Ride of a Lifetime…Trip of Leh-Ladakh, the heaven on Earth.


Travelling to Leh-Ladakh is a dream for every passionate rider out there. It’s his lifetime wish to visit at least once to this place promptly called as ‘Heaven’. No, I don’t mean to exaggerate this thing,  you can ask any rider who has completed this journey and the first thing you’ll hear him say from this mouth are the words ‘Heaven’. It is said that, you can only see heaven when you die (supported by your Karma) but, here is the opportunity to see it when you are alive.

As I am writing this for the larger crowd, let me take time to explain this place. Leh, usually associated with Ladakh (City) is a place located on the north-eastern part of Jammu and Kashmir state of India. This place and almost all the state is under the grip of mountain range popularly known to everybody as the Himalayas. The moment we hear anyone saying ‘Himalaya’ that means snow-capped mountains with no or little vegetation.You will see only 2 colors, Light Brown and White. The world’s highest motorable pass ‘Khardung-La’ (18380 ft from mean sea level) falls in Leh and is 39kms from the city centre. Though, it is not the actual one and real hero is ‘Marsimek-La’ which is 18634 ft and 183 kms from Leh towards Pangyong lake. The fact is that this is not much commercialized by tourists and locals as compared to ‘Khardung-La’ hence the fact. The ‘La’ means ‘Pass’ in Tibetan language.

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Location of ‘Leh’ on the Map.

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Places along the Manali-Leh route with their respective Altitudes from the mean sea level…

Now, this is my story. The journey is best felt when you are on a two-wheeler. You can feel the elements of the nature, the wind, the sun, the rain and lastly the dust. Sitting comfortably in AC inside the car wont give you that feeling of oneness with the mother earth. I saw many people along my ride, sleeping inside the car wishing for their destination to come. In the end, it’s not about the destination that matters but what lies along way. Someone has truly said, “4 Wheels move the Body, 2 Wheels move the Soul”.

 

The only bike which survived such harsh terrains of the Himalayas was none other than the Mighty ‘Royal Enfield’s’. It served the Indian Army round the clock where other could not. Even today, as I will share later on, Indian Army uses it to full extent on those harsh off roads condition. The perfect attribute describing this bike would be Built tough, rugged, made of metal, long-lasting, durable and finally a true companion. You will notice this the moment you have your first kick-start. I too felt the same and for the reasons mentioned above I too purchased a ‘Royal Enfield Desert Storm’ bike with 500cc. This bike truly separates Men from boys. The reason behind going for the 500cc was only to get the additional torque which would help me conquering those mighty Himalayan ranges. This was way back in Sep 2014 when I had the opportunity to test ride the bike. Never, before in my life had I owned a ‘Geared’ motorcycle and this was my first to sit upon. Prior to sitting I had a good amount of knowledge about riding geared motorcycles and the moment after finishing my test ride, I decided that this will be my first and last bike which I will own. The moment came and on 10th Feb 2015, I lay my hands on this beast. Now, I wanted to try this beast on the mighty Himalayas, but I was too immature to do so. Firstly, I had to take control over this bike. Get to know each other very well before attempting such daring task. The 2015 ended in a good shape and I clocked almost 11000kms within the first year of purchase.

2016 dawned and the first big ride of the year which was ringing into my ears was the ride to Himalayas. However, planning was started from the previous year itself majorly focusing on the route to be taken. A lot of people start their journey from Chandigarh (see 1st  image), a place around 250 kms from the Nation’s capital. They say that the real journey starts from there only. Some people ship their bike till there and from there onwards start riding north. But I hate seeing myself and my bike getting separated by even a km. I stay in Ahmedabad working with Ford India Pvt Ltd as Powertrain Engineer. So my journey was to begin from Ahmedabad itself. A lot of people tried diverting my mind saying that you should start your journey from up north but the only reply I gave back to them was, I wanna ride more and more.

Actually, this journey wouldn’t had been happened. I had planned for Tour of Nepal this year and I spent almost 1 month planning it. The reason for not choosing the Leh trip was that I was unable to find good amount of riders along with me. Mom wasn’t sending me alone there. I planned the Nepal tour starting from 12th Aug till 27th Aug only to find in the end that Nepal has rainy season going on around at this time of the year  and I didn’t want to take any chances of riding in heavy rains on that mountains. The trip planned was one of my longest till date and was covering 4800kms from going till return.But now, Nepal ride getting cancelled, I had no choice left but to choose Leh again. I did not find any other good places to visit over a period of 2 weeks during this time as most part of the India was experiencing rainy season. Leh, experiences Summer season at this period of time though there is occasional rainfall which can happen any time. But, June-August is the best time to visit this place and you can get the beautiful views of the mountains and surroundings and the sky would be blue. From Sept onwards it starts to get cold and snowy.

Now that the Leh ride was fixed on the same date, I was in search of riders to accompany me in this daunting trip. Currently only me and my room-mate ‘Ganesh’ were in. I tried asking some of my friends who were having Enfield’s to join but they refused due to some personal reasons. Now that I had exhausted my friends list, I posted the details about the ride on the company website hoping that someone might join. I even went to local city showroom enquiring for possible interested riders. i got some 2-3 replies from the website but failed in the later part. I got 2 guys confirmed from the website, one who was working in Iran and was about to come to India during that period of time on vacation and the second was from sikkim. They were with me will the last week of planning only to find that they were backing off due to ‘some’ unavoidable reasons. Now, again we were left with only 2. I spent 5-6 months planning this ride and I didn’t want to get this too getting cancelled only because no other rider was able to join. My mantra is simple, if you have planned for something, you gotta execute it no matter what comes. And, since I had put all my blood, sweat and weekends into this planning, there was no chance I was stepping back. Finally there was only a week left for the ride and we thought involving any another rider at this point of time would bear no fruits and he wont be ‘Ready’ with all the stuff.

As I was fighting this battle, parallelly I was fighting another battle in my company. The second battle name was ‘Leave’. Those who are working professionals know how hard it is to get leaves and that too for 2 weeks continuous. I fought this battle for almost 2 months, initially I was defeated but I tried again and again only to get it approved in the last week. I knew ‘leave’ was never going to stop me from making my dream and adding to that I was almost ready for the ride having packed up everything. ‘Leave’ was just a formality I had to complete. My friend got his leave approved easily. Now, we were only 2 people going for this challenging ride for the very first time. Ganesh has clocked only 5000kms on his bike till now and the longest he had ridden was 300kms and here were on our journey of 5000kms where we would be travelling on an avg daily 400kms for 14 days consecutively. I was having full confidence over him that he would be able to achieve this feat.

Let me take a few minutes to explain our route. We were starting from Ahmedabad on 12th Aug in late afternoon. We had office that day and were working half day. The route is very well explained below:

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Total Distance: 4800 kms.

Earlier we had planned to take the Srinagar route towards Leh, but there were no signs of tensions reducing over the area and adding to that curfew was still present. We thought it would be wise not to go over by that route as it was high risk owing to increased militancy in recent months. So had to change our route at the final point, without any much changes.There are three routes to reach leh:

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1: inital planned route via Srinagar 2: Route modified which we took avoiding Srinagar 3: Common route which almost all riders take.

 

Before the actual planning began, one day I came over this post on FB about some of the most dangerous roads in the world to drive upon and guess it had this ‘Killar – Kishtwar’ road patch getting nominated as one of the most dangerous roads. My next reaction was to open you tube and see it. I got some few videos posted by some bikers who had covered this stretch and the it was just ‘Adrenaline’ but at the same time my heart just skipped a beat by just looking at the ‘Road’ width available. To one side there was this rock-cut mountain and to the other side it was a deep gorge only to find your dead body down alongside the rock flowing Chenab river. No doubt this route was a dreaded one. I am an adventurous guy, without consulting anyone I added this part of my journey(see link attached, Part 2 at the bottom of this page) on my way towards Leh. I showed the ‘ Killar- Kishtwar’ patch to some people and they were totally shocked and their only reaction was are your mad? do you want to die? and here I was, only listening from one ear and leaving the matter from the other. I personally think, without challenges in life, life does not become interesting and worth to live for. However, I would strongly recommend you get a good hand over your bike before attempting this stretch.

