Travel

Ride to Shangri-la; Enchanting terrain transpiring ZEN

The mountain framed; yet dominated by the dagger of steep rocky ridge with capped snow around it, was the definitive dream inspired me for last few years.

LEH: the travelers abode, is the ride i have been desiring to pursue, which concluded recently. Thanks to my trek mate Srinivas, who pulled me into the planning, later to which i pulled in another colleague aka The hulk aka Dhana :p. In the initial days, our efforts just went into finding out proper information about the whole ride and the kind of support one needs and difficulties faced, etc.  With weeks passed by, searching many organizers, we finally finalized with HMC who seemed to be effective in terms of cost and offers being laid out.

We began the talks with them and finalizing the dates, these guys were very co-operative in answering all our questions regardless of how many emails shot at them or even the phone calls. The preparations started around 4-5 months ahead the scheduled batches from the HMC guys.   With my leaves getting approved (thanks to my manager, in getting convinced) and so of others while few others (initially agreed) dropping off sadly, we moved ahead in confirming our seats for 23 May 2015 batch with HMC and payment and stuffs.

Then the more tedious, elaborate process started, which was procuring the gears and other materials needed for our ride. Few of the guys wanted to ship the bikes to Delhi, HMC office from bangalore, the  searching and discussions with the vendors started. Finally we decided to go ahead with the Sainik movers and packers. These guys proved to be more professional movers than the rest with a bit cost effective.

With just a few weeks left, my heart started to thump harder and i was super excited to be part of the most adventurous ride ever. While, all our spirits were high, the discussions, detail planning, gear procurement, etc. continued. Some where in the same timeline, there was a sad news about Nepal’s natural disaster which also impacted all over the himalayan region. Few days rolled by, we kept constant watch on the news from all over; day by day more disappointing news of road closed, weather brutality, land slides, minor tremors occurring here and there keep pouring in.

With just 2 weeks left, we decided to postpone our slot to the next batch keeping safety, weather, etc. criteria into consideration. HMC guys were very co-operative and accepted our postpone request for 27th Jun 2015 batch. Again, thanks to our managers who were co-operative about the leaves adjustments.

Gears:

  • I borrowed the safety gears such as knee, elbow guards along with gumboots/rainboots from my close friend Malli. Thanks to him.
  • i bought general purpose rain-cold protective jacket from Decthlon: Arpenaz 100 Men’s Trekking Rain Jacket, which suited very well to this ride in protecting well from rain (riding under 3 days of heavy rain) and from cold of Rohtang pass, sarchu, leh and zozilla pass, etc.
  • I bought bungee cord from Ebay, which proved to be very worthy, reliable and tough for its price.
  • I bought rain pant/trouser from Decthlon: FORCLAZ 300 MEN OVERTROUSER, which is really good quality wise in delivering what it suppose it. Contraire, i also evaluated Wildcraft rain trouser, but for the same price, the material and stitching quality seems to be pretty low standard by wildcraft.
  • We carried 50L of rucksack with us for this ride. For rain protection, we got a custom stitched rexine material overcover for this bag which proved to be 90% effective. I also wrapped 2 big garbage covers for additional protection 😉

A Profound Ride:

It was a ride for 3000 kms, roundtrip from Delhi – Delhi via Leh, Indeed, this is an impeccable journey to be started off within few hours after reaching delhi on 26th of June. The day however, was hotter and dry, our zeal to be part of this ride was ever pounding hard in our hearts. After getting our bikes and discussions with the HMC guys, we settled back at our hotel aka youth hostel which really is well maintained and lies in the midst of classy area in New Delhi.

Day 1: Delhi – Ludhiana

We were asked to be assembled at the kutub minar by 3 AM next morning to beat all the messy traffic and heat of the day. As instructed, we reached the place by 4, and got settled up quick. Upon introduction speech by the group leader Surbhit and his co-leader Salman.

Ourselves got introduced to each other and this is where; i happen to meet the To-be awesome people for the entire trip to come. The whole group hit it off in no time with jokes being exchanged, clarifications inquired, etc. A final check up of all our luggage and check lists is done by the HMC folks before start.

By around 430 AM, we all started our ride. Every one assembled in a line and we started off after filling up the fuel. Our next stop was at a highway dhaba for breakfast. Around 3PM, we reached ludhiana and the weather was really hot. Every one was really tired and frustrated due to the heat with the gears on. The rest of the day just spent inside the AC hotel.

