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Old 5th February 2020, 02:53   #1
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Default Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh

गर फ़िरदौस बर-रू-ए-ज़मीं अस्त
हमीं अस्त ओ हमीं अस्त ओ हमीं अस्त ||


-If there's a paradise on this earth, it's here, it's here, it's here. Jahangir, 17th Century.


This story is of 2 friends conquering Ladakh in Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350s 2 years ago, when we were in our carefree graduation days. I'm penning down the travelogue now, since I became BHPian recently. I hope I will be able to recall the timelines precisely.

A glimpse of what you shall be enthralling upon-
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How it all started- It goes all the way back to 2011, Like every teenager going through hormonal roller coaster, I got bored of my studies one night and was surfing internet for random travelogues and then I came across a treasure called TeamBHP. That was it. For the next few days I was glued on the laptop screen and I entered a different space altogether where I could feel myself alive without being worried about my upcoming class 11th examinations. One night I had a dream, a Dream of exploring the mecca of every traveler- The mighty ladakh. Now I understand- It was a glimps of what my destiny had in store for me.
Lot of things have been changed in the past few years- I left kota & moved to Noida, Automobile Engineering, still single, bought a Thunderbird etc, but one thing remained the same and that was my lust for conquering Ladakh.

Coming to the story-


As every college student will relate, that it's the exams which reminds us how important "the other things" are in our life, So during my 6th semester exam I decided that I needed a break and I really need to find a gateway from chaotic engineering life. What a stupid idea to discuss it with your friend who happens to be a rider himself & who also owns a Thunderbird .


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Meet Abhijeet- He's the guy I can totally rely upon, I remember once I messed up with few guys in our college and he was the one to handle the situation there and more importantly he always stood by me. That's what friendship is all about right? May be that's why we are known as- Thunder Buddies in our college.


Coming to the machines-

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Abhijeet's bike- Thunderbird 350 Marine blue December-2015 with 6k on the odo.
My ride- ThunderBird 350 Twilight(Black) December-2013 with 35k on the odo. Pet name Bullt.


So more than the exams, it was our ride that we were more concerned and nervous about. In the preparatory leaves given to us for the semester exams, we made numerous trips to Karol Bagh to make sure our rides are ready for all the torture they are going to handle in the coming weeks. We opted for Ladakh carriers for 1700/- each, as per my calculation saddle bag were on the higher side for our budget (yes we students need to save a lot for such trips). And we decided not to invest on riding shoes (big mistake as we found out later) instead we bought Rs.100 gum boots for doing the duty at deep water crossings. However I carried 3 pairs of shoes though- one sports shoe, one pair of sneakers, one high neck leather shoes which worked wonders when riding through cold nights, it kept my feet warm all the time.

Vital ingredients to get Leh'd were-
  • Carrier
  • New tires
  • Spare-fuses, tubes, air filter, clutch & accelerator cable, chain locks, engine oil, key etc.
  • All the hathiyaar- wrench, pliers, puncture repair kit, pump, araldite etc
  • Chain lube (was not carrying chain cleaner which again was a big mistake)
  • Generic medicines & specially Diamox
  • Thermals
  • Cuppa noodles... plenty of them
  • snickers (can prove to be an important source of energy)
  • gloves(winter & everyday)
  • Heavy duty Bungee cables
  • XXL size polythene bags to cover luggage in case of showers
  • BSNL postpaid sim
  • Rain coat
  • Riding gears (Rynox tornado pro mesh jacket, knee guards)
  • And a lot of patience

However, more than the preparations and planning, the most important thing was to convince our family to let their some 20 year old kids to go on a crazy bike trip to the remotest part of the India for 2 weeks, where we don't even have mobile network at some places forget about the internet.

Scenario at my Home-
Me- Papa, wo mere exams acche jaa rhe hai!
Dad- what do you want now?
Me- I was thinking of going to ladakh after my exams... In bike (fingers crossed).
Dad- okay, make sure you go with your biking group.
Me- Papa, this time it will be just me and Abhijeet.
Dad- Are you kidding me?
Me- Papa going in group is not good all the time you know, you don't have your own space blah blah blah.... Don't worry few riders would be joining us in Jammu blah blah blah.... So after some 20 minutes of explanation and some buttering and some emotional blackmailing, my stars worked out at the end. I got the green signal from my home.

Abhijeet's parents-

Here just a phone call is not going to work (Army personnel you know). So we prepared a proper ppt presentation with all the itinerary, planning, maps, routes, emergency contacts, weather forecasting and lot of permutations and combinations.

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Voila ! It worked, now no one can stop us from being Leh'd



21st May
Day-1


Plan-cover as mush as distance possible from Greater Noida towards Mecca. As planned I went to bed early in the evening with all the packing done and alarm set for 2AM, as our scheduled departure was 3AM to beat the Delhi's traffic. To be honest, I just couldn't sleep properly because of the excitement. And as usual I got late due to some adjustments required for my luggage, as I was mounting my trekking & trolley bag for the first time.

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Finally at 3.30 I left home and buddy was supposed to meet me outside my society but he was nowhere to be found and then finally at 3.40 I saw him coming and after our customary fist punch, two wanderers left for their destination. 10 minutes in to the ride I got all comfortable cruising at 80kmph on the beautiful tarmac of Noida expressway and then I saw Abhijeet all happy riding by my side. Oh wait! He's wearing his knee guards and why am I not wearing one. Comes 1st break of the journey, Mr. Patra needs to go all the way back to his apartment to get knee guards on. Finally at 4.00 AM we left Greater Noida with astounding excitement of conquering Ladakh and the dream I had almost a decade ago is being turned in to a reality.
God! I'm so lucky. 50 minutes on to the ride, with some good average speed and light traffic, we reached Sonipat and had our 1st fuel break.

