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Old 4th September 2012, 22:12   #1
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Default Yet another road trip - Motorcycling in Ladakh!

Visions of a motorcycling trip to Ladakh were implanted in my head way back in 2007 by my close buddy - he had spent 2 months riding in the Himalayas on his beat-up splendor - pillion, luggage et al. His description of what he saw - impossibly blue skies, unimaginable rock formations, sheer rises and depths and ever present danger from falling rocks, deathly roads and the lack of oxygen built a vision of a fairytale land that I HAD to see to believe.

Of course, it wouldn't be easy - getting 3 weeks off from office would be tough for a start; wifey's nod, the right gang of friends, bookings etc.etc. keep the to-do list quite long..

Fast forward to June 2012; we had a plan in place : 6 bikers to set off from Manali - 5 rented bullet UCE 350s and one Suzuki Shaolin based enduro on a 12 day ride to Leh and back starting on 5th August. 4 of my friends ( and the Suzuki) would reach Delhi by train from Cochin. My friend and i from Hyderabad would drive down to Manali in my Safari, picking them from NewDelhi station. The Suzuki would be ridden to Manali from Delhi.

Before we froze on the itenary we did consider several options like buying bikes, renting bikes from Delhi/Hyderabad and also several route options. But finally decided on Manali-Leh-Manali on rented motorcycles for the following reasons:

1. Most of them who've been to Ladakh suggest two wheels - more fun, more dramatic.
2. Hiring from Manali seemed the best bet - Delhi to Manali on two wheels is hectic and no joy.
3. Dropping the bikes rented from Manali off in Srinagar is expensive ( 10-15 K per bike); and riding from Srinagar back into Manali would be too tasking. This is where the advantages of using your own bike comes in; you could do the Manali-Leh-Srinagar circuit and ride back home.



So on the night of 31st July, me and Sreekanth set off to New Delhi from Hyderabad. We had planned our route with help from the HVK group on FB, the routed looked like this :

Hyderabad - Nanded- Indore- Ujjain- Chittorgarh - Jaipur - New Delhi.
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Sreekanth and me are used to non-stop long distance drives and this was no different.

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Fresh banana harvest ready to be transported - near MH-MP border

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Beautiful bridge a while after we crossed the border in MP

Things went uneventful till we hit Indore the next evening at 5. We stopped at a very nice resort like restaurant called CROWN PARK on Indore By-Pass and freshened ourselves up. The sumptuous first meal of the day in the lawns got us relaxed after a dreary diet of vada pavs all day...and the colleague who hopped in for a lift to Faridabad mentioned that Faridabad would fall in the way if we chose to go via Agra - instead of entering NewDelhi via Gurgaon. Map-my-India did suggest to follow NH3 ( Mumbai-Agra highway) and we did. The roads turned pothole ridden after 30 kms or so and it was also raining quite badly; after we crossed Maksi things turned quite bad and we had to gun for a detour since a bridge had apparently been washed away ahead. The drive turned quite bad from there as we changed course for Kota. The ride was really bumpy and needed maneuvering through potholes from the moon. Also the roads were chock-a-block with scores of cows- all of them white. It was a pretty forgettable ride to Kota and beyond, till we hit NH12 at Tonk; some 200 odd Ks.

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Finally some fantastic highway near Jaipur

The rest of the drive was a Breeze; we stayed put in Faridabad for the night. Early next morning we picked up the rest of the gang from NewDelhi station and proceeded to Manali - Suzuki stroker in tow.

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Neel doing a controlled run from Delhi to Manali - he maintained a very patient 50Kmph all the way to run her in!

A bit on the Suzuki stroker: Its based on a Suzuki Shaolin 140cc, 2 stroke engine with a five speeder and stock chassis. Suspension is an FZ unit in the front complete with wheels and an Apache unit at the rear with wheels. This mod has given the Suzie a nice tall stance. The bike runs new piston rings and an expansion chamber. The only worry was that she didnt get much roadtime, just ran some 100 ks before it was out on a train to NewDelhi. She gave us quite a scare some 50 kms from NewDelhi when she seized and stopped when Neel ( her owner) gave her some juice. But this was momentary and she performed flawlessly from then on. The Haryana cops played spoil sport and got me to remove all sun-film on my Safari - felt quite naked inside with all the dark film peeled off..


