|| प्रियांका प्रसन्न ||
(Thanks to permission from my wife, Priyanka, for this ride!)
If there was one road trip that was always high on my bucket list, It was a trip to Ladakh on a motorcycle.
The dream unfolded in September, 2015. A 3 week long leave from work and of course permission from my wife was all that needed. It's all you need in life any ways! Wait a minute...How can we forget the Old Monk from Ladakh, It was for his blessings that made our trip all the more memorable!
Parag, my colleague and a good friend joined me for the ride.
Parag, my colleague and a good friend joined me for the ride.
So here is how it went...
The plan was to transport the bike through train via parcel to Jammu. Then take a train to Jammu and start riding from there on. Of the two possible approaches to Ladakh, the Srinagar-Leh was the preferable one, mainly due to the gradual ascent and less trouble having altitude sickness. The other route, Manali - Leh, although much interesting, it's unpredictable in terms of weather and road conditions and also chances of suffering from altitude sickness were more.
From Jammu onwards the route that we took was...
Jammu - Srinagar - Kargil - Mulbekh - Leh - Khardung La - Nubra Valley - Leh - Chang la - Pangong Lake - Marsimik La - Spangmik - Merak - Tsaga - Chusul- Loma - Hanle - Kyun Tso -Salsa La - Chumur plains - Tso Moriri Lake - Tso Kar Lake - Sarchu - Keylong - Rohtang La - Manali - Kullu - Chandigarh - Panipat - Rohtak - Jaipur - Ajmer - Mount Abu - Ahemdabad - Surat - Mumbai - Pune
DAY 1 & 2
The 40 hour train journey
The 40 hour train journey
Started the journey form Pune. Took the Pune-Jammu Jhelum express. It was my longest train journey so far. 40 odd hours on train! Decided to make it more adventurous by booking a II class ticket instead of a more comfortable AC ticket. A train journey is always exciting in India and this was no different. The route passed through some beautiful landscapes in Madhya Pradesh. It got a bit crowded around Delhi though. Also met few interesting army men in the train and it was good to hear some interesting stories from them. So overall, it was an exciting start to the trip
BTW, It was because of the blessings of an old monk, we could enjoy the train journey in all its grandeur! :)
|The 40 hour journey from Pune to Jammu|
Jammu - Patnitop
Reached Jammu at around 10 in the morning. Got the bikes from parcel office without much problems and pushed them to the nearest petrol station. It was real hot weather in Jammu. Once we got the fuel, we set on towards Udhampur from where on we started to climb the ghat roads.
|The ride starts!|
|The great highway towards Udhampur. In those hills, Vaishno Devi shrine is located|
Escaping the hot weather of Jammu and entering the cooler Patni top area
|Way to Patni top|
After a tiring train journey and the hot weather, it was quite a relaxing time at Patnitop area. The JKTDC is an excellent place to stay with a huge area. After a quick dinner, settled for the night
The night was also blessed by the old monk.
|A nice looking cottage at JKTDC|
Patnitop - Srinagar
After a good sleep, got up early and started for our next destination, Srinagar but not before a delicious aloo paratha for breakfast
|No great trip ever happened without good food!|
So after having the breakfast moved up and down the winding roads, crossing the Jawahar Tunnel to this view...That's a first look at the Kashmir Valley
|Kashmir Valley first look from Titanic view point|
|The panoramic valley|
|The beautiful shikaras|
|The laid back ride|
|A fruit seller stopped by|
|Spot the lily|
|The calm lake|
|Those famous house boats|
|The gorgeous sunset|
|The mouth watering spread|
SRINAGAR - SONMARG
After starting from Srinagar, there was an initial plan to cross Zoji la pass the same day. We started from Srinagar early morning. The road to Sonmarg is quite beautiful and sure to bring you into cheerful mood. The beautiful Sindhu/Indus river gives you company throughout
|A break on the way to Sonmarg|
Once we were at Sonmarg, we were awestruck by the beauty of the place and decided to stay back. Had read about the JKTDC bungalows near the Thajiwas glacier so enquired and booked one of the bungalow and headed straight to the place. The Thajiwas glacier is quite popular with tourists in general
|The picturesque JKTDC office at Sonmarg|
|The view from the balcony|
|Our bungalow with a beautiful backdrop|
A beautiful lake en route to Thajiwar glacier...
A light hike and some great views...
