Thursday, 23 July 2015

A Journey to one of the Heavenly places on Earth (Part 2)

An unforgettable road trip through the mighty Himalayas!

Chandigarh -> Manali -> Solang Valley -> Rohtang La -> Khoksar -> Sissu -> Tandi -> Keylong -> Jispa -> Darcha -> Zing Zing Bar -> Baralacha La -> Sarchu -> Gata Loops -> Nakee La -> Lachung La -> Pang -> Morey Plains (Pang Top/Chuha Top) -> Taglang La ->  Rumtse -> Upshi -> Karu -> Thikse -> Shey -> Leh -> Chang La -> Pangong Tso -> Magnetic Hills

~June 16, 2015~

By the time we woke up, it was already 9:30 am. It was our 2nd day in Leh town.  We got ourselves ready to explore the town but, before we started roaming around, we needed something to eat. Enters “The Wonderland Café”, where in, we ate all of our meals during our short stay in the town. The reason being, enormous variety in food, free Wi Fi and no matter whatever we ate, everything was in budget!
Tasty breakfast served at "The Wonderland Cafe"

So, after a delicious breakfast accompanied with Deepu’s lemon tea, we headed out to explore Leh.

Surprising Facts:

Leh is the largest town in Ladakh district. It was divided into Leh Kargil districts in the year 1979.
It is also the highest plateau of the state of Jammu & Kashmir with much of it being over 3,000 m (9,800 ft.).
In terms of area, Leh district is the second largest district in the country, after the Kutch district of Gujarat.

One can easily take a walk around the town of Leh and explore the capital of Ladakh in their own way. And so we did. We started for King’s palace and on the way roamed the Leh market area, had some delicious lassi (tasted bit different from what we had in Chandigarh) and started climbing for the king’s palace.
Leh Market

Chanting Prayers

Mr. Bashir: Owner of the Famous Lassi shop at Leh Market, "Bashir & Bashir"

Ladakhi Snacks

Dyeing: A common art of Ladakh's hand-loom industry

Old Leh Palace

New Leh Palace

Entry to Leh Palace

Catching hold of breadth & enjoying the beauty mid-way!

Aerial view of Leh Town



Om Mani Padme Hum!

New Leh Palace

Gadgets of the Indian Army who died for the Nation at Siachen!

A typical Pashmina showroom.

The famous dry fruit market at Leh.


Shanti Stupa

“True love is born from understanding” ― Gautama Buddha

Though we were excited enough that, we finally made it to Leh, but nervousness cropped in as the day passed by which was pretty evident from all of our faces. While we kept on roaming around and clicking pictures in The King’s palace and an Art Gallery, we would just look at each other, make an assumption of where they might have reached and this continued for a while. All our possible assumptions were flushed into the gutter when no news came of them even after 3:30.

We were feeling restless, uncomfortable and really frightened at the thought of any kind of adversity. What might have happened! You never know as it is one of the most dangerous circuits of the world!

 We asked Kaushik every half an hour to check whether the messages he had sent were delivered to Souvik or not. We got curious every time his phone rang and stared at it with enormous hope that Shouvik would call up to inform that they have almost reached and that they are fine.

Our anxiety reached its peak while we decided to go to “Wonderland” again to sit and chat with the locals about the road to Leh and get something to eat. While we were in there, suddenly the phone rang again at around 4 PM.

It was none other than Shouvik! He called from a local telephone booth at Upshi and informed us that they were fine. Though it was still unknown to us on what exactly happened but still, the phone call added a great relief and ended up all the restlessness in us.

Kaushik shared our Guest house location through WhatsApp. Hail the advancement in technology!

At 5:20 PM, Shouvik, Vikash & Amal arrived at the hotel along with 5 other bikers (Pritesh, Tushar, Indu, Neeraj & his wife). We asked Lobzang to arrange accommodation for the rest of the guys and waited eagerly to hear the story of what happened exactly.

As the rooms were getting ready, they narrated their story.

