Start Destination: Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India
End Destination: Leh 194101
Distance: 1,464 km
Bike: Royal Enfield ,
Start Date: 08/06/2016
End Date: 08/15/2016
Riding doesn’t only clear your mind, it helps take a message to people – a message that can help improve countless lives. We were concerned about the number of youngsters who desert their parents in their old age. Our ride was all about delivering the message that no matter how old or how successful you are, never leave your parents. We made frequent stops in our journey in order to convey this message. I along with my friends and members of the group Panther Enfield decided to embark on an adventurous yet meaningful journey towards Leh and Ladakh. We started off around 4 p.m. with Hanuman Chowk, Agra as our designated meeting point.
Panipat was our first stop, and it was a much-awaited one as we were all quite hungry at the time. We had some snacks along with homemade tidbits. After this small snack break, we eagerly resumed our journey.
We then refuelled our tanks at Ambala. Just when we were preparing to leave, there were lashing rains. We waited for around half an hour for the rain to relent but after a while seeing no signs of the rain abating, thanks to the riding gear, we continued our ride while it rained.
Our decision to continue, irrespective of the rain paid off. We reached Rupnagar at around half past ten in the evening. After scouting a few hotels in and around the area, we finally found a hotel called New Moon to spend the night in. The hotel had a nice ambience along with some mouth-watering food which made our day.
Having stuffed ourselves a day before, we overslept. To make up for the lost time, we skipped breakfast and started riding towards Manali. Just when we were about to enter Himachal, my bike decided - enough is enough- and it stopped flat in its tracks. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as during the time my bike underwent repairs, we grabbed a much needed bite.
We were frustrated as a lot of time had already been wasted. Mutually, we decided that we would ride non-stop till Manali and try to make up for the lost time. But it was turning out to be just one of those days on which nothing goes as planned. Owing to heavy rainfall, the roads at Mandi in Himachal were in the worst possible condition. Fortunately we were equipped with proper riding gear and reached Manali safely around 9 in the evening. Since it was an off-season, we got a discount for our stay at the Ambika Hotel. The view from our room was an amazing one.
We decided to dine at Mall Road, where all the eateries are and it is the spot that the locals recommend. Our dinner was followed by a long walk and when we returned to the hotel, it was already midnight. Exhausted as we were, we went to sleep in no time.
We woke up quite early the following morning as we had to collect a permit which would allow us entry into Ladakh. To get the permit is not an easy task and we had issues with getting ours, however, the cool morning breeze was enjoyable. Securing the permit took us a few days and we finally got the document with a lot of help from the manager of the hotel. In the interim time we had on our hands, we got our bikes tuned up and used the opportunity to interact with the locals and spread our message.
After being granted our permits we headed for Rohtang Pass. The road was quite muddy and we faced a lot of problems while riding. We were careful, but it didn’t prove to be enough. I slipped. It proved to be a costly slip up as it broke the lens of my DSLR camera. That was that! I had a heavy heart till we reached Keylong, where we ate at a local’s house. My mood was still sour because of the mishap. We stayed on over there for the day as I was not feeling up for a ride.
Having already lost a lot of time during our journey, we started our ride towards Ladakh at 4 in the morning for the next couple of days. After riding for about 70 kms, we crossed Sarchu. Surprisingly, there were no hotels to stay in nearby. Realisation dawned on us. It was clear that accommodation was only possible in the homes of the people residing there, as rent from tourists was a main source of income for the locals who owned big houses. Tired, from our journey we decided that we are done for the day and stayed the night at a local’s house.
Refreshed, we woke at 4 in the morning the next day. It was shivering cold, but having rested the day earlier, we snacked and started our journey towards Ladakh. On our way to Ladakh, one of my friends’ bike got punctured. Luckily, we were carrying repair tools and an extra tube which came in handy while fixing the puncture ourselves. The bike was good to go in no time and we started riding again.
Finally, we reached Ladakh at 3 in the afternoon (Phew)! We stayed at a guest house there. I along with my friend Arvind were excited to explore the place and decided to go to the Ladakh market for shopping. Tarun stayed back at the guest house because it was his first time riding out so far and it had its effects on him which is why he chose to stay in and rest. On or shopping spree, we bought a Buddha flag and a statue of Buddha specially engraved in a certain stone found only in Ladakh. We returned with shopping bags in our hands and wore a smile on our faces that made Tarun fairly jealous.
During some point around this time we started our return journey towards Khardung La, but due to curfew our journey was cut short, so we decided to stay at Sarchu. It was very difficult to stay there for long because of the lack of oxygen and proper accommodation, but we managed to build a tent and stay there for the night. The outside temperature was so low, that if I say we were shivering, it would be the understatement of the century! Thankfully, the temperature was slightly moderate inside the tent.
The next day, I woke up at 4 in the morning and then had to pull my friends up, quite literally as they were sleeping soundly. We ate a light breakfast and started our ride towards Manali.
My bike got punctured as we were about to enter Keylong (damn these roads). After we replaced the tube and fixed the puncture, we reached Ambika Hotel. We made friends at the hotel and decided to visit a famous club house in the evening, where we danced and had a lot of fun. This brought us to the last part of our ride.
We started our ride back towards Manali, reached Rupnagar in the afternoon where it was raining cats and dogs, stopped at Panipat at around 8 in the evening and had tea and snacks. At 2 a.m. we reached Delhi, took the expressway and reached Agra.
We were extremely happy after completing the journey, tired too, but it was worth it.
Ideal time to visit: The best time to travel this route is between May to September.
Entourage: We were riding in a group of three, all members of the Panther Enfield group.
Preps: We took an electronic air pump with us as the oxygen level drops near Ladakh. We were equipped with a tool kit, tube set, wrench set, and puncture kits because we knew the roads were not going to be smooth after Manali. We carried a first-aid kit too.
Assistive Gizmos: We used GPS for navigation. We also carried a power bank, cyber shot, Bluetooth speakers and a DSLR camera with us.
Weather: The weather we encountered was not favourable for riding as rain played spoilsport almost all the time.
Traffic and Road conditions: There was hardly any traffic throughout our ride, which could be because it was off-season. Roads at Mandi were not good for riding. The road from Chandigarh to Manali was well-maintained though.
Best and worst stretches: The best stretch was from Agra to Solang Valley, Manali. On our way to Manali, the roads were smooth for the most part, though the stretch from Manali to Mandi was the worst and not very comfortable to ride on.
Bike care: We got our bikes checked and serviced before leaving for this trip and tuned up in between whenever we got the chance to do so.
Safety measures: Maintaining a decent speed limit and always wearing proper riding gear is the biggest favour a rider can do himself.
Locals: The locals at Manali were very helpful and courteous, but at Leh and Ladakh, the people were not so helpful and even rude sometimes.
Food joints and stopovers: We spent a night in Rupnagar at Hotel New Moon. The Hotel had a nice ambience along with some mouth-watering food. We also got a discount for our stay at the Ambika Hotel in Manali. The view from our room was an amazing one. We decided to dine at Mall Road near Ambika Hotel as we had heard positive reviews about that place from the locals. We reached Keylong, where we ate and stayed at a local’s house (which you will have to). We stayed at a guest house in Ladakh. We also made a stop at the Agra expressway for tea and snacks.