The old monk again appeared and blessed us, we slept with no problems after that.
SONMARG - ZOJI LA - MULBEKH
SONMARG - ZOJI LA - MULBEKH
No soon we started from Sonmarg, hoping to cross the Zoji la pass soon, Parag's bike encountered few problems with pickup. The pickup trouble somehow persisted all throughout the trip when none of the mechanics could diagnose the problem.
Had a quick breakfast of omelette and ladakhi bread and pushed off towards Zoji la pass
The pass started no sooner we left Sonamarg, the climb to the pass started here ...
|Stopped to have a look around|
That's the mighty Zoji la pass..quite intimidating indeed...once you cross the pass, you enter into Ladakh region
|Notice the army trucks on the right side corner of the road?|
The army trucks all lined up to come down the pass
Now, that small stretch could be nerve-racking!
And finally we climbed the Zoji la pass...We were quite lucky to get a traffic free and slush free passage...have seen worse pics of the pass but luckily wasn't to be the case with us
|Parag enjoying his time at the top|
And officially we were in Ladakh now :)
The breathtaking entry into Ladakh!
|The grand entry into Ladakh|
Some awesome looking roads
Reached Drass. The original plan was to ride into Zanskar valley taking the Umba la pass from here but due to problems with Parag's bike we decided to head straight towards Leh. That also meant we had to abandon our Zanskar valley plans :(
Zanskar anyways need a good separate trip so something for the next time
|Wasn't that cold though...|
A visit to Kargil war memorial is a must. Felt very proud of how our soldiers fought hard and defended our heights and re-captured our posts against impossible odds. A proud feeling indeed.
The famous tiger hill on the right. The war was also testimony to courage of Captain Vikram Batra and others who laid down their lives defending the country. A visit to the very well kept war memorial is a proud feeling. There's also a cafe serving tea/coffee and snacks at nominal rates
The route towads Kargil...Surreal feeling!
Beautiful backdrops along the road...
Amazing landscapes after Kargil towards Leh
It was getting quite dark when we reached Mulbekh. Decided to stay one of the guest houses there. It was a very warm and welcoming Ladakhi family. Mulbekh I felt was located at kind of crossroad between the Muslim culture and Buddhist culture.
MULBEKH - LEH
MULBEKH - LEH
Left early after a quick tea and breakfast towards Leh, The overall road from Srinagar to Leh is in excellent condition and quite breathtaking
|The view from guest house in Mulbekh|
The kids at the Ladakhi house
Namki La: One of the few passes that you come across en route Leh. These passes don't seem much compared to the Zoji la
Some amazing barren landscapes...
Fotula pass: Another of those little passes
After some time we could see the Lamayuru monastery and the little village...a picture perfect village
The place is also known as moon land because of the strange moon like terrain here...
Beautiful roads...amazing weather...a ride too good!
The blue waters of Indus river
Straight roads as we approached Leh...
We quickly went to the DC office to obtain permits for Chusul-Hanle stretch. The luck favoured us and we got the required permits after spending about 2 good hours at the office as the required officer was busy. After the permits thing was sorted out, we checked in into a guest house by name Aisha. 500 per room with running hot water and free wifi was all that we needed. As we were tired, took rest for the rest of the day
|Fantastic stretch of roads upto Leh|
LEH - KHARDUNG LA - NUBRA VALLEY
LEH - KHARDUNG LA - NUBRA VALLEY
After a good breakfast at a nearby bakery, headed straight to Khardung la...
The road immediately starts climbing from Leh city towards Khardung La
The snowcapped mountains begin to appear before the pass
Finally at the Khardung la pass...
|Bike parked at the pass|
The Khardungla is claimed to be the highest motorable road but there are quite a few that beat it...
Marsimik la, which we did conquer later on is the highest pass in Ladakh. Mana pass in Uttarakhand is still higher...that goes for another trip!
|The customary photo at the pass|
|Some snow at the top|
A momo break while going down to Nubra/Hunder
The gorgeous looking water body near Hunder
Another shot of the lake/pond
The famous sand dunes of Hunder start to appear
The sand dunes
The famous two humped Mongolian camels. Most probably left out by people travelling on the silk route
Met a group a monks who plucked some wild leh berrys for me and told me about the rich medicinal properties of it. It seems it 10 times medicinal than Amla and known to have anti-cancerous properties
The Leh Berry grown in the wild
The old monk of Ladakh didn't disappoint and as usual blessed us both. Rest I don't quite remember...
