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Old 2nd April 2014, 10:57   #16
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Default Re: Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II

Excellent Trip-O-Logue :-) Congratulations to both of you for accomplishing this feat!
Fabulous pictures by the way
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Old 2nd April 2014, 11:21   #17
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Default Re: Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II

Thanks all for the kind words. I did the ride from Jammu to Kalka. I took the bike in train from Pune to Jammu, and then from Kalka to Mumbai.

The initial blog too is written, but it is still getting processed. Meanwhile this part of roaming around Leh was prepared and submitted to True Wanderers contest. That's why I am sharing this first. The first and third part will be shared once they are presentation worthy.

I hope I am not getting too wordy. I would appreciate feedback on the travelogue from all the readers, even a line would be of help.
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Old 2nd April 2014, 11:44   #18
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Default Re: Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II

Anirudha, I still cannot believe that you made it on 150 CC! Amazing, I must say. Along with your skills & patience, I also need to thank your wife's resilience and willingness to travel with you so much and so extensively. Beautiful pictures there too.

Regards,
Saket
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Old 2nd April 2014, 12:05   #19
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Default Re: Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II

Hi Anirudha, did you need to put a wire through the main jet of the carburetor to help the bike cope with the altitude ?
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Old 2nd April 2014, 15:16   #20
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Default Re: Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II

One word to describe this - Tremendous! Congratulations to both of you for achieving K-Top. Superb pictures...
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Old 2nd April 2014, 16:51   #21
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Default Re: Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II

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Originally Posted by saket77 View Post
Anirudha, I still cannot believe that you made it on 150 CC!
Even I can't believe it yet 150cc seems bit less especially two up with luggage for 20 days. A higher powered bike would have been nicer.

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Hi Anirudha, did you need to put a wire through the main jet of the carburetor to help the bike cope with the altitude ?
No such techiniques were needed. My air filter was clogged with oil and hence motorcycle gave trouble in initial period, but once that was covered, no other mods were needed. I had read on BCM forum that such mods were not needed for Ladakh touring, if your bike is running good in normal city conditions. Thankfully I never felt any need for them.
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Old 2nd April 2014, 20:24   #22
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Default Re: Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II

Great achievement Ani. Hats off. I had loved your Rajasthan ride a few years back. Keep it up man. And brilliant photography! Which camera and lens are you using btw?

cc's are not a restriction to the motivated. And you proved it... Kudos once again.
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Old 2nd April 2014, 21:38   #23
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Default Re: Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II

dkaile: Thanks for the comments, and felt great that you remember the Rajasthan ride Hope you read the Kerala tour as well. Here are the links for the new readers:

Vesta Motorcycle Tours and Travels: Reboot life - Kerala - Kanyakumari - Kodaikanal

Vesta Tours and Travels: Package for adventurous couples - Explore Rajasthan!

I am currently using Canon S90, a point and shoot camera.

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I can't yet bring myself to buy a full fledged DSLR!

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Old 3rd April 2014, 18:11   #24
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Default Re: Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II

Wow!!! Great trip, superb photos and an excellent article.
BTW, did you notice the funny Quotes of the Border Roads written on the road signs?
There's a book published on them, and believe me, it's truly funny.
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Old 3rd April 2014, 19:15   #25
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Default Re: Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II

Ani, did you encounter any patches en-route where you think a low rider like my Harley Superlow may not be able to traverse, like river-lets, boulders paths etc. ? Really want to give it a go one of these days...

Last edited by dkaile : 3rd April 2014 at 19:18.
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Old 4th April 2014, 10:45   #26
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Default Re: Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II

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Ani, did you encounter any patches en-route where you think a low rider like my Harley Superlow may not be able to traverse, like river-lets, boulders paths etc. ? Really want to give it a go one of these days...
How much is the road clearance of your Harley? I think it would be pretty rough on the underbelly of a low slung bike, as my GS150 managed to scrape its bottom a few times! The water crossing, especially after Chang la is too deep, and so is the sand crossing. I think low slung riders are best done on the Kargil-Leh way, if at all. That road is superb. But around Leh and towards Manali, you are betting your luck. Especially if you are without any backup truck, then it will be very hard in some patches. I would advise you against taking your low slung Harley.

