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Old 31st March 2014, 15:22   #1
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Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_5002001.jpg

A long term dream made true,
An achievement of a lifetime is made.
And yet, one sits in silence by himself
And feels; a lot has already been said.

Long stints of riding alone
With no soul in sight;
Where every turn is a surprise
And every view, a delight.

Hundreds of miles of tough riding
Himalaya towering all around.
Solitude is your only friend
And motorcycle’s beat, the only sound.

Water crossings and stony passes abundant
Every mile makes its presence felt.
Yet when children wave and bikers greet you
You can feel your tiredness and all the worries melt.

Extremely hot and extremely cold
Your night and day feel part of worlds apart.
‘Riding to Leh’ is not the brain’s decision
It’s the evil conspiracy of the heart.
__________________________________________________ ________

I and my wife - Aniruddha and Nandinee - are avid motorcycle tourers. 'Vesta' is our motorcycle's name, the beloved Suzuki GS150R. We have toured quite extensively in west Maharashtra, especially Konkan and surrounding areas of Pune. We had our first taste of out of state long ride in Rajasthan. This was the first time that we crossed the state border for a motorcycle tour, and we were absolutely thrilled. The experience of riding in a different state is really something that words can’t express. You are in a new terrain with new people, and yet you feel connected to them, and the lands. Such motorcycle tour is not simply following the tourist trail, but rather connecting to lives of people you meet on road and at the hotels.

We had dreamed of going to Leh for a long time, but nature or work kept on coming in our plans. In 2010, we were all set for Leh ride, with the tickets ready and bookings done. But nature ended our plans abruptly when one night, an entire year's worth of rain fell down from the sky in 30 minutes, washing away Leh and surround areas in the horrendous cloud burst.

We continued to tour in the country over the next years, but the dream of riding to Leh never left us. So finally in August - September 2013, all the stars aligned and gave a green signal for our ride of a lifetime. Discouraging people were dime a dozen, ranging from couch tourists who have seen the entire world through TV, to actual retired army persons who were once posted in Ladakh. However, we went ahead with the plans, and had the time of our life for the next 3000 kilometers that marked the ride of Ladakh.

The Leh – Ladakh trip can be roughly split into 3 parts,

1. Reaching Leh
2. Exploring surrounding areas
3. Returning back from Leh

Each of these parts deserves a story of its own, and it would a great injustice if one crams it all into a small write-up. The Himalayas offer different insights from different approaches, and deserve not just a few lines, but huge books to describe partially what they convey.

In this blog, we would see the details of the second leg of our wandering, the exploring of surrounding areas of Leh.

After a wonderful ride through Patnitop, a shikara tour in Dal lake at Srinagar, a tasting of Kahwa – the Kashmiri tea – in the laps of mountains at Sonamarg, and a ride through the treacherous Zozi La that included a tumble on the rocky roads, we had reached Leh.

We had rested for a day for getting acclimatized for thin oxygen levels at such high regions, gotten our necessary permits from the DC office and were eager to start our journey towards exploring the surrounding areas of Leh.

Last edited by GTO : 1st April 2014 at 13:45.
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Old 31st March 2014, 15:25   #2
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To Nubra valley

While checking out of the hotel for one night, we went to the reception room for asking where to keep the luggage for the night, as we were coming back to the hotel tomorrow. In the reception room, many posters were displayed showing the surrounding tourist attractions in Leh. There was one beautiful lake shown, with a nice reflection of hills ahead. The photo was titled ‘Nubra Valley’. I didn’t know there was any lake in that valley! We were heading that way now, and there was no time to search online. I hoped we would catch that lake while en route.

Today the route would pass through the ‘world’s highest motorable road’ – Khardung La. Though it is not really the highest motorable road in the world – the new measurements proved that the height of the pass was rather enthusiastically reported – still it remains a great challenge as ever. In many blogs I had read how motorcycles would fail on this pass, and how people from cars and SUVs would have to get down in order to reduce the load for the vehicle to make the climb. I was going to take on the pass on a 150cc motorcycle with a pillion, and I hoped I would make it to the top. Nandinee and I have been riding together for many years, and crossing this tall pass together would really mean a lot.