The route planned for 14 days, we didn’t want to miss anything especially when you are going on such a long tour where finding basic necessities are difficult and harsh weather conditions make it even more difficult to survive. In order to cater this, we had prepared a list of essential things to carry, carefully selected by month-long internet exploring exercise. The list included: Food for 2 days(came from my home) to survive if you get stuck in the middle and you are unable to find anything, Maggi noodles to cook food instantly, Gas stove and matchstick, bunch of loose newspapers, toilet papers, rope, tent, bed sheets, knives, torch, moov, 10m long rope, spare tubes, fuses, air pump, spare spark plugs, spare fuse, engine oil, air filter, utensils,fuel cans, first aid kit, vicks, Diamox tablets, pain killers and the list just goes on.

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All set to go!!

And now that everything was set, It was time to kick-start the engine and start living the dream. We started around 3pm on 12th August and our first destination was Udaipur. It was 260 kms from the starting point. We covered the stretch in a single go without stopping for a break and reached our first checkpoint around 7:30 pm in the evening. We had our tea in the city itself and got refreshed for the dinner.Hotel was booked beforehand but it was a pain in the ass to find it as Udaipur being a tourist city there is a lot of hotel with same and most of them located in the small alleys. A good advise would be if you are staying in udaipur only for a night then please book outside the city limits as, for a rider carrying such a heavy luggage it is difficult to move with it especially if you are don’t know where you are going. It makes you uncomfortable. We slept ASAP as we had a big day ahead travelling to our next checkpoint which was Rohtak, around 680kms drive.

Next day we woke up early and readied ourself. With a quick cup of tea we back on the roads. The highway NH48, on which were travelling is one of the best highways to ride in India. Till now, my best highway remains the Indore-Bhopal. You just cannot explain how peaceful and serene it is to drive on this stretch. Along the way we were constantly looking upwards towards the sky as it was cloudy, exactly what the IMD has predicted for the day. How-ever we were fortunate enough to avoid rain and ran into our first halt for breakfast just 100kms off Ajmer.  Now the sun had pretty come out of the cloud cover and it was now like a perfect sunny day! We rode comfortably and halted outside Jaipur for a lunch break around 2pm. One of the beat Indian meals are served on the road side dhabas and also very cheap. There is not advertisement, no publicity and riding just makes this thing into reality. After a lip smacking food we were back to riding and only 300kms towards our destination. We were taking the rewari route towards Rohtak. Earlier we had planned to halt in Delhi, but seeing the traffic conditions out there we thought that living outskirts would benefit us in reducing precious travelling time, hence Rohtak. We reached the city entrance around 8pm after some night driving through the Rewari. The city entrance was the worst ever I’ve found till now. No lights and muddy roads. By looking no one will guess this road leads to good City. Already, throughout the day we were frustrated by the cattle menace along the highway roads and this was adding salt to our injuries. Cattle herds standing/ sitting on the highway roads is now a common sight these days. They remove the move even an inch after you literally blow your horn. In the end, you have to reduce your speed fearing that cattle might run in any directions if they see you speeding at them. Is this is the season for them that during this period they come out and relax on the roads or there is some other story? Need to figure out.Hotel, like the last time was pre booked and this time it was easy to find it, thanks to its popularity we could find it easily on the GPS. We reached around 8:45 pm and offloaded our all luggage into the room. Unlike the previous hotel, this time we took AC hotel as we were tired after a continuous riding throughout the day. One disadvantage of carrying luggage on the bike is that every time you halt for a night you need to take it off. And, here we were carrying luggage to accommodate us for 14 days. Taking the luggage out of the bike was tiring and sweaty job, almost like running a 5km marathon. This is the worst part of the journey every rider faces. Removing might be easy but to mount it back again takes double time as one has to take care that he does not leave any loose ends otherwise he might scatter them away on the highways or even sometimes a rider doesn’t even come to know that something he was carrying is missing! A hot water shower reduced our agony followed with another good meal of roti and anda bhurji. Dinner was taking inside the hotel even though they did not have a restaurant running up there, it was cooking in the manager’s personal kitchen. The reason we did this was that we had not even a calorie of energy left to go out and have a dinner in a place unknown to us. There was no time for other things, we put all our electronics to charge and slept peacefully.

It was 14th August today was were on our next journey towards Pathankot. Pathankot was 493 kms from Rohtak. The sky seemed black and cloudy and there were high chances that it would rain. We left the hotel around 7am and decided to extend the breakfast and escape the black could first. But, luck was not at our side. After covering just 30 kms it started to rain and we had to put our protectives on. I had specially bought the shoe covers and a construction people hand gloves to protect the most vulnerable body parts. I knew I had to buy shoe covers to protect the shoes from getting wet. That is a mandatory for all the people riding in rain and going towards Leh. I had bought the RE shoe-covers but they wont be lasting for more that 1 ride. It will be better if you buy Gum Boots. They are sturdy and will last longer. They will however look odd and people might stare at you while you are riding but, safety always comes before fashion and cosmetics. The same was for handgloves. The normal riding gloves are not waterproof, so we had bought hand gloves which construction people use to cover their hands to avoid get wet. We had put up these over our normal riding gloves and it were working like a charm. Thanks to ‘Shubesh Pancholi’ for giving this tip to us. It was not raining heavily and soon the rain vanished. The view after the rain was superb. On both the sides you had lush green farms with the typical smell when you pass through villages. Adding to that the sun was just coming up and its reflection on the wet road just made it heavenly. We were on the Rohtak-Panipat highway and I would say that this is my second best highway that I have travelled upon. You just gotta try this 60km patch of highway. It is totally Nirvana, it will make all your worries vanish and you will start to think, Do such places exist! We had our breakfast in Panipat with Paranthas and cup of tea. Yeah, that is enough when you are riding. You don’t want to get heavy and fall asleep. We met few young bikers from Panipat , as it was Sunday morning where most of the riders can be seen going out for rides. They wished us luck for our journey and we were off again.

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We along the Panipat young riders!!

But the situation was horrible, the sky was complete black and we could not able to see even a faint blue till far away. Time was ticking and we left our fate to God. So sooner did we cover 15-20kms it started to rain cats and dogs. We knew that we would have to face such situation so we hadn’t removed our protective gears. We decided to continue on till it was unbearable as we could not see what was in front of us.After some good 30-40kms riding we decided to take break and took our bikes directly inside the shed of one hotel nearby. Even though we had rain proof jackets and pants, the protective is from inside and outside you have the textile material. You wont be feeling the wetness from the rain but as the textile get wet it tends to get heavy which really makes you uncomfortable. Adding to that some water had leaked from the back of the helmet and taking the spinal cord route it went through the shoe cover and ultimately inside my shoe. The quantity wasn’t that much and only my socks got little wet avoiding the shoe. Socks can get dry quickly but the shoes wont. So you have to protect your shoes at any cost. So, Gum Boots rocks instead of plain Shoe covers, remember this statement while venturing for big rides.The rain didn’t seem to stop but only the intensity had reduced and we have a good amount of kms left to cover. We took a brave decision to continue with our ride whatever may come in the way. With all the protective gears, it was so chilling inside that even drank almost 2 full glass of tea to warm ourselves and set off again. Sometimes, in life you gotta take that risks, you gotta take decisions based on your instincts and what your mind thinks and heart says. The decision favored in our way and soon after reaching Ambala, some 100 kms off panipat, we were driving with clear sky above and bright shinning Sun! From there onwards it didn’t rain and we covered Ludhiana next and finally had late lunch around 4 pm in Jalandhar. We had only 120 kms left for Pathankot, our destination for today and reached around 6 pm there only to find that my co-riders bike started to give problems. We were just 400mtrs from our hotel and the bike was refusing to start. Everything with the bike was OK, but when you would self-start or kick it would crank and immediately die. We diagnosed the issue for almost 1 hr and that too on the road itself. It was getting terrible hot inside me as I was working with all my protective gears on. If you don’t let air pass through your gear it starts to become hot and makes you sweat heavily from the inside. You get instantly de-hydrated, the process which is slow and you don’t even know. It was like working in an oven. Finally we had to drag the bike till hotel and only prayed that it got repaired somehow as we didn’t want to waste  the next day to service it. Since it was around 7pm that time and that too Sunday, all the repair shops were closed and we couldn’t get help. We thought that our 1 day will be wiped out from the plan only due to this. We could not see and help coming to rescue us. We had given hope and decided to look after the bike tomorrow morning. Since, the real journey was starting the next day, riding through the mountainous region even a 1 hr delay would cost us and we could have been riding in the night. But there was no other option. We off loaded all our luggage into the room and just as we were about to go inside we decided to try our last chance on speaking with the hotel staff to see whether we could find any person with an electrical background, since the issue seemed to be an electrical one. The height is, my co-rider is ‘BTech in Electrical Engineering’ but even he could not diagnose the issue. Frankly, speaking it take time and experience to get controls of the electrical and the electronics of your bike. Even today, I am also not aware of such things and have to rely on the RE service staff to resolve electrical type of issues. Luckily we found one guy, who was a technician at local service shop and was staying nearby hotel. Thanks to the security guard of the hotel who was knowing him well. He did some ‘MAGIC’ and even till date I dont understand what exactly he did and bike started like a charm. Then we repeatedly switched the engine on and off to see if the problem persisted or not. We didn’t want to take risk of bike getting stalled in the mountains where no help could get by. So we wanted to be 100% sure that bike was ready for tomorrow morning. Even though he did some jugaad, he told us to show it to proper service centre along the way and get it done once and for all. Now, the only issue revolving in our mind was that whether it will start tomorrow or not. For safety reasons we took his number. But, that situation didn’t came up and in the morning we were comfortably able to start the bike and off we started our next journey towards Kishtwar! It was 15th Aug, Independence Day.

