Escaping Chaos; Coorg, Bisle Ghat, Kukke & Shiraadi Ghat

Back in May 2019, when I was having a chaotic personal time; marriage tortures at home, banks chasing me for credit card and EMI dues, office year-end pressures plus a stray dog had bitten me and I was taking Anti-Rabies vaccine!  All happening at the same time.  I was craving to hit the road on my Warrior, a break to escape all the chaos that was happening around me.  I wanted to pin the throttle to a place free from cellular networks.

Late Thursday evening; Sudheer asked me if we could ride to Coorg for an overnighter that coming weekend.  Sudheer spoke to one of his friend’s homestay and booked it for us.  I agreed and started packing.  I was excited to get back on touring mode after a long gap of 6 months apart from the short day rides.

Day 01: 18th May 2019 (Saturday)

Both of us were on time at Parle Toll Plaza early morning, paired our intercoms over a quick chai and started riding towards Kunigal on the Hassan Highway.  The most common road to Coorg is via Mysore, which we always skip and take the Hassan road.

Sudheer wanted to open his bike’s throttle and zoomed off, my Gixxer wouldn’t catch-up with the Triumph; so I was at cruising speeds, enjoying the early morning weather and listening to music.

We took a deviation at Channarayapatna and towards Hole Narsipura. After a railway crossing at Hole Narsipura, we had some tender coconut and continued towards Arkalgud and towards Shanivarsanthe.  The roads from Shanivarsanthe were twisties surrounded by Coffee estates on both sides and barely any vehicular movements.

We stopped at Somwarpete to withdraw some cash and to buy some holy water; OMR and some Beers off-course 😊.  Sudheer had been to the homestay earlier and he knew the route and I tailed him throughout.

A detour after the Somwarpete bus stand and the roads were very narrow single laned curves.  Somewhere in the middle, I noticed a board that read 55 kilometers to Kukke Subrahmanya, and I asked Sudheer on the intercom, does this deviation go to Kukke via Bisle ghats, he said; “Yes, but shut up and follow me”.

We reached the homestay, to our surprise, the caretaker of the homestay mentioned; they weren’t aware of booking for that weekend.  Probably some miscommunication between the owner and the caretaker.

The caretaker had 2 dogs in their cowshed. I was playing with them without any fear of getting bitten again.  Sudheer told the caretaker; we will rest here for a while, visit Malalli falls later in the evening and return to Somwarpete for the night’s stay.

Some playtime with Blacky & Lido

 

I didn’t break my head for the miscommunication between the owner and the caretaker nor did Sudheer.  We just chilled out with some beers and chips, sitting in the homestay’s verandah and rested for a while in one of the rooms.

After a good sleep for an hour or two, we woke up and rode to Malalli falls which is less than 5 km from the homestay.  It was peak summer and the falls had dried up, we still took the steps to the base.

Walking down the steps to Malalli Falls

 

Malalli Falls fully dried up

 

We climbed back to the parking area and had some bread omelet at one of the stall there.  We were super hungry and ate whatever food the stall owner served.

Sudheer mentioned a private mini waterfall nearby, we decided to check it out and surprisingly there was a tiny stream flowing through the stones.  We had a gala time playing in the tiny stream fall.

I go crazy when I see the water.   I stood beneath the waterfall, it felt like a jacuzzi, natural body massage.  It was a much-needed peaceful timeout amidst greenery as the tiny stream was surrounded by giant trees.  New folks wouldn’t be able to find this beauty easily!

The Homestay

 

We reached back the homestay, geared up and came back to Somwarpete and checked into Oyo Rooms.

We walked inside the town in search of a hotel for dinner and it started raining heavily.  While running on the road, my slippers tore and I ran barefoot until we found a footwear shop nearby, bought a pair and continued looking out for a hotel for dinner.

We found a small hotel open behind the bus stand and got in.  We had some food and walked to our hotel.  We were exhausted, drenched and the holy Monk hit us bad.  We don’t remember what shit we spoke on our way back to the hotel room.  We just crashed into bed.

Day 02: 19th May 2019 (Sunday)

We woke up at around 9 am.  A quick shower and we walked towards the bus-stand to have our breakfast.  We found a small hotel that served local Coorg style breakfast.

I really wanted to visit Kukke temple and also ride the Bisle Ghats.  Sudheer wasn’t keen on another adventure, so he said he will return to Kunigal and be at his inlaws place if your interested go for it.  So I said, I will go visit Kukke and meet you at Hotel Empire, Kunigal.

Sudheer mentioned about a place Honnamana Kere, which was close by to Somwarpete.  We visited this small lake and took a few pics.

Sudheer took the route to Kunigal, and I headed towards Kukke.  The initial stretch of the roads was ok and then it turned total off-roading.  I was following the Google maps, I knew it would take me somewhere saying the shortest distance which it did. It deviated me somewhere on an under-construction road until it reached a dead end.  There were cement pipes and stones laid to close the road and followed by a deep dugout.

I guess Google thought I was a Super Cross rider who would do a backflip across the ditch and land flawlessly; sorry Google!

I came back to the junction and was amused that the Google map was still showing towards the dead-end, there was another road that went straight on and I continued that way and reached the check-post of Bisle Ghat.

At Bisle Ghat check-post

 

 

The ghats were super crazy off-roads and very narrow with hairpin curves passing through dense forest.   The weather was cool inside the forest area.  At a blind curve, there was a reckless car driver who hadn’t responded to the horn, appeared in front and didn’t leave any space for me to pass-through, I had to get off the road’s edge sliding over the mud and gravel and back on the patchy roads.  That was a near miss and a fatal accident was avoided!

The ghat ended and after a few kilometers, I reached the State Highway and stopped at a roadside shop to have some sugarcane juice.  I could feel the scorching hot weather of the DK district, gulped multiple glasses of sugarcane juice to quench my thirst.  I was happy and excited to tame Bisle ghat, as it was the only pending item on my To-Do list of the dangerous ghats in Karnataka;  having done Charmadi, Shiraadi, and Agumbe earlier.

Kukke Subrahmanya temple was another 5 km from here, the time was 1.45 pm, the shop-keeper said, the temple closes at 2 pm daily and reopens at 3.30 pm.

I parked my bike in the parking lot and dumped my bag in the luggage room and took a special darshan ticket and walked inside the temple.  The queue for special darshan had very fewer people and got a quick darshan.

A much needed Chai and snacks at the hotel outside the temple fueled up at a petrol pump and reached the start point of Shiraadi ghat.  It was 5.45 pm and I wanted to pass through this ghat before it was dark.  I had a few near misses when I rode this ghat back in April 2017 during our return from Kannur, hence I wanted to clear this stretch before dark.

I was surprised to see this ghat had very good concrete road and clear road markings.  The road was well done without any patchwork.  The 27 km stretch ghat seemed like a highway, I rode non-stop until Sakleshpur and stopped for chai and hot bhajji.

The next stretch from Sakleshpur to Hassan was never completed under construction with lots of deviations.  At Hassan, I took an extended pitstop over a call with Akshay who had started his Leh journey.

I reached the Hotel Empire, Kunigal at around 10 pm, Sudheer was already waiting for me there.  Both of us had our dinner and rode back to Bangalore.

When I was passing through Jay Nagar, the bungee cords loosened and my bag fell off the carrier, I had no patience to tie the bungee again, took the bag on my shoulder and rode home.

It was 1.45 am as I reached home, Thanks a lot Sudheer for yet another memorable ride.

 

Until next time,

Gokool Kini

(Soul Warrior)

Also visit: The Ride of 3 States; Trails of Ghats

Mandalapatti, An Off-Roaders Paradise in Coorg

The office riding group was itching to ride and someone suggested a Ride to Mandalapatti; an off-roaders Paradise in Coorg. Rahul knew about a homestay at the foothills of Mandalpatti where we could cook our own food, sounds fun ain’t it? And thus we discussed the plan and shared the details in our WhatsApp group.  Soon, we had 10 people confirmed for this trip.

Day 01: 28th Sept 2019 (Saturday)

Our usual flag-off point was the Parle Toll.  I got geared up and took the outer ring road to Parle Toll, met Kowshikha (in his car) at Kathriguppe signal and we reached the flag-off point.

Sudheer and Patrick had already reached the toll plaza.  A quick chai until everyone arrived and we started the ride towards Hassan Road.  Thiru and Raviraj took the service road and had already reached the Nelamangala exit towards Hassan Road.

Kowshika, Patrick, Sudheer and Me

 

Raviraj got into Kowshikha’s car and we continued ahead.  I hadn’t fueled up for the ride, so I quickly got a full tank at the HP petrol pump and joined the group.  A small pitstop for chai en route and then reached Hotel Mayura at Bellur Cross.

While entering the service lane, a local on an R15 was rash riding in the wrong lane, Mohan braked hard and avoided ramming into him.  The R15 rider slid off the road, fell on his face and went sliding into the bushes.  His face bled since he wasn’t wearing a helmet, also had some bruises to his hands and legs.

I had my first-aid kit handy in my hydration bag and gave him some cotton and Savlon.  The local accepted his mistake of recklessness and apologized.  He called his friends to pick up him and the bike back to his home.

Thiru and Tarun were the last to enter the hotel compound and Thiru noticed his bike’s flat tire.  The hotel’s security said; a puncture shop is right beside the hotel, the contact number is on the shop’s wall, call him and request to come early to his shop.

We spoke to him and updated about our flat tire, he said he would take some time as he stays in a far village.  Till then we had our breakfast at the hotel, it was a leisured time on the breakfast table.

Patrick, Mohan, and Deepak joined only till the breakfast point and headed back to Bangalore.

Meanwhile, we kept on calling the puncture guy, he took his own sweet time to reach his shop.  After waiting for 3 hours in the hotel’s parking area, the puncture guy reached his shop and called us.  We towed Thiru’s heavyweight Bullet to the shop.  Bullets usually have tubed tires and it took some good amount of time to remove the rear tire, replace the tube and put the tire back.  The humble mechanic also got coffee for every one of us.

At around 11 am when we continued from Hotel Mayura.  We took a detour at Channarayapatna and towards Hole Narsipura.  From here on, the roads were broken single lanes until Kushal Nagar.  We took ample pitstops for chai, fuel and some snacks until Kushal Nagar.  It was 2.30 pm when we reached Kushal Nagar and we were looking for hotels for lunch.  A local shop-keeper suggested having lunch at Hotel Coorg Cuisine at Madikeri.

The route from Kushal Nagar to Madikeri was through ghats and was beautiful.  Every one of us kept a good pace, throttling it out at every corner.  This stretch took our sleepy mood away, especially after riding on a bright sunny day and on the burning hot air on the highways.

A good lunch is what everybody wanted as we reached Madikeri town and lunch in Coorg Cuisine that served some delicious Kodagu styled food was a nice suggestion.  The food was superb and delicious.

For this trip, we planned to cook our own dinner at the homestay and had to purchase all the groceries, chicken and off-course some booze so we could have a nice ice-breaking session and get to know each other well.

All the things were shopped and dumped in Kowshika’s car.  Our homestay was another 20 km from Madikeri town.  Somewhere in the middle of this stretch, it started drizzling and few of us handed our mobile phones to Raviraj who was in Kowshika’s car.

We reached the homestay; Green Meadows that lied at the base of Mandalapatti (the jeep parking space).

Within no time we dumped all the baggage in the homestay and set towards Kote Abbey falls, this was a small off-roader amidst the mountain.   Somewhere in the middle of this terrain, Kowshika parked his car and hopped on one of our bikes.

Somewhere en route to Kote Abbey Falls

 

It was past dusk as we reached Kote Abbey.  I parked my bike on a small bridge, took off all my riding gears and kept them on my bike, walked down the bridge and jumped into the water.

at Kote Abbey Falls

 

A good relaxing time spent at the waterfalls and on our way back, it was pitch dark and no moon night.  At some point, we all switched off our bike’s headlights and all screamed on top of our voices.  Darshan’s bike was low on fuel and had battery issues, but could make it back till the homestay.

Upon reaching back to the homestay, our master chef Rahul got into cooking spree and assisted by Tarun, Manjeet, Darshan and Sudheer.

He cooked some yummy food and the barbeque done by Tarun and Darshan on the bonfire was like icing on the cake.  A good ice-breaking session started by Thiru and followed by everyone.  It was our first overnighter with our office Bikers and an ice-breaker was needed to get along with all.

A anecdote by Thiru:

“Divided by designation but united by OMR

It started out as a regular night, somehow it turned out to be a spectacular night with long & deep conversation on movies, sketching etc. coupled with delicious food

The reason behind the incredible night was that we had the perfect ice breaker

I always cling to the motto “A well-selected icebreaker makes people comfortable enough to speak up” and it holds good all the time and in our case it was spirit oriented 🙂

I was certain that the spiritual people share a common fondness “OMR” and it did a great job here by forgetting everything that was nagging us”

The party went till late in the night and all crashed into bed.

Day 02: 29th Sept 2019 (Sunday)

A few of us woke up early and walked to the nearby shop for some hot tea.  Darshan and Raviraj walked further ahead to explore the forests and coffee estates and crashed into bed again.

Kishore received some emergency calls from home and planned to ride back solo.  My riding gears were wet because I wore them on the wet clothes after getting out of the waterfalls the previous evening, so I kept them to dry on a chair as the weather was bright and sunny.

Rahul, our master chef cooked egg fried rice this time and post-lunch, Kishore started towards Bangalore and the rest of us started towards Mandalapatti peak.

Darshan purchased fuel from the nearby shop by paying some extra bucks and we all started on the crazy off-roading.

The initial stretch was an easy muddy trail and some broken patches uphill.  We stopped at a shop before the off-road turned crazy to rocky terrain. Darshan’s bike had battery issues and had to be towed to get started and returned to homestay along with Sudheer.

Rahul, Kowshika, Tarun, Thiru, Manjeet, Raviraj and myself went ahead on the off-roader.  At a point, we stopped for some photography and saw the terrain ahead.  It was an adventurous steep that looked horrifying from the place we stopped.

Rahul and I had that urge to ride till the top, no matter what.  Kowshika hopped as pillion on my bike and the three of us continued on the rocky terrain.

The steeps were crazy, one of the steep was roughly 60° inclined.  One 4×4 jeep kept honking and irritated me to my nerves.  The jeep drivers are always in a hurry to drive to the top or reach the base and catch hold of new customers.

The view from the top was bliss.  Mandalapatti’s viewpoint is truly the Heavenly Abode in Karnataka.  The moderate cloudy weather and the cool breeze and the valley surrounded by thick green forests and we could sight the dirt trail we took from a balcony.

It is truly a Heavenly Abode

 

We headed back to the homestay.  I was shit scared on the crazy steep riding downhill as my bike’s tire threads were bald, one small slide and I would have a bad crash.  Rahul’s bike had Ralco off-road tires on his Dominor, so he didn’t face any issues.

Me waiting for the Jeeps to pass-through

 

We reached back the homestay and to see all were snoring in deep slumber.   It’s good that the rest of the riders got some rest.