The other day, right after we started from Jispa, they fell behind us due to the bad structure of the road. Neeraj & his wife joined them from Jispa itself. Since we were on car, we were not able to realize but them being on bikes felt the real essence of the road condition. It took a lot of time for them to cross the streams after Darcha and reach the base of Baralacha La. While they started descending from the deadly Baralacha La, they met Pritesh, Tushar & Indu, who were stuck there due to small mishap.

As the weather was freezing with continuous snowfall, everybody’s hands and feet got numbed. It was there where Tushar thought of refilling his tank. After poured in the fuel and tried to lock the tank, his numb, hefty hands put some extra pressure while rotating the key. Due to such low temperature, the key too had become brittle and as a result, it broke. None of them had the expertise of starting a bike without keys!

With lungs in their mouth, they somehow managed to push the almost 200 Kg Royal Enfield and cross the Baralacha La stretch in its worst condition. After crossing the pass, as they asked for help to everyone who passed, they encountered characters, “Mama- Bhanja”. These two were on a splendor, trying to travel the whole of Kashmir on it and then, go to Punjab via Pathankot. They too, could not help our bikers but then, came a group of bikers, heading for Leh. Luckily, one of them, Anand (a former racer and the co-owner of IndiMotard, a biking adventure group based out of Bangalore), knew some bike mechanics as he sorted some wires from the tail light and managed to start the bike without its keys!

It was already around 2 PM by then. They started their ride and were heading for Leh. When they reached Sarchu, they got to know that, there is massive snowfall going on near Gata Loops.

It was already 3:30 PM by then and so, they decided to stay back at Sarchu and find some shelter for the night, which was a really wise decision for them to make!

They halted in a tented accommodation for the night at Sarchu and continued their journey this morning.

Finally, we all realized on how it felt getting Leh’d. We had become a group of 11 members from 6 !!!...

While they freshened up, me, Kaushik and Deepu discussed with Lobzang regarding roaming around Leh. As per our itinerary, we were supposed to visit Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso from Leh. But, due to regular avalanches and serious road blockage on the World’s highest motorable road, Khardung La, we had to drop out our plan for visiting Nubra Valley via Khardung La. Instead, we decided to cover Pangong Tso, Magnetic Hill and whatever comes on our way in the next 2 days.

**Note: There is a circular in Leh. The rule states that no commercial vehicles from outside Ladakh are allowed to roam around in Leh. For sightseeing in and around Leh and visiting places like Nubra Valley, Markha Valley, Pangong Tso, Zanskar River rafting, people need to hire a local car or bike from Leh itself.

We booked 2 Innova through Lobzang for the next day where, we were supposed to cover Pangong Tso and places that falls in between like Shey palace, Shey school (The school where part of the famous movie “3 Idiots” was shot), Thiksey monastery, Sindhu Ghat (Indus bank).

After a little celebration and a grand dinner at “Wonderland Café”, we hit for the bed.

~June 17, 2015~

6:30 AM:  **Alarm ringing**
We got up early than usual! Got ready and hit the road at 7:40 AM, heading for Pangong Tso.

8:30 AM:
Stopped at Karu and had a heavy breakfast consisting of Aloo Parantha, Gobi Parantha, Mixed Parantha and Tea. Spend an hour there and continued our journey.
A cute girl waiting for her school bus @ Karu.

A monastery on our way to Pangong Tso

11 AM:
We crossed Chang La, the third highest pass of the World.
Chang La Top

Chang La: The third highest motor-able road of the World!

Give me some Sunshine!

11:30 AM:
Reached Tsol Tak.

Tsol Tak

Off-roading on our way!

Reaching Durbuk

The Khalsa regiment at Durbuk

Country roads, take me Home; to the place, where I belong!

Jawans of the Khalsa Regiment.

Wild Horses!


A marmot couple curiously looking at humans


1 PM:
We reached at the bank of the gorgeous Pangong Tso, an endorheic lake in the Himalayas, situated at a height of about 4,350 m (14,270 ft). This lake shares the Indo China border, its 40 KM being in India and the rest 80 KM in Tibet. It’s still and crystal clear water reflected the blue sky above and towering mountains at the backdrop made it all seem like a live painting. The guys spoke rarely as they seemed to have indulged themselves in the serenity of what their conscience had witnessed.

