Friday, September 30, 2011

Ladakh Bike Trip - A letter dedicated to fellow riders


This is dedicated to riders with whom I rode :-

Hi Riders !!

You rode hard, you rode disciplined, you rode passionately and more than that you rode safely. The Leh’ed with all you was pleasant and memorable experience for lifetime. Every day brought some good memories to save in kitty of best experiences. I envy all of you for what you do and what you have been doing.

From Top Left : - Sudhir, Mohit, Anurag, Akshay & me

Anurag Party :- Man, I have no words to convey thanks to you for making me part for such a great biker group. I really feel lucky and would love to go on more rides with you. And personally I have tremendous respect for you as person and Like you a lot.

Sudhir Party :- You are super cool dude. I envy your each and every act. Mentioning one or two things would be insult for your overall Cool Dude aura. But still remember one thing, “ Party !! Photo Banta hai”. Dude whatever you do in your life, you would be highly successful just because of your attitude and passion. There was a time when I started enjoying your bike’s breakdowns, I don’t know why.

Akshay Party :- I need to learn one thing from you is how to respect the feelings of parents. Man I am touched the way you convinced Mom everyday about trip saying how easy the road ahead is. She is really lucky to have you as Son. Convey my regards to her.

I remember the moment when you were trying to overtake a truck in rain and your bike gave up . And thanks for discovering another Maadla..lol

Mohit Party :- You did something which unexpected. Knowing you for a day, I thought you will wrap up you trip from Manali when you faced breakdown at Rohtang Top. Hats off for what you did, rode all the way from Manali to Leh alone. If I was in your place, I would have surely given up at Manali. Its big achievement, share it with proud with others.

Guys, lets catch up sometime in future again to accumulate more experiences like this.

Maadla :P

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ladakh Bike Trip - Jammu to Chandigarh, Last day of epic ride in rain (Day 11)

Day 11, The legendary ride was riding towards its end. The day started with expression, "Its raining outside yaar." Last day of our ride reminded of Day 1 when we left Chandigarh in similar kind of rain. We prepared ourselves for all kind of adversities and left hotel despite the fact that it was raining heavily in Jammu.

We got an advantage of rain in the form of less traffic on city roads. Once we crossed the city, the heavy rain had got converted into drizzling. It was the best time to soak in some air and try to dry up the cloths.

Water logging till knee spread wide in small town on highway felt like crossing a lake on boat.

The roads were very good and we were riding at a great speed unlike other days. After covering more around 100 kilometer we stopped for breakfast at roadside dhaba. Typical monsoon style, by the time we finished off with breakfast, it started raining again.


The entire ride till Pathankot was hide and seek between we boys and rain. There were times when it rained very very heavy and visibility became zero.

Pathankot also did not brought much traffic jams for us and we crossed the city easily. It was complete contrast in weather with Sun on top of us. We rode in hot weather and there was no sign of rain.

Akshay and me realized after 15 kilometer when stopped by Mohit that Sudhir's bike had another breakdown. Now it felt really disturbing and we rode back 15 kilometer in hot day. Fortunately mechanic was nearby. We spent an hour at Mechanic's garage for repair and then rode again towards Chandigarh.

We hardly rode for 15 kilometers and rain came down. In few minutes, drizzling got converted into heavy rain. The rain was so heavy that a thick layer of water on helmet's visor made visibility zero. But the best part was that we did not reduce our speed. This was hardly for 10 minutes and in those 10 minutes we were wet as if we just came out of swimming pool spreading water all over. It felt really hard after drying ourselves in last 2 hour in hot sunny day.

The next main town on the way was Hoshiarpur. That heavy rain had converted this town into a lake. Believe me it was literally like a lake. Depth of water upto 2 feet was all over wherever I could see. Over and above that we forgot the way. It took us half an hour to cross the town in middle of trucks, buses and jeeps throwing water from all sides. The worst part was buses which were moving or overtaking us from both side. The water flow at that time was pushing us to other side and maintaining balance on bike became very challenging. However above all, my only aim was to not to let water go in exhaust of my bike and I succeeded in that.


Once we crossed Hoshiarpur, we stopped at Dhaba for Lunch. We took off everything except T shirt and Jeans. It was all wet with dirty water of road.

Post lunch I diverted towards my new place to dump the luggage which I was carrying for last 11 days and joined boys later on the way to Chandigarh.

Ride till Chandigarh was comfortable with lot of things going in mind. The feeling of accomplishment, moment of proud, experience of life time epic ride, great company of people and breadth taking himalayas, with all these things I finished my ride at Chandigarh.

Later I learnt that Sudhir's bike had another breakdown and they reached late again.

All boys spent an evening together to celebrate the accomplishment of successful journey, epic ride, heavenly paradise and lot more.


