Sunday, July 18, 2010

The most memorable trip – Leh Ladakh

Somewhere in June 2010, Rahul Arya asked me about the trip to Leh. Since I was also exploring the possibility to visit the place I did not even give the second thought to it. With few discussions we changed our plan a bit and decided to go to Srinagar via Air from Delhi, explore Kashmir for couple of days and then head to Leh via Srinagar-Leh highway. We learnt that Srinagar Leh Highway is full of beautify and worth travelling on this highway. I booked all the Air Tickets i.e. Delhi Srinagar and Leh Delhi.
As we progressed towards 8th Jul 2010 (i.e. the day to fly to Srinagar), Kashmir was again under curfew. Since we had an option (unlike a common Kashmiri who has to bear the brunt) to stay away from tense situation we changed our plan and headed directly to Leh. I was very disappointed because I always wanted to see Kashmir.

It was heavily raining in Delhi on 7th July 2010 evening and I was apprehensive about the weather in Leh. Rahul got stuck in Delhi traffic this night for more than three hours. To catch up the flight of early morning we had to get up at 3:00 AM and we did so.
The Kingfisher flight took us through Himalayas, full of snow, quite a nice view and breathtaking view from plane. We clicked lot of pictures to keep memories fresh. We landed at Leh Airport at 8:30 AM. The fresh and cold air did not make us feel that we have landed at high altitude of 11,483 Feet, where people normally feel uncomfortable due to lack of oxygen. We reached hotel in 15 minutes. We were told by people who have an experience of visiting Leh and also read on Internet that for first 36 hours of arrival at Leh one should take best rest so as to acclimatize to low Oxygen levels. However I could not stop myself from exploring surroundings of Caravan Hotel and headed outside.

A Peak with Snow in Leh
First day of Leh reminded me of my hometown in Himachal but the difference here was that mountains around us did not have any vegetation. One can see the shadow of clouds on the mountains clearly.
Same day we met very good friend Sumeet Aggarwal who knew each and everything of Leh. Sumeet took us on Leh Kargil Road for sight seeing. Border Roads Organisation (BRO) does remarkable job wherever it goes and we could witness the same here. Roads are so beautiful that one end up taking photographs of roads at each and every curve. In middle of road we decided to climb a mountain. I wonder if someone does this within 5 hours of arrival at Leh. We decided to climb till top of the mountain. However in middle we realised that the mountain has higher altitude than what we thought. Since there was no plan of mountain climbing we were not carrying Water and juices. So we headed back after completing ¾ of the altitude. Sumeet was instrumental in climbing and was leading us all the time.

Later part of the day we kept driving towards Kargil and reached Patthar Sahib Gurudwara. We enjoyed the Langar here, especially after the hectic climbing. The last destination for the day was Magnetic Hills, around 20 KM away from Patthar Sahib Guruwara on Leh Kargil Road. The mystery of the hill is that it has Magnetic properties strong enough to pull the vehicles uphill. No Aircraft or helicopter flies over it. The altitude here is around 14,000 feet. We tried the same and of course our vehicle also was pulled uphill. Personally I am not convinced with it. Since Rahul has Compass in his i-phone we went to check whether it works near Magnetic hills or not. The fact is that Compass works normally here hence it supported my doubts. I also read on internet that it’s an illusion created by mountain surroundings that we see Road upside whereas it is actually other way round.

Thicksey Monastery at Leh
We kept our second day of the trip to explore local Leh and its Monasteries. Sumeet took us on Leh Manali highway. We crossed Shey Palace, which one of the oldest palace in Leh. Couple of KMs later we saw a beautiful monastery on the top of the small hill. The name of monetary is Thickshey Monesaty. I would say that the place is worth visiting. You will see very big incarnation of Lord Buddha here.
We made plan to visit Nubra Valley for three days. Nubra Valley is 120 KM away from Leh. In contrast to what we see in Leh, Nubra Valley is supposed to be full of greenery and natural beauty. Sumeet advised us to go biking so that we enjoy terrains the most. Since lot of places are high sensitivity areas in Leh and its surrounding due to Border with China and Pakistan, tourists need Inner Line Permits (ILPs) from Led DC Office. Sumeet helped us in getting the same. However we did not get it on 10th of July due to weekend. We got the permits only on 12th Jul 2010 i.e. Monday.

