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Old 18th November 2020, 17:33   #1
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Default Ladakh ride on an Enfield Bullet

Its been six years since we made this Journey, but it is as fresh as we did it yesterday!!

Such is the memoir of a wonderful journey that it will remain in our hearts forever!!

I have been planning to ink my thoughts on this memorable trip/ expedition of ours for a long time now and as they say, better late than never Also wanted to acknowledge the role of the army, ITBP and BRO in making our trip such a memorable one! So, here it goes. Ladakh... A calling!!!

Alert - Long story ahead! - ~15 – 20 mins reading time.

Ever since we came across this random article about people riding on their bikes to this region called Ladakh, the Heaven on Earth owing to its mystic landscape and natural grandeur, we have been craving to go for it ourselves! It all started to materialise in the month of May/June 2014 when a relative/ family friend of ours, who had already done a couple of trips himself, offered us to join their trip to the lahaul spiti circuit. They were eight people on four bikes and since it was our first biking expedition to the North (though we had done a few bike tours by ourselves in Karnataka), we thought it would be good to have some company to go with and readily agreed for it!

But fate had something else in store for us. I had just joined a new company and could not take off and Chaitra (my wife) had some release coming up which deterred her from taking off! We were completely disappointed to say the least! We had to postpone the trip and the earliest we could now do was late August or early September! But we could not find any company for that time since it was nearing the fag end of the biking season in Ladakh and we were given to understand that most of the roads starts closing by end of September. Lot of questions started crossing our minds, about the cold and inhospitable conditions, just the two of us on a single bike in a remote corner of the country, safety concerns etc. We gave it a hard thought for over a couple of minutes and decided to embark upon this journey. Nothing was going to stop us from doing it now. As fate would have it, I quit industry and started my own Practice (being a CA). So, I could make time off my schedule. Chaitra had applied for leaves and got them confirmed!!

Now started the planning part. We were already in the mid of July when this happened and the blogs we read suggested a thorough planning of at least six months for such an expedition!! But we were not to get bogged down by those and decided to go for it under any circumstance. Soon, I started speaking to Darshan, who came as our saviour for the trip. Since he had already done more than couple of Ladakh circuits, he was the right guy for us to help us out. And so he did!! He went out of his way to prepare a tentative itinerary for the trip, hooked us up with the guy at Manali for the bike and gave us all the inputs necessary to make this a possibility.

This was a trip long overdue now and we were kind of getting universal signs so to speak!! We booked our tickets in the first week of August and decided to take this on. Time was ticking and the journey date was fast approaching! We had booked our flight tickets from Bangalore to Chandigarh for the 31st of Aug and the return flight for 14th Of September. 15 days of bliss!! We had confirmed to Lakhan (our bike guy) through Darshan (our saviour) that we would land in Manali on the 1st of September and would start our journey from 2nd September. We decided to spend the next 12 days till the 13th of September biking through the Ladakh region. This was our tentative plan and with the help of the routes and other information Darshan had already given us, we started packing for the trip. Darshan even offered his Jacket, gloves and other rain gear which was very sweet of him to do so. Since we already had our raincoats, jackets and gloves that we had purchased for our other bike trips, we politely declined and profusely thanked him for it though. Later however we realised that it would have been great if we took them. The D day nevertheless was fast approaching, and we were almost ready with the stuff we decided to carry with us and a list of items to be purchased once we reach Manali. So, our brief itinerary looked something like this

31st Aug - Flight to Chandigarh and spend time visiting local places
1st Sept - Reach Manali by overnight bus ride and shop for articles on our list
2nd Sept to 13th Sept - Biking to Ladakh region
14th Sept - Return to Chandigarh by overnight bus ride from Manali, take rest till afternoon and board the flight back to Bangalore!

Off we gooooooooo!!!

Day -2 | 31st Aug 2014 | Chandigarh

The first leg of the journey was our flight to Chandigarh. The flight was at 9:20AM. With packed bags and dreams and hand in hand, we flew We landed at around 2:15PM. As we had saved all our planning energy to Ladakh, we had no idea what to do after landing at Chandigarh. We had not even wikied the place properly. So, there we were at the airport, wondering what to do with the next 7-8 hrs!! We then landed up with a clichéd city tour and roamed around the city - an exhausting and intriguing Rock garden, Sukhna Lake and the City Center - all the while thinking about what the next leg had in store for us. While the cab took us around, I did notice what a lovely city Chandigarh is! Not sure if I liked the sightseeing part, but I felt if I got a chance, I would love to live in the city!

Finally, it was night, time for bus to Manali. Although it was scheduled to arrive at the stop at 9PM, by the time we at last boarded it was 12 in the midnight!!! We could hardly get started with the bike from the time we boarded the flight at Bangalore, imagine how hard it would have been even to kill a minute's delay.

Day -1 | 1st Sep 2014 | Manali

We arrived at Manali after passing through some of the most picturesque locations of Himachal Pradesh and met our bike person Lakhan’s brother at the bus stop. He had come to pick us up along with a friend of his with the bike which was going to be our travel partner for next 12 days. I was ecstatic at the look of the bike, a Royal Enfield Classic, just what the doctor ordered!! It was a fairly new bike and had run only about 10,000+ kms (thanks to Darshan for putting in a word). Lakhan was a very cordial guy. He met us at his garage later. We stayed at a shoddy hotel right next to Lakhan's garage. We had not planned much of a sightseeing in Manali. We just happened to roam around the main street when we went out for lunch and dinner that day. We also shopped for some apples and dry fruits for the journey ahead. A thing that pleased me was the fact that no shops were handing out plastic covers. When asked, we were told that it was banned by the HP government. How nice! Wish that happens across the globe!

Day 1 | 2nd Sep 2014 | Manali to Jispa

The next morning was the beginning of our journey of a lifetime. We woke up pretty early, freshened up by 7AM and came down to check out of the hotel room. I cannot remember if we had breakfast or if we just had coffee. Anyway, Lakhan was ready with the extra helmet and all the accessories that were to travel with us. Our bags and the accessories were tied to the bike. Two empty cans for petrol were tied as well. He said, with a smile, that the trip we are going on is completely safe and nothing to worry about. If in case there is some issue with the bike, leave the bike wherever it breaks down and take care of yourself. Do not bother about the bike, always remember you are the priority! His words were reassuring. We shook hands with Lakhan, took one look at the snow-clad mountain ahead that was beckoning us and kick started our dream on the Royal Enfield.

