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My sojourn with Ladakh

My sojourn with Ladakh

By Pushpinder singh (Pops8906 : BCMT )

The Dream

Like everybody I too dreamed of my journey to the heaven on earth which we call ‘Himalayas’ heaven on earth. Even Pandavas at the end of their journey took to Himalayas as their last refuge. The Ladakh bug caught me years ago but due to other important things in life it too back seat. But it stayed somewhere in the back of the mind and refused to go. It was always there in subconcious mind that it has to be done. Due to chance visit to Ladakh due to official commitments I had first hand view of the beauty called Ladakh and I decided that I have to do it.

The route to fullfilment of the dream.

I started thinking of how to do the trip. It struck me, what is the best way other than riding on the bike to Ladakh! None at all. So I decided to ride to Ladakh. Easier said than done many questions croped up, how to do the job. I was aware of Himalayan Odessy and there trips to Ladakh so searched there site and found that there idea of adventure was not what I was looking for so continued my search and came to Know about adventures of one gentleman called Yogesh Sarkar which was more near to what I was looking at. I knew where to look. In runup to preperations for the trip I joined the forum started by the Yogesh Sarkar easy to guess, BCMT. This is where I got all the information which was required for this mega adventure.

The D day
As the day got near I started getting nervous about the journey. I was about to embark on the journey of my lifetime. The day was a hectic as all the last minute preparations were carried. My mind were scrutinizing about the entire task carried out and what all was still to be done. My friend Naresh helped me with my packing as he was on night duty and would not be available to see me depart on epic journey. Packing completed made call to all the members of the team and finalized the departure timings and rendezvous points. Had my dinner set the alarm clock for 0300 hrs and retired to bed.
The alarm was bang on time and with it came the realization that this is the day I had waited all the time. Got up from the bed attended all the daily chores made call to all the members. Made a last minute check of all the things. Loaded all the stuff on my bike and with a prayer on the lips I departed for the first rendezvous with Ankur at Turn to Domestic airport on Delhi Gurgaon road. Ankur was nowhere to be seen on the preselected point Made a call to Ankur , there was no response I assumed that he must be on his bike which proved to be right as Ankur joined me shortly. Time for short introductory greetings as I was meeting Ankur first time physicaly. Both started towards our next rendezvous point karnal byepass. From domestic airport we took Dwarka underpass continued over Dwarka flyover at Palam crossing to Mahavir enclave, Dabri, Pankha road to JanakPuri Citycenter from there took left turn which went straight to Karnal byepass via Peeragarhi. Met Pravin sir who was waiting for us there. After short greetings we set out for next rendezvous point at Samalkha. It was 0530 hrs and the trip started leaving Delhi followed NH1 up to 70 Milestone Dhaba for first tea break.Where we were joined by Neeraj and Anil for completion of our team. When we were about to leave I saw a bajaj caliber with lauguage tied on. Was just wondering about the owner. Who turned out to be none other than Hoodibaba a Bcmtian with whom I had interacted few days back. Hoodibaba was going to Shimla along with his family. Hoodibaba wished the team good luck for the journey.
The team completed, now it was time to move on and that’s what we did. The pack started moving on highway towards our destination of our dreams. What a feeling it is was, it is beyond words to describe. It was decided to drive safely and stop at Ambala for breakfast and refueling as fuel in Punjab is costly. The drive on Nh 1 is very good with occasional bad patches due to construction activity which started after Panipat and continued up to Phagwara in Punjab. We were cruising on highway munching miles enjoying the green fields along the highway. Reached Ambala and it was time for refueling. The bikes were topped up and we moved out after some time Anil asked me for whereabouts of Neeraj. Stopped by the side and gave a call to Neeraj. Who informed that he is at petrol pump as his bike is not starting. Told Neeraj that we are coming and asked Praveen sir and Ankur to wait for us at nearest dhaba. Along with Anil went back towards the petrol pump. It turned out that his bike had complete electrical failure but the bike started by pushing. We took Neeraj along and we decided to have his bike rectified in Ludhiana. We learnt an important lesson which we applied throughout the trip of not to move till all the bikes have started. It was an essential lesson learnt in a hard way. Joined p[raven and Ankur at Oberai Dhaba after Shambu toll barrier. Had our breakfast of parathas with a cup to tea and much needed break for bikes and the riders. Post break it was decided to make next halt at Ludhiana and continued on our trip till Ludhiana. Gave a call to my wife that we will be having lunch and will be having a short break only. Around 1330 reached My house in Ludhiana for lunch. After lunch It was also time for reunion with my family as I stay In Delhi and come home usually in weekends, also collected my camera. Neeraj gave a call to his mechanic who instructed to change the fuse on his bike. The bike started after the fuse was changed. Bid good bye to the wife and my son we started on our journey towards Pathankot. The road from Ludhiana to Phagwara is not in good shape with lot of construction activity going on it is bad especially between Phillaur and Goraya. Ankur got his rear view mirrors fixed at Phagwara and we started towards Jullandhar. Reached PAP chowk and took right turn towards Pathankot continued straight and then took right turn for Pathankot. The roads after Jullandhar were generally good barring few patches. Stopped for tea break at Lally Bawa hotel. After break continued up till Pathankot stopped near the Idol of Lord Shiva for break and his blessings for further journey. It was around 1815 in the evening and we decided to continue till Samba. The road around Lakhanpur border was in pathetic state but it turned out to be for short distance only to be greeted by wonderful piece of tarmac with no traffic it was time to cruise away to Samba. Reached Samba around 1930hrs took a room at Vishal guest house the room was big enough for the bikers and the lauguage, asked hotel staff to arrange the dinner. After dinner called it day and retired to bed. End of day one.

