for everything we collected our luggage from the locker room at the temple. It was our 5th day in the trip and we felt like we left Pune long back, felt like that we were on the road from past couple of weeks. It usually happens on road trip because every hour you find new places, new people. You came across so much things in a single hour that you would experience in a day during normal trip. We had already crossed 2000 mark. Still we were full of energy and excited as this was just a beginning. Now today we crossed J&K border. We opted Srinagar to Leh route and will come back through Manali route.
Near Amritsar, Its time to change our bike flags
No mobile n/w now. In J&K only two n/w available, Airtel and BSNL postpaid number only. We had one Airtel postpaid number that too works once in a while. It was hot till Jammu, but at Patnitop it was hell lot of rain and soothing weather, feeling relaxed now. We had to stop in Patnitop for an hour because of fog,heavy rain and non-visibility. Now we entering in lush green Kashmir valley. There is a famous saying by Emperor Jahangir about Kashmir valley “If there is heaven on earth, its here, its here, its here”. Now after seeing its beauty I must say he was not exaggerating. To be able to describe the beauty of the valley in words is a tough task, the more you describe, the more you are compelled to describe.
Soldiers on duty shouted at me to stop near Patnitop. I stopped immediately and thought that Is something I did wrong. They asked me Is this bike from Maharastra? I said “yes and I have a legal documents of my bike”. And then suddenly they started conversation in Marathi. I smiled and said I am from Pune but I don’t know Marathi. Actually these soldiers were also from Nagpur regiment. I can feel the kind of Nostalgic feeling in them. Had a nice chat with them, wanted to spend more time with them but time was limited so I moved forward after saying goodbye.
We targeted to reach Srinagar today but its already 6:30 on clock and we were in Banihal now. Srinagar is still 100km left and we can ride till 8 O clock. Its not easy to ride after sunset specially in J&K and its not advisable as well. So we checked in Hotel with room cost Rs 600. There are not much options for hotel in Banihal as most of the tourist opt to stay in Srinagar. After taking some refreshment we have decided to roam around Banihal as now we were entered in real lush green Kashmir. Today morning we started from amritsar with temperature around 45 and now in evening we have temp around 4 degree,Wow. When I tried to start my bike its not responding. Avenger 220 has no Kick start and my electric start was completely dead. It was not even giving me the grunt sound. So it was definitely something fishy with the battery. But I surprised that before one hour it was totally fine and now its completely dead. Maybe some issue with battery wire. I checked it, but all wires were in place. Now I had no option but to find some mechanic or battery shop. In Kashmir and Leh Ladakh region market closed by maximum 8.Only hotels and restaurant were open till late night. Its already 8:30 now and in morning as well nothing will open before 9, but we had to start our journey by 6 or at max by 7. We came to know that there is only one mechanic in Banihal known as ‘Mumtaz’. So there is nothing we can do about it. We had no option but to wait in the morning. So we started roaming around from Pulsar. From the beginning we kept our head cool because we know we have to face these challenges everyday in upcoming journey.
Had a chat with some middle aged local people near our hotel. They told us how their childhood and young days got spoiled because of tensed situation in valley in late 80’s and 90’s .They were not allowed to come out of their houses after 6 PM and won’t able to complete graduation because of lack of money . But now they are pretty happy that their earnings are good now and situation is also under control. Their children can go to school or college in healthy environment. They also told us how those people survive in winters who are living in wooden houses situated at up high mountains. They won’t able to come down from the mountains for six months and had to accumulate all the grocery for six months. In case of any medical emergency, army came for the help through chopper.
We found only one restaurant open, they have only seasoned pumpkin curry in veg .As I am a vegetarian , I had no option but to have Pumpkin. It was finger licking but again a little spicy. Ravi can have non veg so he tried famous Kashmiri dish ‘Rista’ which is made up of meat balls. I don’t know whether it was really delicious or he was just pretending to make me jealous. We had our dinner with other two riders, they started their journey from Delhi yesterday. We met these riders in Ladakh as well. In the whole journey we met many people repetitively after all it’s a small world and in that Ladakh is much smaller.
Day 6(17 June 2015, Wednesday), Target- Kargil (War Memorial) —–>
Before going forward, I would like to thank Indian Army and Border Roads Organization (BRO) for connecting people on high altitudes under harsh climate conditions.
Its 9:30 in the morning and we were still in Banihal. Mumtaz’s subordinate was replacing the battery. Meanwhile Mumtaz said “Come behind me”. I asked where we are going, he said “Come, I’ll show you around”. Mumtaz took us to some of the picturesque places around. We didn’t expected that some local guy will take us personally to the less explored places here. First he took us to recently built Railway station. Yesterday we also wanted to travel in train from Banihal to Katra, but last train departed at 6 PM. Here train passes through thrilling tunnel and picturesque hills and valleys. He also took us to under construction railway tunnel where a scene was shoot from recent movie ‘Sanam Re’. It was fun to ride on the railway tracks in an under construction tunnel. His looks and accent was totally Punjabi, I wonder why his name is Mumtaz. Then he told us that he came here from Patiala 12 years back in search of work and Mumtaz name was given by local people. Well its 10:30 now and we are ready to go. Now its time to pass one of the longest road tunnel in India, Jawahar tunnel which connects the Kashmir valley to Jammu and Srinagar highway.I was eagerly waiting for the same.
We drove nonstop till Srinagar. Its hot out there yet we spent some time on Dal lake. There we met a boatman who expressed his proud feeling towards his motherland(Kashmir) for its beauty that people came here from all over the world. After sometime we headed towards Sonmarg. From now you will find many nameless streams of transparent blue water running down from the mountains. These high intensity streams flowing parallel to the road along with you. Sometimes its intensity is so high that it sounds horrific. The fresh dew on the small leaves that flanked on the road, picturesque view of all the greenery around you, women and children playing on roadside : Nothing, absolutely nothing could one afford to not see and appreciate the charismatic view of this place. We had our lunch(kashmiri Rajma Chawal) in a rapid river facing restaurant. Sitting with both feet in water near its shore with tea in one hand and onion pakoda in other, I can’t ask for more.