Our itinerary for the first day looked like this –
Manali - Jispa 140 kms | Rohtang 51km -> Gramphu 14km -> Tandi 44km -> Keylong 8km -> Jispa 23km

So, off we start towards our first destination Rohtang pass after filling enough fuel. We must have ridden about a couple of kilometers when we encountered an army vehicle on a narrow pass and had to stop for a while to make way. The road was steep and while trying to stop, I kind of lost footing and the inevitable happened. We fell. This was the first of few more falls that awaited us. I immediately shut the engine down, helped Chaitra up, lifted the bike up and turned the petrol tap off and parked. Took a few long breaths and could sense the altitude playing its part there. I was already feeling tired! Took a couple of minutes to regroup my thoughts and decided to move ahead.

By then the army vehicles had left and we left the place. Hardly a hundred meters or so, the bike started stuttering and stopped. I tried starting and it would not start! This was as if someone gave a small prick to our excitement balloon. I tried for about 5-10 minutes, but the bike just would not start. Our only option was going back to Lakhan's garage. It was then that I realized, I had not turned the petrol tap ON in our hurry after the army vehicle had passed! This was one of those epic facepalm moments. After a few giggles, photos and teases from the wife, we hopped on again.

Did feel like shooting myself!
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The weather was a little cloudy and cold. We were gulping down all that we could see around. All shades of green and a distant white mountain. After some time of riding on our own, we heard another bike buzzing with a solo rider (with torn jeans for the kind of weather!!). He kind of caught up with us as we stopped for tea at one of the tents on the way. I do not recollect his name, but remember he was from Delhi. After few pleasantries, we were on our way again. As we neared the peak of Rohtang, we were shivering. Three layers of clothing, gloves and a helmet could not keep us warm!! Finally, we reached the peak and stopped at the "Lucky hot stop" for breakfast. It was a small tent with some supplies of Maggi, egg and some snacks. The owner of the shop looked vaguely familiar to Chaitra. I also felt like I had seen that face somewhere. He was kind enough to let us warm our hands near a kerosene stove. We would be meeting many more such warm people on this journey. By this time, it had already started raining, dampening our spirits a little. The shop owner told us very thoughtfully that the rain will not last for a long time and that it should stop any time soon. With renewed hopes, after half an hour or so, we were on road again still wondering who that familiar face was. We then passed Gramphoo and Tandi. It was still raining on and off. Chaitra tried capturing photos using the mobile phone as much as she could in that biting cold. I think it was after Keylong that we saw the first glimpse of a landslide. The Border Road Organization (BRO) was already at work. BRO had indirectly helped us all through the journey with great roads. But at that time, we had no idea that one day on this journey, we would come face to face with some amazing BRO personnel and would be grateful for life for what they did to us. By the time we reached Jispa, it was close to 3pm and was raining heavily. We decided to halt for the day at Padma Lodge that day. Both of us were cold, hungry, a little exhausted but still excited even though the rain had dimmed our spirits a little. After a somewhat ok lunch, we headed to our room and attempted to dry off the wet jackets, jerkins, shoes and gloves. We had an early dinner and called it a night soon after that. Few images of the day -
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Day 2 | 3rd Sep 2014 | Jispa to Pang

Frankly, if anyone had told me that this was the day, few moments of which I would remember so starkly even after a few years and that I would have mixed emotions churning in my stomach, I wouldn't have believed!

By the time we were ready after a check out and early breakfast at around 7AM, it was still raining, and the distant mountain was still a lot more snow covered. The Delhi guy whom we had met at Rohtang had halted at the same lodge and we met him there after the breakfast. There was a rumor making rounds at the lodge that the Baralacha pass (the same peak that had been beckoning us all along) was completely snow covered and that the roads would get blocked. The incessant rain and the news kind of made us sad. We were in no mood to rest and waste a day at the lodge. Since there were no official news and seeing a couple of vehicles going in that direction, we thought of taking a chance. The Delhi guy joined us and there were a couple of other bikers who were starting along with us. So, we headed off with all our hopes pinned up high. Our route for the day looked like this -

Jispa – Pang 156Kms | Darcha 6km -> Baralacha La 46km -> Sarchu 32km -> Gata Loops 34km -> Naki La 10km -> Lachulung La 9km -> Pang 19km

We must have ridden for about an hour from Jispa crossing some amazing landscapes when we encountered a narrow rocky curve on the road. The Delhi guy was right behind us. While negotiating through the rocks and boulders on the road, there was a narrow place right next to a puddle of water which seemed deep. I chose to ride the left shoulder between two rocks since the right side did not have much space and there was no barrier to prevent a fall into the gorge. I was riding pretty slow on first gear and just when it seemed like the bike would pass easily, I felt like someone had caught the bike’s rear and the bike came to an abrupt halt! I lost balance and we take a fall again! My left leg is now stuck between the bike and a rock on the road. I am unable to move, though Chaitra by this time has got up and trying to lift the bike in vain. I am on the road thinking who in the world caught our bike! I somehow managed to wriggle out of the situation and see that the side carrier had got stuck between rocks! My bad, I had completely missed to consider the width needed for the side luggage to pass through. Thankfully, we were unhurt and now trying to lift the bike up. By then the Delhi guy came to our rescue. We struggled for a while and finally got the bike out. I rode the bike ahead over the curve and stopped to wait for Chaitra and the Delhi guy. We were completely exhausted due to weight of the bike and probably the altitude playing its part as well. Our hearts were pounding looking at the place we took the fall. Had it been on the right side of the road, the risk of falling into the gorge now looked real! Fortunately, the rain had subsided. Anyway, we dusted off the minor bump and headed to Baralacha La. I remembered to check if the petrol tap was ON this time!

Place where we took a fall

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On the way we stopped at a roadside eatery at Zing Zing bar.

