Monday, 26 December 2016

The Magnificient Spiti Valley and A Revisit to the much Changed Laddkah July 2014!!

1. Intro. I was intorduced to the magical world of biking early in the year 2011 when I bought the Yamaha R15 V1. With my very first trip to Laddkah, I learnt the nuances of biking the hard way. Since then I did many trips across central and north India but the most eagerly awaited trip was the revisit to the Laddkah valley. My friend and fellow rider during the Laddakh trip in June 2011,  Abhinav, had done the same trip for three consecutive years since 2011 with different fellow riders! Hats off to him for managing that! I on other hand, did try to accompany them every  year but could'nt manage my leave with their's. Finally, in 2014, I planned in advance and made sure that I get leave in June/July. I got in touch with Abhinav and told him my plan to do the trip agian, this time in July. He expressed his willingness but a lot had changed for him in three years. He now had a girl friend, Paranshu, whom I also knew as a friend and who wanted to accompany Abhinav in this trip. So, he planned to get her along as a pillon and he also suggested that this time we should make the trip much better in every way. So just then Spiti valley came to my mind. My sister, who is a wildlife conservationist, visited Spiti valley for few months for one of her projects and mentioned about the place to me. I wacthed videos on Youtube following some of the famous biking groups and there was a lot of buzz about the majestic Spiti valley bieng a biker's paradise those days. So I suggested adding Spiti also to our trip and increase the duration to 15-16 days. Adding Spiti would mean adding another 2000 odd Kilometers to our trip. Plus, Spiti was still an unexplored part of the country and less was known about it. Over the next few days we did some research on it and the more we learnt and saw, we got  more excited about Spiti. The incredibly stunning Key Monastry at an altitude of 4166m (13,668 ft) and the world's highest motarable village, Komik seemed to beckon us. It was an unanimous and super excited 'yes' from all three of us! Over the years, riding in all kinds of roads and terrian, we were prepared for any kind of challenge and so this time we did not need much time to gear up for the ride. However, I was much better equiped this time with the saddle bags and the tank bag on my bike. I did buy a Sony HDR AS30V ation cam to record the ride. The camera came with a helmet mount and i managed a bike mount as an option. Abhinav and Paranshu were to start from Delhi and myself from Jalandhar, where is was posted then. We planned to meet up somewhere after crossing Chandigarh, on the Himalayan Express way to Shimla. The route we decided was as follows:-

Delhi/Jalandhar- Shimla - Narkanda-  Reckong Peo -Nako - Kaza - Losar- Gramphu - Keylong- Sarchu- Pang- Leh - Drass- Srinagar- Udhampur- Jalandhar/Delhi.

We kept a total of 16 days with One complete day for Kaza  and four days in Leh to go around Khardung La and Pangong Tso. The total distance was somewhere around 4000 Kms. It was by far the grandest of trips we had ever done! A fitting one to pay our respects and tribute to the grandeur of mother nature in those remote parts of the country! 

Bike Mounted Sony Action Cam.

Helmet Mounted Action Cam
All Set to Start.
Abhinav & Paranshu

2. Day 1 - 3rd July 2014. (Jalandhar/Delhi - Shimla 346/216 Kms)  It was a similar feeling I had three years ago. A sleepless night and butterflies filled stomach with the first light of the day hitting the curtains. I had done the major loading of my bike previous night before sleeping and only minor things were left. When I looked outside to check on the weather, I realised it was very cloudy. By around 0545 hrs, I was ready to start for what was going to be the mother of all bike rides! And just then rain god decided to make the ride even more special. It started to drizzle as I left jalandhar cantt. All my luggage was waterproofed and since it was the pleasant summer rain, I didnt bother  putting on rain proof gear myself. It was the first apportunity for me to test the waterproof claims  of my Sony action cam. As soon as  I left the cantt road and hit the Jalandhar - Chandigarh highway, it started to pour down heavily. The open, smooth road with minimum traffic at that point of the day and the rain made it a perfect start of the trip. I had to cross few water logged areas before reaching Chandigarh but i could comfortably reach Chnadigarh by  0800 hrs. At any other time of the day crossing Chandigarh would have been a exhaustive job but I did it with ease. By around 0930 hrs I reached the huge toll outside Chandigarh which read 'The Himalayan Expressway'. The toll, by its looks, promised the road to be an absolute dream to ride on. And it felt that way for around 10 Kms after crossing the toll after which I was back to same old narrower mountain road with busy traffic where one has to stick perfectly to his lane and one small mistake could be life threatening.  I travelled for around 5 kms after leaving the point which marked the end of  so called 'expressway' and also the end of the rain. I decided to wait for Abhinav and Paranshu there while drying up myself. The couple on their first bike ride together, were however riding quite casually. I remember Paranshu mentioning her desire to do such a trip with us many times before. So I could imagine her excitement and  also Abhinav's nervousness to carry a pillon and all the other stuff. By around 1230 hrs a Royal Enfield entered the scene and there they were. It was around 1 and a half years back that we  three last met. We exchaged greetings, I complained of them bieng late and Abhinav justoified his bieng extra cautious while carrying Paranshu along with both thier stuff. We continued ahead soon and stopped at a Domino's near by. We had a lot of catching up to do about our lives while having our brunch. As we left Domino's, it started to pour down again !! 