Our Rides resting at the Homestay

 

It was 3.30 pm and we decided to gear up by 4 pm and head towards Bangalore.  It was dusk during our return journey through the ghats.

Just before entering the ghats

 

We stopped for chai somewhere, and every pitstop we took, we had to tow Darshan’s bike.  It was Sunday and no mechanical support available and none of the battery shops was open, so after every pitstop, his bike had to be towed to start.

After Kushal Nagar, our pace dropped, pitstops increased and there were lots of bugs hitting our helmet visors in the dark.

At 9.30 pm we reached Kunigal and stopped for dinner at the Hotel Empire; the first thing all did, gulped the mixed fruit punch.

A relaxed dinner and upon exit from the Hotel Empire, Rahul was towing Darshan’s bike, meanwhile, I was covering them with hazard blinkers, suddenly a speeding Volvo bus overtook me and missed crashing Darshan by a whisker.  Luck was with us, it could have been fatal.

It was 1 am when we reached the Nelamangala toll and dispersed.

Thanks a lot, for an amazing overnighter and special thanks to Rahul and Sudheer for coordinating and executing this ride well.

 

Until next time,

 

Gokool Kini

(Soul Warrior)

 

Also visit: My Trails from the Malenadu Region

The Western Ghats, Trails from the Malenadu region

After office hours, at a bakery near Kanteerava Stadium, my brother Akshay and I planned to have a crazy monsoon ride. We finalized the places; Sringeri, Kudremukha, and Horanadu.  We were always enticed by the beauty of nature of the Western Ghats of Karnataka and hence these places.

Day 01: 12th Oct 2019, Saturday

Our actual plan was to start by 3.30 am from Parle Toll, but because of my office workload that stretched late Friday night, I reached my room around 2.30 am and dropped a message to Akshay; “Bhai, I will sleep till 4 am”.  I wanted a power nap so I could ride peacefully.

Akshay woke me at 4.15 am, I packed my bag, freshened up and was ready to hit the road.  We met at Parle Toll at around 5.15 am; a cup of tea, paired our intercoms and started riding towards Hassan Road.

We stopped for breakfast at Hotel Dhruvataare.  I kept my intercom for charging at the hotel’s billing counter until we finished breakfast and filled my hydration bag.

Both of us kept on switching our intercoms from music mode to speaking over the intercom.  The pleasant cloudy and foggy weather on the highway made our ride more pleasant.  We managed good speeds till a toll Naka; few kilometers before Hassan and stopped for refueling at an IOC petrol pump followed by a long pitstop for tea.  Akshay wanted to meet a few of his friends who were driving to Chikamagalur, hence the long pitstop, but apparently, they were very far; so, we continued towards Hassan.

We deviated towards Hassan City and then towards Belur.  After Hassan, the roads are single lane twisties passing through the lush greenery on both sides of the road.

Making some new Paw friends

 

Passing through the town of Belur, we deviated towards Sringeri.  The brisk single lanes with broken patches passed through coffee estates and some tea estates.  It was humid, we stopped at a roadside sugar cane juice shop and had multiple glasses of juice to quench our thirst.

We took a wrong route after Balehonnur forest ghats and kept on riding until we realized, the distance to Sringeri on Google map started to increase.  It was 30 odd km from Balehonnur and showed 55 km to Sringeri, this was realized only after riding some 25 km on the wrong route.  Taking a U-turn and few locals guided us to the correct route to Sringeri.  It was around 3 pm when we reached Sringeri.

Amshit Bhai waited for us near Sringeri Temple for the past couple of hours.  All 3 of us went to a local hotel in Sringeri town for lunch.  I had no proper sleep the previous night and had nausea and vomited outside the hotel and relaxed for a while on the table in the hotel.

For lunch, we had some delicious fish curry, fish fry and white rice for lunch.  The bangda fish fry was very tasty.

We had booked an Oyo Room near Kudremukh.  But, Amshit bhai convinced us to stay at his home near Kigga (a small village near Sringeri) and we canceled the hotel booking.  So, we first planned to visit Sirimane falls near Kigga.  The road from Kigga to the falls is an off-road stretch and it had rained cats and dogs.  We parked our bikes at the parking lot, took the entrance tickets, dumped our helmets and riding jackets in a small shop there and walked to the base of the waterfall.  There are around 100 steps to the base.

Amshith bhai told us that the money collected from the entrance fees are used to support the tiny hydraulic power station in the falls that supplies electricity to the village of Kigga.

Sirimane falls, a small waterfall looked like a mere white curtain on the big rock and surrounded by greenery all over and a viewpoint at the top.  The burbling sound of the water as it hit the base and traveled between rocks felt was enchanting.

Well, it was a weekend and the good monsoon that lashed Karnataka from the past few months attracted more tourists to this place.

I stood somewhere in the middle of the steps from where I could directly see this mystic beauty, while Akshay and Amshit bhai walked further down.

From here, we rode straight to Amshit Bhai’s house that is deep inside a forest and coffee estates with yet another off-roading stretch.  As we reached Amshit Bhai’s house, his Mom welcomed us with some hot and tasty coffee.  Their house was nestled in between acres of coffee estates and some big trees behind their house, a lush green paddy fields in the front and mountains behind the paddy field.  The view was blissful!

Pics

We dumped our luggage in the room, took a hot water shower and rode the off-roads in pitch dark till Sringeri temple.  This was crazier.

It was festive season; just a couple of days after Dussehra, hence the temple sanctum was illuminated with decorative lights all over and colored focus lights hitting the stoned walls of the very famous Vidyashankara Temple that was built many centuries ago and all the decorative and illumination added to the beauty of this Temple.

We first walked to the riverbank to feed plain puffed rice (churmuri in Hindi) to the fishes in the river.  But the river was flowing in full zest and no fishes seen at the river bank.  Amshit bhai told, most of the time there will be lots of fishes at the river banks.

First, we walked into the newly constructed Sharada Temple to offer our prayers.  We patiently sat near a pillar until the pooja was over.  Next, we explore the historical Vidyashankara temple.  This temple has some finest stone carvings of the Vijayanagara architecture.

Then, we visited the Adi Shankara Math which is on the other side of the river connected by a walk-over bridge.  The World’s biggest Veena (an Indian Classical musical instrument) is at display here inside the Adi Shankara Math.

Note: Photography and videography are not permitted inside the main temple (both the new and the historical) or the Adi Shankara Math.  The entire temple campus is cleanly maintained by the authorities and I request all the tourists not to trash their travel.

As we headed back, it started drizzling and we rushed soon. We didn’t want the off-road ride back home to turn into a slush fest, that too under pitch dark.

Upon returning to Amshit Bhai’s home, all 3 of us sat in the balcony, chit-chatting and sharing each other’s travel experiences, relishing our memories from the trip to Jog Falls in September last year and off-course partying!!

After spending a couple of hours on the balcony, we came downstairs for dinner.  Amshit Bhai’s Mom had prepared some yummy food; chicken biryani and gravy served on the traditional banana leaf was a grandeur.

It was 2’o clock in the night and we crashed into bed.  We did plan to ride to Kundadri Hills for sunrise but woke up late the next day.

Day 02: 13th Oct 2019, Sunday

Akshay and I woke up at around 9 am, the view from the balcony was stunning.  We went for a small walk into the Paddy fields and came back, freshened up, came downstairs for breakfast.  The Idly and chutney were too good. We saddled up and set towards Kundadri hills.

Thanks to Amshit Bhai’s family who hosted us for the night and special thanks to his Mom for cooking and serving some delicious Malenadu style food.  Thanks a lot for your magnificent hospitality.

The view from Amshit Bhai’s room balcony

 

That’s Amshit Bhai’s house

 

With Amshit Bhai and his family

 

We bid good-bye to Amshit Bhai’s parents and then the 3 of us lead by Amshit Bhai, rode to Kundadri Hills. The road to Kundadri hills was proper single lane tarmac, twisties until the base of the hills.

A small pitstop for water and we rode that very few hairpins till the hilltop.  There are very few steps from the parking lot to the main viewpoint.

Before entering the Kundadri Hills section

 

The view from the top was fantastic. It was greenery all over, not a sight of dry land. Thanks to the very abundant monsoons in Karnataka this season.

We regretted not making here for Sun-rise.  Hopefully next time, we will ride again with the main agenda of visiting this place would be to view the stunning sun-rise.

We descended back to the base, stopped at a shop to have some biscuits and cold-drinks.  We planned to ride via the forest of Kudremukha and then hit to Horanadu.  Upon reaching Sringeri, Amshith Bhai guided us with the route to go-ahead.  Thanks a lot, bhai for all the wonderful hospitality.

Me, Akshay and Amshith Bhai

 

As we crossed Sringeri town, I noticed my Intercom was loosened and came off my helmet, I just made a temporary fix and continued riding.  Somewhere a few kilometers after exiting the town, we noticed a hanging bridge and made a quick stop to take some pics.

We soon reached the Kudremukha forest check-post, made our entry details and continued.  The roads were good barring for the few broken patches here and there.  This stretch of the ride was the most beautiful; dense forests on either side of the road, the dark clouds above us, cool breeze and the slight drizzle that made the ride mesmerizing.  We wanted to ride to the Kudremukha viewpoint but skipped it because of the time crunch.

We stopped for some photography en route; at a small roadside waterfall somewhere in the middle.

Fuel on Akshay’s bike signaled low and we enquired about the next nearest fuel pump with few of the oncoming drivers.  One guy told there could be a petrol pump 5 km ahead, but when we reached, the fuel pump was closed and rusted.  I don’t know when was the pump operated last.

We reached the KIOCL (Kudremukha Iron Ore Company Limited) check-post and enquired with the security personnel for petrol.

The security guy said; “There is a small shop down the lane, he stocks petrol at his home and probably he can help you with fuel which can help you to ride out of this forest”

We were hungry too, so we got some biscuits and cream doughnuts to snack and I started playing with the stray dogs there.

Pics

Akshay was afraid I would get bitten by the stray dogs,  I was already vaccinated with Anti-Rabies post the dog bite in May, so I told; Bhai, chillax, I ain’t scared and gave a big smile to him 😊

Meanwhile, the shopkeeper told us to directly visit the house for petrol and guided us the way to the home.

The price per liter was a shocker, Akshay paid Rs 200 for a liter of petrol and I couldn’t control my laughter.  I said; Bhai, in Ladakh, I paid Rs 130 a liter, and you are paying Rs 200 for a liter here”

We reached the forest exit check-post and I was surprised to meet Veeren there.  He was driving along with his parents to Horanadu.

With Veeren

 

Reaching a small town; Kalasa, we stopped at the Hotel Prince of Kalasa for coffee.  Stopped at another small river for some pictures and fuel stop at the HP Petrol pump in Kalasa and continued towards Horanadu.

Suddenly Akshay on the intercom; “Bhai, there is an old Horanadu – Sringeri route that goes to the peak of a small hill and the view is superb”, I said let’s go.  Amidst reaching half-way, he said this is not the one which I was referring to, we came the wrong route.  But as we descended back, we saw an off-road trail that goes somewhere and we said, let’s do some more off-roading.  This off-roader was a crazy one filled only with loose gravel which was thrown for construction.

We reached some point and stopped.  It was dusk and dark clouds seemed like it would rain cats and dogs.  As usual, I got busy playing with a few puppies.

We slowly descended down and headed straight to Horanadu Annapoorneshwari Temple, dumped all our things in the temple’s luggage room and walked inside the temple.  It was evening and the temple had very fewer pilgrims which helped us to quickly seek blessings and come out of the main temple sanctum.

At a hotel inside the temple campus, we ate Masala Dosa and Dry Poha.

Then, the wrath of the rain Gods started, it rained very heavily.  Somehow, we ran till the luggage room, geared up and stood in the anticipation that the rain would stop.  But it didn’t and we decided to ride in the rain.  The attendant at the luggage room gave us a few plastic bags so we could keep our mobiles safe from the rainwater.

The people who saw us riding in that heavy downpour might have assumed us to be Physcos.

Within no time we were fully drenched and stopped at a roadside shop for some hot coffee.  It was 7’o’clock in the evening and the distance back to Bangalore was approx. 300 km and the rain showing no signs of stopping, we continued.  The small single lanes were full of water on the road and flowing at the sides of the road.  We knew the sides of the roads are broken and waterlogged, we ensure we were very careful while on the corners of the ghats.  Every heavy vehicle on the way splashed all the muddy water on us.

My bike’s tire pressure was very low while riding in the rain, it dropped my speed and our intercoms weren’t working too.

After riding non-stop for 4.5 hours, covering only 100 km, we reached Belur at 11.30 pm and searched for a hotel for dinner.  Luckily, we found a hotel in the town and stopped over.

Few customers who sat on the table beside us were suggesting us to have some alcohol.  We denied as we don’t drink and ride.

We convinced the attendant at the HP Petrol Pump to switch on the air-filling machine and get our tire pressures checked.

A big thanks to Google Map that kept rerouting and we did rounds within and around Belur.  One auto driver guided us with the correct route towards Hassan.

We were fatigued and sleepy, stopped over for a quick coffee at Hotel Pathanjali after Hassan city.  Somewhere near Jodighatta on the Bangalore – Hassan Highway, I heard some screeching sounds from my bike.  I was hitting speeds of 100 km/h and the power suddenly dropped with white smoke was pouring out of my Warrior’s engine and my bike came to standstill.

I instantly understood that the engine had seized! Luckily, I was at the extreme left lane and no vehicles behind me.  I switched on the hazard blinkers and towed it to a roadside building and dialed Akshay to inform the same and he reached back soon.

It was 2 ‘o’clock in the night and no mechanical support expected.  I bent down to check the engine oil level, it seemed that the engine oil was dried up, the kick wouldn’t operate. This confirmed my horror i.e. engine seizure.

Akshay called Zoheb bhai from Art of Motorcycles and informed about the breakdown.  He suggested to visit any nearby petrol pump and fill engine oil and try starting.  I hopped on to Akshay’s bike and we went to an IOC Petrol Pump nearby but it was closed.

I kept calling Arun Sir and Sajith Sir and none picked the call initially.  I knew it was a late-night and everybody would be in deep sleep.

Then called up Naveen Bhai from Gixxer Club Bengaluru and informed him, he somehow managed to call Arun Sir and inform him.  Arun Sir dialed back told, there is Suzuki Showroom and service center at Hassan, and suggested to take the bike there somehow.  This is the only way out and I will ensure full repair at Hassan Suzuki.

Meanwhile, I had also called Rajesh Bhai from Highway Delite.  Rajesh Bhai said he will arrange a tow vehicle and he also suggested to get back to Hassan as it was nearby from Jodighatta.  He spoke to the tow vehicle owner, informed about the breakdown and passed on his contact number to me.  I spoke to the driver and shared the location with him.  Both Akshay and I sat at the roadside under heavy rain clouds.  We were tired, cold and completely drenched.

After waiting for an hour, a Tata Ace arrived at the place and good that he had a plank, so it was easy to load the bike on the pickup truck.

