Any guy who first becomes a biker & then starts riding with some riding groups or maybe solo, has only one dream in his life – “Bhai, Ladakh jana hai” :D
Yes, I wasn’t so different from them. I was also under the same category, but yes, I wanted to get matured in biking by riding to various other places nearby or little far & then only attempt the mecca for bikers – Khardung La, Ladakh.
So finally, I bought my first Royal Enfield on February 02nd 2014 & joined Delhi based biking group – Free Souls Rider Motorcycle club around mid of March 2014. Every Sunday we used to have our weekly huddle where group members used to come, chit chat regarding bikes, cars, make fun of each other & plan the next trip.
Delhi to Dehradun was my first ever out station ride with this group around June first week in 2014. I can’t forget the happiness I felt while riding & making these new friends while on road & during late night chit chats. From that day the dream of going to Ladakh got generated.
Since 2014 there has been no looking back & I went on various rides with FSRMC in 2014 & till date, some of them being Spiti Valley, Mana Pass, Rishikesh (5 times), Munsiyari, Nagpur etc. But Ladakh, every year I used to plan from 2015 & it used to get cancelled. Because either I didn’t felt so matured/ confident or I didn’t had leaves or money. By 2017 #FSRMC made me so much expert & confident that I even planned a solo trip to Ladakh. Man!! That was one heck of a decision for me!!! :D
But finally, my dream got fulfilled in 2018 when we planned Ladakh trip from June 04th – 17th 2018. I was excited but was not sure till the time I finally start my bike for this trip in the morning of June 04th 2018 (Cos, you never know what happens at the last moment)
And as the trip was planned by my dear friend – Hitesh Mohan Agarwal, I was pretty much sure it will not be the normal route & most importantly the easy one!!
The main route we planned was Delhi – #Manali – #Rohtang Pass – Sarchu – #Leh – #Nubra Valley – #Siachen Base Camp – Nubra – Spangmik via #AgamShyon, #Pangong Lake – #Hanle via #Chushul, Mahe – #Sumdo via Karzog – Tso Moriri – Sarchu via Debring, Tso Kar – Manali – Delhi
Day 1 – June 04th 2018 - RIDE STARTS FINALLY
Group of 4 hardcore riders & the best friends – Me who is known as DM, Hitesh Mohan Agarwal, Ved Parkash and Bharat Chadha start on their respective Royal Enfields (love of our life). Out of 4, DM & Chadha ji were newbies for Ladakh, Hitesh & Ved bhai had done Ladakh earlier. So, they had pretty good knowledge & had planned itinerary. Chadha ji & I had very simple thought process – wherever they both takes us we would go & most importantly, we will stop every good spot & click as much pictures we can. Instagram pe bhi toh lagani hai … :P
First day we started at 4 am & destination was Manali. First breakdown of Hitesh’s RE Himalayan happened just 50 kms from Delhi. Though our RE expert guy managed it himself within 25 minutes & we were good to go again. We stopped at Shambu barrier where we had breakfast at just a small dhabha.
Before reaching Kullu there was some traffic & we had to go right rather than going straight inside of Kullu. These 3 took that road & as I was in the tail, I couldn’t saw them due to traffic & I took road to Manali via inside of Kullu. Roads were really very small & I had to manage riding with so much luggage with some difficulty. Anyhow, we were in Manali by 6 pm easily. Took up a hotel on old Manali road & after the luggage first thing we opened was – Bottle of Jack Daniels which Hitesh had brought along with him. Rich people you see…. :P
Day 2 – Manali to Sarchu –
Next day was Tuesday & for your kind information Rohtang Pass is closed on Tuesday’s for road maintenance. Only local vehicles can pass it, or you need to get the special permission from Mayor’s office from Manali to cross on Tuesdays. We didn’t have any permission & still woke up early morning & were on Gulaba check post at 6 am. As expected, we were stopped & was not allowed to cross the check post. We requested the head of the check post several times but he didn’t allowed. We waited & waited there for 3 hours & kept on requesting. As there were only 4 bikes, finally they allowed to go & when we crossed the post, we were in our own Swag & happiness. Road were completely empty & we were riding in our own moods n swings.