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Hotel in Pathankot..

We started immediately after having a big glass of Tea. Both the bikes were behaving normal and we were cursing at comfortable speed. It was highway and very well maintained by the army people. Though occasionally there were potholes along the way. This is common as the road has to bear very heavy loads of the Army Trucks and other big vehicles passing daily over it. Soon, we reached the Jammu Border and were encountered with the local policeman who were guarding near a check post. They stopped us seeing our attire and asked few probing questions like Where have you come from? and where were you going? One guy even asked me, that whether I worked in the Army after seeing my Desert Storm! After answering to all their questions we were on the road again. The air was filled with all the patriotic songs which lifted our mood and in our minds we thanked to all the soldiers passing by for protecting us and keeping our country safe and sound! The road soon was going to get converted into a mountainous one and before that could happen, we checked our air pressure on the tires and had one good look at the bike. From now on-wards our real journey was going to get started. The roads were as we had projected, uneven and lot of potholes generated by severe rain hitting the surface. It is very difficult to repair roads on these surface due to the location and the area available for work. But even-though we got some good patched in between where we were riding at around 50-60kmph. We had a good breakfast in a small hotel located in the midst of the mountains. Here too, we had a breakfast of paranthas and curd! We spent some quality time asking the shopkeeper about his life and how he manages to earn his living even in the remotest places. His reply was, I earn enough for a living. Such a modest reply from him made my heart melt instantly. In this world filled with greed, people are not content with themselves and always want more and here I was taking to a person who was exactly opposite to us. For me this is the real definition of Happiness. Happiness doesn’t necessarily mean materialistic! After a good hour-long discussion we bid adieu to our friend and were back to riding. The route was from Udhampur, going through Patnitop towards Kishtwar. The  mountains really started to grow big as we reached Udhampur and from there on-wards it was really exciting to ride along side the lush green mountains covered with Pine trees. Ohh! the smell of that is still circulating inside my head. I can easily notice a Pine tree nearby even without seeing one! Since we had a heavy breakfast, we skipped lunch and also we were not that hungry and we reached Batote around 1pm. From here actually we had to turn towards Kishtwar but missed the sign and in turn were heading towards Srinagar and this we came to know after travelling 13 kms and seeing no signboards of Kishtwar ahead of us. You get really pissed off once this happens. Driving 13kms on those road is as good as driving 50-60kms on highways. I know every rider faces this situation while travelling on unknown roads! We lost around 1hr to come back to original route and Kishtwar was still good 90kms more to go. Some how the roads were good enough for us to travel 50-60kmph and were following Chenab River. We were feeling some cold as the mountains were laden with trees and the  sun being blocked by tall mountains.

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‘Avril’ @ Patnitop!

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On the way towards Kishtwar. Chenab flowing alongside!

Around 15kms were left for our day to come to an end and we decided to halt for much required tea break. We had some ‘Sev’ along with hot tea and rested for some time. Along the way again one checkpost came where again the same questions were asked before letting us go. They felt suspicious seeing our huge luggage. Their suspicion was warranted as there was a huge ‘Yatra’ of ‘Machail Mata’ located at Padder along the Kistwar-Killar route, the route to be taken the next day for us.This ‘Yatra’ is very huge and people from both Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh come to visit her. It is very big and densely crowded and hence the tightened security. Finally, we reached the city if Kishtwar. Upon arriving there, I noticed that it was completely a Muslim city and that day being 15th of Aug, I was seeing some police personnel deployed to maintain law and order. Thought flashed into my mind, wrong place at the wrong time.However, the police helped us to find a decent hotel to stay. That night was a full moon day and the city was shining with the moon’s light. The sight was awesome. The city is completely engulfed by mountains and feels like an oasis between it. I was so mesmerized by the view that I decided to sit outside and enjoy the view. The moment was perfect, Lights in the city had gone, Cold wind blowing on your face and you sitting on the chair listening to perfect songs and moon throwing its light on your face. I was missing my coffee very much but even though that moment made me at peace with my inner mind. This thing I have never experienced in my life and I would recommend other rider to please visit this city once in a life time. Sorry couldn’t take a photo of that moment and it is captured and saved in my heart for lifetime. No photo can express what I felt and you personally have to come to witness it! some of the things you might be able to see on my video link (Part 1). It was quite dark and after a good non-veg dinner we decided to call the day off and fall asleep but somehow my mind wanted more of the glimpse which was outside our hotel. Next Day, the mighty one, Kishtwar to Killar.

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The beautiful city of Kishtwar, clicked on the morning of 16th August around 6:30am

Finally the day had arrived, 16th of August to take on, one of the most dangerous routes in the world, The Kishtwar – Killar Route. The route is short about 120kms but it takes around 11-12hrs of driving. With that thing revolving in our minds we started early without breakfast or even a tea, hoping that somewhere along the way we could find one. This was the first time we were filling up our till now empty fuel cans. We knew there was no fuel available for more than 280kms ahead we decided to tank up as well as carrying 10lts more fuel. We knew driving in lower gear wont fetch us good average and hence the need. We had seen this route on the youtube and slowly that thing was coming into reality. We were little bit afraid as well as super excited to complete this tough patch. A strong recommendation to new riders doing this patch, please try a good hand on your bike. Have a good command over the bike and most important thing balance with all those heavy luggage at your back! Trust me, you’ll need this while doing the patch.

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Somewhere along the Kishtwar-Killar Patch. See how tiny you are in front of those mountains!

A few hours into our journey and we were confronted at a checkpost only to come to know that it was the Maratha 6th Regiment serving there. Before turning into right turn towards checkpost, we saw a nameplate on which ‘Sinhagad’ was written. We instantly came to know that somewhere-someone is like us. ‘Sinhagad’ is a fort in Pune, whose significance cannot be explained with just few lines. You have to google it to find its prominence in the era of the Great ‘Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj’. When they stopped to enquire about us, hearing our dialect the immediate first thing they asked us was whether we were from Maharashtra. Our number plates didn’t help here as both of us bought bike in Gujarat! They were not leaving us before having breakfast and insisted to park our bikes and have breakfast in standing vehicle costting upwards of 1.5Crore. I think for a normal or even extra ordinary people having a breakfast in 1.5Crore Military vehicle is no ordinary thing. But they insisted to have it inisde as all the military guys were there. It was a moment of extreme pride and our hearts just filled in with compassion.We were actually feeling embarassed to eat there even though we were having 2 days worth food sitting inside our bags. We had Puri-Aloo sabji and the taste was just awesome. They tried to feed us till the food came till our throats! They said that you wont be getting a hotel on these kind on roads and they even packed us a lunch and evening dinner for us. So generous of them! Even in this kind of environment and situation, without thinking of self, serving the nation/community/people is always ahead for them. A big Salute to them. Really, they say that and also you will find along the roads a board saying ‘ Indian Army, Always there for you’.

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We with the Maratha 6th Regiment. This is the same regiment where my Grandfather served once!

Moving on, there was mild traffic felt on the roads. It was due to the ‘yatra’ being held at padder this time of the year.We were following chenab river along the way and the gorge was not that deep till we reached padder around Noon.

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Just after Padder.