While riding towards Sonmarg we met one family who lives in Srinagar and going Sonmarg to meet their relatives there. Father told us how his son who just turned 18 insists him to let him go on Ladakh expedition on his bike. As Sonmarg was just 5 km away from there, son asked Ravi that can he ride his bike till Sonmarg? Father looked at him with gaze, Ravi said “Alright, Vineet will ride along with him”. So Ravi stepped in there car till Sonmarg. We reached Sonmarg and its already 6 on the clock. So we had to stay here for the night. We checked in one hotel which was recommended by the Uncle. Greenery, Glaciers , horses browsing in fields: that’s the view from the window in my room. After hot shower and some refreshment we went outside to confirm about the timing for which Zoji-La pass will open in the morning. Some policemen around , told us that sometimes army close one side traffic as the path is very steep. It is considered as one of the toughest pass in Leh Ladakh road trip and it was indeed. But later on I found certain patches in Manali Leh highway even more tough. I wonder why people call it a ‘highway’.
They also showed us their pics with ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’. Its shooting got completed some days back here. I am also a big fan of Salman Khan, missed a chance to see him L. We ended up sitting two hours there with these policemen and had discussion on variety of issues like terrorism and poverty.
Day 7(18 June 2015, Thursday), Target- LEH (Rest,Acclimatization) —–> From now onwards real Ladakh journey begins. We had to cross Zoji La pass ASAP. It was around 2 degree C in the morning. Still we started our journey at 6:30. In initial ride of one hour, I understood why we call this Ladakh route as “World’s Toughest Roads”. My fingers got freezed, sometimes I changed gears without applying clutch. Sometimes we stood at the edge of the Path whenever truck crossed us. I called it path not road because there was no road. That day till afternoon it was a challenge to ride because not even a single truck or taxi driver feels pity for us. Sometimes I have to shout at them, ‘I am already standing on the edge, its deep valley here, drive easy’. Now we are heading towards a small village, Drass. It is considered as the second coldest habitable place in the world in winter season.
Had Aloo paratha, bread omlet and Drass’s famous pancakes at Shanu Da Dhaba. This restaurant owns by one lady named as Shanu. Her hometown is in Dehradun. For five months, May to September Shanu and her son come here to earn some money. It was nice to hear some stories from her how she came all the way from Dehradun to Ladakh and opens her own restaurant ‘Shanu da Dhaba’.
Now we are heading towards the Kargil War Memorial. We had already read much about Kargil war. So me and Ravi decided not to spent much time there as we were running out of time and one day behind our planned schedule. But we spent around three hours there. Memorial is filled with war time stories, letters written by one soldier to another, soldier to their family. I felt emotional at that moment and felling proud for our Soldiers. Even after coming out of memorial, me and Ravi didn’t talk to each other for an hour. We were completely silent at that time.
I tried to visualize war time situation in our mind. Saluting the courage of our brave heroes.
We were heading towards Leh now. Our Friend Aditya, who already landed in Leh from Delhi was waiting for us. So we tried to reach Leh ASAP but we can’t stop ourselves to take out our camera and take some snaps, as mountain gods has lot to offer. In every 10 kms terrain, colors of mountains got changed. Riding on NH1 was a pleasure, butter smooth curvy roads, cut the edges on the sharp turns and enjoy the picturesque view around you.
Its 3 O’clock now and its time for a tea break so we stopped at Mulbekh, a small village after Kargil. After break, now this time Pulsar was not responding when Ravi tried to start it. On checked we found that current was not coming in the spark plug. No Mechanic out there in Mulbekh, but one local people helped us there who is a tempo driver and have some knowledge on bikes. We spent around two hours there to know the root cause, by that time we already detached almost every part of Pulsar,it looks completely nude at that time. Now we had no option but to find one truck or tempo and load the bike. We can find Mechanic either in Leh which was still 110 kms from there or in Kargil around 40 km back. After sometime we found one empty tempo coming from Leh and as we had no option at that moment so we decided to go back to Kargil. Its already 8 O’clock now and after one hour of investigation, mechanic found that relay was melted. Relay is a small circuit in bike from where current passes to other parts of bike. I called Aditya and told him about the situation. He said ‘no issue man, take your time. I am enjoying here in Leh’.
Day 8(19 June 2015, Friday), Target- LEH (Rest,Acclimatization- Hopefully)—> Last day we had some bitter experience. So I thought may be today is a better day. We had our breakfast in Mulbekh with same people who helped us in trying to fix and loading Pulsar yesterday. They offered us famous prayer flags to tie on our bikes for good luck. Upon asked about its significance, they told us that letters written on each colored fabric are hymns. It is recognition that these hymns will reach up to God when flag swings while riding and in return god will save you from all the pain and grief.
We thank them for their help and kindness and now finally we were moving towards Leh. In Ladakh you can find children near by roads, waving hands towards you or giving you Hi-five when you are passing by them.Some children are so naughty, instead of gentle Hi-five clap, they use their full power and sometimes it hurts me. So when I saw children trying to use their power, at the end moment I intentionally missed the clap. Sometimes we stopped near by children, offered them chocolates and biscuits until our stock lasts. If you are going Leh Ladakh, do bring some chocolates for children. Its good to see smile on cute faces.
Around 2 O’clock we reached Leh, had lunch with Aditya. We shared couple of stories with him about our last 7 days journey. Aditya was glad at that moment to see us in single piece. Before trip starts he said ‘Dude, you guys will come there right? Your idea to ride from Pune not sounds good. It should not happen that you guys will be in hospital and I am waiting there in Leh ‘.So now we were three for next 6 days till Manali. I found something strange on reaching the hotel room. When I pull off my rain pants, I found my jeans was totally ripped off from back. In morning it was perfectly fine and now it was butchered completely. That is still a mystery for us because today we had a smooth ride till now, No accident, no bad patches.