Road Trip Leh to Nubra Valley
12th Jul 2010 we headed towards Nubra Valley. I drove up from Leh at around 11:30 AM. It was a cloudy day. The road was too curvious and we kept on going up and up. Within half an hour of bike ride we felt the cold winds so I put on Jacket and gloves. I did not know the kind of challenging roads we were going to cross to reach Nubra Valley. The first check Point for ILP is South Pullu, and story starts here. We entered the mountains full of snow. In couple of minutes I was driving in the middle of Snow. There was snow on both sides and Roads were just for the sake of name. Countless places where I had to get into the road full of big rocks, full of water and slippery surface. The best part of the ride is that everyone passing by, waves you. Also this road is favourite for bike riders. In few hours from Leh we reached the place called Khardung La Pass. Believe me I did not have any idea before I reached at this place that “THIS IS THE WORLD’S HIGHEST MOTORABLE ROAD”. We had reached an altitude of 18,380 Feet.
Rahul Arya and me on the top of the world, A sense of pride and achievement
Looking at the climate conditions over here it is really a tough task to maintain the roads on this pass. I felt sense of achievement. As a bike rider what else you need than to ride on the world’s highest motorable road, driving in water, on rocks and in the middle of the snow. We ate Maggi in small restaurant and headed towards Nubra Valley. I thought that rough roads are over, but roads were much worst on the other side of Khardung La Pass. The next checking point for ILP was North Pullu. The roads beyond this point were well maintained, hence enjoyed the ride after crossing tough stretches till North Pullu. By 6:00 PM we reached our destination HUNDER Village in Nubra Valley. We stayed in a tent here for two days. Hunder village has it own beauty of greenery, Sand Dunes, breathtaking landscapes and monasteries. Next day we explored the Hunder and it’s surrounding and relaxed for sometime.

At Nubra Valley Sand dunes
14th July 2010 we drove back from Hunder to Leh. The experience was the same as we had while driving down to Hunder. This time I was mentally prepared for the challenges so enjoyed every bit of it.
Till 14th July we were sceptical about going on bike to Pangong Lake. We gave lot of thoughts whether to go on bike to hire a taxi as the distance was longer than Nubra Valley, it is around 175 KM from Leh. After lots of Yes and No, we concluded that we can opt for biking again and stay back at Pangong Lake for One day.
On the way back from Nubra Valley to Leh


15th July 2010 we started on bike from Leh to Pangong Lake. For me this was the main reason to come to Leh, hence was very much excited. We learnt from people in Leh that Roads are better than Nubra Valley roads. But still we started bit early from Leh i.e. 10:30 AM. Unlike Nubra Valley the road started with downhills drives. We started on Leh Manali Highway; Pangong Lake road gets diverted from place called Karu, 35 KM away from Leh. Karu Police Check point is the first place to submit the copy of ILP. Around 20 KM away from Karu the steep roads were ahead of us. Bit later I realised that Roads are worst than Nubra Valley road. The water levels on the road were exceptionally high. Rocks on the roads were bigger. Unlike Nubra Valley, lot of places were marked as Red for risk of avalanche and land sliding.
Me and My bike at Changla Pass


In sometimes we reached the pass called CHANG LA PASS. Again I was surprised to read the board written “BORDER ROADS ORGANISATION HIMANK WELCOMES ON WORLDS THIRD HIGHEST PASS CHANG LA PASS”. The altitude of this pass is 17,586 Feet. I was very happy to read this board. What else I needed than to drive on worlds highest passes. Military serves complimentary tea here. After a short break we started towards Pangong Lake. The good part was that the worst road was to last till 5 KMs from here. But total distance was still 70 KM which was too long for hilly roads. The 5 KM stretch was real adventure. As we drove down from Chang LA Pass, the roads had Snow, rocks and water; there was no fourth thing on the road. At many places I actually got into the water deep till my knees, fortunately our bike kept going.