After Padder, there was nothing. No traffic, no people, just 2 of us with our bikes and wild animals. The roads soon started to shrink only to be left 7-8ft and along with that the altitude also increased a little bit, making the river thinner in appearance. Whatever we’d had dreaded was lying in front of us. We were now officially on the most dangerous roads of the world. The seen before me was terrifying. I was leading as I didn’t want ganesh, who had less experience than me wobble along the way. Only 1st gear was possible. Now, Balance and Concentration was the only thing separating us between life and death. One mistake and you and joining hands with Chenab, but in dead condition and with no guarantee of your body finding in one piece. I was literally avoiding to see down and was completely focusing on the road ahead. Speed was in the range of 10-15kmph and my both hands along with right foot were paning to the max. It was like almost they has gone dead and numb. But I knew, I had to conquer over these issues, if I wanted to succeed. There was nobody to help even if you wanted one and you were completely on your know and your fate left to god. Gladly it wasn’t raining which could have made the matter worse and the situation extremely dangerous, fearing of landslides on a 8ft road. But, we were greeted with small waterfalls pouring down on us along the way. There was no way we could avoid them, since the road was only 8ft. As we were driving there were only 3 sounds we could hear. One, the river flowing below. Second, the sounds of the birds and third one, the sound of our own breath inside the helmet. Such was the condition of us for the remaining half of the journey, though in the end the roads widened and we reached the hotel comfortably. When we were just 18kms off Killar, we entered into Himachal Pradesh from Jammu and Kashmir and were confronted again by the local police for checking. This time it was not normal questions answers game. They told us to remove the entire luggage and show it to them. In my mind , I gave them 2-3 good words. As I said earlier, only a rider understands a pain to remove his luggage often and often for no reason. It took a huge toll on his energy reserve, especially when you are driving the whole day around 15kmph and want to reach hotel desperately. They wasted our good 1 hr and then let us go. In some way or the other, they were doing their business as it was a need due to increased militancy. Thanks to Himachgal govt for providing such check posts at critical locations. I didn’t find this one with the JnK govt. We took the first hotel which we saw as soon as we reached Killar so as to avoid heavy movements inside the city with our luggage. We parked our bikes in a safe area and offloaded again our luggage into the hotel room. It was almost like a 3 star hotel, given its location in the remotest part of the country where even the telecom signal wasn’t there. They even provided with heater option, mandatory at such places. We had a good warm bath followed by a hot coffee. We had some time before the night took place and hence we relaxed our bodies from the torture they has just experienced. Along with us were staying few rider who had done ‘Sach Pass’ and halted here. They were going towards Kishtwar the next day. We gave a few insights to them about the route since they, like us were travelling the patch for the first time. At night, A good Chilli Chicken and along with the puri’s which Army gave us became our dinner and sleep automatically followed soon. We didn’t close our eyes, the Body automatically did it!

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Chasing the Chenab!

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Coffee with Chenab!

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Killar Hotel Details..

The next day, we were travelling to Keylong and the route was similar to one like the day before but, this time it was a little bit wider and we were not worried since the most difficult part was completed. Killar to Keylong was 130kms and again it was going to take us good 10 hrs to complete it because of the difficult terrain.We waited for the sun to come up from the high mountains so that we could start our ride. Another reason to start late was that it was bit tool chill in the morning because of the dense vegetation. We started off with a good cup of coffee around 8am. Though we were ready by 7am itself, Ganesh’s bike started to give up again and refuse to start. With us we were having some rider company who were going to kishtwar. They were around 5-6 people, hailing from Delhi and nearby region. With their help also the bike refused to start. It was the same electrical problem which we faced down in pathankot. After spending a good amount of time twerking with the wires, finally the bike started! Parallely I also adjusted the idling screw as his bike was not able to maintain at the current throttle position. Finally we started off and further along the ride the bike did stop a few times but it started again with just a push of the button. It felt irritating having to stop again and again due to the bike not being completely well. But we have no other option but to manage the situation somehow till we find a good mechanic ahead. There was no expectation of mechanic to be found on this route till Keylong. The day became shiny and it added quite a warmth into the atmosphere which made us feel better. We were still following the Chenab river and now its width was getting narrower as we moved ahead. With just a coffee in the stomach we started to feel hungry as the clock ticked noon. We should have eaten something at hotel and then moved on, but it was our fault. There was no hotel to be found along the way and our lunch became the biscuits we I had kept as an emergency. The route was such that there was no way a hotel could be setup up there. There wasn’t that much space which could help it.

With whatever the energy the biscuit could offer we moved on till Udaipur which was a good big town. Actually its a tourist place and it was evident with lot of people flocking the area. We had the special and local dish ‘Rajma Chaval’. We were so hungry that we could eat whatever was thrown at us. The dish being served piping hot, it made us take multiple proportions without think of the diet. Usually I don’t eat rice, but here it was the only food and I had no other options. I was looking for some eggs but was not able to find it. Whatever we ate, it made us feel like royals. The road conditions improved after Udaipur as we were approaching Keylong. The roads were good tar roads. Probably they have to make that only, considering the amount of people visiting the area. In other way, if you want the city to develop and grow you have to improve the road conditions, otherwise it is very difficult ti survive. We were feeling like driving in our own city when we continued up to Keylong. Along the road, we could see good farming of cabbage everywhere. And all these were exported as seen on the boxes in which they were packed. Almost each house had its own share of cabbage and other vegetables to export and they were keeping these packed boxes in front of their houses only to be picked up by the lorry. Maybe these will be going up Leh where no vegetation and farming is done. It must be feeding the tourists which flood the city all the year round. We reached keylong around 5pm and had to fuel up at Tandi station. This station is well-known pump since it’s the last and the next one is at Leh, which is 360kms from there. So all the vehicles which go up north fuel up and move one. Hence it has greater significance in each one’s journey towards north and almost all the people manage to take a pic with the Pump hoarding so that they can capture it in their memory. We filled additional 10 ltrs in the Jerry cans which we were carrying. Even my friend did the same. We then moved onto to Keylong and as soon as we entered the hilly city, we were able to find a bike service centre named ‘ Enfield Point’. To our surprise, they were even offering home stay and without any much thinking we accepted the deal. Ganesh offered his ill bike to the service guy only to be repaired in 5 minutes. He told it has some problem with the ammeter cable and hence was giving problem during the start. He was not having a spare one but he managed to short it so that the problem would not occur again. He advised to get the bike serviced on returning home from the trip.The hotel was newly constructed as we could smell the freshly put paint. It was a good decent hotel for its size and offering view to mountains.

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What else can you ask for when you have this view right in-front of your door!

It took us some time to offload all the luggage onto the hotel room as it was on the first floor. the weather was chilly along with strong winds blowing on our face. We decided to keep our door closed as we didn’t want our room to lose the warmth. But, you don’t get to feel such kind of atmosphere daily with such a lovely weather and mountains just a few 100mtrs in front of view. That scene immediately demanded a strong hot coffee.After a good hot geyser bath, I was sitting comfy on the swing sipping my coffee and enjoying the view in front of me. At that moment of time I felt complete. I felt as though all my wishes had come true and this was that moment. One could not offer more soothing thing than this. Ganesh was busy strolling inside the room. Time flew buy and night crawled in and its was time for dinner. We were already hungry since the ‘Rajma Chaval’ could not hold us for long. The hotel did not offer resto service and we had to walk down a few blocks to find a good local restaurant. Along the way we were gazing at the beautiful sky which was full of stars, the perfect scene which you find only when there is no pollution and almost all the starts are visible.

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The sky was like this!

We had mix veg and a omlette for dinner and quickly returned to our rooms as it was cold outside. The cold outside made us quickly reach for our beds and with a thick furr blanket pulled over us we slept peacefully and in our dreams we were thinking of the journey ahead!

The next day dawned and we were struck by rain in morning. It was drizzling and we had to mount our luggage on the bike in the same condition. We had to put plastic covers on the top of our luggage to protect it from getting wet. It reminded us of Rohtak-Pathankot journey. Rains up here are very unpredictable. It can rain anytime. The mountains over here have the control over it. With this thing in mind we had prepared for the journey. By the time the intensity reduced we took the opportunity to warm ourselves with a good cup of morning coffee. Soon enough, the rain vanished and we started our journey climbing upwards.The roads were now like what we have generally have on highways. It was till Darcha that the roads were friendly and after that it started to become worse. We had our breakfast at darcha with an excellent paranthas and omelette. We were almost having egg everyday so that it could keep us warm throughout the journey. We started quickly after breakfast and weather seemed unpredictable. We were slowly gaining altitude and with that temperatures were also dipping. We had worn whatever we had brought to keep away from the cold. We even had applied ‘Vicks’ to our feet, hands and around our nose so that these areas would remain warm and would not succumb to cold. It was helping to some extent but not giving complete relief from that torturous cold out there. It was not that we were seeing others riders along the way who were returning from the up north and also some coming along to complete their dream.