HUNDER - LEH
Although there is a road between Nubra valley connecting directly to Pangong Lake via Shayok, the condition remains questionable. We also had kept a bit of luggage at Leh so had to head back
Photo-op on that flat road
Leh city at the night. Thers is the Leh palace and mosque. Forgive me for the poor quality photo from my phone
LEH - Rest day
Tired from back to back rides, we decided to take a rest day at Leh. Also, we took the opportunity to sort out our bike problems to an extent
LEH - CHANG LA - PANGONG LAKE/SPANGMIK
The excitement of getting to Pangong was quite high. Via Leh-Karu we started to climb the Chang la pass
|Monastery near Karu|
The mighty Changla pass!
The road from Changla onwards was quite scenic and pure treat to eyes and the mind
Few Marmot encounters on the way to Pangong
Another of the marmot gang...they were quite habitual to human presence there
The first view of Pangong lake!
And here was the first wide view of the lake...quite stunning indeed but also bit more touristy thanks to the movie Three Idiots, which was shot here. Such places should be banned for shooting movies so they aren't commercialized so much(Quite a selfish thought, I know!) Nevertheless, its a great place to visit.
Almost 3/4th of the lake lies in China
The prayer stones
Marsimik La: The Highest motor able pass in the world at 18953 ft
Got up early to see the mesmerizing sunrise...somewhere behind those mountains is China.
Today was the day to climb Marsimik la. Left early in the morning after a good breakfast towards Phobrang via Lukung. There is an ITBP post near Phobrang where one has to produce the permits.
Camera and equipment has to be kept with them. Somehow forgot to keep my phone with them :)
|Good morning Spangmik!|
|The guest house where we stayed at Spangmik|
|Breakfast before heading to Marsimik la|
|Clear blue water of the lake|
18953 ft! Highest motor able pass in the world...It was an awesome feeling
The bike at Marsimik La
The structures at the pass
Enjoying my time at the pass
Parag cherishing the time at the top!
Coming down to Phobrang
The flat bed near the Pangong lake
Spend some time at the lake
|Cute little kid at Spangmik|
Some mandatory posing at the lake...
Three idiots point is what it is called now
|Somebody was having a great time here!|
Some night time shots at Spangmik
SPANGMIK - MERAK - CHUSUL - TSAGA - LOMA - HANLE
Today was the start of the real adventure filled roads minus the crowds. Thanks to the acquired permits, headed towards Merak, where there is a police checkpost and also it's a last village on the bank of the lake before the road turns away from the lake
The prayer stones against the backdrop of the lake
Cyrstal clear water of the lake
The road winds along the lake till Merak
This is where you will have to show your permits, beyond this the road pretty much kisses along the Indo-China border
Chusul plains...There is also an airstrip here which is not activated as it is very very close to the border. Here, it is also one of the many border meeting points between the two armies.
The amazing Rezang La war memorial. It's a must visit place. It was a proud moment for me.
Famous for one Major Shaitan Singh. Read about it here and here
The track from Chusul to Tsaga is a delight
Nobody in sight! The excitement and exhilaration that comes from riding such remote stretches is unmatched!
A good looking lake on the left
The lake from wider angle
The amazing dirt track
The road is actually pink in color but probably not well captured in the photo
The road suddenly turns butter smooth from Tsaga
This also seems to be an airstrip, just before Loma
The beautiful Indus river entering into India. It comes from Demchok which is bang on the border. Permits are not issued for Demchok as it's quite a sensitive place
The lone Kiang
The bridge at Loma on Indus from where one has to take a left for Hanle
One super ride to Hanle!
I guess these are the Pashmina goats
Closer look at those goats
Something pink in between!
The Hanle monastery
The Hanle monastery as seen from Hanle observatory
The Hanle observatory that we visited
Some powerful telescopes in pollution free environment
A curious goat!