All of us lived our life in these 11 days and enjoyed every moment of it. We struggled, we screamed, we laughed, we pulled, we respected, we fought , above all we rode hard and finished the ride with some of most memorable experience, some funny  some serious and some just normal. That is all about our badly planned well executed ride to Ladakh.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ladakh Bike Trip - Srinagar to Jammu, Down from heaven to ordinary life (Day 10)

Originally Day 10 was kept as a rest day and a day to explore Kashmir, especially Gulmarg and Pehalgaon. However we had to finish our ride on Day 11 at Chandigarh. It looked very difficult to ride for 600 kilometer that too on hilly terrains. Moreover exhaustion of House Boat and hot weather at Srinagar also forced us to run away from Srinagar. So we changed our plan to make ride little comfortable and decided to ride up to Jammu on Day 10.

We had enough time to reach Jammu, so we started at 12:00 PM noon from Srinagar. Extreme hot day of Srinagar made it difficult to even prepare our bikes with all luggage tied properly. By the time I prepared the bike for ride, I was sweating all over, it reminded of summers of Delhi. It was not at all a good feeling of being in Kashmir Valley.


We had still not seen the other hurdle which is normally seen in metros and other big cities and that is traffic jams. We almost wasted 2 hours in traffic jams and rode hardly 30 kilometers. Once we came out of the traffic jam, all of us had lost each other and every one thought that rest of the riders are behind him.

I stopped at a small tea shop to pick up water bottle when all four riders flew from behind and did not notice me at all. I rode little fast and got hold of Mohit but that time other three riders had disappeared.

Srinagar Jammu Highway has lot of small towns around it. Diversion to left and right in these towns made our life difficult as we had to inquire locals at every such diversion about correct road to Jammu. Mohit and me rode almost 2 hours alone without any clue of other three riders. The terrains full of greenery and trees made it more difficult to spot fellow riders.

Finally we decided to stop at a Dhaba for Lunch assuming that other three riders have gone way ahead. We ordered food and ate leisurely over 20 minute. When we were about to start our ride back, all three riders appeared on road. Fortunately they could see us and stopped. Pleasantly surprised, the gang was restored back again. The whole way from Srinagar to lunch spot, I thought that other three riders are ahead of us but they had lost their way at one place and that was the time when we rode on right road and rode ahead of them.

Ride after lunch was like fight of five cats with infinite dragons. We were only the riders riding downhill towards Jammu whereas uphill ride was over flooded with buses, trucks, cab and jeeps. It was all Amarnath Pilgrimage time and thousands of people were driving uphill. The worst part was that the taxi cab drivers were driving and overtaking at the places which were not obvious for overtaking. The only one thing which was in our favor was the good condition of roads.

Perhaps this was the only day when we did not stop anywhere for photographs or to appreciate serene landscapes and nature.

Srinagar Jammu highway offered us two fascinating experiences of riding. First was 2.5 kilometer long tunnel in which it feels like riding with close eyes, no matter how sharp is your bike's headlight it is bound to be dark in there. Second was Patni Top with some crazy terrains in the middle of pine and oak trees and cold climate.



We reached Jammu at around 08:00 PM. After learning the lesson from mistake we made at Srinagar we decided to look for Hotel at the outskirts  of  Jammu. Hence we rode on the by pass road of Pathankot.However with the help of directions given by locals we ended up landing in the middle of Jammu city.

Air conditioned rooms of Hotel after spending a night in hot house boat at Srinagar felt too soothing. This was third day when we played cards till late night 02:00 AM.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ladakh Bike Trip - Kargil to Srinagar - Kargill War memorial Drass, Zozila Pass, Sonmarg gateway to heaven (Day 9)

More than half of the night was spent playing cards. Day 9 ride was different from other days because of no option than to start the ride at 04:00 AM in the morning. All this was done to cross last pass of our epic ride, Zozilla Pass.

We had heard a lot of Zozilla Pass from most of the riders and feedback was not at all good. Mud, slush, water, rocks and above all narrow roads and steep downhill ride, this is all we knew about Zozilla. Later we learnt from Hotel manager that  its not only the road conditions which makes Zozilla tough for ride but also Army Vehicle convoys. Many a time Army blocks one way movement depending on their convoy timing. So we had no other option than to leave Kargil early morning at 04:00 AM.

Sleep of two hours and our alarms started ringing at 03:00 AM. Except Sudhir, all four of us hit the road sharp at 04:00 AM in a dark and scary morning of Kargil. We left Sudhir at his luck and rode ahead. By the time light came down, we were riding on fairly good roads. Being able to see landscapes in early morning was exceptional feel.

In an hour Sudhir caught us on the way. He must have ridden really extraordinary in dark when he had no headlight of his modified Pulsar. I really felt bad for him. But as usual it looked very normal to him.