There were heavy rains and a flood like situation in Manali that evening due to a cloudburst upstream; several bridges and roads were washed off - we hadnt fully understood the impact it would have on our trip..
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The view of Manali town from our hotel



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Thats a quaint little pizza house!

Manali was breath of fresh air; extra-fresh i should say - with the weed growing happily all around you; you just gotta believe you are in paradise.
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Weeds of Paradise!
Other less interesting flaura includes apples, pears, peaches etc. Yes! we plucked them of trees and had them aplenty.
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Newton's tree..
We had a days rest in Manali; the only task was to get hold of our rented bikes. We unpacked our gear for the rides from the countless bags stuffed in the Safari's boot. Here is what most people carried:

1. Sleeping Bags ( Quechua, Coleman)
2. Riding Jackets ( Cramster, Rjays, Harley Davidson)
3. Gloves ( Cramster Tundra, DSG, Harley)
4. Boots ( Military long boot lightweight, Quechua)
5. Socks ( Military woolen)
6. Thermals - top and bottom
7. Helmets
8. Balaclava
7. Quechua Camelbacks
8. A few pairs of jeans and t-shirts
9. Elbow and knee guards ( cramster, fake AXOs)

All these gear was bought based on recommendations in various forums, some of them very useful, some less so. Nevertheless, i now have clear idea of what to carry and what not; shall discuss these as we go along.
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Military Longboot Lightweight - my attempt to make them waterproof with 3M duct tape.

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Later in the noon we got hold of our rented bikes from Sathyarth Bikes: 2 Classic 350s and 3 electra 350s; classics had some 23K on the odo and the electras some 17K - have no idea if they are genuine Ks; but the bikes were circa 2011 and its their second season in Leh. All bikes were tuned for max mileage, my red electra wouldnt top 80 Kmph on the speedo - but all of them returned some 40 kmpl. We also got the mechanic from Satyarth Bikes to accompany us and also rented a Bolero Camper as a support car.
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First fueling for the bikes in Manali


All these bookings and accomodation at all places in our trip was arranged by Vikesh from Special Tours India - Manali. We could have saved some pennies by going for individual bookings but chose to go for a one-stop-shop approach since all of us were newbies. The rough cost incured was as follows:

1300 for the bullets, 1300 for the mech, 3000 for the Bolero and 3000 for the rooms on twin-sharing and two meals basis. (all rates per-day)

Day 1 - 5th August - Manali to Keylong

So we were all set to roar off on our biking expedition next morning. Decked up in our gear, we had to do some last minute shopping - jerry cans for petrol, chocolates and crates of mineral water. We set off at about 11 AM for Keylong, we were all looking forward to the "relaxed" ride that was "only" some 100 odd Ks. Some 15 Kms off Manali we got a taste of what the himalayas were like. The army had blocked the road to Rohtang pass as bridges and roads were washed away upstream. We were told to return to Manali, some frantic calls to our support crew got us new directions to try and by-pass this blocade. So we rode back to manali and took the road uphill through old Manali and crossed over on a temporary bridge built by the Army - the trip was ON.

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The road uphill to Rohtang is quite scenic; pine tress, flowing streams and colorful paragliders paint a pretty picture - we had no clue what was in store for us in Rohtang. We did navigate many water crossing on the way, some of them were quite challenging. It was like you saw heaven on the way to Hell...Rohtang is hell on earth - albeit a man-made one. Picture this - a mountain pass at 13000 feet, hundreds of trucks and cars jostling for space in 3 feet deep slush, fumes from angry diesel engines fill the air - leaving you breathless in an already cold and foggy setting. Rohtang's literary meaning "pile of corpses" isnt there for nothing!

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Sonu, our mechanic had hinted that you need to leave the clutch alone in the slush, it took a few minutes of riding to fully understand what he meant. The only way to cross this slush-pit on these ancient thumpers was to gun the throttle in first gear, build momentum and forget about the clutch. the bike will soldier on, you just hang on for dear life kicking violently with your feet on the ground you are about to fall into. Its quite challenging physically, you can do this for 50 - 100 metres before you'd run out of breath. Its also a strange feeling when you have to watch helplessly as your friend struggles thrugh the slush right in front of you and would have been better off with a push - you are just too exhausted yourself to even think of helping anyone. You also start getting a feeling that a Bullet is not the best saddle to be in such terrain, a light and powerful bike would have been so much better. The suzie made short work of the terrain once Neel got the knack of riding in the slush.

