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.


  1. Rahul, loved reading this post! You seem to have had a great time.

  2. Hey, We had super awesome time. I would do everything to relive those days

  3. so wud i...loved ur narration.....have a surprise to tell.....i can recollect ur group the first picture...i was dere .....wonder if u could remember it too:)

  4. OMG, thats really amazing. I am unable connect with you, I dont remember seeing you there. Anyways cheers

  5. Your narration is simply captivating. Great job!!



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