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By now our socks and shoes were completely wet, gloves were soggy, and we were shivering. We tried our best to dry them off with the help of a burning kerosene stove with little luck. We filled our stomach with some hot Maggi and tea. We met three brothers from France who were taking up this expedition before they resumed their college that fall season. We exchanged pleasantries and all six of us started to Baralacha La together. It was silently agreed that, since it was cold and the mountain pass was looking ominously at us, it would be best to travel in groups as we would have extra help in case the need arises. We rode for some more time and it again started to rain. The temperature probably must have been subzero, and the roads were becoming slippery. There were some construction work going on as well which added to the time we took to scale the pass. My fingers were going numb because of the cold and each drop of rain pricked like a needle on my hand. The gloves I wore were rendered useless! I thought to myself, I should have listened to Darshan! The pain in my fingers was now real and I stopped the bike many times to keep them on the hot engine bay. Yet, after a little distance, it would again start to pain. We had to clear the pass at the earliest to avoid any kind of mishap.

Roads to Baralacha La
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After about an hour from the eatery, it was finally time to meet the famous Baralacha La. There was snow on both sides of the road. At one point, I did not know where I was. I mean, I was surrounded by just whiteness and I could feel my breath or the lack of it. The majestic beauty of the nature around us was overwhelming!
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After crossing the Baralacha la, we had a smooth ride and reached Sarchu. By now the rain had completely stopped and we had some warm sun coming out. We stopped at the only cafe in Sarchu to refill our stomachs with some more of Maggi and to sink in the stark images that had just passed us by. After Sarchu it was time for Gata loops. We were kind of riding slow to make sure we did not miss anything around us. The French brothers and the Delhi guy had long overtaken us after Sarchu. The loopy roads seemed hypnotizing specially for the person riding the vehicle.

After Gata loops, we passed Naki La and Lachulung La. Both seemed far easy to ride compared to Baralacha La. Nothing much exciting happened (or so I thought!) except that it was getting increasingly cold. The road after Lachulung La was not so great. Since our destination for the day was closing in and it was not even 5PM, we were relieved that the difficult part was behind us and were looking forward to reach Pang and relax (read as some more Maggi and tea!). I think we must have passed some 5km after Lachulung La when the bike started to wobble a bit! It was a gravel road and I thought must be because of that. I reduced the speed to see if the wobble stops, but no! My worry was about to come true. I pulled over and told Chaitra that we might have a puncture! She was shell shocked! I saw that the front tyre had lost air and confirmed to her that we had a tyre puncture! This was just not the thing that anyone would want to happen in the middle of nowhere. It was disheartening especially because we were so close to our destination for the day, Pang. We stood there in total dismay wondering what to do next. Getting down to changing the tube was the last option for me since it was a herculean task at that altitude. Wearing our socks and shoes each morning itself was a bit of a task and if we were asked to replace a tube, I’d let it pass any day under such circumstance! I realized that it took a little time for the air to leak and I could not find any nail on the tyre causing the puncture. Then we decided to try inflating the tyre using the hand pump and see how it holds. We removed the hand pump from the luggage, I pumped air and then handed it to Chaitra to hold it for the next time. We immediately hopped on, and off we go. I was also calculating how far the air would hold. It was a little less than a KM, that’s it! We passed a sign board showing Pang was about 15km to go. We had to do this exercise for at least 15 times and that came as a jolt to me. The next time we got down, I calculated the number of times I had to compress the hand pump to inflate the tyre. So, from then on, the exercise would be to just pump the tyre for the number of times, hop on and ride till I felt the wobble again. The road got a little better at some places and we managed to finally reach Pang after about 12 such stops, if I remember correctly. At some point, a concerned biker offered help, but I was so out of breath that I could not even say no. Just signaled him by hand and he left. Wonder what he would have thought! We did not see him at Pang though, must have carried on. He was the only biker who crossed us during the entire ordeal. Traffic was sparse, probably because the tourist season was ending.

It must have been around 5pm when this happened. The altitude of Pang is about 15280 ft. The decreased levels of oxygen, riding for about 7-8 hours and extra effort of inflating the tyre every few minutes left me exhausted by the time we reached Pang. We halted at the first tent we could see, and we also asked around and figured that we could get some to help to change the tube the next morning. That was some relief by the end of the day. When we entered the tent, which could house close to 10-15 beds and a cooking area, we met our long lost Baralacha gang - the three French brothers and the Delhi guy. They were in a pretty bad shape - almost passed out. The Delhi guy later said that he started hallucinating while riding over the Gata loops and was about to ride over the ledge, but somehow managed to stop and rest for a while. Yes, they were hit by AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). We surprisingly were feeling fit and fine (may be due to Diamox and general fitness) even with all the tyre puncture episode. These guys had paid a visit to the army camp near our tent which had a medical facility. They were given some medicine and advised to rest. The lady at the tent suggested the same to us as well. This was our first contact with the army men. Their sheer presence was intimidating to say the least. But at the same time, made us feel safe, very safe! “The oxygen levels are fine. Don’t smoke, eat nonveg or drink alcohol. You will be fine” said the doctor in a coarse voice, but with a broad smile on his face. This voice thundered into our ears and we said a meek yes sir and left the place. He was a tall man with a strong built, a red tilak on his forehead and a voice that reminded me of Amrish Puri! Being in their presence, we could feel the real courage and bravery by their sheer personalities and the way they conducted themselves. We happily came back to our tent, ate some more Maggi and retired to our beds with a hope that our bike recovers fast in the morning.