The driver tied my bike with ropes and ensured it wouldn’t shake or fall on humps.  Once my bike was loaded, I asked Akshay to leave as he had some urgent office work and told him I will get my bike repaired and ride back the next day.

I sat in the cabin beside the driver and told him about the trip and the breakdown on the go.  A chai at the toll Naka and we reached Hassan town.  The driver drove till Hotel Krishna, spoke to the hotel receptionist and said you can stay here for the night, this hotel is a decent one.  The driver accepted only cash, and he drove me till the nearby ATM so I could withdraw and pay him and dropped me back to the hotel and unloaded my bike.

Thanks a lot, Rajesh Bhai from Highway Delite for all the help and support at that point in time.  Special thanks to the driver too. I checked into the hotel and crashed into bed.

In case any of you are stuck nearby Hassan and looking for rescue or tow vehicles, please contact Munsur Bhai +91 7022932702 or Prashant Bhai +91 7899536344 who run the tow services jointly.

Day 03: 14th Oct 2019, Sunday

By 8 am in the morning, Sajith Sir called me, I informed him about the breakdown.  He said a mechanic from Hassan Suzuki will be there within half an hour to pick your bike.  Soon, Irfan Bhai (mechanic at Hassan Suzuki) called and took the hotel details and reached there quickly.

He towed my bike till Hassan Suzuki.  As my bike’s engine was opened, it was confirmed about the engine seize and had to replace the full bore kit.  Apparently, they didn’t have them in stock.  Sajith sir and Arun Sir said they can send it from their Mysore or Bangalore showrooms respectively and both being approx. equidistance from Hassan and would take a minimum of 3 to 4 hours in bus transit.  Sajith and Arun sir spoke to a lot of Suzuki showrooms which can help to deliver the bore kit at the earliest and later, he confirmed that one of their sub-dealer in Arsikere has it in stock and arranged to send it soon.

Meanwhile, I asked the mechanic to get the valve setting done, so as soon the bore kit arrives, we can quickly fix the engine.

The bore kit arrived at around 3.30 pm and the mechanic started working on the engine.  Meanwhile, I dozed off in the customer lounge but kept checking the status every half an hour.

By 7.00 pm, the mechanic said, Bhai your bike is ready and said you can ride back to Bangalore now, but maintain the speeds of 50 to 60 Kmph and an rpm less than 4500.

Quickly, I rode back to the hotel and checked out and by 8.00 pm started towards Bangalore.  Luckily, the skies looked clear with no signs of rain.

Riding at the speeds less than 50 to 60 Kmph on the empty four-lane highway was frustrating.  My intercom wasn’t working either, so there was no music to hear and couldn’t control my sleep.  Every 50 km I rode, I kept on taking pitstops for chai and splashed water to my face.

Kept humming some songs, nursery rhymes and tried all the multiplication table, square root, cube root, n numbers, Algebra, Pythagoras Theorem, and what not to only keep me awake on the highway.

Stopped at Hotel Empire at Kunigal to have my favorite fruit punch and then rode straight to my room.  It was late night 2.30 when I reached home.

It was a 946 km riding pleasure exploring the Malenadu region of Karnataka and that made it a proper Monsoon ride.

Route we followed

 

Thanks a lot, to everyone who stood by me when I needed help the most.

Until next time…

 

Cheers,

Gokool Kini

(Soul Warrior)

 

Also visit: Exploring Chikamagaluru, Belur, Halebeedu

Click Here to read more about Sringeri Temple on the internet

Monster & Warrior got Leh’d | Episode 07: Bidding Good-bye to the Land of Passes | Tso Moriri to Manali and back home |

Hope you have read the previous episode, in case you haven’t, Click Here to read Episode 06

This episode takes our journey as we bid good-bye to the “Land Of Passes” as we traveled via Pang, the treacherous Baralacha La and as we rejoiced this beautiful journey. It recalled our memories from our Leh Trip 2017 trying to meet all the people who helped us back then.

In this blog, I shall also share how did I manage to remember each and every minute detail of our trip even though I am writing the story almost a year after our trip.

Day 10: July 08, 2018

Early 7 am we were saddled up and ready.  The house owner’s daughter handed my power-bank which was fully charged.  We thanked them for all the hospitality and the help they gave us the previous night.

The place we stayed for the night in Sumdo Village

 

The next stretch of our journey was yet another off-roader as we rode towards Tso Moriri.  We took a detour from Sumdo and rode through the single lanes uphill over loose gravel and broken patches and a flock of horses that were running across the roads. It looked beautiful.

We crossed a broken bridge and entered the off-roader stretch, my Warrior lagged power again.  My speed drastically reduced due to the extreme leakage of oil from my bike’s front forks and the grunting metal sounds from the forks were even worse.

A small stretch off-roads, and then properly tarmac roads took us to a small lake, we don’t know the name of the lake.  The crystal clear lake, the bright sunshine, and blue sky kept us motivated and our riding pace intact.

 

Soon, we reached a village that had some tents and hotels.  We decided to quickly grab a bite and walked into Nomadic Camps.  The Camp owner said you all can rest or freshen up in the tents until he could prepare breakfast for us.

All of us were in a relaxed mood as of a lazy Sunday.  We knew we would max make it to Pang or Sarchu by evening considering the good roads of the Moore Plains.  Every one of us took a quick shower, rested for a while until the tent owner shouted; “Bhaiyya, breakfast is ready” which was off-course Maggie, Bread & Omelet.  We quickly finished our breakfast and continued riding towards Tso Moriri.

At Nomadic Camps

 

The next stretch of roads until Tso-Moriri was more pathetic. We reached close to Tso-Moriri and saw an attractive lake and stopped at a point where the roads split as Y, both the roads surrounded the lake bank, one lead to Tso Mori and the other; God knows where it leads to.

The road en route to Tso Moriri

 

We saw a group from far away and rode that side and reached Tso Moriri check-post, got our documents and permits verified, parked our machines and walked towards the lake bank.

The vast and clean water lake touched our hearts.  Few people had suggested us to skip Tso Moriri and only visit Pangong while the lesser few suggested us not to skip Tso Moriri, no matter what?  We didn’t skip either of it and felt blessed as we visited both of nature’s masterpiece in this Leh circuit.

Yet again, we spent ample time to soothe our souls as we clicked n number of pictures until the happiness triggered deep into our hearts.

At Tso Moriri Lake

 

The crystal clear Tso Moriri Lake

 

Bidding good-bye to Tso-Moriri and we continued towards Sarchu.  We took the same route back to Sumdo, reached the shop (the same shop where the father and daughter helped us the last night). We tanked up here.  This shop also sells fuel for an extra price per liter.

With the family who accommodated us for the night at Sumdo

 

It was around 3 pm. We filled our hydration bags and carried extra water bottles and continued ahead.  The roads from here were good. A small pitstop for pictures at yet another small lake and we continued riding until the junction of Debring; this perpendicularly connects Moore Plains.  A right from here would take us to Leh via Taglang La and the left would take us to Manali.  Phani wasn’t keen to ride Taglang La because of the things he faced at that pass back in 2017.

So we rode towards Manali.  The miles of straight roads surrounded by grass on either side of the Moore Plains was charming again.  Our bikes moved like a kite going sideways left or right depending on which side the wind dragged us, though we still throttled out maintaining good speeds.

Somewhere in Moore Plains

 

The kilometers long straight lane took a sharp bend, and I could see a river flowing in smaller scattered channels.  I just told myself, I am not going to lose my focus from the road for that view.

Note: The view looks stunning from the top, but don’t get distracted from the road.  If you want to take pictures or shoot videos, just stop at the side and click as many you want, but no circus here.

A few smaller curves and I saw Phani stopping at a roadside at Hotel Padma.  It was around 5.30 pm and Phani said, “I am not going to ride further today.  We have Sarchu and Baralacha La lined up ahead, I am not riding ahead now, no matter what”

We asked a truck driver; he said Sarchu is about 80 km, it would easily take 3 hours to reach there.  He also suggested to stay in Pang for the night rather than riding in the evening.

Note: If your riding from Manali towards Leh, Pang is not the right place to halt for the night because of its altitude and lack of oxygen.

So, we initially booked a tent for the night and walked inside the hotel to have some hot water and Maggie off-course.  The weather was very cold too.  It was 4 days without a cellular network, and I was sure our parents back home would start panicking for not hearing anything from us.

We walked towards an Army camp to look for a satellite phone to dial back home. But unfortunately, the Army personnel were busy treating few passengers who had encountered a major accident on the roads of Moore Plains, a few hours ago.

We walked back to the hotel, sat on the chairs; cherishing the memories of the trip so far.  A Polish guy was on a cycling expedition from Manali to Leh and we had a casual chat with him.  We wore multiple layers of clothes beneath our riding jacket, we didn’t even take off the riding jacket, it was that cold.  The Polish cyclist only wore a jersey material t-shirt and shorts. He said, “this weather is normal in our country and he was accustomed to such weather”.

Sitting in that chilled weather in the evening, we immediately canceled the tent and took 3 beds inside the dormitory and crashed to bed as early as 7.30 pm so we could start our ride the next day at the first light of the morning.

Day 11: July 09, 2018

It was 5.00 am and dew time, freshened up and ready to hit the roads.  We knew we had 3 more passes until Manali, out of which; we had the very treacherous Baralacha La.  So we had to start early so we could hit Manali the same day.  Because 10th July was Tuesday and Rohtang La would be closed for maintenance.  Rohtang La is closed every Tuesday.

We started our bikes at 5.30 am and riding through the very bad roads, we made it to Lachalung La at an altitude of 16,616 feet, this 25 km stretch took us almost 90 minutes.

Another 45 mins of ride and we reached Nakee La at an altitude of 15,500 feet.  Next was Gata Loops, proper tarmac roads with 20+ hairpin bends and a myth of a ghost.  I don’t remember seeing a heap of water bottles dumped at a ghost temple.  But Phani says, he remembers a dump of water bottles and he dropped a fully sealed water bottle there.  Well, I was busy looking at the high mountains, so I might have missed looking at this ghost temple.  The ghost temple is a mystery that the locals believe.

Note: If you ever see a dump of water bottles, don’t add on to it by throwing another plastic bottle there.  And, one more thing, in this loops, you would see some tire marks connecting 1 loop to another, please don’t take those shortcuts, just ride/drive on the tarmac roads, no shortcuts, please.  One of my friends when he was doing Leh circuit, took this shortcut and at a point, it got steep and toppled along with the bike.

The good roads continued till Sarchu and we stopped at a roadside hotel for breakfast.  As usual Maggie and omelet again.  While having breakfast, we met few travelers driving Scorpio and they said Leh to Srinagar road was closed because of some curfew and they drove back via Manali again.

Atish Bhai bought few liters of fuel from the hotel owner.  Phani and I were confident that our bikes would reach Tandi with the fuel we had.  We took an extended pitstop here and then continued our ride.  Next was the treacherous Baralacha La, at an altitude of 16,000 feet.

Somewhere in the middle of Baralacha La

 

At Baralacha La peak

 

Phani had nightmares when riding this stretch way back in 2017.  Over the intercom, Phani recited his memories of Leh 2017 trip.  This stretch of terrain was very treacherous, bumpy roads, slush, rain, gravel, and whatnot.  Soon after Baralacha La, Phani on the intercom; “Bro, next after few kilometers is Peace café” It was a nostalgic feeling.

The morning when started at Pang, we had decided to stop at Peace Café no matter what, as that was the last place I could ride during the 2017 Leh Trip before me getting struck with AMS.  I asked Phani to ride ahead and look out for Peace Café at Upper Zing Zing Bar and stop there and Atish Bhai and I would follow him.  Phani said I don’t know if Peace Café tent is still at the same place, I will find out and stop at the café and Phani zoomed past the range of intercom.

Meanwhile, Atish Bhai and I stopped at Suraj Taal, a very beautiful lake after Baralacha La.  Few pics here and we continued riding.

At Suraj Taal

 

After some time, when I sensed Phani and I were in the range of our intercoms, Phani yelled, “Bro, I am at Peace Café, it’s at the same place as last year, I am stopped here”

At Peace Cafe

 

We soon reached there, and I walked inside the café with memories in my teary eyes.  The café owner recognized me; He said, “You and your group were here previous year, and he recited the complete story from our 2017 trip, explaining how was my health condition last time, the challenges our team faced while taking me to the Army hospital and then to Keylong Hospital.  I just lied on the cot with the bitter memories of 2017 flashing in front of me.

Lying down with the flashbacks of 2017

 

I could only recollect things until I had collapsed breathless and dizzy.  The rest of the story was recited by Dorji Bhai, the owner of the Peace Café.  He said, you had left your shoes here while you boarded a truck along with your bike and luggage; your shoes were here until last month, it was here for a year.  He said, “I had kept it aside anticipating you would visit Leh next year and apologized saying, the shoes aren’t here now, the workers, while they cleaned the tent, might have disposed of”  I was dumbstruck, I didn’t know what to say at that moment.  Dorji Bhai and his brother had helped our group last time.  One of Dorji Bhai’s brother, Dorji Bhai, Rigzin Bhai, and Phani played an important role in 2017, they are my saviors.  Along with Vadri Bhai, CBR Karthik and Deb Bhai. It was true nostalgia.

I wanted to thank Dorji Bhai for all the help, but I had nothing, no sweets or chocolates that I could give him.  Our Road Thrill Badge on our jacket was the only thing, we could give him and thank him for all the help that he rendered us.  I told him, Bhai, I only have this Road Thrill badge to thank you.  Dorji Bhai said; “You pin this badge on my sweater for memory”

After having tea and biscuits here we made our leave and continued our journey.  A few kilometers from here was Patsio village; the place where we were stuck in a landslide in 2017. But as we reached, we could see very good roads, a small bridge-type structure and the water passed beneath it.

A few kilometers from here was a water crossing which many of us struggled to cross in 2017 and Phani had his nostalgic memories there in 2017, we were very curious to see if that crazy water crossing still existed.

Soon we reached that water crossing, this was so easy to cross this time.  Last year, we along with Royal Enfield’s Himalayan Odyssey group struggled to cross it.  But, it was a cakewalk this time.  Phani wanted to play in the water to cherish his memories.

This day was a refresh of a year’s memories.  While we geared up here, both Phani and I said, let’s see if Santosh bhai (RE mechanic in Jispa) was still there.  Let us meet and greet him too.

The roads from here were tarmac and very neatly maintained.  After crossing Darcha, we reached Jispa and looked for the Authorized RE service center so we could meet Santosh Bhai.  But apparently, the authorized service center wasn’t there.  So many changes had happened from the past a year.  We stopped at another garage and enquired about the RE service center, but none had any information, few said that the service station was closed permanently making way for other shops.

Meanwhile, I got a call from Rigzin Bhai saying your Dad was trying to reach you.  It was almost 4th day without cellular network.  Immediately I called back home to update our whereabouts.

