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Old 13th February 2020, 16:23   #16
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Default Re: Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh

Quote:
Originally Posted by RajeevSharma View Post
Your experienced is so full of emotions that it can easily be turned into a blockbuster movie. Waiting for epilogue and hooked.

Haha, thanks for the big words brother. Well, I have taken a half day from my work today & I'm hoping to finish it by midnight.



Quote:
Originally Posted by renegade004 View Post
I don't have a Ladakh carrier, but have rear leg-guards on my RE Classic 350. I also have a pair of saddle bags.


Do you think that is sufficient for a trip to Ladakh, or do you think that a Ladakh carrier is a 'must have' for such a journey?


I am based in Delhi NCR.

As far as you have saddle bags, carriers are not absolute necessities as such, in my case I had a very tight budget so the cheapest option for me was to go for the carriers. IMHO saddle bags will give you a better maneuverability due to compact size and are easy to mount/unmount. Wish you all the best with your ride mate.
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Old 13th February 2020, 18:15   #17
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Default Re: Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh

A day all about random act of kindness
29 May
DAY 9


I woke up with an unusual feeling, a feeling that says a part of me belongs here and I owe a big time to this place - In short I wasn't feeling like leaving this magical land and warm hospitality of our host. Somewhere around 9AM when we should have started mounting our stuff on the bikes, me and Chaubey were making ourselves comfortable to the majestic Himalayas sitting in our balcony on supremely comfy armchairs. And our morning tea conversation went like-

Me- Chaubey, we are going to pangong lake today right?
Chaubey Ė Yeah bro! , but when are we leaving exactly?
Me- Ummm No Idea man.
You know what, I donít really feel like going from here.
Chaubey- Ghosh! Thatís exactly what I was thinking.




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This was the view from the veranda




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There's no substitute for simplicity





One small step can make a big difference in someone's life

In the small hamlet of Hunder, it's very easy to lose track of time, there we were, staring at the clouds for hours and soon it was lunch time. While having lunch we were discussing as how hard our host is working to make us comfortable and how she is managing such a big property by herself. And then this idea clicked- Why not help her to make The Skilzing Homestay more reachable to travelers like us, who genuinely need such lovely home stay experience. And that was it, so we discussed this with our host and trust me she didnít had any idea what we fellas were talking about.

We thought for a while and decided that we can make sign boards for the homestay so that it gets easy for people to locate, as there was just one board in the entire Hunder town for the home stay that too in front of the property. So we grabbed our keys and wallets and ventured to Hunder market and to our surprise, we donít really have any hardware store in the town, thankfully we found one carpenter at the outskirts of the town and we bought some ply boards from him. Upon inquiry we found out that we will get our hardware stuff at adjacent town named Diskit. Meanwhile we also did a survey of Hunder as to where exactly we need to install the sign boards with directions and distance to be marked on the boards. So there we were scanning the Diskit market for small brushes, touch wood polish, paint etc. But getting small sized paint Can was super difficult, after 2 hours of exploration we ended up buying acrylic colours, various sized brushes and a large can of wood polish as we didnít had much option. I have to say once again that people here are so sweet, everyone is so helpful that it really made me feel so connected to everyone I encountered in the market, I mean even when a shopkeeper didnít had the stuff, he called few other stores to find out and also told us the places where we may get one - all in all no one was rude at all and they were not there to just do business but to help everyone. Just wondering why canít we be so compassionate and accommodating. Anyway after refueling our bikes and hardware purchase, we headed back to Hunder and the moment we entered our homestay, we shared our idea to the kids and they were so excited and happy to help us.



Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-132.jpg
Chaubey pointing out the spot to put the boards




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We selected 5 strategic places which either had a junction or a good visibility to catch people's attention




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The carpenter guy




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This shop was right on the outskirts




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En-route to Diskit to get paint and brushes





The Four creative kids with a mission.

