Day 11 – Adios Leh! – Leh – Pang

I spent next day walking around in Leh and tried Thukpa(Tibetan cuisine). Food is usually good in Leh but prices are generally high. Meanwhile I managed to find an optician and got new spectacles made.

It was time to head back. We could not go to lot of the places on our itinerary like Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri, still this was one trip that I will remember for my entire life. It’s because of the company! The college buddies were back, possibly for our last trip together.

Since we could not visit most of the places we decided to ride slow and enjoy the scenery.

Mesmerizing, isn’t it? Can’t remember where I clicked this. Set this as your wallpaper right now 🙂

Dusty

Always far from home! This was a small watch tower on top of Gata Loops. That line had me thinking for a while to quit everything and run away!

During my last long ride, I had seen a river flowing between two mountains (near jog falls) covered with trees. Here the mountains were naked. Stopped here just to compare them.

Enough of the view! I need to go down and feel the cold water now.

A herd of sheep.

Baralacha is near

Reached Pang, around 3 pm. Decided to halt here, got the same tent.

Day 9-10 – Khardung la – Shanti Stupa

There was a marathon from Khardungla to Leh so the the roads were closed for first half. I could barely walk there, wonder how people managed to run. Leh also has less oxygen as per my experience. It is nearly 55 km from Leh. Half of the road is good and rest is gravel.

Next day we went to Shanti Stupa. One has to climb nearly 200 steps to reach the stupa. After climbing only 20 steps I was panting.

Yesssss!

I went for shopping in the evening and bought a shawl and a muffler for my parents.

Day 8 – Look ma snow!

Day 7 was spent mostly on bed as I was down with cold.

Since most of us were tired of riding on gravel, we decided to hire a taxi to go to Pangong Tso, which we never reached. We started at 6:30am for Pangong Tso. Once we crosses Shey village and started the ascend to Changla pass, we noticed snow. This was an unexpected but a pleasant surprise 🙂 We quickly got down and clicked some photos. None of us had ever seen snow fall.

Notice that there is no snow on road now

Once we climbed a little more it started to snow. Within 10 minutes everything was covered with snow.

After seeing this photo, we realized that everyone was wearing blue jeans and brown shoes 🙂

I was shivering with cold.

Shatimaan trucks. These military trucks are everywhere and they don’t give a shit about roads, no roads, gravel, snow, or water. Hence the name 🙂

Smiley.

The taxi had really bad tires and it was struggling in the snow. After waiting for couple of hours for the snowfall to subside, we finally decided to head back to Leh since we were not even half way through.

Day 6 – Leh!

Paji had started to feel better. We had breakfast and then we left for Leh.

Tents at Pang

Once you leave Pang, the roads are really good and you can ride as fast as your bike can. My avy could only do 70-80. The power had reduced drastically. However there was no problem in start whatsoever, since it did not come with a kick start, I was worried about it.

Plains in the mountain. This was an unbelievable sight.

There was bad patch of 15 km and for some parts it felt like an endless rumble strip. Once it ended we reached Taglangla pass. We clicked some photos. I started to fell nauseated after couple of minutes. So I started to descend immediately.

After riding for another 50 km, the color of mountains became little red. There were couple of small villages and some vegetation. We were approaching Leh.

A river to give you company

Can’t remember what I was trying to do 🙂

First sight of Indus river. One on my friend’s name is Indus. He did not know that he will encounter Indus river. He was delighted like a baby.

We reached Leh around 5pm. Found a guest house to stay. It was surprisingly cheap, Rs 700 a room, which was really neat but lacked TV which anyways we did not care about. It had apple tree. I was so happy to see an apple tree. I asked for the owner’s permission if I could take a few 🙂 to which the lady said yes!

Day 5 – AMS Day – Sarchu – Pang

We forgot to take Diamox in Sarchu. It was so cold that we could only think about eating and snuggling inside our beds.

Woke up to here 🙂

We had initially planned to reach Leh. We started around 8:30 am. Right after we left the tent we were greeted by some of the beautiful sights.

The roads are good for around 15 kms, after that there is only gravel for till Pang (~50km). Once you start ascending Gata Loops, you will ascend by 1500ft in a matter of 45 minutes. We were greeted by a company of military trucks. They must be in 100s. Since the roads are mostly single lane, so you have to stop and let them pass. Once we descended we could still see lots of trucks coming.

One of the guys started to feel severe headache and problems in breathing. There was a small tent there which offered some food. We had breakfast and my friend just lied down. We were really worried. We stopped there for more than 1 hour to let him relax. Since the place we were at had only a couple of tents we decided to move on and find a better place to stay. Pang was roughly 25 km from there. It took us another 2 hours to reach there. We took a couple of breaks. This is where we started to doubt our decision to come to Leh altogether. It was not a good sight.