Rest of our day we can relax or roam around Leh. Our bikes were running fine but still we wanted to had a thorough examination from mechanic before we were heading towards Khardung La. On reached Leh, Ravi was not feeling well. He was suffering from fever. So we decided not to hire a bike on rent for Aditya, instead Ravi will sit on pillion seat and Aditya will drive his bike for tomorrow at least. We left our most of our luggage in hotel as we had to come back to Leh after 3 days.
Day 9(20 June 2015, Saturday), Target- Nubra valley via Khardung La Pass—> There was a blow to our confidence on our bikes after day 7 bike failure. Today we have to conquer the Highest Motorable pass in the world. Although our bikes are running fine,but still it was a test for our bikes. Here roads were even worst than Zoji la pass. Today our bikes was not able to pickup the load because of high altitude. I am giving full acceleration on flat roads, but still bike was not able to pick the load accordingly. Reason behind this is that,at such high altitudes oxygen quantity is 2/3 of oxygen on sea level. At around 17000 feet sufficient oxygen and air flow is not passing through air coolant and through carborator. We were also breath heavily on those high altitudes.
It was first day for Aditya on this road trip and he was not used to ride on such bad patches of roads specially on high altitude and in temperature at around 0.We have already faced these challenges from past two days. But still riding there was a different challenge. Here roads are more slippery because of ice accumulation on roads from nearby glaciers. Soon we reached the Khardung la pass and it was totally crowded there. First thing people do there is to take a snap with sign board stating ‘Welcome to khardung la pass 18380 ft, You are on world’s Highest Motorable road in the world ‘.And we were no exception in this case. We also wants to capture those pride moments for us riding from sea level to 18380 Ft. Apart from this we didn’t found anything special at khardung La. I found this place overrated, over hyped by the tourism industry. But anyway one has to pass through it to reach Nubra Valley. Basically Army made its camp there to get their body acclimatize before moving to higher altitude. There is a small ladakhi temple there to visit. There you will find boards with warning ‘Do Not spend more than 20 mins here’. It is not advisable to spend much time at such high altitudes specially if you have any respiratory problem. Even army men keeps an eye on people for this.
On internet I found Marsimek –La pass(18634 Ft) situated near Indo- Tibetan border as the Highest Motorable pass. But why still we call Khardung-La as Highest, may be because Army thinks its best not to advertise the pass and invite civilian traffic to the border area.
As we came downwards after Kahrdung La Pass we had our lunch in Army café. Again not much option, we had to be on Maggi and Momos. Had Kahwa (Kashmiri bru) with a Young Ladakhi scout who was posted here from past one year. He was quite happy that summer had finally arrived not because they get some relief from cold but now he can see some people around. He also shared one incident when they encountered Wild Snow Leopard near their camp.
Now we have to reach Nubra valley today. Nubra valley is famous for its cold desert and double hump camel ride. We reached Nubra valley by 5:00 PM. First we checked-in one hotel because Ravi wants to take rest as he is suffering from fever and cold. Ravi was not able to join us for cold desert safari.
Speciality of Nubra Valley is that you can find desert,ice mountains, sand at the same place. It Sounds strange but you will get amaze by its own charm and beauty. Enjoyed camel safari on bactrian camel with double hump back, an endemic species of camel which one can find only in ladakh. You can find there milestones of china border and Siachen Glaciers. China border is just 35 kms from there.
Day 10(21 June 2015, Sunday), Target- The great Pangong Lake—>
As we were ready to move forward in the morning, a lady staying in the same hotel asked about my journey by looking at the flag on my bike. She is Retired army servicemen. When we were about to leave from hotel she said “You should write a book on this journey”. I smiled and replied “Thanks for your appreciation, Writing is not my cup of tea. But surely I will try.”
Its time to start our ride. Normal Ladakh itinerary that people follow is Leh to Nubra Valley then next day came back to Leh for Pangong lake. By directly going to Pangong lake from Nubra Valley through Shyok route, you can save your one day time. But route is quite rough and little dangerous as well. Worst part about this route is you won’t find any help there in case of bike failure or any emergency. No Army camps en route, no tea stalls. Totally unhabited area, you will not find any people in tens of km. Till morning we were not sure about whether we should head back towards Leh or we are going to Pangong lake through Shyok. We asked couple of local people about this, response was mixed. Some said its normal now, while some people told us how unsafe it is by giving examples of accidents on Shyok route.
Finally we took the Shyok path after considering the pros and cons because that saves a day time as we were already running behind of our schedule. Riding through ‘very less traveled roads’ has its own adventure after all. Although initially we were scared but as we moved forward we were enjoying the overall ride. We started our day after visiting the Buddhist monastery in Diskit ( Nubra Valley).This monastery is largest and oldest Buddhist monastery in Nubra Valley and houses a 106 feet tall Maitrey Buddha statue.
Its good to have a GoPro sports camera mount on your helmet to make some videos specially in Leh Ladakh bike trip. But unfortunately we won’t have any. Still we were able to made some quality videos equivalent to GoPro. Initially we were making videos by mounting our normal digital camera on selfie stick which is attached to my bike handle. But because of bad patches in Ladakh videos were fluctuating. We met with a Austrain- South African couple in Diskit and I was impressed to see their idea to attach mobile phone to helmet with tyre tube rubber. Cut tube rubber of around 20 cm length and tie a knot with its both ends. Now place your mobile in helmet as shown in below image and fixed it with this rubber. Make sure that camera of your mobile should not hidden in helmet’s jaw position but at the same time mobile should not hinder your view while riding.