The Leh Bazaar that you pass any time you go out of Leh deserves a mention. It is so full of life, with happy tourists wandering around, traditional Ladakhi women selling their fresh vegetables on the street, the general chaos of a typical Indian hill station; the whole atmosphere is a wonderful start of the day.

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4727.jpg

The Khardung La road starts just outside Leh, and goes up and up for 42 kms. At the end of 42 kms, you find yourself on top of Khardung La, called K-top. 42kms travel seems nothing in city terms, but in Himalayas, it means a long travel. Especially uphill on a loaded motorcycle. But the scenery keeps you good company. We first passed through the tiny roads of Leh, and then a comparatively larger road leaded us to the pass.

We rode slowly for about 35 kms on those well laid road, half because we wanted to enjoy the panoramic views of Leh as we climbed higher, and half because the motorcycle wouldn’t run fast due to constant incline. We passed many cyclists and tourist vehicles on way. While making all the turns, chatting and laughing, we came across a halt where many vehicles were stopped. It was the ‘North Pallu’, the military checkpoint at Leh side of K-top. We submitted a copy of the tourist permit to the security booth, had a quick coffee, and gazed in awe at the road ahead. Right from the North Pallu, the road was broken. And according to the tea vendor, this was much better than the roads ahead! Worrying about what lies ahead; we gulped the hot coffee and mounted Vesta.

The road ahead is a curious mix of sand, pebbles and rocks. The incline increasing by a degree every mile doesn’t help either. Luckily I didn’t have any luggage. Only my tankbag was accompanying us for this ride. Vesta was making its progress steadily, taking every precarious turn very cautiously. The speed went down slowly, and sometimes it was reduced to hardly a crawl. I can still feel the tensed mood in which I rode ahead. I have ridden on worst roads, in worst seasons, but this was above it all. And yet, safe roads that laid just a few kms behind were not even on our minds. Himalayas fill up men with madness, and ours was to cross this pass safely, under any condition.

The decreasing speeds were noted by my pillion as well. On every steep incline, she would copy me and lean ahead with me, to try and reduce the weight on rear tire. Every now and then, the road would disappear behind a turn, and I would secretly hope in my mind let this be the top, let this be the end of this struggle. But taking that turn would reveal an even steeper road with even worse condition. The last few kilometers were the longest, where all 3 of us were really tired. Vesta from having to work so hard and both of us mentally. I will never forget the last kilometer, when I was struggling not to stall the bike due to low speeds, and I heard Nandinee bucking up the motorcycle ‘Come on, baby! Just a few kilometers! You can do it! You have done worse than this.’ Looking back at it, it feels stupid, but at that moment, it was just what we required, and finally Vesta took us two-up on the feared K-top, the highest motorable road in the whole damn world.

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4756.jpg

When we reached K-top, I was suddenly surrounding by a biker group and found myself receiving a lot of handshakes and pats. The group of bikers that we kept on meeting on our way to Leh was already on K-top, and they were thrilled to see us reach together. Many mentioned this was an inspirational sight for them, and vowed to convince their better halves to join them on next tour! That group and us had similar itineraries for past few days, and we crossed each other many times. But today onwards, it would differ; as their plan was to return back to Leh and mine was to move ahead. So meeting them now on was purely by chance, if at all. I wished them good luck for their future endeavors, and bid them good bye on K-top. The joy of having come up all the way to the top with pillion, and on a motorcycle with small engine but a huge heart can’t be expressed enough in words. I will cherish this memory forever.

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4757.jpg

K-top is a small flat area situated at the center of the Khardung La. It provides a much needed breathing stop to vehicles and travelers. At its both sides, bad roads lead to North and South Pallu, both military establishments. At the top there is not much to do, except to freshen up, take picture below the board that marks the Khardung La Top, and recover from the shock that you actually did it.

After all of the above was done, we started moving ahead. The road that led down matched in quality to the road that led up, and so next 7 kilometers too were equally fun. As we were coming down now, at least there was no fear of stalling on a tricky turn. The worst that could happen was you could lose control and fall in the steep valley, but let’s focus on the positives now!