We reached Keylong and stopped for lunch.  The hotel owner recognized me and Phani.  It was the Road Thrill Flag and all the badges on our riding jackets. The flag and the batches were our identities.  The hotelier continued, last year, both of you were doing Leh circuit and apparently you had return back with unfinished Leh trip.  Happy to see you this year and happier to hear you have finished your Leh circuit.  It was a recap of memories.

With the Hotel Owner in Keylong

 

Post lunch, we continued our ride and reached Tandi.  This is the last petrol pump on Manali – Leh highway.  This IOC petrol pump was a brand new pump.  In 2017, it was just a normal bunk which stood on mud, loose gravel, no ceilings, it was a dusty place back then.  Things were changed.

We refueled our bikes here and started towards Sissu.  This town was developed, we could see many buildings on either side, nice green fields.  We were astonished to see so many developments in this small town.

We soon reached Gramphu and stopped for tea at the same hotel as of last year.  This hotel had got 2 new floors.  Next was Rohtang La, the last high altitude pass of our Leh trip.  The roads were pathetic, mud, slush, slight drizzling and were very careful on the slush.  And soon, we were at Rohtang La pillar at an altitude of 13,058 feet.  It was around 6.30 pm and full of fog, the visibility was bare to a few feet.

Bidding Good-bye to the Land of Passes, the Last Pass; Rohtang La

 

It was around 8.45 pm when we reached Manali and stopped for chai.  Our cell phones started vibrating with lots of messages, missed call alerts.  We were back in normal network area and the past 2 week’s messages and alerts were up on our phones.

We walked into an Oyo room and checked in here.  It was a celebration and party time.  After riding through the passes of the mighty Himalayan ranges, we finally completed it successfully.

Day 12: July 10, 2018

Early morning, Phani wanted to ride to Haridwar and Badrinath. My Warrior wasn’t in a condition for yet another adventure, so Atish Bhai and I stayed back at Manali and Phani went solo.

Atish Bhai and I stayed in Manali for an extra day and rest.  We got our bikes washed and I went in search of a mechanic to fix bike’s leaking forks.  The mechanic didn’t have stock of Gixxer’s front fork seal and none of the spare stores nearby had it in stock.  So I told the mechanic to just top up the fork oil so I could ride till Delhi.

We had booked our return flights to Bangalore, and as we finished our trip early, I changed my plans and booked a flight to Goa so I could get back to Belgaum from there and chill at home.

We just walked through the Manali market and tried some local food and delicious river fish of Manali and closed for the day.

Day 13: July 11, 2018

We checked out of our hotel at around 1.30 pm and started towards Chandigarh.  Lunch at a dhaba before Aut Tunnel and some snacks at Rohtak and reached Chandigarh at 11 pm and checked into a hotel in the Old Chandigarh area.  We left our luggage on the bike, and the receptionist told us, this area is prone to robbery and the hotel management isn’t responsible for any loss of baggage.  We told him, these bags have only sweaty and dirty clothes that are due for a wash.  None would even think to rob it.

Day 14: July 12, 2018

We started soon at around 7 am. Atish bhai wanted to meet one of his friends in Chandigarh and then we continued towards Delhi.  We were tired and fatigued.  We stopped for a power nap at a roadside shop in Panipat.

It was 2 pm when we reached Delhi and I soon rushed to Pikkol office to pack my bike and baggage.  I only picked up a backpack and the rest of my luggage was packed in a carton. I told Pikkol, another bike (Phani’s) is also to be shipped to Bangalore and he would come on the 15th or 16th and told him to ship both our bikes together.  A journey of 3037 km of riding finally came to an end.  Leh Ladakh; an unfinished dream was finally accomplished.

3038 km on the Odo

 

Qutub Minar was nearby from here, so I thought of visiting it and then moving to Mahipalpur for the night’s stay.  While at Qutub Minar, I called up Narayan Bhai and Lakshya Bhai from our Road Thrill Delhi Chapter and asked if we could catch-up.

As I reached Mahipalpur and checked into a hotel, soon Naryan Bhai, Lakshya Bhai and Atish Bhai and his friend reached the hotel.  It was a good time spent with you all.  Thank you Bhailog for a wonderful time in Delhi.

Narayan Bhai, Me, Atish Bhai and Lakshya Bhai 🙂

 

Day 15: July 13, 2018

I boarded the early morning flight to Goa, visited our home deity temple and then took a bus to my hometown; Belgaum.

A trip of a lifetime, worth spending all the time, money and the risks.  It all started with a “Dream”.

Work towards it and Live your Dreams…..

Even now, whenever Phani and I meet, we still talk and cherish the memories of this trip.

How could I remember all the minutest things from our Leh trip? Well, I had jotted down the pointers of each day while on the trip.  Below are its pictures.

 

This brings to the end of all the Leh Ladakh Blog episodes, a Travelogue of 3038 km

 

Until next time,

Cheers,

Gokool Kini

(Soul Warrior)

 

Also Visit: All my Travel Stories

Monster & Warrior got Leh’d | Episode 06: Riding on the Shyok riverbed en-route to Pangong Lake and the extreme dirt trail to Tso Moriri

 

Hope you have read the previous episode, in case you haven’t, Click here to read episode 05

This episode takes our journey through the Shyok River route to Pangong Lake and taking the road less traveled via Man & Merak villages and to the beautiful Tso Moriri.

Day 08: July 06, 2018 (Friday)

Nubra to Pangong Lake: Approx. 200+ Km

We woke up at around 8 am as if it was a lazy Sunday.  We hadn’t taken off our luggage from our bikes the previous day, we walked out of our tents to witness a bright sunny day with clear skies.  Our tents were the last accommodation towards the sand dunes.  We hadn’t taken a shower since the last 2 days and the first time in this trip that we said no to hot water.  A quick cold water shower and nothing much to be packed, we were all geared up.  Sandwiches were served for the breakfast and we were set to hit the roads.

We asked the hotel owner; “Bhai, can we ride till Siachen Base?  The hotel owner replied; “No, civilians aren’t allowed to ride there.  You need to be accompanied by personnel from the Armed Forces and needs special permission to visit there”

We skipped our visit to Turtuk & Thang village, which was not a good decision to do so, and regretted it later.  Reaching Nubra; we still couldn’t visit the last Northernmost Village of India.

In case, any of my readers planning for Leh Ladakh circuit, ensure you spend 2 days in the valley so you can visit Turtuk and return back to Hunder.

We bid farewell to the hotel owner and as we were about to enter the main road, Atish bhai said his bike’s rear brake has a failure.  A local shopkeeper there said; “Bhai aapko Diskit mei garage milega” (Bhai, You can find a garage in Diskit town) which was around 15 km from here.

With the tent owner at Hunder – Nubra Valley

 

We stopped to refuel at the only petrol pump at Diskit and luckily it was operational.  The petrol pump had the traditional rollover numerical meter that displayed the fuel dispensed.  A full tank to our machines and we reached the main market or the town center.

Atish Bhai wanted a DOT 3 or DOT4 grade oil for his bike’s rear disc brake.  There was an oil lubricant shop nearby.  As Atish Bhai was picking up a can of lube for his ride, I was astonished to see oil leakage around my Warrior’s engine.  I didn’t want to risk the seizure of the engine in the middle of nowhere; hence decided to pick up a can of engine oil, in case I needed a top-up.

The petrol pump at Diskit

 

 

We soon reached the garage which was owned by a mechanic named Sonu Singh.  The shutters of the garage were half open and his number was written on the outside walls of the garage.

BSNL was the only network that was working there, I dialed Sonu bhai,  he said; he had been somewhere to repair few customer’s bikes and said he would return in an hour.  It was 10:30 am and we just rested at the verandah of a building there.  Sonu bhai took almost 2 hours to reach back at the garage, and as soon he was back he quickly started fixing our bikes.

Atish Bhai’s bike had a rear disc issue, the complete system had to be bled and get all the air bubbles out. This needs to be done very methodically else it will result in a soggy brake and sometimes the lever just plummets till the throttle, this is risky especially in the conditions we are riding in.

Sonu Bhai said; it would easily take an hour to do so. Phani and I quickly carpeted our blue tarpaulin inside the garage and slept for a while. Time for a powernap!!

Taking a power nap at a garage in Diskit

 

Sonu Bhai fixing my Warrior’s carburetor jet

 

As soon Atish Bhai’s bike was fixed, I told Sonu Bhai about the power lag issues I faced on my Warrior.  I explained about the jugaad the mechanic in Leh did on my bike and how it had gone even worse after that jugaad.

Sonu Bhai had a spare 115mm main jet that he replaced in the Carburettor, the stock one was a 135mm jet.  He quickly fixed my bike too.

Once our machines were ready, we saddled up all the luggage on our respective bikes and walked to the nearby grocery store to buy some chocolates and biscuits.  We met 2 people from the Air Force who were also buying a few things at the shop there too, and we enquired about riding to Siachen Base Camp, and both the personnel said; you can’t ride there.

It was already past 2.00 pm when we started from here.  Post the repair from Sonu Bhai, my Warrior was smooth and could climb any incline that came our way.

We came to a clearing where we could see the dry river bed of Shyok River, this was our next challenge – Riding on this very river bed!

This river was also known as the River of Death, because, in the past, this river had swept away many people and animals, this is not for the weak of heart and many travelers don’t opt to ride in this deadly stream. I don’t blame them! This was no joke!

There are a few videos of bikers trying to brave the Shyok river crossings; we excitedly waited for such sought of adventures.  We soon deviated and entered the river bed and reached a small stream crossing; probably the first one in this journey of Ladakh Circuit.  But, to our surprise, the water levels were drastically low, the river was dry as draught.

As we quickly crossed this small stream and continued ahead.  There were tarmac roads and small bridges which were constructed by BRO.  These were constructed to reduce the accidental risks of driving or riding here.

At a small bridge before entering Shyok river bed
Somewhere in the middle of Shyok River route

 

We had hit the roads with anticipation we would find dhaba or hotels en-route where we could stop for lunch, there were no hopes of finding any hotels or dhabas for another 100+ km.

It was around 5 pm in the evening where we stopped under a mountain’s shadow for a pit stop. We sat on a rock from where we could see the dry Shyok River.  We were astonished and with a question, did we take the real Shyok Route which we had seen on the internet.  Are we on the correct route to Pangong Lake?

We discussed; after the pit-stop let’s just keep following the road to where it takes!

We were starving, we were only surviving on the sandwiches we had for breakfast.  Thanks to the Parle G biscuits and a few chocolate bars which we bought at the shop in Diskit.  These biscuits and chocolates gave some relief to our growling tummies.

 

The dry Shyok River bed behind our bikes

 

 

 

The ride continued in the deserted terrain, riding the brisk single lanes & no roads, over stones and loose gravel.  We came across yet another water stream, an easy one again.  Atish Bhai went ahead, followed by Phani.  I saw a local trying to cross the stream at the same time as Phani. Since there wasn’t enough space for both; Phani stopped midway in the stream, he lost balance, slipped on the stones and fell.

I quickly parked my bike, walked towards Phani and lifted him and his bike with the support of the locals.  It was cloudy and we didn’t want to get stuck in the rain here and continued the ride until we reached a small town which had many hotels.  We stopped over for lunch where we had Maggie, off-course and some Momos along.  It was around 6.15pm and it was broad daylight.

From here, Pangong; was another 20 or 30 km.  We reached Lukung village at around 7.30 pm saw a signboard “Himank Welcomes You to Pangong Lake”

Finally, we were near our destination for the day and it was almost dusk.  We missed the customary picture of the board that read the distance in kilometers to places; Lasha, Hong Kong, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Shanghai, Taipei, and Tokyo.

We missed a picture here, we don’t know how we missed it and reached the place where a lot of tents were pitched on the banks of the Pangong Lake and booked a tent named; “3 Idiots Tent Stay”

Yet again, we didn’t pay heed to unsaddle our bags from our bikes.  Picking up only a few essentials, and walked into the tent and asked the hotelier to get some hot Thukpa, Aloo Paratha and Maggie for dinner and crashed for the night.

From the tent at Pangong Lake

 

Day 09: July 07, 2018 (Saturday)

We woke up early to the mesmerizing view of Pangong Lake, also famously known as the “3 Idiots Lake”.

Its always good to visit a place rather than looking it on the television screen

The vast blue lake that huddled amidst the snow-clad mountains, the yellow scooters on the banks and the 3 Idiots Bum chair was sighted on the lakeside.  And the best part; no crowd, barely less than a count of 7 to 8 including us.  What more can one ask for?  It was seldom solitude time.

We told the tent owner to get some buckets of hot water for bathe, but, to our irony, in the time taken by the tent owner to get the heated water from his kitchen to our rooms the water would lose its warmth, and furthermore it cooled down completely to room temperature in the time we took it to the bathroom.  Hence, none of us had a bath.

Post breakfast, we walked towards the lake for some photo session.

 

The tents and hotels as seen from the lake-side

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Phani, my best riding companion ever….!!

 

 

We decided to take the direct route from Pangong Lake to Tso Moriri riding on the lakeside via Maan, Merak villages.  This stretch was a complete off-road trail and hardly few bikers on this route.

At the very beginning of this terrain, my bike’s fork oil seal gave up and the fork oil started to bleed heavily and I had to ride very cautiously, that reduced my speed.  I could hear the weird rattling sound from the forks.

At some point, Phani yelled over the intercom; “Maga, I fell, come soon!”  I quickly rushed to the place; Phani’s bike slid on the rough terrain and he had fallen at the left edge of the road, the roads had no side railings, had he fallen half a feet more towards his left, he would have crashed into the lake.  I quickly got down from the bike and assisted him to pick him and his bike.  Luckily, he had no injuries and no major damages to the bike either.

We reached Merak village and bought some water bottles from a house.  We only had to follow the tire tracks that were left on the sand.   At a point, we saw tire tracks diverging into different directions and we had to stop to figure out the route.

The climate was prickly hot and we had no confirmed path to ride ahead.  But we still continued straight hoping we would find some village or someone who could guide us to a village called Chushul.

Post some more kilometers deep in the deserted land, we found a Dump truck and asked the driver about the right direction to Chushul.  The driver said, Chushul would approx. be 25 km from here and told that there is an exit on the right side of this deserted land, that would lead to Chushul.

Somewhere, the terrain changed from sand to stones and mud and as my bike’s fork oil leak had spread all over on my bike’s front disk brake, I couldn’t apply the brake near a stone and I jumped off the stone and my front wheel was at least 3 to 4 feet above the ground and the moment it landed, it slid and I had a crash.

Phani and Atish bhai were right behind me and both of them assisted me to get back on my feet.  Had it not been for my riding gears, I would definitely have multiple broken bones.  Hence I always preach and Follow ATGATT – All the Gears, All the time. 

The setbacks on my Warrior now, a bent handlebar, a fully bent rear brake lever, and right footpeg, a bent disk brake lever and a bent front fork.  We knew we won’t find any mechanical support now until Manali.

We somehow made it to Chushul and stopped at a small hotel for lunch.  Maggie was the only thing available. The cooking gas here was over and the hotel guy was preparing it on a kerosene stove and 2 minutes Maggie took almost 30 minutes to prepare.  Meanwhile, we just slept on the bench.

