The snowfall was turning violent. I could hear the snow patting on my helmet and my bag, and I could do nothing but watch. My hands were...
The snowfall was turning violent. I could hear the snow patting on my helmet and my bag, and I could do nothing but watch. My hands were turning number every passing moment.
In this part, I will take you through few of the highest motorable passes in the world, and much talked destinations in and around Leh. This is in continuation to the first part. You may like to read Leh Ladhak - A Dream Ride - Part 1 before.
|Me at Leh!|
|Hoopoe at the backyard of our homestay :)|
Day 5 : Leh - Hall of Fame - Magnetic hill - Sangam (Sindu / Indus and Zanskar ) - Leh (1-2 hour ride)
This day was supposed to be a rest day!! But the restlessness in us took us places!!
Just about a couple of kilometers away from the city is the Hall of Fame, a museum maintained by The Indian Army, in memory of brave soldiers who lost their lives in Indo-pak wars. When you are in Leh, you get a sense of belonging and the respect for army in our hearts increases tremendously.
Some scenes from inside.
|True Ladakh begins, where the road ends!|
|Face the fears!|
|I could get only the thumb knot :(|
|Heartfelt memoirs left for the army : We are, because you are!|
|Once in Ops, forever in Ops :)|
|Indian flag fluttering high in the lap of Himalayas!|
During the course of visit to the Hall of Fame, I happened to meet a Lt. Col, with whom I had worked before! I felt so good to talk and spend few minutes with him. With all the patriotism filled in our hearts and knowing the stories of wars, we left towards the magnetic hill with heavy hearts!
The drive from Leh to Magnetic hill along the NH1 is a nice cruise. The roads are in excellent condition except for a repair work at one or two spots. You can expect some stunning views along the way. The frequent wind blowing gives a relaxing and comforting ride for every rider. The strong winds pushed me down to less than 20kms/hr even at full throttle. It made me realize how tiny and incapable the entire human race is infront of the mighty nature! I had duck to the front to reduce the push but little did it help anyway.
Magnetic hill felt like any other normal place, because the bikers cannot experience the pull uphill. I suppose it's called the Magnetic Hill because it attracts a lot of tourists!!
|Me at Magnetic Hill|
After a short indulgence at the Magnetic hill, I decided to give a visit to Sangam, a beautiful confluence of two rivers Sindhu ( Indus ) and Zanskar. It was getting pretty dark. I gathered some courage and went alone to see the place! It was worth it! I could see some rather verdant valleys nearby, young and green!!
|Confluence of Sindhu (Indus) and Zanskar|
|Look at the scale of the mountains. Can you spot the barrels and few men working?|
|Green valleys all over! :)|
Day 6: Leh - Khardungla - Leh
You know what they say, Nature is a beauty and a beast!! It is indeed!! Our initial plan to visit Nubra and then to Pangong, stayed a guest in our hearts only till we were informed about the roads closed due to heavy rain and snowfall!
We had to let go of the Nubra thought, and continue to Khardungla. The ride to Khardungla was exhausting because of the sudden increase in height and the pathetic roads near the peak adding their cent; especially the last 10 kms. It has bits and pieces of road left a on what otherwise is an ocean of puddles and streams running across. Salute to BRO (Border Roads Organization) for their continuous effort to keep these high mountains accessible to people like us. Even at such heights and temperature where we found it difficult to ride a bike, seeing people work to repair the roads was heartening. The feeling of conquering a highest motorable road from my own bike was amazing! My happyness and joy had no limits!
|At the highest motorable pass|
|Fun times at Khardungla!|
|The joy of achievement!|
|Valleys on the way to Khardungla pass|
|The mountains, and the valleys and me!|
|Obsessed with Valleys - a close up shot|
Day 7 : Leh - Changla Pass - Pangong Tso
After hearing about the heavy rains enroute Pangong Lake and after a lot of thought, we decided to give it a try. The rain was persistent as we hit the outskirts of Leh city. At Karu, some of us bought new gloves and the gum boots to keep ourselves dry. Pangong Lake is about 120 kms from Karu. The only mistake we did was not leaving early for Pangong.