As I mentioned before, in Ladakh roads were very less, you would only find path carved out by cutting the mountains. But today at some places we were not able to trace the path itself, its wide open rough terrain between two mountains. Colour of mountains and its terrain is totally different from the ones which we saw in past couple of days. Sometimes we have to pass rapid river crossings of height about 1 feet. Its complete icy water there and we won’t had Gum boots at that time. By this time water entered inside my shoes and I had to ride full day with wet shoes.
Its 3:00 PM now and we already crossed the Shyok route without much difficulty and joined the normal route to the Pangong Lake. Now route was quite scenic, roads were in good condition and you will find couple of army camps having sign boards with interesting quotes on them. We did our lunch here in ‘Durbuk’. Now from today till Manali, food options were very limited. At most of the places you will find only five things (Aloo Paratha, Dal Rice, Maggi, Momos and Bread Omlet).In dal rice, rice quality was not good so I was on Maggi and Omlet for the next four days.
Again met with same Austrian – South African couple at lunch. Both met each other on their solo journey in Indonesia. Now every year they meet each other on their long vacations like they meet in Ladakh and after vacation head back to their respective countries and live their normal life. Both were enjoying their riding adventure in Himalayas. It was nice to meet them and nice to know their love story which remains alive because of travelling. Before moving forward we again thank them for their idea of mounting mobile phone in helmet.
Enroute to Pangong lake we found rare and endemic species ‘Marmot’. Usually they live underground by digging holes but sometimes they come out in afternoon. One local people told us how people are unaware of the fact that they are disturbing normal lifecycle of these endangered species. People offer them normal food like Banana, biscuits, chips etc which is not good for there health.
Pangong Lake is the most beautiful, scenic, mesmerizing place that I have ever seen. I must say,it’s the best eye candy on earth. It was a complete bliss to reach Pangong lake on my bike all the way from Pune to Ladakh after riding around 3800 km. Lake is so clean that you can see reflection of clouds in water clearly. All I can say about this place is that beauty of this place will stay in your thoughts for as long as you live in this world.
My Bike and my flag was a center of attraction there. Initially after reading the names of cities people won’t able to understand, what is it about. Then after sometime they came to know that I have covered all these cities on my bike in this journey. It was really cold out there, don’t know the exact temperature but it must be in negative. I sat near lake with foot inside water, but couldn’t able to sit more than 5 seconds as water was really cold. But me and Aditya had decided to take a dip there in the morning, it was a challenge given by Ravi to us. We sat near the lake for 2 hours enjoying the serenity and calmness of nature.
We noticed lot of miniature stupas at every nook and corner of this trans-Himalayan region. These stone pyramid constructed by the locals to commemorate their visits or to gain spiritual benefits. Locals keep sacred texts and other goods of religious importance like a prayer bowl or a prayer wheel inside these stupas as offerings. We found many of these around Pangong lake.
Its 7 PM now and for today’s stay whether we had to opt for tent or home stay. Only these two options one can find at Pangong lake. We opted for home stay with local people as it was good experience to have chat and dinner with them. They still made their food with old and bulky traditional instruments. Dining was also in traditional style with sitting on floor. Home stay costs us Rs 500 only for 3 people.
I asked house owner about STD booth as I had to call my parents. He said “Let me take you there.” I said “no need to bother, I can go myself.”, as he looked completely drunk. He said “No, you are our guest” and starts insisting. This usually happens when people got drunk they wanted to do the same thing which you ask them not to do. Now I had no choice so I started walking behind him. He slept there at the booth when I was on phone. He was not even responding when I am shouting “Lets go back to home”. Now I had no option but to put his arm on my shoulder and take him back to home.
Day 11(22 June 2015, Monday), Target- Back to Leh–> Today we woke up little late as our target is to reach Leh which is 150 km and can be covered in 6 hours. Today first thing we had to do, was to take a dip in Pangong lake. On reaching the lake we won’t find anyone who take a bath or dip in lake beacause its very cold out there. Initially I thought that we should drop our plan to take a dip because still we have to ride 3000 km for next 7 days atleast and if we suffer from fever then our remaining journey will be in danger. But I used to enjoy water bodies whether it was waterfall or lake when I was on road trip near Pune. And now I came here at Pangong lake ,one of the most exotic lake in the world after riding 3800km from Pune to Ladakh,’Ek Dubki Toh Banti Hai’. Me and Aditya decided to take at least a full dip inside water. People there watching and laughed at our insanity. As soon as I entered the lake, I felt like someone nailing my body from all corners. I took 3-4 dips quickly and started running towards my room.
I was shivering for at least half an hour after coming out of lake. Had tea to get normal and now we were ready to go back towards Leh. It was complete fun out there in Pangong Lake. Tso Moriri lake, another beautiful lake in Ladakh, was in our itinerary.But we were not sure whether we can cover it because we were already running behind our schedule.
Today we had to pass The Chang la Pass(Third Highest Motorable road in the world) to reach Leh. First time I experienced snowfall in my life at Chang la. I didn’t know about exact temperature but it would surely have been in negative. I had two layers of gloves but still my hands were shaking and I was not able to ride properly. At one point near Chang la my hands got completely numb. I just took off gloves from my hand and put my hands on the silencer of my bike. Just imagine, our skin gets burnt if we touch the silencer in normal temperature and at that time I felt so relaxed by putting my hands on the silencer. By this you can imagine how cold it was out there. I did it a couple of times over the next two hours. At chang la everything was covered with snow. It was total white-out around chang la. We had seen snow in previous days as well in Sonmarg, zoji la, Khardung la pass but here in chang la it was much greater in quantity.
While going back towards Leh, I felt little tired so I decided to get on pillion seat with Aditya riding pulsar and Ravi was riding my bike. We met our first accident in this journey. Road was good so Aditya was riding at nominal speed of 30 – 40 kmph. In Himalayas, roads were curvy hence at a time road is visible for next couple of meters . In ladakh, roads are made in small patches hence on curvy part one can encounter bad patch suddenly as we did. Aditya lost handle control and we fell down. Sometimes because of landslides as well bad patches developed on road. Me and Ravi were aware of these sudden bad patches as we encountered same on previous days. Good part was no major damage happened to bike or two of us.
