One of the world’s most dangerous roads!
Killar – Kishtwar Road!
Motorcyclists in India are very well versed with these terms but very few have experienced it in groups and even fewer have ridden on them alone! I am of one them to do it alone. The amount of preparation your motorcycle takes, the mental preparation of doing this ride is double of that.
So the plan was not that simple to do this ride. I had planned to do Ladakh via Kashmir and then come back from Manali but due to the scrapping of Section 370 in Kashmir, I cancelled my plan and started looking for alternatives. Below were the alternatives:
- Go via Manali by taking permit for Rohtang
- Go via Spiti Valley
- Go via Sach Pass – Killar Kishtwar Road – Pangi Valley
I eliminated Option 1 because I planned to come back from Rohtang. I even eliminated Option 2 because I had done Spiti Valley in September 2016. So the only option left was to go via Sach Pass. This was new and exciting for me. Adventure is what we bikers want and of course there is always a calculated risk but I never knew what I was getting into because I had never experienced it.
Day 1 – Delhi to Banikhet (588 kms) – 6 Sep 2019
Alarm went off at 4 am and I started getting ready in half sleep until the cold water shower woke me up completely. My bags were already packed, bike was already serviced and prepped for the ride, I just had to put on my clothes and sit on the bike. Till date I cannot tie a knot on single strand of thread, so my mom helped me to tie the customary prayer flags on my motorcycle. The bike started in a single crank and it seemed more ready for the trip than me.
Saying goodbye to my mom, I started this mammoth journey to the Himalayas. Getting out of Delhi was not at all a pain. At a traffic light, an uncle sitting in his car asked where was I heading to and I said ‘Ladakh’, to which he responded ‘All The Best’. The weather was humid, I was sweating a bit, so to cool things down I opened the zip of my riding jacket to let air enter inside. I had to navigate through a lot of diversions on National Highway 1 which led to the famous place where Delhites normally hang out when they are drunk and need to eat something in the midnight hours. Yes! Your guess is right, it is Murthal. Over the years I got sick of eating tasteless Murthal paranthas, so this time also I skipped Murthal went straight to 70 Milestone Dhaba which is just before Panipat and serves good breakfast.
After breakfast, I started munching miles quickly since the roads were in good condition and the weather was supportive. The moment I thought the weather is good today, Rain Gods changed their plan and it started raining somewhere near Ambala. I took shelter under one of the foot over bridges and wore my rain gear. Sorry Rain God! I have come prepared!
After Ambala, I took the diversion towards Amritsar and reached Jalandhar. From Jalandhar, I diverted to Pathankot highway which leads to Dalhousie. On this highway I found a Subway to feed my hunger. The sub was yummy. Yet again! One curious soul came to me and asked me about my travel plan. I told him that I am going to Ladakh and then he told me to avoid Kashmir route, in a worried tone. I assured him that I am not doing that route as I am going via Sach Pass. Anyways, I enjoyed my sub and jumped onto my bike to ride again towards the hills.
The hill climb started from Pathankot, the road conditions were decent enough to ride with least amount of traffic on the road. The air started to get cooler, the zip of my riding jacket started moving in the upward direction to block the flow of air which was cooler now. I reached Banikhet when it was almost dark, a small town just ahead of Dalhousie, got a room to stay for the night very easily. Thanks to my friend who provided me the details of the guest house. I wasted less time in searching for a shelter. This was the end of Day 1.
Day 2: Banikhet to Killar (175 kms) – 7 Sep 2019
This was the toughest day of my complete 14 day ride since I had to cross Sach Pass and head to Killar. There were no roads in this region. The road was full of sand, mud, slush, water crossing, stones and pebbles. I planned my departure from my stay in Banikhet well in time since I knew that it will take the complete day to reach Killar. The road from Banikhet to Bairagarh was decent and after that there is no road.
I had breakfast at Bairagarh and started my climb to Sach Pass. This meant the end of the road.
The weather was not that cold and luckily it was not raining which meant that I will not have water crossings to tackle on this treacherous route. I slowly and vigilantly rode my motorcycle since I was alone and any kind of mishap on this stretch could be dangerous. At the same time I was enjoying the scenic beauty and recording some parts of it in my Go Pro camera. The road conditions went from bad to worse. I took small breaks in order to re-energize myself to ride again and this helped a lot. Not to forget I kept drinking water to stay hydrated.