A Masterpiece by Paranshu

Brunch Break

3. We enjoyed the rain all the way till we reached the outskirts of Shimla. Before we entered Shimla, we were all dry again. The ride was wonderfull and we could'nt have asked for a better start to the trip. We entered Shimla by around 1800 hrs and we checked into a decent hotel. After freshening up a bit, we roamed around in the famous mall Road of Shimla, had or dinner and bought Some rainproof gear from a Wildcraft outlet. We continued chatting later at the Hotel, catching up on the lost time and discussing the trip. The trip in its planning stage had every indications of bieng the best one in India. The three valleys, Spiti, Lahual and Laddakh  are three of the remotest and most exotic of the places not only in India but in the world. Covering these three in one bike trip was indeed a hair raising thought!! We slept off with stomach full of butterflies and high on euphoria!!    

                         The Start Through the Jalandhar Cantt Streets

                                                      Pouring Rain Before Shimla



Monday, 5 December 2016

The Spectacle That is Laddakh! - Gettin Leh'd !! The end of a dream ! (Day 6,7&8).

1. Day 6 - 16th June 2011. ( Drass - Srinagar 148 Kms). The Morning in Drass was a pleasant one. As usual, I woke up early ( by around 0515 hrs) and had a nice refreshing walk around the camp. The camp was located in a beautiful valley just before the Zozi La pass. The snow claded mountains could be seen all around with sun just starting to kiss the tops. We had to leave the camp before 0700hrs  as a convoy of around 50-80 Army vehicles was to start at 0700 hrs. Gettin stuck behind the convoy would be a troublesome thing since the roads rarely allowed overtaking. Waking up Abhinav again was a task but we managed to leave by 0645hrs. The road from the camp was okay in the beginning with occasional pot holes. The green meadows and the vast grassfileds along the road made it a wonderfull ride. But this was until we started to climb towards Zozi La.  The condition of the road deteriorated drastically and we struggled a lot to keep going. We had to keep taking halts every now and then to relax a bit and check the luggage. There I noticed that my rear tyre was stil loosing pressure. Probably, noone fixed the puncture properly afterall. I filled the tyre up again with the foot pump and continued. As we climbed slowly the road started to get scarier. We had heard of Zozi La bieng one of the most dangerous roads in the world and we witnessed it just like that. The road had turned into a narrow mix of dust and soil with space only for one vehicle pass at a time.There were no blockades on the side to prevent the vehicles from sliding off into the 1000 ft gauge. The road looked as if it was going crack open and  fall apart at any moment.  What made matter worst were these huge trucks going  the same way. I managed to be ahead of the trucks but poor Abhinav got stuck in between them and had a nice dirt bath. However, the hardship of Zozi La was followed by the reward of the beautiful Sonamarg valley. Such is the creativity of mother nature we witnessed all through our trip! Sonamarg is a picturesque valley along the Jhelum river with lush green meadows surrounded by snowcaped mountains. We rested for about an hour at Sonamarg, had our brunch  and  got my bike checked again to a local mechanic. He did find a puncture open and fixed it. Hoping that now the bike wont have any punctures left, we set out for Srinagar.

The Zozi La's Dirt Bath.

The Haws (High Altitude warfare School) Training Site.