At a small hotel in Chushul

 

 

Over lunch, we asked the hotel guy about the road’s condition ahead until Tso Moriri, to which he said, there are no proper roads ahead and be prepared for another stretch of off-roads.  Atish bhai negotiated and got fuel by paying some extra money to the hotelier.

The next stretch of the adventure was awaiting us.  The roads were a nightmare again.  After a few km, we reached the Rezang La war memorial.

At Rezang La War Memorial

 

After riding for another 45 minutes from here, we just stopped again in the middle of nowhere.  It was 4.15 pm, we were damn exhausted, we were riding from the past 7 hours and had only covered an approx. a distance of 110 to 120 km.  Our bodies were aching, we just sat on the ground, and we uttered; we will give up riding, we were that frustrated and exhausted.  Atish bhai used his bike as back support and rested his head on his bike’s front mudguard; it was a much-needed break to rest.

Riding a few km from here, we saw 2 cars coming our way, I was leading ahead and stopped in the middle of the road and signaled the cars to stop.  The driver said; Tso Moriri is quite far from here, another 100 odd km from here.  The first question everyone asked, how are the roads ahead, the driver replied; after few km, it’s a single laned tarmac road and we continued ahead.

The moment we reached the tarmac, Phani and I spoke on the intercom, let’s get some good speeds on the tarmac and cover more km which we actually did.  We were riding through the Changthang Region which was at close proximity to the Indo-China border.

We soon reached Tara – Tsaga La check-post, showed our Inner Line permits and continued ahead and made our way till the check post of Loma Bend.

At Loma Bend, there are 2 routes; a route to Hanle and another to Tso Moriri.  Though we had permits for Hanle, we decided to skip it and ride towards Tso-Moriri.

From here the roads were good till Nyoma.  We stopped for chai at Nyoma.  Atish Bhai bought some more liters of petrol from the tea shop.

It was around 6.00 pm in the evening and we foolishly decided to ride ahead.  In case, any of you reach Nyoma in the evening around this time, better lookout for any accommodation and stay for the night.

We foolishly continued riding on the under-construction roads ahead.  Some time ahead, the bungee chords that I had tied to my luggage were loose and one of my bags fell off in the middle.  Phani was behind me, so he picked up the bag and tightened the luggage on my bike.

We soon reached the check-post at Mahe; and, Phani realized that his tool-kit bag was missing from his bike.  That bag had all the tools we carried all the way from Bangalore.

I asked Phani and Atish bhai to wait here at the check-post and I went back in search of the tool-kit.  Because, when my bag had fallen, we ensured all our luggage was in place, so we were sure and confident that the tool-kit bag might have fallen somewhere close by.

I rode back looking on the road in search of the bag and reached the point where my bag had fallen.  But, the tool-kit bag was nowhere to be found and I decided to return back.  As I took a U-turn on the road, few construction workers there came and told, a bag from one of your bike’s had fallen and they had kept it safely in their hut.  Both Phani and my bike had Road Thrill flag on our bikes and confidently told that the fallen bag was ours as the workers easily recognized the Road Thrill Flag.

I thanked them for their kind gesture, tied the toolkit on my bike and started to ride back.  It was pitch dark and I knew I had to ride till Mahe check-post, which is around 20 km and would easily take an hour.  While returning, my bike’s battery issue started again.  I couldn’t switch on my bike’s fog lamp and honk at the same time.  When honked, the fog lamps would turn very dim, and thought, the lights were more important than the horn.

Almost, after 2 hours I reached back at the check-post to see Phani in tears.  He said, there was no sign of you since you left, there were no vehicles coming to ask the whereabouts of me and he rode back in search of me for few km, couldn’t find me in the dark and rode back frightened till the check-post.  After so many rides together, it was the first time I saw Phani frightened and in tears this way.

I told him; Bro, I am fine, what’s the plan next.  The security at the check-post told you will find a few houses in Sumdo village around 20 km from here.  He strictly instructed us not to ride ahead from Sumdo as the roads ahead from Sumdo are very bad and risky.  He confirmed us that the roads till Sumdo are ok and manageable to ride in the dark.

It took us around 90 minutes to reach Sumdo.  It was 10.30pm when we reached there.  Just at the start of the village, we saw 2 people walking down the lane,  we stopped and asked them if there are any stay and food options.

He said, “I just closed my shop; and, my daughter and I were walking back home” but quickly also said, I can assist you people with food and stay.

He opened the shop and asked his daughter to cook some food while he took us to his home.  He said, there is 1 empty room at his home and said, will show the room to you and if OK, you guys can sleep there for the night.  We said OK, we only need a place to rest for the night.  We followed him to the room, he said there are no lights here, and kept a solar operated lamp inside the room and said, there are 4 beds here on the floor and few blankets, you can use them all and said, let’s go back to his shop for dinner.

Upon reaching back to his shop, his daughter said, rice and dal are getting ready for you guys, it would probably take few more minutes and meanwhile you can eat some biscuits until the food is cooked.

We were stunned with their simplicity of life and their eagerness to help travelers.  Who would open their shop at 11’o clock in the night and cook food for some random bikers?  That too at this border region!

We were very lucky and happy to get food and stay there.  Especially getting rice and dal after having Maggie continuously 3 times a day.

Over dinner, the shop keeper’s daughter heard Phani and I speaking in Kannada, she asked; Are you guys from Karnataka?.  She said; “I can understand a few words of Kannada and continued, I was studying in a college in Mysore for a few days but had to return back to her village”.  She said she used to like the Idlis and Dosas of the South.

Post dinner, the shop owner told us, you guys ride to the room, while he and his daughter would lock the shop and walk back.

While returning back, we missed the building and rode ahead as all houses were looking similar.  At a point, we could see a skull of cow or yak and the area looked haunted.  We quickly turned back in search of the house, the shop owner assisted us with the torch and guided us to his house.

The girl asked us, if we wanted our phones or power banks to be charged, she can charge them through their solar operated lamps if kept for charging the whole night.

We left all our luggage on the bike, threw off all our riding gears and fell on the bed.

Our plan was to reach Tso Moriri, but we could only make till Sumdo that day.

To be continued in episode 07: Tso-Moriri to Manali and the journey back home.

A glimpse from the next episode:

Thanking Dorji Bhai for all the help he did to our team in 2017… Our Saviour

 

Until next time.

 

Cheers,

Gokool Kini

(Soul Warrior)

To continue reading Episode 07: Click Here

Monster & Warrior got Leh’d | Episode 05: World’s Highest Motorable Road and the Sand Dunes | Leh to Nubra Valley |

 

Hope you have read the previous Episode, in case you haven’t, Click Here to read Episode 04

This episode takes us on the next leg of our journey as we bid goodbye to Leh. Riding the World’s Highest Motorable Road, exploring Sand-Dunes of Hunder, where I ticked off the dream of riding a Double-Humped Camel.

Day 07: July 05, 2018 (Thursday)

Leh to Nubra: 160 km

I hardly slept the previous night since the excitement of riding on the World’s Highest Motorable Road kept me awake, the experience would be unfathomable and I just couldn’t wait for the sun to rise and for us to embark on one of the most monumental parts of this epic journey!

At the first light of dawn, we packed our luggage and went to the breakfast counter. To my astonishment Phani arrived at the table with a piece of sandwich in his mouth, holding his office laptop and says; “Bro, I have urgent office emails to be actioned!!!  With our adrenaline pumped up high; Atish Bhai and I sat with a facepalm, unknowing what to respond to this monkey…!!  While Phani was busy typing office emails, we concentrated on snacking bread omelet.

Phani working from Leh Guest-House

 

Meanwhile, Phani received an unexpected SMS from his sister informing us that “Phani’s parents had met with an accident in Bangalore”.  Phani dialed back home and enquired about his parent’s condition.  His parents were driving back from a family function and a drunk guy on scooter rammed their car.  Post the call, Phani said; luckily, the accident was a minor one, nothing to worry, we can continue the journey.   We finished the check-out and billing at the guest house and saddled up on our dusty bikes.

With the Guest House staff at Leh

 

The first thing everyone did; was tying the Ladakh Prayer Flags across the mirrors of our bikes!!  If at all our bikes could think or speak; they would think these Ladakh flags as a “Medal of Honour”

Next stop; the long queue leading to the Fuel Station, where we refueled our bikes and also filled up the jerry cans with fuel.   The Indian Oil Petrol pump was fully packed with Bikers from all over India, it took us almost 45 minutes to refuel here.  Leh was at 11,000 feet above sea level, and since we would be ascending another 7,000 to 8,000 feet within the next 60 km.  I kept the Oxygen Can within reach outside my saddle bag in case of emergencies.

The Leh city and markets were jammed with traffic, and we somehow maneuvered through small lanes and marked our way towards Khargung La.  We soon sighted a signboard that read; “You’re on the Highest Motorable Road”

 

 

We reached the check-post of South Pullu where we submitted a copy of the Inner Line Permits and moved ahead.

 

 

 

 

Somewhere, in the middle, my bike faced the same power lag issue yet again.  We stopped at the edge and quickly emptied the spare petrol from my jerry can into the one on Phani’s bike, thinking the 10-liter petrol added more weight on my Warrior, but nothing helped.

Phani and I swapped our bikes, even then we couldn’t figure out what the issue was?  I said to Phani, I will get back on my bike and throttle it out the hard way.

From here, the road was loose dirt and we could see a long line of vehicles from a distance due to a small landslide.

 

The JCB clearing a small landslide

 

Phani spoke on the Intercom, “Bro, somehow lets maneuver and outreach the long queue so we can quickly zoom as soon the road is cleared”.  We managed to zigzag through the minutest gaps between vehicles and reached at the start point of the queue, eagerly waiting and watching the JCB dumped the mud and boulders aside.

This got cleared in less than an hour and as the JCB driver signaled us to start moving, we quickly accelerated and moved ahead.   The road ahead was a mix of loose gravel and snow on edges of the mountains that touched the road.

Looking at the tranquil valley; the moving clouds above the snow-clad mountains, a tiny village habitat, and grassland that looked like a tiny dot from above.  We felt as if we were riding towards the horizon.

Few kilometers from here was the K-Top (Khardung La Top at 18,380 feet above sea level), and we could see mad rush here.  Everyone wanted to get their pictures clicked with the Signboard of the World’s Highest Motorable Road.  We patiently waited for our turn.

At the World’s Highest Motorable Road – Khardung La – Altitude 18,380 feet

 

Conquering this feat was a feeling of achievement, a long pending dream that was accomplished.  The Gut feeling of never giving up and braving all the challenges throughout the journey with a feeling we would definitely Win!!!

Our next destination was Hunder and we started descending downwards.  Somewhere en route North Pullu, we stopped aside when few Army trucks came from the opposite direction, we stood from our bike’s seat and saluted the Soldiers, and the Soldiers would salute to each and every person who saluted them.

As I write this blog episode after a very long time, I am nostalgic as I can still visualize this Salute scene and it has been one of the proudest moment of my life.

Very soon, we crossed North Pullu and stopped at a dhaba for lunch.  I felt breathless and had a headache.  My previous experiences helped me quickly realize the symptoms of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), I pulled out the Oxygen Can and inhaled slowly while rushing inside the dhaba.  I felt better in some time and avoided another nightmare. I ate the only food available here i.e. Maggi, and after having it, popped in half a Diamox Tablet with hot water and took a power nap for an hour on a bed inside the dhaba.  With refreshed energy, we were all set to ride ahead.

At a Dhaba after North Pullu

 

En-route to Diskit

 

 

 

Next leg of the journey; was towards Maitreya Buddha in Diskit, with the cool breezy wind coupled with sunny weather, the ride was pleasant and the smooth tarmac was welcomed by all after the slushy, loose graveled roads behind us, we racked up a lot of miles quickly on this section.

 

Few pictures at the Maitreya Buddha, Diskit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had our evening tea at a small hotel nearby and I purchased some magnetic badges as a souvenir to take back home.

Magnetic Badges that were taken in Diskit

 

Another 25 km ahead, was Hunder, a place known for its sand dunes and double-humped camels.  We could see the twirling sands across either side of the road.

Sand-dunes of Hunder

 

From a distant far, we could see people taking Camel Rides on the Double Humped Camels (also known as Bactrian Camels), they are exclusively found in Nubra Valley in Ladakh region in India.  Outside India, they are found only in Mongolia.  I didn’t want to miss this camel ride and soon reached the place of the camel safari.  We parked our bikes and walked on the sand towards the camels.

 

 

I purchase the ticket that was approx. INR 200/- and in my riding gear;  hopped on a Double Humped Camel.  As the camel got up or sat down, it felt like a wheelie or a stoppie; that only bikers can understand this feeling.

As I sat on the camel and gazed at the beautiful view around, the miles and miles of desert, the wind hitting my face, the clear and bright blue skies, the giant snow-covered mountains, It was an epic view of nature’s wonderful miracle; sand under my feet and snow on the horizon.

I wondered, how these camels listened and acted as per their guardian’s commands.  Almost an hour of camel ride, it was a dream come true.  Way back in 2017, my friend Chidanand had once told me, “You don’t miss that camel ride, you will never get to see a double-humped camel again in your lifetime, you will only see them at Nubra Valley”  It was a nice and memorable experience altogether.

We went in search of accommodation for the night’s stay and booked a tent at Summer Holiday Camps,  and checked in.  We left all our luggage on the bike and picked only things that were required for that night’s stay.  We freshened up and walked on the dark streets of Hunder.  We were served with some delicious Punjabi styled buffet dinner and called it a night.

To be continued in Episode 06: Riding on the Shyok river bed en route to Pangong Lake and the extreme dirt trail to Tso Moriri.

 

A glimpse from the next episode:

Sleeping in a Garage while 2 of our bikes are down

 

Cheers,

Gokool Kini

(Soul Warrior)

 

To continue to episode 06: Click Here

Monster & Warrior got Leh’d | Episode 04: Reaching the Dream Destination Leh; and battling AMS | Kargil to Leh |

 

Hope you have read the previous Episode, in case you haven’t, Click Here to read Episode 03

Last night, both Phani and I were ill.  A dose of Diamox worked for me, and I was fine as I woke up in the morning.  Phani was still suffering from severe stomach-ache, so we had our breakfast in the room and told him to rest for some more hours.  Meanwhile, we packed up and were ready.  Phani woke up somewhere at 12 pm and said: “He is fine to ride now”.

Day 05: July 03, 2018 (Tuesday)

Kargil to Leh: 255 km

We wanted to visit the LOC (Line of Control), Hunderman village; which was approx. 15 km from Kargil town, it’s the last Indian village in this stretch and lies in LOC area.  We crossed the bridge of Suru River and started riding on the brisk single lane; a deep valley on one side and giant mountains on the other.  After riding the rough stretch of roads uphill, we found a binocular shop, and we rented a binocular there.