We managed to reach Rohtang pass around 9 am. View was very beautiful, but effect of global warming was easily viewable. Place which used to get covered up in complete snow till July had very less snow even in first week of June. Roads after crossing Rohtang are bad with rough patches. Though it is just for 30-40 kms, after which roads become smooth.
We had to stop at Khoksar for checking & due to landslide ahead. We were quite lucky that we didn’t reach a day before. As roads were closed from the previous day due to landslide. Roads ahead were planned to open around 2 pm & we were there around 11 am. Not much of a wait! But good part was, roads were made open around 12.30 pm. We reached Keylong around 2 pm, had lunch & made one final call to family members as network doesn’t work ahead of Keylong.
People generally end their day at Jispa while starting from Manali. But we crossed Jispa without even stopping as we had much time & energy to cover more ground. Mesmerizing views of snow-clad mountains started while reaching Zing Zing bar. Just after 10 kms from Zing Zing bar there is a first water crossing. It was not so major but still good enough. Except me all 3 crossed it very easily. As I have been famous for falling in water crossings, how could I defame my personality!!? And yes, I fell in that cold water. See the picture while just falling in that cold water.
Going smoothly & then suddenly – Boom!!!!!!
Anyhow, I stood up dried my boots in few minutes & we were good to go. Next was the another beautiful & most snow-covered pass – Baralacha La & Deepak Tal. We stopped for 15 minutes, clicked photographs & were good to go again.
Just before 15 kms before Sarchu, one small bridge which was made above of mid deep water crossing broke. And there was a big line of traffic who were crossing that water crossing in some way or the another. As we were on bikes we managed to reach till the start point of water crossing, where we saw Innova car completely stuck in the middle of the water crossing & no other vehicle can cross that area now other than bikes.
No bikes were also crossing. But we decided to cross it in any way. Again, the same thing. All 3 crossed other than me. But trust me when I say this one this one was really very deep. For the first time in my life I got scared while crossing. While I was crossing, I fell in it 2 times. Even being 6 ft tall, my feet were not properly touching the ground, as it was so deep. I somehow managed to cross it, but I was completely wet with extremely cold water & now it was already 6 pm & cold waves had also started.
My body started shivering & immediately started feeling fever. I was actually for the first time praying to God, “Please help me just reach till Sarchu in some way.” We reached Sarchu around 7 pm. I didn’t wait a single moment. Immediately unpacked my bag, removed all my wet clothes, wore warmer & jacket & ate medicine. Ooofff!!!! Some relaxation came to my body. I had one hell of a headache and just wanted to sleep. Actually, these are the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) & Sarchu has been famous for this. As after Manali you reach a great altitude of 4290m at Sarchu & your body takes some time to adapt so much to 14000 ft. But one thing you don’t have to do is sleep instantly when you are feeling so much of it. I’m thankful that I had experienced guys with me. They kept on slapping me whenever I felt like sleeping. They literally dragged me to the dining area to eat something. I was not at all feeling hungry but still some Dal rice to feed my stomach. After which they left me to sleep. It was like DDLJ scene – “Jaa simran jaa, jee ley apni zindagi!!! “: D
Day 3 – Sarchu to Leh City
Next morning, I was all well but headache was still there. I packed my bags, took a Disprin again & started from Sarchu around 8 am. Ride from Sarchu to Leh is actually very interesting. It has quite a famous spots. The first one is Gata loops which starts just around 30-40 kms after Sarchu. Gata Loops is a series of 21 hairpin bends that leads to the top of one of the highest motorable passes in Ladakh region that is Nakee La. Don’t forget to stop by a small shrine at one of the turns of Gata loops where you would see a lot of water bottles junk. Actually, this spot is called Ghost of Gata loops, where one truck supervisor died & it is claimed that in the evening people have seen some guy waiving at them & asking for the water. It is little scary as well to listen this story & finally see this spot.