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380 kms into the ride, we had our major breakfast break at Ludhiana, we were filling our stomachs on sumptuous paranthas meanwhile our bags were soaking in rainwater, it started raining heavily and we immediately rushed to our bikes to rescue our bags from getting drenched, so we covered 'em with the large poly bags we were carrying, after good 90 minutes of break, we started again and the next stop was 40 kms before Jammu for tea and fuel. This is what I love about our riding style, that we both hate frequents stops and we love to cover as much ground as possible at one go.

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When we started riding again, I realized my bull was making weird thud sound from the rear wheel, after 10 minutes of inspection the culprit was found to be the chain set. There was no point in continuing the journey with a rattling chain, so tried finding some good mechanic along the highway but no luck, hence we decided to continue to Jammu and then figure out a solution. Jammu has an authorized Royal Enfield service center and but 21st being Sunday, it was closed so we decided to call it a day at Jammu. We entered the city at 3.00 PM and it took us 1 hour to find a cheap stay near bus stand for Rs. 6oo/day. After freshening up and nice hot bath, we had dinner at nearby market and crashed for the day.

Distance covered- 675 kms
Travel Time (Including all breaks)- 13 hours
Fuel breaks-
1. Sonipat Rs880 @65 per-litre odo-35110
2. outskirt of Jammu Rs900 @70.3 per-litre odo-35590





22nd May
Day 2


I wanted my bike to be repaired first, so we left our luggage at the hotel and left for Royal Enfield service center. After a test ride by technician he suggested it's time for me to get rid off my old chain set and I was okay with the idea as it had already done 20,000 kms but surprise-surprise they don't have chain set in their stock. We asked for chain cleaning-tightening which partially solved the problem and we were ready to hit roads again. The Sikh manager at the RE was really courteous and sweet guy, we bid bye to them and then headed towards hotel to pick our stuff, by 11AM we left Jammu with bikes refueled and the plan was to reach Srinagar by 6 PM. Absolutely Wrong prediction! One should take note that mountains are totally unpredictable when it comes to weather. We first met with a major traffic jam. Initially I was just going with the traffic flow but it was not helping at all, meanwhile we met a biker group coming all the way from Turkey and these guys were really good at navigating traffic in desi style & we couldn't resist ourselves and we joined their convey. It was really pleasing to see desert storms and Yamaha Ténéré with TR registration plates leading our convey. These guys were carrying lot of luggage right from tires to tents, it was amazing to see guys doing such great cross country rides (Now it's on my checklist ) Coming to the massive jam, it was due to none other than flock of cows, bulls, sheeps on the roads. Ultimately, army had to step in and they made a way for vehicles, thanks to Indian Army. Finally we were happy to find ourselves in the mountains with light traffic to take some curves and enjoy our machines. We had this amazing opportunity to ride on the newly constructed 9.2 KM long Chenani nashri tunnel between Jammu and Srinagar which cuts the distance by 41 kms to roughly 250 kms.

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Clicked just before entering the tunnel

Happiness didn't lasted long as roads turned to potholes with few patches of tarmac. The moment you cross the tunnel, the world completely changes in matter of minutes. From warm dry weather to spine chilling wind, from beautiful 4 lanes to horrible roads and the scenery, gosh it's so darn beautiful valley.

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Combined with cold bad weather and dusk, riding was getting difficult and around 7 PM, it started drizzling. So we took a chai break at roadside dhaba and zipped rain liner to our jackets and hit the roads again. Finally around 8.30 PM we entered Srinagar with a snicker break in between. However we had one weird experience, that two guys on Pulsar started following us on the outskirts and when confronted, they turned out to be some hotel brokers offering rooms for Rs.1000 while riding in middle of roads. I lost my cool and gave them a mouthful, which turned out to be uglier as those guys started getting aggressive and started cutting on my lane. We decided to avoid engaging in the rage and slowed down to make some space with them and once we lost sight of those stupid fellas, we continued. We reached the famous Boulevard Road and one glance at the beautiful glistening lanes, our entire day's tiredness was gone in seconds. Found a decent hotel 'Shahjahan Palace' near Dal lake and we called it a day.

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15 minutes into the room and it was all messed up with our luggage, bungee chords

Distance covered- 270 kms
Travel Time - 9.5 hours
Fuel - 1. Jammu city Rs.276 @67 per-litre odo-35700





23rd May
Day 3


The day started with exploring the beautiful lakeside streets of Srinagar to Royal Enfield service center. Guy in charge was not really interested in my bike, and he rather asked to get our bikes washed from outside car wash first then he will see the problem. This made me really pissed off and we just bought 2 cans of RE chain cleaners from them and went straight to a local mechanic for chain clean-tightening job. Now, I had no second thoughts on replacing chain set, I'm going to make'em work for my entire trip. Our machines required much needed wash from last days ride, but most of the car wash folks refused as there was power cut in the town and there was this 'Dreamz car bath' who had power backup and agreed for Rs.150/bike.