We kept our aim simple to make the boards look attractive, something which has been carved with love and care unlike professional businesses around. Frankly speaking, despite visiting all these beautiful places and meeting amazing folks throughout the trip if had to give a definition of happiness then this was it- Making direction boards with some 14-year-old kids. This emotion was unmatched. When you are doing something good for someone selflessly and the happiness the kids had in their eyes was just worth travelling every single kilometers throughout the journey. This also bought us closer to the kids and we were more comfortable now. This fun activity took us close to 3 hours and it was almost 10 PM when Ms Yangchan brought us dinner to our workstation and somewhere around 11 we finished our dinner and painting work.



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Creative people on board




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That's me trying to pose on a already completed board




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Chaubey on work





So there we were all happy and proud for the job we just completed and then suddenly kids suggested to play Antakshari (For those who donít know- this is a game where two teams sing songs that begins with the Hindustani consonant on which the previous contestant's song selection ended). And this was just crazy, I had a thought running over my mind that how I have missed enjoying all these little things in my life with an excuse of growing older. This surely reminded me of my childhood when the only aim in life was to be happy. The night was amazing chitchatting with kids, sharing our stories, listening theirs and the topics were vast right from ex to F.R.I.E.N.D.S. to purpose of life. It was a revelation talking to these cute kids. And in no time it was past midnight where the entire valley was asleep and 4 young souls were speaking their heart out amidst the open sky with stars shining like diamonds and the cool breeze warming our souls. Hands down this was the best day of our entire journey. Somewhere between 2 AM and 4 cups of tea we decided to call it a day.



Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-140.jpg
I never saw so many stars in my life all thanks to our concrete jungles




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Two weird guys with cute kids




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The team Skilzing



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All smiles after day's hard work



Distance covered- 30 kms of locating hardware store that touched our soul.




Next Morning...

It was time to put those boards on places we marked yesterday. So me and Chaubey headed all over the Hunder streets to do our job. We made sure not to use nails on trees and we just tied them with an eco friendly rope which would not hurt the trees growth plus we preferred tree which were already dry. We also kept in mind to place the boards with best visibility and where it would make it stand apart from rest of the advertisements.



Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-144.jpg
My personal favorite since I made this particular board



Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-145.jpg
Placing this was the most difficult one as there was thorny bush next to it. Chaubey stood on his bike pegs and I was on his shoulders



Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-146.jpg
Skilzing Homestay 1.1km




Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-147.jpg
Pardon the picture qualities of all the photos since I broke my phone right before my journey and we were not carrying the bulky DSLR at all moments


To be continued...
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Old 15th February 2020, 16:39   #18
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Default Re: Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh

Life is not a bed of roses


Day 10
May 30th



Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-148.jpg



After strategically putting up the boards, we came back to Skilzing Homestay to have a sumptuous breakfast. Now we were in dilemma, as to what next? We didn't really felt like leaving this wonderful place but then we had to complete our Ladakh journey as well. We were just discussing this and our host knocked on the door, she also joined in our conversation and she had a bad news. Someone known to them met with an unfortunate fate and they had to leave for some village asap, which also meant that we will have to leave the homestay at earliest possible to avoid causing any trouble to their itinerary. We expressed our condolences to Skilzing family and left for the next stop of our expedition: Pangong Tso .




Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-149.jpg
Hunder-Pangong Tso is 166kms and most part of the road is gravel



Road from Hunder to Khaksar is decent, Khaksar is the tri-junction from where roads bifurcate towards Leh and Pangong respectively. I was so missing the warmth of our homestay and I just didn't felt like riding, I was may be way too attached with the place. That's life, you have to move on. We made progress towards the destination and once you hit lake bed, the roads conditions just deteriorate. It's not even a road but only an unpaved trail, but atleast we have people traveling in bikes and mini buses so you won't feel alone. Just make sure to have sufficient food supplies since you won't get any restaurant or dhabas except couple of maggie points.




Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-150.jpg
This is just unbelievable




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The water was so freaking clear




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Nature at its best



But once you get a glimpse of the magnificent blue Pangong lake, all the worries and fear buries deep down, such is the power of our mother nature. It took a little bit of time for me to actually accept that such a beautiful lake could exist that too in the middle of a desert. Stay options in Pangong lake are not that great since the climate is just too harsh in the winters and the place lacks development as compared with other places in Ladakh territory. We stayed at a makeshift hotel for Rs.800/night, nothing to write home about. It was just doable, plus Pang is also at a higher altitude of about 14,000ft which is not really good for our oxygen requirements.



Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-153.jpg
Solitude




Total Distance covered- 170kms
No fuel break. 20L spare fuel available in jerry cans.






Day 11
31st May


When things started going all downhill....

Plan of the day- Ride to Hanle. The Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO), located in Hanle has one of the world's highest located sites for optical, infrared and gamma-ray telescopes. But the problem was, no one was providing with concrete information regarding the distance, route, road conditions. Everyone we asked gave different opinions and google was just not an option as this place hardly had mobile any mobile coverage, forget about world wide web.


Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-154.jpg
Snow shower




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Tibetan traditional belief that it brings good luck




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Where clouds-mountains-water meet together




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This is surreal





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I have never seen something like this in my life




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The path was so narrow that it would have been impossible for two cars to pass each other



Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-160.jpg




We bid bye to the beautiful lake town called Spangmik amidst little snow fall and started towards Hanle. We were of initial impression that there will be roads with boards or atleast mile stone towards Hanle, but we were proved so wrong-
  • There's absolutely no sign of tarmac
  • No boards, mile stone, any kind of indication whatsoever
  • The so called road is just a sand trail on the Pangong Tso lake bed
  • There's a very thin hint of civilization
  • Hardly 4-5 houses in interval of 10kms, definitely not a village
  • In 40kms of ride on the lake bed, we literally did not spot a single soul, even animals are rare
  • If stuck, it will be difficult to get help anytime soon
  • Sand is loose at various places, cars can manage but it's very tricky for two wheelers, I almost dropped my bike at 3 incidences while Chaubey was not that fortunate and he fell from his bike twice, thankfully no injuries



Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-161.jpg
This is supposed to be a road




Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-162.jpg




With odd 45 kms into the ride, we came across a junction where the road was bifurcating, well forget about boards there was not a single soul to spot. For the first time I was experiencing such a solitude, it made me feel vulnerable, made me feel so small that even if we die here, no one would even care. It was a very strange emotions I was going through and we had to make a decision very soon before the sun sets. So we decided to go left as we could spot a bridge at a distance while on the right it was just a gravelly mountain pass.


Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-164.jpg
The junction where we took the left




Half an hour into the left path, we were finally relived to see an army truck, but the Jawan seemed bit tensed and our conversation went like-

Army personnel- Where are you guys heading to???
Me- Sir we are going towards Hanle.
Army personnel- Hanle? Do you even have any idea where this very road leads to?
Us- We were looking at each other, totally confused
Army personnel- Dear, the mountain you see ahead! It lies in Ngari Prefecture, China. You guys have completely lost your path, I would advise you to head back A.S.A.P.



Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-165-.jpg
The mountains right above the red helmet is part of China




The Army gentleman was really sweet to talk with but unfortunately he was not quite sure about the exact roads to Chusul or Hanley. We decided to head back to the junction where we took the left. And this time we chose the other path. Unfortunately the mountain pass we encountered was really challenging, loose gravel, steep inclined combined with a light snow fall was simply making things worse and at one point Abhijeet's bike got stuck. That's when we decided it's too much of a risk to take on an unknown territory where in last couple of hours, the only sight of a human we had was that of the army gentleman. It was past 2 in the afternoon and we decided to head back to Pangong and then we will think of the further journey.

Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-163.jpg

Journey back to Pangong was a crazy experience in itself, with temperatures dropping and reduced visibility, we managed to beach our bikes couple of times and had few near fall experiences as well. By 6 in the evening we made to Pangong Spangmik in one piece.



