Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 21-22, 10 July - 11 July, Kalka - Pune.. Back home

On 10 July, we had to board into the train at Kalka. But, first we had to pack our bike before loading it into the luggage car. Fortunately, we could find some people at the station who packed our bike for 100 Rs. I remembered, same thing was charged 300 Rs in Pune.
Then, I booked the bike and got it loaded from a railway person.
Our back journey started at 10.10 am from Kalka. We were lucky that it started raining just after we reached the station.
Next day, we reached Mumbai at around 3.30 pm without much trouble. At station, the luggage dept. officer noticed that there was no booking information marked on the bike. So, he said that he could not transfer the bike to me and he would have to call up the Kalka station to confirm. Although I had the receipt and vehicle documents, he wanted to earn some money out of it. A typical example of bureaucracy in India. However, I went to his senior officer and told him the story and to my surprise he immediately came with me and asked the in charge person to transfer my bike to me as I had valid receipt with me. This was the other face of our bureaucracy :)

One more thing was about the porters working under that person. They were almost trying to scare me by saying that nothing can be done about my case. But, if I would give him 600 Rs., he would arrange the things for me. It was the most funniest at the same time a ridiculous thing for me. Finally, I had to get the octroi stamp from the concerned officer. She helped me telling that I would have to write an application stating that I had carried my bike for trip. So, I need not have to pay the octroi. It took me one and half our to resolve this problem.

Thus, eventually, we got the bike and started our journey back to Pune.
Our journey to Pune was nice other than the raining for most of the time.
Actually, it was a big trouble especially at night when there was merely some visibility.

End of the day, we were at home at around 10 pm while our dream trip came to an memorable end. We enjoyed it like never before. It was a journey of a place not less than heaven.

Day 20, 9 July, Kullu - Kalka

This was the last day of our journey on bike. The distance from Kullu to Kalka is around 300 Kms. So, we started quite early at 6.30 am.
Roads were in pretty good condition. So, the pace of journey was quite good. Around 9 am, we had our breakfast at a dhaba after crossing Mandi.
Soon, we passed by Bilaspur. However, there was one twist at Swarghat. As we were climbing up in the ghat region suddenly it started raining heavily. Although, we were prepared for rain, the rains could have easily drenched us in a few minutes. So, we stopped in a temple at the roadside.

It took very long time around one and half hour. We could see the clouds passing by us coming from the valley. Sometimes, it was raining a few meters away from us while there was no rain where we were standing :). Overall, we enjoyed the halt as well even we were worried about reaching to Kalka.

Once the rain stopped, we continued towards Chandigarh. Some kms ahead, there was no rain at all. Before entering in Chandigarh, we had our meal at a roadside dhaba.
Around 3.30 pm, we left for Kalka via Chandigarh. Chandigarh is really a nice and well planned city. Roads were wide. We could notice trees and gardens on the way. Overall, it was very much different from a normal Indian city, I had seen before.
Around 6 pm, we arrived in Kalka where we had to board into the train for Mumbai.
First, we enquired the booking officer about the booking of my bike. He told us, there was no one to pack our bike and we had to do it ourselves. So, we went into market to buy all necessary things. Fortunately, we could find it easily.
Finally, we were in the hotel room after dinner.

Day 19, 8 July, Keylong to Kullu

Today, we started a little late at 8 am. Our planned destination was Mandi which is 110 kms away from Manali.
Roads were in pretty bad condition till Rohtang pass other than some portion before Kokhsar.
Kokhsar is around 66 Kms from Keylong. Road passes through some of best beautiful scenery. Green mountains with snow peaked tops in background, were making the scenes amazing.
Ride was not so good as road was full of mud, water passages and dust. Among all this, we reached Kokhsar at around 11 am. We had our breakfast cum lunch here.
Soon, we headed towards Rohtang La, situated at 13,050ft. Within an hour or so, we were on the top and it was awesome. It was completely covered in the clouds.
Also, after so many days, we were seeing so many people together. It's a complete tourist spot.

After taking a small halt, we continued towards Manali. While descending down, road was in bad shape and the traffic was making it worse. After 2 hours of drive, we were in Manali at around 4 pm without much trouble.
Road conditions were improved very well. So, we proceeded towards Kullu after a small snacks break. Around 6 pm, we were in Kullu. Hence, we decided to stay here instead of continuing to

Day 18, 7 July, Pang to Keylong

From Pang, we started at 6 am. Weather was cold. The water at the drinking place was frozen because of freezing temperatures. Just after leaving Pang, we came across first pass, Lachulung La situated at an altitude of 16,616 ft. Ride was good through beautiful scenery. A few Kms down after Lachulung La came another pass Nakee La, 15,547ft. Roads in this part were not so good as compared to before.
Next came the famous Gata Loops, it is the collection of 21 loops taking us down from an altitude of 15,302 ft. Roads from Gata loops till Sarchu were in good condition. The structures created by the river in the mountains were amazing. Later, we reached Sarchu at around 9.30 am.
Sarchu has also a collection of tent hotels / restaurents run by Ladakhi / Nepali people. Also, we saw some groups having their own tents.