It's best to hire a bullet 500 from Leh itself if one wants to cruise in that area.
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Old 4th April 2014, 10:49   #27
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Towards Pangong Tso

While getting ready for today’s ride, there was an unsaid tension in my mind. Crossing the mighty Chang La. Actually ‘changla’ means good in Marathi, and it was ironic that the pass holding this name was the most notorious one. Exactly how difficult was yet to be seen, but the moment was not too far away now.

I woke to an upset stomach, owing fully to the extremely horrible food at ‘Leh View Top’ restaurant last night. We wasted a few precious morning hours trying to find a chemist for the medicine. In the myriad of collection of medicines that we carried with us, we forgotten this particular medicines, and it was making us do ‘runs’ literally. It was a Sunday, and a lazy hill town such as Leh got even lazier on Sunday. Most tourist shops were open, but they informed that medical shops would be opened only after 11am! That was too late, and we were becoming worried by the moment, because we had to be at Pangong Tso at sundown. The ice on top of the hills starts melting due to the harsh afternoon heat, and the streams crossing the road get progressively wild as the day nears its end. Crossing the mad waters was not exactly something we were looking forwards too. Luckily, we found a hidden medical shop on first floor of a building in the bazaar, and blessing him and my stars, I took the medicines and moved on to our journey.

The exit route from Leh remains the same, through the big carved gate that welcomes you to Leh on your first visit. Today our road was going straight all the way to Karu, via a village named Thiksey. Just after Leh, we spotted a number of motorcycle mechanics on the left hand side of the road. As garages were something of a rarity, we made a mental note of their location.

The roads are exceptionally good, and one can do nice speeds on these roads. We passed through tourist spots such as Thiksey and Hemis, both famous for their gompas – Tibetan temples. At Karu, there is a fork in the road. Left takes you to the Chang La pass and ahead, whereas right fork takes you all the way to Manali. There is a petrol pump at Karu, and this is the last one that you will see for about 250 kms from here on! As our itinerary didn’t call for too long a riding for a tankful of petrol, we didn’t stop to fill up.

There is a checkpost at Karu, should you go to Chang La road. After this check post, the traffic waned down a lot, and many times ours was the only vehicle on road. The road started sloping upwards slowly, and held that incline for a long distance and a really long time that seemed eternity. It was no fun dragging Vesta on a mild incline for miles after miles, where there was hardly a straight road. After a while, we began wondering how much more we had to climb! The road showed no sign of sloping down or getting straight. We would look up the hill that we were climbing, sigh, and continue the slow journey upwards. Luckily the roads were good, but we could not yet appreciate it till we faced bad roads later. Many times, we would see the upwards road wind many turns, and disappear after a bend. Hopeful in our hearts, we would proceed to slowly reach to that bend, just to reveal many more kilometers of the same twisting upwards road till our eyes could see, and till that too would disappear behind another bend.

Even though the roads did not change in gradient, the atmosphere certainly did, and soon we were shivering slightly under the jackets. When I looked up to the hills in front, I could see a bit of snow shining on the top. So we took a break, and donned the thermal wears that we were carrying with us.

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_5089_fhdr001.jpg
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Old 4th April 2014, 10:52   #28
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After a military post, we felt that the pass had started. The road went very rapidly from being acceptable to bad to unbelievably hard. Soon we were riding on steep inclines in extremely bad conditions scattered with rocks and pebbles and sands. Every now and then we would cross a stray stream trickling its way down. The chill factor increased a lot, and our speeds were reduced to a fraction of what we were doing before.