All the Photographs have been contributed by Neeraj, Ankur and mys self. all the bad photographs are my contribution.



Day 2
The day started at 0530 hrs I have a habit that no matter what time I go to bed I am awake by 0530 hrs. After daily chores started packing the stuff which was unpacked for the night stay. By 0630 loaded the stuff on the bike and cleared the hotel bill waited for the late comers. After all the engines fired started day two towards destination for the day Srinagar. I had been to Srinagar on many occasions due to my official commitments. I was aware of the route so it was decided that I would be leading the pack. First commitment of the day , refueled the bikes. This was the first commitment during full trip we made a habit to refuel the bikes at first available pumping station.
After refueling proceeded towards the bridge just after the bridge turned towards right towards Udhampur straight went towards Jammu. This way we save the hustle of crossing Jammu and also had bonus of beautiful winding roads. We were stopped by the policemen near very beautiful lake could not remember the name but after some queries were allowed to proceed further. There were few dhabas at a T point where the road met a road coming from Dhar. Praveen sir wanted to clean his air filter and Anil wanted to show his tyre for suspected foreign body which turned out to be filler of puncture used in tubeless tyres. By the time ordered the breakfast and tea. Proceeded towards Udhampur . Just before entering Udhampur had the first scare of the trip when Neeraj escaped getting under the truck who was turning towards left with Neeraj trying to overtake from left. By the grace of Almighty he and his steed were unhurt learnt lesson no02 never overtake from left and wait for signal to overtake. Got some cash from the ATM and got rear view mirrors for my steed. Which turned out to be useless as they were not giving good coverage nevertheless rode on. First time in the ride riders got separated myself and Ankur made out of the town and we waited for others to turn up. Used the opportunity for some photographs and pee break. The gang joined us and we rode towards Picturesque Patnitop. The roads were now winding and climbing with change in scenery . The road along the stream was stunning was tempted for stops but kept moving on.
The winding roads to Patnintop were stunning and just could not stop myself from taking break and stop for photographs being a horrible photographer concentrated on the ride and left the job to Ankur Neeraj and Praveen sir to fill in and provide the memories to cherish. The weather in Patnitop was a welcome change from blistering hot climate of the plains. The road at the Patnitop was chock a block with traffic .Started the decent on beautiful winding roads trying to sock in the beautiful vistas enroute. The gang stopped at Batote for a cup of tea with some fruits as addition, sounds strange but it was worth it. Bodies refueled and refreshed, butts rested the riders rode on. Was stopped in the tracks by the magnificent site of Baghalihar dam across river Chenab whom we would be seeing in Himachal as Chandrabhaga. Stopped for some photographs and proceeded towards our destination with gurgling waters of Chenab for company.
We were stopped by the police near Ramban on enquiry we were told that no vehicles are allowed to proceed further till further orders. Requested the police officer to kindly let us talk to his superiors. He obliged us and was kind enough to listen to us and allowed us to proceed when we assured him that we were going to Leh and Amarnath yatris, Encountered yet another roadblock before Banihal it turned out to be short one.
Before the famous Jawahar tunnel stopped for tea and Magi break as we had not had our lunch. As we started to mount our steeds we were greeted by the rain drops and immediately decided to don raingear which proved to be wise decision as when got out of the tunnel it had started raining like cats and dogs. The rains gave us company till Awantipore before Srinagar riding in rains brought our speed down and now we were hardly riding at 30 to 40 kmph. Kept on riding. Anil and myself were riding together and rest of the riders were nowhere to be seen stopped at shelter along the road and waited for the gang to show up.
Here it was decide to reach Srinagar and stay with Neer aj’s brother who is posted at Srinagar. Waited for rain to slow down but rain God had other ideas so continued the journey in the scenic Kashmir valley. The views along the road were straight out of the bolywood movies of Yash Chopra era where the heros would romance with heroines in open jeep. We missed the heroines but our steeds filled the jeep part it was really thrilling driving on this beautifully chinar lined roads. Due to rains could not take photographs but there are things to be left for future trips.
Reached Col Chikara’s place around sunset and he ensured that our stay would be a memorable on with traditional army hospitality. Settled into our rooms and kept our cloths for drying and including shoes. We were politely reminded by the orderlies that Col Chikara sir would like our company at 2030 hrs in Bar. Immediately showered and changed ito whatever gear we could manage but still it fell short of the required standard and we were hosted in entertainment room by our host. It was memorable evening with Col who gave us valuable inputs about the region he was joined by another gentleman officer who gave us company over round of drinks and dinner. We were wished best of luck by Col Chikara sir for our onward journey and we came back to our rooms for small round of discussions and retired to bed. The stay with Col turned out to be the best in the trip.