It was an agonising two hours before we could reach the top of the pass, all 6 of us had made it across Rohtang and all were rightfully euphoric. The ride ahead was far less eventfull, i suspect most of dreaded the thought of having to cross Rohtang again on the way back.

We stopped for lunch at a tent at Gramphu, you could turn right for Spiti Valley here. It was raining quite strong, the hot maggi, rice with mutton curry etc. kept us warm. We carried on and tanked up in Tandi - the last petrol bunk on the manali- leh route, Leh being some 365 Kms away. We reached Keylong later in the afternoon and checked into DeyKid lodge. The ride on Day1 had come to an end - each of us sharing funny anecdotes of our very first day's ride. We hit the sacks quite early anticipating a fantastic days ride the next morning...Name:  1IMG_4809.JPG
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Beautiful Keylong
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Old 4th September 2012, 22:55   #2
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Old 5th September 2012, 00:59   #3
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Day 2 - 6th August - Keylong to Sarchu


We started day 2 with expectations of a fairly easy ride - now that Rohtang was behind us.

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We were to pass through Jispa, Darcha, Zing Zing Bar and Bara-lacha La Pass at 16000 ft.

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We were told to expect many water crossings en-route and also be weary of AMS.

AMS - Acute Mountain Sickness "is a pathological effect of high altitude on humans, caused by acute exposure to low partial pressure of oxygen at high altitude. It commonly occurs above 2,400 metres (8,000 feet). It presents as a collection of nonspecific symptoms, acquired at high altitude or in low air pressure, resembling a case of "flu, carbon monoxide poisoning, or a hangover". It is hard to determine who will be affected by altitude sickness, as there are no specific factors that correlate with a susceptibility to altitude sickness. However, most people can ascend to 2,400 meters (8,000 ft) without difficulty." - from Wikipedia.


We were quite worried about AMS and had taken many precautions to protect ourselves, the important ones being:

1. Drinking lots of water
2. Diamox tabs every 12 hours after we left Manali.
3. Gradual climb to help in acclimatisation : 2 nights in Manali ( 6700 ft), one night in Keylong ( 10,000 ft) and one more in Sarchu ( 14000 ft) on the way to Leh (11,500 ft). Many motorcyclists do the Manali-Leh stretch with just a single night halt ( at Jispa, Pang or Sarchu), we decided to take it easy and enjoy the ride.
4. Oxygen cylinders were kept handy for emergencies.

On the way to Sarchu is Darcha where AMS is known to start surfacing and most travelers agree that the night halt at Sarchu can be quite a handful.
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The police check post at Darcha, we had to make a simple entry of names and vehicle numbers here.

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Food stop at Zing Zing Bar

We stopped at Zing Zing Bar for lunch that day and carried on to cross Bara-Lacha La.

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You tend to meet and greet a lot on this route!
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We reached Sarchu by early evening and the views were breathtaking in the bright sun. Sarchu is uninhabited except for the tents that spring up for the 4 months between June and October. It's a valley surrounded by high mountains and devoid of any vegetation except very short grass.
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You can see wildlife here in the form of Himalayan Marmots, they were burrowing in the foothills of the mountains close to the tents.

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But as the sun set and night fell on Sarchu, we began to experience what we had read about..it was cold and suffocating. One could easily feel the lack of oxygen in the air as the mercury fell below zero later in the night. We were two to a tent and after trying hard to sleep for many hours, I discovered that my roomie also was unable to catch any sleep. Soon we had our friends from adjacent tents hopping in to complain of breathlessness. We took breaths off the oxygen tanks to help with the situation and just had to endure through this night. We could catch a few winks towards early morning and was glad the ordeal was over.

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One hellish night that would never end..


The ride ahead promised to be exciting as Leh beckoned!
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Old 5th September 2012, 10:28   #4
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Day 3 - 7th August - Sarchu to Leh

Looming ahead in front of us was what promised to be the best of the rides so far...the 260 km ride from Sarchu to Leh. In store was out of the world scenery and the most challenging and fun terrain to bike on.