We left Sarchu after spending around 1 hour. Next came 3rd pass of the day, Baralacha La. It was the first place where we could see so much of snow. One more surprising thing was, roads were ultimate that too at an altitude of 16,500ft. Such good roads are even difficult to find it in a city :). Hats off to BRO .
One can see a frozen lake while going by this pass, the "Deepak Tal".
We captured some good snaps on the way. However, while descending down the pass roads were not constructed well. At one place, we had to pass through a stream where the bridge was broken. We removed our shoes to avoid getting them wet. However, the water was too cold that our feet were almost frozen while getting the bike across. After a few kms, the terrain started changing. We could spot small shrubs on mountains and as we went ahead it turned into dense forest.
Soon, we reached Darcha in Himachal Pradesh. Roads just before Daracha and further till Keylong were in worst condition as the road widening work was going on.

At Darcha, one can see a tremendous avalanche fallen in river bed. It's difficult to imagine what would have been the condition at the time of the avalanche. We can observe from here onwards people living up in
the mountains. I wonder, what would be their life in monsoon or snow fall seasons.

Keylong is 32 kms away from Darcha but it took one and half hour as the roads were full of dust, mud and water. We were in Keylong at around 4 pm. Keylong is a small mountain village with beautyful scenery.
We found one good economic guesthouse after a small search.
Later, the main task was to get carrier fixed as it was broken third time. One can imagine the conditions my bike would have passed through :). One boy from the owner's office helped me to get to a mechanic. He did quite a good job. I was assured that it would not break again.

In the night, we went to a small restaurent closeby. It was pretty cold at that time but the view at the night with lights glowing at the mountain houses, was extra ordinary. We had some good meal after a long time and went back to the guest house for rest.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Day 17, 6 July, Return journey begins.. Pangong to Pang

It was the starting day of our return journey. Our actual plan was to visit Tso Moriri and Tso Kar as well. However, the time left was very short so we had to cancel it.
We started pretty early around 6 am and it was damn cold. Especially, when we were driving the bike, we could feel our fingers were frozen. The clouds and chilling wind were making the matter worse. Around 8 am, we reached in Tangstey. We ordered for breakfast in a small restaurant. While we were sitting there, we were trying to get as much as sunlight on our bodies as they were almost frozen :).

Soon, we headed towards Chang La. Around 11 am, we reached there without much problems.
Between, we spotted some Himalayan Blue Ships and could capture some snaps. Again, here we had some tea. Also, we met a person from Mumbai who was coming in Ladakh every year for last 7 years. We exchanged some of our experiences. One more thing was that the army person told us that the temperature was in negatives which was really surprising for us.

Then, we continued again and passed by Sakti village to reach Karu. Now, we had to leave Ladakh region heading towards Manali. Before that, we had some good lunch and rest.
Around 1 pm, we started to move towards Pang. Road was in pretty good condition till Tanglang La, the third highest pass(17,582ft) other than the roads at the peak. After some time, we were on the famous More plains, a relatively flat piece of land, located at an altitude of 15,400ft.

In the beginning, road was in relatively good state. Later, we had to drive through soft sand along side the road as the construction of road was going on.
It was really hard to find path as the big vehicles has made long trajectories and it was not possible to drive bike on such path. Moreover, the cold wind blowing made the task really challenging.
We could imagine what would be the condition of this place in winters. We saw some cyclists riding on such route. I really wonder how they do it. B-)
Around 6 pm, we managed to reach Pang. We had thought, it would be a small village. However, it was just a small place with some hotel tents. As it was all open place, freezing wind was blowing making us impossible to step outside the tent. Also, these winds could give you a big headache unless you take care of your ears.
We could not have a good sleep at that night as it was not very comfortable.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Day 16, 5 July, Leh to Pangong Tso..

Today, we started off at 8 am from Leh. Soon, we passed by Shay and Thiksey Gonpas.
We reached Karu at around 9.15 am. Karu is 40 Kms away from Leh. Road was in pretty good condition. From Karu, one has to take left turn towards Pangong Tso.
Before moving to Pangong, we had a small breakfast.

Soon, we reached Sakti village. From Sakti starts the ascent of Chang La. As usual, the road is curvious and as you approach towards the pass road conditions start getting deteriorated. Captions laid along the road side make the journey wonderful. Between, we were lucky to spot some Himalayan Blue Ships on our way.

Around 11.30 am, we were at Chang La top. It is the second highest motorable pass at height of 17,800ft.
The place was pretty cold. However, the hospitality by army was very warm to keep us away from the coldness. We had some tea and biscuits and after a small break of photo session, we headed towards our destination.

As we passed by Chang La, there was noticeable difference in terrain. We could see some greenery along the water streams. Also, the oxygen level was decreased making us feel dizzy.
Around 2 pm, we touched Tangstey. Here, we submitted our permits and we proceeded towards Pangong Lake.
Lukung is 32 Kms away from Tangstey where one gets the first glimpse of the lake. The journey was quite good with the beautiful scenery alongside. We could see wild horses and asses grazing around. Although, it was tough at some places to drive the bike through the sand formed by erosion of rocks. Also, there was a small portion of road difficult to ride because of relatively big stream followed by steep ascent and road similar to a dirt track.

After all this, we could get the first glimpse of Pangong Tso around 3 pm. Pangong is a high altitude lake, located at around 14000+ ft.
There is a small restaurant run by army. We had our much needed lunch. The food was not that good. At this place, one can do boating if you are relative of army person or have any recommendation.
Later, we headed towards Spangmik which is 10 Kms further. Road was not so good from Lukung.
Spanmik is located at the shore of lake. One can get beautiful views of blue water with the barren mountains in the background. They were really astonishing that the camera won't stop clicking ..
After reaching at Spangmik, we could easily find a guesthouse for 250 Rs. We took some rest and went for a walk along the lake. As we were walking around, we could feel it inside our minds. The views were breathtaking although we were shivering because of the cool wind.
It was one of the best days, we spent in Ladakh.
We walked around for one hour or so and returned back to the room. At night, the owner of the GH served us food and then, we went for sleep. At night, weather was really cold and windy.
Snaps on Picasa

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Day 15, 4 July, Back from Nubra..