After Gata loops as I mentioned above you reach Nakee La. Till where roads are good enough, after 20 kms from Nakee la, bad patches starts. This Bad road will continue with you for around 30-35 kms & make you halt at Pang which is at 15,640 ft above sea level.
We had our lunch at Pang & just after 10 kms we were welcomed by straight roads which are very popularly known as – “More Plains” It is just another level feel to give the full throttle of bikes & just ride on the max speed. FYI – Max Speed of your bullet will be 90 or 100 kmph, as strong winds will hold your speed as well. We stopped at More Plains for 15-20 minutes made videos, clicked photographs & then headed to Tanglang La. Which is the world’s second highest Pass at the height of 17,580 ft above sea level. Roads leading to #Tanglang la are very steep. My RE Thunderbird 350 was moving in 2nd gear, only 3 or 4 times I was on 3rd gear. While riding towards Tanglang La, my headache started again & it was paining like hell. When we reached Tanglang La, there were very strong winds flowing. It is always recommended to wear the cap & cover your ears as well. Doesn’t matter if it is sunny as well, you are not supposed to remove your cap. My headache was at its peak & I was not able to stand there for even 10 minutes. I clicked some photographs there & while other 3 members were still standing & said them that I’ll meet ahead at some other point below & left from there.
I can’t express how fast I was riding on that hills as I quickly wanted to reach at some place which had less altitude than Tang Lang La. I kept on riding without even stopping for a minute & stopped only at Karu. Where I had another Disprin with water, chai n biscuit & did some rest.
All the headache was over by then. I felt nothing later & was completely feeling fresh.
Another stop was finally the main happening city – Leh. Where we reached around 6.30 pm. Our hotel was already booked which was from inside the market.
We settled down, relaxed ourselves & opened our bottles of whiskey. And enjoyed the Wi-Fi which was most important thing by then.
Next day was to relax, get permits & explore Leh city & nearby spots.
Day 4 – Leh City
We started our day with Chole Bathure from Neha snacks in the Leh market. We bought some T-shirts, got the permits done & left for Pathar Sahib Gurudwara, Magnetic hill & Sangam point. And got our bikes serviced as well.
Due to less time, we skipped checking Shanti Stupa & #Lamayuru Monastery.
Day 5 – Leh to Hundar
Next day we packed our bags & left around 8.30 am. We planned to start early but still got late. The first stop was mighty Khardung La. But I can’t tell you the traffic we found 10 kms before reaching the main stop. But luckily, we were not in car but on bikes. Hence, we managed to cross all the cars & reach the show stopper of Ladakh – “Mighty Khardung La”
But oh man, I can’t tell you what this place has now become. You would feel that you are in Mussorie if you reach this place in traffic. People are fighting to get their picture clicked with Khardung la board. People have not even covered their body properly, forget about covering the head. And these are the people who vomit while going ahead or coming back from there.
We clicked only 2 or 3 pictures there & left from there. Roads ahead are buttery smooth, though very narrow as well, also has sharp turns.
Roads & views while reaching Nubra valley is very beautiful. Red mountains start appearing from here.
Point to be noted is that there are less shops in this route in between.
When you reach Nubra valley –
1. You can stop either at Diskit, which has monastery with tallest lord Jampa Buddha statue.
2. Or You can stay at Hundar, which has various hotels & camps & famous desert camel safari is available here.
3. Also, now there is another spot to cover. Which is Thong village ahead of Hundar. Where you can click your picture with the famous sign board which says – “You are 2.2. kms away from POK”
We preferred to stay at #Hundar. Which is very calm place & Wi-Fi at slow speed is available in almost hotels. Did safari in the evening & came back hotel & had drinks. Even there is a Bar available in Hundar (I am marking it bold, as only Sharabis can feel the happiness of it 😉)
Oh yes! Not to forget that there is also a Petrol pump in Hundar. Many people are not aware about it. Though if you are not lucky, then it might be closed. As it doesn’t get petrol all the days. Anyhow were lucky to get our bullet tanks filled the next day.
