Start Destination: New Delhi, Delhi 110001, India
End Destination: Leh 194101
Distance: 1,342 km
Bike: Honda ,
Start Date: 09/18/2015
End Date: 09/30/2015
To ride the highest motorable road is every biker’s dream. Plans made at the spur of a moment made this wish come true for this 21-year old lady rider who took a solo trip to Ladakh and back via the Manali-Leh highway.
New Delhi- Amritsar- Srinagar- Lamayuru- Leh- Nubra valley- Spangmik- Pang- Keylong- Mandi-New Delhi
Day 1 -
This trip was rather abruptly planned and I hardly had time to inform many people about it before I hit the road. Determined to trail the highest motorable road, on the 18thof September, I started my trip at 4 in the morning.
After riding 220 kilometres, heading towards Amritsar, I took my first stop. Later, I took a second one in Jalandhar, where I had breakfast at McDonald’s. Once in Amritsar, I checked into the Holiday Comfort Hotel near the Golden Temple. After paying my respects at the temple, I took my bike to a mechanic to get it serviced. As luck would have it, I ran into Mr.Malvinder Pal, a senior rider who had taken several trips to Ladakh. He shared some very useful tips with me and ran me through the A-Z of everything I needed to pay attention to during my travel. I could not be more grateful for the useful advice, blessings and the chocolates that he gave me as a gift.
Finally at 10:30 p.m. I decided to call it a night.
Day 2 -
I started at 4:30 in the morning and as I reached Pathankot, I could feel the hills nearing.
Entering Jammu, I stopped for breakfast. As I rode through the Jammu highway, there were numerous tunnels which needed to be crossed to enter Kashmir. I stopped for lunch and got a chance to converse with our soldiers. Just before entering Srinagar, I got stuck in a traffic jam. This gave me a great opportunity to observe the surroundings and take in the beauty around me. Now I know why people call Kashmir, paradise on earth’.
Looking around for an accommodation, I spotted an eatery called the Delhi Dhaba. It reminded me of home, so I decided to give it a try. I walked in and was received with warmth, so I thought it safe to ask them about places where I could put up for the night. They suggested a house boat, but I dropped that plan and checked into a place called Punjab Hotel instead. With my bike safely parked, I went to see the DalLake. The picturesque backdrop and the array of kiosks make the visit to Dal Lake a truly enjoyable experience.
Day 3 -
An early start is a good decision when you have the Zozilla Pass ahead of you. From all the stories I have heard, it seemed more like the ‘Godzilla Pass’. Gathering all my courage, I set off for Zozilla, with a small stop at Sonmarg for breakfast. Thankfully, the weather was favourable and I thoroughly enjoyed the off-roading experience.
The next stop on my list was the Kargil War Memorial. After leaving the Zozilla Pass behind, I made a stop at a checkpost to fill out the necessary details and the next thing I know, there was a gush of strong wind and my bike was on the ground. Before I could even react, some soldiers came running and quickly picked up my bike. The side stand was bent, the clutch lever twisted and about half a litre fuel spilled. Thankfully everything else was fine and I soon found a local mechanic to get my bike fixed.
After a delay of about 1.5 hours, I started off again and soon I was at the Kargil War Memorial. I interacted with soldiers and clicked many pictures as I went through the Hall of Fame. On the way back, I stopped at the Lamayuru and checked into Moonland Hotel.
120 kilometres away from Leh, I knew I was very close to my dream destination.
Day 4 -
Smooth roads lay ahead of me and covering a distance of 120 seemed like a cakewalk. The volunteers at Patthar Sahib Gurudwara extended a warm welcome to me when I stopped there for a break. I had amazing tea and snacks and set off for Leh again. In Leh, I got in touch with Shashank Tiwari, a senior rider from Chhattisgarh. This was his ninth ride to Leh and he was to leave for Delhi the next day. We decided to hang out together that day and he was great company. We went to the Hall of Fame and watched the Kargil documentary. Our next stop was Adventure Land - a small set up for tourists to enjoy various drills. Being there was a great experience and I discovered my inability to shoot an arrow or a bullet accurately. A great supper at Chaska Maska and I retired for the night.