Just ahead of Zing Zing bar we stopped to take photos at the mystic ‘Suraj Tal’. It is a historic location where the lake is completely fed by the galcier near by. The view was fascinating  and we clicked few pictures to capture it our eyes and cameras.It started to rain again but it was not intense. But we started to feel the ‘heat’ as the weather was also cold which made the matters worse. Our hands started to freeze and we could not be able to apply brakes and operate clutch.We felt that if we continue like this then they might break and fall of just like how a chalk breaks when a force is applied to it. Also it felt like someone is hitting the joints with a hammer when we passed over a pothole. Though we were not wet from inside, the rain made the temperatures dip more. Even though we had suited up well, it was of no use in front of that weather. It was the first time we were feeling the nature’s capabilities to the extreme. Adding to our worries the weather was foggy so we could not see what was lying in front of us which made us lift up the visor so that we can see things clearly only to be blasted by the chilled air and fine mist of water on our face. Even my friend Ganesh was feeling the wrath of it. We were passing the highest pass of our todays journey, the ‘ Barlachla Pass’.

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We decided that enough is enough, and were searching for a shelter in the ‘desert’. We could not bear the cold anymore. Just a few feet of reaching the pass’ ‘plaque’ we found a 2 mtr X 2mtr temple. It was a temple of Shiv. The feelings and emotions after finding this cannot be expressed here. We thanked God in whatever manner possible and rushed inside the temple. We didn’t bother to even lock our bike and kept the keys to the bike itself. Such was our hurry. The temple was brick  built kind of structure and a sheet metal room. There were strong winds and you could hear that distinct sounds when the wind was coming beneath the door and from atop the sheet metal room. we were protected to some amount from the cold but not from the winds. Through the cracks and crevices it managed to trouble us often and often.

We were hungry like anything but before that could happen, we had to warm ourselves in any manner possible. But, we were prepared for this kind of journey. We had packed a good amount of used news papers as well as a whole box of matchstick. We decided to make a fire inside the temple to warm ourselves. Adding to that we had also packed instant tea, a stove with fuel and maggi! The thing was, in order to do this you had to go again outside in that weather and bring it all in. Initially eating maggi was not the plan. It came after wards we have made instant tea. First, I ran outside to bring the newspaper and matchbox. It was like swimming in a chilled water. I somehow managed to bring the items in no time. No sooner we were set to start the fire, the match sticks were not catching fire. Due to the moisture they all had become wet. I though, why the hell did everything had to happen today itself. We were carrying a whole set of box which contained almost 12 small boxes. We tried the stick from every box but no fire could be seen. Luckily, I matchstick caught fire and there were feeling like we were the inventors of fire. Slowly we were adding papers to it to make the fire more intense. It was like adding oil to fire. We almost kept our hands inside the fire and not around it to bring back life into our hands which were completely frozen. Removing the hand away from fire was like again putting it in chilled water.We exhausted almost all the papers there itself and it gave us some relief. Now, I had to go outside again to bring tea and maggi along with utensils. Actually I had forgotten to bring everything at the first place.Secondly, due to cold we felt hungry again. Even though we had a heavy breakfast it was of no use. It was around 11pm and we decided to do lunch inside the temple itself. First we had tea which we tried to make hot as much as possible. The reaction from our stomach clearly indicated that it was too waiting for this kind of warmth. Soon after that we prepared maggi on the stove which we had carried with ourselves and ate it like it was our last day and food was going to get extinguished. It was finished in no time. It was time to move one but the daring could not be done. No one was ready to step out into that chilled freezer. But we had to move on if we had to reach our destination on time. Night driving was a strict ‘No-No’ on these roads. With enough strength we decided to move hoping that the weather would subside and we could see some sunlight flashing on us.

In next 20 kms driving  ‘Sun’ greeted us and we too were thankful for him for showing in not time. No it was like a bright sunny day with clear skies and were cruising happily till we reached Sarchu. No from here the roads gets worse than before. After we left sarchu, the jerry can on Ganesh’s bike fell and it got punctured. It was leaking fuel and it was crime to waste fuel just like water in those areas where petrol was not available. Luckily we had space in our tanks and we filled both the bikes to the brim and saved to fuel from getting wasted. As we continued further, clouds started to stalk us and shower us with some drizzle. The problem with the rain is that it affects your visibility and in those kinds of terrain you do want to wander off the roads only to end up in a bed with broken bones or even worse. We have a constant fear in our minds of falling whenever the rain hits us. Luckily there was no traffic on th road otherwise it could have been a disaster. After 3pm it really started to get dark as the sun went behind the mountains and we really had to pace things up if we wanted to avoid night driving. We were just with maggi in our stomach and things started to get worse for me. By skipping proper lunch,  my head now had started paining. This usually happens with me when I skip the proper time for having lunch. And here I was, hunger on one side, head paining to the max and the rain troubling often and often and if you want to add topping to this situation, pour in some darkness. The day was really a nightmare for us and we wanted the destination to come as fast as possible. I was barely able to manage the bike for the last 20 odd kms. Since I was tired to the extreme weather and owing to the health conditions, I was not able to concentrate on the driving. I was loosing balance and shitting myself. Luckily, I did not fell. I was woken by the huge ditches in the road, only to remind that stay awake. This was the first time such thing had happened to me and I was out of energy. I was literally badmouthing the weather and the roads! Somehow we reach our destination ‘Pang’ around 7pm and I literally threw my bike away and grabbed a chair so that I can relax. There was no end to my headache. I did not have any energy left to unload the luggage and take it inside the hotel. Luckily, we got hotel on the road side and that too it was made up of mud. We had been warned earlier that not to stay in canvas tents if you wanted to escape the cold and with the current condition of mine, even if someone offered me a Ferrari, I was no way going to stay at such place. I took only the jerry cans inside and left the bike as it is. The hotel owner assured us that  the bike will be safe with the luggage. I believed in her. There was no point in taking medicine as our stomachs were empty. For that, you had to put something inside it to make it effective.There was no provision for bathroom and shower. There was literally ‘No bathroom’. It was just open land for ‘1 No’ and for ‘2 No’ you had one small wooden type box (just like what you see on goa beaches) with door made up of canvas(you have to literally hold it if you don’t want it to be blown away and reveal up your privacy). Just a splash of water on the face and much-needed tea, we were ready for an early dinner. Dinner was a 2 egg omelette followed with sabji and roti. It was after the dinner that we felt normal. I took the medicine immediately after that. As I lay on the bed like a sick person I pondered over mind as to why did such thing happened to me. First I thought that it was the mountain sickness that had affected me. The symptoms are headache and other things. But it was the proper food and a negligence of drinking water at regular intervals which made me and my friend dehydrated. It was at that time we realised how important it is to keep hydrating yourself even though you don’t feel like drinking. The simple mantra is, Eat at proper time and keep drinking water and no harm will come to you! With that thing in mind I went to sleep. Our next day destination was ‘Leh’, the place we’d dreamt to go. On this route we encountered the famous ‘Gata Loops’ where you go through 21 hairpin bends in a short period of time only to realize that you have quickly gained 4000ft in just a half hour period!

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Our Restaurant at Pang!

The headache was gone and I was feeling recharged. Since there was no provision for a bath, we just completed rest of our morning chores and sat down for breakfast. The breakfast we had been heavy and a luxurious one. We had Butter Toast along with Parantha and Omleette topped up with a cup of coffee. A perfect breakfast! We left the place at around 8am. We didn’t have to pack our luggage and only had to mount our jerry fuel cans. The sun had come up nicely and it was looking like sunny for the rest of the day. Our destination was leh which was 174kms from pang. During sleeping the earlier night, we had another group of riders who had halted our hotels and were returning from Leh. They told us that thought the distance(174kms) seemed much more considering the road conditions(at this point of time we did not know how to road quality was) you can reach leh in just a matter of 3-4 hours and that’s what exactly happened. We encountered a pass just as we left pang and as soon it was covered, the road was like heaven. Black tar road, which was better than most of the highways in india. We were into Moore plains now, which is flat land amidst the mountains and here you get the opportunity to max out you bike. Most of the riders drive in excess of 90kmph. Such is the condition of this road.

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Who wouldn’t want to test their bike if they get that such type of roads on the high mountains!!