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Owner Mr. Fayaz, was a nice chap and we indulged in a long conversation right from our studies to Kashmir and it was great talking to him. He gave his contact, just in case if we need any help we could contact him. It was already past 12 PM and it didn't made sense to start for Kargil, we decided to explore this beautiful city of lake. This was my second time in Kashmir, I came here in 2006 along with my parents and grand parents, it was a wonderful trip back then and it's always a pleasure to visit the valley. We directly headed to Shankaracharya mandir, which sits atop a hill with nice winding roads and offers magnificent view of the entire Mughal city, only problem is cameras are not allowed but definitely a must visit (Riders take note to keep your phones and camera somewhere safe). Then we decided to visit Pari Mahal which was on the adjacent hill. Clicked some pictures there. It was already 3.30 PM and poor hungry stomach started growling so we decided to have lunch and started towards the city. While returning a Delhi registered Polo 1.6 was ahead of me and we were enjoying the winding roads and then suddenly the driver threw a redbull can on the road, I immediately slowed down and picked that thing up, crushed and kept it in my pocket and continued towards the city. And there I spot a Flash Red polo 1.6, nicely parked in front of Chashme Shahi driven by a gentleman of my age (Lets call him Mr. Moron- MM). I rushed to the driving side and Knock-Knock:

quoting the exact conversation-
Me: Excuse me sir! This can belongs to you.
MM: No, it's not mine.
Me: Please don't lie, I was right behind you!
MM: Okay, It's mine, I won't do it next time.
Me: I hope so!
He looked away and started rolling-up the window and I stopped him right away and gave him his can of wings and asked him to throw it in the dustbin.
That look on his face just made my day.
After descending we clicked few pics of Dal Lake and rushed to the famous Lal bagh market to fill our tummies.


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Truly a paradise on earth


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Clicked from Pari Mahal


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Clicked at Pari Mahal



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The best pizza I ever had


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Bean box


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My favorite character from the TV Series Breaking Bad- Heisenberg. He was the inspiration for naming my Skoda after him.


I must say north Indians know a thing about pizzas, what we eat at fast food restaurants is crap. They had this creative way of presenting bill in a wooden box filled with coffee beans and place had nice ambiance. Owner was an amazing guy and we had great conversation about Enfields, Kashmir, Delhi and his cafe. Turns out he works in Delhi and with his wife and friends they decided to open a cafe in Srinagar and the tasteful interior is done by them. Kudos! to them. While inquiring about good dinner places, he suggested Ahdoos and that route was bit confusing and google maps was not working as well. So the sweet guy agreed to accompany us all the way to the restaurant in his RE classic. Mean a lot. Kashmiris are really hospitable folks. I'm really sorry but I'm forgetting gentleman's name and cafe's name . Lal bagh market is an incredible place for shopping freaks and food lovers. Well We tried-

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Momos chilli at taste of Tibet


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Classy cafe called- Chaai Jaye for all the Tea Lovers.


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Intricately crafted tea pot. Was also available for sale.


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Kashmiri mutton rogan josh at Mughal darbar



After eating like maniacs, we decided to go for a walk on the lake side and a thought came to mind- Srinagar aaye and Shikara ride nahi kia?
It was 11 PM, city was asleep and we took a soothing Shikara ride in the glistening dal lake. It was an experience in itself. Something to be experienced once in lifetime and appreciate what a wonder our mother nature is which we tend to ignore in our day to day lives. Finally we called it a day at 12 AM but the excitement didn't let me doze off with thoughts of riding on dreaded zoji la the next morning. Super excited.

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Distance covered - 60 kms Local
Fuel- No refueling
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Old 7th February 2020, 02:50   #2
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continuing...


24th May
Day 4



My phone is playing the beautiful song "Pashmina" from the movie Fitoor while I'm looking out of my window, at the magnificent lake trying to capture every essence of this stunning creation of nature, suddenly a voice breaks my tranquility "we good to go?" Coming back to my senses, I did all my packing and we left the beautiful city of Srinagar with a mixed bag of emotions, emotions of nervousness and excitement, it was the thought of infamous Zoji la playing with my mind. Road to Sonmarg makes a way alongside the majestic Dal lake and it was a perfect way to bid goodbye to the city.


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It's such a bliss to ride next to this thing.


Right on the outskirts of city we realized that we haven't yet bought jerrycans for our journey, began the search for jerrycans and thankfully we spotted a shop just before a petrol pump who had variety of jerrycans(Plastic bottles I would say) in stock. We opted for 5 Ltr one which sits perfectly in our carrier. It was relatively cheaper at Rs.35/can here as compared to Rs. 100/can in Delhi. After refueling we left for Sonmarg and I must say the roads were absolutely amazing with nice surface coupled with delicious curves, it was bliss to ride on NH-1 D and as a bonus you get beautiful scenery. In four days of riding I was finally enjoying my Thunderbird, appreciating the extra padded seats with superior thigh support(custom made seat from karol Bagh) and the relaxed riding position made me feel like the king of road. Thunderbird really proved this statement true "when you have an Enfield under you as*, the world is yours", because I was already feeling at home some 1000 kms away from home, it's such a beautiful machine. I completely agree Enfields have their fair share of unrefinement as per modern bike standards, but keep those things aside and it makes you feel connected to the bike when you know there's this massive 350cc single cylinder working under your bum, you can actually feel all the mechanicals working and also the sweet thumping is music to ones ear. I can confidently say if you want to experience anything close to classic old day charm- It's the Enfields.



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Once you leave Srinagar behind


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First sign board which features the three lettered magical name L-E-H


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My bullt posing with the mighty Himalyas on the backdrop


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Bolo Azaaadi!!!