Amazingly, the water of the lake tasted salty!
First view of the magnificent Pangong Lake!

Pangong Tso

Time pauses when you encounter the spell-bounding beauty of Mother Nature!

Another view of the magnificent Pangong Tso


"Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause" - Bruce Feiler

"You should feel beautiful and you should feel safe. What you surround yourself with should bring you peace of mind and peace of spirit" - Stacy London

One down from the Bucket List!

3:54 PM:
We had something to eat and left Pangong Tso as travelling through Chang La pass was risky after dusk.
Having some snacks

The Panoramic Pangong Lake

The Indian National Flag being taken down by Indian Army at Sunset

5:45 PM:
Our car got stuck in a stream at Tsol Tak. Once we got out there, we headed for Leh and visited a few places on the way.
Green patches amidst deserted Ladakh!

As we proceeded towards Leh, we got to see a small village “Shakti” located at the foothills of two mountain ranges.

Then we halted at Sindhu Ghat for some time and left for our guesthouse.
"Sindhu Ghat" : The last bank of Indus river in India

After we returned back to our hotel at night, we decided to ride our bikes to Magnetic hill and places around, the next day. The reason behind this decision was that, since, Magnetic Hill is nearby and falls on the way to Kargil, so, if any question arises, we can claim that we are leaving/arriving Leh for/from Kargil.

It was definitely a wise decision that paid off...!!!...

~June 18, 2015~

After a great sleep, we had a heavy breakfast and headed out for Magnetic Hill at 11 AM.
Hungry Kya!

1 PM:
After halting at certain places for taking pics and witnessing the beauty that laid in front of our eyes for the whole time, we finally reached Magnetic Hill, a road strip between two ranges where the very gravity is defied.
A short break at Julley



Spectacular Landscapes!

Pathar Sahib Gurudwara

Approaching Magnetic Hill

Desert Storm @ Magnetic Hill

Magnetic Hill

Amidst the scorching Sun

Convoy of the Trishul Regiment

 1:40 PM:
After experiencing the wonderful phenomenon of live and natural optical illusion, we headed further towards Kargil in order to visit the picturesque “Sangam”, confluence of the Indus and Zanskar Rivers.
The Final Gang: (From Left) Kaushik, Tushar, Indu, Arko, Shouvik, Vikash, Deepu, Amal & Pritesh

The Rider!

2:30 PM:
We reached “Sangam”!
"Sangam" - Confluence of the Indus and Zanskar Rivers

The blue Indus and the shallow Zanskar meet each other!

Zanskar Valley

Hall of Fame, Leh

After roaming around a bit and taking some clicks, we headed back for Leh and ended up at Mohan Motors, a garage that specializes in Royal Enfield, situated at Housing Colony on the Leh-Manali Highway. There we got our bikes serviced and ready for our return trip to Manali.
Getting our bikes fixed at Mohan Motors.

After we were done at the garage, we headed towards the market area for having our lunch and shop some souvenirs for our near and dear ones.
It's Lunch time guys!

Rest of the day was spent mostly relaxing and getting recharged for the next day’s journey.

Ravi, our chauffeur came to our hotel at night and told us to get ready by 7 AM, the next morning.

~June 19, 2015~

Our return journey began early morning at 7 AM.

This time we didn’t made the mistake that we made in our onward journey. The car halted at certain intervals and both the bikes and car covered almost similar distances in a given time.

This day, I and Kaushik also rode the bike and the riders were interchanged at certain places.
Thiksey/Thikse Monastery
At Pang Top

Tented restaurants offering food, drinks & stay at Morey plains/Pang Top/Chuha Top

Morey Plains!