It was feeling of floating in air. The bike refused to slow down and soon we encoutnered the mighty pass of the journey, ‘Taglangla Pass’. It was the same feeling and situation we experienced the earlier day when we did the ‘Barlachla Pass’. The only difference was that the former one was at a ‘little’ higher altitude of 17582ft. Guys, this is the second highest pass of the world and hence naturally there will be cold and snow.

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The ‘Plaque’ says it all!

This was the longest pass and by the time we reached the top, our hands were totally frozen and numb. It was paining badly when were trying to apply brake and clutch! But we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to snap a few pics around this ‘Plaque’. So within a quick period of time we completed the formality and headed downwards. As soon as we started to descend everything started to become normal again and we could feel our hand and finger movements. Again we got the taste of the Moore plains continuing and soon were in the city of Leh. We reached the city around 12:30pm. Earlier we had thought that it would take us a complete day to reach there but, with the moore plains helping us we reached our destination within half day. We were confused as to what to do next for remaining part of the day. Our next day plan to visit the famous ‘Khardungla Pass’ and that was the only plan next day. Just after reaching leh we found out that the Khardungla pass was just 39kms away from the city and it would take 4hrs to and from. We thought this would be a good idea to complete tomorrow’s plan today itself so that we get one day free out from our plan! Immediately after having lunch we started for the world’s highest pass. This pass is every riders dream and wish and almost 100% people who visit this city make a point to visit this pass. It has become more of a tourist destination. Even the roads leading to this pass have been made of tar so that everybody can make it easily. There is not much offered for the true rider to show his skills in conquering this pass! We reached around this pass at 2pm and followed by some snaps we immediately started our descend.

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We were back again at the same point where we started at around 4pm and were now looking for a stay. We were lucky enough to find a good hotel of our choice for a decent amount. It was owned by a Tibetan guy. We were having ample time in our hands for the rest of the day and we decided to visit the local market in the evening. The hotel was good with indoor parking and with almost all the facilities. Even the eating place was just in front of the hotel which later became our dinner destination. After having a relax bath and having spent some time chatting with the owner we left for the market. There was no any special thing in my mind that i wanted to buy. I just wanted this Tibetan flags, which they call it a goodwill flag and can be seen hung on almost all the things like Houses, Shops, Cars and Bikes etc. Yeah, it has become a tradition to put the flag on the bike and it symbolises that one has been to leh. You even get these flags on the internet, but if you are a true rider you have to earn that flag! We just shopped for this item along with one personal diary which I like the most. Leh is just around 11000ft and hence you wont feel that much cold in the evening. Strolling around the market made time pass by quickly and it was time for yet another dinner. This time we planned to each the local delicacy but to our fate we couldn’t do it as the restaurant which was in front of our hotel didn’t serve one even though it was written that they could. That day they had only prepared limited items and we had to sustain ourselves with rice and chicken gravy along with mandatory 2 egg omelette. We had got a day in grace and we thought to spend that day visiting the beautiful ‘Pangyong Lake’ which was not in our earlier ride plan. This was possible only due the hint given by the riders we met at ‘Pang’. Generally the lake is around 150kms from leh and going and return takes around 2 days. We had already kept 1 day grace in our plan and this extra bonus which we got made possible for the lake visit. This is exactly why riders and riders. They see other riders as their brothers and are ready to do whatever help is required! That’s why another meaning of riding is called ‘Brotherhood’. We slept early so that we could get more hours for sleeping. Our next destination was going to be the magical ‘Blue Colored Lake’.

We left for Karu in the morning since the road to the lake is from there. We have to take a left turn if you are coming from Leh side. On the way, just before Karu we had fueled ourselves.We had only on jerry can with us now. We’d calculated the exact amount of fuel required from Tandi to Leh. Hence 1 jerry can with extra 5 ltrs was enough for both of us. We had our breakfast in karu just before leaving for the lake. Breakfast was the same as usual, paranthas and tea. We could see many riders leaving along with us for the lake. It was beautiful scene and a  true feeling of brotherhood. The roads were mix of tar and off roads. Along the way we could see many army battalions stationed up there. It felt really good about the lives of the people there.There were no or little settlements and the whole area was under the army. The lake is shared by India and China both and till date remains untouched. No body  knows how much is the depth of the lake. Along the way, there came a steep climb. The road was totally off-road and you had to literally climb the slope as well as avoid the potholes and stones. With 500cc under me it was a cake walk for me but as Ganesh was using 350cc he had some problem in climbing it and in the process his clutch became hot. Due to this he was not able to get the torque to overcome the climb. In the meantime I had went far ahead and when I looked back, I saw ganesh struggling with his bike. I had to go back again to rescue him.The thing is it is difficult to leave you bike on such a slope, as one mistake and you bike is going down. Pushing the bike upwards is only a tadk of ‘HULK’. You have no option to put it in gear and let it rest there and wait for somebody to help you out of the situation by pushing it from behind. By the time I reached he had recovered and we were back riding again.  After few kms of riding we encountered the highest pass of that day’s journey. The ‘Chang la’ pass. It was a challenging one to overcome it as the roads were not so friendly and adding to that it was chilling cold. Again our hands started to give the same symptoms as earlier . Slowly Slowly we started to descend and after that we did not have to face such situation and we were almost driving on clean tar roads.

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The Mighty ‘Chang La’

We were becoming a little impatient as we were unable to get the view of the lake. As per our calculations about the kms, the lake was supposed to arrive but it arrived after 20 more kms. The calculations showed that the lake was around 125kms but it turned out to be 155kms. The instant view on the lake was like refreshing your soul. It was the perfect blue colored lake you’d wished or dreamt off! It was 2pm when were reached there.

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@ Pangyong Lake

The water was salty and hence I avoided to go into the water. Since we had not taken our lunch, we made use of our ‘snickers’ to stop our hunger for time being. We were there for just 15min. We enjoyed the scenery, took some photos and were back again. It was 2:30pm and we thought that we could do a return trip the same day itself. I completed my 20K kms there! What a moment to cherish. The riders back at pang had told us that it would be difficult for you to do the lake in one day itself but seeing the current conditions and timing we decided to move as we were confident that we could reach back again before the night falls. Usually when you are unaware of the road conditions you drive slowly and steadily which consumes time hence the 2 pm arrival at the lake. But now we knew how the roads were exactly which gave us an upper hand and in straight 4hrs, we covered the stretch before reaching Karu around 7pm. It was the end of our journey towards north and now we would be riding south. Hence there was no need to move back to Leh since it was 35kms from Karu. We decided to halt at Karu and did find a good hotel to relax. It was the best hotel we’d till now. It looked almost like 5 start hotel! The hotel is located behind the local shops on the left side(when you are going towards Leh) exactly when you arrive at Karu and you see a blue direction boards above which reads ‘Leh-35kms’. I would be recommending this hotel to everyone. The rate is around 1500 bucks but if you can bargain good the rate may come down to 12oo. The problem with the hotel was that they did not serve dinner and as usual we had to go to the local shops just outside for our meal. We had a good punjabi meal which was very satisfying. The rest of time was passed by just checking the Facebook and watsapp updates. Yes, this was made possible by the hotels Wi-fi. Our journey had ended and dream conquered. It was time to return home. With that thing in mind we slept around 9:30 and hoped that we could start early in the morning around 6am.Now the destination was not ‘Pang’ again, it was directly Keylong. Yeah, you heard it right, Leh-Keylong 360kms straight and it was manageable. Since Leh to Pang takes only 3 hrs even-though the distance is 174 kms. With this strategy we decided to leave early.