Through the binoculars, we could see the Indian Flag on the Indian side of LOC, a Mosque on the other side of LOC.  Deep in the valley, we could see the Suru river flowing towards Pakistan. A local guide there explained about the weather, he also said; this village was re-captured by India post-1971 and the villagers have their relatives on the other side of the LOC Border.  We could see the houses in the village that were made of mud and wood.  The local also said, the Border here is more friendly and peaceful. We didn’t take any pictures here.

Please Note: This is a LOC – Border Area and please don’t upload any pictures on the social media.

As we descended back, I took a detour and reached an unknown place.  A local lady guided me back to the main road to Kargil Town.  Atish Bhai and Phani waited for me at the bridge of Suru River.  We rode through the Kargil market; and stopped at a Medical store, to pick some medicines for Phani.

We refueled our bikes at the Indian Oil Petrol Pump on the NH1 and continued riding towards Leh.  The roads were proper tarmac; while the afternoon weather was freezing cold.   We wore multiple layers of clothing; inner thermal, two t-shirts, the riding jacket having 3 layers and a raincoat on top of the riding jacket;  Thermal gloves and a full gauntlet riding gloves on top of it; 2 layers of Balaclava and a Bandana inside our helmets; inner body thermal, riding pant and raincoat pant over it; though we wore many layers; we still shivered; the weather was that cold!!

Upon reaching Mulbekh; we visited a monastery here and walked to a dhaba; Tso-Moriri Dhaba.  We ordered food and sat at a table at the extreme end of the hotel.  Neither did we remove the thermal gloves nor the bandana until the hotelier cooked and served the food.

Post lunch; we continued the journey uphill, and my bike started facing the power lag issue once again.  I somehow managed to keep the throttle wide open for this entire uphill stretch.  We reached Namik La at an altitude of 12,198 feet above sea level.  We didn’t have to take off our riding gloves; thanks to the touch-sensitive riding gloves which helped to click pictures on our smartphones.

Enroute Namik La

 

At Namik La

 

Me, at Namik La

 

Phani at Namik La

 

Though the weather looks bright sunny in the picture, we were shivering with cold

 

None of us even bothered to remove our helmets for the pic; it was that cold. Around 40 km from here, we reached Fotu La; the highest point on Srinagar – Leh road at an altitude of 13,479 feet above sea level.  The cloudy sky and tiny droplets of rain made the weather even colder than what we faced in Mulbekh or Namik La.

At Fatu La, Highest point on Srinagar – Leh Road

 

Don’t be Gama in the Land of Lama

 

At the entrance of Lamayuru Monastery

 

The roads from here were downhill and could maintain good speeds on the twisty single lanes.  We reached Lamayuru village and stopped for chai at a dhaba; Shangrilla Temple View Restaurant.

The only reason for stopping here was the “Free Wi-Fi”

 

From the Dhaba’s balcony; we could see the Lamayuru Monastery nestled amidst the mountains.

From the Hotel’s Balcony

 

Get me some soup, you Hooman!!!

 

Come on you Hooman… Lets Fight…!!!

 

Enroute to Leh

 

Enroute to Leh

 

The climate was a mixture of bright clear skies and dark clouds in some stretches.  We missed seeing the confluence signboard of Zanskar and Indus rivers due to the dark cloudy climate; Hence missing the spot of the confluence and reached Magnetic Hill point.

Many people believe the magnetic force that makes the vehicle move ahead even though the ignition is turned off.  Few believe this theory as a Myth; we belonged to the latter.  However, the view was absolutely mind-blowing.

Leh was only 30 km from here and we continued riding.  It was an emotional feeling when I saw the board “Welcome to Leh!”  Finally, the dream destination came true.  From being so near; yet so far in 2017;  it took me exactly a year to reach this feat.  I waited for a year patiently though sometimes frustrated for not making it in the first attempt.

Welcome to Leh!!! That’s Phani

Welcome to Leh!!! Atish Bhai

 

While we planned for this Leh trip, I had once told Phani, “If I die, I will die in the mountains, but will not return with an unfinished Leh trip again”

I hadn’t even changed my Whatsapp DP for a year; The DP was the route map of Ladakh Circuit; every time, someone asked me to change my DP, I replied; I will change it once I reach Leh.  Every time I received a message to change my DP, it reminded me of my goal, the only dream, and goal for the year was to reach Leh; no matter what!!! All the erstwhile planning and dedication and the zeal finally paid off.

Dream Destination; Leh City!!! This went as my Whatsapp DP

 

At Leh Airport

 

The only accommodation pre-booked in advance was in Leh, thanks to Goibibo’s IPL offer; we got a nice deal in Rainbow Guest House, it cost us only INR 800/- for 2 days stay; that worked out roughly 130 per person per day (excluding food).

Phani had switched on the GPS map to the guest-house and we followed him.  At some point, I missed them and went ahead and reached the main Leh market. After enquiring for say an hour with many locals, I kept on touring the city again and again and again, but couldn’t find the guest house.  Though I had a BSNL postpaid sim, there was some problem with the phone’s network.  After dialing many times, I could connect to the guest house owner and she told me the landmark as Leh DC’s residence.

A Ladakhi conversed with the owner in their local language and he escorted me till the guest house.  As I walked into our room, Phani had already crashed to bed; shivering and wrapped in multiple layers of blankets.

Phani was hit by AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness). Luckily,  we had carried Oxygen Cans with us that helped Phani get some breath.  Quickly, I spoke to the owner and told her, my friend is down with AMS and enquired for the nearby hospital.  The landlord arranged a taxi for us who drove us to SNM Hospital in Leh.

Important Note: Please don’t forget to carry Oxygen Cans during your Leh Trip.  This Oxygen Can have mixed opinions from different people; Few say it is not required, while few have felt its importance.  When you’re spending so much for your Leh Trip, don’t hesitate to spend another INR 500 for this can.  In case you don’t feel the need to use for yourself, You might help some fellow traveler to breathe during emergency.  So whatever anyone says, please do carry this Oxygen Can.  I personally know its importance when I was hit with AMS during Leh 2017 trip as my Oxygen levels had dropped to 40 .

The Doctor examining Phani in Leh Hospital

 

Phani at Leh Hospital

 

The doctor told Phani’s oxygen levels were few points below the normal level, but he still felt breathless.  So, they put him on Oxygen for two hours.  The doctor advised us to take rest for a day before we continue our journey.

The taxi driver waited for us outside the hospital until Phani was discharged, and he drove us back to the guest-house.  We had our dinner and slept off, as our next day was a rest day as per our planned itinerary to get ourselves acclimatized before we ascend to even higher altitude, so we said to ourselves, let’s get some decent amount of sleep and wake up late.

Day 06: July 04, 2018 (Wednesday)

In Leh city,

We woke up late in the afternoon.  Over lunch, we met some bikers who were also from Bangalore and quickly got ourselves introduced.  We had to get our bikes serviced and we went out in search of a garage.  The guest house owner had suggested a mechanic Amarjeet; who has a garage in the main market nearby SNM hospital.

Our new friends from Bangalore wanted a rental bike to ride back to Manali. So we called up Rigzin Bhai who assists with Inner Line Permits and also has a bike rental business in Leh and apparently all the bikes were rented out.

He said; give me an hours time; I will look out something to help you.  One bike was loaded in a truck to send to Manali and the truck was about to move. Through his contacts; he connected to the truck owner and got the bike unloaded and called us and said; Gokool Bhai, bike ka Jugaad ho gaya.  We rushed to Rigzin Bhai’s office and asked our new friends to reach there.  We had to also collect our Inner Line permits from Rigzin Bhai’s office.  He guided us to his office in Changspa area.

Rigzin Bhai and his family had helped me a lot when I was struck with AMS during Leh Expedition 2017.  He and his family are my saviors.  It was a pleasure to meet him again, exactly after a year’s gap.

Phani, Rigzin Bhai and me

 

Leh city as seen from the Leh Palace

 

We had asked Atish Bhai to get his bike serviced; until we meet Rigzin Bhai and get our permits. Later, I dropped my bike in his garage and we went to Leh Hall of Fame which was on the outskirts of Leh City on Leh – Kargil road.

Amarjeet Paaji repairing my bike

 

This Hall of Fame is run by the Indian Army which looks like a hexagonal and semi-circular stone building from the outside; had 2 floors displaying the pictures of Kargil War, Siachen War and other achievements of various regiments of the Armed Forces.

The pictures of the Bravehearts who lost their lives in various battles were mounted on the wall.  Artillery weapons and equipment used by our war patrons are kept for display as well.  As you read through the war articles inscribed on the walls, it will give you an insight into the importance of few places on the border and the sacrifices and achievements of the various Regiments and Commands.  You can also see the various instruments and apparels used by our Armed Forces who guarded the Siachen in extreme sub-zero temperatures.

Few pictures from the Leh Hall of Fame

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a walk through the memorial, many of us eagerly waited for the Beating the Retreat or the Flag Lowering Parade which happens daily in the evening at around 6.30 pm.  We only watch such parades on TV especially only during Republic Day or the Independence Day, but getting to watch the Beating the Retreat Parade live was remarkable.

Though the weather was very cold and drizzling, the parade didn’t stop.  The soldiers marched proudly, lowered the Tricolor and marched back.  While we interacted with a soldier, He said; “For you bikers, Leh is an adventurous dream; but for us, it is our life and duty to safeguard our nation”.  He continued;  “No matter what the weather is, flag hoisting and the lowering of the flag happens daily at its stipulated timing”

Post the parade, we saw a war documentary that depicted about Kargil War and pre-dominantly about Siachen War and brief about Ladakh and its importance; which was telecasted in the amphitheater inside the Hall of Fame.

We picked up my bike from the garage on our way back to the guest house and purchased few Prayer Flags; Bikers call them Ladakh Flags!!!

At the Prayer Flag shop in Leh Market

 

Over dinner, we met few German tourists boarding there; they wanted to cycle from Leh to few other places including the World’s Highest Motorable Road.

A Ladakhi dish; Thukpa was served for dinner, which was mouthwatering and delicious. Please don’t miss this dish if you’re in Ladakh.

Me and Atish Bhai enjoying Thukpa….. But, can you remember the black laptop in the pic… haha!!

 

Two days in Leh passed real quick; we wished we could stay there for a few more days to experience the Ladakh culture and heritage to the core.

We missed visiting the Shanti Stupa and Leh Palace, Phani could manage to visit the Leh Palace, I couldn’t make it to the Palace as I had to get my bike issues fixed at the garage.

 

To be continued in Episode 05: The World’s Highest Motorable Road and the Sand-Dunes

 

A glimpse from the next Episode:

A Glimpse from Episode 05: Riding the World’s Highest Motorable Road

 

Cheers,

Gokool Kini

(Soul Warrior)

 

To continue reading Episode 05: Click Here

 

For more information on the Leh routes, permits, packing essentials please visit: Preparations for Leh Ladakh Ride

 

Also, read about the upcoming Itinerary of Road Thrill’s Leh Ladakh Ride: Season 04

Monster & Warrior got Leh’d | Episode 03: Udhampur to Kargil | The Heavenly Kashmir Valley, The deadly Zoji La Pass and our homage to the Fallen Heroes of the Kargil War

 

Hope you have read the previous Episode, in case you haven’t, Click Here to read Episode 02

Day 03: July 01, 2018 (Sunday)

Udhampur to Srinagar: 235 Km

We started the day early and went to the hotel rooftop for a cup of chai.  The morning view was beautiful and calm, behind our hotel; flowed River Tawi and right in front of our hotel we saw mountains and huge boulders that were fallen on the roadside. We assumed this was due to the landslide that happened a couple of days ago.

The Tawi River as seen from behind the Hotel

 

While we sipped tea on the rooftop watching the road, we sighted a pick-up vehicle that had fallen into a ditch. The driver; might have lost control of the vehicle while driving in the dark, and would have jumped off the road. Both of us gave an inexplicable look to each other and said; hope the driver escaped safely.

The pick-up truck in the ditch

 

We had bread butter jam for breakfast and we saddled up for the day’s ride towards Chenani-Nashri Tunnel.  We could see tempo travelers filled with pilgrims’ praying and singing devotional songs en route to Amarnath Yatra and we maneuvered through this traffic and reached the tunnel’s start point.

At Hotel Tawi View

 

All set to ride towards Srinagar

 

The well-illuminated 9 km straight laned tunnel is a classic example of India’s advancement in road infrastructure.  It had wide roads with properly marked lines and multiple emergency exits; we didn’t want to zoom here riding on high speeds and hence rode very calmly.  Both of us discussed its importance on the intercoms.  This tunnel cuts down the distance by 30 Km of the hilly areas of Patnitop.

Note: Please don’t ride recklessly here; there might be oil spills on the road and can prove fatal if you slide and fall.

After exiting Chenani Nashri Tunnel

 

Readers may remember my Warrior ’s main stand was broken (in transit) hence we were on the lookout for a welding shop to fix additional metal support to the main stand.  Every time I parked my Warrior I had to take the support of a small stone beneath the side stand so I could avoid it from leaning and falling sideways.

Meanwhile, a solo rider named Atish asked; Are you guys hitting Leh? He was riding solo and wanted to know if he could join us.  Phani and I both agreed on it.  Over chai,  we got ourselves introduced and continued our ride.

We reached Ramban, and luckily we found a Bajaj Service station and Phani got his Monster’s bent side-stand fixed.  I got busy looking for a welding shop near-by to weld an extra metal piece to my bike’s side stand.  With a long iron pipe; the welder also got my rear brake lever straightened out which was also bent in transit.

At Bajaj Service center, Ramban

 

Getting an extra metal piece welded to my bike’s side-stand

 

Crossing over the bridge on Chenab river; we rode the single lane that passed via forest uphills and the road full of bigger potholes, mud, and slush; and off-course the on-going traffic; we took more than 2 hours to cover a stretch of 30 km to reach Banihal where we stopped for lunch at Café NH44.

At Café NH44

 

Me, Atish Bhai and Phani

 

We had Maggie, Tandoori Roti, and dal in Lunch;  Café NH44 was also a Highway Delite verified restaurant.  Just 20 km from here, was the Jawahar Tunnel (located between Banihal and Qazigund), which we took another 90 minutes to reach.

Inside Jawahar Tunnel

 

Crossing the Jawahar Tunnel, we reached the town of Qazigund, and Phani spoke on the intercom; “Bro your bike’s top rack carrier is broken again!!” The top-rack was hanging on the support of bungee chords that were tied along with the tools and my saddle bag. We had to look out for a welding shop again.  The nice cool breezy weather and tiny droplets of rain called for a chai pit-stop.  The shop-keeper said; there is a welding shop few km ahead on the highway,  but he wasn’t sure if the shop is open at that time of the day.

To our blessing, we found a small welding shop on the side of the 4 lane highway and was open.  We quickly untied all the bungee chords and kept the saddle bag on the seat, and the welder started with the repairs.

The broken top rack carrier

 

Repairing the top rack carrier

 

The welder barely took 15 minutes to weld the top rack and as we were about to continue the ride; Phani misplaced his bike key.  All three of us; Atish Bhai, Phani and I searched for his bike key. He was playing with the keychain and the key had fallen into the shrubs on the side of the road;  We found it only after searching for an hour.