We reached Leh by around 6 in the evening. Aditya was already low on confidence after accident and now we found that his mobile card got corrupt in which we had most of our pics for last three days. He felt little depressed today. Before accident he also wanted to do road trip till Manali but now he decides to take direct flight from Leh to Delhi. We tried to boost his confidence and insisted him to come with us as still lot of adventure left in this journey. After some discussion he feels positive and now agreed to come with us. But now problem was of luggage, so we paid 1000 bucks to a taxi driver who drives from leh to Manali and he will drop our luggage in taxi station, Manali. We kept limited luggage with us which was required in next two days and rest of luggage we loaded into taxi.
At hotel we met with another fellow rider who drove all the way from Trivandrum to Leh on his Pulsar 200 NS. He took 18 days to reach Leh from Trivandrum. He was a medical student and came on vacation in his two month sessional holidays, so time restriction was not an issue for him. I wish I could have that much leaves.
Day 12(23 June 2015, Tuesday), Target- Sarchu—> Now we were heading downwards towards Manali. One of the toughest path in Leh-Ladakh road trip. This year unusual snowfall happened in month of May hence route was still unstable. Today we crossed the TAGLANGLA PASS (Second Highest Motorable Pass in the World, 17582 ft).
After crossing TAGLANGLA we had to wait for 40 minutes as landslides happened recently and snow got accumulated on road. Meanwhile we were sharing our experience with other bikers who were also waiting for snow clearance.
Road till Pang was butter smooth. We enjoyed our ride on straight roads in Moore plains surrounded by tall mountains .Had our lunch at Pang, as usual limited options, had Aloo Paratha and Maggi in lunch. There at restaurant which was managed by one lady I found one thing peculiar. All sides of the room was decorated with pics of some Punjabi weeding album. Upon asked, she said some tourist forgot their album here and she found these pics beautiful so she decorated walls with these pics.
We were heading towards Sarchu which was still 50 km ahead and its 6 PM now and we can ride for 2 more hours in day light. But we had decided to stay around Pang itself because in past 20 km, road was in very bad condition and we know we will not be able to cover 50 km in next 2 hours. But when we were about to book a tent for us there, one rider coming from Sarchu told us that after 5 km road is in good condition and we can easily reach Sarchu by 8.Now we were in dilemma whether to go for it or not. After 10 min discussion we decided to go for it. So after riding about 15 km which took around one hour, I felt like that guy misguided us. Now at max we can ride not more than one hour in daylight. Riding in daylight itself is a challenge and in night we can’t think about it. Now we had to take another call either to go back or to move ahead towards Sarchu. After another two minutes of discussion we decided to move ahead, may be after couple of km roads will be better. Its 8 PM now and we had entered the Gata Loops, still 20 km behind Sarchu. Now we had to ride in dark. I am riding alone and Ravi riding with Aditya on pillion seat. It was complete dark all around, high intensity river stream was flowing in parallel as usual. River sounds quite scary. I asked Ravi to ride in parallel with me because I was little scared at that moment. In Leh Ladakh, u can find local people asking for lift as there is no major transport facility available to them. But luggage was loaded on pillion seat always, so we just denied them with a smile in our whole journey. I was just concentrating on riding as the path was very challenging and it was very cold out there. I saw a man asking for a lift, as usual I just ignored him. But after crossing him I thought what the hell he is doing out there in night. I was riding ahead of Ravi at that moment and when they came in parallel to me, I asked Ravi “what the hell that man is doing at this time” and he said “Who ? There is no one out there apart from us from past one hour”. I again asked him and they told me they didn’t saw any man asking for lift. Aditya asked what happen. I just said nothing because I don’t want to make whole scene more scary at that time.
At around 9:15, finally I can see some lights at some distant location, I took a sigh a relief at that moment. Finally we reached Sarchu safely. I ordered Soup for us, much required as it was really cold out there. I swallowed it like normal water. We booked our three bed in tent. In Sarchu you will find only tent accommodation for 200 Rs per bed. My Parents gave clear instructions that after finishing my ride every day I had to call them. As usual Airtel postpaid mobile network was not working. And on that day even for local people BSNL network was working. I asked our tent owner if there is any STD booth available. She pointed out at one distant beam light which was around 200 meters away and it was really cold out there and I already got tired after today’s adventure, so I decided to call them in early morning tomorrow. This is the biggest mistake I did in this journey.
I was happy that we reached safely here. Our tent was managed by one Ladakhi mother and her daughter. I saw them having a white colored soup. I asked them what is it and its recipe. ‘Its Thupka’, daughter said. “Can we try this, if you have in excess”, I asked. So apart from normal food (Maggi and Dal Rice),we had Thupka Soup (Ladakhi and Tibetan cuisine) which is made up from Yak milk butter. It looks like sweet corn soup but have different taste, little salty and creamy., Matress contains little moisture because of the dew out there, still we slept in no time after dinner as we got tired after today’s ride.
Day 13(24 June 2015, Wednesday), Target- Manali —> We woke up little late, by around 8. When I came out of my tent, it was all empty tents out there. Everyone had to start early, so that they can reach their destination before sunset. Some riders from pune (MH12) came to our tents after they saw Mh14 bikes there. Had a good chat with them. They are heading towards Leh, so they asked us about the road conditions and all. We know about the baralacha pass, there are certain high intensity water streams that we need to pass today. One important point they mentioned that we should cross the pass ASAP, because in afternoon when sun at its peak, glaciers melted at high speed. Hence intensity of water stream increases.
