Monday, July 18, 2011

Bike trip to Ladakh, Delhi to Leh

Riding to Leh has been my dream for many years. This year the dream became a reality. After planning to do this ride the first step was to look out for a team to ride with. Met Ragu and Thomas on-line and we formed a team "Enfield tribes".

The next step was to prepare the man and the machine. Both of us were not in any condition for a ride like this. Took the birdie to the service center (manjunath motors). There was some serious problem with the bike. It has already covered 50K kms without any major overhaul. So fixed everything except the types. And for the man, i started working out 1 hour every day.
1 Week Before D-day, Packed the bike to Delhi via Railways. Also started packing Spare parts, Toolkit for the machine and Medicines, Winter clothing, Rain gear, riding gear etc for the man.

Day 1. 18th June - Took a flight to Delhi and collected the bike from the railway station. We faced the best part and worst part of Delhi. The airport, metro was wonderful. Reached the Railway station in full comfort. Once we came out of the metro station the scene changed completely. It was hot, dusty and every one was trying to take a pie of our wallet. The worst part was to come out of delhi. Many of them does not know the way to Chandigarh. Finally met couple of bikers who directed us "out of Delhi".
On the way my bike suddenly stalled. I was little worried, and found my engine dry. Filled the engine with the oil which Ragu has brought and reached Chandigarh. Found a hotel, and slept hard.

Day 2. 19th June. Checked the Bike and found the air intake pipe broken. Fixed it with tape and took the bike to the enfield service center. The owner of the service center (garg autos) was very helpful. It being a Sunday many options were closed. He called one of his friend in the motor market (Chandigarh has a separate place only for vehicle spares and service) who helped with the pipe. changed the bike front tires and we started for mandi.

Day 3. 20 June. Started from Mandi to Manali. For some one who has never seen Himalayas, i was mesmerized by the views. stopped in many places to take indulge in the bueaty. Till manali we also had to negotiate some decent traffic. I lost my digital camera somewhere here on the road. It was good in a sense that i started using my DSLR seriously. We were riding along the Beas river. The river itself was majestic and the mountains around was making it more beautiful.

After Kullu the fruit orchards started. There were apple, pears, peaches. The fruits were just on the road. It was an awesome ride. The landscape was changing and also the temperature started to drop. Just before manali, it started to rain. It was a sudden heavy downpour. Quickly wore the rain gear and ducked my camera inside and continued the ride.

Once i reached manali the traffic was completely jammed. It was a mad rush. There were vehicles every were. We found a nice hotel away from the rush, on the road to rohtang. Had a late lunch. My bikes front fork was leaking. Took it to a service center. He took some 4 hours and gave it back in a clean state. Only that the leak was not fixed (It started leaking after 20 kms). The good part was, we did meet lot of bikers in the garage. Next day we planned to hit the roads early to avoid the maddening rush to the Rohtang pass.

Day 4. 21st June. Manali to Keylong.
Started early in the morning. The ride to rohtang was cold but the route was getting more beautiful. Around 6 km before the pass we were stopped by the army. We were told that tuesday was meant for repair work and no vehicles will be allowed. They were fixing a landslide that has happened earlier. The landslide was all the way till the pass.
By this time there were more bikers who have come to the point. The total number was around 100. The good part of this was that no one was hurrying up to go past the place neither return to manali. the place itself was very beautiful. We started inquiring in the makeshift tented dhabas. One guy agreed to accommodate us for Rs 200. But fortunately/ unfortunately the army allowed one batch of vehicles. We started to move slowly and reached the Rohtang pass around 2.00 PM.

Just before the pass there was a landslide and the army was clearing it. The road as slushy. When i was trying to cross a deep slush my bike slipped and fell on me. My leg was caught in between the rear foot rest. The pain was severe, based on the pain i thought i should have got my leg fractured. But then it was not that bad, though the pain was there for almost a fortnight.

By the time we reached the rohtang pass, we were exhausted. There was only one dhaba in the pass, but the good thing was they were serving Rice and mutton curry. I had two plates of rice, took a small nap. I was getting very tired after the nap. Only then i realised that it could be the AMS kicking in. So left the place and started the descend towards keylong.
After the rohtang pass the scene change completely. Mainly there was no traffic. This stretch forms part of the beautiful spiti valley. There was one waterfall every kilometer. The place was so beautiful, that it can neither be explained nor captured by camera. It should be experienced.

Reached Keylong before the sun set. Filled up up the tanks and extra cans at tandi.

Day 5. 22nd June Keylong to Sarchu.