On my way to the top I asked a couple of taxi drivers about the route and yes, they were positive about the fact that the route was not easy. Then came the clouds, I felt I was in a dream and I was floating in the clouds. The temperature dropped sharply causing a bit of discomfort to me but still I managed to reach the top and unlocked the first achievement level of the trip.
I visited the temple at Sach Pass and thanked God for giving me the strength to do this. Then I started my descend to Killar which was even tougher. My bike tasted pebbles and rocks while going down. I also witnessed massive ice walls. All these scenes were very unique and since I was experiencing it for the first time, I was scared and excited at the same time.
Body fatigue urged me to have a small meal, so somewhere near Bogota Nallah (apparently it was all dry, so did not even notice), I took a break at a dhaba and had my favorite Rajma Chawal. That meal was a life saver for me, for the next 45 kms till Killar there was nothing to eat on the way. The off road kept me engaged throughout the ride and I was busy saving my motorcycle from hitting big stones. Couple of stones hit my feet but I was wearing steel toe boots, so I didn’t feel the impact of them. I reached Killar by around 5 pm in the evening. The view of the Chenab valley from my hotel room was amazing. I had a conversation with the hotel owner about the flow of tourists during season and other random topics to spend time. He told me that a batch of bikers was coming within two days since the weather was clear to cross Sach and he also told me about some daredevilry of some bikers crossing Sach at night as well, which literally shook me. Taking calculated risks is acceptable but taking a blind risk is stupidity according to me. Anyways! I had my dinner and slept. So this was Day 2. I want you all to see the full photos in landscape mode so putting up a slideshow. Enjoy!
Day 3: Killar to Jispa via Tandi (157 kms) – 8 Sep 2019
This day was also full of off road and I was fully prepared for it. I was riding on one of the world’s most dangerous roads and there was no margin for error. The scenes were as usual beautiful with almost zero traffic. The road was so narrow that only a single vehicle could pass through. God Bless! If you are coming in a four wheeler.
Now I will talk about the error part of this trip. While I was slowly going, a truck came in front of me on an inclined road, so I had to move to the side of the road to give it space. Unknowingly, my rear tire got stuck behind a stone, when the truck passed and I throttled to move ahead, my bike lost momentum and I fell towards the right. First welcome my stupidity *Panic Mode*! I was trying to pick up a 200 kilos bike with fully loaded luggage and gave my stupidity at least 2 chances but failed miserably, for obvious reasons. Then I unloaded my bike, in the very first attempt picked it up and then loaded the luggage back. I used a simple technique which is taught to bikers on how to pick up a fallen motorcycle without straining your back (Search the technique on YouTube). I was cursing myself mentally because it was my fault. Nevertheless, I started moving ahead and stopped at a village called Tindi. I met one uncle there, who asked me about my travel plans and he expressed his surprise about the fact that I was travelling alone. On enquiring about these bad road conditions, he told me that BRO has not touched this stretch for years except for clearing landslide debris but he also told the good news that from Udaipur the tarmac starts, which was sign of relief for me.
The tarmac in Udaipur was a blessing and I stopped for lunch at a small dhaba.
After the lunch, I rode to Tandi to fill up fuel because from Tandi to Leh there is no petrol pump and the next fuel bunk will come after 335 kms. My destination for the day was Jispa and it was just 30 kms from Tandi on the way to Leh. The stay was absolutely pleasant with the river flowing next to the tents. This was all about Day 3.