The ride continued towards Srinagar, on the nice and wide highway which had many Kashmir Willow Cricket Bat shops on either side,  looking at the green mountains between the vast lush green paddy fields, we reached the capital city; Srinagar.

At Awantipora, en-route Srinagar

 

En-route Srinagar

 

As we stopped inside the city of Srinagar, a local reached out to us and said, I have a boat-house if you guys are interested to spend the night floating on the lake. We agreed right away; who would miss such an awesome opportunity!

We reached his boat-house at Dal Lake and decided to stay in his boat named “New Jahangir”.  Atish Bhai negotiated the price for INR 1000/- for 3 people; that was hardly INR 350 per head excluding food and the full boat-house was ours. What a bargain for a night out on Dal Lake!

We sat in the balcony of the boat-house sipping refined Kashmiri Chai and the gorgeous view of Srinagar’s Jewel; Dal Lake.

From the boat-house balcony

 

Each one of us wanted to take a boat ride on Dal Lake, and soon after a cold shower; we ditched our riding gears and wore normal casuals; we looked like humans for a change and walked towards the main market in Srinagar.  As we walked on the ridges and footpaths, we saw many boats docked at the shoreline of the lake.

Boats docked at Dal Lake’s shoreline

 

We hired Sultan Bhai’s boat for a boat ride across the Lake. It was already dusk while we got into the boat and as Sultan Bhai rowed the boat; we were speechless looking at the fascinating view of the boats well lit with lights.  All of us, sat speechless looking at the vast water surface, dipping our hands in the water while we gazed those mighty mountains.

Few pictures below

 

 

 

 

Phani and Atish Bhai in the boat

 

None of us uttered a word, we were lost in its majestic beauty.  Sultan Bhai broke the silence and started guiding with the information of this touristy place.  We told Sultan Bhai, we wanted some snacks as we had forgotten to parcel it.  He said, kuch chinta math karo aap log, yahaan shikhar pe snacks waale aayenge; (Don’t worry bhailog, you will see boats carrying snacks and food).

We also asked if we could get a couple of beers; Sultan Bhai soon found a boat carrying chilled beers.  We grabbed a few cans and relaxed in the boat. What more can we ask for?  How big is this lake; we asked? Sultan Bhai said; this lake is around 24 km in radius, you might need a day or two to fully explore the lake on a boat.  Also, there were a few floating gardens on the lake.

He said Jaise aap log chal ke, ya bike pe market jaate hai, waise yahaan pe log boat le ke market jaate hai; (Just like, how you guys ride or walk to the market, people here row their boats to visit the markets here).  Soon, there was another boat with barbeque food items; we ordered some hot barbeque stuff for ourselves and watched how a tiny rowboat; was loaded with a refrigerator, a barbeque briquette and what not.  All the boatman provided heartily services to all the tourists that visited this place.

Barbeque stuffs being prepared on the boat

 

The sun had already set for the day and darkness had taken over,  our boats passed through other boats; few boats were canteens, few were clothing stores, few were luxury boat-houses; it all felt like we were in Venice.  Truly;  Dal Lake is known as the “Venice of the East”

Clothing stores on the boats

 

After a boat ride for two hours or more; we were back at the shore.  As we got off the boat, we could see the glimpse of flashback; we could still hear the sound of oars creaking and water splashing the boat, it all seemed like a fairy tale and a feeling of waking up from a dream.  Thank You Sultan Bhai for a dream come true boat ride on Dal Lake.

Me, Atish Bhai, Sultan Bhai and Phani

 

As Phani and Atish Bhai parceled food for us from Hotel Punjabi Haveli in Srinagar market, I saw a roadside shop selling toy boats.  So, I bought a toy boat as a souvenir to take back home.

The Wooden Toy Boat which took as Souvenir

 

The wooden toys sold in Srinagar Market – Irshad Bhai’s shop

 

With Irshad Bhai, a toy shop owner

 

Our bikes parked beside our Boathouse

 

It was an evening well spent in Dal Lake, we discussed our next day’s ride plan; we had the charming Sonamarg and the deadly Zoji La pass ahead of us.

Having dinner in the boathouse’s balcony

 

Day 04: July 02, 2018 (Monday)

Srinagar to Kargil: 215 Km

We were up by 6.30 am and saddled up quickly.  The boat-house owner; Khaliq Bhai got us some hot tea and post which, we continued our journey towards Sonamarg. We tanked up at an HP Petrol Pump at the city’s outskirt.  This probably was the last petrol pump which accepted card payments during our journey to Leh.

We crossed Ganderbal and reached a small village; Gund, where we stopped at a roadside hotel for breakfast.  While the hotel owner prepared Maggie and Paratha, we had few pictures taken at the banks of River Sind that was flowing just behind the hotel.

View of River Sind

 

Our bikes parked on the banks of River Sind

 

 

Post another 25 odd km ride; we reached Sonamarg, meaning; Meadow of Gold!! Nestled in the lap of Himalayas; a paradise for trekkers and adventurists, the roads passed through the dense forests with the towering pine trees.  We stopped for a while near a resort watching this astounding view of nature.

From a resort in Sonamarg

 

Atish Bhai and Warrior at Sonamarg

 

The Trio with our machines before entering Zoji La

 

Before entering Zoji La

 

 

 

Our curious and excited minds were eagerly waiting to hit Zoji La.   The nerve wrecking pass that tests the level of endurance for each and every rider at every turn.

A belief amongst bikers; You conquer Zoji La successfully, you will definitely reach Leh…!!!  We reached the base, knowing this pass can be a nightmare to anyone who is driving/riding this stretch, as this strip of rocks is definitely not a place for a relaxed Sunday ride.  One should have supreme confidence in his vehicle and excellent riding skills to tame this very narrow road; It’s amongst one of the World’s Deadliest Roads.

Somewhere amidst the Death Valley

 

As we crossed a place called Baltal which is another alternate road to Amarnath Shrine. On the muddy uphills; my bike; Warrior faced power lag.  How much ever I throttled, my bike struggled to cross 30 kph.  I was in the center lane trying my best to accelerate my bike; I saw a speeding truck driving downhill at a hairpin curve and I somehow managed to maneuver my bike to the left; narrowly escaping an accident.

Phani on the intercom yelled; Lo, ride safe, you just missed an accident. After 1 or 2 km; I overtook a truck and turned right on another hairpin curve; Phani shouted on the intercom again; Dude there is a small Shiva Temple here, take a U-turn and come back.  The truck which I overtook was blocking this small temple hence missing it as I rode on!

We parked our bikes to take blessings at this temple; we were also served with Satyanarayan Pooja Prasad here.  Phani and I, we’re happy and lucky to get Mahadev’s blessings,  that too in this deadly border road terrain.

At the small Shiv Mandir at Zoji La

 

We continued the ride and soon after a few minutes; the sun was engulfed by dark clouds and it started raining, the terrain turned in slush added another challenge to the ride.   Few stretches are made of cement paver blocks and are slippery when wet.

Even, when the sun shined bright and as there were no barriers on the sides; we could see the mind-numbing steep vertical drops of hundreds of meters and could see the valley which was a couple of thousand feet below us.  If you look through the sharp mountain edges; you can see a road which looks as thin as a thread.  Those thread lines were the crumbling dirt trails, it can be death waiting at every corner if you show up unprepared.

We sighted a small shop from a distant and a lot of vehicles had stopped; we had finally conquered this deadly terrain.  The death enthralled trail; though a distance of 10 to 12 km, we took approximately over 3 hours.

Note: This terrain requires persistent attention to the road and if you are a beginner in biking; please don’t attempt this.

After crossing Zoji La

 

Monster and the Snow-clad mountains

 

 

My Warrior with a snow-clad Mountain

 

While having chai, I sighted some people riding the snow-scooter and decided to get my hands on it.  Meanwhile, Phani and Atish Bhai rested there.

Me on a Snow Scooter at Zoji La

 

As we crossed, Zoji La; a green signboard read; Welcome to Ladakh!!! You are at Zoji La at an Altitude 11,649 Feet and a few kilometers from there, we were at Gumri check-post.

 

 

 

At Gumri village

 

 

 

Reaching Gumri also Welcomed us to Kargil sector.

 

 

 

We stopped for lunch at Heritage Cafeteria, it was a perfect place for lunch; looking at the charming valley and the gigantic mountains and the brilliant blue skies.

At Heritage Cafeteria, en-route Kargil

 

Lunch amidst the Heavenly Place… Wow, what a blissful Life!!!

 

This place was our most favorite place from the entire journey of Ladakh.  We were completely awestruck by the changing colors of the mountain.  As time passes in the day, you can see various color shades; the mountains here inherit.

Warrior 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another 25 km from here was Dras, situated at 11,000 feet above sea level and is also the 2nd coldest place on earth.  In freezing winters, the temperature would drop to -40 degrees.  This is the first village after crossing Zoji La and this village came to limelight only post the Kargil War of 1999.

We reached the Kargil War Memorial. We wished Jai Hind to the soldier at the registration desk; and he replied the same, with full josh. From the main entrance gate, we could see Indian Flag fluttering with Pride. We walked the walkway, named as VijayPath that leads to the War Memorial; Amar Jawan.

This memorial has a war museum, a Bofors gun and other artillery weapons on display and not to forget the Veer Bhumi having the epitaph with names of all the Bravehearts who were martyred in the war.  In the backgrounds, we can see Tololing Heights, Tiger Hill and Point 4875 also known as Batra Top.  Any Indian citizen would get goosebumps when you read the historical achievements inscribed all over and walk within the memorial’s campus. Atish Bhai, Phani and I were in tears while we stood at the Veer Bhumi.

Few Pictures from the War Memorial

At VijayPath

 

 

With the Bofors Gun displayed at Kargil War Memorial

 

 

Amar Jawan

 

 

At the Veer Bhumi

 

A soldier addressed the crowd and briefly explained about the  Kargil war.  Its importance in Indian history, the insights of the memorial.  It started to rain and the crowd was more worried about wearing raincoats and taking their umbrellas out, while the soldier didn’t make a move.  He stood firm as he kept on explaining about the war and the memorial.

Note: Please carry your Govt. ID while you enter this memorial and maintain the decorum and the respect here, and don’t miss the soldier’s explanation; which usually happens in the evening around 5.30pm.

We had some samosa and tea at the canteen inside the premises of the memorial and continued our ride to Kargil, which was approx. 60 km from the war memorial.

This picture was taken during dusk; At 7 PM in the evening

 

We searched for a lodge and got in.  The time was 7.30pm and we took an hour’s nap.  We told the hotelier to get dinner serviced to our room and post-dinner, we went for a walk in the town of Kargil.

As we got back to the hotel, disaster struck; I had a high fever and Phani was down with a severe stomach ache.  I knew that the normal paracetamol wouldn’t work as the fever was one of the symptoms of AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness) and hence took a Diamox tablet and dozed off.

An avid reader may remember a similar situation in my previous ride to Leh in 2017 and the huge disappointment I suffered.  Nostalgia struck and it all came back to me!  I know the pain and suffering caused by AMS which had struck me during my Leh expedition; back in 2017,  I didn’t want it to repeat again.  A sound 8-hour sleep was required for all of us and get some well-deserved rest and re-energize ourselves.

 

To be continued in Episode 04: Reaching the Dream Destination Leh, and battling AMS

 

A glimpse from the next Episode:

A Glimpse from Episode 04: Getting Phani admitted to a hospital in Leh

 

Cheers,

Gokool Kini

(Soul Warrior)

 

To continue reading Episode 04: Click Here

 

To read how I battled AMS during my Leh Expedition 2017: Dream Destination Leh: So near, yet so Far…

 

For more information on the Leh routes, permits, packing essentials please visit: Preparations for Leh Ladakh Ride

Monster & Warrior got Leh’d | Episode 02: Delhi to Udhampur | Through Haryana, Punjab and entering J&K |

 

Hope you have read the previous Episode, in case you haven’t,  Click Here to read Episode 01

In Episode 02, sharing our experiences as we ride towards Jammu & Kashmir.

Day 01: June 29, 2018 (Friday)

Delhi to Ambala: 255 Km

It was 4:40 am when we reached Delhi and we hurried to the conveyor belt to collect our luggage.  Amidst the crowded Delhi Airport, it took an hour to get our baggage and reach the airport’s taxi stand.  We quickly booked Uber cab till Pikkol warehouse in Chattarpur.  As soon we reached, I asked Phani to unpack our bikes while I went in search of petrol pumps.  In Delhi, petrol is not sold in cans or bottles; but somehow convinced the petrol pump attendant, he agreed to pour only 2 liters of petrol in plastic cans.

Meanwhile, Phani called me and informed about the damages to our bikes during transit. My bike, Gixxer’s main stand, and the top carrier rack were broken; while Phani’s bike (Dominor) had a bent clutch lever along with a bent side stand. We unpacked the cartons and fixed the jerry can holders and saddled our bike with all our luggage.  There was a Sintex water tank there inside the compound,  we grit our teeth and washed our face from the tank’s water and geared up in a factory warehouse nearby.

We freshened up near that White Sintex Tank in the background

 

We started from here and luckily as we exited the warehouse compound, we found a welding shop where we mended my bike’s top carrier by welding the repair points.  As my bike’s main stand was broken and had to be either fixed or removed; which we got it removed at a local garage near-by.  It was already past 10:00 am when we started from Chattarpur making our way to exit Delhi.

Somewhere, on the city roads, we saw an information board which read India Gate 5 km with a symbol turn right.  Phani spoke on the Intercom; bro let’s visit India Gate and flag-off the ride from there.  It was around 12 in the afternoon, we reached the India Gate.  Both of us had only seen the India Gate on television channel Doordarshan; which telecasts the Republic Day Parade every year.

At India Gate, Delhi

 

The cops allowed us to take pics of the India Gate along with our bikes which they had initially denied.  The cops also said that we can ride till the Parliament House and then continue your journey ahead.  While we rode on the Rajpath; I could visualize the Republic Day Parade in front of my eyes and it was a proud feeling to ride on this stretch of 2 km.

At Rajpath

 

 

At The Secretariat Building as seen from Raisina Hill.  Photo Credit: Delhi Police

 

The Parliament House as seen from Raisina Hill

 

Casual Talks with the Delhi Policemen

 

By 12:45 pm we started riding towards Delhi exit.  Somewhere, we saw a juice cart and stopped to have some mosambi juice.  We were fatigued and hence parked our bikes on the service lane there and both of us slept on the road-side footpath; turn by turn for half an hour each. The foot-path was the bed and the Blue Tarpaulin sheet was the bedsheet.

At the Juice Cart

 

Phani sleeping on the roadside footpath

 

Me sleeping on the roadside footpath

 

The best part of a road trip; you can interact with anybody on the road.  Looking at our KA registered bikes; few people excitedly conversed with us asking about our trip and general talks.