Day 3 Srinagar to Drass
The day started with the cup of tea provided by the orderlies around 0545. Got out of the bed and started collecting the luggage after attending daily rituals. The cloths had dried to some extent. By the time luggage was packed and loaded on the bikes it was 0715. We were told by the staff that breakfast will be ready in sometime. After breakfast and thanking our host we set off for the journey.
Neeraj and Anil were without gloves and some time was lost in trying to get gloves for them but even after searching some of the shops suitable gloves could not be bought. By the time Praveen sir said his shocker seal is leaking oil and he would like to show his bike to the mechanic. There are not many mechanics in Srinagar who attend to Bullets we were referred to on mechanic near BB Cantt area lost considerable time in locating the mechanic. The mechanic said that he is not free and he would be attending the bike till evening only, Praveen sir decided to move on but considerable time was lost. Met Skip from California with his friends from Australia. We exchanged the route conditions enroute as they have come from Manali side and we had come from Jammu. They were curious about Srinagar Jammu highway and said that conditions enroute Manali were pathetic but the scenery on the way was really breathtaking skip’s friend went on to say that this is the most scenic road in the entire world it was very heartwarming to listen to such words from a person who has travelled around the world. Told them about Udhampur Samba Bye pass which they were not aware of after exchange of pleasantries bid the good bye and wished them luck for onward journey.
Ankur was very keen to do some photography at Dal lake so everyone took detour to the lake and parked our bike near the lake for photography and enjoying the wonderful views on the boulevard road it was crowded but still it is something to cherish and it stays with you for a long time. After soaking in the view we decided to move on as there was distance to be covered. Rode along the lake and took right turn towards Sonmarg. Refueled the bikes at the pump.
The roads after Srinagar were a mixed affair dotted with small streams and lot of greenery around the roads. There was lot of traffic on the roads with typical North Indian style that is coming from all directions. Roads were very narrow at many places. Stopped for cup of tea at Sindh view restaurant on the banks of river Sindh. The views along the river were splendid, after stopping for sometime decided to stop at Sonmarg for lunch. The road to Sonmarg was splendid and could make good time. Just before Sonmarg my front left shocker seal got damaged because of sudden braking and started leaking oil.
The road along the river was very scenic and one is always prompted to stop for photographs but being already short on time breaks were in short supply but could not stop at one point and stopped for photographs before Sonmarg. The vistas all around Sonmarg are breathtqaking. Stopped at Dogra Bhojanalaya for lunch. The food was good in clean environment. The break was utilized by Neeraj for buying his gloves and they also purchase a polythene sheet for waterproofing of luggage. Which proved very useful in later part of the trip. After lunch started for mighty Zozila we unpacked our jackets as we expected the weather to be cold at the pass. We were anxious to cross the pass as had heard many tales of the horrible conditions on the pass.
After crossing Baltal saw a huge lineup of trucks and other vehicles stranded on the road. Just continued as there was way for two wheelers we were finally stopped few hundred meters of the jam by the BRO personnel. We learnt that there is blasting on the road ahead and it would take at least 30 to 45 minutes for the roads to open. Used this opportunity for clicking our group photos which turned out to be highlight of the trip. The views around our stopover compelled us to utilize this opportunity to the fullest.
The road opened and we were the first to proceed. The ascent to Zozila as presumed was dotted with slush and rocky roads with lot of ice still on the sides. As compared to all the passes which we crossed on this adventure run the width of the road was very less, being first high altitude pass on the journey it was thrilling. It started raining the moment we crossed the pass, quickly we changed to our raingear and carried on. The road conditions on Drass side were better and most of the sections paved with lot of ice on the sides. We were greeted with beautiful site of meadows all around waited for the gang to regroup. The bad roads continued for a while and suddenly the roads turned into smooth tarred winding roads downhill till one the numerous army camps which came our way and. The roads till Drass were mix of smooth tarmac and broken roads along the river Drass. Crossed Batra camp name after famous matyr who always said “Yeh dil maange more”. Spent some time by the board which explained the exploits of the valiant soldiers of the unit which had played important part in battle of Kargil. Reached Drass town as it was sunset and not sure of road s ahead to Kargil decided to make a night halt at Drass. Booked two rooms at hotel hillview and after having dinner at the nearby resteraunt called it a day