The morning was freezing cold. My riding gloves had given up and it was sucking all the air in it. By 06:00 AM I had started feeling hungry but no option to stop. Moreover the nervousness to conquer Zozilla pushed everyone hard this day.

But above all lies the Patriotism. No matter how late we were, there was no question of skipping, Kargil war memorial at Drass. We reached Drass in 2 hours from Kargil. In freezing morning of Drass (World's second coldest habitat), we saw Kargill War memorial Gate at roadside.

Kargill War memorial - Drass

Kargill War memorial, a place dedicated to all our heros who sacrificed their lives in 1999 to capture back Tiger Hill. The calmness of the memorial there tells the whole story of braveness of our soldiers and Army. The memorial had all the walls with names written of all our heros who laid their lives to earn the victory for our country.

Tiger hill is clearly visible from this memorial at Drass. The peak was covered with thick layer of snow and was too steep to climb up. Infact the sky touching Tiger Hill climb looks almost impossible to conquer. However our defence forces made it all possible. Really proud of those Heros.


We left from Kargill War Memorial at Drass with heavy heart  after spending around 20 minutes there. All of us desperately needed Tea or coffee in freezing morning. Ride for another half an hour and we get to see a Dhaba where we took Tea and breakfast. It was all done in hurry.

Next was Zozilla Pass on our way. The easy uphill ride started with slush and water on road. Trucks made it more difficult to ride along with tourist cabs trying to overtake from left and right.

As we rode closer to Zozilla pass top, the road became very narrow. The river flowing fast far down in sharp valley of mountains made the ride very scary task. But roads were not as bad as we were told by almost everyone. Trucks have slowed down almost to 5 kmph, we always had to wait for driver to give us signal to overtake trucks.


We did not even realize when we cross Zozilla top, where all of us wished to have at least one photograph. The down hill ride made us realise that we missed our spot.

Ride on the other side of pass was amazing to me. The road was well built with rocks properly settled under the mud, but steepness of road was all worth riding. This was the only place where I saw a nervousness on the faces of each and every truck driver. Every trucker had maintained a distance of at least 300 meters from each others. Hats off to those truckers who drive loaded truck with one sided wheels many times in air and almost 90% chances of imbalance.


Although down hill was too steep, but it was not a big challenge for bikers except the fact that riding above 2nd gear was not advisable at all. Once we finished with Zozilla pass, we felt like reaching our destination and what else one expect as Gift of nature than serene, breadth-taking and beautiful Sonmarg ? The awesome road of Sonmarg helped us open our hands with full throttle.


We spent sometime at tea shop at the bank of river full of white water. Maggi, Tea, Coffee and lot more, we filled our stomachs well and decided to have lunch at Srinagar.


Traffic on Sonmarg to Srinagar had increased drastically.  With very less stops on the way, we reached Srinagar at 2:00 PM. 

Disappointingly, Srinagar was too hot during day time. First it took us time to locate place to reach house boats then lot of time spent to find out parking for our bikes.

Another disappointment was Dal lake's dirty water which was smelling all around. We chose one of the house boat for our stay. It was not so fascinating as we had heard about house boats. It was too hot inside house boat also and there was no air conditioning.


Shikara ride on Dal lake in the night was the best in Srinagar with Cold breeze. We spent an hour and went back to house boat. Nothing else to talk about Srinagar.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ladakh Bike Trip - Leh to Kargil, Serene Kashmir Valley (Day 8)

Day 8, we were set to ride back, not via Leh Manali highway, but Kargil, Srinagar and finally back to Chandigarh. I had heard a lot about beauty all around, on Leh Srinagar highway. All of us were excited to hit the road at the earliest.

It started with really superb roads of Leh and classic terrains around magnetic hill.I am in love with Ladakh so much that I really felt bad while leaving the place. I never liked coming back from this heaven and go back to work and boring life of city. I was lost in so many thoughts that Anurag had to push me hard entire day to match the speed with fellow riders.


The beauty of landscapes, roads, terrains, monasteries, Army convoys and simplicity of people was spread wherever sight went. Suddenly the place was looking so fascinating that it became difficult for me to ride back.

The traffic on this route was very high especially because of army vehicle movements. In one moment we all were lost in the middle of trucks and other moment we were riding alone in beautiful Himalaya's Ladakh range. I stopped at many places to click photographs whereas Anurag and Akshay always waited for me by controlling their frustration about my slow speed.

In four to five hours ride, we started to get the feel of Kashmir Valley with cold breeze slowly crossing us and sign of some vegetation on landscapes. Lunch at small village in old dhaba with old man was superb food. This Kashmiri Dhabawaala served the lunch with Rice and Dal with almost no spices but the taste was life giving.