Day 4: Jispa to Leh (343 kms) – 9 Sep 2019
It was a demanding day and I had to cross 4 high altitude passes on my way to Leh town. To reach before daylight ends, I started at 7 am from Jispa, it was a cold morning. The start was not that great because I had stopped at Zing Zing Bar to hydrate myself with water and accidentally my wallet fell from my bag and thankfully I got to know about this just 100 meters ahead of the dhaba when I did a quick check again. It gave me a mini heart attack, hurriedly I took a U turn and went back to the dhaba to search. The owner said she hasn’t seen it and then my suspicion went on a BRO laborer who was the only person sitting there apart from the dhaba owner and from a distance I had seen him sitting on this chair again after picking up something. With conviction, I asked him if he has seen my wallet and I also told if you have taken it, just give it back to me because it had my bike documents. After interrogating him for 5 minutes, he gave up and gave the wallet back to me in front of everyone who had gathered around to help me out. I had no words to say and I only said if money was the requirement, he could have simply asked for it but not having my bike documents would have ended my journey there itself. The dhaba owner yelled at that person saying that because of people like you, our guests will runaway. Getting my wallet was a huge relief for me and I continued my journey. Thanks to my dormant convincing skills which woke up at a high altitude region in a dire situation like this!!!
Just before Baralacha La top I encountered a water crossing namely ‘Pagal Nalah’. There I saw a lot of cyclists coming from the opposite side, crossing it by foot by picking up their cycles which meant it was a bit deep. Before crossing it, even I did a visual inspection of the depth and it was fine to cross. I crossed it easily but my feet were partially wet since water came on top of the boots. The sun was bright, so I continued to ride and counted on the daylight to dry my feet. I reached Baralacha top in no time but there was a lot of public standing on the sign board for photograph like ants, so I moved ahead and clicked one snap.
The descend from Baralacha was decent but the road disappeared near Bharatpur Nalah crossing. It was the craziest stretch of the journey. Basically, my bike was going over boulders with less water flowing through and then there was truck which got stuck from the opposite side. It looked as if there was war like situation around that water crossing and I braved it out. After this, I halted at a dhaba to have breakfast, hydrate myself and rest for sometime. This break was definitely a refresher and I continued my journey. After Baralacha, I crossed Sarchu where I did an entry at the police check post and then came the Gata Loops (21 hairpin bends). The scenery around was looking like a wonderland and yes, it was almost 50 shades of brown.
To my surprise, I met Sarath Shenoy, who is now my friend and he was riding back to Manali from Tso Moriri on his Dominar 400. It was great meeting him at that altitude. He informed me about a huge army convoy coming my way from Pang and to be careful while riding.
After a brief meeting with Sarath, I moved ahead and reached Nakee La. Here again I barely got space to click a photo with bikers and other tourists who were climbing the sign board like ants.
Till now me and my bike were doing well. I didn’t notice any kind of AMS symptom and neither my bike had any power loss due to lack of oxygen. After crossing Nakeela, the road disappeared but it was easy to ride on it since it was leveled up with only sand and gravel on it. Suddenly the geography changed and I saw tall pillar shaped mountains near Lachung La. It was a spectacular sight and I felt that I was in heaven.
As told by my friend, I came across a huge army convoy moving towards Manali and couple of vehicles from that convoy had broken down. Thus causing a bit of traffic but it was not difficult to handle. Somewhere near Pang, the road again went from bad to worse. I saw some foreigners bashing their Royal Enfields while I was riding very cautiously, just to realize that they had a back up vehicle coming for their rescue and a mechanic to fix their bike. They had no worries at all. Anyways! I reached Pang and decided to take a long lunch break here. I had two omelettes to keep myself warm and had a lot of water after my meal. I even asked the dhaba owner about the road condition ahead and she confidently told me that now the good roads will start and till Leh, it is good. She warned me to ride slow since the road gets bumpy on a lot of occasions. The roads were not just good, they were world class. I mean you won’t get such a tarmac at 5000 meters above sea level anywhere in the world but India has it, exception might be China but I don’t know. Thanks to BRO (Border Road Organization).
After Pang, I entered the ultimate Moreh plains!! I always use to see photos and read about Moreh plains on the internet but experiencing it, was a dream come true. It was so gorgeous. The vast expanse of the plains on both sides of the road and the gigantic gorge just after Pang which marks the beginning of the Moreh Plains. Just vow!
The sun was setting down and I was heading to the one of world’s highest motorable pass namely Tanglang La. The road to the top was excellent and was a two lane road but the cold was increasing to a point where my hands started to freeze, even after wearing double gloves. I reached the top, got down to click a photo and it was too windy. I was tired, could sense a bit of dizziness due to which I just clicked two photos in a hurry and started my descend to Leh.