In the morning, we went again to the desert to take a closer look at it's beauty. Actually, our motive was to check for any wildlife existence. However, we were short of time. After spending

an hour amid the sparkling sand and shrub forest, we returned back to our room.
Our first destination was Diskit monastery. It was built in 1420 AD and is located on a high hill and offers fantastic views of Shyok river basin. Here, we again met Mr. Ali. He said us that they had found the location of one unknown lake close to Panamik. I told him that we would follow their car.
Later, we continued our journey to Sumur and then to Panamik.
Road towards Panamik is a very well laid so the journey was pretty comfortable.
The road passes by Nubra river through some of the magnificent vistas of nature.
Between, we lost the track of their car. Ultimately, we reached at Panamik around 11.30 am.
We climbed up till the hot water spring. Although, there is nothing much to explore but again the height offered good panaromic view of the riverbed and mountains.

It was time to get back to Leh. Soon, we were at the bifurcation leading to Diskit. Here, we had our lunch. Menu was as usual maggie :). Actually, we could have stopped at Khalsar which has much better options of meal.
We reached Leh at around 6 pm with small breaks. We had some snacks at south pullu and a small halt at Khardung La. Journey was good other than a few kilometers at Khardung La.

Again, it was exciting and challenging to drive through such roads.
As, the agent had promised, he gave us the permits for Tso moriri making it for 7 days in total. So, we were not worried as far as the permits were considered.
The next day, we had to move to Pangong Tso.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Day 14, 3 July, Nubra Valley via Khardung La

Today, we had to collect the permit from the agent. After morning breakfast, I went to the agent around 11 am. The agent had arranged them but he missed to add Tso Moriri in the list and it was for 4 days only instead of 7 days.
We could start at 12 pm. First stop was at Khardung La around 40 Kms away from Leh.
Road conditions were pretty good for first 30 kms although it passes through mountains. Only the last part of 10 Kms till Khardung La was in bad condition. However, the ride was full of excitement and as usual the scenery was awesome.
We reached the Khardung La summit at 1.30 pm.
It is the world's highest motarable pass at the height of 18380 Ft. We spent some memorable time at the top, played in the snow. Probably, the temperature was under 0 degree Celsius. Then we moved towards the Nubra. Driving around the summit was pretty much hard because of the road conditions & low temperature. Our bodies were shivering & hands were frozen.

Around 3 pm, we reached at south pullu. Here, one has to submit the permits. Also, we had our lunch although it was not so much tasty.
Next, we passed by Khardung village then Khalsar. Here, we came across the Shyok river valley. It offers magnificent vistas of the wide riverbed. Soon, we were at the bifurcation one leading to Diskit and another leading to Panamik.
Road from here was a straight line for next a few kms. By the time, we were getting the glimpse of the famous sand dunes formed in the riverbed. Around 6 pm, we arrived in Hunder. We decided to spend the night at Hunder instead of Diskit as Hunder is close to the sand dunes desert.
Soon, we found a good guest house called Snow leopard GH at an affordable price of 300 Rs.

After putting out luggage inside, we immediately went to the sand dunes area as we had enough time to check out the area. Here, one can take double humped camel ride. It reminds us the old silk route days. Then, we came back to the room. At the time of dinner, we had company of another group from Canada.
We had some good chat along with the dinner. Mr. Ali Kazmi and his group were pretty excited to know about our experience. It was really nice time we spent with them.
At night, we decided to head towards Leh directly after visiting Sumur and Panamik rather staying overnight at Sumur.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Day 13, 2 July, White water river rafting..

Today, our plan was to go for white water river rafting. As the organizer had asked, we reached at their office at 8.30 am. Initially, we were only 2 in the cab which was supposed to take us to Chilling, the starting point of rafting.
On the way, the cab driver picked up 3 more persons, Ronan from UK, Jagdish and Asha from Delhi.
After a drive of 2 hours, we arrived at Chilling. It was around 11 am.
They had life jackets and wet suits for us to keep us safe from drowning. The leader of our raft gave us brief instructions about the safety and the use of paddle to give direction and speed to the raft. There was a kayaker as well for our safety.
Around 11.30 am, we started our rafting expedition. In the beginning , the water current was not so fast and rapids were also not that hard to pass. So, everybody was relaxed and busy in giving pose for photo shootouts.
Suddenly, there came one big rapid. Since, our raft was not in good speed, it could not punch through the rapid and it flipped throwing all of us in water. For first a few seconds, I did not understand what had happened. When I realized that I was in water, I was in shock. Then, I started looking for the raft. It was 2-3 meters away from me. Suraj was behind me. Later, he told me, he could not swim upwards for some time because of some obstacle above his head.
I held his hand and we were trying to get to the raft. After some time, we reached up to the raft. But, the raft was still in flipped position and we were flowing along with the raft.
Major problem were the cold water and rocks in the riverbed. The kayaker asked us to keep our head and legs above water to avoid any mishaps due to rocks.
After 5 minutes, the raft leader started to flip back the raft. He asked to leave the rope attached to the raft. As I left the rope, I went away from the raft due to the speed of the flow. Next 5 minutes, we all were in the raft.
There was a bad news too. When the raft flipped, the cameras drowned in the river. Sterling directed the raft on river shore for some rest. Most of us were shivering due to cold water. Ronan had a small cut on his nose. Rest of us were in good condition.
After some rest of 10-15 minutes, we started again. Later, we had 3-4 such rapids. However, this time, we were ready to face such situation. It was really amazing and thrilling experience to pass through those rapids. You need to really push hard to pass through them.
It was 2 and half hours of journey before we arrived at Nimoo.
We changed the wet clothes. Meanwhile, lunch was ready. We had our lunch leisurely as we were really hungry.
Return journey was pretty quite after some initial chat. Between, Asha insisted to gift us a new camera, as she was holding our camera when the raft flipped and she was feeling guilty about it . After buying a new camera, we headed back to our room and Asha and Jagdish went to make inquiry about their return journey to Manali.
There was a bad news. The inner line permit was not ready yet as the DC office was closed because of the holiday (Hemis monastery festival). The agent told us that he would arrange it till 11 am, the next day.
Rest of the day we spent doing nothing much. Just wondering around and dinner.
Next day, we had to head to Nubra valley after collecting the permit.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Day 12, 1 July, Leh Sightseeing