Day 6 – Hundar to Siachen Base Camp
Each one of the traveller leaves from Hundar to Pangong lake. But not us!! Remember I told you in the starting, our trip was planned by Hitesh & he always does the extraordinary. He got us the permissions approved to visit Siachen Base camp from one of the Indian Army Major in his family. (Full details are not being written here due to confidentiality)
We hired a local taxi as bikes are strictly not allowed there. Roads to Siachen are almost empty, 3-4 small villages come enroute. And mountain peaks you get to see on this road is phenomenal!!
It took us sometime to reach Siachen base camp & training where general public can go & see, was already over. Still there is a Siachen War Memorial which has 1100 names of the soldiers who have died for India. I can’t express the emotions which were coming seeing this War memorial. There is also one small Shiv temple which is in between the mountains, but you would have to walk 100 steps on that mountain to reach that temple. 100 looks easy but when you are at Siachen base camp, you are already at such a great height. After every 10-15 steep steps we used to stop, take a deep breadth & then start again. But when you reach that temple which is actually incarnated naturally inside a mountain & has a beautiful & natural Ice Shivling made from the mountain water, the view is just extra ordinary. You would feel like you are standing in Amarnath Gufa. See the picture below –
We returned to Hundar the same day. The drive from Hundar to Siachen one side is 5 - 6 hours without stopping. As it is around 120 kms one side.
Day 7 – Hundar to Spangmik (Pangong Lake)
We started from Hundar around 7 am. Stopped at petrol pump for getting the bikes filled & then stopped at Diskit to check out the monastery & then left for Pangong lake from Agham Shyok route. When we started from Diskit, it started drizzling lightly. Everyone got their rain coats out, but I was not carrying the one. So, I started like this itself & continued praying that it doesn’t start raining heavily. Agham Shyok road was mesmerizing with no shops in between. Just you & the mountains on your right & left.
This road finally leads to Pangong Lake. The first view of Pangong Lake is like – Wow!!! Smile comes on your face automatically when you first see it.
My personal suggestion is to not stay just near to Pangong Lake, rather leave for #Spangmik which is 5 kms ahead. From Homestay to luxury camps, you’ll find everything there.
In the evening we did heavy loads of Photography there. Returned to the camp & had drinks.
In the morning view of Pangong lake from the camp was just next level.
Day 8 – Spangmik to Hanle
We started from Spangmik at 8 am. We thought it will be 4 hours ride. But oh man!!! One of the toughest ride of full trip was this one. Hanle was like – Bhai, kab aaega Hanle?
There were actually no roads at all from Spangmik to Chushul. It was completely off-road. Once you cross Chushul, you reach the prestigious #Rezang La war memorial. Generally, people are not aware about this war memorial & just cross it like this.
But we were eagerly waiting for this memorial, as Me, Chadha ji & Ved bhai were filled with so much patriotism by Hitesh during late night sessions, where he explained us the value of Rezang La & the historic battle fought by Major Shaitan Singh & his 120 Jawans fought till the last breadth with 5,000 Chinese soldiers & won the battle. The feeling you get while standing there is gallantry.
We reached Hanle around 6.30 pm. Roads 40 kms before Hanle are so smooth that you can’t stop yourself giving full throttle to the bike. And the views of Red mountains are like some sceneries which we see hanging on walls at some homes.
The view in the night is something not to miss. Stars are so big & near, you would feel like that if you reach the top of mountain nearby, you might be able to touch those stars.