The moment altitude lowered, I was feeling better and then I just accelerated to my destination for the day. I came across a few beautiful villages like Rumste, Lato and Upshi. After Upshi, my phone came in the network zone and I informed my parents about my location. Finally, I reached Leh! I rode solo from Delhi and reached Leh after crossing such high passes. I did it!!! That was feeling I was having while I was resting on the banks of Indus just before Karu. The sunset along the banks of Indus river was very cinematic.
After reaching Leh, I checked into my guest room booked in Army Cantonment. With inhaling of the diesel smoke and sand all day, my eyes were burning and I was having a mild headache. As far as my appetite was concerned, I did not feel like having dinner, so I drank a lot of water, had medicine and slept. Day 4 was done!
Day 5 (10 Sep 2019) & Day 6 (11 Sep 2019) – Mandatory Acclimatization – Unwinding
I woke up the next morning and was feeling good. Since my stay could not be extended in the army guest house, I shifted to a hotel on Old Leh road. So for the next two days, I rested myself for my body to acclimatize and minimize the symptoms of AMS. I also took a small stroll to the Leh market. There was no crowd in the market and it was very peaceful. The skies were all clear and there were no signs of clouds. I also got the ILP (Inner Line Permit) from TIC (Tourist Information Center) which just took 30 minutes in total. The permit is mandatory to visit Pangong Lake, Nubra valley, Turtuk, Chushul, Man, Merak, Tso Kar, Tso Moriri and Hanle. The permits will be checked at Karu, Tangste and Shyok. These are the checkpoints if you do Leh – Pangong – Nubra – Leh circuit, which I did.
Day 7 – Leh to Lukung, Pangong Lake via Chang La (156 kms) – 12 Sep 2019
Today again a new adventure began when I started my ride to Pangong Lake. I left my hotel by 8 am so that I can cross Chang La by 12 noon because the weather after noon becomes highly unpredictable with temperature continuously dipping. I was surprised to see tarmac after Karu when the climb to this pass began because the last time I had come here, there was no road. I had my breakfast at Chemrey after Karu. The cook and me got into a small discussion about the removal of Section 370 in Kashmir. He told me that the residents from there are coming to Ladakh just to talk to their loved ones over the phone. The ascend to Chang La was very frightening because it was steep with a narrow and a spiraling road. As a motorist, you don’t have to worry about the tarmac since it was present and was in good condition. I am sure now BRO will keep it in decent condition.
I was climbing slowly and patiently. At some point I was not feeling good due to vertigo, then I stopped to relax and drank water. The fear of heights was playing mind games with me. After reaching Zingral, I took rest near an army convoy, just in case I am not feeling that well, I could take help easily but thankfully nothing happened to me. H20 helped me a lot.
Finally after climbing for 2 hours I made it to Chang La. The last 5 kms before the top were in bad condition but I am sure by next year BRO will make the road. It was windy and cold beyond my imagination. Even on a clear sunny day, it was freezing cold. I didn’t want to stay up there for long, so I requested one person to click a photo of me while I sat on bike. After looking at the Mojo, one person said I want to click a photo of the bike, so I told him to click it immediately and I cannot get down from the bike because a slightest of the stress on my body was taking my breath away.
After wrapping up a quick photo session at Chang La, I started to descend towards Durbuk. The road while going down was terrible with stones and sand all over but my body started to relax which was great for me. Even going down also took around an hour’s time, so I halted for a cup of tea at Durbuk, 40 kms from Pangong Lake. The owner of the dhaba was excited to serve me. The call of nature apparently was calling me since Chang La, so I had to go this time and the dhaba owner handed over me the keys of the washroom, which was around a 100 meters walk. I had my cup of tea, met a few tourists on the way to Leh and checked with them about the weather at Pangong lake. All of them said that this time, it is not that cold.
I got the permit checked at Tangste which was just 5 kms from Durbuk and the road became even more scenic after that with green pastures in the valley. I was trying to locate a Marmot, an animal which looks like a big squirrel but unfortunately couldn’t find one. On the way, I also met an uncle from a nearby village who asked me about my plans and my native place. Like this I kept stopping and talking to people on my way to Pangong and reached my guest room, which was in Lukung, by around 4 pm.