|Lustrous views of Sakti village :)|
After about 10 km ride from Karu, near the village Sakri, the weather grew worse. It was drizzling and it was all cloudy and the visibility had diminished quite drastically. Driving on the roads there, felt like we were driving into the void, as neither could we see down the valleys of Sakti, nor did we see any road farther than 10-15 meters. This ride was indeed dangerous to even attempt. The only bikes we saw were the ones heading back to Leh. We knew there was something wrong with our timing. After a ride for about an hour and a ride of 20 odd kms, we were at Zingral where we all took a brief pitsop for about 10 minutes.
|Near Sakti village|
|Among the clouds|
|Chilling cold temperatures!|
|Look at the fur - chilling weather personified!|
After a brief stop we rode towards Changla Pass 17590 ft. This ride was tougher than the one towards Khardungla because of the chilling cold temperatures. As we rode, we could notice how the drizzling of rain had slowly turned to into a lovely snowfall. It was again a new experience for me, as the only weather I had not driven was during a snowfall. Riding during a snow fall becomes very difficult as you wont be able to see any farther than few meters ahead of you, add the pathetic bumpy roads to up the ante. Plus when you have the slowest bike among the pack, you are meant to fall behind the last person! Even my second pair of gloves had soaked up all the water and it became a pain to ride with those gloves on. Taking off the gloves in that weather meant only suicide.
It was a tense situation for me, because of the fact that I was lagging far behind from the group, and the fierce snowfall only made things worse. If I did pull this ride off, I wanted a memory, a photo, which would remind me of things that I survived.
|At 17500 ft, in chilling snowfall. My moment!|
I knew I had only few more kilometers to ride until the peak of Changla, and it was going to be a comparatively easier ride further.
I somehow managed to pull off a ride, that I only imagined in my dreams.
At Changla Pass, I saw few bikes from our group, and I was so happy to find few of them. I ordered a black tea at the only cafe at Changla. As my tea arrived, I took off my gloves only to find out that they had turned blue and numb. I could literally see the blue veins, and this made me worry. And I quickly left to join the further of the group leading ahead of me.
The DramaOnly when we thought it couldn't get more dramatic, there was something waiting for us.
As I continued to pace up, to catch up with the group, I saw them waiting for something, and it wasn't me. One of the bullets had suffered a puncture on the rear tire, and we tried to put some air into with the mechanical leg pump we carried. When nothing helped, we decided to carry the bike to an army camp which was on the other side of the stream crossing and park it there. Even though it was downhill, it was difficult to push the bike through. Adding to our worries, was the growing traffic at the stream crossing, and the snowfall was getting even worse. Nikhil, whose rented bike was punctured, couldn't take it anymore, and he decided to abandon his bike near the very stream and walk towards the army camp, with his luggage and a can of fuel.
By the time, we gathered our bikes and set to cross the stream ahead, the traffic jam was worse. There wasn't enough space even for a single bike to sneak through. The snowfall was turning violent. I could hear the snow patting on my helmet and my bag, and I could do nothing but watch. My hands were turning number every passing moment. The heat from the engine didn't help anymore to warm my hands. The gloves had become a sack of water and yet I had to wear it. After a while, we realized shutting off the engines at the jam was not a good idea. So, I had to turn on and off my engine every 2-3 minutes, just to keep the engine warm. 1 hour had passed since we were stuck at this junction. No avail. The thought of abandoning our bike came to our minds many times, but we were also hoping the traffic to clear soon. Now it was no longer about the physical strength. It was about the mental strength to survive. We did not give up.
Finally, after toiling in the traffic jam for about one and half hours, the traffic cleared, and we could see the army camp a few hundred meters ahead. As soon as I approached the army camp, I parked my bike and ran inside of the camp like a mad dog, to warm my freezing hands. The army guys were very helpful and helped almost every biker who came in for shelter. They helped me take off my bag, helmet, and gloves and in no time, I was sitting in front of the burner warming my hands.
The army jawans advised us not to continue towards Pangong, as the weather was even worse. So, we found a resting place few kms ahead of the army camp and stayed there for the night.
|Loved the stay here!|
|Click for full screen|
|Where we stayed!|
The next morning, we woke up and just headed back from Tsoltak lake to Leh. But we also had to take back Nikhil's bike to Leh. It was a tough task for all of us together to board the Enfield bike on to the carrier we hired. Although we had missed Pangong, we came out strong and positive. Most importantly, alive!