After morning tea, we started our ride. Today we crossed two water crossings which was quite challenging. In one crossing my bike got stuck in large pebbles, water was about one and a half feet high there. And we didn’t have gum boots. We had normal woodland leather shoes. All icy water was inside my shoes now. It was very difficult to cross through main water stream. Even SUV cars found it very difficult to cross the stream. There was a parallel, steep alternate path of about 2 feet wide. On left of this steep path,it was a deep valley. Even a small balance fumble could be dangerous there.We had to take decision whether to go from main water stream or to take that steep dangerous path. We saw even 500 cc Royal Enfield was got stuck in stream. So after thorough inspection of path, we decided to take the steep route with proper guidance from our partners. Finally our bikes were able to cross that steep path. It was a relief moment for us.
Its 3 PM now and still Manali was 110 kms from there. Target was easily achievable at that moment. We were riding somewhere around Keylong(H.P.).My phone was attached in helmet for making video and it suddenly got rang. At first moment I was completely shocked because from past one week we were out of network coverage. So maybe we were in H.P. territory now and whoever is calling me, trying really hard to reach me because as soon as I came in network, my phone rang. I stopped my bike and saw that it was my brother’s phone. Oh Shit! Yesterday night I was not able to call my parents because of that Sarchu late night ride. And in the morning I completely forgot to call them, this happened because in morning we were busy to start our ride ASAP and to collect info about the route. My parents was really tensed at that time because everyday I used to call them and let them know where I am right now. I shared Ravi and Aditya postpaid numbers as well with my parents but that was also not working on that day. So they thought that something strange happened yesterday when I didn’t contacted them. I contacted my family immediately and told them that I am completely safe.They scold me for half an hour and I just listened them as it was my fault. I felt really bad at that moment, I was enjoying my trip and my family was in tension because of me.
My father also told me that my manager called him yesterday and said that “Vineet is supposed to be in office from today. His phone is also unreachable. We are absconding him, when he will comeback tell him that he needs to meet the HR first before joining the project again”. My father said “What are you doing son? You are not calling us on time and roaming from past two weeks without leave approval”. I said “No worries Dad. Things are in control, I will handle all these things in Pune”. My half an hour conversation ends here and then another half an hour conversation with my manager was about to start.
Actually this absconding situation arises because when I was about to start journey on Day 1 of my journey, my manager called me and told that 10 working days leaves is not possible. You have to cut short 2-3 days atleast. It was another half an hour fight with my manager, I told him how can I change my plan at end moment, so just to end the conversation I said “Ok. I will try”. Try means affirmative for managers. So I am in a absconding status now.
It was 4:00 PM now and still our Manali target was achievable. I did rash driving for couple of km as I was in bad temper at that moment. Ravi and Aditya saw me doing rush driving on such bad patches and dangerous roads. They stopped me for a tea break, much required at that moment. Now I felt lighter and relieved. As I said previously, you have to remain calm at every point otherwise you can ruin your remaining journey.
Suddenly it started raining very heavily and we had to stop around a small village named as ‘Sissu’. Manali was still 80 km from there and still we had cross the great Rohtang Pass. We were waiting for rain to got slow down from past one hour. Its already 6PM now, one of the local people also advised us, not to cross Rohtang Pass in such heavy rain. So we decided to stay here in Sissu for the night.
Had a chat with a young man there whose name is also Vineet. He is a farmer and told us the story of this small place. How people survive here in winter season. Most of their time wasted in clearing off the ice from their house and to keep the house warm. People here get productive only in summers and have to earn enough money in five months to survive for the whole year.
We celebrated the successful completion of our Ladakh Journey with some local people in Sissu, as tomorrow was going to be the last day in the journey for Aditya and then we two had to move forward towards Pune.
Day 14(25 June 2015, Thursday), Target- Manali —> Woke up by 6 in the morning. Its still raining out there, continuously raining from past 12 hours. So there was no point in waiting for the rain to stop .It was really cold out there. Yesterday when we checked in hotel we thought that tomorrow we’ll have to ride only 80 km and we can easily cover it 2 to 3 hours.
No matter how much I tried to expect the unexpected, but still this journey never failed to amaze me. Everyday there is something new that makes this journey even more tough, adventurous and memorable than the day before. when we started our ride, in couple of minutes we understood that today will gonna be another tough day for us. Indeed it was our toughest day in our journey. About 1 Km from Sissu, I saw thick mud path in front of us. When I entered there , after couple of meters my bike tyres was almost submerged in mud. I immediately stood off my bike, with the perception that it was a swamp river. Mud was so thick and deep that my bike still stands without any side-stand or support when I stood off from my bike. I waved my hand to Ravi who was riding behind me and told him not to enter this mud slush. But we all three had to enter in mud slush to pull off avenger behind. After 10 minutes of struggle when we came out of slush. But I was shocked to see that this path of about 200 meters got sloshed away yesterday night after landslide due to heavy rain.
One local driver told us about the alternate path of about 5 km which was very fragile and meets the main road after 1 km. So we had to ride 5 km to cover 1 km slashed main road. It was raining out there, temperature was quite low. Didn’t find any tea stall or anything to take rest. No point in stopping at some random location because at that time we were struggling from cold only. Shoes got filled with cold rain water, felt like someone was stabbing my feet with pins. I was not able to ride at that time, so to concentrate and distract my mind from pain, I sang same motivational song again and again from movie Lakshya ‘Kandhon se milte hai kandhe, kadmon se kadam milte hai’.
We encountered with another water crossing there. But in previous water crossing at Manali Leh highway other bikers were there to help eachother. But here in this crossing, no one was there apart from us and intensity was greater than previous crossings. We took 15 minutes to analyze the stream, where it was deep and where we need to be cautious. Now Ravi and Aditya decided to go first. Ravi was concentrating on riding and Aditya guided him. At one point bike got stuck, so Aditya had to step down and pull off the bike. Its my turn now, start was good but in the end of crossing, intensity and depth of water was so high that I lost balance and my bike fell down. Immediately Ravi and Aditya had to step in. My bike was not able to start now, so we had to pull it out of the stream. We all got tensed when my bike was not responding. Already we were struggling from cold and harsh temperature and running behind our schedule. We cannot afford bike failure at that moment. Finally after some carburetor setting, bike got started.