The location of the guest house was just in front of the lake with a clear view of the pristine blue water surrounded by the brown mountains. The wind was not that strong and the temperature was bearable unlike my last visit. I had one more cup of tea and clicked a few snaps around the place. The best part about this stay was that I could easily park my bike in front of my guest room which made the movement of the good effortless. The stunning sight of the lake made the effort to ride to this place, look worth it all. Never I had imagined in my dreams that I will ride to Pangong Lake which is one of the jewel of India. What a feeling it was! Out of the world!
Post the sunset, I rested in my room and started mentally preparing for the next day which was longest stretch of this circuit i.e. Pangong Lake to Nubra valley. The dinner was served well in time around 8 pm and it was delicious. I slept around 9.30 pm and woke up at 11.30 pm due to the breathlessness I felt. This happens at Pangong since it’s altitude is half way to Mt Everest, almost a kilometer higher than Leh and temperatures at night dip below zero, even during clear sky days. Just make sure you keep yourself hydrated and warm enough. I simply drank water at regular intervals and sleep knocked my door again at 1 am. Finally I slept! Next time, I will plan my sleep in Durbuk or Tangste which is relatively lower in altitude.
Day 8 – Lukung, Pangong Lake to Hundar village, Nubra Valley (166 kms) – 13 Sep 2019
This part of the journey was heavenly with no high mountain passes to cross on the way. I woke up at 5.30 am and came to my senses by 6 am. I was happy to see the sunlight again because that helped my body to regain the energy for the day. I got ready at my own pace and had a delicious breakfast i.e. aloo parantha. Following the breakfast was loading of the luggage and warming up of the motorcycle for the day. I gradually started riding towards my next destination soaking the sun and breathing the fresh air of the day. I clicked a few snaps on my way back to Durbuk from where I took the diversion to Nubra valley.
I saw the same uncle but this time I didn’t stop. I just waved at him and he did the same in response. After checking out from Tangtse check post, I took a detour from Durbuk towards Shyok village. This patch is prone to a lot of landslides due to rocky terrain, so checking with the locals of the road status is suggested. That day the road was clear and I rode tension free. I reached Shyok village check post in no time and got my permit checked. After Shyok, the views rapidly changed and transitioned into an enormous valley cuddled between the Himalayan range in the left and Karakoram range on the right. I think I was only one who was travelling from Pangong Lake to Nubra and saw vehicles coming only from the opposite side. The sound of the Shyok river flowing in the valley was very soothing. I was living a dream!!
I reached Diskit around 3 pm and had lunch. Post lunch, I had headed to Hundar to look out for my stay and booked a cosy stay in the village. It was the same place in which I had stayed during my last visit.
So the plan for the next day was to visit Turtuk but when I googled (thanks to BSNL broadband) about Turtuk, I found that there are multiple places to see and experience and one day was not sufficient. For me, it would have been like a touch and go situation, so I decided to cancel my visit to this village. I left it for future! I relaxed at my guest house, drank more water and then a cup of tea. Since the Wifi was working properly, I informed my parents and then updated my social media connects about my whereabouts in Ladakh. My day ended with a light dinner and swiping through the photos on my cellphone.
Day 9 – Relaxing in Nubra and a visit to Diskit (10 kms) – 14 Sep 2019
On this day, I planned to visit Diskit where the statue of Lord Buddha is located. From this place the view of the valley looks magnificent. I had breakfast and then rode to Diskit where I found a lot of tourists posing in front of the statue. They were looking like flies coming onto my mobile camera’ s lens. Anyways! I managed to click one photo of the statue and clicked a few from my Go Pro.
The sand dunes of Hundar village were also worth the view from the main road and I had no plan to ride those double hump camels since I had seen that last time.
I came back to my guest house and had lunch. Took a stroll around the vicinity and then finally retired to my room to gear up for final leg of this circuit via the highest motorable pass i.e. Khardung La. I will post a few more snaps of the guest house and its surroundings.
Day 10 – Hunder Village, Nubra Valley to Leh via Khardung La (125 kms) – 15 Sep 2019
It was a day which I had been waiting for so long. All these years I kept watching bikers crossing Khardung La which was once the highest motorable road in the world. I got geared up with that excitement and anxiety as well. I started my ride from Hundar at around 8.30 am with an aim to reach Khardung La by 1 pm. I thanked them for the pleasant stay and bid goodbye to the staff here at the guest house.