As we were having breakfast that morning in the restaurant tent at Goldrops, we got introduced to a businessman from Leh who was travelling towards Manali. He too had a mallu friend ( wonder who hasn't) and an intersting conversation ensued. One remark of his regarding the road from Sarchu to Leh got registered clearly - the road was "Makhan" he said - most of us were quite surprised to hear that..

The first stop en-route would be Pang around 80kms away for which we had to ride through the famous Gata Loops - a series of 21 hairpins that take you up some 2000 feet within a few kilometers. The roads are spectacular, but quite challenging due to fallen debris at many places. Once you near the top of the loops the view of the roads below are quite spectacular.
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Real Nutters!
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The Amazing Gata Loops!
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After Gata loops one encounters spectacular scenery on lines of the grand canyon, but the terrain here is quite tricky and we didnt feel like stopping for too many pics, nevertheless we did stop multiple times for taking in the breathtaking views around us.
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Yet another change in landscape awiated us as we entered Moore plains - some 48 kms of sand trapped between mountains on either side. the stage was set for a Paris Dakar style full throttle ride through fine sand - stading on the pegs. This was one bit that one will never forget - the bike keeps slipping and sliding through the sand, you dont try to steer, letting the bike free on a soft pair of hands. There were swatches of freshly laid tarmac in places, but who wants tarmac when the sands are so much more fun. For once we were looking forward to riding again on this winderful desert plain on the way back!
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Ride any line u fancy a-la Paris Dakar!
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The next bit in the ride was the towering climb to Tanglang La Pass at an altitude of 17500 ft. The ride to the pass is through quite desolate looking landscape with dark brown hills of rubble, sheer drops and graven laden roads. One can see the remains of trucks deep in the valleys that look like metal trash, sending bolts of lightening through your brains - warnings of caution run all through your system.

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These road workers, mainly from Bihar endure torturous conditions for 4 months a year for a paltry 7K a month!
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Look closely and u could spot a truck reduced to metal trash!

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The ride is all downhill to the little village of Upshi where we stopped for lunch. The road from Upshi to Leh is quite good but with less dramatic scenery; but we encountered a monster water crossing en-route.There were several bikers stranded on the otherside of the crossing waving frantically at our approaching bikes. All of us stopped and stared in awe at what looked like an impossible to cross rush of water. We waited for our Bolero to turn up, the Bolero drove through and we could make out that the water was around 3 ft deep. Sonu took the forst of the bullets are charged through, the rear tyre was almost swept away but he managed to hang on to the gas and crossed safely. I wanted to have ago myself but Sonu deemed it too risky and took all bikes across. None of the bikers at the other end attempted the crossing - i guess they waited for the water to recede.
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The rest of the ride was quite uneventful and we hit our hotel in Leh by 7 PM, all tired and ready to hit the sacks. Tomorrow would be a day of rest in Leh.
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Old 5th September 2012, 14:52   #5
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Day 4 - Relax/Contemplate - Leh


As we woke up to a day of relaxation in Leh; thoughts wandered carefree over the last few days of manic riding that we had just been through -

What did we see? What did we learn ?

Is it about the machine that a motorcycle is? or Is it about the passion for motorcycling as a lifestyle?

or that "connect-to-nature" feeling that a car just cannot provide?

It's pretty easy to get philosophical after 3 days of riding in extremely challenging terrain while being in the midst of nature's most beautiful settings.

On top is the euphoric feeling of having made the ride successfully from Manali to Leh - a dream ride for any biker - anywhere in the world. Where else could you ride through Ice covered mountain passes, gushing streams, miles of fine desert sand, dangerous gravel overlooking thousand feet drops, umpteen hairpin bends - all on the same route and on the same day.

One things is for sure : ones riding skill improves multifold after such a ride and confidence on a bike will soar to unseen heights. I can never forget a scary moment on our way from Upshi to Leh when i was riding through what seemed like endless winding tarmac, the bullet was thumping away and on full lean at around 70 ks when suddenly on the exit of the corner there lay rough gravel for what seemed like miles - any other day, I would have been pulp. But the days of tough riding brought that sense of "coolness" and control that one can only dream off - my hands were soft on the bars, giving the bike enough time to stabilise to get both tyres in line and gently squeeze on the brakes - all this while the mandatory crash sequence flashed though my mind.

