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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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