Day 2: Ludhiana – Udhampur

Next day, around 5 AM we all started off towards Udhampur, the weather was nice and pleasant for the drive. After an hour or so, we stopped for a breakfast on the highway, with roti and scoop of butter with curd, we were full.

We then left after an hour or so from this place and proceed towards Udhampur. The roads were in good condition but as the time passed on, the traffic increased and so is the heat. Hence, breaks were necessary.

By noon we stopped for lunch and so is the time for some snaps 😉

Reached Udhampur by evening, again due to the weather we all were tired and unfortunately the hotel we stayed didnt had AC and we were bombarded by the mosquitoes all night, thankfully none of us caught issues from them 😉

 

Day 3 & 4: Udhampur – Srinagar

This is the ride, we were all been eager to experience. Up the himalayas; has the great feeling to be part of. As usual, the drive started off early in the morning towards Srinagar. Since the road is over the mountain passes, we were warned about numerous army truck convoys along with the other trucks which naturally slows us down. So with that in mind, we carried off our ride with the stupendous display of mother earth all around us.

Since this route has alot of traffic and with narrow roads, our ride was a free one. Hence we took alot of breaks for photos and nature view. Every one grouped with their preferred ones and ride along for a better support and company, hence me and Dhana ride along occasionally meeting Srini, Mr. & Mrs. Ramu and other folks enroute.

Splendid first view of Kashmir valley from Jammu, post jawahar tunnel

By evening, we reached srinagar. The weather was very pleasant unlike ludhiana/udhampur, yet not too chilly. Since it was the time of ramzan, the streets and shops were not that crowded. The hotel was good and this place was near to Dal lake. We had a 1 day break at srinagar, for us to roam around this place. Initially we thought of going to gulmarg, however later dropped off the idea since it shall take away most of the day time by the time we woke up ;).

Bike health checkup

We spent the day lazying and chitchatting with the other folks. While few of the people went for local sightseeing at dal lake and others at the market, we decided to hit the lake by post noon.

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With an entire day just relaxed and roaming around this town, it was time to get some good sleep for the next day up the valleys.

Day 5: Srinagar – Dras – Kargil

Next morning, every thing was set to rumble. I would say this part of the ride was very emotional and most expected by me, as i get to visit the Dras: War memorial, enroute kargil. Since the war days and having an ex-servicemen’s in my family, i, like many others, have utmost respect, and love towards our men at the front lines.

At the outskirts of the srinagar town, we stopped by for the breakfast. The view at this place is serene and awesome all over. The roads maintained by the BRO was really great. Its better than my city infact. Though the roads were in great conditions, we rode at the last of the convoy and in lower speed to enjoy the nature way better.

The view of sonamarg was really awesome.

With few mins of breaks at the sonamarg, we continued ahead towards zojilla pass. This pass is known to be a bit tough, traffic congestion, crazy route with added rough weather. Thankfully the weather and the route along with traffic was at ease.

Around noon, we reached Drass war memorial. It was an intensifying moment for all of us to be here. The perception of the story narrated by the guard of what happened and the difficulties faced by the people and the army in neutralizing the enemy, brings down chills through your bones.
Here, we payed our respects to the brave souls who laid down their life for us via garland.

our Garland for their braveness, courage and contribution

Upon entering the museum hall at war memorial, one picture caught my eye and felt highly emotional. This image has alot of meaning in it. Sadly the person wrote, gave his life in the battle. 😦

Post noon, with lunch done, we continued towards kargil town for the hotel.

The kargil is not a highly developed town, yet it is quite small and nice. I loved the town and the people. The roads are narrow with quite a good crowd. We spent the evening chitchat with the folks till end of the night.

Day 6: Kargil – Leh

It started to be a routine for us to be awake by 5 AM every day by now. The himalayan bliss absolutely made us not be aware of the day of week, time etc. With the daily chores brought to closure by the mother nature, it was another day light to venture out for a new set of stunning visuals, which mother nature has kept for us at every nook and cranny.

During this route, often the civilians are greeted by the army at their base camps canteens all along. Myself and Dhana had a tea and pakoda here, we were taken away by surprise. The taste of the pakoda was out of the world. While about to exit, we noticed a message board display.

How about a nice thank you message for the beloved army: a thought ran through.

Serene spots during breaks

The roads here never ceases to amaze you.

I been through the desert on a horse with no name

By evening we reached our hotel called Ri-Rab, which was pretty good and spacious.