What would you call this? Reckless riding?? Maybe..you could always have been safer at 30 Kmph, but where's the fun? the challenge? the adrenalin? I guess this is part of Biker psyche.

Also one felt so humble and belittled by the terrain and the vast nothingness that surrounds you all along. The byclists give you such a trip - you instantly feel like a miserable, lowly, weakling in comparison to the supermen and superwomen who seem to have limitless energy to cycle up those mega gradients! Hats off to you nutters!


Enough of these philosophical B.S. It was time to head out and soak in the sights and sounds of Leh. The backyard of the house opposite our balcony was so coool..it has to be a postcard!

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We strolled aimlessly though the beautiful streats of Leh later in the day...


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There was once a joke about the then Kerala CM who visited London and apparently commented that "even the beggars there spoke great english" - likewise : even the drains in Leh were spotless

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The kind of bike you should riding to Leh on : not for shorties like me though!

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Old 5th September 2012, 19:25   #6
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Day 5 - 9th August. Leh to Nubra

We hit the trail for the first of our day rides from Leh. We were quite excited since 40 kms into the ride we would hit "the highest motorable road" in the world - Khardung La. Opinions and facts differ on the "highest" pass and the claimed altitude of 18380 ft, but who cares about all this. Its a really high pass and we were looking forward to it. The ride up Khardungla was quite steep but the road was excellent and hundreds of pics were clicked at the "pinnacle" of our ride. We met many bikers and byclists who were equally thrilled at making it to Khardungla top.

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FICTION v/s FACT : Army Says 5602 Mtrs - GPS says 5378 Mtrs

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The first few kilometres down Khardung La was miserable, damaged roads, water crossings, slush and gravel. But a few kms downstream the situation changed dramatically and we got into what seemed like the second phase of our trip. Bright and sunny, the bluest skies yet and lower altitude stood in stark contrast to the high altitudes we had experienced for the last few days. Khardungla village was breathtaking..
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High Altitude Show-off!


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We stopped at the next village ( Khalsar i believe) for lunch and here we met a couple of Himalayan Biking veterans from Canada - Thiery and Richard. Thiery has been riding his bullet 500 in the Himalayas since 1997 and currently runs biking expeditions. He specializes in off-beat locations and routes and had many a story to share. He suggested us to take the alternate route via Wari La on our return to Leh instead of Khardung La. He remarked that in all his years of riding in the Himalayas, he has never seen a more scenic and "green" route. We gladly took directions and decided to oblige.
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A short ride later we were again dumbstruck by the dramatic change in scenery, we were in the middle of a high altitude desert complete with sand dunes nestled between ice capped mountains...these were the Sand Dunes of Hunder. Thierre and Richard were lying in wait by the neat strip of tarmac passing through the sand dunes cameras clicking away - i guess they must have pocketed perfect pictures of our formation ride.
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We could spot several camels at a distance and proceeded to see them close-up. Bactrian camels in that setting was just breath taking. The setting was quite unbelievable - sand dunes, streams, savanna like grasslands completed with stunted thorny tress..we were stoned!

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That night we partied hard in the resort - no issues with oxygen levels, altitude etc. after all we had got acclimatized!!
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Old 5th September 2012, 21:12   #7
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Originally Posted by josepeter View Post
6 bikers to set off from Manali - 5 rented bullet UCE 350s and one Suzuki Shaolin
There is also Electra 5S & Machismo avl in your gang. Was CL 350 not available in required numbers?

You were having all 3 versions of RE (CI, AVL & UCE), which one performed best?

Last edited by (Alok) : 5th September 2012 at 21:13.
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Old 5th September 2012, 22:05   #8
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Default Re: Yet another road trip - Motorcycling in Ladakh!

Excellent pics, excellent narration. Would request you to put some pics of the Wari La route and tag them for my understanding. A blog worth reading again and again.
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Old 6th September 2012, 01:42   #9
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Default Re: Yet another road trip - Motorcycling in Ladakh!

It has been a very inspiring read...were there any Pulsars and Avengers? Any idea how would they perform under such circumstances?
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Old 6th September 2012, 08:45   #10
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Default Re: Yet another road trip - Motorcycling in Ladakh!

Quote:
Originally Posted by (Alok) View Post
There is also Electra 5S & Machismo avl in your gang. Was CL 350 not available in required numbers?