Day 4 Drass to Chamba view Hotel
The day started as usual with our group missing ETD (expected time of departure). We started around 0715 hrs and continued till our first stop of the day at Drass war memorial. It was an opportunity to pay our homage to the men in uniform who had given there today to save our future. Just spent time remembering the sacrifices made by the valiant men, had read lot about the war. Had a talk with the soldiers posted there and some bikers. Who were coming from Kargil and enquired about the road conditions ahead.
The road conditions from Drass towards Kargil were very bad with broken roads all along. But again it was compensated with beautiful scenary all along the road. I was bit apprehensive too, as we were very near to the line of actual control and it sent shivers down spine by knowing that these heights were in control of the Pakistani militia and they were in position to take pot shots at the vehicles moving on the road at their will. Thanked the brave men due to whom we could motor on these roads peacefully. The road along the river is a joy to ride and after confluence of river Drass and Suru took right turn towards Kargil. I was riding along with Anil ahead of the pack as I had to get my front shock absorber seal replaced at Kargil. Reached Kargil and searched for the mechaninc. Was guided to MA Automobiles where the seal was replaced, meantime the pack united at the bike shop and after paying the owner started the journey by the time I reached the bridge on river Suru observed that there heavy leakage of oil from the shock. Came back to the shop and got the seal changed again and thankfully this time the leakage stopped. Continued and joined Ankur, Neeraj and Anil at road side Dhaba for tea and biscuits Pravin sir was riding ahead.
The roads were mixed with broken roads and some good tarmac sections. Now the hillocks around were devoid of any vegetation and as had read in the forum many times were of many shades. As usual the vegetation was concentrated along the streams. This area around Kargil is good for growing fruits like apricots. Continued up to Mulbek where Pravin sir was waiting for us at dhaba near the statue of Maitreya Buddha. According to Buddhist beliefs Maitreya Budha will be fifth Budha in incarnation (as mentioned on the board at the site). Stopped for lunch and the opportunity was utilized fully by Ankur for valuable photographs of the monastery and statue.
After lunch had first in the series of punctures which were to haunt me in rest of the trip. I had just moved when Pravin sir said that there my rear tire is deflated. I took out my foot pump which I had taken from friend from Delhi only to find out that it is unserviceable. But we had another one with Pravin sir and it was put to use. The loss of pressure was quite less and I inflated the tire and shot off .this was carried out three times till I reached on outskirts of Lamarayu where I could spot a puncture repair shop. Down side of this was that I could not enjoy the scenery as much as I would like. Because I had to rush it to cover the distance. I had to remove the tire and give it to the mechanic as he used to repair only truck tires and maybe he was acting funny. Here too Pravin sir’s expertise came in handy. After repairing the pucture we moved on and it was decided to follow Hangaroo loops. This decision proved to be troublesome in later part of the day as we took almost maround 01 hr more than the main route. The hangaroo loops road is picturesque. There were numerous shortcut on the loops and I was tempted to take a one which eventually led to first fall of the trip. I was the one to be honored. Pravin sir and anil came to rescue quickly and by the grace of almight there was no damage to the man and machine. The road conditions between Mulbek and Lamarayu were mixed lot with some beautiful twisting roads and some dirt roads. There are some sections being under repair. There was lot of fine dust in some sections it is better to use mask if you are riding.
It was sun down by the time we reached Khalste. It was the time for deliberations as what should be our night halt point and grudgingly it decided to night halt at Nimu as road conditions ahead were reported to be ok. Requiring to ride after dark. Neeraj had some apprehensions about riding in night which was sorted out after some discussion. The road ahead of Nurla along the river Indus was not very good and had broken sections reducing speed and comfort level. This prompted us to look for accommodation, being in unknown areas after dark doesn’t help the matter either. Checked out few locations but were returned empty handed, met another group of bikers at tea shop they too were facing accommodation problem and were planning to continue till Leh. After a cup of tea we started towards Leh and road s after Sispal were very good and we were making good time. But missed the views along the river Indus. Some things left for the future trips. Stopped at Chamba view Hotel and enquired about availability of rooms. It was quite a relief to know that rooms were available. Offloaded the bikes and put the stuff in room and came down for dinner. It was pleasant surprise when caretaker told that drinks are also available. Dinner after few round of drinks was a pleasant way to end the otherwise grueling day.