Lost in thoughts, in no time we reached Sonmarg and decided to continue towards our, soon to be the first experience of high altitude, snow, water crossings- The Zoji La. Right after crossing Sonmarg town a sign board caught my attention which goes " Be gentle on my curves". I remember back in my school days when I was a huge overdrive fan, I had an issue of 9th anniversary edition of overdrive featuring '9 hatchbacks to Ladakh' story and this board was also a part of the story. Reminisced with my childhood memory, a photo break was must.


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BRO never fails to impress you with such witty quotes


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Trying very hard to make it look candid


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Photos just don't do justice to the majestic Himalyas, even the wide lens could not cover the entire scenery in one frame


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Even the cup noodles tastes good when in Himalyas


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Bullt taking blessings from the almighty



Once we had our photo session and snickers (It's highly advisable to carry such high calorie food stuff with you while travelling, it can do wonders) we started riding again and finally we started ascending Zozi La. Road was good with few potholes here and there and it was completely doable, 10 kms on to the ride and temperatures dropped abruptly and we took our first Zoji La stop at a temple to gear up our thermals,rain pants and gum boots (which were utterly useless). While Abhijeet was shooting a time lapse, I prepared cuppa noodles. It was so pleasing, slurping on thin hot noodles while enjoying breathtaking mountains, no matter what our hi-fi city lives can't offer such tranquility. There we met a couple, who were driving their new Elantra at Zoji La! Hats off to these people. We followed the Elantra for few kilometers and she was actually taking the roads quite well, good to see people venturing out on such adventures. Well, few kilometers into the ride and the scenery changed drastically, we were surrounded by huge snow windrows, there was literally no road, it was just pebbles, rocks and slush. We crossed few deep water crossings and actually enjoyed making through them without letting our foot down. And then we stopped right in front of a patch which was fully submerged in ice cold water and there was absolutely no way to predict which part is safer to ride, we stared at each other and said Jai mata di! and we hit silencer deep water crossing, struggling to balance our bikes. It was literally filled with boulders (I scraped belly twice), God knows how Elantra would have managed here, this was the longest water crossing we encountered in our journey and was close to 400 meters. This completely drained our energy and we took a stop right after the crossing to sip on glucose and eat snickers and some dry fruits. Soon the weather started turning bad and it started raining heavily followed by hailstorm and there was absolutely no place to take shelter whatsoever. We were riding in middle of nowhere with cold, soaked gloves & shoes and to top it off no phone network, situation really made me scared. Finally around 7 PM, we reached Drass, the second coldest inhabited place in the world and thankfully this place had an STD PCO, I made phone call to my parents followed by eggs and tea break at a roadside Dhaba. We spent good 40 minutes there, warming our bodies on the dhaba fire to get the senses back to our hands and decided to continue towards Kargil, as the locals suggested to avoid staying in Drass due to high altitude when compared to Kargil plus the riders inside us was intrigued by the road condition between these two towns. It was a super smooth dual carriage way with proper road marking and sign boards, we could not resist the temptation. So finally we reached Kargil at 8.40 PM, checked in to a decent hotel, receptionist initially asked Rs.1600/Night, which didn't seemed worth and we used our Dilli bargaining skills to bring down the tariff to Rs 800/night. I was having this sense of achievement, as we successfully crossed Zoji La without any issues, definitely it was a moment to cherish. Soon after a warm refreshing bath we went for a walk and had dinner at a restaurant called Las Vegas, which is operated by a couple in their 60s and they served us amazing mixed veg with dal and roti. It was sad to know that they have very few foot falls throughout the year, We wished them best of luck and got back to our rooms and slept for 9 hours in peace.


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The lone warrior


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Right after the long water crossing



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We met a gentleman from Kerala who was riding his Himalayan in the Himalayas


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We were really lazy to take off our helmets


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We couldn't ride to Siberia so we settled with the 2nd coldest place





Distance covered- 220 Kms
Fuel-
Srinagar Rs. 500 @70 per-litre odo-36008
Jerry cans gulped fuel worth Rs. 650
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Old 7th February 2020, 03:09   #3
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!

Lovely thread and beautiful pictures. Waiting for the rest of it.
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Old 7th February 2020, 09:20   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sachin_cs
Me- Papa, wo mere exams acche jaa rhe hai!
Dad- what do you want now?
I laughed out loud and spilt my coffee.
Your papa deserves a dad of the year award!

Lovely travelogue! Glad to see young blood bitten by the road bug. Keep on riding!
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Old 7th February 2020, 17:37   #5
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Default re: Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh

Continuing....
25th May
Day 5

The Big Day


अमर शहीदों का गुण गाया करता हूँ,
उस जूनून को सदा शीश झुकाया करता हूँ,
जिस मिटटी में उनका जज़्बा शामिल है,
मैं उस मिटटी का तिलक लगाया करता हूँ||


- I sing the virtue of immortal martyrs, I always bow the head to the passion, the soil that contains their spirit, I apply the tilak of that soil.