You were having all 3 versions of RE (CI, AVL & UCE), which one performed best?
The AVL belonged to a group of Spanish riders we kept bumping into..We had 2 CL 350s and 3 Electra 5S with us - nothing much to differentiate between them other than tyre sizes and type. I felt the electra's 19 incher in the rear was better in the slush compared to the 18 inch zappers in the CL. The ribbed front tyre of the Electras were a disaster though; you could feel them slipping and sliding everywhere; some studded tyres would have helped. In my opinion 350 bullets are not good enough for this terrain - there is just not enough power in them. The 500s seem to tackle the terrain better; but not sure the added weight does any favour. I wouldn't consider a bullet for my next ride and neither would any of the others we rode with!



Quote:
Originally Posted by amit_purohit20 View Post
Excellent pics, excellent narration. Would request you to put some pics of the Wari La route and tag them for my understanding. A blog worth reading again and again.
Thanks Purohit! Wari La coming up...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny_ View Post
It has been a very inspiring read...were there any Pulsars and Avengers? Any idea how would they perform under such circumstances?
Its not about the bikes Johnny! its purely a mind game.... guys have crossed these terrains on m80s and Chetaks; so any bike will do. But it's about how easily these machines tackle this terrain. A bike with the following characteristics would do well:
1. Light
2. Powerful
3. Decent GC and suspension
4. Well built ( can take some beating)

Here are some bikes I believe are less expensive and well suited

1. Duke 200 ( with some dual purpose tyres)
2. Hero Impulse ( with a Karizma engine)

Any big enduro can tear this terrain apart: but incur high cost and is not easily available...if wishes were horses I would be 6 feet tall and riding a BMW GS in Leh every year!
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Old 6th September 2012, 10:23   #11
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Default Re: Yet another road trip - Motorcycling in Ladakh!

Day 6 - Aug 10th - Nubra to Leh via Wari La


Nubra Valley is a great place to wake up after a night of Partying; the great views instantly take away any remnants of a hangover! After a sumptuous breakfast with an amusing group of south Korean tourists led by a very attractive guide, we set off to discover Wari La.
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A few kilometers down from Khalsar, one could spot a very prominent deviation from the road to Khardung. Freshly laid tarmac towards the left with a signboard that list various destinations ( I belive it includes TANGYAR; but doesnt include Wari La) takes you through many twists and turns onto a valley with lots of vegitation ( As Theiry promised..) and a flowing stream all along.

Then you hit a stip of tarmac right through mountain engulfed sand desert and also spot herds of Yaks grazing in beutiful green valleys further down.
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You then reach Tangyar where there are igloo like tents housing road workers. We stopped to chat with their cooks who graciously offered us water and advice on the way forward.
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Then starts the ascend towards Warila Pass, quite easy in the start but gets trecherous, cold and pretty tough as we reach the pass. There was Ice in most places on the top of the pass.
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The descent is pretty scenic - green valleys and hundreds of marmots. I turned off the engine and glided down the slopes to watch Marmots up close. You can see the village of Shakti deep doen the valley and the winding roads leading there. There are several short cuts down the slopes, we had plenty of fun sliding through them, tyres slipping and sliding and sending shivers down the spine.

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The village of Shakti looked pretty alien and deserted; apparently all of the inamtes were at the monstery for noon prayers. In a while we would see several monks walking towards their homes and we were given directions to Karu on the way to Leh.

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The best instruction I had seen along the way so far...
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Old 6th September 2012, 11:50   #12
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Default Re: Yet another road trip - Motorcycling in Ladakh!

Nice writeup and great pictures @josepeter. Ironically I have been doing this route every year for the last three years now, but always strapped into the rally gypsy blazing past never to realize the beauty of the place. The last time I was in the Nubra Valley, the long straight road, we were doing 130 on the gps. Since I am not participating this year...I might take a cue from you and gear up my CBR for the trip. BTW did you happen to notice any mechanics for bikes other than bullets along the way. My profile photo was taken on the way down from Rohtang at 6:30 in the morning on a chilly october day.

Last edited by damanshaheed : 6th September 2012 at 11:53.
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Old 6th September 2012, 14:59   #13
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Default Re: Yet another road trip - Motorcycling in Ladakh!

It has been amazing to read your adventure so far, congrats to all of you for this truly special trip of your life.