Day of reckoning
The day started with loading of bike with bare essentials for the trip. We kept excess luggage with the landlady as we had decided to stay in the same guest house after coming back from Nubra valley. This was better option as there was no point in taking bikes fully loaded for the trip. Bikes loaded it was time to move on. The pack moved to the petrol for refueling the bikes.
After crossing the board we were on the road to khardungla. It is always a mixed feeling when you are attempting to conquer the highest motor able road in the world. The road to Khardungla is quite good compared to some other passes we encountered on the trip. The road till South pallu is very good winding road with steady climb. Once you leave Leh there is continuous climb till K top. The first stop enroute is South Pallu where you are required to show your inner line permits. The officials just write your vehicle numbers and number of person in each vehicle. It is always better if you write this in advance and handover the same to the official at the posts. South Pallu is also ideal stop for breakfast and nice hot tea or coffee. We had a nice and friendly chat with a soldier who hailed from Jammu.
Here we met three German tourists. We had a nice discussion about the routes as they were anxious to know about the Srinagar route. The bikers, I found are always ready to share their experiences about route conditions. The conditions immediately after south pallu are bad and deteriorate very fast with broken roads and steep ascent the fallen trucks in the deep valley also do not help matters. But the thrill of reaching K top overcomes all this and you are eagerly waiting to reach the top. Suddenly after crossing a corner I saw flurry of activity and voila! There lies the mighty K top. The weather on the top was sunny and pleasant with lot of tourists trying to soak in the view. I felt sense of accomplishment on reaching at K top. Waited for the gang to catch up and it time to cherish the moments on top. Then started the Photo session we were joined by the Germans we met at the South pallu. It was the spirit of festivities at the top.
It was time to move on. The road conditions north of K top are bad to worse with steep slopes. We encountered an expedition team of kingfisher blue who were making television documentary at the K top with their film crew filming bikers coming down from k top. Encountered a traffic jam just before North pallu this due to blasting carried out by the BRO people. We got our bikes in the front and as soon as the road was cleared we moved on to North pallu and gave a copy of permit to the official on duty and moved on. It was before Khardung village when Pravin sir complained of severe headache. One disprin and hour an hour of rest did wonders and he was fit as fiddle to ride on. Khardung village had number of dhabas and it was time to fill our bellies with much needed grub. Lovely stream nearby was utilized to wash our faces and it proved refreshing. Tried thupka for lunch but it was not to my liking and went for tried and tested dal chawal.
We were greeted by the sight of Shyok River along the road. These are the sights for which all this pain is taken. There is a diversion on the road towards Siachen valley which goes to Panamic springs we decided to give it a miss and take left turn for Nubra valley. The straight road in whitish grey sands provides stunning views. We decided to move on to main sand dune area near Hundar. Stopped near dune view point for photographs and there we met a group from Delhi which included a gentleman from Delhi airport. Ankur was keen on joining Camel safari so rushed to camel safari point.
Hundar is home to famous Bactrian camels. These are double humped camels bit smaller than their cousins found all around the world. Bactrian camels are found in Mongolia other than Hundar. The safari point had started looking like any other tourist place with lot of tourists around. The beauty of the place is seen to be believed because I am not capable of expressing in words. Ankur and Pravin sir indulged themselves the luxury of camel ride rest of the gang was shutter happy. After spending considerable time at dunes it was time to look out for accommodation. Saw a board indicating Habib guest house went in and liked what we saw. Stay decided it was time for evening activities and some photographs.
It was time for making a steaming cup of magi tomato soup along the stream flowing through the dunes. Pravin sir had Pine sticks with him and we collected firewood and a make shift fireplace was set up. Out came the pans and bottle of rum courtesy Neeraj and it was time to enjoy the evening. And it was evening to remember for long time. After the round of drinks and Soup it was time to put off fire and head back to the guest house. I took a detour with Pravin sir for calling home. After Calling home it was dinner time at the guesthouse. The dinner was served Ladakhi style and was very tasty. After dinner it was time to call it a day.