The story-

Even after crossing Zoji La, I was feeling as if something has been left out, a part of me was saying- how can you skip 'Kargil War Memorial buddy'? The other option could have been, us staying at Drass and then visiting war memorial, rather than going all the way to kargil and returning back to war memorial adding 100kms to & fro from kargil. While having breakfast we thought- why do we have to think so much? We are on an unscheduled road trip and rather let's enjoy the roads again. With this thought, we roared towards war memorial with our thumping Enfields. While riding, I felt something wrong with the throttle response at uphills, she was not pulling at all at 5th gear with rpm needle lugging around 2000 rpm & I checked with Abhijeet and he had the same issue as well, so we decided to check our air filters during return. With one photo session break in between we made it to war memorial in no time, after all we were riding on the runways of Ladakh right. The War memorial is something on it's own, you can feel that magic in the air, a strong feeling of pride and sense of belonging for our nation, our people, our soldiers. I literally went speechless while entering the war memorial. Every single object there has a story to tell, the sacrifices our brave soldiers made to protect our mother land. I cannot explain the feeling in words here, one has to visit this place to understand the emotions, the sentiments attached to one's history. I 'll let the pictures do the talking:



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Grand enterance to the War Memorial



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The famed Tololing hill behind me



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War memorial 10,000 ft above sea level



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They stand guarding day and night, so that we can sleep peacefully



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The wall of sacrifices



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That's me again, trying to get a candid pose



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This was one place where I really got emotional. There's no replacement for our losses



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The Veer Captain Vikram Batra



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Shraddhanjali Kalash




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जय हिन्द|




Post lunch time, we decided to start towards Leh and cover maximum distance as possible. But that air filter replacement was due, so we took a pit stop right after the war memorial under a tree shed. It was nice setup with river flowing by the road side and flock of sheep grazing on the river bank. Aaah it was a time consuming affair to change the air filters as removal mechanism of the side panels have a really bad design, once we were done with the replacement, I slide my bike off the main stand and was looking down to see if I left anything on the road and everything looked fine, and then I suddenly heard "Bhai Bhai Bhai bhai......" when I looked back, I see that Abhijeet's bike is 180 degrees flipped upside down and I can't see him. God!! I thought he's under the bike! Thankfully the gentleman was standing all perfect on his own feet, he actually jumped off when his bike was falling. So without wasting any time, we tried lifting the bike but it was so difficult to lift a machine with a kerb weight of 196kgs and also as bike had all the luggage mounted & was stuck on a ditch, as that surface was too slippery, so we called some 5-6 passersby to help us to get the bike back on her wheels. Once done with the task, we bid bye to the generous souls and checked for any damage on the bike, well she had a broken tachometer, loss of little fuel and few scars here & there thankfully nothing serious to worry about.

So what exactly happened was- He was trying to get his bike off the main stand and the moment he kept his right foot on the ground , his leg somehow slipped in a ditch and the center of mass shifted to the right and rest was taken care by the gravity. With the new filters on the bikes, result was evident, lot better torque delivery in the mid range while riding uphills. So we continued towards Leh and somewhere near Lamayuru AMS finally hit Abhijeet. He had this severe headache and it was bound to happen as we were breaking the rules of the hills-
  1. We didn't had lunch, we were riding empty stomach
  2. We were not keeping our body hydrated
  3. We were riding continuously without proper breaks

Also along with a bit of rainfall, the temperature were down to single digit and didn't made sense to continue the journey so we decided to call it a day and the nearest town was Lamayuru. We stayed at Shangrila home stay, rooms were super economical at Rs. 500/night. After having eggs,tea and thupka, Abhijeet took a Diamox and dozed off and it was around 8 in the evening while I wasn't really feeling sleepy, so I went for a stroll in the town and gosh the city of monastery was already asleep, it was difficult to spot a single soul on the streets, so I got back to our home stay and met the owner of our home stay- Bhandari Bhai for some random chit-chatting & came to know that he works at multiple tourist places throughout the year, like in Lamayuru he works from May to September in this home-stay, which basically belongs to his in-laws then he will work at Goa shacks for few months and then he will move to Udupi and again back here in next September. Amazing right!


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Replacing the clogged air filter from last 4 days of riding



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The place where his bike fell on the ditch towards the right



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Roads between Kargil war memorial and Kargil town



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Now this is why I fell in love with bikes- Azaaadi



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Experiences like these, sipping coffee in middle of nowhere really makes you feel how beautiful the life is.





About the town- Lamayuru aka Moonscape among tourists, is a sparsely populated town with famous monasteries, moonland and offers amazing view through day and night. For the very first time in my life, I saw so many stars in the sky which are so difficult to spot these days from the concrete jungles we live in.
Here's a Trivia- "Its history dates back to the 11th century, when a scholar named Mahasiddhacharya Naropa laid the foundation stone of Lamayuru monastery. It is believed that his prayers caused drying up a lake that fed an entire village; and because the water receded, the place started to get moon like craters."




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The city of monasteries



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Omelettes never tasted so good



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This was the view from our Rs.500/day ShangriLa homestay



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Met this cute girl named 'Hamm' somewhere I don't remember



Distance covered- 220kms
Fuel break- None
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Old 8th February 2020, 02:41   #6
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This is what happens when you're about to reach LEH