The old wooden houses of Kashmir reminded me of my hometown Chamba. We were riding in Kashmir valley and that feeling of being close to nature in heaven was evident.

Kashmir

Kargil, I am sure, will always remain very special name for every Indian. So were we excited to reach the place. We reached Kargil by 4:30 in evening. We had an image of Kargil as a small village full of camps for bikers and tourists, however we found full fledged town there. After riding full day without crossing any major town, it felt really soothing to come back to civilization again.

Kargil

After checking in at the only Hotel Green Land, we decided to explore the town and find out War memorial there. But we learnt that War Memorial is not in Kargil and we will have to go to Drass for the same. Since Drass was en route next day we kept this agenda for next day.

On Kargil streets

We met an Army man at Soveniour Shop, who told us about the War we fought in 1999, showed the places and direction of Tiger Hill which was the main target for our victory. He was kind enough to offer us tea. It felt really proud to talk to him and felt proud to be an Indian. Akshay and me bought T shirt and cap as memory of that place.

Once we were back at Hotel, I decided to take out play cards. We played till midnight when we realized that next morning ride will have to start at 4:00 AM with no choice to delay it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ladakh Bike Trip - Off Road Biking to Pangong Lake, Twist in plan with dangerous river blocking our way (Day 7)

Morning at Hunder on Day 8 was pleasant with sun rising clear in the sky. As normal practice we were running out of time when we finished our breakfast and luggage loading on bikes. The day was going to be unexpected because we had chosen unexplored route to reach Pangong Lake from Nubra Valley.

Nubra Valley deserts

The ride started at 8:30 AM. As we hit the road, in couple of kilometers, Himalayan Odyssey bikers started appearing here and there. We ignored the crowd around us because in an hour or so we had to divert to different route.

We had just completed 30 KM of ride for the day when weather changed suddenly and it started drizzling . All four guys stopped to put on rain coats but not me. I had lost sadle bag last day somewhere near Khardung La, which had 5 leter petrol, Rain Coat and some T shirts. I packed my DSLR in two layers of polythene and rode ahead.

Our way separated at Khalsar towards Pangong Lake. This was the point where we said Good Bye to crowd of bikers and rode towards unexplored route and almost no vehicle moment on it. Initially the road was awesome but soon sand on narrow road in wall like mountains and river flowing along it slowed down my pace. From left to right hand side driving also did not help much. All other four riders rode hard ahead of me.


From one of terrain I saw never ending desert and brand new straight road in the middle of it. Now we had to go down. The ride looked too easy for a while. For our surprise, we saw a jeep coming from other side. He advised us to not to go on this route as road is closed few kilometers ahead. But we were determined and moved ahead.


The Ride on brand new built straight road was crazy. It felt like we are riding on sea bed with big walls of mountains shaved by sea water. Riding alone can sure be scary task here. Its a no man land with no clue of lives for miles and miles from here.

On the way was a place called Agham, and every kilometer was marked. So we decided that once we reach Agham we will take a break. As we were reaching near Agham, the road condition started to deteriorate and in few kilometers we were riding on rocks and sand on road. I was eagerly waiting for Agham and my hunger was demanding something to feed in. As I read Agham 1 kilometer, I took a cool breadth and rode ahead.

Arrival at Agham was surprising. This place had only one house and co incidentally an old lady came out of the house and said, "Julley" which means Hello. All hopes of getting some food had shattered.

Around 200 meters from Agham, there were two roads, one straight and another up north diversion. There was no sign board, no people and no vehicle. Looking at the map we had a clue on which road to go but we did not want to take any chance keeping in mind time availability. So we waited for sometime and we got to see one jeep. Our idea about the road was right. Jeep driver also told that, "Road is very good and you will enjoy the ride".

The road beyond Agham was actually no road. In sometime the entire road disappeared and had some mark of Army truck moment. This time Ladakh had some unique roads to us on offer. The entire desert was full of hug rocks on which we had to ride. The mantra of surviving here was only one, "Ride Hard". There was no other option to ride here. There were times when both wheels of bike were in air, front wheel was forcibly thrown to either direction by huge rocks under it and rear wheel got stuck behind adamant rocks.

The sun had come up and sky was clear by afternoon when we were riding off road. We had to remove warm clothes as it was turning to be the hottest day of the trip.

Mohit (top), Sudhir and Anurag hiding from Sun

The story of riding on rocks did not end here. A patch of around 400 meters very close to river flowing along with extremely narrow path was all under landslide, actually I should say, Rock sliding. It seemed that fresh sliding has happened as we were unable to see any mark of vehicle moment on accumulated rocks on road. In this situation it was very dangerous to ride. Applying the mantra of riding hard on it was never a choice. With lot of struggle I manage to cross. Anurag and Sudhir always made things look very easy but for me this ride never looked easy though I enjoyed every bit of it.