Day 7 Nubra to Leh

The day started on a lazy note as the destination was Leh only, initially wanted to tryout Agam route but it was dropped after discussion in the group due to prevailing uncertainty of the route. Utilized the time for maintenance of bikes cleaned the air filter and dusted the bike to the extent possible. After hearty breakfast consisting of Ladakhi bread it was time to move on. The pack was moving in now familiar formation Anil leading and Neeraj trailing at the back.
The first stop was at famous statue of Buddha in Diskit over a hillock providing some of the breathtaking views of the Shyok valley and occasionally one can see an aircraft or helicopter heading to the airfield near Hundar. It was as usual busy time for shutterbugs like Ankur and Neeraj who decided to make best use of this opportunity. Here we had pleasure of interacting with the group of tourists from Gujrat consisting of old and young people. As usual they were full of appreciative words for bikers. After few clicks with them it was time for the pack to move on. The pack decided to spend some time at dunes for few clicks and spend some time in the sands.
It started raining when we were approaching Khardung village it was time to change into raingear. This unscheduled stop was utilized for maggi and hot cup of tea which was required badly. My shocker seal was leaking and I told Pravin sir that I will be moving slowly and would not be taking breaks quite often, even if it required riding alone. I started ahead of the pack and slowly labored on towards mighty K Top
Reached K Top, the weather at the top was anything but pleasant and it had started to snow and there were only handful of the people including a group of bikers from Jullandhar. After an agonizing wait the group started showing up at the pass. The reason for the delay was problems with Hero Hunk of Anil which was showing its tantrums in climbing K top and had to be virtually pushed manually at many places. After few photographs at the pass and it was time to move on. The decent to South Pallu was nothing to write home about and we decided to stop for magi and a cup of hot tea. Mounted the steeds only to find my rear tire deflated Inflated the tire and Dashed off toward the first available puncturewala. The search for the puncturewala ended in airport road at Leh. Got my puncture repaired and decided to put new tube in the tire. As no more punctures were welcome on the trip. Anil decided to show his bike to Sashi the famous mechanic on the Airport road. Sashi assured him that he will rectify his bike in the morning. My left Shocker was leaking oil again and as per Sashi my Shocker rod needed replacement. As the quality of rods available was worth its money it was best to replace in Manali or Chandigah.
Reached back at Semnet Guesthouse dumped the luggage and headed to the Leh bazaar for some window shopping and dinner. It was time buy some t’shirts as souvenir and dinner marking the end of another day in our Ladakh oddessy.

Day of misses
Things were not as per plan from yesterday itself. The plan for early start was shelved yesterday itself when Anil’s bike could not be repaired and Shashi had called him in the morning. Further weather Gods were not on our side today. It was depressing start of the day. Nevertheless it was decided to make an attempt for Pangongso.
Anil went to the mechanic at the first light of the day. By the time it had started drizzling and till the time we started it had started to rain steadily. Refueled the bikes at petrol pump and moved towards the Airport road to Shashi’s Garage. The bike was repaired by the time we reached but there was another problem as Anil was without raincoat and it is very difficult to ride without raingear in cold environment of Ladakh. Neeraj suggested that he along with Anil will purchase raingear from market and join us at Karu.
Pravin sir, Ankur and I started in the rain first time in the trip wore my gum boots which proved very useful. Three of us continued towards Karu. We were riding at leisurely pace as we wanted Neeraj and Anil to join us and we don’t have to wait for them. We reached and started a long wait for Neeran and Anil meanwhile had tea and magi as we had not eaten anything since morning. It was still raining heavily when Neeraj joined us at Karu. After quick tea break for them we started for Pangongso.
The road towards Changla seemed to be newly laid. With rain and my rear tire not in good shape it was proving to be herculean task to maintain grip on the road. The roads were good and after Shakti it was continuous ascent. The progress was slow but as we had planned to stay at the lake it was no issue. We were continuously going in out of clouds which at a time reduced visibility to alarming levels. With free road it was not a big issue till I had narrowly missed hitting an innova coming at a breakneck speed around the blind curve. But by God’s grace there was no harm and we continued the journey in rain and clouds.
The rain had turned into sleet and with my experience I knew that in no time it is going to snow. Stoped at Zingral army camp to enquire about whether enroute. Meanwhile we joined by the bikers of Kingfisher blue expedition team. They were accompanied by their camera crew and support team. The discussions about future course of action ensued. The break was utilized for putting on more warm clothing to fight the bone chilling cold. The kingfisher bikers decided to leave their bikes and proceed to Pangongso in their support vehicles and we decided to move on. It is at these times one truly appreciates the value of support teams. The conditions were worsening with snow falling it was too much to take and few kilometers from Changla the pack chickened out and decided to return. It was a heartbreaking move as with available number of days we were in no position to visit Pangongso. With heavy heart we started towards Karu. The ride till Karu was uneventful. By the time we reached Karu weather Gods also changed their mood and we were greeted by bright sunshine. It was time for lunch and the cover as much distance as possible on our way to Manali.
The road from Upshi after leaving mighty Indus was along the stream which drains into Indus there was evidence of last year’s floods in Ladakh as at many places the roads had been washed away. The landscape was barren with mountains of different hues and colours. Finally on reaching Rumtse we decided to make a night halt at roadside Dhaba. Had a small excursion to the stream and enjoyed the view and it was refreshing to sit by the side of rivulet listening to the gushing water. Came back to the dhaba had a small drink and retired to bed. One caution to all the friends visiting high altitude areas it is best to avoid liquor if not restrict the intake.