We left around 6:30 am for keylong. the sky was clear and the sun had come up! There was no breakfast in the morning just a cup of tea. We decided to halt for breakfast directly at Pang since it was only a matter of 3-4 hrs with nothing but 1 mighty pass to overcome. We were sitting at the hotel chairs around 9:30am and having breakfast comfortably. Without wasting much time we left for Keylong. There was no signs of upcoming rains and we felt good but still we were prepared for sudden attack. Riding was going like a charm without any issues and soon arrived at Sarchu. The road was good till Sarchu and after that it deteriorated since the ‘pass’ was going to arrive. It was the ‘Barlachla’. still the memories of that one were haunting us and we thought that this time also the situation would be the same. Though we could see the sun above we could also see some black clouds hovering. I was literally praying to God to save us this time as it was our return journey and I didn’t want anything to go bad. I was looking above very often during the time of the ‘pass’ and we were lucky enough to escape the rain, though there was some cold felt but it was balanced by the sun above. As soon as we descended the pass we arrived at the ‘Zing Zing bar’ and decided to break for lunch. We had a lip smacking Dal-Rice and that was enough for us to reach till Keylong. It was 2 pm. Now, our destination was only 55kms left. We were really driving fast. Not that ‘fast’, but since we were now accustomed to driving on such roads we were able to cut short time.We had completed our ‘Bachelors and Masters degree’ of driving. After that the road became ‘Tar’ again and it felt good to see some lush green vegetation. Since Leh is devoid of that, you can see nothing but ‘brown’ everywhere. The eyes too were searching for some different colors and this sight made them relaxed. We’d decided to stay at the same hotel where we’d stayed earlier. The hotel staff were young people like us who were managing the show. They were like a family to us now. We reached the hotel door steps exactly at 4:30pm and even the hotel staff was shocked to see us in this amount of time. We told that the story was real and really we’d stretched from Leh till Keylong covering 360kms straight.We had ample time to relax and I utilized this time to service my bike. Since my bike had crossed the 3000kms mark before the last oil change. I decided to do oil change as well as change my air filter. Air filter was a complete mess with stones being found inside the mesh. I had brought and kept this with me in my luggage. I knew that this had to be done and earlier I choose ‘Leh’ for my service but since this was a good place and it was during this time only that I’d completed by 3000kms mark that I decided to change it. This service went on till 7pm, the only reason for this was that I did the change myself. The bike had got its new new blood as well as its lungs. It was ready to roar again. The night fell quickly was it was time to have dinner. This time we choose a different location and had a chicken fried rice. The last time we had chicken was back during our stay in killar.

Now, we didn’t had any plan for today. We didn’t knew where our day would end. Earlier as per the plan, it was to be shimla, and spent 1 day at Kasol. We had now 2 days in grace in our trip. One from our emergency slot and one which we got when we did Leh-Keylong in 1 day straight. Out of the 2, we thought of spending 1 at Kasol. This was our plan till the previous night. We even had taken contact from the hotel staff for Kasol. He knew some of his friends in kasol and advised us to stay at his friends hotel. But when the morning came, we decided to skip that head straight towards home and tried to cover as much as distance as possible and stop when the night would arrive. We targeted Chandigarh which was around 425kms from here. It would be tough task covering the stretch as the drive was mainly through mountains limiting the speed. We started as early as possible without taking any breakfast hoping to take it when we reach a little further. We were now descending down and the view was awesome. We could see the lush green vegetation along with the apple trees and snow capped mountains. This was the perfect definition of a good scenery as supposed to mountains in Leh which were devoid with vegetation. We were even greeted with tiny snow flakes floating around in the air and hitting the visor as we moved ahead. It was awesome. Soon then, the torturous roads of the well known ‘Rohtang Pass’ was about to start and we decided to fill our stomachs. Prior to that we had tanked up in ‘Tandi’ again and this time there was no need for us to fill the Jerry cans as the nightmare of fuel stations was over. we were now into our own planet and roads where there was abundance of these sites. We had a first time breakfast of Maggi coupled with omelette. People say that the ‘Rohtang Pass’ is difficult but during our riding we did not feel anything. You need to have patience to master such roads. It is test for you. The road was slushy due to the rains and the mountain water which made it slippery. That made it little difficult. Over and above that there were these rock patches which our bike took care of easily. It is only on these muddy patched that it is difficult to control your bike and you may loose the grip of your steering, if you are not paying attention.

We climbed it in a matter of 1 and half hour and were on top of the pass. The feeling was different as compared to ‘pass’s’ of Leh and nearby ranges. In fact I was into Himachal more than the Jammu and Kashmir only for the fact that the former was more vibrant due to its dense vegetation which gave it an edge over the later.

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At Rohtang Pass! From here you journey and relationship with mountains starts…..

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Look at the mountains of Himachal at the background!

We were descending fast and the temperatures started to rise. We could feel the temperatures increasing and with no time we were done with our thermal liners. We  could feel some weight taken off from our bodies. Additional weight on you may bog you down. We reached manali and were now driving tar roads throughout. We decided to continue further and gain as much distance as possible.We crossed Kullu around 1pm and were finding a suitable place to break for lunch. Finally at around 2:15pm we got a good punjabi dhaba where we halted. The lunch mainly consisted of Punjabi food and it was the best and authentic one we had so far. We left around 3pm and it looked like making it to Chandigarh would be impossible. We continued with our driving as pushed as far as we could go. We were struck with heavy rains soon after lunch and it was like a torrent. We could not move further and had to take a shelter inside a yet to be completed temple. Here again the ‘Temple’ came to our rescue. I forgot which temple it was but the rain drained away a good 1 hr from us until it slowed down. The problem was that I had not wore the Rainy liner inside my jacket and also I had forgot to wear my shoe cover. We were completely taken by surprise. I did not bother to put both the things as it would consume more time and it was also started to get dark. More over I left it to God to make the rains vanish ahead. When we left from the temple, it was still drizzling and thought the further ahead it would die down and the same happened. Now, we had to rely only on the wind to make our jackets and other things dry as the sun was gone. The roads were full of potholes and we could not notice then since they were full of water. Ganesh unfortunately went over one of these things and fell. It was not a high speed fall. He got only a small scratch on his left hand near the elbow and along with that his crash guard and gear lever got bend. The situation was manageable and did not required the bike to be taken to a service centre. The importance of crash guard is seen here. Hadn’t it been there at the time of the crash, probably he would not be driving now! The rain continued with high and low amplitudes and we thinking that the rain would go were driving with any rain protection for us. We didn’t wanted to waste further time waiting as we’d already lost couple of hours. We got some relief from the rain and during that time our jackets almost got dry due to the forced air due to speed. There were some feeling of water having entered the shoes and I was getting that feeling. It was not a good sign and the causes have been already explained by me earlier. We had to continue with the riding as we were searching for a good place to halt. Progressing further more on the road ,we could hear thunderstorms. Bilaspur was some 50 kms and it looked like a good choice. But the thunderstorms came in between. It was dark too, around 7pm and there was no time for stopping. A few kms ahead, and it started to rain Cats and Dogs and things just went out of our way. The almost dry jacket was now completely drenched. There wasn’t a single thing which was dry, even my shoes were totally gone. Only things which wasn’t wet was our luggage. It was a ‘Ghat’ section and we were unable to see what was in front of us due to the heavy torrent. Plus the oncoming vehicles from the other side made the matters worse as the light from their headlamps was disturbing us and making us blind. For 2-3 sec we were blind in that type of situation and it was risked our lives of not getting fallen into the valley. We decided to halt in one of the tea stall which we saw operating only to wish that the rains would go or at least reduce. But rain was not listening and it continued its downpour even though we had finished with our hot tea. Now, the situation was such that we were ready to stay in any hotel which came first. We started to get uncomfortable in the rain soaked clothes. The hotel people told us that there were good hotels coming ahead and without any second thought we started again. It was tough to started riding again in the rains and particularly wearing the wet gloves! We finally found a good decent hotel 2-3 ahead and we really called it the day off! Taking all the luggage to room was a tough task as all of them were soaked in water.We literally had to remove each and everything and put for drying. The room was looking more like a dry cleaners place that a hotel. It started right from outside the door onto the railings and continued till the room doors, windows, cup boards, bathroom, balcony etc. Almost all the places which we thought was a suitable place for drying was occupied. Finally we were completely dry and decided not to move outside our bed as the floor was full of dripping water from all our stuffs. The tiredness has set in so much that we did not even bother to go the dining area of the hotel and instead ate only the emergency ‘Toast’ which we had kept in our bags! Yes, a dinner filled up of only ‘Chai Toast’. The room was smelling badly but we were used to that and slept like a little baby. We could hear the Sutlej river flowing just behind us! No moving forward tomorrow  unless and until the sun comes up! Oh! BTW we don’t know the place we’d halted. It definitely wasn’t a city. We’d just stopped by hotel on side of the highway road.