Riding on rocks - Me


The ride continued and river flowing along us kept spreading wide and wide. We crossed the river at a camp of BRO workers, the bridge was well built by Indian Army. Road on the other side was no more different and ride further continued off road on rocks. 

We happen to meet two BRO workers and I asked about the road conditions ahead. They just said," You have to cross this river five kilometers from here, and if you cross the river and then road is ok." That was disappointing. We had already spent half day riding till this point.

Since there were no roads, so all of us kept riding in different paths. In sometime, I saw that Akshay and Mohit disappeared, I could see little bit of truck wheel prints going towards river. This was the time to cross river but it was evident from far itself that it is just not possible to ride through high current water, especially when you never know how deep the water is. We met two BRO workers here as well, they clearly said no to cross the river.

River which changed or spoiled our entire plan to reach Pangong Lake

In five minute time we were clear that we are going back to Leh. It was already 2:00 PM there and we had to ride back all the way till Khalsar, ride uphill to Khardung La and followed by downhill ride of another 2 hours from Khardung La top to Leh.

Ride up to Khalsar felt damn fascinating with off road riding, big rocks on the way, sand, river, brand new roads, straight road till eye site goes and a close escape at rock sliding area. None of us except Mohit had guilt of not reaching Pangong. The whole credit goes to the valley in which we were riding. As a rider it feels a sense of achievement when we ride off roads which are unexplored, and this was one of them for us.


A lunch on the way to Khardung La top was big energy booster. The sky was very clear and we were happy that today we will have ample time and space at Khardung La for photographs as entire Himayalan Odyssey had gone early in the morning.

After crossing North Pullu, all of us got stuck at landsliding area where BRO was trying to clear the mess. We were told that the road will be clear by 5:30 PM, almost delay of one hour in our ride. What else other than photography for bikers, we spent entire one hour making different and repeated poses. Mohit was still disappointed.

Landsliding delayed our plan to reach Khardung La before Sunset

The thirst of previous day of photographs at Khardung La was fulfilled today with Sun set and bright weather with no bikers there. The top looked very quite and calm with few army people, few tourists and some bikers, unlike last day. All of us very happy this day.

Finally Khardung La pass with lots of space for us posers

With lot of stop overs for photographs and other breaks we reached Leh at 8:30 PM. Mohit had already booked rooms for us.

The plan to visit Pangong Lake did not materialse next day also as ride from Leh and back would have made entire day hectic keeping in mind long stretch yet left for our trip.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ladakh Bike Trip - World's highest motorable pass, Khardung La (18,380 feet) and Nubra Valley expedition (Day 6)

Late risers started the Day 5 at 8:00 AM in Leh. The day marked was for the most important milestone of the trip, world’s highest motorable pass Khardung La with 18,380 feet altitude. For later in day we had plan to reach Nubra Valley, explore Hunder Village and Sand dunes of the valley.

Me riding towards Rohtang Pass

Bikes were relatively less loaded as we had left major luggage at Leh. I was carrying some petrol for on the way thirst of my Royal Enfield Classic 500. In the middle of thin and ignorable clouds we started uphill ride to conquer world’s highest motorable pass “Khardung La”. Cruising on curves of South pullu we were surrounded by Himayalan Odyssey Biker. We stopped on the way before south pullu to let Himayalan Odyssey Bikers go ahead of us so that we enjoy the ride in thump of our bikes only.


Roads filled with Bikers

South Pullu is the place wherein anyone driving/riding beyond it need to carry permission. We submitted the permission and decided to ride rather than taking a break. The weather was turning cold and clouds had become darker and thicker than earlier. By this time Himalayan Odyssey’s most of the bikers had gone way ahead of us and roads were calm and empty. Before we could see the first glimpse of Khardung La top, snowfall started around Himalayan peaks and soon it did not spare us as well.

Riding through moderate tough roads with big rocks on it never felt tough and challenging because of two reasons, the first was that we had ridden way tougher roads in last 4 days and second was the excitement to write a history of our bike trip by touching world’s highest motorable pass, Khardung La top. I had lot of memories of Khardung La from my 2010 Leh trip, so I had an predefined image in my mind. But this did not dilute my excitement of registering my presence there again.


Mission accomplished

Soon we reached at our key milestone of the trip. Khardung La top had a surprising view stored for us. All the Himalayan Odyssey bikers and other two biker groups had made entire top overcrowded. Some lazy people travelling in cars added more spice to the view and left almost no place to park bikes. All the boards of Khardung La top had queues of riders for photographs. We manage to get some photographs of all of us but not even single picture was satisfactory due to unwanted people’s appearance in one or the other photograph. It was really an important milestone for us and all of us wanted quality photographs here.