Today, our first priority was to get the inner line permit for restricted areas. However, we found that the rear tyre of the bike was punctured again. So, we had to search for a puncture repairing shop. We came to know that there was no such shop close to main bazaar. So, we walked around in search of the shop.
Meantime, I asked Suraj to bring the bike while I waited for him. But, he took other road and went in other direction. Fortunately, one military person from Maharashtra saw the number plate and helped him to fill air in the tyre. After waiting for a long time, I returned back to the room.

Between, Suraj came back. He was exhausted after walking down with the bike. Then, I took the bike to get it repaired. It was almost afternoon till all things were settled.

Later, in the evening, we went to Shanti Stupa. It is one of the best places in Leh. It is located on a hill and offeres panaromic view of Leh city. Also, the stupa has magnificent structure of the white dome.
One of the important part of our plan was to do white water river rafting. So, we went to Splash Adventures located in the main bazaar. Also, I asked them to arrange the inner line permit.
I did not want to waste our time anymore. The agent charged 1200 Rs per head for river rafting and 100 Rs for inner line permit other than the wild life entry charges and red cross fund charges. We chose the Zanskar river stretch from Chilling to Nimoo.

Rest of the time, we spent in wandering around and exploring Leh city. The city was full of foreign tourists and we had a feeling that we were not in India. In the middle of city, one can easily spot the ancient structure of Leh palace although we could not visit it. But, it was truly beautiful.

Our time in Leh was full of relaxation and we enjoyed our stay there although we did nothing much other than eating delicious food and rest :).. That's the life, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Day 11, 30 June, On the way to Leh

On that day, we had plenty of time as Leh was no so far. So, we planned to do Alchi and Likir leisurely.
Except first a few Kms, road was in pretty good shape. Therefore, our progress was nice and smooth. We reached Alchi around 8.30 am. One has to take a right turn after Saspol while going from Kargil to Leh.

Alchi Gonpa dates back to the year 1000 AD and was built by the Translator, Rinchen Zangpo.
After spending some peaceful time inside the Gonpa, we had some breakfast and headed towards Leh route. Next destination was Likir Gonpa. Likir is also one of the best gonpas in Ladakh.
Likir also offers some of the best scenic views similar to most of the gonpas.

We left Likir around 11 am. Except the small stops at Indus valley and Magnetic Hill, we reached Leh at 1 pm. To talk about Magnetic hill, here one can experience magnetic field sitting inside a car. If we turn off the car engine and stand still, the car starts moving slowly. We could not experience it as we were on bike.

Soon we were in Leh, first thing was to find a good and economic accommodation. I found a local boy who helped us to find an accommodation near main bazaar at Ashoka guesthouse.
Rent was 300 Rs per night. Next, we had to arrange inner line permit for the other regions, we had planned to travel. So, after taking a quick lunch, we headed to D.C. office located near polo ground in Leh.

It was 3.30 pm and we were unfortunate as they accept the application till 12. So, they asked us to come the next day. We had plenty of time in hand so we headed for Shey Gonpa.
Shey Gonpa is located 15 Kms away from Leh. The main image inside the Shey Monastery
is that of Buddha Shalyamuni. It is a huge image of the seated Buddha.
It is also famous for the Shey palace, the ancient monument.
Later, we decided to move back to Leh instead of going to Thiksey Gonpa which was just 2-3 Kms away from there. Actually, we were already exhausted by the journey and needed some rest. We arrived at the room around 6.30 pm.

Later, we had our dinner in a restaurant near main bazaar and had a small walk around.
This was our first day when we were quite relaxed after a long time.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Day 10, 29 June, Kargil - Leh

Today, our first objective was to get the bike puncture repaired. So, I went to the repair shop at 9 am.
He started the repairing work after some time. He found and repaired one puncture at the sane place which was already patched. I asked him to recheck the tube to ensure the tube is in good condition and my doubt turned out to be correct. There was another puncture in the tube. By the time, all the repairing was done, it was 10.30 am.
I went to the Hotel and asked the owner for some hot water. Unnecessarily, we waited for it as it took long time and by the time we started it was 12 pm :(..
Now, we were on the way to Leh. Road conditions were better than Kargil-Zanskar route but not so good to drive fast at 40 Km/h :). Our earlier plan was to visit Lamayuru, Alchi gonpa and try for Likir gonpa if we had started early in the morning. Now, we had to restrict our plan to Lamayuru visit only before reaching Leh.