Last edited by GTO : 1st April 2014 at 13:46.
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Old 31st March 2014, 15:33   #3
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After bumping and banging down the rocky road, we reached South Pallu, where the road condition went up dramatically, especially in light of past 15 kilometers. I submitted my permit to the guard at the booth, and was talking with Nandinee about plans ahead, when two military persons approached us. It turned out that they too were from Maharashtra – from Nanded – and were posted here for 2 years. They were military drivers for driving the trucks. After learning that we were going to Diskit – a village with supposedly better accommodations than Hunder where the sand dunes are - they suggested me to ride onwards to Turtuk. It is the last stop on this route that a civilian can go to, but it is 90 kms ahead from Hunder. When I said I would pass the opportunity, they tried to console me saying the road that goes to Turtuk is same to the one that I would pass to go to Hunder. ‘Asach aahe sagla pudhe’, (ahead it’s like this only); they waved their hand around and explained.

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4768.jpg

I remembered my visit to Tanot in Rajasthan, where we were similarly denied by the Army to go to BP-609, the last military check post in India. A soldier there had tried in similar way to too make us feel good ‘Sir it’s like this only!’ Guess military people are different from the outside, but on the inside they are all the same.

After I took leave of them, another biker approached me. He was from Bangalore, and his group was having their bike repaired on Khardung La descend. Why wasn’t he there with the group? I asked. He replied:

‘Oh, it’s a small problem with the bike that’s keeping me from taking small halts’.
‘Yeah? What is it?’
‘You see, the air screw fell off.’

My jaw hit the floor.

‘What the hell…? How did that happen?!’

A quick explanation for importance of an air screw for non-technical readers. Most Indian motorcycles use carburetor for using petrol. When petrol burns, the bike generates power and thus moves forwards. This burning of petrol is controlled by two screws, fuel screw which controls how much petrol should be burnt and air screw that provides the air to assist the burning of fuel. If one of them is not tuned properly, then one can have all sorts of problem ranging from low power to low mileage.

Here my friend from Bangalore was missing the air screw, and the implications were quite severe. He lost the screw somewhere near Zozi La, where a local mechanic had tried to ‘adjust his carburetor’ for higher altitude. So his motorcycle’s average was at an all-time low, and hence he couldn’t afford any quick stops.

‘So what’s the next plan? Staying at Hunder?’ I asked.
‘No, we will go see the Sand dunes and turn back to Leh today only.’

In disbelief, I glanced at my wrist watch. It was already past 1 pm, and two bikes of the three in that group were having problem. Hunder was still quite some distance away, and the sand dunes even further. I felt it was very unlikely event that he would be able to cross Khardung La in daylight should be follow his plans. But a gentleman never discourages another, no matter how outrageous the plans may sound. So I only wished him luck, and rode further. However, I did not see any of the 3 bikes later, so unless they passed me and returned when we were off the road, I think they returned from South Pallu back to Leh.

As for us, now that the roads were good, it was a go. The road from South Pallu wind all the way down to flats towards Hunder. We halted at Khardung, the small village that gave its name to the legendary pass. A non – ceremonious lunch was in order, at a road side shack of a locallite. The food was nothing to write about, but the smiling service of the old lady made up for it. There are a number of hotels in Khardung village, and tourist vehicles were stopping there. However many vehicles chose to blaze past the village to make a run towards the destination. Or maybe they were heading to Turtuk and had a lot of ground to cover. As for us, we were very much within the safe time limit, and hence proceeded leisurely, taking in the mystical ride in sight.

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4771.jpg


Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4775.jpg

The road ahead is sloped at times, but is never dangerous. At Khalsar, we came across a fork in the road, where the ghaat ended. One road was going to left towards the flat lands, and other was clinging to the mountain that we rode down from, and disappeared out of sight. We halted at the fork and started looking around for help or hints. There was none. I remembered that I have a map of that area in the tankbag. A quick glance revealed that we were to take the left road. Later we realized that had we taken the right road, we would end up taking the Wari La route to Pangong Tso – an extremely tough route that we had deliberately avoided!