26th May
Day 6



When I was in my 2nd year, I wrote cliche Leh'D on my fuel tank. It worked as a reminder to Mr. Patra to make this trip possible. As Leh was hardly 120 kms from Lamayuru, so we had a lazy morning with typical Dilli wala breakfast- Parantha with Dahi. We started for Leh with a maniac grin plastered on our faces, after all our dream was finally turning into reality. And the roads Masha-Allah, the best I have driven so far- Beautiful tarmac | pleasant weather | low traffic | stunning beauty. Wished this roads never end. One suggestion for this route - carry food items with you as you wont be finding food joints en route, So we had to manage with snickers n dry fruits. Contrary to the previous day's 'Outside-inside-Outside' riding style, we took things rather peacefully, cruising at 50 kmph - enjoying the scenery. We encountered the famous magnetic hill and gosh bike actually pulls back when parked over the marked line on the road, but I'm still skeptical about the optical illusion here but anyway it doesn't matter, as I enjoyed the experience and we continued, just after crossing Pathar Saheb ( World's 3rd highest Gurudwara) there's a downward sloping road towards Leh which reads " Check your brakes" and the road is long and declined enough to take the speedometer needle northwards of 100 kmph in no time even in neutral, you really have to work on your brake to control the speed of your vehicle. I am totally exhilarated by the kind of experience Leh-ladakh offers to it's travelers, it's definitely once in a lifetime experience which everyone should experience at some point in their lives. Leh welcomed us in it's own charm as things got dusty and visibility reduced to 100 meters followed by extreme crosswinds, making riding difficult and there was literally no place to take shelter on the road, so we decided to proceed slowly and finally around Leh airport the desert storm halted. When we reached Leh, we had almost 100gms of sand in our shoes.


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Looks majestic na?



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Ladakh region actually has far better infrastructure when compared to Kashmir valley



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Arrow straight roads as far as your eyes could see



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Dab- Our signature pose



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When you see beautiful roads after ages



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Thanks to almighty and these machines for giving us such opportunities to explore beautiful places like north



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Finally a decent picture of mine



The moment we entered the city, I was super disappointed- It was too dusty, insane traffic filled with taxis, you can smell diesel fumes wherever you go and top of that some construction work was being carried out on the road & it was full of life size potholes, at places roads were one way, only making things worse for already jammed packed city. This really made me sick thinking " We are destroying such fragile ecosystem and I'm equally responsible.... " and then suddenly I recalled that Lamayuru guy Mr. Bhandari mentioned us about Changspa, a place on the outskirt of the city where probability of getting a decent home stay was high. So we directly headed to Changspa, skipping overcrowded market place and luckily we found one amazing home stay away from the crowd, settled in midst of farms between Shanti Stupa and Tsemo Gompa , access to this place is bit confusing as it's away from the main road but once you reach there, you will forget everything, it was Dawa homestay, Shankar Leh. This bargaining line "We are students, I hope you understand" Voila! this works every time and we settled for Rs.700/ night for a well maintained room with 24x7 hot water and view from the window, was worth travelling thousands of kilometeres.

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Ladakhi interiors means business. They ooze class



Finally happy with Leh, we went to the Leh-Market for some shopping and dinner, it's really a resourceful market I would say because you get everything from hardware stores to software stores. Whenever in Leh market, Brazillian Cafe is a must try place, they sell the most amazing pie in this planet and the staff is awesome too. We got back to our home stay and had the most peaceful night of our journey as we finally conquered Ladakh and we didn't really planned where we will be heading to in the coming days and with absolutely no network on my vodafone, life just felt much simpler and easier. No phone calls. No whatsapp. No emails. Absolutely no worries



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It's a whole sum Ladakhi dish called thupka. You have everything in it - Soup check, veggies check, noodles check, chicken check, flavors double check



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Bazaar road. You will get everything in this market. I bought a TheNorthFace rain pant here, it was lot cheaper if compared to Delhi




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This cheese cake was to die for at Brazillian cafe



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Spot Thunder Buddies



Total distance covered - 127kms
Fuel breaks- Used fuel from Jerry can since there was no operational fuel bunk in between
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Old 9th February 2020, 10:55   #7
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Lovely thread and beautiful pictures. Waiting for the rest of it.
Thank you so much Sir and I will try to finish it by today midnight.


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Originally Posted by RedTerrano View Post
I laughed out loud and spilt my coffee.
Your papa deserves a dad of the year award!

Lovely travelogue! Glad to see young blood bitten by the road bug. Keep on riding!
Hahaha, thank you gentleman. I used to be a car guy & bikes never intrigued me as cars did but in 2015, I went for a ride to a town called Lansdowne in Uttarakhand with my college buddies and that was it! It was a big revelation for me, it changed me as a person.
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Old 10th February 2020, 17:49   #8
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Day all about exploring Ladakhi Hospitality and getting ILP


27th May
Day 7



Nothing gets better than dreaming of Ladakh while asleep in Ladakh, the morning call woke me up. It was Mrs. Kunzang, who asked us to have breakfast with them. Since we hadn't really planned our journey ahead, so we thought it would be a perfect setup to discuss our further route with Dawa family. While having delicious home cooked breakfast, we definitely regretted not having dinner with them the previous night. She is an amazing cook and has very good sense of humor to make you feel comfortable anytime and she is the one who manages their home stay. Women empowerment rocks!



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Dawa Guest House. The view offered by this place is simply ecstatic, you could spend hours watching outside the window.




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I'm one person who values simplicity over anything. This breakfast was so surreal- light and tasty af




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One with Mrs Kunzang




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That's what a typical Ladakhi interior looks like




While having breakfast we met one Parichay Yadav (later we started calling him introduction guy ) who hails from Delhi and is a professional trekker, he came to Ladakh to volunteer at some village in Zanskar valley, where he will be teaching in a government school for next one month, amazing guy with amazing spirit and we were also introduced to a young Canadian lady- Neema, she was bag-packing around the world, so far she had been to some 60 odd countries, what an inspiration she was! Over the breakfast discussion regarding our journey ahead, Mr. Dawa suggested us to stay one more day in Leh so that we get acclimatized to the altitude and in the meantime we could apply for 'Inner line permit' as well, in order to travel further as Nubra valley and some areas come under restricted areas. So after breakfast, we went to our room and realized that we have lot of dirty clothes from past 6 days of riding and our fresh stock is not going to last more than a week so we asked our host and they were more than happy to let us use their personnel washing machine.