An Open Air Class in  Progress in Sonamarg.
2. From Sonamarg, Srinagar is some 79 Kms and the road was much better. We reached Srinagar by 1500 hrs that day and decided to check into another one of the transit camps managed by the Army. Abhinav had a few friends in Srinagar, so after having a bit of rest he went to meet them. I decided to roam around the town and visit the famous Dal lake. The evening ride around the beautiful Srinagar town  was a refreshing one. We were back in the camp before dark and had our dinner by 2000 hrs.  Next day was going to be another low in the already lowering graph of riding experience  of our trip as we were already missing the magnificient landscapes of Laddkah. We had decided to reach Pathankot on the next day which was around 450 Kms. 

3. Day 7 - 17th June 2011 (Srinagar - Pathankot 445Kms).  We started from Srinagar by 0700hrs and had a long distance of around 450 kms to cover. But the difference in the road condition compared to all previous days was evident the very moment we started. The traffic was below average and we cruised at about 70-80 kmph. We stopped at a temple ruin just outside Srinagar and clicked few pics and videos. To my delight, my worries of the ride bieng a boring one in comparison to our previous days were over just as we exited Srinagar. The lush green trees slanting over the road made a natural corridor for us to ride through. It was again a wonderfuly different experience. Other than that the whole route was full of lush green landsdcape and twists and turns. I was enjoying the turns specially! Soon we entered the Jawahar tunnel in Banihal. The engineering marvel  is 2.4 Kms long and has two separate tunnels for oncoming and ongoing traffic. It was yet another first time experience for us to ride through. The tunnel exited into Ramban, where we took a halt and had our brunch. We started again after our brunch and by around 1400 hrs we were in Udhampur. 
The Wonderful Transit Camp in Srinagar.

The Serene Natural Corridor.

4. After taking a small halt at Udhampur we inquired about the Jammu bypass. It was a road which by passes Jammu and leads straight to Pathankot. We had heard that it goes through small villages and traffic is very less. We got initial directions to hit the bypass road and we were on our way. The road was surprisingly isolated and hardly had any traffic on it. We cruised through the entire 110 Kms in one go and by around 1630 hrs, we entered Pathankot. Pathankot has a special place in my heart as I had spent three years here in my childhood days. My father was posted here in the years 2009,2010 and 2011 and I did my 9th , 10th and 11th standard schooling in KV- 3, Mamun cantt in Pathankot. We checked into a hotel and without wasting much time, I set out for  Mamun Cantt to refresh those memories. I rode through familier roads which kept flooding me with old times. I entered the Mamun cantt and reached KV-3. The nostalgia had overtaken me completly and I could not help but to enter the school. The watchkeeper denied entry at first but after I told my reasons and my profession, he allowed a quick walk around the campus.  For the next half an hour, I was completly out of my zone and had enetered the lovely days of school. The classes, the walls, corridors, labs, assembly ground, the football ground everything was mostly the same!! My heart melted as I saw my name in the 'Roll of Honour' board outside the Principal's office. Well, the emotions had to be curbed as the wacthkeeper was walking beside me. I soon bid farewell to the school and went back to the hotel.  Day 8 was going to be the last day and we both had different destinations. Abhinav had to reach back to Delhi and I had to reach my home in Rudrapur in Uttarakhand. Delhi was within an easy ride away as the national highway leads directly to it. Me on the other hand had to cover a distance of around  670 Kms on the map going through Ambala, Haridwar and Najibabad. So we we decided to part  our ways in the morning. 

The Ranjit Sagar Reservoir.


Reminescence of The Past.

The School has Performed Much Better after Our Batch.!!  

Sunday, 4 December 2016

The Spectacle that is Laddakh ! - Gettin Leh'd ! (Day 4&5)

1Day 4 - 13 June  2011 ( Karu - Leh and  Around Leh)  We woke up quite late the next day as we had only 30 Kms to travel to Leh and then spend the rest of the day roaming around in the city. As such we had kept the 4rth day of the trip for rest and recoup. Due to paucity of time we could not keep the visit to Khardung La and Pangong Tso in our schedule  which otherwise are always recommended to be a part of this trip. We left Karu by around 1000 hrs and visited the famous Thiksey monastry enroute. The Thiksey monatry is known for its resemblance to the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet and is the larget monastry in central Laddakh. It is a common attraction for toursits coming to Leh city. We roamed around the monastry for while and had our brunch at a restraunt at the entrance. The monastry had a  peaceful environment and is located against a beautiful scenic backdrop of the Thiksey town. We started for Leh after spending some nice 40-45 mins at the monastry and by 1300 hrs we were in Leh city. From the very first glance at the surroundings, Leh city looked like a fresh new world! The city spilled out a lot of colours than I had imagined. People there had a wonderful sense of fashion and were dressed in all sorts of attires.There were Round hats, short skirts, bright colourful t-shirts, all sorts of shades and aviators and one could find almost all colours in the hairstyles of boys and girls, these people surely knew how to look good! We soon found a good Hotel in the central part of  the city and rested for the afternoon.