A few snaps from the day
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To be continued

Last edited by Aditya : 20th November 2020 at 11:10. Reason: Text alignment
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Old 18th November 2020, 18:05   #2
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Default re: Ladakh ride on an Enfield Bullet

Day 3 | 4th Sep 2014 | Pang to Leh

The next morning, our Baralacha companions left at around 7AM. We were still waiting for our repair man. We were given a mug of warm water. Chaitra washed her face and even brushed teeth (the hygienic her!). I (the caveman, in her words) gave it a pass. I think we had breakfast and continued waiting for the repair guy. He was supposedly halting opposite the army camp. The impatience was wearing us out when I decided to take a walk to find the repair guy. I guess by 9:30AM, the tube had been repaired. The culprit was indeed a small nail. It was close to 10AM by the time we packed almost all our luggage and left our tent (important to note, “almost all”). This day's itinerary looked like this

Pang – Leh 171Kms | Debring Cut 43Kms -> Tanglang La 19Kms -> Rumpse 30Kms -> Upshi 30 Kms -> Karu 13Kms -> Leh 36 Kms

We rode out of Pang into the famous More Plains. Stretches of amazingly flat landscape.
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We must have ridden for about 10-15km from Pang, we thought of stopping to capture some pictures of these beautiful plains. The weather was sunny, we were not feeling the biting cold of the previous day, our bike had been fixed, the road was great and the whole atmosphere was peaceful. What more did we need? Right!? What we did need was something that we had forgetfully left behind at the tent in Pang - the fuel cans! We had totally forgotten to tie them to the bike. The next available fuel destination was at Karu (about 135km later!) and we were not sure if the fuel in the tank would carry us so far. We felt like kicking ourselves in the back. Chaitra suggested that we should not lose time in going back to get cans now that we were already late. I felt otherwise and we were on our way back to the tent. The ladies at the tent had kept our fuel cans safe thankfully This meant that we had the luxury of enjoying the More Plains ride one more time!! Amazing how positive things come out of seemingly negative situations.

After More Plains, we encountered the first stretch of bad road for the day at Debring. This was not a mountain pass. This was a similar stretch we had seen a while ago. But the ride was painful - physically and emotionally. After what seemed like an eternity of bad road, it was time for our next mountain pass Tanglang La. This pass was nice except that the cold had returned once again and there was a little less snow compared to Baralacha. We stopped for a while and I was excited like a kid to touch snow for the first time in my life. I even found some yak hair. Moments like these make us forget any kind of disappointments we would have had till then. Rumpse and Upshi were not that eventful. These were proper villages with some small population. There were small houses, schools, temples etc. Occasionally, we came across fellow bike enthusiasts. We would just nod or give a thumbs up and smile as we cross them, and they would do the same. Sometimes riders even hollered a 'Juleh' (pronounced joo-lay, used to greet people). At one of our stops in Upshi we met a women-only gang that was travelling around Ladakh.
Next, we stopped at Karu check post for registering our vehicle details. Here we met another group that was headed out of Leh. It was then that we learned about closure of roads to the famous Nubra valley due to heavy rainfall the previous day. This was a disappointing news given that we had heard and read so much about the beauty of the place. We thanked them and continued our journey.

Leh was a proper city (one could see or feel a bit of disappointment when I say that). You would see the green Sutlej flowing along with you as you enter the city. You would also see some famous tourist attractions on the way - the palace, the stupas etc. We reached Leh at around 3:30pm. Somehow Leh did not appeal to both of us. We were no longer amid solitude and tranquility. We were surrounded by man-made structures, honking vehicles, crowded streets - clogging our so far peaceful mind. We halted at the Haldupa guest house. To add to the disappointment, it started raining again at around 5pm. Apparently it had never rained in Leh around this time and this month it was an exception. Well, we did not like this kind of exceptions! Leh was crowded with tourists and honeymooners. It made me wonder what a day-to-day life of localities would look like. Wouldn't it be like perpetually having some or the other guest in your own house?

We met our Delhi friend again when we went out for shopping that evening. Seemed like he had different itinerary than ours and it was the last time we would be seeing him on this trip. We did some shopping for extra warm clothes as it was clear that what we had carried were not sufficient to the kind of cold we were experiencing. We still had no clear news on the state of roads to our next destination, Pangong. Some said, there was heavy snow fall the previous day and the roads were blocked. Our Delhi friend confirmed that. But the guest house host said that there was no such problem as the guest house themselves took some tourists on their travel service to Pangong the previous day. We had two choices. Either forget Pangong for a day and visit the local attractions or just go with the gut feel and head to Pangong. We chose the latter. So, Pangong it was. Chaitra always dreamt of sitting by the lake and reading. Well, it was about to come true.

Day 4 | 5th Sep 2014 | Leh to Pangong

The next morning, we freshened up (I finally took bath), had breakfast and checked out of the guest house in the morning. I think it had stopped raining but still was a little cloudy. The route looked like this
Leh – Pangong 180Kms | Karu 36km -> Sakti 10km -> Chang La 34km -> Durbuk 32km -> Tangtse 9km -> Lukung 34km -> Spangmik 16km ->Pangong 9km

After passing Karu, we stopped at a military check post near Sakti. We needed to refill our water bottles and approached an army man there. He immediately said, you guys take warm water, it will be nice to drink warm water in this weather. Even before we could utter a word, he just plucked the bottles out of our hands, called someone and asked them to fill warm water for us! These army men I say, helping comes naturally to them (more on this later). While we waited for the bottles to come, we had a chat with him, and he mentioned that he had just come down from Siachen! He was on his way down and then on the much-needed leave. We could spot a smile on his face and felt happy for him. And it indeed felt like heaven drinking the warm water in that weather!

After Sakti enroute Chang La, the roads were steep. The bike just would not ride up easily. I tried to ride in a zig zag way to get some traction and it worked to some extent. At one curve, the gradient was so steep that the bike was stationary even on full throttle in first gear! I asked Chaitra to alight and see if that helps. If it didn’t, we then had to try removing the luggage and riding the bike. I then rode back a little and then gained a bit of a momentum before attempting the steep curve. Finally managed to ride the bike up with some effort. The visibility had reduced again due to lot of mist and we saw a lot of vehicles returning. This made us doubt the decision we had made to go to Pangong. We moved ahead nevertheless. Chang La was another beauty of a mountain pass. This was also fully snow covered. We stopped at the peak to take some pictures and look around. There was a coffee shop and a temple for a saint called Chang La baba. Within no time, it started snowing a little. We hopped on to our bike and got back on road. We passed Durbuk, Tangtse and by now it was heavily raining. Argh! we had enough of rains by now. It just would not leave us alone. After passing Lukung and Spangmik in rain, we finally reached Pangong at around 5pm. It was exciting to be at the place of our dreams! We stopped at the Diskit Changsar home stay. The place was warm and cozy - just what we needed. Added to that we got extra bedsheets/ quilts without even requesting. The lady who managed was very sweet and generous. We were pleasantly surprised to note that most of these homestays/guest houses were managed solely by women throughout the trip. We finally settled into our room which had an amazing view of the lake.