Surprise part II

In Spangmik, a taxi driver told us that roads will be closed from tomorrow onward following some taxi union strike and he advised us to go to Tangste and confirm the same. By 7 we reached the Tangste check post and they indeed confirmed about a road closure. They suggested us to stay in Tangste itself and start early the next morning. But with all the misadventure and a rough day, our senses went to the back seat and we decided to ride towards Manali. This proved to be one of the stupidest decision we took on our Ladakh ride. I will explain how-
  • Good Samaritans suggested us not to ride in the night as we will have to cross CHANG LA, where we might encounter snow
  • After taking a left from Dubruk, I was hit by AMS when we starting ascending towards Chang La. I finally took a Dimox.
  • It started snowing hard in Chang La top
  • We were the only stupid souls riding in the night and it was all snow and ice on the slippery roads of the pass
  • At one point we encountered ankle deep snow and I somehow managed to ride through but Abhi's bike got stuck in snow. There was no traction whatsoever
  • It was harrowing experience in middle of night at Chang La- recovering a 200+kg bike at 17,000 ft. One mistake and it would have been a disaster.
  • This abuse did took toll on our machines. Results of which were to unfold the next day

After all this crazy adventure, we managed to reach a sleepy town called Karu. From here Leh was 34kms while Manali was 480 kms. We saved the decision for the next day and after dinner we crashed for sleep.



Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-165.jpg
The time when it started to snow in ChangLa



Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-166.jpg
That's Chaubey trying to get some senses back to his hands by keeping it on hot engine




Day 12
1st June


Events which unfolded later in the day still give me goosebumps



With hopes high and shine of faith in our eyes, we decided to push through the mountains and reach Manali by evening. We were riding on one of the most spectacular mountain passes with snow on the either sides. Since we were on fast run, we decided not to take too many breaks and we were maintaining decent average speed. The scenery was smashingly breathtaking. Beautiful tarmac with amazing curves and also the famous Gata Loops. Everything was going perfect untill we realized that Abhijeet's bike was wobbling way too much. And we thought possibly it could be a bearing gone wrong and we will somehow manage till Manali. At one point it became unmanageable, we decided to inspect. What we saw next was something I never ever saw in my life before.



Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-167.jpg
Have seen spokes went kaput in middle of nowhere in chilling cold of Ladakh



Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-168-2.jpg
All in all 13 spokes gave up



So apparently the spokes which are considered to be the stronger setup when compared to alloy wheels have given up. And not just one but 13 spokes altogether have broken on the rear wheel. Temperatures were already below zero, sun was setting, there's was no sentient being around and we were literally in middle of nowhere with broken spokes. Lot of things were going through our mind whether to abandon our bike or ride to nearest settlement which happens to be Sarchu.

We went with the latter option and since me being a lean guy, we decided to exchange our bike and shift some of the luggage from Blue Thunderbird to mine. It was so freaking cold that even the water splashes from pot holes were freezing on mud guard.



Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-169.jpg
Temperatures were on the other side of Zero



Somewhere around 20:30 we managed to reach a place called Sarchu, it would be wrong to say it a village since it's a settlement with few tin shelters here and there. We were so exhausted after all that spokes saga, riding a wobbly bike high up in the mountains where if something were to go wrong there was almost ZERO chances of getting any kind of help. We made ourselves comfortable at one such tin shelter, they had dal chawal on offer, we couldn't ask for more. We hit our beds but the cold was really bothering me, it was so cold that I didn't took off my riding gears and on top of that I was covering myself with 4 blankets, even then I was freezing inside. It is among one of the most insane experiences of my life.


Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-170.jpg
It was so difficult to catch a sleep inside rumbling tin shade and icing on the cake was spine chilling cold





Day 13
2nd June



A day all about patience.....


Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-171.jpg
That's some serious waiting fellas



The only aim of the day was to get the bike repaired somehow, but Sarchu being such a tiny place possibility of it was almost negligible. Other option was to ride the bike till Jispa/Keylong/Manali. We tried that, some 10kms towards BaraLacha La and it felt as if the wheel would come off. So we headed back to Sarchu. There was no phone network to top it off. The only place which had a phone facility was an Army camp, but there was a queue to start off with, we waited for our turn and made calls to our parents, letting them know that we are safe and we will make it home very soon, we also briefed them with our current situation and told them not to worry as we are at safe hands. Then started the waiting game, we were literally sitting outside our makeshift tin shelter expecting for lorries travelling from Leh towards Manali so that we can ship our bike. Up in the mountains, weather can be way too harsh, it was extremely cold at the same time sun was already burning our skin. We came up with a solution to use our riding gears to save ourselves from UV burns and winter bite. To be honest, I was enjoying all the misadventure we were going through, it was different experience altogether, pushing ourselves against the odds. Somewhere around 16:30 we went all head over heels by sight of a Tata, never in my life was I feeling so happy by seeing a truck . We spoke to the truck guy and he agreed to ship our bike for Rs.3000/- from Sarchu to Manali and we couldn't care much about anything else.


Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-172.jpg
That's how we walked in the harsh weather of tiny hamlet

Since things were happening at such an action packed rate, I never bothered to click any picture, all I wanted was to cover the journey safely. Now the big question was- Whether I should ride alone or Should I load my bike in the truck?, common sense said it will be wise to load my bike in the truck and stay together in the ups and downs while the Rider inside me said- I don't know when I would be on such a bike trip again, so ride all by yourself and make that dream come true which you saw in 2011. I decided to go with the second option.





The solo excursion....

17:00 2nd June, I was all ready to endeavor the mighty BaraLacha La alone. I started towards Manali with an aim to cover as much distance as possible on a single go. I encountered some of the deepest water crossing in this stretch, it was hell scary, I didn't had any backup whatsoever. It was adventurous, it was dangerous but between all these mixed emotions I had faith on me that I can pull this off alone. At one such icy watercrossing near Suraj Taal there was simply no traction, I lost balance & next thing I see was that my Thunderbird was in middle of a stream and I was lying on an ice sheet next to the road. I gathered all the courage I had and tried picking up my bike on that slippery freezing slush, with 2 failed attempts I managed to pick her up on the 3rd one. As a result of all this grind, my exhaust system came off and the nut bolt got washed away in the stream. Perfect, I couldn't ask for more . Somehow I manged to make to a tiny place called Darcha with a super loud bike. Same story, makeshift tin shed for the night along with Dal Chawal for dinner, but this time I was happy that I at least have a roof above my head. The only grouse was that I had no idea where Abhijeet was, was he even safe with those truck folks, lot of thoughts were running on my mind and I had difficulty sleeping thinking of unimaginable happening to my friend, somewhere around 4 in the morning, I finally dozed off.



Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-173.jpg
The day when my bike lost it's cool.... err Silencer



Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-174.jpg
It is really irritating to ride a bike doing phat..phat..phat under your bum




Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-175.jpg
That's how I managed to reach Keylong


Total distance traveled- 75kms



Day 14
3rd June



It was smooth sailing from here, I got my bike repaired at Keylong and then managed to reach Manali by afternoon, the roads were much better compared to the previous day, even Rohtang Pass was quite doable for me from what I experienced in past few days. I was still not in contact with Abhijeet and then suddenly I had a phone call from Abhijeet, he said he's fine and shared his location where he was getting his rim repaired. It was such a jovial moment for both of us seeing each other safe. Over lunch, he shared his side of the story that how they slept in the truck itself somewhere before Darcha and they had a wonderful dinner cooked inside the truck. Rest of the day we spent it in our hotel recalling our good and bad experiences from the trip and called it a day. We needed a much needed rest after all the exhaustion.



Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-176.jpg
The last picture of the trip... My ride getting back to glory at Manali



Total Distance traveled- 150kms




Day 15
4th June


We started early in the morning at 05:00AM since we wanted to reach Delhi before dusk to avoid chaotic evening traffic. In no time, we reached Chandigarh, from there on we split our ways as Chaubey wanted to reach home asap and I had to meet one of my old friend.
We bid bye to each other and I entered the beautiful Chandigarh city, met my friend, had lunch at Taco Bell with her and somewhere around 15:00 I started for Greater Noida. Rest of the journey was uneventful. I reached my home safely and after unmounting all the luggage, I went to a friend's birthday party to put an official end to this epic journey of a Life Time. The sense of satisfaction I had was unparalleled, the gratitude for everything the lord has given me made realize how beautiful the life is if you know how to find happiness in small and simple things.