View From the Monastry

2. We woke up around 1630hrs after shedding off the tiredness from the three days hectic ride. We freshened up and first went around the Hotel. Hotel Royal Palace in Leh was a very well built  hotel with a ethenic and cultural look. It had a wonderfull lawn up front and a gorgeous dining hall. It is definetly worth the money. Rooms cost around Rs 2500-3500/night and the food is amazing.  We headed to the local market after that and first, we looked for an ATM. There was a long queue at the SBI ATM and most of them were bikers or foreign tourists. We spoke to a few while standing in the queue and almost everyone expressed their sympathy for us not bieng able to do the Khardung La and Pangong Tso after reaching Leh. But we were sure that we would visit again soon and then do these trips. Moreover, the ride had already given us the best memories of our lives hence we did'nt have much regrets. We pulled the required cash and went around the market. There were lots of souvenier shops around selling various laddkahi ornaments, traditinal dresses and the famous prayer flags. We bought prayer flags for our bikes and few t-shirts with quotes about the ride. It was a nice little walk in the market. However, the market was to close early that day as the annual Laddakh Hemis festival was underway. Hemis festival is one of the most famous monastic festivals in June to commemorate birth of Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. The sacred dance drama of the life and mission is performed wearing facial masks and colorful brocades robes. Alas! we had no time to witness that too but we were noting down everything into  our 'things to do' list and will definetly check them out in our next trip. We returned to the hotel and had a nice dinner and geared up for the second phase of our trip, ride back to our world!


3. Day 5 - 14 June 2011 (Leh - Drass 251 Kms).  I woke up at 0600 hrs next day, got ready and afer a hard work of 10-15 mins I was able to get Abhinav out of the bed. We had to skip our breakfast there to be able to set out on road before 0800 hrs. The moment we exited the Leh city, the view of far strecthing smooth black tarmac renergised us and filled our hearts with joy! The road was nothing like we had seen ever before! The vast expanse of Laddkahi barren, deserted land on both sides created a special graphic marvel. The only differentialting colours were the black and white of the road in front of us. It seemed like we were in video game riding through one of the exotic tracks! We soon crossed the famous magnetic hill but  to our dissapointment, did'nt experience anything special. That was a let down! The road took us to Nimmu, a small town where  we could see the usual greens as in the real world. We had our breakfast at Nimmu and continued our ride.We ascended towards one of the two passes in our route for the day, the Fotu La. Fotu La stands at a height of of 13,478ft (4,108m) above the sea level. This mountain pass is referred to as the highest point on the highway. The drive through the pass is a beautiful journey where you can stop to get an amazing view  of the mountain ranges. As we halted for a bit to embrace the breathtaking view, a group of tourists started to flock around our bikes and getting clicked with them. It was a proud moment for us and our bikes and we took it as their appreciation for what we were doing. The road from Fotu La descends to the town of Lamayuru. We crossed Lamayuru, Heniskot and reached the second pass, the Namika La which stands at 3285m (12198 ft). We were greeted by the amazing Lunar landscapes before Namika La and the stunning scenic backdrop at the top. Descending from Namika La we reached Mulbekh, where I got my tyre pressure checked again as it was still loosing air slowly. I found my valve faulty. I got it changed and  we looked for a place to have our lunch. Interestingly we found a sikh person running  a dhabha in Mulbekh. There is no part of the country where you wont find these people, hats off to them! We were happy to hear him read out 'Rajma Chawal' in his menu. 'Finally we will have a good north Indian meal' we thought. However, the meal he prepared was nowhere near 'good'. We were hardly able to get it down our throats. While we were trying to gulp that thing down, the person kept staring at us waiting for a reaction.  We looked at each other and then gave him a nice little smile to which he smiled back and went on with his work.  We bought a bottle of cold drink and managed to gulp down the meal along with  it. We paid the owner and thanked him for the strange thing he made us eat. After that, we visited a  near by Budhdha monatry and then continued ahead for our destination, the second coldest inhabitated place on earth, Drass.