This was definitely more difficult than Zozi La or Khardung La, we both thought, and we had yet to cross the pass! This was only the initial climb. On one such tricky turn where I had to maneuver the motorcycle on an upwards turn full of pebbles while trying to cross a stream, it got too tough to ignore. Luckily a Scorpio was travelling behind us. We asked for lift for Nandinee till the top, and away she went in the car. After the fragile luggage was deposited safely towards the destination, I rode upwards tension free. After tackling turns after turns that seemed to be designed for testing rather than convenience, I finally reached the Chang La top.

Nandinee was already on the top, courtesy of the SUV. And so was yesterday's biker group. They were returning from Pangong Tso, and were ecstatic from the experience. Many happy faces from the group conveyed clearly that they had enjoyed their visit a lot. A few of the group advised me on the roads ahead, the hotels to stay, the rates to bargain and such. Additionally, I could see the weather becoming gloomy towards Pangong Tso direction, and they too confirmed that. Still, undaunted by the threatening weather, we decided to continue on our journey.

One of them gave very specific advices about a water crossing of about a 100 meters (!), and a broken road much ahead that needed a detour from the muds at the side of the roads. Both of the advices really saved our skins.

On the Chang La top, the army has a small store, where the visitors get a fee cup of hot tea, and some other paid items. After a visit to that store, we began scouting for a vehicle for getting a lift ahead till the road recovers. We found a Tavera that was carrying two girls from Thiland. I was amazed to see them travelling by themselves in such terrains! My pillion joined them for the journey ahead till the safe roads, and I rode ahead in order to find a good spot to pick her up.

The road leading down the pass was another marvel, topping the difficulty level of climbing up. Many times I thought that I was lucky this was a downward slope, and wondered what would be the case tomorrow when I would travel upwards. Soon I reached that water crossing that I was warned by the fellow biker. I stopped my bike just before it, and looked ahead in wonder. Here it was, a patch of roads about 100 meters ahead, that was simply covered by flowing water. This was not just a normal stream crossing, or even a crossing where the water is only a few inches high. It looked at least 6 to 8 inch deep, full of pebbles as big as my palm. I was sure the water too was not exactly heated up so as to make the travelers comfortable. I looked around in despair, to find whether there was some other bypass for this waterway, but there wasn’t any. So this is it, I thought, and plunged Vesta into the water. I held on to the throttle, as I did not want to be in an unfortunate situation where Vesta would stall and I would have to put my feet down in the stream in order to balance ourselves. I kept on bouncing around, with every pebble in the way threatening to slip the bike. With a little bit of skill and a truck load of luck, I managed to cross the patch without stalling, but not without getting wet. Vesta bounced so much in that already flowing water, some water was sprinkled on even the top of my helmet! But better to get sprinkled than getting full on wet, I thought, and moved ahead thanking my stars.

After a while, I came across a military establishment. This seemed like a trend here, that before and after a hilly pass there would be some military establishment, and there would be totally banged up roads in between these two posts. However the road ahead was looking much better, so I halted to pick up Nandinee, who was behind in that tourist vehicle.

Soon we were united, and after thanking the two girls and wishing them luck ahead, she joined me wondering how the hell I managed to not fall. Guess the fall of Zozi La was still fresh on her mind! At the military check post some distance ahead, I went in to submit the permits, I noticed a Mumbai registered Bullet 500 with a solo rider. I think it is the same guy who has published the travelogue: 36 Days in the Himalayas - The Air up there...

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_5091_fhdr001.jpg

I asked around for any hotels for lunch. There was a village just after that post that had some hotels, and afterwards it would be directly at the lake. As it was already lunch time, we took that detour, and got in a hotel to grab a quick lunch. Another solo biker was having his lunch there. I could see from his Bullet number plate that he was from Mumbai, but decided not to disturb him in his solitary meal. As he too was heading the same way us, we could catch up later.