Day 09 Home run part-I

It was surprise of the sorts when habitual late comers were first to mount, I and Pravin sir were bit late in mounting the steeds. This enabled the pack to leave before sun God could shower us with his golden rays and warmth. The sun which is merciless in plains during summer is always welcome in the hills for extra warmth. The weather Gods were again at their odds against us with slight showers for company to mighty Tanglangla which eventually turned to snowfall. The ride was proving to be tough with occasional forays into clouds bringing visibility to alarmingly low levels. The roads were also not good with road construction taking its toll. Slowly and steadily climbed towards top in freezing conditions. Made it a point to stop for fellow rider. Continued in this condition and heaved a sigh on seeing the sign board announcing arrival of mighty Tanglangla. It was a short break for shutter bugs as no one was willing to stay in freezing temperatures. The unpredictable nature of weather on passes was true to its reputation. We were greeted with first rays of sun for the day on the first turn itself. The downhill riding was uneventful and stopped at the first Dhaba which we later came to know was at Debring for cup of tea and alloo parathas.
Met some of the truckers and enquired about the route conditions and especially a water crossing after Baralacha about which we were told to be notorious by some bikers in Leh. Truckers confirmed our beliefs and said it is best to cross in the morning when water flow is less. After breakfast it was time for our tryst with much talked about Morraei plains. Contrary to what I had heard about plains being suitable for high speed run it turned out to be mixture of loose sand and lot of dust around. There was dust on us on our bikes and even my shoes which were tied on the back were covered in fine layer of dust. With ongoing road construction forcing your to go off road. However after completion of road construction it will definitely prove to a high speed run. The road was lined with nomads camping along with their livestock. Due to shortage gave them a pass and kept moving to stop at Pang for a cup of tea and much needed break, the bike too had taken beating and was leaking oil from front left shock.
The road after Pang is laced with magnificent views of mountains cut by effects of wind erosion. However road conditions were marred by bad patches abounds with ample water crossings. It was completely dry and dusty conditions up to first of the two passes before Sarchu. Reached Lachlungla closely followed by Nakeela pass saw a black Tata Safari coming down following short cut. Shortly after Nakeela famous Gataloops start. I was riding ahead of the pack and missed the start of Gata loops after two to three loops I realized that I am on Loops. The road after loops is a pure bliss with fine tarmac along the river with magnificent vistas all around. Reached Sarchu and decided to wait for the pack to arrive and ordered the lunch for all of us to save time.
After lunch it was time to move on. There were number of camping tents along the route to Baralacha on the himachal side and only dhabas on J&k side. I was not keen to cross Baralacha in the evening as I was apprehensive of crossing the notorious water crossing after Baralacha. The road after Sarchu to Baralacha is mix of some good roads and bad patches with loose stones in abundance. After the settlement of Bharatpur the road conditions worsen but the vistas continue to enchant the riders. There was lot of snow on the pass and the Suraj Tal presented a surreal atmosphere. The vistas were so enchanting that it was difficult to depart and got entrenched in my mind. But like all things there is time to depart and timelines to meet. With sweet memories of Baralacha we continued with the journey to stop at the water crossing which I eagerly waiting since morning. The demon was there in its full glory with a struck innova right in front. The gushing stream was terribly insane. Time for some planning and the heads united in trying to figure a way out. The plan chalked was to put bikes one by one and all others will assist in crossing. Anil was first to go and rest all followed. By the time all the bikes were on other end we were drenched to the bones and with evening chill it was freezing.
There was no point in stopping and we were eager to get rid of wet cloths and some hot cup of tea. There were Dhabas immediately after the water crossing but I continued till Zingzing bar which turned out to be a big disappointment with only one dhaba there with only one tent. This was first experience during the trip of spending night in the tent. After change of clothes and wet cloths left for drying in available space it was time for cup of tea. The tent was for four people but we five squeezed in. After some drinks and dinner followed by some bakar it was time to retire.
Photos by Ankur, Pravin and self.