Day 8 : Changla pass - Leh
|Its not a dead end! - just the clouds|
|My point of view while driving!|
|Selfie in the snow-clad mountains|
|Furry puppies on the way back|
Day 9 : Leh - Kargil - Drass - Zojila Pass - Sonmarg
The news of landslides along the Leh Manali highway spread like a wildfire, and my WhatsApp had many texts from people I know.
Driving back to Manali the same way back along with the group was almost a No from myself, and Surendra who had our own share of experience the previous day near Changla, and were very reluctant to experience a similar hassle all over again. We decided to drive through to Jammu over the next 2-3 days, but we did not have any solid plan. The idea was to drive as far as we could, stay there for the night and continue towards Jammu. The idea was not bad. I contacted few of my friends to know the status of Srinagar, if there were any curfews.
|Scenes like these 😍😍|
The journey from Leh to Kargil was breathtaking! The time when I thought I had seen the most beautiful roads and landscapes, there was something even more exotic waiting! The views were quite different from what we saw along the Leh Manali highway. The ride also felt a lot different as we were just two now. We had to watch out for one another.
The first few hours of ride was a treat to the eyes and the soul. The never-ending roads, the occasional valleys we witnessed, the cool breeze, and the hot sun it was an awesome combo to ever forget.
We were now getting a glimpse of Kashmir, and we got a hint why it is called The Jannat! Kashmir has a very different vibe. I can barely describe how it felt. I had drawn a picture of me driving along the road looking at high mountains, and the river flowing along on the left and vegetation on the right. It's amazing how the universe works, and I was literally looking at myself living what I drew a few months back! Amazing!
I always wanted to visit the Kargil War Memorial if I got a chance. I couldn't have missed it. Even at 6.30 in the evening, the sun was sharp and looked like afternoons.
|Witnessing the National flag flutter with Tololing in the backdrop|
|A soldier stands guard at the Vijay Sthamb|
|My friend Suri posing at Vijay Sthamb|
|All gave some, Some gave all, Gone but never forgotten|
|Dandelions in the garden!|
Since it was still bright outside, we decided to ride through Zojila Pass to Sonamarg. Little did we know that it was going to be the riskiest ride of our lives till now.
After Drass, the road is all muddy, and at evening, when the heavy vehicles are allowed to move, they unsettle the dust and the incoming wind only made things worse for us. After a long tiring ride of about 2 hours, we were out from the dusty roads, but it was no longer bright. The sun had set, and the Zojila Pass looked farther than it was. We could experience the temperature falling slowly, as we shifted to double layers of hand gloves and additional layer to cover the chest!
It was pitch dark, not a single soul other than two of us, and the magnitude of mountains and the occasional stream crossings started to scare us every passing minute. I was just praying God that the bikes shouldn't get punctured and we can manage everything else. It was tiring to maneuver through the deadliest and the narrowest roads at night. A small miscalculation and we would be nothing but a dead flesh. We both tried to avoid running over the stones on the road, and in that process, we found ourselves at the outer edge of the curvy road at times. Only after we saw some glittering lights from the city far away, we were relieved!!
Day 10 : Sonamarg - Srinagar - Patnitop - Udhampur - Jammu
Sonmarg seemed like a pretty village offering stunning views of the ice-capped mountains straight ahead at the far end of the road, the golden meadows and the valleys on the side. Wish I had more time to spend there.
The road towards Srinagar is very narrow, and often it's difficult to overtake another vehicle in front. At times during the peak seasons, long traffic jams can also be witnessed! After a quick pitstop for breakfast near Srinagar, as if the adrenaline wasn't exhausted, instead of taking a bypass road leaving the Srinagar city, we wanted to check out how the city looked during a curfew!! The roads were usually empty and all the shutters of the roadside shops closed down, armed force jawans placed at every odd 100 mts on either side of the road and sighting of people in Kashmiri attire felt like a hostile situation for outsiders like us both.
We passed by Dal Lake and hit the Jammu highway quickly. We were also stuck in jam on the highway, for about an hour due to people coming in for Amarnath Yatra.
Along the way, we also went through few of the longest tunnels in India and also the newly built Chenani Nashri Tunnel near Patnitop, which was 9 km long.
The roads from Udhampur onwards are wide and in excellent condition. We raced through to Jammu in no time!! Such a beautiful journey had come to an end after a treacherous ride for so many days, so many adventures, and lots of dreams fulfilled and lots and lots of memories made!!
If you would like to know more about Preparing for a Leh Ladakh bike ride, click here.
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