After one km we found four people in a shelter with gas stove with them. We immediately stopped there to take some heat and rest. We all were shivering badly and my condition was even worse, I was not able to pull off my shoes. One of the local people helped me with this. After half an hour of rest, we were ready to move forward. After we entered main road, it didn’t take much time to reach Rohtang Pass.
Before Rohtang Pass, we stopped for lunch in a small restaurant maintained by Nepali family at village named as Khoksar .They shifted to Khoksar after Nepal Earthquake. One lady there in restaurant was surprised after she saw our condition. She offered half bucket warm water to get our feet relieved. First we had local brew called Kahwa and coffee to get some warmness. In lunch as usual, we had Rajma Rice, Maggi and Momos. Met with Australian family there, who came with their two kids of age around 4-5 years. They started their journey from Manali and were going to complete this ladakh circuit on their cycles through Manali leh highway. Kids had their own cycles which was attached to their parent’s cycle. We all out there were surprised to see couple’s bravery who came with their kids to ride cycle on World’s Toughest Roads. Actually this couple is a Professional cyclers and anything can be achieve if you kept you preparation well. They already covered Southern America, Australia and Africa on their cycles. This was the first time when they came on cycling adventure with their kids. Kids were also looking relaxed and enjoying their adventure trip. Later on when I came back to Pune, saw some posts on Facebook about this Australian family’s bravery and how they completed Ladakh circuit with their children.
Reached Rohtang Pass in next one hour. It was crowded there. Tourist who came till Manali, can find good amount of ice only at Rohtang pass. As more and more tourist came there, white colored ice turned into brown. You can find people doing Skiing and other ice sports there. Natural beauty of this place has turned down as more tourist are coming. I found Rohtang Pass over rated in terms of its beauty and its tough path. We had already been to more beautiful places than and crossed tougher passes in our journey till now.
We reached Manali by 4 PM. First thing we did was to reach travel agency office to collect our luggage came from Leh. We got to know that driver also got stuck in Heavy rain and landslides on Manali leh highway route. First me and Ravi decided to move towards Mandi from there which is 110 km from Manali and Luggage can be taken care by Aditya, as he has to stay in Manali for today because next bus for delhi will be in next morning. But then we also decided to stay and relax in Manali after short but toughest ride in our trip. Had awesome Briyani in dinner from Lucknowi nawab restaurant at Mall Road.
Day 15(26 June 2015, Friday), Target- Delhi(Route– Mandi-chandigarh-Panipat-Delhi) —> Trip for Aditya ended here in Manali. After a bye bye Selfie with Aditya, we headed towards Mandi which was around 110 km from Manali. Had our breakfast in Mandi, Puri-bhaji and Aloo Paratha. Road till Mandi was full of curves and ghats. We were almost at sea level now and found pretty bad patches on the road between Mandi and Chandigarh. Nothing much to tell here, did our regular riding, fuel check, took break whenever required, either it was a drinks break or whenever back or butt pain increases. It was hot out there in Chandigarh. Saw couple of riders heading towards Manali from Delhi, we wished them best of luck for their journey as they just started their trip from Delhi. After Chandigarh it was four lane, butter smooth roads.
We rode nonstop from Chandigarh to Sonipat as I wanted to reach Delhi ASAP.We planned to stay with my brother in NCR (Ghaziabad). We reached there by 9PM. We missed our path as our GPS was not working and ended up wasting half an hour. After so many days of adventure, felt relaxed at home. Bhabhi(Sister-in-law) cooked delicious chole bhature and fruit custard for us. Had home made food after many days. After dinner we had some conversation about our journey so far. My Brother was little angry about that day, when I was not able to call them in Sarchu. Today we had crossed 5000 km mark in this journey.
With My Brother in Delhi
Day 16(27 June 2015, Saturday), Target- Udaipur(Route– Delhi-Jaipur-Ajmer-Udaipur)—> We wokeup at leisure by around 7 AM. Had poha and tea in breakfast made by Bhabhi. Now its time to move forward. Initially we had confusion about which route we should take. This is the first time in this journey that me and Ravi seems divided while taking any decision. I wanted to take M.P. route as we never ride there before and Ravi wants the same route which we took while coming from Pune (NH-8) as rood conditions are good there. M.P. route is 200 km shorter but road conditions there was not so good and we were already running out of time. So finally we decided to take NH-8. Had to enter Delhi city to take Gurgaon road, from where the mighty NH-8 starts. Time to fill petrol tank to the brim as it was cheaper in Delhi. After riding first 100 km, had to stop for half an hour. It was really hot out there. We felt little dehydrated on that day. Ravi took a nap of 15 minutes at Dhaba. Till jaipur and Ajmer weather was really hot. Around Jaipur, again there were two options to reach udaipur. Either you can take Bhilwara- Chittorgarh(NH-79) route or you can continue on Jaipur -Ajmer highway. So after some enquiry and discussion among us, we decided to continue on Jaipur-Ajmer (NH-8)route.
Near Beawar in Rajasthan,we stopped at sugarcane juice cart for some refreshment and this was the same cart at which we had juice while coming from Pune. Cart owner was a retired Army men. He also recognized us and when he came to know that we were coming from Ladakh, he started with his never ending stories when he was posted in Ladakh. His stories would never end, but we have to move forward now. Its 6 PM now and we had to cover couple of more km. One thing I realized in this journey that army men are very nostalgic. Never ending conversations started with them on any topic as if we were childhood friends .Actually they see there friends and family in you. From this you can realize how much they missed their family.