Some snaps from the day
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Day 5 | 6th Sep 2014 | Pangong

The next morning, though it had stopped raining there was still some cloud cover. We were praying hard for a sunny day or at least without rains. It had to be sunny to witness those beautiful hues of blues of Pangong. By 10AM we were ready for our stroll on the banks of Pangong. Simply put, it was beautiful. Just beautiful. Period. Look at these images. The images however are not even close to the real beauty of the place. We were floored looking at the grandeur of the landscape!

Some pics
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It was still cloudy with glimpses of sun here and there. There were no people around and we had Pangong all for ourselves for those 3-4 hours. To think that beyond those mountains lies another country was intriguing. We had forgotten all our worries, troubles, work pressures, disappointments, desires, everything and were just present wholly in the moment there. Both of us were not ready to leave the place just yet. We did not feel like getting back on road that day. It was a unanimous decision to stay back for one more day at Diskit Changsar guest house. One of the pros of not travelling in a group. This also meant that Chaitra gets to finally dig out the books she had bought in Chandigarh. Unfortunately, since it was still cloudy and was kind of drizzling, it was not a good idea to stay outside. Nevertheless, she resumed reading one of the books inside our room, somewhat partially fulfilling her dream. And it felt good too, with a cup of chai on the cozy bed.

Day 6 | 7th Sep 2014 | Pangong to Leh

It was time to half-heartedly leave the magical place. The day was surprisingly sunny. Pangong showed us her royal beauty on our way out. The day's plan was to return to Leh on the same route back. Thanks to the glorious sun, we got to see all the amazing landscape we had missed out the day before due to rain. We spotted some wild horses, yaks and donkeys on the way back. This time at Chang La it was not cloudy or snowing. Thankfully, there was some snow left on the mountain. So, we had our share of snow fun after all. On the way to Sakti, we were stopped for some time due to landslide, but not for long since the BRO was already at work. We cannot express in words how proud we are of them. We reached Leh by noon. The original plan was to stay at the Thiksey monastery. We somehow could not find anyone there to enquire about stay options. So, we headed back to Haldupa guest house for one more night's stay. This time it was sunny at Leh as well. We thought we were done with our quota of rains for the trip. Only later would we realize how wrong it was to even think like that!
That night at Leh, we were in a huge confusion about our next destination. Since Nubra was out of question, we had two choices. Either visit the famous and clichéd places - Kardung La and the Magnetic hills (seems safer and easier) or plan to go to Hanle (farthest on the map, would be a stretch to reach there in a day and more importantly, need to get DC permission which would result in a delay). Chaitra was OK for either of the choices. I however had been raving about all the pictures I had seen of Hanle village and had read that Hanle had the biggest telescope in the whole of India. We called it a night and agreed to decide in the morning.

Some pics from the day
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Day 7 | 8th Sep 2014 | Leh to Hanle

When one travel partner has a strong urge to go to some place and the other one is flexible to explore anything, you know what happens. Yup, we were at the doors of DC office by 9 in the morning. The office opened only by 10 and after all the waiting and tensed running around, we had our permits signed by 11AM. Phew! The day's itinerary looked like this -
Leh – Hanle 269Kms | Karu 36km -> Upshi 13km -> Chumatang 106km -> Mahe 22km -> Nyoma 23km -> Loma 20km -> Hanle 49km

The day was bright. No sign of cloud thankfully. It was a completely different landscape reaching Chumatang. We had the green Indus running by our side all along. At one point, we saw these muddy mountains with purple and green colored stones. By 4pm, we had reached Chumatang. I thought to myself, we would reach Hanle comfortably before night fall. (Boy was I wrong again!)

We had our lunch (read as Maggi) and tea. The next stop was at Mahe police checkpost. We had to produce the DC permission that we had obtained at Leh. A deviation here would take us to Sumdo towards Tso Morriri, another amazing lake. By the time we passed the sleepy Nyoma village it was 5pm and we were confident that we would reach Hanle soon. But that was not meant to be. Fate again had something else in store for us. Our old ghost had followed us all along and met us after we rode for about 2-3km from Nyoma. It was not a wobble but a full dance, tyre puncture once again!! This time it was the rear tyre. I tried the earlier trick in vain. The air would not hold even for a minute. There we were in the middle of an empty road. We looked back at the village we had just crossed. Remembered seeing a school and some houses, but not mechanic shop or garage. Ahead of us lay another village that we could not have reached in this situation, so late in the evening. The sunlight had already started dimming. Our only choice was to head back to Nyoma and find a place to stay.

Two men had passed us about a kilometer back. They were on an evening walk presumably. As we pushed the vehicle towards Nyoma, the two men were walking back towards us. We met them and explained our situation seeking their advice. Turns out, they were men from the nearby BRO camp on a stroll. One of them acknowledged the fact that “the bike was indeed running a little funny when he saw and sensed some issue with it”. They asked us not to worry and casually asked us to head to the camp and someone will help us out. We thanked them and started pushing the bike not knowing what help we can expect there. Meanwhile, the men swiftly walked back towards their camp.

The sun had almost set, it was to be a perfectly cloudless starlit night. But we had mixed emotions to be able fully enjoy the beauty of the night. We were at first frustrated, then helpless, then exhausted, and then sad that we could not make it to Hanle. But hey, we were also glad at this chanceful encounter with BRO personnel.

As we approached the camp gate, I parked in front of the gate and approached the reception area. The men we met were nowhere in sight. I told them that we were asked to come there by Mr S (am not sure if we can disclose the names) and that they would help us with the puncture issue. The person who was seated in a relaxed way suddenly sprang into action on hearing the name. He made a call and immediately asked us to get the bike inside the camp gate. The person also informed that we will be their guest for the night! Surprise surprise!! I was like, no; Mr S said we will be helped with the puncture issue and then we can leave for Hanle. He said there is no one available right now to work on the bike and even if they do it, why would you want to ride another 2 hours in this cold weather? Rather rest here and leave in the morning “äraam se”. I could not agree more but I did not want to cause any trouble for them. But then he said its not a request, rather an order to him from Mr S to take proper care of us. That was when we got to know who the two gentlemen were, one was the Doctor and Mr S was the top brass, the BOSS heading the unit, at the BRO! Were we in some luck or what! To us they were no less than Gods that evening.

