July 28th, 2010
Ladakh – Below is a snippet of the lyrics from the song “Kanmani Anbodu” from the movie Guna.
Unnai enni parkayil kavidhai kottudhu
Adhai ezudha ninaikayil varthai muttudhu
la la la … la la la …
It roughly translates to, “When I think about you, emotions flow; but when I try to put them down, words fail me.” That exactly describes how I feel about Ladakh and the bike trip. The beauty of Ladakh beats all superlatives. Its memories left me in a dreamy state for days together … making sure that I longed to visit that place again and again.
I totally felt at home at Ladakh. The people were cheerful and friendly. The weather was so cold that its summer was like Chennai’s winter. Mile after mile, we passed through breathtaking vistas, rushing rivers, snow capped mountains, snow storms, bad roads, snow fields and what not! Each of those scenes screamed at us to stop, close our eyes, take a deep breath and take in that scene. Much of those even rendered me speechless. Sunset time was especially brilliant. Though we were never able to see the actual sun set – because of high mountains around – the golden light created so much contrast that everything around us opened up to its purest beauty.
There were 13 of us on the Grand Ladakh Trip and I’m sure every one of us had personal special moments that we will cherish for our lifetime.
Day 1 – Chennai to Delhi and Delhi to Jammu
Day 2 – Jammu – We were forced to stay in Jammu this day because our bikes arrived a day late.
Day 3 – Jammu to Kudh via Udhampur. First experience of the hilly curves and the awesome dinner at Kudh as we were served by an enthusiastic Brahma Dev Singh.
Day 4 – Kudh to Sonamarg via Patnitop, Ramban, Ramsu, Banihal, Jawahar Tunnel, Quizigund, Srinagar – My bike skid on the road. Myself and Ajay had some bruises
Day 5 – Sonamarg to Kargil via Zoji La, Baltal, Drass, Kakshar – Very special day as we touched and felt snow for the first ever time . We also visited the war memorial at Drass. I held a real AK-47 gun. The gun displayed a raw and brutal arrogance that I kind of liked.
Day 6 – (Read about it) Kargil to Leh via Mulbek, Fotu La, Lamayuru, Khaltse, Saspol, Nimoo – A super adventure for me that extended in to morning of Day 7. I can’t forget that day and the help from Gurcharan Singh (a lorry driver) and Munna (helper boy at a hotel in Khaltse). Crazily amazing road from Saspol to Leh (60 km), with three straight stretches where I reached the maximum speed on my bike – 118 kmph.
Day 7 – Leh – Permit letters, Shanthi Stupa, Leh Palace, Leh Bazaar, Tibetan market etc.
Day 8 – Leh to Diskit via Khardung La, Khardung village, Khalsar, Diskit – A great day as we rode to Khardung La (the wrrrld’s highest motorable pass) and the day of our first football game in the sand dunes en route Diskit. Susila Defenders vs Ladakh Mokkais
Day 9 – Nubra Valley – Visit to Diskit, Sumur, Panamik, Hunder and back to Diskit. Super duper bath at Panamik hot springs, visit to Sumur Monastery, the sand dunes of Hunder and camel ride.
Day 10 – Diskit to Pangong Tso via Agham, Shyok, Durbuk, Tangtse – Encounter with the worst ever road possible on the whole trip, the epic day of road kissing ceremony and the best of all, we drove on this unmapped road which had no other soul except us!
Day 11 – Tangtse to Marsimik La, Spangmik and back to Tangtse – An unforgettable day in the lives of Ram, Suresh and Venkat as they drove to the top of Marsimik La in inclement weather. Others had to turn back at various levels.
Day 12 – (Read about it) Tangtse to Leh via Durbuk, Tsoltok, Chang La, Sakti, Karu – This was my day. The day on which I enjoyed driving the most. Slight rain in morning, followed by heavy snowfall, frozen limbs which we warmed up at an army camp at Tsoltok. They even served us hot soup!
Day 13 – Leh to Moore Plains via Upshi, Tanglang La – Amidst the best breathtaking vistas, myself, Simon and Ram drove to Tanglang La during sunset. Temperature reached -5 as the sun set and we stayed in a tent that night at Moore Plains. Suresh and Ram P joined us an hour later. Rest of the gang joined us only the next day!
Day 14 – Moore Plains to Zingzingbar via Tso Kar, Pang, Lachlung La, Sarchu, Baralacha La – The most beautiful day of the whole trip. Frozen lakes, bad roads, sunset at Baralacha La. I literally had tears after watching nature’s display. This was also the day when we experienced real numbness in our limbs. An adventure packed beautiful day to be precise.
Day 15 – Zingzingbar to Manali via Darcha, Keylong, Rohtang La. Landslide at Rohtang, skating at Rohtang La & drive to Manali amidst clouds
Day 16 – Manali to Mandi – The second best amazing road on the whole trip with a 3km tunnel. First slot goes to the road from Saspol to Leh.
Day 17 – Mandi to New Delhi and New Delhi to Chennai
Special Note – Bike Transport
As much as possible, try to send your bikes by train. We sent our bikes through a transporter called Gati. When our bikes arrived a day late at Jammu, they were in bad shape. Broken domes, dented petrol tanks, engine oil leaks, broken silencer, damaged gear shift lever, broken indicators etc. Because the bikes arrived a day late, we had to skip Zanskar Valley.
That never dented our enthusiasm though. For everyone in our team, it was our first time to Ladakh and we wanted it to be as awesome as possible.
My dear friends, this is just the trailer … Wait for more posts and pictures that will get you to stop breathing!