After reaching Khalsar, I took the road which was heading to mighty Khardung La. I was not worried about AMS symptoms while ascending since it was my 5th day here and I was feeling fairly ok. I felt a slight headache just before reaching Khardung village which disappeared later on. Compared to Chang La, the climb to this pass was easy and did not give me vertigo. I halted at Khardung village and drank water. The only thing I had to brave was the freezing cold because the mild headache which I was having had gone away. I saw couple of foreigners on their bike riding slowly and I met one of them at North Pullu check post. After quick chat with the rider, I had my ‘Nice Time’ biscuit and water, started my ascend again. My body had four layers of clothing on it including my riding jacket and my hands had double layering of gloves. All these put together also were failing against the cold. I saw the Khardung La tower in the distance which looked so close, yet far.
The road condition was great with double lanes already cut out, thus making it easier for the vehicles to pass. Only the last 1.5 kms to K top was off road, else it’s all good tarred road to the top. I switched on my go pro while doing the last stretch to record and accidentally, the focus of the camera turned a bit vertical but when I checked the video, the output came out to be great. The feeling when I reached the top was goosebumps and it was freezing up there. As usual, there were bikers and random tourists climbing on the sign boards like ants. I am sure one day there will be a ticket system for tourists wanting to get clicked at Khardung La. One uncle came to me and started enquiring about my bike. I told him everything very patiently and then I requested him to click a photo of me with the small sign board where there were less ants to deal with. I removed the final four ants from there by giving the excuse of bad health and finally got a photo!! Mission accomplished!!
I thanked uncle who clicked the photo and then started my descend to Leh. While descending suddenly something happened to me, I started speaking to myself! Yes, inside that helmet lid is a man who has ridden motorcycles for 12 years, finally he has conquered Khardung La. To make things more emotional, little tears of joy trickled down my sunglasses as I was riding down. I patted my bike for a job well done, thanked my parents for letting me follow my passion and thanked God!
10 kms downhill from Khardung La towards Leh it was pure off road. God bless people climbing from Leh to K Top! When I hit the tarmac again after that rattling off road, I met a foreigner who was going up to K Top but had to stop because he was having a bad headache. I asked him if he wants any help and advised him to drink a lot of water. He thanked me for stopping by and asking. I reached Leh comfortably by 2 pm and was fully acclimatized after riding for 5 days in this high altitude terrain. I checked into the same hotel again where I had stayed earlier. After coming out of no network zone for 3 nights, I informed my parents about my location and also updated my social media network.
Day 11 – Rest Day in Leh (50 kms) – 16 Sep 2019
I decided to rest on this day and went to the Leh market to shop for some souvenirs. Then I rode to Gurudwara Patthar Sahib on Leh Kargil road and came back. I also noticed that my bike’s front tire had worn out unevenly, so I got it changed at a tire dealer to ensure so that I don’t have issues while on my way back to Delhi. I did a quick visual inspection of the bike to check if something is loose or broken but found nothing. After all the mandatory checks, I was relaxed and spent the rest of the evening in my hotel room.
Day 12 – Leh to Jispa (334 kms) – 17 Sep 2019
Well! It was just a copy paste of Day 4 since I had to go back from the same route due to the uncertainty of Kashmir route. This time I started at 6.45 am and reached Pang by around 12 noon. The cold at Tanglang La almost killed my fingers. To save them I stopped at Debring and an aunty at a dhaba did a small bonfire to help me warm up my hands. She also told me a technique to speed up the process and it really helped. I thanked her and moved ahead.
At Pang, I took a break for water and a small egg meal. Trust me guys! If you eat egg, it will keep you warm. Somewhere between Sarchu and Pang, I saw a very weird thing. A Dominar 400 was parked on the side of the road and the rider was not visible to me, then when I came close to the bike, I saw the rider lying just next to it. I thought he was dead but after looking at me, he moved a bit. That was a sigh of relief for me and then I carried on my ride. After doing the off road in Pang, my butt was asking for some rest and I was hungry, so I stopped for lunch in Sarchu. Lunch was a simple dish called Dal Chawal and it was tasty. I met one biker from Kerala in that dhaba who was on his way to Manali, was not feeling well and complained about nausea. I told him to relax, drink water and not to consume anything heavy for the stomach. After close to 20 mins of break, we both tagged along from Sarchu till Jispa.