The next 3 days saga continues at LEH..

Day 7: LEH

An additional day allotted for us to roam around the town, this as well gives the organizers a chance to do health checkup of our horses. With the rest of the day having noting to do, we 9-10 people decided to hire a local taxi and hit around the town.
Shantistupa, monastary, palace are the few places we covered at this town and then we straight away head for the hotel to rest, while others visited other places.

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Due to the ongoing issue with the local taxi-bike rental association, i and others, riding on rented bikes off delhi were forced to go for renting another bike from leh, though it was upsetting, but its more a political-survival issue for leh people, which i shall not discuss about. While our delhi rented bikes were resting at the LEH hotel, i enjoyed riding the RE 350 Standard, for next 2 days ;).

Day 8-9: LEH – Pangong TSO – LEH

Next day, early morning we left for the pangong TSO, we were a bit cautioned as the weather there would be more chilly than at LEH, but it turns out to be more warmer. The lake is slowly depleting its beauty and its size. It’s unfortunate, to see that the conservation is not been done and the visitors/travelers do not respect the value of the lake.

The road for most part of it to this lake is in good condition. Our break at Chang la pass turned out to be more fun and playfun than at the lake for that matter.

High altitude drunkenness :p

We reached the lake around 5 PM in the evening, the weather was still pretty warm and not windy. Our tents were quite near to the lake banks. While every one were getting comfy from the ride, couple of us went ahead to the lake to feel the beauty upclose.

Enroute lake, a break from the heat 😉

 

 

 

 

 

Next morning, the weather was again splendid and quite warm, though the previous night wasnt that chilling or worse.

Around 8 we had lake view breakfast which was the best thing ever did on the spot.

Post breakfast, we bit adieu to the lake via one last visit to the shore in bikes for a group pic.

Biker Divas 😉

Lake exit

On the way back, at chang la again we stopped by for some refreshments. The tenktu was really good here than i tasted at a local restaurant outside leh.

We reached back to leh around evening time, yet most of the shops were already closed. The only fun was to stay back at hotel and chitchat with the team.

Day 10-11: LEH -> Nubra -> LEH

Next day, we started out to nubra via khardung la, early morning. Unfortunately before entering the khardungla la route right out of the leh, we were stopped by the local association guys to check the bike vis-à-vis documents validity to identify rented vehicles. For about an hour, the discussions went to settle out the issue and then we continued.

We decided not to stop near the K-top during the onward journey as the crowd was too much there, plus the traffic including army convoy was increasing, along with the snow melting and flooding the roads. During this stretch, we had to cross alot of water streams which were not only a bit risky, yet lot of fun.

The ride all along was really good with enjoyable views.

Around noon, we reached the Nubra valley, where we took some time off to enjoy the new splendid view of this beautiful landscape. IMHO, this valley had the best view and landscape to drive, to see and to enjoy all over the ride. The memories of riding there and being there are still haunting my memories till day. For me, it was the most enjoyable ride ever on this land.

Our next stop was towards hunder. From this junction enroute hunder, the whole valley looks stupendous.

Another hour of ride towards hunder town, we reached our hotel which is just a km away from the nubra sand dunes. To my surprise and probably to the entire team, the hotel was in a superb location with really good view of environment. I loved this place alot more than any other hotels else where in the ride. IMO this was the best of all in every aspect. Thanks to HMC for this wonderful experience, specifically for this and thanks to Snow leopard hotel folks.

Evening we spent at the nubra sand dunes, few folks went on the camel ride, while others enjoyed a stroll in the desert.

Selfie with the grumpy 😉

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The rest of the night went down with lot of fun at the hotel, while for others head back to the sand dunes for a night-time star-gazing.

Next morning as per routine, started off around 8 towards leh, again the valley gave me a spectacular view. Outside hunder village, we stopped at a monastry, overlooking the hunder valley.

Buddha guarding the valley

We then continued towards nubra valley, upon so a break for few snaps 😉

Next stop was at K-top, by the time we reached near the top, the traffic was at its peak and so was the jam due to river crossings.

After about 30 mins or so, we left the TOP as it was getting more crowded, the downhill roads were in pretty bad condition due to the melting snow taking away tarmac. The BRO is constantly trying to rebuild the road, thanks to them. A few kms before LEH, the nature along with roads gave us a pretty good view-point.

Once the hill terrain was done, the outskirts of LEH road is just brilliant to ride and the environment around it is just beautiful to look at.