Total Distance traveled- 2,900kms
Amount spent on fuel- Rs. 5,700
Fuel Consumption- 35kmpl



Few learning-
  • Always do enough research before your visit, you can save a lot of time
  • People in Himalyas are really friendly and sweet, never hesitate to ask for help
  • Royal Enfields are best enjoyed when driven between 70-90kmph, anything more than is just torture (Not applicable to newer offerings like 650s)
  • Try to keep your carbon footprint as small as possible, these regions are ecologically very fragile
  • Last but not the least..Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations


Signing off
Yours truely
Sachin



I'm open to queries and suggestions, please feel free to hit one.
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Old 17th February 2020, 17:16   #19
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Default Re: Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh

Such a beautiful travelogue. Can not thank you enough for putting this up here.
I have always dreamt of riding to Laddakh some day, but that "some day" never arrived.
Something or the other came up in life and it kept getting postponed year on year.
When I first saw this thread on Tbhp, after reading it I forwarded it to a buddy who is also a petrol head and rides a CBR 250. (We always talked about riding to Laddakh whenever me met over drinks )I asked him should we plan to get Leh'd this year? I just casually asked and wasn't sure myself.
His response was - only if we are riding to Laddakh from Pune
When I asked what about leaves - He said, even if I have to take leaves without pay, and I said "Me too".
I guess your post just gave us the trigger needed and hopefully this year in July we would get Leh'd.
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Old 17th February 2020, 20:53   #20
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Default Re: Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh

Amazing travelogue Sachin. Loved it. Your raw style of writing struck a chord and I just could not keep the phone down

I could literally imagine reliving my road trip to Ladakh 3 years back with a friend.
His bike went kaput as well (just like your friend) and I ended up towing his bike for a good 40 km - descent of Zozilla pass to Drass where we were able to find a car mechanic.

The feeling of being stuck in the middle of nowhere - the way you put it was so much relatable. Luckily for us, it was a couple of Kashmiri gentlemen who lent us a rope for the towing operation and we survived the entire thing.
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Old 18th February 2020, 15:36   #21
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Default Re: Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh

Quote:
Originally Posted by ishan12 View Post
Such a beautiful travelogue. Can not thank you enough for putting this up here.
.
.
.
I guess your post just gave us the trigger needed and hopefully this year in July we would get Leh'd.
Thank you so much for those kind words Ishan, reading your reply just made my day, I'm feeling as if the whole purpose of this travelogue is achieved. I'm glad that my writing inspired you in a way and I wish you all the best for your ride brother and trust me the experience will be something to be cherished forever. Plus I also think it's the perfect time to pay homage to Ladakh before it becomes just any other tourist destination.
Chao!



Quote:
Originally Posted by warrioraks View Post
Amazing travelogue Sachin. Loved it. Your raw style of writing struck a chord and I just could not keep the phone down

I could literally imagine reliving my road trip to Ladakh 3 years back with a friend.
His bike went kaput as well (just like your friend) and I ended up towing his bike for a good 40 km - descent of Zozilla pass to Drass where we were able to find a car mechanic.

The feeling of being stuck in the middle of nowhere - the way you put it was so much relatable. Luckily for us, it was a couple of Kashmiri gentlemen who lent us a rope for the towing operation and we survived the entire thing.
Hey thank you so much buddy for the wonderful compliment and I'm glad that I reminded you of your time in Ladakh. I once had to tow this very blue ThunderBird in Noida for 20kms and boy it was one hell of a task. 40kms of towing that too in ZoziLa sounds dreaded man, hats off to you and your friend for pulling it off. And yeah, from my experience I always find these Himalayan folks to be really helpful.
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