The Amazing Highway!


At Nimmu

People Lining Up to Get Clicked With Our Bikes!

                                                        The Scenic Backdrop of Fotu La

                                             The Lunar Landscape Before Namika LA

The Scenic Backdrop at Namika La

4.   By around 1600 hrs, we reached Kargil which marked the end of the Buddhists region of the Laddakh district and start of the Muslim region of Kargil district. We wanted to visit the the Kargil War Memorial before dark to pay our respects to the martyrs of the 99 Kargil war. We crossed Kargil and reached the memorial by 1700 hrs. After spending about 30-40 mins at the Memorial, we headed  for our destination, the Drass transit camp. We crossed the Drass town and reached the transit camp which is an Army instalation  catering for accomodations for the transient troops. We requested for a stay for the night  to the Officer Commanding, Transit camp and after the routine check ups and inquiries, we got a nice guest room. Since it was an Army camp, it was a much better stay for us than the other days. We got hot water for bathing and were served nice hot dinner by around 2000 hrs. The day had been a wonderful riding experience and we rode in one of the best roads in the country. Specially the strecth from Leh till Kargil was an amazing and unexpected experience. Not only the quality of the road was exceptional but the landscapes it offered were simply out of this world!  We were now in a much familier part of the country, the roads looked much more routine and the breathtaking landscapes were behind us, barring the Zozi la pass which we were to cross early the next day. From then on it was going to be a routine ride through usual traffic and surrounded by a busy, much more chaotic world. Cherishing the day's memories we slept off early. We had planned to leave the camp by 0700 hrs the next day and reach Srinagar which was 148 Kms away.

TO BE CONTINUED IN NEXT BLOG                                                            PREVIOUS BLOG.



Friday, 2 December 2016

The Spectacle that is Laddakh ! - Gettin Leh'd ! (Day 3)

1. Day 3 - 13 June 2011 - ( Darcha - Karu 280 Kms)  It was  a chilly morning in Darcha. There was a strange and divine peace in the air, there were no birds chirping, no distant vehicles running and no other sound of any kind that could be heard. Only sounds were the flowing wind and water running at a distance. It was the first morning of its kind in both of our lives. Probably those were  the reasons why the monks and their religion chose to inhabitate these valleys. Nothing can make one feel closer to almighty than these conditions. As for me, the adrenaline was still pumping fresh from the previous day's ride and just as it was first light, I woke up, picked up a water bottle and went out to the fields for the morning business. I had never felt so cold before in my life so one can imagine my plight out there in the fields. And as my luck would have it, I slipped into a water stream while returning back and hurt my left shoulder. It was so cold that I hardly felt the pain at that moment but that pain was to appear soon. I woke up Abhinav who as usual was much more relaxed and so had a better sleep. By around 0700 hrs we were ready to head out on our way.  We had breakfast with the dhaba owners, thanked them for their wonderfull hospitality and started for the day.

 Few Things Never Change With the Landscape - Man's Best Friend, Wherever the Man Is

