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