Archive for July, 2007

We were too tired the previous day and its hangover gave us an excuse to sleep till 10. By the time we started again it was already 1 PM. We decided to cover as much as possible by 7 and then to take a halt, but not to ride after dark. And so we started again on one of the Godly stretch on this tour. Mountains were no longer green. They were all grey. Big mountains and long road and not even a single sign board for miles. While driving on this stretch one can not ignore that feeling of loneliness. It creeps in. And for us it was first stretch of this kind with just the noise of whizzing motor and speedy winds. We crossed Namik La and again were forced to halt for 30 mins as BRO was in process of widening the road. There are plans of making this complete Srinagar – Leh stretch a double lane highway by 2012. We knew by this time that it would not be possible for us to reach Leh. As we moved ahead, Prasoon’s clutch broke down (God! Why always with Prasoon!!?). Another 30 mins gone. We gave up and decided to put a halt at Lamayuru. There is a famous old Gompa (Monastery) in Lamayuru and we thought of this as an opportunity to visit that. Once decided, we were riding at our own pace getting most out of the nature. Then we crossed windy Fotu La and later reached Lamayuru around 7 PM.

Total distance covered: 111 kms

We were in somewhat relaxed mood on day 8 and started off late again, to discover that there was some problem with Jatin’s brake. We looked out for the mech, but they were all closed, it being a Sunday. We fixed it up ourselves, but it took some of our precious time. By the time we started it was 12 PM. After riding some 30 kms we reached South Pallu check post. We were stopped there and were initially not allowed to go ahead as last time for vehicles going uphill is 11.30 AM. We pleaded and were somehow allowed. I had to adjust my air-oil mixture as bike was not performing well. It was a relatively bad stretch beyond South Pallu to Khardung La and gain in altitude was also much. We reached Khardung La around 2 PM.

‘Khardung La – 18380 ft – Highest motorable road in the World’ and you can’t help but need to pose there next to the sign board. And your pilgrimage is through. 🙂 K-Top was covered with snow and temperature must have been sub zero. It was getting difficult to resist that cold and we were feeling tired and dizzy because of less oxygen levels there. Prasoon, in that dizziness coined the idea of dropping Nubra and resting back in Leh, but that was outrightly turned down by Jatin and me.

We started towards Nubra and road was real bumpy till North Pallu. As we crossed North Pallu we saw tarmac and we pressed our accelerators. We enjoyed the ride on that tarmac and that route. All our tiredness vanished, and we pressed and pressed and paused for clicks and again pressed. We reached Khardung village and again had maggi for lunch. We witnessed all different kind of views on this road from snow to big gorges to desert to river and what not. It was a real bliss! And Prasoon, later agreed that it was a good decision to come down to Hunder. In our excitement we passed Hunder and continued on the same road till we were stopped and told by military that it was heavily restricted area beyond that point. We came back to Hunder and anchored for the day. It was 7.45 PM.

Total distance covered: 151 kms

Day 7: Lamayuru – Leh

Posted: July 8, 2007 in Rides_n_Travel

Day 7 we started quite early around 6 in the morning. Roads were mostly in good condition and we maintained good speed. Visited gurudwara Pathar Sahib in Nimu and it was a pleasure to find a long tarmac from Nimmu to Leh. We finally saw the signboard ‘Welcome to Leh’. We all were exhilarated and were feeling great on reaching ‘the destination’. And so half of our journey was through.

Booked a decent guest house and after unloading we headed straight to take permissions for Khardungla, Nubra and Pangong Tso. You need to take permission from DC office to visit these sites as there is restricted access to these sites, but permissions are given easily to tourists.

Finally, we ended that day with victorious meal.

Total distance covered: 136 kms

We started back from Hunder around 9 and taking the same route we were planning to hit Khardung La as early as possible. As we crossed North Pallu, we could sense some bad weather approaching. Grey clouds were all over Khardung La and air started getting colder. We decided not to stop and so we moved on. Just after few kms from North Pallu towards Khardung La, those clouds surrounded us and snow fall started. All of us were witnessing snow fall for the first time and were excited on that pleasant view. We wanted to stop for a while to enjoy it, but fear of weather getting worse kept us moving. We were riding in snow fall, with snow flakes all around our visors and riding gear. We were riding very carefully and were doing extremely slow speeds, but we were moving. It was light snow fall and continued for another 15 mins or so and then we were exposed to the bright sun. We stopped and clicked some pics and then moved towards Khardung La. At Khardung La we took a short break and then continued our journey. After crossing South Pallu we took a good road side break and then finally reached Leh around 5 PM.