Again, we underestimated the road conditions. Till Mulbek, road was really good. We covered this 40 odd kms in one hour and 15 minutes. Here, we visited the famous Buddha statue of Maitreya. It is believed that the 9 meter high statue carved out of solid rock was built in 7th or 8th century. After taking lime ginger honey tea which tastes really nice, we started our journey towards Leh.
We thought, we would do it without much trouble. But, the best lesson there is, always expect the unexpected :)
Road conditions started deterioting as the road widening work was going on everywhere. Although, the scenic beauty of the mountain was truly amazing. It is said to be like moonscape land.
Meanwhile, we reached Lamayuru at around 5 pm. Here, we visited the famous Lamayuru gonpa. As it is located at good height, it offers some of the breathtaking views. Then, we left Lamayuru around 5.30 pm. We were thinking of finding some accomodation at Alchi which is 50-60 Kms from there.

Around 6.30 pm, we arrived in Khaltse village. Khaltse is a very small village located along the Indus river.
We were not sure of the road conditions till Alchi. Hence, we decided to find some accomodation there only although we had 1.30 hour in our hand.
We could find a good guest house for night halt. There was only one guest house left as the other was closed due to repairing work ;). It was pretty cheap only 150 Rs for a night.

We went to sleep very early to start early the next day.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Day 9, 28 June, Back to Kargil

As we had planned, we departed pretty early at 5.30 am. First objective was to cross the stream Abran as early as possible to avoid any problem.
Now, we were quite used to the roads so the speed was pretty fine. We reached at Abran around 8 am and we crossed the stream easily.
After some time, we stopped at the Darung Drung glacier for some photo clicks. We could feel the freeze in the atmosphere.
It was around 10 am till we arrived at Rangdum gonpa. Gonpa is located at some height from the road. I climbed up to the gonpa while Suraj waited for me at the middle of the way as he was not feeling good to climb up.
Gonpa was pretty beautiful. Also, being on some good height, it offers some of the best views of landscape.
There is a military camp at the base of the gonpa hill. One of them was from Maharashtra, so he asked us for a cup of tea. There were around 5-6 of them. We had small chat about our journey and some other stuffs.
After experiencing nice hospitality from the army people, we headed to Rangdum village where we had to have some food before continuing to Kargil. Within some half an hour, we reached at Rangdum.
We ordered the food which contained some rice, Dal and Gobi. The food was not that good so we did not finish all. Anyways, we had some good talk with the people living there about their lifestyle, wildlife in the area etc. They told us how much difficult life is in winter about water and other things. Also, one of them told that he spotted the famous snow leopard (cheetah in his words) on the outskirts of village. That was really amazing to listen as it inspired me visit the place again :)
Later, we continued our journey to Kargil. We had sufficient time in hand so we were not that much worried. Only thing was that the water passages which creates problems as the day passes by.
With some small halts, we passed Panikhar and reached Sankoo at around 4 pm. Probably, we took wrong route as it was not looking familiar. Also, the distance we covered was more than actual distance. At Sankoo, we had some tea with snacks at the same restaurant. Again, we were ready to move ahead.
Around 6.30 pm, we were close to Kargil and unfortunately, the rear tyre of bike got punctured.
First thing was to search for a puncture repair shop. I asked Suraj to wait with the luggage and I went with the bike to find any shop around. However, there was no such shop around. They were at Kargil town which was around 3-4 Kms far. I walked down in search but unfortunately, they all were closed as it was Sunday and there was no way to get it repaired until the next
day :( .
So, I left my bike in one shop and returned back where Suraj was standing with the luggage.
One local person told us that we can go by a bus in the market and he will help us finding a hotel.
Then, we reached at the market and stopped at the hotel for a rent of 350 Rs.
The next day, we had to depart for Leh and the major issue was repairing of the puncture which was not possible before 10-11 am.
So, our plan was to try to leave Kargil as early as possible.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Day 8, 27 June, Zanskar Valley

The day started quite early. We had to try to get our bike across. In between, we were searching for the keys of the bike. Last day's incident had lead to big confusion and I had forgotten the keys at the bike.
Certainly, we were worried about the bike's security. It was about 4-5 Kms of distance from the village. We started moving towards the bike and within 1 hr, we reached at the stream. It was a big sigh of relief to find bike along with the key :)
Water level of the stream was decreased significantly so we could get the bike across it.
Here, we met 2 guys from New Zealand. They were riding a truck from Panikhar. But, they had to spent the previous night there itself as another truck was stuck in the stream.
Then, we came back to the home where we had spent the night. The owner offered us some tea along with bread.
There were 3 children in the family. The youngest was about 2-3 years old and he was really cute.
Before leaving the home, I gave them 300 Rs. Although, all the things they had done for us, were invaluable. With a humbled mind, we left for Padum.
Meanwhile, the bike carrier was broken at two places and the bad roads made it difficult to keep the luggage tight on the carrier.
On the way, we decided to visit Karsha monastery, the biggest monastery in the Zanskar region.
We reached there around 10 am. The monastery is located up on the mountain. Climbing up to the monastery was quite a bit tough task. Low oxygen level at that height made it really difficult. Our condition can be imagined easily as we had to take break after climbing up just 2 or 3 steps.
Finally, we reached on the top. The panorama one can see from here is amazing.
You can see Padum village on the other side of Zanskar river. After spending some 30-40 min, we climbed down and headed towards Padum. Roads from Karsha to Padum was really good, a well laid tarmac one.
It was really easy to find tourist bungalow as the village is not too big. After having lunch, we decided to take some rest instead of continuing to Zangla. Also, we had to get the carrier repaired. Between, the brake lever got twisted as our bike skidded on a rock.
We spent rest of our day doing other important things and took some much needed rest.
Next day, we had to start pretty early so as to reach Kargil on the same day.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 7, 26 June, Kargil - Zanskar (Padum)