We stayed at Padma guest house at Hanle. Sonam Dorje, the host is quite welcoming and works at the observatory. The next day was going to be THE day i was waiting for. To take a dirt track to little known Kyun Tso lake, climb down Salsa la pass and through Chumur plains go straight up to Tso Moriri lake
HANLE - KYUN TSO - SALSA LA - CHUMUR PLAINS - TSO MORIRI - TSO KAR
This was going to be most exciting day of the trip and a long one too through one of the most deserted roads. We didn't see any vehicle cross by. I had heard about this route and also read a bit about it. The margin for error is very less on this route. Any deviation might land up you in trouble here as this place is very near to the border and the border posts. Mainly because it is a sensitive sector of the border. The permits are not issued any more for Chumur. So after a filling breakfast, we left Sonam's place.
|Another aloo paratha day!|
|The kitchen lined up with chinese crockery at Sonam Dorje's guest house|
|Leaving the Padma guest house|
The beautiful landscape...We were look out for any wildlife sighting
A short break
The every amazing landscape
So beautiful...unlike anything i had seen in my all my life!
You can't ask for a better weather!
One of the lonely kiang for company
The first sight of Kyun Tso lake. Not sure whether its a salty or fresh water but the lake seems at higher altitude
Parag capturing the beauty
It isn't easy here!
The salsa la pass
The Chumur plains - It's a vast plain area with what looked liked a dried wetland. There were few tyre marks made by army trucks that we decided to follow. The path for about 2-3 km is absolutely treacherous. Our bikes were getting stuck all the time. Had to get off and push the bike inch by inch, it was one hell of an effort to get the bike out of this stretch. Riding on grass was also fruitless. It almost took us good more than an hour or so to cross the stretch
|Great looking treacherous road!|
The sand almost killed us!
One army truck did pass us at that time...they were quite bewildered to see us here but they too didn't stop the truck out of fear of getting stuck I guess
Once you cross this stretch you kind of get a heavenly feel as you hit the Chumur-Karzok road
Ahhaa! The Tso Moriri lake making an appearance
The route gives a beautiful perspective of the the lake
The beautiful Tso Moriri. This I suppose is the biggest fresh water lake in all of Ladakh
The clean blue water of the lake
The lake is a real beauty
A kiang seems to agree
Mesmerizing backdrop to a beautiful lake
The pack of kiangs running beside the lake
Decided to call it a day at Tso Kar
TSO KAR - KEYLONG
Left Tso-kar in the morning and joined the Manali-Leh road. From where on it was one pass after another. The route is no doubt one of the most breathtaking journeys in India
Not sure what it is called but its quite an unique thing
One of the first passes that we encountered on the route
Meet the "Wandering wasp", Juvena from Singapore. She in indeed an inspiration to us. She is travelling all lone and has been riding from Singapore all alone! Kudos to her...
Check out the Wandering Wasp journey
The famous gata loops...
We got a surprise visitor here!
A rare sighting of a group of Ibex
Another curious fellow...
A closer look....
The weather turned pretty bad just before the infamous Baralacha la pass with a mild snow fall
Suraj tal on the way down
Deepak tal just ahead of Suraj tal
The cloudy weather that came in from the plains
Amazing scenery in Lahual valley, just before Keylong
Mind blowing scenery on the way to Keylong
The halt at Keylong
KEYLONG - KULLU
|Great looking valley|
Reached Kullu totally drenched!
It was time to look after the tummy now...Delicious chicken tandoori!
The last thing that we remember in Kullu was taking this photo and then somehow things got blurry after that! :)
KULLU - CHANDIGARH - PANIPAT
As we were having time on our hands, decided to ride back home and forego with the initial plan of taking a plane to Mumbai
|The great views...|
|Another great looking aloo paratha at Mandi|
PANIPAT - ROHTAK - JAIPUR - AJMER
We both couldn't finish it!
Welcome to Jatland!
Chhora...tanne toh ek jalebi bhi na khana aata...
Bawale chhorre aayein Pune se...
|Maro pranam tau ji!|
AJMER - MOUNT ABU
Took a de-tour to Mount Abu as it was just 25 km off the highway
|No more aloo paratha!|
Mount Abu is a true oasis for people of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Its suddenly a huge mountain out of nowhere!
The entrance to Mount Abu...Wonder what Shiv Sena is doing here :)
The pleasant Nakki lake
It was one huge gathering to witness the sunset...watching the big crowd was more fun than the sunset
The oasis in the middle of nowhere
Never imagined such a lush jungle in Rajasthan!
DAY 20 & 21
MOUNT ABU - SURAT
Stayed at my Mama's place and took a days rest
SURAT - MUMBAI - PUNE
|Great looking highway before Mumbai|
One helluva ride!!