Day 9 – Hanle to Sumdo via Karzok
Next day we explored Hanle where we visited world’s highest observatory & the Hanle monastery. We had plan to cover Photi La as well, but permissions were not granted at the check post of Hanle. Hence, we decided to leave from Hanle & cover as much distance as possible before Tso Morori.
Around 7 pm we reached Sumdo & decided to take a homestay. It was the first homestay which was completely raw. We actually stayed in someone else’s dining area & family made the delicious food for us. Nights were extremely cold but thank god we had old rum with us. 😉
Day 9 – Sumdo to Tso Moriri to Sarchu
This day was extremely painful. All the body parts were paining till the time we reached Sarchu.
From Sumdo to Kyagar Tso lake road were smooth. But from Kyagar Tso Lake to Tso Moriri it was completely off-road. Bikes were running on 2nd gear only.
We reached Tso Moriri lake around 9.30 something & we had our breakfast in the nearby shop. We had another round of photography session at Tso Moriri Lake & then we started the ride for Sarchu
After the bad stretch of 20 kms roads become smooth & after Mahe check post roads to Sarchu via Tso Kar are very bad in shape then near Debring it gets better. On this road, we saw the fresh snowfall which was only for few minutes & very less. While we were on More Plains, Ved Bhai’s bike started giving problems. And just 15 kms before Pang Ved Bhai’s bike stopped & then refused to start.
Our Mechanic & expert guy in this field, Hitesh was sure he will get it solved. But unfortunately, the bike refused to start after a lot of efforts. We were standing there for close to one hour now. At this moment, we decided to at least leg push it till Pang, as it was down slop & then see what to do. It was already 4.30 pm by then.
Luckily Devilz on Wheels car was just about to start from there for next stop. We requested their mechanic for help & team was quite generous to help us. After 30 minutes bike got started & we can’t express the amount of happiness we got at that moment. We thanked Devilz on wheels team & started for Sarchu again, though we knew we were quite late by then.
Even on off roads now, our speed was quite good. We were on 3rd gear & just riding on bad patches without using breaks.
Unexpectedly we managed to reach Sarchu by 7 pm. It was the most hectic day of ours & we rode motorcycle for close to 12 hours. Oh Man!! It was a great feeling.
This time I was fit n fine at Sarchu, as my body had faced almost every kind of weather condition. We had Rum, then food & slept peacefully.
Day 10 – Sarchu to Manali
Next day I started with the fear again, as I knew I had to cross that big water crossing once again. I was hell lot of afraid. But once we reached there, broken bridge was already made fit & people were crossing that bridge now.
While all 3 of my friends crossed, I stopped there. Saw that water crossing again, collected it as a memory through my eyes & clicked the photograph of it. In below picture you won’t be able to analyse the depth of this water crossing –
We thought to reach till Keylong & end our day. But all the four riders were in so sync one below another & were picking so great speed, that we ended our day in Manali. We crossed Zing Zing Bar, Baralacha La, Rohtan La, Gulaba check post without even stopping for the pictures once again. And yes, I didn’t fall in the Zing Zing Bar crossing. I was so proud at that moment. 😊
When we reached back Manali, we congratulated each other & shared our happiness with another bottle of Whiskey. Coming back to network area was a different feel all together. So many WhatsApp messages, calls to be made back to home, Facebook, Instagram etc... After 1 hour, we actually realized that it was so good when we didn’t had network, as no one had their mobile in hand: D
Day 11 – Manali to Delhi
We were in full swing while on this last day. Each one of us was riding at the most possible controllable speed as were quite excited to get back home from such a great cherish able trip.
Luckily there was no break down on the last day & we made it to home well on time. Though not to forget that we all were welcomed by the Delhi traffic, where people were seeing us from their cars as aliens are riding along with them. It was Hilarious!! :D
But finally, when I slept that day I thanked to these special & close friends of Mine – Hitesh Mohan Agarwal, Ved Parkash & Bharat Chadha, because of whom my dream ride finally got completed. And not to forget the thanking to God, who made this ride so memorable for me.