Casual Talks with few locals

 

The ride continued on the Delhi – Chandigarh, NH44 and we stopped for lunch at a highway-side dhaba at around 4:00 pm. It was a relief to our hungry stomachs and as we had cleared through the chaotic Delhi Traffic, we picked up good speed on the highway and as we crossed Panipat, heavy rains lashed on the highway.  Inside the shelter of an HP Petrol Pump on the roadside, we wore our rain liners above our riding gears and continued riding till Kurukshetra.

Lunch at Banku ki Rasoi Dhaba after exiting Delhi

 

I had spoken to Arun Bhai from Road Thrill Bangalore who along with the riders from Hyderabad chapter were returning back to Delhi from their successful Leh trip. They had stopped for chai at Mannat Dhaba on the outskirts of Kurukshetra. It was a pleasure meeting our extended biking family members as we exchanged greetings and memories from their Leh Journey.

Meeting Road Thrill Family at Kurukshetra, Haryana

 

The sun had already set for the day, we stopped for dinner at Sethi Dhaba and rode till Ambala and checked-into Hotel Surya which we booked upon reaching the city.

Day 02: June 30, 2018 (Saturday)

Ambala to Udhampur: 444 Km

Early morning, post chai and getting ourselves ready and saddling up our bikes; we continued our journey on the NH44 and we stopped for breakfast at Kiran Dhaba in Jalandhar.  The dal-tadka here was amazingly delicious.  You know you’re in Punjab when you’re served with a big glass full of milk along with the breakfast.

From the parking at Kiran Dhaba

 

Somewhere, before Pathankot, my bike’s battery started to give an issue.  The mobile charger on my bike wasn’t working.  We stopped at a roadside shop and Phani was trying some jugaad to fix this issue.  We stopped at Happy Paaji’s shop and Paaji helped us with his ideas and tools to fix the wiring issue.  Happy Paaji, served us chai that worked as energy boosters to our exhausted mind and body.  We took good rest here and continued our ride ahead towards Pathankot.

Phani trying his Jugaad with Warrior’s wiring

 

With Happy Paaji

 

Somewhere, few km from here on the highway; my bike’s horn started honking and didn’t go silent, Thanks to Phani’s jugaad, haha!!.  He goofed up with the wiring of the horn and it went crazy!  We pulled over on the side of the highway and Phani disconnected the incorrect wiring.

We soon reached the Jammu & Kashmir state check-post.  As it was Leh season for biker’s and Amarnath Yatra season for pilgrims, the check-post was heavily crowded.

Monster and Warrior at Jammu & Kashmir State check-post

 

Phani at J&K check-post

 

Me, at the J&K check-post

 

 

As soon as we crossed the check-post we stopped to have some lime juice and daal Wada (local Jammu snack). We stopped at Indian Oil Petrol pump for fuel, and one local suggested us a shorter route to Udhampur via the Sambha Forest and passing through Mansar Lake.

The chaat waala preparing daal wada

 

I am busy snacking daal Wada

 

We deviated at Sambha Forest check post; the twisty ghat section started from here with ascending hairpin curves, the roads passed through beautiful green forests but it was dotted with lots of potholes and patches.

en route Mansar Lake

 

We reached Mansar Lake which was 25 km from Sambha check-post and rested for a while in the garden near Mansar Lake.  The beautiful lake was fringed by forest-covered hills and the fishes would come to the shore where the tourists fed them.

Mansar Lake

 

People feeding the fishes in Mansar Lake

 

Though the place was crowded, we didn’t pay much heed to the crowd and took a peaceful nap on the lawns there. Post having some snacks and chai at the canteen nearby; we continued our ride towards Udhampur which was around 40 km from the lake.  The shortcut via Sambha was a by-pass for the town of Jammu. Riding through the dense forest ghat section and passing beneath many Railway bridges; we finally reached Udhampur by 5:30 pm

Over a chai, Phani and I had a discussion; whether to ride ahead till Ramban or to halt at Udhampur and decided on the latter and started to look out for a hotel on the highway outside the city.  Unfortunately, we took the service road on the highway and reached a dead end. The road was inclined and I stopped parallel to Phani and he lost balance on his bike and started leaning towards my bike.  Both of us, couldn’t control our heavily loaded bike and fell along with the bikes.  My bike’s petrol started spilling on the road.  Few locals near-by, assisted us to pick our bikes and helped us to get back on our feet.

Though the fall was very minor, the impact; my bike’s rear brake lever was bent and a bend on the flag rod on Phani’s bike.  Maybe, it was our bikes’ way of telling; Boss we are done for the day!

As daylight was engulfed by darkness and we had to ride on the under-construction road amidst heavy dust and heavy vehicular movement.  While on this dusty road, an insect hit my eye; I quickly stopped on the roadside, wiped my eyes and continued riding until we reached Hotel Tawi View. We quickly booked a room here and took all our luggage to the room.

Because of the highway construction; the hotel rooms were dusty, but that was ok, we only needed a place to rest for the night.  Post dinner; we met a couple of bikers staying in the same hotel; they were on their return journey and they said the road ahead is pathetic until Srinagar.

Our luggage was strewn in the hotel room

 

Dinner at Hotel Tawi

 

After a quick dinner, we crashed on the bed; it was a tiring 14-hour ride covering 444 km for the day.

The most excited discussion during the time between us was riding through the longest tunnel in India the next morning.

 

A glimpse of the next episode:

A glimpse from Episode 03: Visiting Kargil War Memorial and listening about Kargil War from a Soldier’s mouth

 

To be continued in Episode 03: The Heavenly Kashmir Valley, The deadly Zoji La Pass and our homage to the Fallen Heroes of the Kargil War

 

Cheers,

Gokool Kini

(Soul Warrior)

Click Here to continue reading Episode 03

 

For more information on the Leh routes, permits, packing essentials please visit:  Preparations for Leh Ladakh Ride

Monster & Warrior got Leh’d | Episode 01: Towards Delhi, The Start |

The complete Leh story; is split into multiple series of blog episodes, and is titled; Monster and Warrior got Leh’d.  The rationale behind the title is the names we have given to our bikes. Phani has named his bike; Monster, and I have named my bike Warrior.

After my unsuccessful Leh trip in 2017,  I was eagerly waiting to finish my long-pending dream ride.  Phani and I started our planning somewhere in the mid of March.  Every day, post the office hours, we caught up at a bakery near Phani’s office to plan the things.  Both of us got our leaves approved for the trip; and by mid of April’2018, we had our flight tickets booked to Delhi.

Once the flight tickets were booked, all other preparations would line-up accordingly.  We took assistance from Rigzin Bhai for the Inner Line Permits (ILP is required for few places in Ladakh).

The route we planned was Delhi – Pathankot – Udhampur – Srinagar – Sonamarg – Kargil – Leh – KhardungLa – Nubra Valley – Pangong Lake – Tso Moriri – Sarchu – Manali – Chandigarh – Delhi.

We didn’t have to shop for the riding gears this year as we had purchased all those items last year. This time we wanted to get the Ladakh carriers for our bikes, such carriers for a non-RE bike are not available in the market, hence, we decided to do some custom design work and get it fixed on our bikes.  To do so we enquired a couple of fabrication shops over the weekends and then I came across a small fabrication shop in JP Nagar, Bangalore.  Phani and I skipped office for a day and sat at the fabrication shop the whole day.

Since both our bikes’ (Gixxer and Dominor) have fiber parts, mounting for the carriers needed specific customizations and the first carrier we did here in JP Nagar looked like a box on my bike.  My bike looked like a workhorse.

Initial Carrier

 

Warrior looking like a Vegetable Seller’s bike

 

However, the hunt for a Ladakh carrier was still on!! Then, Phani came up with a design and we soon rushed to JC Road, Bangalore.  We purchased top rack which is basically used for Royal Enfield and rushed to Zakaria Engineering works (a welding and fabrication shop) in JC Road and got it fixed as per our bike’s requirements.  We also did a rough sketch for Jerry Can holder and the fabricator prepared the holder as per the sketch we gave him.  We wanted to make sure that the carriers could easily be installed or removed with few basic tools, such as spanners. A flag mount was also welded to the carriers so we could ride with the flags fluttering high.

New Carrier design fixed to Monster

 

We wanted to test the carriers on an off-roader. So,  Phani and I went for an off-roader ride to Kailasagiri. To test this out, we filled the jerry cans with water to check how the overall carrier and jerry can holder would sustain in those terrains. We also purchased helmet intercoms and tested their range in this short ride.

In mid-May’2018, I got a similar carrier and jerry can holder customized and affixed to my bike at the same place in JC Road, Bangalore.

at Zakaria Engineering Works

 

Phani specifying the measurements to the welder

 

We had to paint those carriers, so we purchased some black spray paints and on the road in front of Phani’s house, dismantled the carriers and painted them under streelights.

Carriers painted Black

 

Both of us got a message board done at the same place which read “Always give way to Ambulance, you cannot give life, but you can save a life”

Social Message on Monster

 

Social Message on Warrior

 

I also got the sticker of my Blood Group on Warrior

 

The next major thing was bike transportation and we started all the necessary inquiries.  We had bitter experiences in 2017 when we shipped our bikes by Indian Railways.  So, we wanted to look out for other logistic options.  During, the same time, one of my friends, Tejas, was moving to Pune and he had shipped his bike via Pikkol and he was happy with the services offered to him. Both of us enquired with Pikkol and got a quote and all the details for bike cargo.

During Leh’2017; we had carried all the tool-kit and riding gears with us in the flight and it was a real hassle to manage all the baggage, so we negotiated with Pikkol to give us 2 extra cartons so we could send our riding gears, tool-kits, engine oils, and all other lubricants along with the bikes.

Our bikes had to be serviced properly before we handed-over our bikes to cargo.  During the end of May and the first week of June, Phani and I had office work deadlines and we knew we wouldn’t find time for any ride preparations so we ensured most of the plans were fully executed. By the mid of June, we had to hand over our bikes to Pikkol for packing.

Just a week before the shipping, my bike’s carburetor float pin and the bike’s rectifier had to be replaced because of some issues.  Along with those replacements, I got my bike fully checked from a mechanic near my house and post a full service, we dropped our bike for packing.

Both, mine and Phani’s dad were more enthusiastic about our Ladakh ride than we both were.  My Dad started to read a lot of stuff about Ladakh on the internet and kept updating me with the current news and happenings there.  He also kept on following-up with me on my bike’s service and ensured I wouldn’t forget even the minutest thing. He said; last year you guys had forgotten the Oxygen Cans, so first purchase the Oxygen cans for both of you and then carry with the rest of your preparations. While Phani’s Dad grabbed a screw-driver from Phani’s tool-kit and helped him in fixing his bike.

June 14, 2018 (Thursday)

The time flew and the day of our bike shipping arrived.  All the riding gears, tool-kit, spares, cables, flag rod, jerry cans, oil, and lubrication were packed in the cartons and our bikes being fully packed with 3 layers of packing materials; plastic, bubble wrap, and cardboard.  Having done with all this, most of our preparations for Leh were all finished and executed.

From Pikkol Warehouse

 

Pikkol guys packing our bikes

 

Our bikes fully packed and ready for cargo

 

After all these major preparations, over the weekend,  I went to my hometown Belgaum and relaxed.  Initially, Pikkol agreed to drop our bikes and the cartons to one of our friends; Narayan Bhai’s house in Delhi (Narayan Bhai heads our Road Thrill – Delhi chapter). But, Pikkol refrained to deliver the bikes and cartons to Narayan Bhai’s house saying some road work issues and we had to collect them from their warehouse at Chattarpur, Delhi.

The only few things that were pending were a BSNL Postpaid SimFirst Aid Kit, Basic medicines and some minor shopping which we did from Metro Cash & Carry and from other local medical stores.

First Aid Kit

Wishes of Good-Luck and Safe ride started to flood in our Social Media handles. Thank you, everyone, for the good wishes.

Day 0: June 28, 2018 (Thursday)

After all the planning, preparations; the day to begin the journey had arrived.  Yet again, both Phani and I skipped work and packed our baggage.  Along with our baggage, only our helmets were to be carried which I packed it in a cardboard box and kept it ready.

Packing Scenes in my room

 

All set to leave to Airport

 

In the evening, we received a message from the flight operator which read; The flight is delayed by an hour!! (actual departure time was 11.55pm). One of my known drivers; Murthy picked me up at my room and we reached Phani’s house.

Phani all set to leave to the airport

 

We met JP Bhai at Esteem Flyover, Hebbal and collected a Road Thrill Flag for Phani’s bike.  Meanwhile, Road Thrill Bangalore and Hyderabad had successfully completed their Ladakh ride and had reached Chandigarh.

As we reached Bangalore Airport, to our surprise, Karthik and Hemanth Bhai had come to bid us good-bye.

Hemanth Bhai, Phani, Karthik and me at Chai Point, Airport Cafe

 

Post the initial security check and baggage scan, we got our boarding passes and the message on the display board read; “The flight is delayed for 1 more hour”.  So, technically the flight would take off at 2 AM.  The excitement, anxiety started thumping within us.

Phani and me at Bangalore Airport

 

Post the final security check at the airport, we rushed to KFC at the food-court to fill our tummies.  We had 4 more hours to spend at the airport before the departure gates opened and what do we do?

This monkey (Phani), logged into his office laptop and started office work.  I said: OMG!!! Work from the Airport in the middle of all the excitement, Have you gone insane?

Phani working from the Airport… Don’t be too workaholic bro!!!

 

How could I forget, it was FIFA World-Cup season and the big television in the airport, telecasted Belgium vs England football match and I was fully engrossed in the match.

Watching FIFA WC Belgium Vs England in Airport

 

As the departure gates opened, and people formed a queue; I realized; I had lost my Boarding Pass!!!! Phani got hyper on hearing this, He yelled; “All the luggage stickers are tagged to your Boarding Pass, You don’t giggle;  go search for it”.  I started searching for my boarding pass; I was like a sniffing dog searching for it here and there looking on the floor. I ran back to the table near the KFC counter and asked the housekeeping staff; if they saw a boarding pass there on a table.  To my luck, the staff had found the boarding pass and kept it safe at their counter. I sighed relief as I received the boarding pass and then thanked the staff for their kind act and rushed back to the departure gate.

At the Airport Terminal

 

Finally, we boarded the Air Asia Flight.  As we were the last in the queue to enter the flight, there was no space in the in-flight luggage compartments and we had to keep our backpacks and camera bag on our lap.  Looking at this, two of my co-passengers gave me a bizarre look, maybe, they thought it was our first time on a flight!!

Day 01: June 29, 2018 (Friday)

It was 4.40 AM when we landed at Delhi Airport.

Reaching Delhi

 

The big crazy and an adventurous ride was about to begin….

 

To be continued in Episode 02: Through Haryana, Punjab and entering J & K ….!!!

 

A Glimpse from the next Episode:

A glimpse from Episode 02: Sleeping on the roadside footpath in Delhi

 

Cheers,

Gokool Kini

(Soul Warrior)

Click Here to continue reading Episode 02

 

For more information on the Leh routes, permits, packing essentials please visit: Preparations for Leh Ladakh Ride