Today, our plan was to reach to Zanskar valley i.e Padum town. We started at 6 am. First important thing was to get the fuel tank full. As Padum does not have any petrol pump, we carried an extra petrol can of 5 lit.
By the time, it was around 6.30 am when our actual journey started and we marched towards Zanskar.
Our first planned halt was at Sankoo village which is just 42 Kms from Kargil. However, other than first a few kilometers, roads were in bad conditions. So, it took us around 2 hrs as we reached there at around 8.30 am. We had some breakfast at a small restaurant. The restaurant was run by 3-4 young boys. They were pretty nice to us. After spending around half an hour, we departed for our next journey through Suru valley. The valley has it's own beauty and the colors of the surrounding keep on changing every few Kms.

On the way to Panikhar which was the next village after we left Sankoo, we stopped on the road side along the Suru river to enjoy the wildness of river. There, we met some army personnel. They asked us to come for some tea and rest. As we were in hurry, we avoided the halt.
Within next one hour, we were in Panikhar. Here, one local villager brought to our notice that the petrol can had a leak.
So, we had to search for a shop to get a new can. It would have been a worse matter if we would not have found the shop.
By the time we replaced the petrol can, it was around 11.30 am. The distance covered till was just 68 Kms. Still, we were around 170 Kms away from our destination.

As I said, roads in Zanskar are rough roads with stones and gravel along with water passages. So, we were moving very slow. But considering the situation and time left, we decided to move fast as much as possible.

Between, we were taking regular halts for snaps. Around 2.30 pm, we reached to Rangdum.
Rangdum is a village with 10 odd houses and 2-3 restaurants and guest houses. Here, we had a quick lunch break. Before departing, we asked the local people about accommodation facility before Padum to avoid any problem if we get late. As per our information, Rangdum was the last place with accommodation facility before Padum. The guest house owner told us that Abran village does have such facility which is around 80 Kms from Rangdum.

Earlier, we had planned to visit Rangdum gonpa which is 3-4 kms further from village. But, we had to cancel the plan. So, we proceeded towards Padum around 3 pm hoping that we would make it.

After we left Rangdum, we were at Penzi La which was pretty difficult to drive with a pillion and luggage behind. To make matters worse, there were 2 army trucks ahead of us forming clouds of dust in front of us and blocking our view at such a difficult route.
That's the way things work in such a desolate part and brings joy in our experience. It was like we were getting used to such dirt tracks :)
Within one hour or so, we were on the top of Penzi La. We could get glimpses of glaciers and snow topped mountains. Also, the wind was getting pretty cold. The descent of the pass was also pretty tough to drive down.

Then, we entered Zanskar valley. The scenic beauty was changing as we were moving ahead.
On the way, we spotted many mermots on side of the road. It was wonderful to watch them sitting on rocks taking sun rays.

Meanwhile, it was getting very late. So, we were thinking of taking halt at Abran village.
Then came the biggest trouble of our expedition. Just before 4-5 Kms from Abran, there was one nallah which was overflowing with snow melted water. As the day passes by, the snow melts fast and by the time of evening, the water level rises high. Here, conditions were quite bad for us. We were trying to judge if we could cross the water passage. However, the stream flow was pretty fast and it had created deep passage.
We were afraid of crossing by foot as well ;).. Eventually, we decided to leave our bike there and go to Abran to spend the night. Fortunately, two local women helped us to get our luggage across the nallah.
Meanwhile, the two army trucks behind us joined us. First truck was stuck for some time. Somehow they managed to take it out. Second truck tried to take other way. It managed to get pass the big passage but it got stuck in another passage. It took them long time to get the truck out.
Finally, they were across the nallah. The truck drivers asked us whether to get the bike crossed over the stream.
First, I agreed but then I realized if the water level did not come down the next day, we would not be able to cross it again.
So, I just asked him to drop us in Abran which was still far and to carry 15 Kgs of luggage that far was a pretty difficult task. We continued till Abran in the trucks hoping to find some accommodation.
The truck in which Suraj had sit, reached first in the village. We had one more surprise left. I guess, it would not have been an adventure without this incident.
The village had no accommodation facility :D.. Between, the army trucks left for their further journey.
I was really baffled to know that we were left with no options. I decided to confirm with another villager if there was any facility nearby. He said there is no such facility.
I asked him if he could allow us to spend a night at their home. Prior to this, I told him about our situation. This was the true example why the Ladakhi people are known for their generosity and kindness. He asked us to wait outside and went inside to clean up a room for us.
We thanked god and the person for helping us out of such the situation. We were just unable to imagine what had just happened with us. We were thinking what we would have done if he had said no to us.

Then, we went into the room with our luggage. Again, their hospitality was so good. They offered us some normal tea, salted tea and provided us warm bedding. Also, they cooked some extra food for us. After taking the meal, we went to sleep with the worries about our bike we had left 5 Kms behind.
At night, we decided to wake up early and walk down to get the bike and check if we can cross it or turn back to Kargil from there itself.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Day 6, 25 June, On the way to Leh, Srinagar - Kargil

On day 6, we started to move towards our actual destination, Leh.
To reach Leh from Srinagar, one has to take a halt at Kargil. Kargil is around 205 Kms from Srinagar.