We were asked to just leave the bike with the key inside the camp gate. We were to have dinner and breakfast and then proceed further with our journey. Picture this - something like a scene from the movie Lakshya where they show an Army canteen full of officers including Hrithik having food. I imagined myself sitting at a corner table in that hall full of officers and having dinner with Chaitra. Now come back. Well, it was not to be. But in no lesser terms a royal treatment at their guest house opposite the BRO camp across the road. It is usually meant for high ranked army officials. But that night, we were just plain lucky to be there since we were civilians in distress. We were treated with utmost respect and care. I went to remove the luggage from the bike, but the person asked me not to. He called for help and a couple of folks came rushing to figure how to remove the luggage. I guided them and tried picking a bag when I was again asked not to! So, we were escorted to the guest house across the road by the person at the reception followed by two folks who were probably contract hires who carried our luggage. The guest house had a few rooms. It was nothing like we had ever seen before. The room began with a sit out area, a hall, and a humongous bedroom with probably a double king size bed. It had a separate kerosene heater to keep us warm throughout the night. We felt over the moon looking at what we landed into.

I do not remember how many times we wondered, what we ever did to deserve so much from people who are already do a ton of respectful work, day in and day out. We were treated to some amazing chapati with gobi and curry and dal chawal. The in-house cook asked if we needed anything else which he was ready to prepare. We thanked him and asked if someone could light up the heater and we called it a night! We were asked to report back at the camp by 8AM the following day.

I was kind of upset for what had happened with the bike and suggested we cut short the trip and go back. But Chaitra persisted that we did not come all the way till there just to go back. She was sad as well, but then, may be staying here was in our destiny. When else in our lives would we get a chance to stay even for few hours at a BRO camp?

A few pics from the day
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To be continued

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Day 8 | 9th Sep 2014 | Hanle

The next morning, we woke up early and freshened up. The breakfast was ready, and we ate all we could to the brim of the throat I must say! It was more than a week since we came across such tasty food and the cook was also happy to feed us. We reported at the reception sharp by 8AM and were escorted to the workshop manager’s office. The manager looked at us, made us sit in his office and asked someone to get something (we were hoping its nothing to eat). He chit-chatted for some time, asked about our trip etc. He was happy that we had ventured on this trip and meet us in general. We were then offered a tray full of badam, cashews, and other dry fruits along with a cup (rather a small bucket I’d say!) of tea and some spicy mixture. We had not eaten so much over the past week as we had for the dinner and breakfast! We respectfully declined saying it would not fit into our stomach sir. He immediately said, look at yourselves! How will you survive this cold weather outside, you need all these. We were treated no less than kids, I must add. We managed to eat some, and he could see our predicament and ended up laughing. Meanwhile, our humble bike's tyre was getting its tube replaced in the nearby garage where these huge machines which are used in case of landslides were serviced. I offered help, but again was declined. The manager said, we repair such huge machines that our boys will easily repair your bike. And so they did. Once that was done, we thanked the workshop manager and his team for the help. We went to meet up with the camp chief Mr. S. The office was easily twice or thrice the size of the biggest corporate board room I have seen! Had one more round of chai when he spoke of the difficult life they have in that region. Come late October, the entire region will be snow clad and they will have to depend on the frozen food for the next few months. They live in very harsh conditions. We thanked each of them profusely. Went back to the room to check out and paid a very nominal sum (probably a couple hundred including food) for the room and left for Hanle.

When we were close to Hanle, probably a couple of kilometers away from the actual village, we came across a few army trucks parked on the Y junction. We wanted to make sure that the direction in which we were headed was indeed taking us towards Hanle. I could see a couple of army men walking around and so, we walked up to the truck to confirm the route. We were told that we were on the right direction. The way the soldier spoke, am sure he was someone in charge of the team there. Just as we thanked him and turned, he called us back saying “itni jaldi kya hai, kaha jaa rahe ho?” I was a little taken aback and answered Hanle. He smiled and said he knows that now. He turned back and called out for someone (by now my heart started pounding fast wondering what we are in for now!). He loudly asked if breakfast is ready and “we have guests”. I did not know to laugh or cry for he gave me a heart attack a split second ago! We politely refused saying we are so full that we could not have anything to eat anymore for the day! By then he got a negative reply from his team for which he asked us to stay back at least for tea! I again told him, even a drop of water goes inside, my stomach will burst! He started laughing and took a Real fruit juice tetra pack of 2 ltrs and gave it to me (as in just handed it to me like nothing doing, take this). “Ab is pe na mat bolo. Akele ho, kaam ayegi” he said. I was shell shocked! I said, you guys will need this more than us for which he replied “hamari chinta mat karo, hum manage karlenge. Bas na mat karo”. Any more words from him and am sure I would have cried that day! I had never come across such selfless folks in my life, ever! We were (and are) proud of them! We thanked them profusely again and bid adieu.

We landed at the Padma Diskit lodge at Hanle village. It was a small village with hardly about 20 houses in all. We were very eager to go see the telescope and did not want to be late lest they close the center for the day. It was around 1PM when we went to visit the telescope center. To our dismay, it was under maintenance. There were few scientists inside who were very busily working on something and were kind of disturbed by the visitors. One of them was kind enough to show us around and took us to the place where the telescope was located. But our hopes of looking at some celestial bodies through the device was crushed. After spending not more than half an hour there, we headed back to the guest house. On our way back we observed that the clouds seemed so close to the earth. May be because Hanle is situated at such high altitude, we wondered. The weather was a strange combination that day – blazing sun, but at the same time breezy and cold! When we reached the guest house, the lady who managed the place gave us two buckets of piping hot water. It was an amazing bath after a very long time. It kind of washed away all the disappointments of the day. It was still afternoon and that meant we still had half a day with nothing to do at this quiet place. And for Chaitra that meant, drowning herself in the half-finished book. I just roamed around, as usual sat and admired the bike for a while, and finally the dawn had handed over the duties to the dusk. The night was starry and beautiful. No sign of pollution anywhere and we could see a clear sky with sparkling stars all over!