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Old 4th April 2014, 10:56   #29
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At these hotels, there were mainly rice dishes on the menu. We noticed that many such small hotels made mainly rice dishes, and hardly any roti or paratha dishes were seen on the menu. After the lunch, we joined the main road again towards Pangong Tso. The road ahead was pretty straight, and good most of the times. But whenever we would get comfortable at the speed, suddenly the road would disappear, to reveal a big ditch in the road. This might be formed because of the melted ice at the left side crossing the road to meet the river at right. Such ditches appeared from time to time, and kept us on our toes wondering how far the next one might be. Every now and then, we would cross a small stream crossing such ditch, and I was reminded of the advice by Capt Nandu’s nefew, ‘Post noon, the ice starts melting on top of the hills and the streams increase in speed as well as size. So reach as soon as possible’. The number of water crossings was quite high, but none of them was dangerous, at least none yet – barring the first 100 m one.

At the end of the road with ditches, we came across a huge patch of broken road. This was the point warned to us by the group of bikers. So we looked around and found a muddy track going in the sands at our left. We proceed cautiously. In distance, we could see a father-son pair on a bullet. They signaled us the path hidden in the mud. Nandinee got down on foot, and walked ahead, guiding me the safe path to cross the broken road. Very slowly, I took Vesta on the slippery path, and managed to cross that broken road without slipping anywhere. We thanked the motorcycling father-son duo, and moved on.

After a while, we could see sand around us, similar to Hunder road. While we were talking amongst us that how this looked similar to the Hunder path, suddenly the road disappeared completely, and we could see only sand in front of us. Stretching our sights ahead, we could see black tar road ahead. It seemed that for this particular patch, sand has overtaken on the road, and we would have to travel through sand. This was a very scary option for me, as riding in sand is perhaps the toughest task. You have hardly any control of the bike’s steering, every undulation in the sand decides which way the handle will turn, and you only have choice to wring the accelerator and hang tight praying dear lord.

A local jeep was approaching from rear. They stopped near us, and the driver offered to give lift to Nandinee for that sandy patch. An elderly lady was already seating in the passenger seat. This was a better alternative to ridding two up in unknown sands, so Nandinee got in the jeep and moved on, while I started gathering courage. The sand was looking about a foot high, and the condition of the road beneath it unknown. To my surprise, a very battered looking Maruti 800 full with 5 passangers overtook me and entered the sand patch at speed. Looking at it, I too feigned courage, and gunned Vesta.

The moment my front wheel touched the sand, I could feel the control taken away from me. Bike was riding as if a drunken man going post to post, looking for lying down. In sand, I couldn’t even put my feet down in fear that it would get stuck and would drag me behind. Puffing up a big cloud of sand behind me, I managed to pass that patch in perhaps the most unceremonious way.

Breathing deep, trying to compose myself, I took a turn hoping to catch the jeep, just too see even bigger sandy patch in front of me. It was around 200 meters long. I could see the Mumbai biker riding in that patch on his bullet, and the way he was dancing around, my heartbeats increased their tempo to another level. Heck, let’s do it one more time, I thought, and rode ahead. Same drama of riding on direction less motorcycle, and just when I was at the end of my wits, the patch ended, and I prayed a lot that let this be the last one. Riding in water was better than this, because at least I could put my feet down and see the bottom. God seemed to have his ear open this time, because this wish was granted immediately.

When I flagged down the jeep, he informed me that there were 2 water crossings ahead, and it would be better if we would continue the present arrangement. Tensed, I moved ahead to cross two large water crossings one after another. In one of those crossings, there was simply no road. There was a tar road just before and after the crossing, but during the crossing, there was only rocks and pebbles with ankle to knee high water. I wondered how the Maruti 800 would have crossed this patch, but we couldn’t catch them, so evidently they crossed all those hurdles safely.

This particular patch of sands and water crossings was hardly a kilometer long, but it was surely the toughest one so far. I picked up Nandinee from the jeep and inquired whether there were more of such patches ahead. Luckily this was the last one, and the road ahead was clear.

The jeep moved ahead of us, and we started making way on the uphill climb. It was already past 3.30PM, and we had yet to cross pagal nallah.