Paji trying to bear with the headache. The guy is a body builder and is in really good shape, works out for 2 hours every day without fail. So AMS can happen to anyone.

During a break.

Bluest and cleanest water I have ever seen, was cold too.

We reached Pang at around 2pm and decided to call it a day. We got a tent and asked Paji to lie down. He could not sleep. Pang is essentially a military camp with couple of tents. We took Paji to the doctors there and the prescribed Diamox. He was also given oxygen to breathe. There were so many AMS patients, mostly bikers. I really feel for the military folks, they must be so annoyed with so many travelers coming in, still they were really patient and kind.

Paji was okay till he was on oxygen supply. After 6-7 hours diamox kicked in and he felt better. Pang is at nearly 15000 ft. Please avoid staying there.

Day 4 – From greenery to no vegetation (Koksar-Sarchu)

Woke up to realize where we were. It was extremely beautiful with sun shining brilliantly between mountains, a river flowing by, a waterfall. It was a welcome surprise from the last day’s ride in mud. Roads were good for most part of the ride till Baralacha pass. You will also encounter a number of streams flowing on the road. The rubber boots were very useful.

All of the bridges will be similar to this one made of just iron and iron sheets lying on them. Only one vehicle can use it at a time.

Refuelled at Tandi. We also got minor repairs done here. Keylong, which is ~10km here, is the last place where you can get motorcycle repairs shops and ATM machines.

Once you cross Jispa, you will not see any vegetation, only some sort of grass. The mountains are barren with snow on top.

A block of ice near Baralacha pass. It was hard quite hard.

Once you start descending, the roads are terrible. Sarachu is only 40 km from here, but it took more than 2 hours to reach there. We reached around 8pm. Got a tent. It was really cold there.

After living in Bangalore for 4 years, I had forgotten what cold felt like. I went inside dropped my riding jacket and shoes and pulled 3 quilts on top of myself. After a few minutes I was not able to breathe properly. Finally I removed one quilt. This is where AMS had started to set in. I was panting all the time, taking deep breaths in between to calm down my breathing. My feet were very cold, I kept rubbing my hands to warm them, but it did not help. My socks were so cold that I was not able to figure out if it was just cold or wet as well.

Also I broke my spectacles here, and I had to ride to Leh without them. If you wear spectacles carry an extra pair.

Day 3 – The adventure begins – Manali – Koksar

We had reached Manali on a Sunday. Shops are closed on Sunday, so we could not buy most of the stuff, which meant we could not start early. The shops opened around 9:30 am. We bought bungee cords, plastic sheets, rubber shoes and plastic cans for carrying petrol. We went back to the hotel and by the time we started it was 1 pm already.

Once we started ascending the ghats it started raining. We stopped to wear our rain coats. This got us thinking if we should ride that day or go back and start early the day after. After 10 minutes of discussion we were back on our bikes riding towards Rohtang. The rain had slowed us down a lot.

Snow!

Brothers

We reached Rohtang top around 5 pm just in time to capture the sunset. The rain had stopped and sun was out of the clouds to finally set again.

We had mutton and rice here. It was delicious!

We met some folks riding back to Manali. I enquired about the road condition. These are his exact words:

"The roads are good for 2-3 kilometers. Then its muddy. First till 
here (pointing towards his ankle), then here (pointing towards his
 calf). You are going to enjoy it."

Now in hindi:

"2-3 km tak road acha hai. Fir kichad hai, pehle itna, fir itna. 
Jao jao bahut mazaa ane wala hai".

All this while he was giggling. We looked at each other faces and then started riding again.

The roads were terrible. Its was barely 20-25 km to Koksar which took us more than 2 hours. Also there was a truck that was overturned. We later found out that it had happened early in the morning that day and road was blocked for over 3 hours.

The guys were apt in the description of the road. It was dark, cold and muddy. Sometimes the tyres will just slip and we had to stand and push it through. We thanked ourselves for buying the rubber boots. They cost only Rs 300 but will save you from mud and water and will keep your legs dry. But your legs will freeze inside the rubber, still better than being wet.

Koksar is a small village. We managed to get get a homestay for Rs 350 a room. The owner of homestay was really helpful. It was warm and that is all we wanted. There were a couple of dhabas which offered decent food.

When I look back, I think it really was a mistake to start so late. More to follow.

Day 2 – Oh Manali!