Where there riders with pillion too and how would that make life up there?

The cost of bikes was reasonable, I expected it to be higher.

Awaiting more of your amazing account

Vindy
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Old 6th September 2012, 18:55   #14
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Default Re: Yet another road trip - Motorcycling in Ladakh!

Quote:
Originally Posted by damanshaheed View Post
Nice writeup and great pictures @josepeter. Ironically I have been doing this route every year for the last three years now, but always strapped into the rally gypsy blazing past never to realize the beauty of the place. The last time I was in the Nubra Valley, the long straight road, we were doing 130 on the gps. Since I am not participating this year...I might take a cue from you and gear up my CBR for the trip. BTW did you happen to notice any mechanics for bikes other than bullets along the way. My profile photo was taken on the way down from Rohtang at 6:30 in the morning on a chilly october day.
Thanks mate! I guess the trip will be a lot different strapped to a rally gypsy...Did see many CBRs on the trail. Actually we didn't look around for mechanics locally since we had our own. You could definitely repair more popular bikes at Keylong and Leh.

Quote:
Originally Posted by VindyWheels View Post
It has been amazing to read your adventure so far, congrats to all of you for this truly special trip of your life.

Where there riders with pillion too and how would that make life up there?

The cost of bikes was reasonable, I expected it to be higher.

Awaiting more of your amazing account

Vindy
Thanks Vindy! There were several riders with pillions on the way, its manageable but not as much fun as riding solo. I did the climb up Chang La with a pillion and the Bullet frankly dissapointed..details in my next post.
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Old 6th September 2012, 20:19   #15
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Default Pangong Lake

Day 7 - August 11th - Leh to Pangong

Today we would head out to Pangong Lake; made famous and touristy by the 3 idiots. The guide at our hotel in Leh remarked jokingly that the traffic to Pangong has been multiplying after the movie came out. We were naturally excited about the destination coz of its exotic movie connection; reminds me of a trip to Pondichery many years ago, on my sister's behest - it was the setting for a famous Malayalam movie and she had to see those places in Pondy for real.

The run to Pangong would take us through Chang La - one of the steepest climbs and most enjoyable in the region. The climb up was quite picturesque - its one of the only passes where you could see almost the entire climb from way below.

The tarmac was smooth all through the climb and we kept quite a good pace all throughout.

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Chang La top has some Ice here and there; there was also an emergency medical facility run by the Army - apparently there are many cases of breathlessness at Change La top, probably because the climb is quite steep. Some of us went for the free medical checkup and came out all beaming - our slow paced trip so far had probably got us all acclimatised..

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The descent from Chang La was another matter altogether; there was hardly any tarmac, lots of slush and water and a lot of traffic uphill; mostly SUVs with JK plates returning from Pangong. I remember one particular driver being rather mean as he pushed me quite close to the edge..

There was some wildlife to be seen on the way, marmots, wild horses and yaks..

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A few kilometres downhill we hit the best bit of winding tarmac you could dream of - but sprinkled with several water crossings and swatches of looses sand blown in. I remember having quite a blast and thoroughly enjoying the counter-steering method of leaning that i had recently began using; inspired by the book " Proficient Motorcycling" by David L Hough - A must read bible of daily riding for any biker.
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As twilight aproached, we saw the first view of Pangong from a distance - it was truly breath taking, a kind of "road to paradise" feeling in the air. The timimg was just right - any earlier wouldnt have been so dramatic.

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A few more bends later we were at the "beach" at Pangong. No picture can do justice to the out-of-the-world setting at Pangong. All of us were beaming with Joy and hugging each other. Has to be one of the high points in the trip.

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Some facts about Pangong : Pangong Tso is an endorheic lake in the Himalays situated at a height of about 4,350 m (14,270 ft). It is 134 km long and extends from India to Tibet. 60% of the length of the lake lies in China. The lake is 5 km (3.1 mi) wide at its broadest point. All together it covers 604 sq. km. During winter the lake freezes completely, despite being saline. ( from Wikipedia)

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That night at the Banks of Pangong was quite fun; we were put up in Tents and had a gala time around a Bonfire after dinner. But later in the night, the temperatures dropped substantially and we endured a Sarchu like situation, oxygen cylinders came out! I guess none of us slept that night too..
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