Farewell Pic With the Dabha Owners
Darcha Village

2. Few Kilometers ahead we found better roads, which was a welcome surprise for us. But suddenly I felt like I was loosing pressure on my rear tyre. We stopped at a lonely turn and examined it. It was punctured! The stock tyres on a R15 were soft track spec MRFs. So this was expected given the kind of roads we had to ride on. Luckily they were tubeless so I could travel as long as 60-70 kms before they flat out. That would definetly worsen the puncture but we did'nt have any other option. We were carrying a foot pump for emergencies like these.  We filled up the tyre once again and started riding. We were hoping to find some puncture repair shops in Sarchu, otherwise I could always do it myself in a less effective way. After travelling around 30 Kms we again started to ascend towards another pass. This one was Baralacha La. We had heard that its the most beautifull of the  four passes that come in ths route and we started to witness that right from base of the reverse slope. The levels of snow satarted to  increase around the road and for the first time in our lives we saw the huge ice walls on both sides making a wonderfull ice corridor  for us to ride through just like the one we saw in the song 'ye ishq haye' in movie 'Jab We Met'. It was a special experience to ride within them. We also encountered a frozen lake enroute and stopped to record it. Just then Abhinav noticed that the extra petrol we carried in the jericans on his bike was leaking and most of it had already drained out. With that our contingency plan for fuel shortage had gone for a six! Hoping that the contingency does'nt arrive, we poured the rest of what was left into his bike and moved ahead.  Few kms ahead, i saw a group of biker waving at me froma distance. I waived them bac k  and as i did that, they started to wave even harder ! Confused, I thought i should get closer. Just then My bike went into a skid  and started to slide ahead on the road. I followed my bike in the same way. When the sliding stopped, I realised that the group was not waving at me  but were signalling me to stop. There was a layer of ice of around 7-8 m formed on the road that caused every vehicle to slide across. Those biker had also suffered the same fate apparently. There was no damage done to the bike or me however. I picked up my bike smiling at the bikers standing there and looked for Abhinav behind. He was about to enter the Ice layer. Me and others tried shouting and waving at him but it was too late. Before he could undertsand anything his bike too went into the skid and  both the bike and Abhinav reached us sliding. We all had a laugh out loud moment and greeted each other. The group left soon and we adjusted the luggage on our bikes. As I tried starting my bike, it did'nt respond! I switched it off and on again and tried starting it but to no avail. I got shit scared! We looked around and there was no living soul seen anywhere. We gathered our senses first in some moments and started to diagnose the problem. Finally we came to a conclusion that probably the engine oil had run out of it usage value. I was carrying a spare engine oil bottle which we poured into the bike. And Voilah!! the bike started! Proud of our bike repairing talent we moved ahead. It was only after the trip that we realised how foolish we were. It was a common R15 issue that whenevr the bike fell on to a side, it would take some time after picking it up for its electronics or the fuel injection system to be ready agian. Ignorant of that  and wasting a full bottle of costly engine oil we continued. We started to come up against the cold streams crossing the roads. There were a number of these in that region and it proved a bit more difficult for my bike with its small 17 inch wheels to cross them that it was for the Bullet with bigger 19 inch wheels.




3. We left the stunning Baralacha la behind and descended to the Sarchu region which marked our entry into the Laddakh region of Jammu and Kashmir state. Sarchu has traditionally been the mid point and a resting place for the tourists and biker going through this route. It has a number of camps set up by tourism companies, some private and some govt funded, to provide for a nice rest and recoup centre with repair facilities and eating joints also setup. We stopped at one such small camp, had tea  and got my bike's puncture fixed. We also had a race against time and could not stop longer at any one place. Also, we were compelled to halt every now and then to admire the marvel of mother nature and quickly take pics and videos. By around 1500 hrs we crossed the amazing Gata loops which is a series of  21 hairpin bends to reach the third pass in the route, the Lachulung La which stood at a height of 5059mts ( 16,600 ft) . Descending from Lachulung La we reached Pang which was another rest and recoup center. We took a small lunch break and continued ahead. Up next, was the much anticipated More plains!! As we ascended from Pang, we could see the landscape changing once again. Suddenly, there was sand instead of usual soil around the road and the road started to disappear. When we reached the top, there was a vast mountain desert greeting us! No words could describe our amazement at that point. We were shocked at the creativity of mother nature! Road had vanished completly and we had to make our way through the sandy desert. It was around 40 Kms long flat desert with barren mountains on both sides. We did halt at a point and clicked few pictures. All of a sudden, I felt a sharp pain in my head and I started to feel giddy. It was the Acute Mountain Sickness catching up on me. It was surprising that among the two of us, I was the one who was supposed to be immune of this because of  my pahadi genes ! Anyways, may be it was because i let myself more exposed to cold than Abhinav. We had to take some rest there at More plains so that I could take some medicine. After resting for about half an hour, I felt a bit better and we continued ahead.

The Majectic More Plains

4. As we were about to exit More plains, we got to witness another spectacle. We saw a huge herd of mountain Yaks grazing on rare grass fields on that desert. It was another wnderfull experience to see these peacefull beasts surviving in these harsh conditions. Moving ahead we ascended towards our last pass of the day, the Tanglang La. Standing at a height of 5328 m (17438 ft), it is the second highest motarable pass in the world. We could not wait much at the pass as dusk was upon us. We descended Tanglang La and entered Upshi town. Upshi was the first sign of normal civilization that we found on this route and it indicated that we had succesfully negotiated the most dangerous part of our trip. Also, we were welcomed by the usual black tarmac road in Upshi. By the time we crossed upshi, it had got dark and Leh was still around 40 kms away. The route was not to be ridden at night as evrything shuts down in this region by 1900 hrs. We reached Karu after riding some distance after dark  and decided to halt there for the night. However, to our surprise, there were no hotels available in the town! We first managed to call our homes borrowing mobiles from a shopkeeper who was about to close down.  Then we tried finding some place to spend the night but we could'nt. The only option left now was to play the Army card. Karu had a huge Army establishment with a number of units. We went to the gates of one of the army units and explained the situation. Soon enough, we were resting in the coziest beds we could find in that whole region. Leh was still around 30 Kms away but we were satisfied with the amount of distance we covered that day despite of the hardships. It was a special feeling of victory that made both of us content and proud as well.