The road went straight for extended patches from this point onwards, until a time when we were riding in dessert land! It was unbelievable to see so much sand here in the middle of Himalayas, and yet here it was, riding on the wind, covering up the road and coating everything in its golden haze. It covered the mountains on the left and the valley on the right. It was hard not to stop every now and then to wonder and admire the miracle.

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4795.jpg

The large mountains in distance reminded us we were riding in Himalayas, and yet the desert was making us believe this was Rajasthan! It was a surreal ride here onwards.

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4797.jpg

A short while afterwards, we came to a junction. Continuing ahead would take us to a bridge to Panamik, famed for its hot springs, and taking left from the junction would take us to our tonight’s destination. Panamik hot springs is an interesting phenomenon, where there are springs of hot water right in the middle of the cold river. However we have already seen a number of hot springs elsewhere, and had no time for Panamik.

Last edited by GTO : 1st April 2014 at 13:47.
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Old 31st March 2014, 15:42   #4
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The left road to Hunder is a straight-as-an-arrow road for quite a distance. The wind roaring in the helmet, the bike whirring along, and strutting at a good speed, it is a serene experience. The sun was playing peek-a-boo from the mountain as it went in and out of sight. The road isn’t as smooth as the baby’s bottom at Nimmu, but it has its own charm. At the end of this road, we climbed up a small ghaat, and a similar sight with a new twist was awaiting us. For all our rides, we were used to having a river flowing madly on one side and mountains clouding us on other. Here, there were mountains on one side alright, but on the right, there were only remains and small streams of a river. Was there really a river that had shrunk in summer? Or is it like this for all year? Judging by the dry sand all around, it seemed little far-fetched to imagine the small stream on our right to be a roaring full bed river at any time.

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4803.jpg

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4808.jpg

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4818.jpg

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The village of Diskit was very near now. We passed a number of small villages and finally saw the Diskit village at right side of the road. The Tourist Reception Centre at the village is marked prominently, and we went there by habit. But it was closed. The guide book didn’t have much information about this village either. But as we were there at 4.30PM, we had the sunlight to our advantage, and decided to roam around to find a nice place for putting the anchor down.

We checked a multitude of hotels. A common point for all of them was, all had a small lawn full of blooming flowers in front. But the similarity ended there. A lot of them were closed because of the off-season. There were some which seemed open, but even after calling on top of my voice, I couldn’t wake up the attendants from their siesta. A few that were open, didn’t have TV. In the end, on a local’s suggestion, we came to hotel ‘Sand dunes’. This hotel was open and operating well. There was a newly constructed room that I really liked at the first visit. So bargained with him, hit a deal and checked in.

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4826.jpg

It was getting cold out, so the thermals were put to use. We were informed by the owner that the light comes only from 7 to 11 PM every day. Rest of the day there is no light. I realized why there were no TVs in most of the hotels!

Last edited by GTO : 1st April 2014 at 13:47.
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Old 31st March 2014, 15:45   #5
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Hunder region is famous mainly for its sand dunes, and many tourists prefer or are made to stay at Hunder. We did not fancy living next to sand dunes, so chose the Diskit village as our halt. After a hot coffee, we started off for the dunes, which were only 12 kms from Diskit. The road is a typical Ladakhi road, bit good, bit broken, surrounded by earthen houses separated by long distances, and hardly anyone crosses your vehicle from either side.

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4831.jpg

Now the sand in distance was no more a barren sight that we saw on the way to Diskit. There was sand, but there were many green patches growing in between. Even when the dunes area starts, there are small green patches that peek from here and there.

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4841.jpg

Approaching the sand dunes, the roads improved drastically. As it was about 6, the sun had still not gone home and the sand was lit up from his gaze. There were many puddles on route that reflected the sky shakily in their rippling reflection. Though I didn’t venture out to check the depth, to me they didn’t seem deep, going by the grass and the rocks pointing up from it.

Nearing Hunder, we could see a lot of vehicles gathered at a distance at our right hand. That was the entrance to the dunes, we deduced. The road has some small toll, a ride on pebbles, and voila, you are in the parking lot of the dunes! A small non confidence inspiring shaky wooden bridge takes you across the small stream to the dunes.
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Old 31st March 2014, 15:46   #6
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Now the question of many tourists on reaching any spot is,

‘What to do?’