We departed at around 7.30 am. First well known place on the way is Sonamarg around 80 Kms from Srinagar.
Road conditions till Sonamarg were quite good. However, the traffic due to Amarnath Shrine yatra was quite heavy. There was constant flow of buses and cars towards Baltal, the base camp for Amarnath yatra.

The scenic beauty of the route was pretty amazing. The valleys are full of dense forests and as you reach towards Sonamarg, you will find the golden meadows flourished on the mountains.
Before reaching to Sonamarg, we took a small halt for breakfast and some rest. Here, we met a group of people from Nagar, Maharashra. They were very much wondered to know about our planned journey on bike till Leh .

Next halt was at Sonamarg. Initially, I had thought, it would be a small village but it was just a small army camp with some small restaurants. We clicked some snaps and wandered around the valley and then, continued our journey towards Kargil.

As we crossed Sonamarg, we were at Baltal and then started the first real challenging task, Zoji La (11,640 ft).
The road (there was no road as such) conditions deteriorated drastically. It was full of stones and gravel. Moreover, the turns were so much difficult and steep that driving bike itself was challenging.
By the way, while riding towards the top, one can get the grand view of Amarnath base camp at Baltal.

After some time, we were at "Capton Mode". A small monument has been built there in the memory of the capton who died in an accident while construction of the road. We had to stop aside as a small army caravan was on the way in our opposite direction. As the roads were very narrow, it was not possible drive at the same time, not for bikers as well.

Next a few minutes and we were on the top of Zoji La. Then, we continued our journey to next stop at Drass.
Famous after the 1999 Kargil War. It is second coldest inhabited place. The temperature in winter comes down up to -50 C.
Journey towards Drass was pretty fine compared to Zoji La. Although, there were some water passages in the way.
One important change was, the scenic beauty had changed drastically from the dense forests to almost barren mountains.
Finally, we reached Drass around 2 pm and had the much needed lunch. Although, there were not many choices in the meal. Right after lunch, we moved towards Kargil.

On the way, we visited Drass War Memorial. It makes us really proud to read about the real heroes who conquered the different mountains in adverse conditions when enemy had major geographical advantage.

After these humble moments, we continued till Kargil without any major stop. One of them was at the confluence of Drass river and Shingo river.
Around 6 pm, we reached Kargil. We managed to find a budget hotel for 200 Rs as others were pretty expensive for us. Major issue was with restaurants. It wass pretty difficult to find good veg restaurants.

Between, we took a small walk around Kargil. First, we went to Poyen village and walked around Kargil along the Suru river.
Our next destination was Zanskar valley for the next day.

Day 5, 24 June, Sightseeing at Srinagar

On day 5, the plan was to visit some of the famous places around Dal Lake.
We started around 10 am. Starting point was Dal gate which was around 5 minutes distance from our houseboat.
First place on the way was Chashme Shahi, the name comes from a spring "Chashme Sahibi".
It is also surrounded by a beautiful garden.
2.5 Kms up in the mountains is Pari Mahal. It's an old monument once a Buddhist monastery. The view of Dal Lake one can see from here, is amazing. As it is located a bit high, it offers some of the beautiful views of Dal.

Our next halt was at Nishat Garden. Like other Mughal gardens in Srinagar, it offers eye catching beauty of greenery along with the fountains.

Next comes Shalimar Garden, the famous name associated with Srinagar. Similar to Nishat, it has lot of greenery, flowers and fountains.
It has the longest fountain among all the gardens in Srinagar. One thing can be noticed that all these fountains make use of kinetic energy of the water created by the downward flow.

After taking a small halt for lunch, we were on the way to Hajarat Bal mosque. It is based in old city.
Like all old cities, it is also a very crowded place. Hajarat Bal is the holiest shrine of Kashmir situated on the left bank of Dal Lake.
After spending some time in tranquility of the mosque, we went to the Shikara ghat for a ride.
One of the Shikara owner offered us a ride of one hour in 300 Rs. It was one of the most amazing ride through this picturesque scenery of Dal Lake. He showed us the fishery farms and lotus farming done along the Dal shore.
Between, we also tried our hands on paddling the shikara with a small paddle :)

Then, it was the time for bike maintenance. After that, we returned back to the houseboat. At night, we had our dinner at a vaishno dhaba close to Dal gate.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Day 4, 23 June, On the way to Srinagar

As we had decided last night, we could not manage to start it that early. We started the journey from Kud around 7 am.
The clutch problem was still persisting. So, the progress was pretty slow.
Around 9 am, we were in Ramban where we took some breakfast, the famous Rajama-Chaval.
The quantity of the food was so much that I felt this would suffice for lunch as well :)

Then, we continued towards Srinagar. Between, we took some small breaks for photos as well as rest.

Jammu-Srinagar highway goes through some of the most beautiful scenic vistas. We enjoyed it as we were heading to the destination. The valleys, river and dense forests of pine were all around us for our company.

Around afternoon, we crossed the Nehru tunnel which is ~3 Kms long. After crossing the tunnel, it was a small halt to take first glimpse of Kashmir valley.

At 3 pm, we entered Srinagar city. First aim was to search for an accommodation. There were 2 alternatives. One was stay in a normal hotel or in a houseboat.
We chose the second one and went to a houseboat on Jhelum river. The deal was finalized on 500 Rs per day.