As we were approaching Baralacha La, I saw something flying in the distance. I thought it was dust, when I came little closer, I thought it was rain but when I came little more close, I saw small snow flakes falling on my helmet. After looking at the weather, I was a bit worried about crossing this massive pass. I checked with a taxi coming from the opposite side and driver assured me that the route is all clear. The driver’s assurance did a lot of good to my confidence. Again, I encountered this dreaded Bharatpur nallah and this time the water level had swelled up making it difficult for us to cross. My bike got stuck at one point but I was able to get out of trouble in the second attempt. The body took the toll and I was gasping for breath. After regaining my breath, me and other biker friend carried on riding. We crossed Baralacha La and reached Jispa at 4.30 pm. The other biker friend carried on his journey to Manali but he could not reach since it was dark and stayed at Keylong. I felt very relaxed after coming back into the greens.
This time I slept very comfortably after having a sumptuous dinner. 12th day of my ride ended. When you are riding for so long, you basically go into a trance and most common sign of this trance is that you forget day and dates. The only thing which makes sense is the pattern of the daylight i.e. sunrise and sunset. Just like in the primitive times.
Day 13 – Jispa to Manali (132 kms) – 18 Sep 2019
I woke up late around 7 am and it was super cold outside my tent. There were some foreign tourists who were heading Leh on their motorbikes and I was just loitering around the camp to breath in more air to cover up the deficit *bad joke*. I planned my departure from Jispa to Manali at 9 am but the lazy person in me dragged it to 9.30 am. It was a bright morning and the sun was baking my body at a moderate temperature. The green trees and the grass looked very soothing to the eyes after an overload of brown terrain. In Keylong, my phone came back into network zone and I quickly informed my parents which was very important.
The road from Keylong to Koksar was also beautiful with villages coming in between. I rode at a very slow pace so that I could enjoy the lovely scenes around.
The last of mountain pass of this trip had to be crossed namely Rohtang Pass and the initial climb was punishing with no roads. BRO was constructing the road, so they had to stop the traffic for sometime but after 5 kms of the climb, I was back on the tarmac. I reached the top and saw so many people after a long time. I barely managed to click two photos and just ran away from that place. By now you must have understood, the ants!
The descend from Rohtang pass to Manali was average with patches of bad roads and rash taxi drivers driving their cabs as if today is the last day of earth. I halted for lunch at Gulaba and reached Manali comfortably by 5 pm. Finding a hotel was also not a problem since I just jumped into the first hotel which I found on the main road. I never found Manali to be a ‘wow’ destination which majority of the tourists say. For me it’s just a stopover. This was from the 12th day of the tour. It literally felt like ‘Saat Passes Paar Main Tere Peeche Peeche Aagaya!” instead of “Saat Samundar”, the only difference was that in my case there was no woman to go behind after crossing all these passes.
Day 14 – Manali to Chandigarh (312 kms) – 19 Sep 2019
I had no intention to ride to Delhi in one day. It’s better to reach late than never! I planned my halt at Chandigarh and had booked my stay in advance from Manali itself. I left Manali early morning around 7.30 pm. This part of journey is called torture because the road till Kullu was good and then it was bumpy, muddy and full of gravel. After Bilaspur, I had to overtake millions of trucks who were moving sluggishly and were not even giving way to overtake. So after 221 kms of torture from Manali till Swarghat, I said goodbye to the mountains. I took a break near Kiratpur Sahib and then headed to Chandigarh. It felt nice to see such a well designed city of Chandigarh unlike certain urban disasters. I reached my hotel, the staff was very courteous to get a trolley for my luggage because they understood that I had come from a long bike ride and after looking at my room, I jumped on the bed which had a good suspension setting.