Myself and fellow rider, Mahesh, did really enjoyed riding through these roads, together.

The rest of day went straight away lazying around at LEH.

Day 12: LEH – Sarchu

The route towards manali is really horrible. On this stretch i observed for the first time the bike was pretty much crying hard to move ahead at good speed. However, as usual the view was pretty good but heavily dusty. Alot of fuel tankers were observed on this route than anywhere else so far, this was probably due to the fact that the next fuel station after LEH is around 350+ Kms away.
Knowing this fact, we carried extra jerry cans which we bought at LEH market for 70 bucks each.

By before noon, we reached tangla la. This place was pretty cold.

Some where along the route, the rain started to pour in, this is when the whole terrain started to look way different from being dusty, even the sky turned grey-white which added a good contrast to the ground hovered upon.

The drizzling continued till sarchu, the weather along with the terrain got more wonderful and romantic/lovely. It became very pleasant and pleasing to be there. Added to this, the mild cold air all around adds up much effect to the view.

By around 6, we reached the Tent area at Sarchu. The weather turned a bit colder as the time passed by, yet it was not chilling or brutal. The whole place/valley is very spectacular. Sadly there was no snow fall/snow on the ground.

In winters, this place is loaded with snow, almost cutting off any road communications with the rest of the world. Without any much luxury, living here is highly challenging yet adventurous. The only way one can verbally communicate to the outside world is via a sat phone in a near by police station. Listening to these stories from our tents owner, sounded more fun and thrilling.

Day 13: Sarchu – Manali

Next morning, we left this place towards manali. The road from here is in good condition with minor off roading.

On this stretch as well we had to do some good water crossing over the road.

BRO workers constantly working on the road repair. Hats off to them.

Bus stuck on the high current water channel.
Break time when a bike broke down
Waiting inline for the crossing

As we started to ascend towards rohtang pass, the climate turned towards more cold and entire terrain started turning white from green.

Finally we got the glimse of the rohtang pass, but due to heavy fog, at first most of us could not identify this place, upon told we were like “Oh kool” :D. With in next half hour, the weather god gifted us the enormous amount of rain for the rest of the day.

Post this stretch under the low light, gloomy, rainy weather along with a nice chilly wind, we drove all the way towards manali. Unfortunately this was the last time and place, we enjoyed taking snaps with our camera. Reached the hotel by around 9 PM, but the rain poured all night.

Day 14: Manali – Chandigarh
Day 15: Chandigarh – Delhi

The next day, rain had taken a break for a while. We decided to leave early due to the traffic congestion, land slide issue. Around 7 AM, we were on the road towards chandigarh.

We drove at good speed to cover up the distance. Around noon time, the weather god again started to pour heavily on us. We had to drive in the rain regardless. For me, this was all together a new experience but was really fun. By noon, the traffic got more denser, but no where we encountered any congestion’s.

Finally, around 6 in the evening with alot of breaks due to strain from the rain, we reached chandigarh. Upon settling up in the room: which was cozy, we finished our dinner and off to bed.

Next day, the rain took a break. We left the hotel around 8, to our dismay, the rain again started off real bad post an hour or so. All along the Chandigarh – Delhi highway, we drove under the rain. With 3 days of continuous driving in the rain, we were frustrated to the core. Around 7 we reached delhi, and unfortunately due to our lack of route in delhi, we circled delhi for an hour before reaching our destination :IGNOU road near Kutub minar.

We changed our wet cloths into dry ones at HMC office and finally called in our movers and packers for sending off our bikes.  With all packing and loading the bikes, it was around 11 PM. By thanking and bidding adieu to HMC guys (surbit, prathamesh) for their good support and all the help, we continued our way towards Chanakya puri.

Next day, we met up Dhana’s cousin at delhi for a lunch at Andhra bhavan for Biryani, which was really good for that price. Post lunch, we visited CP, for some sweets to office and off to our hostel. Around 4 PM, we left the hostel for airport.

After some 15 days of tyre ripping ride, we flew back to Bangalore.

Thanks,
Zen 🙂

Videos:

P.S: I Would like to thank all my ride mates in this batch along with HMC guys for their immense support, guidance, care and all the fun they poured into this adventure. This ride shall be a life time memory for me due to these awesome people.

Photo & video credits: Myself (picasa), Dhana, Srinivas, Ramu, Sharad, Aaron, Anand, Mahesh (picasa), Saahil (picasa), navin, Manu.

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