Till evening, we took the much needed rest. Then, we went for dinner near Dal gate.
But, the traffic in that area was so heavy that it was really difficult to drive a two wheeler as well.
Somehow, we managed to find a good place to park our bike and had some good meal after 3 days.
Although we were lagging behind by one day, we decided to spend the next day in Sringar and explore some famous places around Dal Lake.
Also, the most important thing was to get the bike repaired before proceeding towards Leh.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Day 3, 22 June 09, Journey on the bike begins..

After 2 days of travel, we reached Jammu 3 hours late than the expected arrival time. It took us 1 hour to unload the bike.
Meantime, we had a quick meal at the Jammu-Tawi station and then started our journey around 1.30 pm.
Temperature was quite high in the Jammu, should have been around 45. So, it was quite tough to ride on the bike because high temperature was causing dehydration. We had to take frequent halts for water. As per our actual plan, we were supposed to reach Srinagar same night.
After so much of delay in schedule, we decided to make it a 2 day journey and take a halt somewhere on the way to Srinagar.
First suggestion was to stop at Ramban which is around 160 Kms from Jammu.
Then came the trouble, the bike had some problems with clutch :).. So, it was not accelerating good enough. It was really impossible to overtake slow moving trucks as well.
To make the matters worse, we lost our track before Udampur. We took Jammu-Katra-Udhampur route and traveled some 50+ Kms extra through some of the bad roads.
Actually, Jammu- Srinagar road is much better. Anyways, this was our first lesson.

On the way, we asked one guy about staying options in Udampur. He told us about his friend's Hotel in Batote which was 2-3 hrs of distance. Also, he added that it would be a better alternative being colder than Udampur. Then, we continued further. Around 6 pm, we were in Kud and Batote was still quite far. So, we decided to halt there itself and continue the next day.
Our total journey on that day was around 170 Kms but actual distance covered was 120 Kms :D.
We went to sleep after a good dinner hoping to start early the next day.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

D day.... Journey kicks off

The train to Jammu was scheduled at 5.20 pm on 20 June 2009. However, I had to reach the station 2 hours before to load the bike in the train.
So, I left my home with Papa around 2 pm. As we reached camp area, it started pouring. First heavy rain of the monsoon, right on the time of my departure :).
I decided to continue till station by auto rickshaw to save myself and the luggage from getting drenched. Also, I asked Papa to ride with the bike till station. So far so good. I reached station area and still it was pouring and before I reached under some good shelter I was little bit drenched in rain :)
At the same time, Papa was heavily drenched while driving down here :(.
Then, started the process to get the bike on the train. This was our first time to do such thing.
The luggage dept officer charged around 1700 Rs. Then, the bike packing person charged 300 Rs. and in addition, we paid 200+ Rs for loading the bike on train.
As, we were novice to all this stuff and did not want to take any risk at the start of journey, we paid all those extra charges. Otherwise I think, the packing and loading can be done in 300 Rs only.

Around 4.45 pm, my brother, Suraj joined us at the station as he had to attend exams.
Finally, we boarded on the train and after all the byes and caring words from parents, our journey kicked off.

Finalizing the plan

After doing a lot of ground work about Ladakh, I decided to make it in 3 weeks. Excluding the 4 days of travel by train, we had 18 odd days in hand. So, we had to plan my journey accordingly.
Our rough plan was to visit Srinagar for one day and spend rest of the time in Ladakh exploration.

As far as Ladakh was concerned, we decided to cover major parts like Zanskar valley, Nubra Valley, Pangong Lake, Leh surroundings and Tso Moriri.

Also, initial plan was to do white water rafting and visit Hemis wildlife sanctuary.

Next important thing was to prepare the bike to carry luggage of 2 persons. So, I got one carrier fabricated from a local enterprise cum garage.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Beginning of the plan

The plan to visit the mighty Himalayas was lingering on my mind since long time.
However, I had not really decided a particular place to visit. It's all started when one of friend, Sujal visited Ladakh last year and suddenly the trip plan came on my priorities.
At that moment, Ladakh expedition started taking shape in my mind. Still, I was checking out all alternatives through different organizations.
Somehow, I was not really comfortable with the money they were charging. Again, it came to Sujal who introduced me to www.indiamike.com where one can form a group to visit any particular place. Moreover, you get almost all kind of information, needed to plan the journey. While surfing through these sites, I came across the amazing beauty of Ladakh and I confirmed what would be my dream destination.

Then, it was time to collect as much as information I needed to do this journey. For almost 6 months starting from January till June, I did a lot of study about the different places to visit in Ladakh.
First thing was to form a group. Till then, it was not clear if the trip would be on motorbikes or a rented car.
Although, I had done quite a few journeys on bike covering around 200-300 Kms in a day, Ladakh is a completely different region to ride with a bike. One more issue was to convince my parents. Somehow, I managed them to convince and not to worry much when I was even skeptical about the consequences :)

Again as I said, I was in the process of forming a group with some good number of bikers. One guy from Kolhapur, Avinash Zalake along with his relative, was ready to do this journey together. He had plans to do it completely on bike, right from Kolhapur to Leh and back to Kolhapur again.
In the initial stage, I was also thinking on the same ways but after discussing with some of the other members on the forum, I came to know that I could get my bike transferred till Jammu and back to Pune with the train.
Certainly, this was going to save some significant time which I could have spent in exploring Ladakh.
Eventually, things were more or less clear on the front of travel means. So, I booked the tickets from Pune to Jammu and Kalka to Mumbai for to and fro journey.

In the mean time, I was collecting as much as information about the region like which all places I can/should visit and what would be the tentative itinerary.