Total distance covered: 128 kms

Day 10 & 11: Rest at Leh

Posted: July 8, 2007 in Rides_n_Travel

Day 10 – Rest day at Leh

We were tired and badly wanted to take some rest. Our bikes were also not performing well. Especially my bike with problem in crank was not able to take much load. We got to know that Chang La which is en-route Pangong Tso is steeper than Khardung La. Taking into account our condition and bike’s performance we decided with heavy heart to drop Pangong Tso and to rest in Leh for next 2 days. We dropped Pangong, Marisimek and Zanskar with a promise to cover them exclusively on our next trip.

So, day 10 was a complete rest day and we just moved out to Leh market to get some memorabilia and chilled out at German Bakery.

Day 11 – Rest day – Leh local site seeing

Got our bike checked first thing in the morning. There are two famous mechs in Leh – Mohan and Juma. We got it checked at Mohan’s. He did a decent job, but we realized that Tahir of Srinagar was far better and more efficient.

After getting our bikes tuned we moved to visit local Leh Palace and then Shanti Stupa before returning to the guest house.

With heavy hearts we bid good bye to Leh with a promise to come back again. We started early in the morning around 6 AM. Road from Leh to Upshi was in good condition and we did good speeds at this stretch. Took a halt in Upshi for breakfast and started towards Tanglang La. Tanglang La is at 17,582 ft and is the third highest pass. Road to Tanglang La was in decent condition or may be looked decent to us after doing Khardung La. As expected we got some spectacular views at Tanglang La. We clicked some pics and moved ahead. From Tanglang La the landscape started changing and we were able to spot some rocky mountains along with barren, arid mounts.

After descending from Tanglang La we found ourselves riding on a long plane stretch. We were riding on famous More Planes. There is a 40 kms long plane road on this long plateau and it is hard to believe that you are riding on a relatively straight road at an altitude of 15,400 ft. Road was mostly in good condition but was bumpy. Few stretches were filled with sand and riding there needed a lot of maneuvering. At the end of More Planes we were bit surprised to see a steep descend towards Pang. That is when we realized that we were riding on some real high altitude. We reached Pang around 12.30 and stopped there for lunch.

One surprising observation was that on this Leh – Manali stretch there were no pakka houses / stalls from Upshi to Jispa. You can just find few tents other than army transit camps in all other places enroute.

Pang was no exception. We had a quick lunch at one of the tents in Pang and started forward towards Lachu Lung La (16616 ft). By the time we crossed Lachlung La all of us started to feel a mild headache, which we ignored and kept moving.. It was hard to believe that it to be the symptom of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) as after doing Leh and excursions we thought that we were fairly acclimatized. Later we realized that it was due to riding continuously at high altitude of 14000+ ft for more than 6 hours. And we were certainly not acclimatized to that.

We kept on moving in hope of touching low altitude asap. We crossed Nakee La (15547 ft) to ride on the famous Gata Loops which is a stretch of 21 hair pin bends. Gata loop finally took us down to some comfortable altitude. By this time Jatin was suffering from a severe headache. Myself and Prasoon were in relatively better condition. We did our final stretch of the day to reach Sarchu by 4.30 PM and were happy to reach atleast one destination quite in time. We called it the day and took a halt in cold and windy Sarchu. Jatin was not well and was having severe headache and nausea. We checked with Army Doctor and he recommended him to sleep early. He assured that the next day morning everything would be all right and it happens usually in that area because of low oxygen levels.

Total distance covered: 264 kms

We got up around 6 to find that everyone of us was perfectly fit and ready to move ahead. So, we started around 7 AM after having a light breakfast. Road from Sarchu to Baralach La Top (16500 ft) was not in good condition. Infact this day we experienced the worst roads of our complete trip. The only relief was a stretch of fresh tar road of 8 kms starting from BaralachLa towards Jispa. After which roads were mostly bumpy and broken till Tandi barring few occasional stretches. We also encountered few water passes on this stretch. As soon as we crossed Jispa we started getting the feel of Himachal as we were now surrounded with green mountains. We reached Rohtang Pass around 5 in the evening and as notoriously famous for bad weather, it lived upto its expectation. We had a quick cup of coffee there and moved ahead. We finally reached Manali around 6.30.. booked a room and headed straight to see a mechanic as it was evident that my bike’s brake shoe was gone and it was yelling at different pitches whenever I was applying brakes. I got my brake shoe done, and Prasoon and Jatin got their broken carrier fixed. Then we headed straight to take a hot dip in Vashisth hot water spring. Finally we celebrated that evening with a grand meal.

Total distance covered: 234 kms