After a halt of fifteen minutes at Khardung La top, we started towards Nubra Valley with downhill ride on the other side of the top. We four bikers were again lost in the crowd of around 100 bikers. The roads were very bad and clearly that was evident from our speed as well. Steep downhill ride for me had proven always heavy on me. In an hour ride we reached South Pullu, a second check post where travelers need to submit the permission copy. We needed a break here. Maggi and coffee was much needed at this time and tasted delicious. It was well deserved break. This place again was filled up with bikers everywhere.



The road ahead of North Pullu was very easy and enjoyable till Hunder, which was our last stop for the day. After crossing all bad roads and riding in first/second gear, it was the time to pull throttle to extreme. However the fascinating terrains and beautiful mountains of Nubra valley made us stop at many places to capture some memories. All of us loved every moment of the ride and it was evident on our faces.


Khardung Village

To our surprise Mohit caught us on the way. He started his ride at 11:00 AM from Leh. He covered the distance in 3 hours which we had covered in 5 hours. Mohit did not even bother to stop at Khardung La top for photograph.

Anticipating petrol stock out at the only Petrol Pump at Hunder, we decided to fill our bikes first. By this time we were riding ahead of Himyalan Odyssey and we took advantage of this at Petrol pump. In few minutes, a long queue formed up behind us for petrol. Unlike other petrol pumps it was not an automatic pump and looked more like hand pump with manual pumping of fuel from storage tanks. Since it was not electric petrol pump, the measurement of petrol was also done in standard 5 liter container.


The only petrol pump at Hunder

Few kilometers ahead of petrol pump was Hunder village where we had the plan to stay for night. After scouting few streets of village we manage to get a good guest house where we were the only guests for night. Some snacks and coffee and we were all charged up for exploring Hunder village. Anurag, Sudhir and Me manage to climb to the monastery right on the top of the village. The whole valley looked serene from this point. All three of us made most out of this place with some epic photographs. We returned happily jumping down like monkeys. On the way down, Mohit was waiting for us whereas Akshay was missing. Later we came to know that he was relaxing at Guest house.


Birds eye view of Hunder Village

An evening with calmness of village, noise of flowing water stream and chirping words was soothing after 5 hectic days of ride. The dinner was planned in lawn with bonfire. The warmness of bonfire after dinner made us sleep early.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ladakh Bike Trip - Witnessed simplicity and hospitality of Ladakh (Day 5)

Four days continuous ride in Slush, mud, water, rain and snow, we found ourselves back in civilization once we rode into Leh town. We were happy like kids to wear new cloths after four days ride in all kind of possible weather and road conditions.

Day 5 was a day to explore Leh town and to obtain Inland Permit (ILP) from local SDM office. Anurag and Sudhir went for repair of sudhir's bike whereas Akshay and Me went to SDM office to apply for ILP. ILP is a permit issued by SDM to visit Nubra Valley and Pangong Lake. In India when we talk about Govt office, it is always linked with bribe, inefficiency and delays, so we were skeptical about getting permits on time.


We filled up required form and arrived SDM office. We were told to meet a lady in her office. I could see part of the name plate outside her office wherein I learnt that she is ADM. We entered the room and told her about the permission we needed. She was extremely polite in her behavior and greeted us with smile. She studied the form in hurry when she was preparing herself for meeting with her boss. If I were in her place I would never have attended the request keeping in mind that in next five minutes an important meeting is lined up with boss.

She told us to write a request letter along with form we had filled up. She asked, "Do you have plane paper ?". The obvious answer from our side was, "No". She searched her drawers (in between giving some instructions to her PA in Ladakhi dialect regarding preparation of meeting and too busy with phone as well). At the end she gave us plane stamp paper to write a letter. By the time we wrote letter and submitted it back to her, she was getting late for the meeting. 

She signed the permission form but she needed to keep one copy for her records as well. We stupid did not have second copy. Any other government officer would have thrown us out with out permission but this lady was extra ordinary with cool temperament.  She handed over the blank form to us and said, "Fill it up exactly like original". However she could not hold herself for few more minutes so she took the blank form from Akshay's hand, signed it and said, "Please fill up same details and submit it to my PA".

We were touched with her polite behavior, blind trust and support she extended to us. This all happened in 10 minutes time and believe me those 10 minutes were extremely busy for her. I can not imagine an officer of ADM level at any other place in India helping strangers and signing blank form. This is true Ladakh we witnessed.

The story did not end here, at the end of this process and before she left for her meeting, She did not forget to say, "All the best, ride safe and enjoy". This was true humanity. Imagine a person who receive thousand of requests everyday for such permission but she never disrespect tourists and behave so politely. Unlike other tourist places, this is what makes Ladakh the true heaven on earth.