Well, play with your kids, chat with your wife, sneak a peek at that cute girl, do your usual. But people want some activity at every place. So here the activity is riding camels! The camels are bit different from the usual kind. They are still as unhygienic as every other camel, but have two humps on their back. Also, they are the least camera shy animals I have seen. Heck in some of the pictures I saw people were taking of the camels, the camels seemed more at ease than the person posing in front of them!

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4875.jpg

‘Can you believe it Nandinee? Riding stinky camels on top of Himalayas! Let’s do it!’

‘Do it and I am hitching a ride back.’ Came a curt reply.

So the camel ride was out of the agenda, though I must admit the back breaking ride through the Khardung La matched the fun of the camel ride.

There is not much to do in the dunes really, except to roam around and take up the camel ride if that’s your thing. It does provide a nice change of scenery and one can spend a nice evening here, just sitting on the sand looking over the horizon. The camel-wallas too are not pushy sorts, so one no and they leave you in peace. The camels though turn their heads and follow you around by their wide tennis ball eyes and the gaze that says ‘I know all your secrets!’
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Old 31st March 2014, 15:48   #7
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Even though there was nothing to do, it was one of the times where doing nothing felt better than anything else. It was a clear blue sky with a few cotton balls for clouds dispersed here and there. Laughing families and snorting camels filled up the ambience. We lost track of time chatting about Khardung La, its sneaky turns, the group of bikers, the soldiers and the biker with lost air screw. After a while, we noticed the sky started showing a grander and deeper colour of blue, and people started returning from the rides - the clock had ticked onwards. The stray dogs sniffing here and there started packing up too, and heading back to village. We took our cue, bid goodbye to this wonder of a dessert in the middle of snow, and headed back to our hotel.

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4883.jpg

Camels enjoying sunset

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4925.jpg

It was easy ride on familiar roads back to the hotel. At the junction of the village, I saw two foreign motorcyclists with puzzling look in their eyes. Sticking to the code of biking brothers, I approached them and asked whether they needed any help. It turned out that they were short on fuel. There was a petrol tank near the village, but it seemed so desolated that it was more apt to be rented out to horror movies than to be operated as petrol bunks. So I directed them to the village shops where they might find some petrol sold for premium, and returned to our hotel. The lights had come, and the life was seemingly the same as in the towns. But underneath this mask of normalcy, there was a strange reality, where you would find sand dunes in Himalayas, and camels, and electricity for 4 hours every day.

The dinner was in the hotel, as there is no other option available. We were only two guests that night, but the food was good and the service warm. Hunder was our first outing outside of Leh, and the sand that the wind carried in our hairs and clothes followed us till Leh.
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Old 1st April 2014, 11:42   #8
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Back to Leh

The hotel had provided an emergency lamp should someone needs light in the night when the electricity goes off. We hadn’t needed to use them, and Nandinee said they should have also given an alarm, to wake up snoring beasts like me. Ignoring her snide remarks, I grudgingly got out of bed for breakfast and a little exploring of the town and the hotel.

The hotel housed a lot of flowering plants, and it was nice to stroll around. Many small and large flowers were growing along a few apple trees.

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After a photography session and a hearty breakfast, we took one last ride in the village. We clicked a few shots, packed out stuff and mounted Vesta to ride back. We started the ride at about 10.30 am.

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4972.jpg

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4988.jpg

There was a monastery near Diskit that had a 105 foot statue of Maitreya Buddha. A clear marked road goes uphill on right while coming back to Leh. The statue sits on top of a hill, and from there you see the monasteries in distance placed on an even taller hill. We prayed at the feet of Buddha and climbed down for joining the road back to Leh.

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4996.jpg

The returning ride was progressing steadily. But when we came to a point where we were passing some puddles next to the roads reflecting the mountains, I remembered something and halted the bike. The view to my left, of the puddle reflecting the mountains, was the same on seen on the poster of Nubra valley! So it was not any river or lake whose reflection was advertised, it was this puddles!

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_4999.jpg

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_5002.jpg

It was amusing and somewhat irritating, to have assumed that the grand reflection could be only seen in a large lake. Here there was this small puddle, hard for anyone to drawn even if he tried hard, and yet being the selling point for a place. Talking and laughing in our helmets, we rode further.