And the conversation goes like-
me washing clothes

Mrs Kunzang- Do you need my help?
Me- Thank you aunt, but I will manage.
Mrs Kunzang- Are you sure? You go to your room and take rest, I will wash your clothes don't worry!
Me - No, no aunt, I will do it myself. Thank you soo much!
Mrs Kunzang- Don't be shy, you are like my kid. Let me do it for you.


Which I politely refused for obvious reasons.
I was so taken aback by the sweet gesture. If you want to see real Indian hospitality, Ladakh is the place. These people really work hard and will go beyond their comfort zone just to make sure you are comfortable. Homestay was actually making sense as it says- A home away from home. With the washing chores done, we headed straight to SDM office to get our inner line permit.

How to get Inner line permit?

There are two options-
1. You can ask your host/hotel/travel agent to get one for you.
2. You can get the permits all by yourself.

We opted for the second option as we wanted to experience the bureaucratic culture in this part of the country. It was a surprisingly good experience, if you have time to spare at Ladakh, I would say choose to get the permits by yourself, it will be fun exercise.

Procedure-

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This is how the SDM office looks like


1. Reach SDM office, it is situated behind Leh market, it's at walkable distance from the market but if you are going by a vehicle than take a right from the prayer wheel trisection (Direction-when coming from kargil road). You can also go via Khardungla road. Ask locals.
2. Start early around 9 AM for the office, as it gets flooded with people in the later half.
3. First go to photocopy shop to get 'permit form', it's located uphill from SDM office. No, you won't get the form at office premises.
4. Fill in basic details like number of people, places of visiting and number of days of visit ( Keep a day or two extra than planned) and attach an address proof like copy of an Adhaar card or a driving license.
5. Cost of one permit for one person is INR 400(Enviromental fee) and INR 20/day-person (Wild life fee) for number of days of stay.
Ex- Me and Abhijeet required two permits that's 400*2=INR 800 and number of days of stay was seven so 7*20*2(for two people)= INR 280. Total INR 1080/-
6. Once completed with all the documents, submit it to the office staff and wait for some odd 45 minutes and they will let you know once it is done. Our permit took a bit of time as it was super crowded by the the time we reached the office, so it's highly advisable to reach early and you could probably walkout in 25 minutes, such is the efficiency.





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This will be the Permit to visit restricted areas like Pangong, Khardungla, Diskit etc.





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Enviroment Fee receipt




Getting permits for Nubra valley and Hanle really boosted our excitement level, as we would be riding on the world's Ex highest motorable road soon. We decided to explore the Leh city, so the nearest option was Leh palace, which is close to the SDM office followed by Tsemo Gompa and shanti stupa.



Let pictures do the talking-


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History of Namgyal Tsemo Temple




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The majestic Temple itself




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The view is to die for




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Traditional Ladakhi flags, believed to bring good luck with the flow of wind. It says Om-Maani-Padme-Hum




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When started from Noida, the tire pressure was 32 and when checked in Ladakh, it was 40 High altitude-Low pressure playing the tricks




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Ladakh Baazar road




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We spent close to 30 minutes to get our bikes out from the parking maze as there was no space to take the bikes out without scratching the cars due to those giant luggage carriers. Apparently a drunk Xylo driver parked his car on the exit





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These mountain folks definitely know a thing or two about delicious pizzas




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Shanti Stupa. May the peace prevails








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It's so astonishing to see a Desert, a civilization, snow capped mountains in a single frame





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Nature at it's best stroke





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A promise to come back to this magical land






Distance covered- 50Kms local
Refueling done at IOCO Leh- Rs.1300 @ 70.xx per liter-
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Old 11th February 2020, 11:47   #9
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This story is of 2 friends conquering Ladakh in Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350s 2 years ago, when we were in our carefree graduation days. I'm penning down the travelogue now, since I became BHPian recently. I hope I will be able to recall the timelines precisely.
Hooked to this thread man. The mountains are always a place I want to visit. Let trip is always on my mind and your travelogue has just fortified my resolution to go visit there soon.

Thanks for sharing all the details and your candid narration was very easy to read and follow. I especially loved your conversation with your father in the beginning. After all, all fathers know their sons well enough.

Looking forward to more of your trips!
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Old 11th February 2020, 14:45   #10
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Nostalgia. I rode same path with my friends and I swear each line of your blog is taking me back to that amazing ride.
And Yes, roads from Drass to Leh are class apart. Waiting for next ride part.
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Old 11th February 2020, 17:02   #11
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It was a indeed write up.Even though after almost more than 2 years you remember and pen it down so well that it make me feel those things mentioned.
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Old 11th February 2020, 18:15   #12
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Great travelogue Sachin ! Thanks for sharing such a detailed account. Looking forward to hearing more tales from the road. Ride safe !
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Old 11th February 2020, 18:32   #13
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A day all about pristine white snow.... some more snow and AMS

28th May
Day 8

Leh-Hunder




Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh-109.jpg
Having sumptuous morning breakfast with Kunzang auntie ,two young hungry souls couldn't ask for more. With all the luggage mounted on the bike and clock ticking past 9.30 AM, it was time for us to bid bye to the beautiful city of Leh with a heavy a heart.