Pagal Nallah is a wild stream of water enroute to Pangong tso. It was a very famous and feared point, where water would flow wildly post noon. Hence it had the name Pagal nallah – Mad stream. However there is a new bridge built over the nalla that has tamed the path. Yet, how tamed a wild animal could be? We were heading towards it to experience it in person.
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Old 4th April 2014, 10:57   #30
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After the upclimb ended, we could see a lake in the distance. Hopefully it was the lake that we were heading to, the Pangong Tso. The roads are pretty definitive, and there is hardly any chance to take any wrong road unless you were actually planning to.

I came across a bridge joining two hills, with a stream speedily flowing underneath. I realized this was the Pagal nallah. The new bridge is built up on a height, but the nalla underneath still makes its presence felt. It was hard to imagine how the ride would have been if this bridge was not built. Crossing that wild stream was a scary thought, and the fact that people have crossed it on all types of vehicles at all times of the day seemed really unbelievable.

We were not totally kept away from the adventure of the past, it seemed. Just ahead of the bridge, there came a small water crossing. Small by the standards of past 100s of meters of water crossing, this was about 4-5 meters long. It was flowing on a concrete bridge, and I was supposed to ride over it. Even though the water was hardly 3-4 inches high, it was flowing pretty fast and the road underneath had a nasty slope towards the flow, so as to wash away anything that came in the path into the valley the stream was flowing into.

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_5094.jpg

For safety, Nandinee got down and I crossed the stream slowly. Crossing the stream, I parked Vesta and waited for her to cross the stream from a safe point and come over. But this was taking too much time, so I got down to investigate more. There was no place that she could safely cross the water without getting wet or risking herself being washed away! I walked to the start of the stream, but it seemed to descend from top of a hill, and had no safe crossing point. The only crossable depth seemed on the road that was sloping dangerously towards the valley. Also, perhaps our eyes were playing trick, but it appeared that the intensity and quantity of water being flown was increasing as the time went by, and the flow was looking dangerous to cross. There was no railing on that road, so should someone fall in that stream, there was nothing to break his journey of being washing away into the valley except perhaps his luck.

As time began to roll by, we started getting tensed. I remembered Bollywood movies where Hero would walk across hazards and rescue the heroin stuck in calamity. Here my own wife was stuck across the stream, what could be the better opportunity to prove my heroism? I am not usually this dumb, but perhaps the cold weather had shrunk my brain to the size of a peanut, and I decided to play superman.

Even though Nandinee was shouting from across not to cross the stream, I put one feet into the stream slowly, hoping that the waterproof shoes prove their worth. Taking a few brave steps ahead, the water suddenly felt too strong to stand in. The icy cold stream found its way inside my shoes, and chilled me to the bones. The cold shock was nothing like I had ever felt, and I instantly felt so weak and so out of control of my own body. It seemed perhaps only the stream could control my fall. Staggering and trying to gain control, I fumbled my way back to Vesta, without feeling anything from the legs except extreme numbness. Nandinee was standing with worried eyes and hand on her mouth, and I hurriedly removed the shoes and wet socks to get rid of the the icy water in them.

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_5097.jpg

I guess Almighty took a mercy on my condition, because at that time, a jeep appeared from my side, going towards Leh. I hailed him and requested him to bring back Nandinee from across the stream. What seemed like an unsolvable problem for past half hour was solved in 2 minutes. The gentleman crossed the stream in his jeep, picked up Nandinee, and reversed back to bring her to my side. I thanked him profusely, and started rubbing my feet and toes to make them feel warm. We saw another bullet following our path, and it seemed a couple was riding it. I hailed him to stop across, and informed him about the strong current of the stream. He too took the same decision, and crossed the stream alone. I offered to stay till we get some ride for his wife to cross the stream, but he asked us not to worry and to move on. So we wished him luck and continued our journey.

We were already very tired due to all the adventures of the day, and were looking forward for reaching our destination for tonight. This particular water crossing was right at the top of the hill, so we had mostly downward sloping roads of good condition here on. There was a small patch of hotels on our right, and we might have halted here in normal journeys, but today we had no energy or mood to break the already broken journey even more, and hence moved on to our destination ‘Spangmik’.
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