We woke in the morning by the sound of the birds. I went outside into the balcony only to find the sun rays falling on my face. I was super excited.  The sky was clear and the sun had really come up. It was sight not to be missed. We were nearby a local village and we would see the local people going to their normal work and some of then standing on the bus stands waiting for it. School children walking the road towards their schools. The thunderstorm has passed away and so were our problems. It felt like a start of a new beginning. Not all the things had dried up and some were still wet. But we decided that the rest will be taken care by the ‘Sun’ outside. We wore the jackets and everything in as is condition and were ready for our journey ahead. It was around 8am and whatever toast were left during the night became our breakfast along with the tea. After that we packed up our luggage onto bike and roared off! The temperatures were increasing and it was looking to be a hot day. Within 2-3 hours almost everything dried up except the shoes which still showed signs of wetness. We were still driving on the mountains and this went for the next 60-70 kms. The mountains had vanished by the time we came till ‘Rupnagar’.

rupnagar

As soon as we exited Rupnagar, we were back on our normal highway roads and were heading towards Chandigarh. Today also there was no any fixed destination for us and we decided to move on till the time the need was felt for ending the day. Since we had some free days in our hands, we also planned for visiting the ‘Golden Temple’ at Amritsar. But my friends Ganesh was too tired and we decided to stick with our plan. From there on wards it was mostly highway riding and we were riding upwards of 80 kmph. We took and bypass around the Chandigarh city and headed straight for ‘Kurukshetra’. We decided to break for lunch there and the time was around 1:30 pm. There was no any special thing we had here and moved on. Earlier we planned to halt in Gurgaon since that was looking like the most plausible destination by our calculations. There was no rain encountered till now and we reached Delhi around 5pm. We had no other option but to continue our way to Gurgaon by passing within the city. We somehow managed the heavy traffic of Delhi but at some locations it overpowered us. We took the help of our mobile GPS to quickly get out from there. It was a working day as we could see that we’d entered the Gurgaon premised by the no of private and corporate vehicles crowding the streets. It was the perfect time, the office hours had ended and all of them were pouring on the streets like ants. The scene was such that we were feeling like minorities in the vast ocean of 4 wheeler’s. At some point, we even encountered a maybe 20 lane road and it was so wide that we were dumbstruck for few seconds and had to find a way where the road was leading ahead. The road was massive and till now I haven’t seen such type of things. It was big only for a few hundred mtrs and then it narrowed down to our normal highway width road. The sun was still not set and the light was still available for us to continue further. We decided to push on, the next destination was Jaipur but it wasn’t achievable. Our day ended at Neemrana from where Jaipur was only 150kms. The place is an industrial area, home to the classic ‘Hero’ factory. It was difficult to find a decent hotel there. But, ‘OYO’ rooms helped us to find one. We used ‘OYO’ only to find the hotel location and not book it. You get a fairly good deal when you book in person. We had shortlisted 2 hotels. The first one was very overprices considering the industrial belt and lot of international brands having their offices nearby. So we decided to move on to the 2nd one, which was a little 2-3 kms away. We got the perfect deal around 1200Rs overnight and with AC. The hotel staff was good and responded to our requests with a smile. We freshened ourselves and had a good thali food! It was around 10pm when we went for sleep. Our all clothes were now fully dried. It was a peaceful sleep.

neemrana.JPG

Stretched from Gurgaon till Neemrana before calling the day off!

The next morning was a disaster, we came down to the counter only to see that it was raining outside. Gladly we had kept our bikes in the basement and it went easy for us to assemble the luggage onto the bike. It looked like the rain wasn’t going to stop. We decided to have breakfast there itself and prayed that in the meantime it would go. We had butter toast and paranthas along with coffee. After a relaxing break of almost 1 hour, still it was pouring outside. The rain wasn’t heavy but on a constant normal place. It was 9:15 am in the morning. We decided to ride in rain itself as there was no point in waiting. He hoped that further down the road it would stop. The rain was mostly a localized one but spread over a large area. It took us almost an hour to get out of the cover. Till that time we were completely wet, but this time we had our protections on! Only the gloves and the jacket were wet. Shoes were protected by shoe cover. Rain was unavoidable as this was rainy season and we weren’t going to saved by it all the time. It rain was coming and going and in the process the jackets and other stuff were not able to dry completely. This time I had worn the rainy liner of my pant from the outside. Originally it is supposed to be worn from the inside, but we had a good lessons learnt when we were travelling to Pathankot from Rohtak, little amount of water had been gone into the shoes even-though I was wearing the rainy liner from the inside. Ganesh, was using a normal plastic bag to protect his shoes from getting wet. But, that too was not full proof. Since there was no provision to use belt, the liner which I had worn from the outside was constantly slipping like a loose pant and every time I had to stop for a break, I had to hold it in my hands. We stopped for lunch just outside Beawar and the time was around 2:30 pm. It was looking like the travel was going to extend till next because of the distance to be covered and the time available. But we decided to push on and immediately started riding again. We had decided in our minds that we did not want to travel one more day to reach our destination and tried our level best to reach Ahmadabad this day itself. But it was going to be challenging, as it  was 3 pm and we had still 488 kms to travel! Along the way the rain was not letting us go and we were mostly driving in rain which was reducing our speed and also our visibility. We experienced one more thunderstorm when we were about to reach Udaipur and it was like hell! It was the bad ass rain we had encountered till now. It was such an intense one that, it left no mercy on us and everything were were wearing were flooded with water. It did not even spare the shoes. The shoe covers had been worn out which gave an excellent opportunity for the water to enter in. Ganesh was also experiencing the same. We stopped just outside Udaipur for refueling and had a cup of tea which was very refreshing. It was good gesture shown to us by the petrol pump staff guys who on seeing our condition offered ‘Chai’ to us. The time was ticking and by the time we left Udaipur it was 7:30 pm. We still had more 260 kms to go. We were going to reach around 12 am as per our calculations. Tiredness had set in and the rain was adding to our misery. With just 150kms left and I was loosing control. Riding in rain really makes you uncomfortable. Hunger was giving a call and we barely dragged ourselves till Himmatnagar! Along the way we were woken up by the potholes on the road as the visor was completely filled up with fog and mist which was obscuring our view, plus our eyes started to shrink. gladly there was no any mishap.I was really hating the guys who were coming from the opposite ends and were driving keeping their lights in ‘Upper’.

We happened to reach Himmatnagar around 12 am, and to our misery there was nothing open. No hotels and stays were open at that time. Maybe our ‘shrink-ed’ eyes were not able to see it clearly. We we desperately searching for a hotel so that we could put something inside our stomach. Our emergency food had run out. There came one moment, where we decided to halt in himmatnagar itself but during that time, we saw one restaurant which was open and to our excitement they were having some food. Guess, what the food must me? It was rajasthani food ‘Dal-Bati’. We rushed for it like we hadn’t eaten for years. We parked our bikes in the rain itself and just pounced on it. The feeling of eating such thing when we were completely wet and the ‘hot daal’ just increased our appetite. We were not taking to each other and just stuffing the food inside as fast and possible. The body had become cold during to all day riding in rain and with the ‘hot daal’ the body temperature started to rise giving us some energy which gave us little confidence that we can stretch till Ahmadabad which was still 90 kms to go! Somehow after the ‘Late Dinner’ our minds were restricting us to go outside in the rain and drive. But we wanted to avoid next day riding again. We started again and we reached home around 2:30 am. The time between our dinner and arrival at home was the most bizarre thing happened to me. I was literally driving like I was under the influence of alcohol. I could some odd shapes flashing in front of my eyes and everything was blur. Maybe it was the signal my brain was giving to me that it too was tired and was about to shutdown. I would like to thank God in during this period for carrying me home safely and without any issues. Luckily my bike also went on without any problems. There was no way we were going to offload the luggage at the home. We just our bikes outside along with the luggage removed all our wet clothing and within 15 minutes, fell on the bed and slept.I woke up around the same time in afternoon that day. It was terrifying end to the most adrenaline trip ever. Afterwards we come to know that we’d covered 800 kms on the last day stretching from Neemrana and straight to Ahmedabad. It was only the desire to reach home and avoid extra day of travel which gave us strength for the last 150kms!

We had conquered the Mountains and fulfilled our dreams.

I would like to give special thanks to my Family for allowing me to embark on this journey and my friends who supported me for preparing for this trip. Though there were only 2 of us for this trip, I really wished more people had joined which would have added an extra taste to this epic journey!

Please ignore if I’ve made some spelling mistake and grammatical errors!

Next Trip, Nepal’17.

Video Link covering my entire Journey, because some things cannot be expressed, it can only be felt and seen!

Part 1 of the Journey

Part 2 of the Journey

Part 3 of the Journey

Thank You!

Sumit

Once a Rider, Always a Rider!!

 

 

 

Categories: Jammu Kashmir, Travel

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