After a good rest in keylong, we rode along Bhaga River to the right. We crossed Jispa and Dracha. Dracha has a police check-post where we have to register our details. A small road runs to the left just after Darcha, connecting the villages deep in the mountains with the Manali-Leh highway. It is though this road that trekkers begin the long walk to Zanskar and further to Lamayuru Village in the Indus Valley.

From Darcha, it is a steady climb for next 40km to Baralacha la, the highest point in the road so far. Before the pass one of the rider from a team from europe fell down near a water crossing. His bike was laying some 300 feet down. Luckily he survived the fall. Later he was airlifted from sarchu.

One of the risky activity in the entire ride is water crossing. The ice from the higher side of the road melts to form a water fall. The water flows with decent force across the road. The road here will be broken badly and water ice cold. Without fellow riders who encourages and also helps at these water crossing, it will be almost impossible to cross them

Descent from Baralacha is quick. At the floor of the valley is City, which is nothing more than half a dozen parachute tents huddled together. Beyond Bharatpur City is the high altitude plateau of Sarchu. It is now one long straight road, which feels like an expressway after going through ups and downs of the mountain roads for the whole day. It is now the turn of Yunam River to accompany us till Sarchu.
We halted in sarchu and stayed in a tent. Even inside the tent it was very cold. Without knowing the seriousness of the cold i removed my dress and thermals and started shivering in side. Wore all the dress again. Slept with full 5 layers of clothing and two thick blankets. Still it was cold. The High altitude only made things worse. It was very difficult to sleep continuously for an hour without waking up.

Day 6. 23rd June Sarchu to Leh

Left sarchu early in the morning and passed through Gata loops. It was indeed a great climp to such a height in such short distance. At the top of the Gata loops is Nakee la. The terrain was very dry from here. After pang we reached the Morey plains. We expected a fast ride here, but in most of the places BRO was still laying a new road. Which means more gravel and slow ride. Many places we have to cross sand tracks which was very soft. The best way to ride through this sand patches is to switch to first gear and use both legs and walk with the bikes.

The road begins the climb up to Tanglang la(altitude – 5328 meters or 17,582 feet) which is the second highest motorable pass in the world and the highest point on the road.

Just after Tanglang La there was a water crossing. The water crossing here was quite different, because the place was made of soft black rocks. So where ever there is a water crossing the roads were eroded. when i was hopping from one stone to another in the water crossing, a Ford figo was behind me. He was honking and coming in a decent speed. The road was so narrow that i cant even move to any side. I knew he is going to hit me. So applied full brake and hoped that he when he hits me i will fall on the ice to the right. cause the left hand side was a deep valley. He did hit me and i was thrown on the ice (as hoped). But the fall was not as cool as you see in a movie. Hit real hard head first. Luckily there was no injury. More than me the driver of the car and his family were more scared. The bike was damaged in the rear and the real wheel was jammed to the mudguard. The driver of the figo fixed the mudguard with his hands, while i was sitting inside the car and was sipping the glucose mixed water. With some minor fixes the bike was ready to roll. Any way it was an unforgettable incident.

The rest of the ride to leh was good. Till Upshi it was broken road. We took a break in Upshi. From here Ragu and Thomas left early. The plan was to find a place and call me. But something unplanned happened here.The mobile phones were not working. We were told that BSNL phones will work, but only after we reached leh we found out that the mobile phones work when there is power. When there is no power to the town, (which happens 50% of the time) the mobile and the internet is also down.
So We got seperated here and stayed in two different hotels. I stayed in Hotel Kangri. I got the room for almost 30% of the cost displayed.We also got decent discount in srinagar and kargil. Though the oqners of the hotel told it is because we came in bikes, etc i now think it should because we came quite late.

Day 7. 24th june Leh

Leh is the most laid down place i have travelled yet. Things happen very slow here. We just decided to spend one full day here to refresh ourself and our bikes. Next day took the bike to a mechanic by name mohan. He is a very good person. He fixed my bikes airfilter, Front forks mudgaurd and tail lamps, which were broken. In the afternoon just rode around leh.

We found a nice place to hangout here. Forgot the name. Had lots of Thukpa and momos...

Day 8. 25th June Leh to Khardungla to Leh

Rode from leh to KTop. The roads was decent. Not tarmac, but there was not much water crossing. Reached the top. It was indeed a great joy to stand in the highest motorable road of the world.

We spent some time there and came down to leh. Again spent some relaxed time here. Ragu left from here. He was getting home sick, mainly because of the inconsistant phone connection :). Me and Thomas planned to leave the next day through srinagar.

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