Just now reached at Pangong Lake...Long and Adventures Ride it was
We reached late in the evening around 6:00 PM at Pangong Lake. The first view of Pangong Lake was just awesome. Blue Water surrounded by Vegetaionless Mountains. The lake is situated at the altitude of 14,720 Feet and is 134 KM long, out of 134 KM only 1/3rd lies in India and rest is in China. The beauty of the lake is that you can go along with Lake Miles and Miles and it will never end. For me these were the best moments of trip. I took the bike close to the water and clicked lot of pictures here. After sometime we started search for stay arrangements. We went into a village called Spangmik exactly in front of Lake. We stayed in a typical ladakhi house. Around 9:00 PM we ended the day. But in the middle of night a street dog did not let us sleep as he kept barking CONTINUOUSLY till 4:30 AM when both of us went out to search this Dog. We realised that the Dog is in severe pain and we should help him out. As we approached the place, the Dog stopped barking and we could not find him out in the darkness. But our purpose was solved and we went into deep sleep.

Early Morning experiment with Auto click at Pangong Lake
Since my objective was to catch Sunrise at Lake, I got up at 5:30 AM and reached at lake well before sunrise. I can not forget those moments which I spent alone sitting at Lake early morning during Sunrise. As usual I captured sunrise in my camera. We started early from Spangmik to Leh at 8:00 AM. The purpose of starting early was to avoid high level of water on the roads and we were quite successful in it as we could reach Chang La Pass at 12:00 PM. In next two hours we were back in Leh.
When I look back for last ten days I feel really happy for the fact that this is the real fun of life. We always get into complicated things but look at the people of

Leh, a symbol of simplicity and happiness. Can you imagine a situation in metro cities like Delhi or Mumbai that we leave our homes or cars unlocked? The answer is simply NO. Another example of simplicity, at Nubra Valley when I thought of exploring the road going towards Pakistan Border and went 30 KM away from Hunder. When I was heading back from Air Force base at Thoise I saw one old guy carrying a bag walking on the road. I offered him a lift. I dropped him at his house and he gave me Apricot Oil for Knee Pain and clearly told me “NEXT WHEN YOU COME TO HUNDER, YOU WILL STAY AT MY HOUSE”. This is kind of love and affection these people carry.
BRO follows you like your Shadow everywhere you move in Leh
Kids waive you on the road, they run behind bikes just to touch hands of riders and people of Ladakh always say “Julley” (means Hello). In fact we got into the habit of saying Julley to everyone crossing by.
I would advise you to visit once this heaven and live your life with simplicity.

15 comments:

  1. Nicely documented!
    I really am hoping to go on one such trip.

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  2. Thanks Sourabh for your feedback. I just wanna say that its matter of an initiative,just do it, you will collect beautiful memories for life time. Good Luck

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. After seeing this ,my carving for biking in this place has increased multiple folds . Thanks for sharing .

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  5. Hey Team G Square, Just do it..the ideal time for this place would be June and Jul 2011.

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  6. Really beautifully described trip. I just stuck to it, once started to read. You are very fortunate & daring enough to go for such bike trips. I am also very fond of bike trip & have hundreds of kilometers of adventurous & interesting experiences. But unfortunately I couldn't go out of Rajasthan i.e. my native state. Still searching for a suitable companion like you to for for Himalays. May be some day. Best of Luck to u.

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  7. Thanks Himmat for parking by here. I made it second time a trip to Leh. See my Aug and Sep 2011 posts in this blog. Do let me know if you wish to join me in next bike trip.

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  8. Hi Rahul
    I am an guy living in Norway who are planning to make an ride in Himalaya with some friends. I have the route and time for the visit but we need a guy from India to join us, a guy who can make the whole plan and permits etc. our plan is to do this in sept 2013. If you are interested please let me know.
    Lovedeep

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    Replies
    1. Hi Lovedeep, Sep 2013 is too far for me to make any plan as of now. May be we can plan this in Mid 2013.

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  9. Brilliant piece you have here. Readers would truly feel the fun when travelling to Leh because you were able to document it thoroughly.

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  10. Hai Rahul,,,,you picture is Nice. I like it.
    I'm Abhie from Indonesia...
    I want go to Pangong Lake,so if go to pangong lake public transpot???
    thanks

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  11. Such a wonderful capture! Amazing compensation and colors!

    Thanks,

    Travelling to India | Leh Ladakh Tour Packages

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  12. wall i am from amritsar . i like your blog. its simple goood. amzing picture captureing..!!

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  13. Hi .Its really a beautiful experience to ride a bike on hill area . Ladakh is really amazing place for adventurous sports .

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  14. India is beautiful country and there are lots of amazing places are available one of the famous Place is Amazing Ladakh . It is so beautiful and attractive place of India.

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