When I was crossing a ghaat enroute, we saw two men in dusty clothes, waving around and shouting ‘Sahib ruko!’ (sir please stop). Generally, as a rule, I never stop on deserted lands. But something in my mind made me stop at a distance. They came running towards us.

‘Sirji paani do! Pyaas se jaan jaa rahi hai!’ (Sir give us water! We are thirsty!)

I was very surprised. They appeared to be the road workers that one can see working on lonely roads, and just yesterday Nandinee had asked me where they got water from, since all the area was so deserted. Seeing them ask for water was unexpected and hitting in the guts. We had two water bottles with us, so I passed them one and moved ahead.

At Khardung village, we stopped for lunch at one of the better looking place. It was a buffet system with a fixed charge for unlimited food. Something different than what we saw in the tours across Leh.

After lunch, we both felt a bit tensed about approaching Khardung La. Yesterday we were filled with madness to cross the pass two up, but after seeing the pass in person, and how the bikes needed repairs, we were in two minds about crossing it. Suddenly an idea popped up. What if we asked for lift for Nandinee in one of the tourist vehicles? I saw an Innova in my rear view mirror, which I waved to stopped. It was carrying a foreigner couple. I explained the need for lift because of the bad roads, and asked them for a lift till the North pallu. They obliged, and soon I was riding alone towards the Khardung La.

Today’s ride was equally challenging as yesterday, but the silver lining was that only I was at risk of falling. After tackling turn after turn of miscalculated angles and patches sewn with huge rocks, I finally bumped up the roads and saw someone clicking my photos. Before I could strike a bollywood superstar pose, I realized it was my own pillion clicking the photos.

After a small halt on top and a bouncy ride down to North pallu, I was joined back by the wife on the safe roads and we rode back to Leh. As the road was now all the way down, it was a very fast ride and we were back in Leh by 4.30pm. There was a room prepared in the Leh hotel for us, with our luggage already moved in. The service was impressive.

Last edited by GTO : 1st April 2014 at 13:48.
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Old 1st April 2014, 11:48   #9
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We were still very fresh today, and had a lot of sunlight time in our hands. So we decided to visit the tourist places in the town, the Leh palace and the Shanti Stupa.

The leh palace sits on top of a hill, and watches over the town of Leh. There is a small entry ticket, where a usual little corruption racket is possibly going on. I didn’t get any ticket on payment of the entrance, citing the reason of ‘out of tickets’. The man next in line complained that even last week he got the same reason. I guess the ticket vendor might be sneaking off small sums of the entrance fee, which was sad as the palace seemed it needed all the finance it could get.

From the door itself, we saw dark lanes inside the palace leading to darker alleys and shaky stairs. There was no electricity that day, so we had to rely on what little sunlight could find its way inside the structure. For being a palace, it was notably dark and gloomy. I expected palaces to be brighter and roomier, but what do I know? I wasn’t born in a palace!

Nandinee wanted to turn around from the first sight itself, but I prodded her and climbed up the stairs.

At 1st level, there is a temple where you have to remove your shoes outside. For a non Buddhist, the temple would look similar to other ones like in Lamayuru. Still, it was very quiet and serene, and the brightly painted pictures and statues were impressive.

There is a room nearby that had some posters that probably informed the readers more about the history of the dynasty, but as it was dark we couldn’t see or read any poster.

The stairs continue upwards, and continue rising till 9 stories. On the upper levels, there are a few terraces here and there, so you can come out in sun, breathe in fresh air and see the town of Leh below. There are restoration works going on in the castle, so in a few years the castle may look as it would have looked in its prime time – at least on the outside. On the inside, I wonder how it would not look dark and gloomy except by larger windows or brighter lights.

View of Leh from the palace

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_5032.jpg

Some of the parts of the palace seemed in pretty dangerous condition. Some daredevils were venturing out to those parts, but my quota of adventure was already over today, so we didn’t step in those areas.

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_5037.jpg

After the palace, we headed to Shanti Stupa. The way goes through Leh town, and there is a nice ice cream shop at the corner of the taxi stand. A cone of happiness and we were on our way to the stupa, which was ahead of the road of our hotel.