After many days I had home made food yesterday, so I ate little heavy. Now my stomach taking revenge on me, I am suffering from loose motion today. First I felt it near Jaipur, so I had to stop my bike at Petrol pump. I took a tablet immediately from my medikit. But today stomach was not in mood and creating grudging sound inside so again I had to stop, this time at restaurant. Now we were riding around Udaipur at 9 PM and my stomach won’t feel pity for me and it again compelled me to stop. I keep on riding from past 15 minutes to find anything around either petrol pump or restaurant. This was the longest 15 minutes for me in this journey. After I got relief, one famous line came in my mind ‘If you want something desperately, all the universe conspires in helping you get it’. This time I entered in wedding venue on highway. There I asked one people for the toilet. Wearing thick jacket in Rajasthan hot summers, my face turned black as I was riding from past 14 hours. Well dressed People around staring at me, who the hell is he?
We were again in Rajasthan now and we know that we can stay at Dhaba, so we not tried much to search for the hotel on highway. Hence today we rode till 10 PM. Had Dal chapatti at dhaba in dinner and now again its time to sleep in open sky.
Day 17(28 June 2015, Sunday), Target- Pune(Route– Udaipur-Ahemdabad-Surat-Bharuch-vasai-Mumbai-Pune)—>
Well Pune was still more than 1000 km from Udaipur. But with keeping Pune in mind, we started our ride today. We decided to had our night tea in Pune, even if we had to ride till midnight. Woke up at 6 in morning with couple of truck driver around us. All were stared at us like we were alien on this planet. After a ride of around 150 km, its time for breakfast. In Afternoon, we stopped near Surat for petrol refilling and there air check machine was faulty, instead of filling air it pumps out all the air from my tyre. That I felt after around 500 meter and I had to drag my bike back. There we ended up wasting our half an hour. We got stuck in heavy traffic at Narmada Golden bridge which connects Ankleshwar and Bharuch. But later on we covered distance as we were back on four lane highway.
All Eyes on us
Everything was fine and we were on time.It looks like we can reach Pune by midnight.I was very excited that now ,very soon I will going to complete my dream journey successfully. We stopped for evening tea break at around 7.There I felt little pain in my right foot. But I ignored it at that time and we moved forward. Now at around 9 PM near Vasia we stopped for dinner, Pune was still 250 km from there. I stepped out my right foot from shoe to get it relaxed and I got surprised to see huge swelling in my feet. Now I was even not able to walk properly. After Dinner I was not able to step-in my foot into shoe, my feet was paining like hell at that time. I asked one hotel staff there to bring some hot water in bucket. While I fomenting my foot, all hotel staff and even owner came to us as there and asked me if there was a major injury or something. I replied ‘No, its just normal swelling’. Owner asked from where we were coming and where we were heading towards. In answer,Ravi told him about our real journey that we were coming all the way from Ladakh ,blah blah. As usual, in first instance ,all got surprised and started their rapid fire questions. After Sometime owner turned out to be a storyteller. He narrate about his recent accident on his bike GT 650R.He showed his body marks and injuries. Narrate couple of other horrific accident stories which happened in front of his restaurant on highway. Whenever we heard all these accident stories, its normal that some negative thoughts starts coming in our mind and my leg was still paining but its time to move forward. I told Ravi that I am going to give it a try, but if pain persists, then we have to look for the stay.
After 2-3 kms ride,my pain was still unbearable. Saw one hotel on highway side. We decided to stay for the night, as I was even not able to walk now. Men at hotel reception thought that I had an major accident and told his subordinate to help me to reach my room. I said ‘Nothing major, little sprain in my leg. Yes, but I need your help to reach my room’. After get into the room, I asked him to get half bucket warm water and some salt. Felt little relief after some fomenting. Basically swelling occurs because of same sitting postures for hours while riding, hence restricted blood circulation happened. While sleeping I put two cushion below my foot to reverse the blood circulation. Today we had to reach Pune, but had to set back in Vasai. Still today we rode 800+ kms, our longest ride in a single day till now.
Day 18(29 June 2015, Monday), Target- Pune —> Final day has arrived. On previous day, I was worried about my pain and thought that I might not be able to ride today as well. But as I woke up in morning, I saw that all swelling was gone and I am able to walk now without any pain. From today morning I had to join office and we were in Vasai now, no worries we can join office in afternoon. We started our ride at around 7:30. While riding I said to Ravi “Dude, we have done it. About to complete our journey ‘Highway to heaven’ and now back to hell, same 9 to 6 job, same old shit.” In Mumbai, we came across heavy rain and it was very difficult to ride. So we stopped at tea stall. Had tea and bread omlet there. After half an hour break, rain got slow down and its time to complete this great journey. We rode nonstop from Thane to Pune in mild soothing rain. Its always a pleasure to ride around Pune in Monsoon.
On reaching Pune, its time for personal glory. Ended our journey from where we started, Ravi’s flat. Feels like our dream came true. We have done it, our months of preparation and planning proved fruitful today. We checked Pulsar’s trip reading which shows 6506.Wow, such a long journey. We covered 7 states and 2 UT in our whole journey. We congratulated each other for safe and successful journey.
While writing this blog, I realized how dangerous was this journey. But with god’s grace, I am back in one piece otherwise anything could have gone wrong on such a long road trip. I did not had to abandon road at any point of time. Now I am wondering that when I will have a road trip like this again. Not sure of exact time, but soon I will be on road again with longer and more adventurous journey.
At the end of this journey, I am a satisfied man. In our limited lives, we all can make unlimited money and end up losing sometimes your health or wealth, instead one should go on long road trip which always has a surprise at its every bend and where you can get lost but never lose !
I am ending my dream ride with some of my favourite quotes..
Tough time never lasts, but tough men do !
Biker never dies, he just fades away on the road.
Another line from one of my favourite song ‘The Nights’
One Day you’ll leave this world behind, So live a life that you will remember..
Cheers !! Ride Safe.