Day 15 – Chandigarh to Delhi (272 kms) – 20 Sep 2019
My booking at the hotel in Chandigarh entitled me for a free breakfast buffet. So I got ready and rushed to eat breakfast. I literally gulped the breakfast like there is no tomorrow. After having a heavy breakfast, I pushed off from the hotel for a quick check up of my bike at the service station. I reached Delhi around 5.30 pm. There were a few places where the traffic was heavy in the city but I managed to hit home without much trouble. The trip was over! 2900 kms of fun, fear, excitment, anxiety and joy!!!
People keep saying that Ladakh is saturated, polluted and has lost it’s virginity. Well! I would say it’s not like that. Atleast once in your life, travel to Ladakh on a motorcycle and then you will understand what it is to ride to the paradise of India. It is an experience of a lifetime which will give you new perspectives and will teach you a lot of lessons.
I hope you liked my experience. I will put a summarized date wise itinerary for a quick reference with the names of the places I stayed at during my travel along the total expense I incurred:
|DAY WISE TRAVEL PLAN WITH DISTANCES COVERED|
|S.No.||Date||Location||Distance Covered (Kms)|
|Day 1||06-Sep-19||Delhi to Banikhet||588|
|Day 2||07-Sep-19||Banikhet to Killar||175|
|Day 3||08-Sep-19||Killar to Jispa||157|
|Day 4||09-Sep-19||Jispa to Leh||343|
|Day 5||10-Sep-19||Rest Day||0|
|Day 6||11-Sep-19||Rest Day||0|
|Day 7||12-Sep-19||Leh to Lukung, Pangong||156|
|Day 8||13-Sep-19||Lukung, Pangong to Hundar, Nubra||166|
|Day 9||14-Sep-19||Rest Day||13|
|Day 10||15-Sep-19||Hundar, Nubra to Leh||133|
|Day 11||16-Sep-19||Rest Day (Ride on Leh Kargil Highway)||50|
|Day 12||17-Sep-19||Leh to Jispa||334|
|Day 13||18-Sep-19||Jispa to Manali||132|
|Day 14||19-Sep-19||Manali to Chandigarh||312|
|Day 15||20-Sep-19||Chandigarh to Delhi||272|
|Location||Hotel Name||Per Night Charge (including food) – INR||Remarks|
|Banikhet||Hotel Brahmgyan||840||New property, good food and enough space for bikers to park their bikes|
|Killar||Hotel Raj||1240||Average place to stay, food was decent, parking on the main road but there are limited options in Killar, so I had no choice|
|Jispa||Jispa Journey||1500||Excellent tents with attached bathrooms, clean beds, ample parking off the main road and delicious food|
|Leh||16 Arahat Residency||1200||Spacious and clean rooms, closed parking, clean washrooms but food service is not good.|
|Pangong||The Golden Cottage & Restaurant||1800||Cosy rooms, ample parking, clean washroom and good food and in front of Pangong Lake|
|Hundar||Galaxy Guest House||1500||Cosy rooms, ample parking, clean washroom and good food|
|Manali||Hotel River View Villa||1300||Decent room, secure parking only for two wheelers, clean washroom and average food|
|Chandigarh||Hotel Red Fox||3000||Excellent room, courteous staff, prompt room service and good breakfast|
|POCKET BURNING (INR)|
|Total Trip Expenses||28794|
*Important note on Acute Mountain Sickness
1. AMS can happen to anyone, anywhere irrespective of fitness level. It can hit an athlete or even people with bellies coming out.
2. Excluding the day of arrival in Leh, rest for 2 full days in Leh (minimum), that’s what I did. I even rested for a day when I came back from Nubra.
3. If you are coming from Manali, please do not stay in Pang or Sarchu (usual practice most of travellers follow), stay in Jispa, start early from Jispa (6.30 am) and reach Leh by 7 pm, that’s what I did
4. Keep monitoring your health and even your group mates health, if you see someone is falling sick, seek medical help asap
5. Drink water, water, water and water, more than 4 litres a day and just like medicine
6. Daimox and oxygen cylinder only suppresses the symptoms but does not solve for the problem
7. Please do not consume alcohol because alcohol dehydrates the body faster
Your health and life is in your hands. Don’t let ego defeat you. Ladakh will remain here forever but you will not. I planned my stays after doing a little research of altitudes at which I will be sleeping.
Please feel free to connect with me on my email ID: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also follow me on Instagram: @theroamingdelhite