Our target was to reach Jispa that day in order to avoid the 3 day stretch. The road till Taglangla was fine. From there, bikers were swapped till Pang plains. I again got a chance to ride with Deepu sitting behind. Pang Top/Chuha Top/Morey Plains as you would now is a straight 50 kms strip on a mountain range. As we rode in speeds in excess of 100 km/h, we never spoke a thing. Such mesmerizing was the environment that, we didn't even realized when the 50 km strip ended! After getting down to Pang we had some tea and again swapped the bikers.
Bad stretches after Pang

Met with another Landslide before Nakee La. BRO personals clearing the way.

Waiting in the queue

Vikash & Kaushik

Bikers took off road to avoid the long bad stretch!

Another thing that happened was after crossing Nakee La, Pritesh met with an accident. His bike got skid and he was a bit injured. Luckily nothing much happened to him that could have been! So, from that time onward, he gave his bike to Vikash and completed the rest of the journey in the Innova, from Sarchu onwards.
Magnificent Structures!

Gata Loops!

There were a few other minor mishaps on our way to Sarchu but nothing major had happened and by 4:30 PM all of us had reached Sarchu.

 We then left without wasting a minute as we had only 3 and half hours of sun to keep us company and yes, this much time was not enough! We encountered 3 major streams, several weathered bridges on our way to Baralacha La. Our feet were drenched with the ice cold water while pushing the bikes that got stuck in the streams. But, the boys kept on moving in an unmatched spirit!
Sarchu again!

Tented accommodation at Sarchu!

The deadly Baralacha La again! Luckily it was sunny this time!

Sunset in snow-capped Himalayas.

Crossing Baralacha La on a sunny day is something Amaaaazing!

Crossing the streams was nightmare!

As it got dark (past 8 PM), we reached Darcha with few of our bikes in extremely bad condition. The Enfield Electra which Vikash was driving, had both its brakes nonfunctional; It’s headlight’s low beam wasn’t working and it’s high beam illuminated the mountains but not the road. After all the adversities, every one was able to make it to Jispa at sharp 9:30 PM and huddled in front of the same place , “Himalayan Midway Camp”, wherein we had stayed the night on our way to Leh. Arun and Tenzing arranged our tents, camp fire and a delicious dinner.

It was one hell of a ride as we rode for more than 14 hours and covered 343 kms and that too of the “LEH-MANALI” circuit. Damn that felt something different which can't be expressed through words!!!!

~June 20, 2015~

I, Kaushik and Deepu started early this day at 7 AM from Jispa. The rest on their bikes were supposed to ride later. Since, the journey for this day is not that hectic, they took their time and slept off the fatigue caused by a 343 km ride the day before.
The adorable kid of Lobzang!

After taking few breaks on the way, we reached Manali at around 1 PM. We enquired a few hotels on the way near Manali about the availability and pricing and finally checked in to New Manali Inn.
The force of water increased when we were returning!

Avalanche encountered at a distance!

We had our lunch and waited for the rest of the guys until they reached Manali at around 5 PM in the evening. In the meantime, we arranged for a cab that would transfer us to Chandigarh from Manali, the next day.

The bikers handed over the Royal Enfields to BRM, got everything settled and reached the hotel after around 10 PM. Dinner was ready!

Though there was one more day left for us to return back home but still, it was somehow the end to our unforgettable road trip. We celebrated at our hotel on the successful completion of our dream journey to one of the heavenly places on Earth!

~June 21, 2015~

The cab came to our place and was waiting outside before we even woke up. The driver (Ajay) called up to wake us up.

We woke up, got freshened up and hit the road at 7:30 AM.
The satisfied traveler!

Happiness is getting clicked when you do not have your teeth!

With a new source of energy, excitement, happiness, inner peace and a sense of accomplishment along with a heavy heart, we bid good bye to Manali and headed towards Chandigarh. While everyone was at their normal self, Deepu was silent and just kept on staring at the mountains and streams.  He did bid them fare well with a much heavier heart!!
“Experience, travel – these are as education in themselves” – Euripides

Nothing much to describe on the way to Chandigarh as we were busy cherishing the memories of our trip and looked back to our journey through the pictures! It really felt as if

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa.....Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.....


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