I felt very enlightened after this experience. Somewhere it touched deep my heart and I have an immense respect for that lady ADM because they are the one, who writes small small pages, full of great memories/experiences in everyone's life, who visit Ladakh.  

Rest of the day was spent with bike's minor repair, except Sudhir's bike which was again under major repair. We ate a lot, enjoyed roaming on Leh's streets, lined up in front of J&K Bank ATM for long time, bought jacket for Sudhir after searching entire Leh market and lot of gossips.


By evening Mohit had also reached Leh. He showed great mental strength by riding all the way alone from Manali to Leh. It was unexpected out of him. I must confess that If I was left alone at Manali due to breakdown, perhaps I would not have reached Leh. This was the great example of never give up spirit. But he had to ride one more day alone to Nubra Valley. Since he reached late in evening he could not get the permission to ride to Nubra Valley. Another day was due for him to ride alone.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ladakh Bike Trip - Pang to Leh, Moray Planes and Taglang La Pass with Extra Luggage (Day 4)

Pang is a small valley full tents wherein all travelers (mostly bikers like us) on Manali Leh highway takes shelter for night. Leh is 200 kilometer away from Pang.

A view of Pang

The ride from Pang to Leh seemed easy as compare to last 3 days ride. On the way we had to cross Moray Planes (riding in sand and deserts) and World's Second highest motorable Pass, Taglang La pass of 17,582 feet altitude.

The day started with Coffee prepared with love by Ladakhi host lady. By day 4, we all had become habitual of  performing some standard activities in morning except the obvious ones. These activities were to pack the bags, load it properly on bikes, tighten bungee ropes hard and check your bikes.

While we were busy wrapping our way towards Leh, the Host lady handed over some chocolates and biscuits to us. She said "This you eat on the way and ride safe". It was so touching and humbling experience that my entire day was all happy.

Sudhir loaded his bag on my bike and he was pillion with Anurag. Hardly few kilometers and his bag tilted on one side and mine to the other side. I had no option than to carry his luggage on back. It was really uncomfortable riding with that tall and heavy bag.

Overloaded me with Sudhir's luggage

My struggle with Sudhir's luggage was on and road suddenly disappeared, thats was the beginning of Morray planes. There were plenty of pathways in entire desert and all ended at one place only. The road became softest possible. Tyres of my Royal Enfield were in sand many inches. I was trying hard to maintain the balance of my bike and "extra luggage" loaded on me.

Morray planes

We stopped at no where in the middle of desert away from normally followed routes and had fantastic photo shoot. Despite low oxygen all of us made all possible efforts to click best of pictures "in Action"

Posers trying to have fun at Morray planes in Low Oxygen

Moray planes took us almost one and half hours to complete and it was really fun to ride on sand with no idea of how deep the sand was. Now the steep uphill ride was towards world's second highest motorable pass Taglang la. By now we were bored of crossing passes. In an hour or so, we reached at the top of Taglang La pass. To our surprise, most of us had headache due to low oxygen. Another surprise was Sudhir's quietness. He was disappointed as he was not riding today and above that he had severe headache.


Downhill ride of Taglang La pass towards Leh was painfull. Most of the road was under repair and a layer of stones was everywhere to ride on. As it is I was facing huge problem in downhill ride and by now Sudhir's heavy backpack was hitting me hard on soldiers and neck. Anurag was kind enough to take the backpack from me for rest of the ride. The combination of good roads and less luggage gave me enjoyment of heaven.

Finally some good roads to ride

Upshi was the town where we stopped for Lunch. Leh was hardly 50 kilometer away from here. Surprisingly we were riding on time that day. The first major milestone was an hour away from us. We all sitting quietly waited for lunch when all of us were complaining about noise of silence.

Last stretch of first major milestone was very easy to complete. We reached Leh in late afternoon. Searching a hotel was never a problem in Leh.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ladakh Bike Trip - Keylong to Pang, An encounter with River Crossing, Baralacha La & Nakeela Pass (Day 3)

A night at Keylong after tough riding through Rohtang top felt too short. The plan was to start early the day so that we are able to reach Pang on time. The distance was approximately 180 Kilometer. The day ahead was full of countless water or say river crossing, passes and no roads.

We four riders started the ride at 8:00 AM with empty stomachs with a plan to stop on the way to feed some fuel to body. First my bike did not start in the morning and secondly I had to stop for ten minutes to tie my luggage again on rear seat. After an hours ride we stopped for breakfast and then started the ride again in sometime.

Breakfast break. Fifth rider Mohit left at Manali due to breakdown

This time Akshay and me were ahead of two other riders and road was average. As we took turn to left, a small river was there to test our water riding skills. It was spread across few meters with average depth of water. We crossed one by one comfortably. Since it was our first encounter with river crossing we did not leave the chance to capture some pictures.