Day 5 -
The day started with a drizzle and it’s a fact that rain and hills aren’t the best combination. I left most of my luggage at the hotel and packed my bag with essentials like spares, toolkit, chain lube, a first-aid kit and warm clothes. Like any biking enthusiast, I too wanted to trail the highest motorable road. Just as I had covered 15 kilometres, it started to rain. I took out my raincoat, wore it and kept riding. The weather was slowly getting worse and my hands and feet were already numb, but I was sure I would not quit.
Some 10 kilometres before South Pullu, my bike got stuck again and I fell. Mustering up my courage, I went on and reached South Pullu. There I purchased two forms, one which was to be submitted there and another which was to be submitted at North Pullu; another checkpost you cross if you want to move ahead towards Nubra Valley.
Moving forward I got the scare of my life as my bike suddenly stopped with a jerk. I tried twice but the bike just wouldn’t pick up. Gathering my wits, I pulled out my toolkit and got to work. I took out the air filter, cleaned it, fixed it and finally the bike started.
Little did I know that another curveball was yet to come my way. A little ahead, it started to snow, but I kept riding and finally made it to Khardung La. Overjoyed, I wanted to share my feeling with someone, sadly, I was alone. I clicked many pictures and mingled with other tourists and soldiers.
In my haste and inexperience, I decided to go forward to the Nubra valley. The road was in a terrible condition and impossible to ride on. Thankfully, I had some help. I somehow managed to cross the Khardung La and halted at a tent for some refreshment.
On my way towards Diskit, I met SrikantPeri (from Hyderabad) and Unni Krishnan (from Pune), who were returning from Spangmik on a Royal Enfield. We rode together and before I knew it we were at the sand dune tents. It was still raining and to my disappointment the people at the camp site informed us that we won’t be able to see the camels. I was really upset and scared to ride the next day in snow. My body hurt and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it. I called my friends and they encouraged me, and after prayers, I went off to sleep.
Day 6 -
I started off my day at 9:30 and was lucky enough to spot camels on the way. Upon reaching North Pullu, we had to wait till the snow was removed and the road was clear. Just as I was about to start, I called a friend of mine to take a few tips on how to handle the bike in snow. The ride was tough and I was freezing. I skidded once and was thankful to the people who helped me up. After a tough day I finally made it back to my hotel. Nothing had ever felt better. After a few cups of coffee and a nice supper, I got into my bed and before long, I dozed off.
Day 7 -
With my body aching and mind still trying to recover from all the action of the previous day, I thought of taking the day off to relax. I had great food at Rendezvous German Bakery and explored the city. At night I planned each step of my journey as I was determined to visit the Pangong Tso Lake.
Day 8 -
A beautiful rainbow greeted me the next day and I was ready to take on the mountains. After a quick breakfast, I was ready to leave for Chang La. As I rode further from Leh, the roads started getting bad, but I had survived the worst possible weather and was happy off-roading. I wanted to see Pangong Tso Lake before sunset and on my way I met Deepak Gupta, a senior rider from my biking group. I was ecstatic to see him and we talked for a bit. On my way I took a stop at an army camp for refreshments. I finally reached Pangong Tso Lake and was speechless when I saw the sight before me. It was simply beautiful and I wish I had someone with whom I could sit on the banks of the lake and talk for hours. I wanted to share my happiness, so I made a few phone calls to my friends.
Since it was getting cold, I decided to stay at Spangmik for the night, made friends with two other riders and decided to ride together the next day.
Day 9 -
The next day started with a headache and cold. We planned to stop at Karu for breakfast but I was feeling quiet demotivated. I even asked the guys to proceed without me, but some encouragement from one of them worked wonders. I had a few protein bars and popped a medicine. Finally, we made it to Karu for brunch. I got my bike checked and got 2 cans of petrol (2.5 litres each) since the next petrol pump was 350 kilometres away in Tandi. Our next halt was at Rumtse, 170 kilometres from Karu.