We had stopped short of the shanti stupa road on our first night in Leh, because of the dogs and the lack of street lamps. Now that we had daylight, we had the chance to ride on that road. The road passes through a small bazaar housing a number of curio shops, eateries, cafeterias and tourists agents. There are a number of large hotels on this road, and we spotted a number of familiar names of guest houses that have received favourable reviews on internet. This seemed a good area for tourists to find hotels in.

The road to Shanti stupa is a little steep. Shanti stupa was built in 1991, partly by Japanese Buddhists assisted by the Buddhists in Leh. It was constructed as a vision of peace, hence the name of Shanti stupa.

There was a small uphill walk from the parking to the stupa. We passed a meditation hall on way, where we saw people searching for a quite time and a deeper insight. The circling road takes you to the back of the stupa. It is a two level structure, depicting a number of scenes from Buddha’s life in sculpture form. As this stupa is situated at a height, you can see the town of Leh spread below. I realized this was the best time to visit the stupa, as the sky started turning deeper shades of blue, and the stupa lit up in its glory.

Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II-img_5077.jpg

The town below too was getting accustomed to the darkness, and we could see light bulbs slowly coming to life in distance. Soon Leh was basking in the yellow lights of street lamps dotted by the lights in houses and hotels. We would have loved to spend more time near the stupa, but we remembered the bark of the dogs, and so returned while there was still a little sunlight and the sky was not totally black.

Tomorrow we were going to Pangong Tso, the lake in ‘3 idiots’. The road would go via Chang La, another high altitude pass. I remembered the discussion with a seasoned rider on my first day in Leh. When I asked him which pass he thought was the most difficult, I expected the answer as ‘Khardung La’, it being the highest pass and all. But he had answered ‘Chang La’. It was forgotten in the chats and the laughter later, but I remembered it now, and wondered how bad could it be?

Last edited by GTO : 1st April 2014 at 13:49.
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Old 1st April 2014, 13:49   #10
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Default Re: Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 1st April 2014, 16:05   #11
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Default Re: Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II

Congratulations on completing your dream trip. Also a great write up with a lots of useful info for fellow travelers.

You couple's sheer determination simply dazzles me. I have always dreamt of making the Leh trip on a 4 wheeler, you make me think otherwise now.

Happy revving & Cheers.
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Old 1st April 2014, 18:22   #12
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Amazing stuff! And on a GS150R no less! You're lucky to have own one of the most reliable bikes around (and also have a very supportive wife I must say). Amazing trip! Waiting for more!!
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Old 1st April 2014, 19:51   #13
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Thats an amazing travelogue and that too on a two wheeler demands respect. Hats off to you both on completing the dream drive!!!!
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Old 1st April 2014, 20:38   #14
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Default Re: Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II

Thanks Meher, for the lucid write-up, accompanied by beutiful pictures! This type of bike adventures, that too to a place as beutiful as Leh-Ladakh, always excites me, though I must admit that I will never dare to do it on a bike. I must congratulate you and your better half for the feat that you two have achieved. I am awaiting from you more breathtaking pictures from this wonderful place! Did you cover the entire journey from Thane to back on your two-wheeler? What was the cost of the trip, if you don't mind? Again, I must say that what you have achieved is stupendous! I really wish I had as much courage as you! When I was reading your write-up, I was actually feeling like doing the trip myself.
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Old 2nd April 2014, 08:58   #15
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Default Re: Dreams of Leh: A couple's motorcycle ride to the Himalayas - Part II

Dear Meher,thanks for sharing such a good experience.Your experience proves even a reliable commuter can also be taken to extreme places like Leh Ladakh. Hats off to your better half for supporting and coming along.There are a very few who are fortunate enough to get the support.Hats of and respect to you guys.
Wishing you many more miles to come.
Some inputs like the total cost of the trip,Initial preparations you had undertaken-man and machine etc would be helpful,cause I intend do do a trip with my wife on my trusty ol Karizma.
PS-Did you ride all the way from Mumbai?

Last edited by rakesh_r : 2nd April 2014 at 09:19.
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