TO BE CONTINUED IN NEXT BLOG                                                             PREVIOUS BLOG


Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Spectacle that is Laddakh! - Gettin Leh'd! (Day 2)

1. Day 2- 12 June 2011 ( Manali to Darcha 138Kms)  Second day, we were advised by the Hotel staff to leave as early as possible to reach Rohtang pass as he feared  that it was the peak tourist season and there would be kms long traffic on the route. So, without having much required rest, we both woke up at around  0330 hrs only to find that it was raining heavily. It was an unexpected rain and it continued till 0800 hrs in the morning. So, on the brighter side we had that much needed rest. At break fast, we were cautioned by the staff again about the condition of the road after the rain. Apparently the road to Rohtang was a mix of black tarmac and rubble ( kachcha track). The rubble part now would have gotten absolutely muddy. Anyways, we started our ride by around 1000 hrs that day. We intended to reach Sarchu which was around 220 kms. The moment we left Manali, the landscape around us started to change dramatically and before we knew we were riding in an absolute dream. I couldnt help but stopping frequently to click pictures and record videos. Abhinav on the other hand was'nt much of a camera friendly guy, so he continued ahead of me. Within an hour of our ride we both got separated.What made matter worst was that there was no mobile coverage in that area. Regardless of that we both continued and finally met at Rohtang Pass. As we expected, there was a long queue of four wheelers before Rohtang Pass. We somehow managed to squeeze through them and through the mud and slush all over the road. Rohtang was as beautifull as we had heard. Summers had cleared the snow from the roads but there was snow all around  it was a sight to behold. All the effort and  hardwork was paid off with just a view of that place!

Morning Sunshine after the Rain.

Packing Underway.
Enroute Rohtang.

This is the Best We Could Find at Rohtang
                                                                                                       Our Lunch

2. By around 1300 hrs, after taking a light lunch at Rohtang, we started to descend. Rohtang can be called as the last point where the civilization exists in its modern form. As soon as we crossed Rohtang, it suddenly became frighteningly isolated and the demography was something out of this world! There were absolutely no roads, no houses, not even animals till as far as we could see.  Somehow we descended into Gramphu, which was a small village with hardly any population. From here on we had entered the Lahual valley of Himachal Pradesh. We then reached Tandi which has the only Petrol pump after Manali till Leh. That is, the only one in around 400 Kms. We got our bikes filled and colle
cted some extra in Jericans. The road was still in a bad shape mostly covered with rubble mud and slush . It was a very tough riding day and it got even worst when Abhinav lost one of his bags which somehow got loose and dropped somewhere enroute. We spent around an hour trying to look for it riding back some distance. Meanwhile my condition my cold was getting worst too. Headache had been with me since Rohtang. It was only  the overwhelming excitement generated by the stunning surroundings that kept me going and ignorant of the discomfort i was having. By the time it got dark we had managed to reach Darcha, another small village with few Dhabas. We had coverd only 138 kms that day against the targeted 220 kms. We both were tired as hell and Abhinav's mood was spoiled as he lost a lot of his clothes and some of his daily need items. So we decided to halt there for the night. We had dinner at one of the dhabas and found a room there only for Rs 300 for the night. Darcha had the population coming all the way from Leh for these 3-4 months when the route is open for the toursits. In 2011, this route ( Manali- Leh) was not in a good shape as it is today. Only bikers and some of the SUVs could actually dare to go through this route. Also, the presence of basic repair shops, dhabas or shelters was very scarce as compared to present times. So it was truly far more adventurous then than it is today. 

Midway - This is Where he Left His Bag Loosely Tied After Openeing it Up for Something.

Abhinav still Mourning his Stuff at Dinner

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