Home run part II Shot finals

There was lack of urgency in the team today, mainly due to two reasons one being tough ride of previous day and comparatively short ride for the day. Dhaba owner prepared tea for the group. We were joined by the group of travelers from Mumbai in Toyota Fortuner after brief interaction we learned that they had been waiting at Rohtang jot for almost more than 9 hours to cross few kilometers of the treacherous path. This gave us idea of what to expect for the day. With uncertainties of Rohatang jot in mind the pack mounted the steeds and rode off.

The road was a mixed lot with more broken patches than good tarmac coupled with some water crossings. The water crossings were small not requiring valiant effort like the one we encountered near Zingzingbar. It was smooth sailing with only obstruction being the convoy of army trucks moving towards Leh the convoy was a long one and we had to stop at the side to let the trucks pass as the roads are quite narrow at most places. I had been enjoying the ride with stunning vistas of Bhaga River when I was struck with misfortune of another puncture. Promptly out came the pump from Pravin sir’s kit and filled the tube and rushed towards Darcha. As soon as one crosses the bridge on the river Bhaga there were few Dhabas with puncture repair shop as well. Removed the wheel and gave it to the puncture-wala meantime it was time to utilize the break for some aaloo parathas with cup of tea. Prathas were nothing to write about and not up to the standards we are used to. After breakfast and repair of puncture it was time to move on.

The road from Darcha was broken at many places and there was dust flying all around covering us in the dust. The traffic had also increased after Jispa with the buses increasing our discomfort due to dust showers. Nevertheless the views were stunning and soon we reached the town of Keylong which I had heard and read many times. We simply pushed ahead and reached the confluence of Chandra and Bhaga forming famed Chandrabhaga. The views along the confluence were really stunning. The very famous petrol pump lies a short distance from the confluence Neeraj took some fuel and we marched towards Kokhsar along the Chandra River. The road from Tandi to Kokhsar is laid with fine tarmac and stunning views as complementary. The area showed ample signs of affluence as it is famous for potatoes seeds and peas. Just before Sisu we had another puncture this time Avenger was the culprit. After filling the air in tube it was dash to the nearest puncturewala. Fortunately we did not have to look too far he was available around the corner and time to repair the tube.

The views along the road near Sisu were great and we were also covering the distance quite well and reached the town to Kokhsar and it was time for lunch. Neeraj’s bike’s chain was acting funny and Pravin sir adjusted the chain to correct specifications and the pack moved on to be stopped in their tracks by a spectacular view of gushing waterfall after Kokhsar. Out came the cameras to satisfy the hunger of shutterbugs. The journey is shutterbugs delight with only memory storage a problem as there was no shortage of vistas to capture. The climb to Rohtang proved to be uneventful and we reached the deserted top to enjoy the serene atmosphere among ourselves. With shutterbugs satisfied it was time to move on to face the nightmare of the journey and it was true to its reputation. The famed road after Rani Nallah proved to be nemesis of one too many motorists and their cars and bikes bearing testimony to it parked on the side of the roads waiting to be repaired. It was one treacherous ride with the pack taking turns to cross one by one. All the riders pushing one bike to clear zone same routine was followed for all the bikes to save clutch and mechanical damage. The army convoy addend to our discomfort and it took nearly 2 hours to cross that small stretch. Rohtang jot has lived up to its reputation.

Took a small tea break at Marhi to rest our tired bodies and also to change in to rain gear as it had started raining heavily again. After cup of tea it was time to move on the rain played spoilsport could not enjoy the scenery and no cameras out of the bags it was dash to Manali and find decent accommodation. The search ended at Manali hotel on the main road, the place was ok but parking was on the road itself. Just dumped the luggage in the room and went to the market for drawing money from ATM and few beers for the guys. The dinner at the nearby dhaba after the beers was ok and it was time to retire after a long and tiring day.