Some images of the day –
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Hanle Observatory
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Love is in the air
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Day 9 | 10th Sep 2014 – Hanle to Tso Moriri - Sumdo

We bought some petrol (at a pretty high price) at the guest house, refilled our cans, packed our breakfast and said our tata - bye byes to Hanle. This day's route was like this -
Hanle – Tso Moriri 155 Kms | Loma 49km -> Nyoma 20km -> Mahe 23km -> Sumdo 10km -> Karzok 53km -> Tso Moriri

At around 9:30 may be close to Loma, we stopped for breakfast on the road, in the middle of nowhere. Absolute silence, light wind, lots of sun and delicious Alu Paratha with pickle. No words to describe, it was a heavenly experience. This was one of the best things about Hanle visit - only next to the amazing hot water bath. I wondered how often in our daily lives do I stop to admire and be grateful for such seemingly small things - hot water bath, nice breakfast, hot cup of chai etc. Here at this remote place, I came close to such oft overlooked pleasures of day-to-day life.

Breakfast with real fruit juice tetra pack which the army men gave us
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The next stop was Tso Moriri. We reached the place pretty early, by 1pm with no major hiccups on the way. But the road towards the guest houses near Tso Moriri had our hidden monsters come out. We did not want to and could not afford to have one more puncture. We thought that Tso Morriri would be best enjoyed for half an hour from wherever we were standing. This was a beautiful lake as well. We clicked few pictures and had no intentions to stay back. So, we headed back to Sumdo, where we rented a room on a road-side guest house and spent the night.

Some images –
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Day 10 | 11th Sep 2014 | Sumdo to Jispa

We were running out of time. We were now left with only two days to reach Manali and board our bus to Chandigarh. Since we had spent a planned extra day at Pangong and an unplanned extra day at Nyoma, we had to reach Jispa at any cost. So, we had a long day ahead. The route for the day was
Sumdo – Jispa 261Kms | Pologonka La 21km -> Tso Kar 22km -> Debring Cut 22km Pang 35km -> Lachulung La 19km -> Nakee La 13km -> Gata Loops 10km -> Sarchu 34km -> Baralacha La 36km -> Darcha 46km -> Jispa 6km

We left Sumdo and rode towards the Puga hot springs, spent a while there and continued with the journey towards Tso Kar. The roads or should I say lack of it, was becoming a concern. At some parts, I had to literally guess in which direction I had to ride the bike because there was absolutely no road! It was full of gravel, loose sand and small rocks. Many a times I encountered loose sand and had to slow down drastically else we would take a fall for sure. This was by far the worst stretch of road we had come across in our journey so far. On one such stretch, when we were climbing up a small hill and without a road in sight, we came across a steep gradient. The bike came to a stop and I could not get a sure footing on the gravel, we took a fall. Thankfully, nothing serious happened and we escaped with a couple of bruises. After a few more kilometers of the worst possible terrain, we finally saw an asphalted road!

Boy oh boy! I was elated to say the least and was thankful for the bike got us out of such a mess without any major issues!
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I just stopped the bike and gave my appreciation to the beast!
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The roads were much better from there on. We crossed Tso Kar and reached Debring expecting a rough ride similar to our onward journey. Surprisingly, a freshly laid tarmac welcomed us and we were more than happy to munch away mile after mile. We reached Pang pretty early, probably by 12 noon. We stopped for lunch (Maggi) and chai at the same tent we had halted the last time. The mother-daughter duo remembered us (the same fools who had forgotten their fuel cans ). After some time, we were back on road again. Passed swiftly through Lachulung La, Nakee La and the loops. Finally we were face to face with Baralacha La. The old memories were coming back to me. But surprisingly, this time around, Baralacha was different. There was hardly any snow. It had melted away by the time we had returned. We were covered in dust by the time we reached the peak!
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We crossed Baralacha La by 4pm. As we crossed Darcha, we came to the spot where our bike had got stuck earlier. This time we crossed that place easily (my heart was still racing till we crossed though). After Darcha, we had a mild scare of a puncture again. But it turned out to be a false alarm. We had one last look at the mountain and said silent goodbyes. We reached Jispa at around 5pm that evening and halted at the same Padma lodge once again. We thought the mountain adventures had finally come to an end. Little did we know that we would be proven blatantly wrong the next day.

Random image from the day
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Day 11 | 12th Sep 2014 | Jispa to Manali

We woke up a little late the next day, loosening our muscles, stretching a bit. This was the last day of the dream called Ladakh. By the time we checked out of the hotel it was 10AM. The itinerary was -
Jispa – Manali 140Kms |Keylong 23km-> Tandi 8km-> Gramphoo 44km -> Rohtang 14km -> Manali 51km

On the way back, the roads looked completely different. I did not remember having seen any bad roads when we started out the trip from Manali. We must have passed Tandi or Gramphoo when we saw a long queue of vehicles. Apparently, a bridge was under maintenance. There were vehicles piled up on both the sides of the bridge. It was around 1pm in the noon. We had no choice but to wait. And the wait seemed never-ending. To add to the wait, it started raining as well. By the time the bridge was operational, it must have been 3PM. The vehicles rushed from both the side. The rain got heavier. The road to Rohtang got muddier. There was slush of mud water at every turn. It must have rained like that for past couple of days damaging the roads completely. At one turn, the images we witnessed are still etched on our minds. If there was any adventure in the whole trip, it was that. The vehicles were just not able to move up with slush coming down in full force. Chaitra got down and was too scared to cross the slush and wait on the other side until I moved up. As I started, the bike got stuck in between and someone who was helping a lot of people, pushed the bike a little and I was able to wade through the slush. Chaitra was watching it, all the while praying. It was a dangerous place to get stuck or have a puncture or a breakdown etc. Turned out that we still had some luck on our side. It continued to rain till we ascended the Rohtang pass. It seemed like a very long journey, those 15-20 odd kms!! Finally, we were at the peak and stopped for some chai at the same ‘Lucky hot stop’. Chaitra suddenly realized that the shopkeeper’s face was similar to that of Huge Jackman!! I saw him again and yes, it indeed was similar to him! We had a nice laugh and had our chai. It must have been around 6PM by then. The sun was about to set, and the visibility was becoming low. We did not spend a lot of time at the peak this time and headed back to Manali. Even this seemed like a very long journey this time. We touched the finish line by 8pm and I could hear applauses, bursting crackers in my head. There came a real end to the trip. We handed over the bike and retired to bed.