First river crossing, an easy hurdle

There was no look back after first river crossing, we crossed countless rivers, some gentle some rude, some deeper and some wider but above all we rode hard.

On the way we had to cross Baralacha La pass, which is known for storms, freezing breeze, lots of snow, low oxygen and extreme weather conditions. The pass is on the height of 16,000 Feet. At the foot of pass itself weather conditions started changing from sun light to drizzling and cold breeze.

While we were preparing ourselves for steep height of Baralacha La, the last and biggest encounter with river crossing was yet to be accomplished. I was riding ahead of the group so reached early at the spot. Noise of water and imbalance of a car crossing the river shaked me badly. Once the car came out of water, I decided to cross with some idea in mind about the line to follow. It was completely different from other water crossing because of uneven surface, deep water, big rocks and invisible surface because of white water. As I moved ahead the front tyre kept on going deeper and deeper. By the time I reached the middle of river, the rear tyre got stuck with a big whole and a rock. The flow of water moved my direction little upward from front and down south from rear. A push of strange biker from behind helped me getting out of the mess.

Me a Spectator for another rider struggling to cross the deepest water we crossed :)

The water was damn freezing and I stayed at least for two minutes in water. Over and above that it was drizzling continuously for almost half an hour. Later reached other riders. All of them crossed comfortably but it was almost impossible to escape from that water with dry shoes and trouser. We enjoyed lot of other riders struggling to cross the river.

The steep uphill ride towards Baralacha la started immediately after this river crossing. These guys had some problem with their K&N filters while crossing river. After some temporary arrangements we started the ride and rode on roads with more than 8 feet snow around it. All our photo freaks did not leave the opportunity to captures some pictures here, no matter how cold their hands and feets were. After this we decided to stop at Baralacha La pass for a while for photographs but we did not even realize when we crossed the pass and started downhill ride.

On the way to Baralachha La Pass

A break at a site at the foot of Baralacha la pass was next stop over for us for lunch. The kerosene stove was all covered by our feets. Even simple food tastes like anything at such places. We all enjoyed Dal and Rice here. The good news was that there was no more water crossing and road was relatively good ahead of us. Half day had gone and we had hardly finished half of the distance.

On the way we had to cross two passes yet, Nakee La (15,547 feet) and Lachung La (16613 feet). On uphill ride towards Nakee La, we happen to ride on Gata loops which was fun to ride.

Few kilometers before Nakee La we realised that Suhdir's bike is again due for breakdown. He rode ahead of us till Nakee La pass where we three riders stopped for a while. By the time we reached downhill of the pass, it was time for Sudhir's bike to load in truck. We negotiated with truck driver to deliver bike at Leh. It took us almost one and half hour to release Sudhir's bike. This breakdown addressed Akshay's and mine fuel problem as we unloaded all petrol from Sudhir's bike.
Sudhir's bike ready for major breakdown

The bad news we got from shopkeeper was that there is still one river to cross and that is way bigger than what we had crossed throughout the day. He even advised us to stay back in the night and cross river early morning next day. But we wanted to reach Pang.

Loading bike on truck was really challenging in low oxygen

Now Sudhir was pillion with Anurag. We rode fast so that we could reach Pang before dark. The road kept on becoming worst and worst as we rode uphill towards Lachulung La pass. A river started flowing on our right side. Somewhere in mind it came that if at all we have to cross this river, it will be very dangerous to do so especially in late evening when there was no one on road except our three bikes and four people.

The rocky mountains started looking horrifying in the evening and view no more fascinating. The narrow roads, rocks and dust made it really tough to ride. In an hours ride and the same river was flowing in front of us. The water was clean enough to see the surface but challenge here was deep water and width of river. We had no choice, so Akshay took the lead which helped me a lot to understand the surface to some extent. With nervous hand I also tighten the throttle. With some minor jerks here and there I manage to cross the river. Anurag as usual crossed it effortlessly, despite the fact that he had pillion. It was the biggest relief I could ever get.

Mountains looked scary in dark

The darkness was increasing every moment and the calmness of mountains seemed attacking us. The road immediately after the river was cut in mountain and was filled with rocks, above it the road was narrow enough to slow down the speed of rider like me. I rode easily with the happiness that river crossing was successful.

Me riding hard towards Pang

We were the last rider for the day. We reached Pang at 9:00 PM. The good thing was that Anurag had identified tent for night stay.

The hospitality of Ladakh is unprecedented. The lady in tent served food with affection to us. She was kind enough to ignite kerosene stove for us. She took care of every small thing we asked for. The day ended with good memories and great experiences.

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