I woke up early around 5 am. I looked out of the window to realize where I was sleeping, among the mountains and there was greenery all around. Suddenly the thought of bike came to my mind,  I rushed outside immediately to check if my bike was still there. Breathed a sigh of relief after I saw it. Went back, took bath and packed my stuff. Ready to ride!

Bilaspur Lake

I was delighted to see two enfields with Karnataka registration nos. They were equally delighted. Had a chat with them over breakfast. They too had faced the fog and snow on the day before. One of them said that his father had agreed for this ride on the condition that he will ride back to Bangalore. What a father! I was so jealous 🙂

My father has a simple answer for these things: “Kya jaroorat hai?”. (Why is it needed?)

Me: Papa, main leh jana chahta hun bike pe freinds ke sath. (I want to go to Leh on motorcycle with my friends.)
Papa: Kya jaroorat hai? (Why is it needed?)
Me: Speechless!

They were riding a little slow, so I decided to wave good bye to them and continued towards Manali. Had to take frequent breaks to capture these:

Should have tucked the t-shirt 😛

After a while I realized that I just can’t get enough of Himachal in this ride. Stop anywhere on this road and you just cant stop admiring the view!

Kullu

I reached Manali around Lunch time. Manali is also very beautiful and September seems to be apt for visiting Manali with your wife/girlfriend 🙂 It is less crowded and right after monsoons!

The other guys had already reached Manali and were haggling over deposit and rent of bikes with rental folks 😛 I was having fun at their expense!

Day 1 – The Misadventure Day

I went on this trip with 4 college friends whom I had managed to cajole into this. Flight tickets were booked from Bangalore to Chandigarh. I had already shipped my bike to Chandigarh using GATI which was waiting for me. We rented 3 more bikes from http://www.bikerentalsmanali.com/. We booked it there after testing it. Recommend others doing the same. If you have your own bike which is more than 200cc you should carry yours, saves the hassle of dealing with rentals and you can not really rely completely on rented bikes.

The journey begins:

I had called up a taxi guy for dropping us to Airport and I had specifically mentioned to send Innova. To our surprise a Tempo Traveller showed up 15 minutes late in the morning. Lesson learned – don’t call up unknown taxi guys use ola cabs/easy cabs and prebook your ride. It was an unbelievable drive to Airport. We started at around 6:30 am and we were discussing if we will be able to reach on time. Flight was scheduled to depart at 8:30 am. It was a fun ride though, we kept laughing our asses off during the ride discussing whether we should hire it to drop us to Chandigarh in case we miss the flight. The dude dropped us in 45 minutes from Bommanahalli(Silk board) to Airport. Amazing isn’t it!

We reached Chandigarh around 2 pm. Indus(my friend) and I rushed to GATI to pick my bike, without helmets of course! In Chandigarh, pillion is also supposed to wear helmets. GATI did an amazing job of packing my bike. Indicator switch got messed up a little but there was not a single scratch on it. Now we were discussing on whether we should go out and buy two cheap helmets or try to dodge the police. Obviously we took the second choice. We dodged two police jeeps. One of them was standing under a tree to beat the heat. They were looking at us, so we decided to look the other way and rode past them 😀 Then we rode beside a bus to dodge the other one. Make sure you buy a turban in case you don’t have helmet 😀

We had lunch then I took off towards Bilaspur(140 km) for the night stay. Others were going to come on bus. I took the wrong road towards Manali instead of the Highway which caused an additional delay of 30 minutes. Dont trust google maps blindly. On my way out of Chandigarh, there was a police check point. I had all the papers in place and was also wearing helmet. This time I was so confident that I did not pay attention to the speed limits sign boards. I had to pay Rs 700 for over speeding. The speed limit is only 45 kmph. They don’t know how difficult it is for a bangalore guy to see an empty roads and ride so slow.

Finally reached the highway and then cruised at 80-100 for sometime. After that the ghat section started and so did my miseries for the day. There is a cement factory near Bilaspur so I was greeted with hundreds of trucks on the ghat. It was difficult to overtake them. And once it was dark the dust and fog reduced the visibility to less than 20 meters. On top of that there were big potholes. It was a stretch of only 60-70 km, but I was not able to cover it even in 3 hours. Finally I gave up, took refuge in a shady guest house. There was no separate parking space so I had to park on the road. I was just praying to see my bike in the morning. If you are doing this stretch in the evening, you should stop once you find decent accommodation. It is not worth riding at night with so much dust.

Chandigarh to Manali is doable in around 8-10 hours including breaks. So a better idea will be to start early from Chandigarh. Most of the trucks start in afternoon so if you can cover Bilaspur before 12, you should be good. Once you cross Bilaspur the roads will improve and you will be back to your normal speeds.

No photos for the day only More to follow 🙂