Bungee chords strapped on luggage carrier, rain liner attached, a full tank and a strong determination, we started our expedtion. 24kms into the ride comes our first police check post- South Pullu, where in you have to submit a copy of your Inner line permit and you also have to prove that you own the vehicle and you are not driving a rented self drive vehicle. So yes, the rented vehicles(apart from JK registered) are not allowed beyond Leh as locals believe "We have only one financial season for our bread and butter since rest of the time Ladakh is frozen, so let us do the business" which I kinda support. In my case, my bike is registered in my brother's name so I had to present them a proof as we have a blood relation and we share same home address. People driving Self drive vehicles be prepared! Once crossing south pullu the road condition starts deteriorating but nothing as challenging as Zoji La territory, but the scenery gets better and better with your ascend as you will be driving actually on the virgin snow capped mountains and wherever your eyes can see, it's sparkling white fresh snow all round and that again reminds me of the beautiful lines- “Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast”. Kashmir is such a place which really brings a poet out of you. And then here it was- The Ex highest Motorable road in the world standing at 18380 ft, kudos to BRO for doing such a commendable job in the most difficult terrain.
Pictures coudn't get enough of them



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This was before KhardungLa, we happen to spot a cute little marmot





Getting clicked with the board reading "KHARDUNG LA" gave us a sense of achievement and felt as if all our hard work has been paid off. Unfortunately, that was exactly what every other tourist was up to, so getting a decent picture without getting photo bombed took a bit of time. Khardungla has an army medical camp and few eateries which will offer you usual maggie egg options and it gets super crowded as well. With all the excitement and adrenaline pumping in our body, we again neglected the mountain rules as to spend least time at the mountain passes and we happened to spend somewhere close to 60 minutes on Khardungla top and price we paid for our stupidity was severe headaches and a bleeding nose. This was the first time I was hit by AMS and for some reason I didn't took Diamox and sticked to good old remedy of drinking lots of fluid and eating dry fruits. Upon descending my problems eventually got under control and I have to admit, once we started descending the pass towards Hunder what we encountered was mind boggling, it was the most serene beauty I ever saw in my life, pristine white snow untouched by any habitation as you have less number of footfalls in this side of the pass. All the Khardung La chaos remains limited only to the Leh side and the other side of the pass is a different world altogether.



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Couldn't contain my excitement




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The mandatory pose





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It was fun sliding off the slope






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This is the magical side of KhardungLa





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This is my personal favorite picture





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Felt elated that I finally made it to the top... Proud of you my bull




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It's so ironic that our so called civilization is barbarizing our mother Earth. There was no homo sapiens to spot but there was abundance of plastic pollution already. This very sight makes me sad . It was 2.30 PM and we didn't ate anything but breakfast and our tummies were already pissed off at us, must be saying something like "Excuse me, I guess I exist and I need food and supplies to keep you rolling you moron". So the Ladies and gentlemen, I present you the life saviour for every Ladakh traveler " The cuppa Noodles" all thanks to Mr. Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant noodles.

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Somewhere before Hunder, we took our 2nd pit stop, this place had an arrow straight road as far as our eyes can capture and light traffic movement, that's it-this was the place to get our Thunder Buddies signature picture.



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My second favorite pic





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The fact that we were only two people in the entire valley and there was no third person to click our picture, we made our own setup with DSLR on the tripod and a 15 second timer to run back to the bike and pose before it clicks, one hell of a cardio up in the mountains




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So was this clicked





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Dab done the perfect way in a perfect backdrop





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Getting enlightened






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I can stare at you all day long





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Hunder is in stark contrast with Khardungla. A distance of 100 kms can make a world of difference in Himalayas. From white snow to a dry desert



Soon after the photo session we reached the beautiful town of Hunder and the tents looked intimidating but damn they were super expensive. So there we were, just roaming around the town with no idea where to stay, if at all we would be staying there. And just randomly we walked to this place called Skilzing Homestay which looked like a newly built property and we were mobbed by few curios kids about our whereabouts, anyway I walked in and the lady showed me the massive rooms with tastefully done interior and when I asked for the tariff she said- 5oo INR for the room and 25o INR for your food. I literally jumped there with euphoria as we were hell tired and those business oriented tent guys were just in mood to rip off our wallets, we immediately checked in and the kids helped us un-mounting our luggage. It was fun as we were the center of attraction for all those kids there, and our host Ms. Yangchan was so courteous that she brought us much needed snacks while we were unmounting our luggage and I felt that she was bit nervous around us and later we found out that we were the first guests to Skilzing Homestay, hence that sweet deal. For dinner, we were served with Rajmaa chawal (which I saw after so many days, made me emotional as Rajmaa chawal is lifeline for Delhites ) and some curry which I don't remember, this is the best part of home stays that you get food with all the love and care of a Mother. Right after dinner, we dozed off with the plan to leave for Pangong lake the next morning. Little did we know what adventure our stars had in store for us.



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This is what our homestay had to offer





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Cozy rooms





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Who on earth would not like to wake up to this view ?




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Typical Ladakhi evening snacks





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This stream comes directly from the Glaciers and people use it for thier household chores. That's a sustainable way of life





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Nutritious end to our day our rather tiring day





Total distance covered- 140kms
Fuel break - None
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Old 12th February 2020, 16:37   #14
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Your experienced is so full of emotions that it can easily be turned into a blockbuster movie. Waiting for epilogue and hooked.
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Old 12th February 2020, 20:09   #15
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Default Re: Dreams: A tale of Mighty Ladakh

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.
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