Day 12a | 13th Sep 2014 | Manali to Chandigarh

The next day, we had till evening to catch our bus back to Chandigarh. After finishing all the unpacking and repacking, we just roamed around the main street of Manali and did a little shopping. We were in no mood to do any sight-seeing at Manali this time around as well. Probably because we had seen places and the memories of which were still running in endless loops on our minds. Any kind of sight-seeing would have only distracted us from relishing those memories for some more time. In the evening with heavy hearts, we boarded our bus to Manali.

Day 12b | 14th Sep 2014 | Bangalore

Arrived at Chandigarh and had an afternoon flight to catch to Bangalore via Delhi. We rented a room for few hours to freshen up, had breakfast and checked out to head to the airport. Finally landed in Bangalore at close to midnight.

To be continued

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Old 18th November 2020, 18:48   #4
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On a closing note,

Occasionally, I and Chaitra would look through these photos and relive the memories time and again. Both of us would suddenly remember those conversations, anecdotes, and smile at those incidents. We are immensely grateful to all those people who helped us have this experience of a lifetime - our families, friends who helped with all the planning, colleagues who encouraged us and to our bodies for being fit and healthy and to the minds that find joy in such expeditions. Last but not the least by any measure, BRO and the Army folks we came across, we remain indebted to you for giving us once in a lifetime opportunity to create memories that for sure will last a lifetime!

A Request

To our fellow travelers, please do not litter. It was such a disheartening scene to see plastic cover, water bottles, liquor bottles etc lying around in Pangong especially. Its very easy to carry a spare bag and collect the waste in it, and dispose responsibly. Let us leave the place for generations to come.

Fallout of the trip -

After such an exciting journey, I absolutely fell in love with the Classic 350! The lazy ride, the low-end torque and the ease at which it rides, everything about it somehow got etched in my mind so much that I decided to go for a Royal Enfield! Little did I know that it will lead to another adventure of its own! That story for another time.

To end the blog on a high –

For people thinking of doing this ride, it is very safe and doable even if you are on a tight schedule irrespective of budget or age. I do not remember which place, but there was this old chap riding alone on a CD100 (yes, the very old Hero Honda CD100!) trying to cross a nalah. He looked not less than 60 I must say. I helped push the bike over and that is how I got to see him up close. The number plate was covered in muck, but he had the usual traveler’s luggage tied to the rear seat with the petrol cans and that’s how I figured he was not a local. If he could do it on a 100cc bike and at that age, am sure age or means of riding are just an excuse if we do it responsibly and with adequate precautions. Just know the limits, of yourself, of your partner, of your vehicle and everything that you come in touch with!

I am sure I want to be like him, no matter what age, saddle up and vroom on. Peace!
The Pilgrim1424 ®

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Old 20th November 2020, 11:54   #5
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Do you think we can take a Honda Jazz Automatic to such places. How are the roads, can we manage to drive a small hatchback or we really need a 4x4 or bikes
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Old 20th November 2020, 12:10   #6
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My cancellation of trip to Ladakh this past September hurts the most of all covid-19 effects.

Lovely travelogue! Never thought of going here on a bike but it surely is a unique experience. Is it possible to rent bikes for a day in Ladakh?
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Old 20th November 2020, 12:26   #7
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Wow, what an amazing travelogue and beautiful pictures. It felt like I visited those places with you. Congrats on completing an amazing journey!!
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Old 20th November 2020, 13:06   #8
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Originally Posted by rahulskumar View Post
Do you think we can take a Honda Jazz Automatic to such places. How are the roads, can we manage to drive a small hatchback or we really need a 4x4 or bikes
I have seen plenty of hatchbacks making the trip. In fact, there are a lot of taxis in Leh which are hatchbacks. So am sure you can manage with the hatchback.

There are however a few places where you will have to carefully manoeuvre to avoid damages to the car, but otherwise its a place where you can go in any car which is decently maintained. You don''t need a 4x4 or a bike for it. I have seen Alto, Figo, Omnis doing rounds in the region. A few sedans as well like the Optra and Cruze!

But there are rules like you need to own the vehicle (as in the RC should be in your name). Brother's vehicle, mamaji's vehicle, or a zoom car from outside of Leh etc will not be allowed (rules keep changing and need to check before you take your vehicle there).
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Old 20th November 2020, 13:21   #9
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Originally Posted by AnandB View Post
My cancellation of trip to Ladakh this past September hurts the most of all covid-19 effects.

Lovely travelogue! Never thought of going here on a bike but it surely is a unique experience. Is it possible to rent bikes for a day in Ladakh?
Thank you! And yeah, I know how it hurts when such a trip gets cancelled mate! Hope you get to do it soon

Riding on bike there was absolute fun to say the least! you can explore the dirt tracks as well when on bikes and that is a thrilling adventure

There are lots of options to rent bikes from Leh. REs were abundantly available. I did see Avengers, Apache and a few other bikes as well. You can take it for a day and visit the local attractions or take it for a couple of days and visit Nubra or Pangong.

If you are planning to do it from Manali, you will have to check if they are allowing rental vehicles in Leh. I am not abreast of the latest rules there and they keep changing often as well. Even in Manali, they take bikes on rent for a day and visit the Solang valley and Rohtang Pass. So, plenty of options to choose from.
thepilgrim1424 is offline   (1) Thanks
Old 20th November 2020, 23:27   #10
Join Date: Jun 2020
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Default Re: Ladakh ride on an Enfield Bullet

Wow man, you almost took me for a ride along with made me jealous with your travelogue, you made me admire the place with your pics and narration...made my day, Thank you dear...!
sidhu.algods is online now   (1) Thanks

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