Vrooming through Leh-Ladakh

Vrooming through Leh-Ladakh

My love for travelling is something that I inherited from my father, who keeps on travelling till date at the age of 60. Since childhood, my friends Sahil and Deepesh, and I had a dream to travel. We always wanted to do Himalayan road trips.

Some time back, Sahil and I made up our mind to ride to Ladakh. We approached the Hindustan Motorcycling Company in Delhi for that. We booked our slots, bought all the necessary riding gears and tickets to Delhi. It was a 15-day road trip. There were 30 bikes and one SUV.

We hired a Royal Enfield 500 CC in Delhi and started our journey from Qutub Minar to Ludhiana. It is a highway and not much difficult to ride on. The next day, we set off to Udhampur. It was a hot day with temperature rising to 40 to 45 degrees. I was dressed in black and it was tough for me. I soon got dehydrated.
On day three, we began our ride to Srinagar. This was a dream-cum-true -- to ride over beautiful mountains.

Keeping in mind the scenario in Srinagar, we were instructed to reach the hotel by not later than 6 pm. Due to heavy traffic, we were stuck behind. Sahil and me were scared as no one was with us. We rushed and reached our destination safely. Day four was rest day for our bike. Meanwhile, we decided to explore Srinagar. We hired an auto and went to  Dal Lake. This was new to me -- the boat houses and the boat shops. We hired a ‘shikara’ for our ride on the lake.

In the afternoon, our bike was ready, so we visited the Pari Mahal in Srinagar. It has a beautiful architecture with a well-maintained garden. The view of Dal Lake from here was stunning.
We started for our next destination, which was Kargil, the next day. We crossed the Zozilla Pass, one of the highest passes in Kashmir with heavy traffic on the narrow road. We reached Dras War Memorial at noon. This part of the ride was a bit emotional for us. The guard narrated the story about what happened during war time and the challenges they face during winter as it is the coldest place in India. We reached Kargil in the evening.
With much pride, we set out for Leh the next day. The road was well maintained by the Border Road Organisation (BRO). Every biker’s dream is to ride to Ladakh. And we were lucky to see our dream getting close to us. Each passing day was giving us lessons.

We reached Leh by evening. With the organiser Surbhit, we went to explore the nightlife in Leh. If I compare Goa and Leh, Leh had a much better crowd than Goa and you will just fall for this town.
The next day was rest day for us. After coming so far, who will choose the option to rest? We decided to explore the town. We hired a taxi and visited the Leh Palace, ‘Shanti Stupa’, Hemis Monastery, Druk White Lotus School and a few other places.

After lunch, we headed back to our hotel.

By then, it had become a daily routine for us to wake up at 5 am every day, fuel up our tank the day before and check tyre pressure. The next day we had a good time in Chang La Pass and headed to Pangong TSO. The view was beautiful. The lake was beautiful and bleeding blue. It was freezing in the night but we were so tired that we missed our dinner and dozed on.

 The day arrived for our ride to Nubra Valley via Khardung La Pass. Khardungla Pass is the highest motorable road in the world. We decided not to stop at K-Top during our onward journey due to melting snow. By noon, we reached the Nubra Valley. In the evening, we went to the Nubra sand dunes. The best thing about Nubra Valley was the Bactrian Camels.

Later in the night, me, Sahil, Anand, Mansi and Mahesh, with our blankets, tripod and camera, headed towards the parking for stargazing. Thanks to the parked bikes, we did not get a perfect angle to set our camera.

Like an avatar, Surbhit came to us and asked what were trying to do. Though it was very dark, he took us to the Nubra Valley in his SUV. You could see the light glowing from the faraway village. As we gazed into the sky, we were lost. The stars were so near.

He had a surprise for us - the moonrise. On day 11, we started from Nubra valley by 9 am, and visited Maitreya Buddha. We continued towards the K-Top as we planned to stop here.

The journey downward was a bit challenging. Roads from Leh to Manali are really a pain. When we were heading to Sarchu, we learnt there are no petrol bunks till Sarchu. The last petrol bunk was 40 km away from Leh. The road condition is pathetic and we crossed few challenging water streams. In the afternoon around 4, we reached the first petrol bunk and fuelled up our tank. After having quick snacks, we reached the Sarchu tent by 6.30 pm.
We headed towards Manali the next day. We reached Rohtang Pass around 5 in the evening. In Rohtang Pass, we could feel the winds. With head held high and rain gears on, we started riding downhill towards Manali. It started raining heavily and I could only see the tail light of my front rider. In two-three hours, we reached downhill.
Mandi is a landslide prone area and we needed to start early. Our plan was to cross Mandi as early as possible. We set off for Chandigarh, which welcomed us with a rainbow.

The next day was the last day of our trip. Few of the fellow riders departed from Chandigarh, and we headed back to Delhi as we had to catch a flight back to Bengaluru.

After this trip, I became confident in organising more road trips and this led to the birth of our club -- ‘The 5th Gear Riders’.

(The author can be contacted at laxmia@5thgearriders.com)

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