On our route towards Tanglang La, we took our first break at 4:30 p.m. where the Moore plains started, stopped near a tent and had tea. It soon started to get dark and the temperature was falling. The surroundings started to look eerie and some noises from my bike had started to worry me. I was scared and felt like a little kid who had been abandoned. Relief flooded over me as we reached Pang and got a tent. Supper and tea made things better and I ended another day of riding with a smile on my face.
Bright sunshine greeted me the next day. After a good breakfast, I headed towards Sarchu. Bumpy roads ran beneath my tyre, but I made it through all the hurdles and landslides. Upon reaching BaralachaLa, I took a break at a place called the Zing Zing Bar and clicked pictures. After a long day’s ride I was finally at Keylong where I settled for the night at the Sumrila guest house.
Day 11 -
For the last two days of my trip, I stayed anxious to complete my journey. I started for Rohtang Pass after a good breakfast at Tandi. The roads were fine, except for the last 15 kilometres to Rohtang. The last 1.5 kilometre stretch of soft muddy road was the worst.
Mall Road in Manali was where I took my next lunch break, then I explored the place for a bit and planned to stay the night at Mandi.
Day 12 -
The twelfth days was the last day of my trip and I was happy to have completed the journey. I packed my luggage and started off at 8 in the morning. Moving through and beyond the bad stretches of Bilaspur, I reached Kiratpur, stopped at Chandigarh for lunch and then only stopped when I parked my bike in front of my own house. I was finally home, with memories to last a lifetime.
Ideal Time to Visit:
The ideal time to visit is from March to October
I took this trip alone and it was one of the best experiences of my life.
I got my bike serviced and talked to a few people who had taken the route before. Packed warm clothes and biking essentials and I was good to go.
I used the GPS in my phone for navigation and used the camera to click pictures.
Road and Traffic Conditions:
The roads were smooth for the most part and it only got tough in the bad weather. I only encountered a bad jam right before I entered Srinagar.
Best and worst stretches:
The worst stretch of the whole trip was when I was trying to cover the last few kilometres to Rohtang Pass. The roads were soft and muddy and it was very difficult to get through.
The best time during my ride was when I was going towards Zozilla Pass. Despite my apprehensions about the road, the weather was pleasant and it made my ride very easy and enjoyable.
I had a crash course acquaintance of all the seasons, from the heat of Delhi to the freezing mountains, I experienced it all. It even rained on one occasion, making riding very difficult.
After I reached Amritsar, I took my bike to a mechanic and got it serviced.
The second time I had someone take a look at it was when it fell on my way back from Zozilla Pass. The side stand was broken and the clutch twisted. I had to find a mechanic to get the bike back in shape.
Right before reaching south Pullu, the bike stopped with a jerk and didn’t start again. I was scared but I gathered my wits and took my toolbox to work. I took the air filter out, cleaned it and fixed it back as a friend of mine had instructed me to do, and in no time the bike was ready to take me further.
All the locals were very polite and helpful. Wherever I stopped, they offered me tea and guided me when I needed help. I really want to thank the army, who guard the borders day and night and also helped me (and many others I’m sure) on many occasions.
Food Joints and Stopovers:
I booked a hotel in Amritsar called the Holiday Comfort Hotel for the first night’s stay.
While in Kashmir, I ate delicious food at a dhaba called the Delhi Dhaba, and stayed in a hotel called Punjab Hotel.
As I entered Leh, I stopped at Patthar Sahib Gurudwara for tea and ate at an amazing restaurant called Chaska Maska. I also visited a bakery called Rendezvous German Bakery.
On my visit to Nubra Valley, I stayed in the Sand Dune Tents.
While I was returning back home, I stopped at a place called the Zing Zing Bar in Baralacha La, while in Keylong I put up at Surmila Guest House.