Ladakh 1.4


Date: 25th may –  7th jun 2014
Distance: 3600 km
Number of riders: 42
Route: New Delhi – Hoshiarpur – Udhampur – Srinagar – Kargil – Leh – Nubra valley – Pangong Lake – Leh – Kargil – Udhampur – New Delhi

Royal Enfield Bike Trip to Ladakh

“The impulse to travel is one of the hopeful symptoms of life.” Very rightly quoted by the American writer Agnes Repplier. It perhaps summarises my recent road trip to Ladakh, the best. We, in our routine life often forget that the essence of being happy is doing what we love or desired to do. My trip- ‘Quest to Ladakh 1.4’ was a long desired one & the very decision to join it was a selfish & impulsive one. It was so because, before venturing out for the ride,  I did not had a logical answer/explanation to these doubts popping up in my mind at that time, that included –  not being able to see my beloved for 2 weeks & letting her to manage life/household on her own, turning down a family trip to Australia which my parents badly wanted me to join, end up being jobless for a longer time as I had to quit my current job to break-free, accepting the risk of injuring myself on the trip would have had its own consequences & so on…And today, as I write this note, I am filled with pride & contended that I had made the decision to venture out with my rider friends from Royal Bikers (RB) gang towards Leh-Ladakh – the Mecca of every RE rider. RB core team Amit Kaushik, Manish Bhaskar, Varun Sharma & Nishant Verma had put in commendable efforts to make this ride the ‘Ride of my life’.

The 2-week long journey commenced on 25th June from the gates of KayTee Automobiles, Mahipalpur-New Delhi wherein 40 riders kick-started their journey to the heavenly destination- Ladakh on their RE machines. Riders from all spheres of life & across the country had assembled a day before for the briefing session organised by Team RB. They had several reasons for joining the ride and one being common- living the dream of riding their RE to conquer Ladakh. A rider had joined the trip from Nagpur with his 5 day old TB while another rider joined borrowing it from his friend, while some joined quitting their current jobs. The story of madness was inspiring & the sense of pride for being able to join the ride was visible on every riders face. Thankfully the trip was planned by the experienced team with several stops to get refreshed & recharged, pit-stops at the right destinations with comfortable accommodation & delicious meals, on-the-go support of experienced mechanic & requisite spare parts in stock, first-aid with Oxygen cylinders, back-up vehicle to carry our luggage (and vehicles too in case of a break-down) & of course the competent team managing the ride ensure that we are not left out, unless we wanted to.

The roaring Royal Bikers shook the tranquil city of Leh as it entered it on the 5th day of the journey. We went around the picturesque city the next day which kept free to get acclimatised and prepared for the next big ride to Nubra Valley through the dangerous Khardung La (pass), located at an altitude of 18380 ft which is ‘The Highest Motorable Road’ in the World, disputed though. Before the ride, excitement in every rider was evident through the gleam in their eyes & the never-say-die attitude kept them going irrespective freezing weather conditions. All they wanted was to ride on the highest motorable road – Khardung La & cherish that feat lifelong. The ride through the pass was a testing one as the roads were filled with potholes, bigger holes, dust, gravel, sludge & certainly lots of snow all around. Melting snow had made the track even more dangerous to travel, especially for the lesser experienced. Adding to the woes was thin layer of oxygen at that altitude had taken a toll on some riders. The oxygen cylinder carried by RB team was a life saviour. While crossing the pass we fell, rolled, dipped but were not beaten and every one conquered the treacherous stretch twice (while returning too), unbeaten. Perhaps the mantra was to ‘stop worrying about the potholes & celebrating the journey’ (Fitzhugh Mullan). Enroute our journey to Hunder in Nubra Valley, we witnessed all unique physiognomies of nature within a length of 45 kms drive- snow fall & snow covered roads/hills, plains & long stretches between mountains, desert with sand dunes, green forest, rocky mountains, river with crystalline water flowing and much more which has filled several GBs of memories in our head and certainly inside our camera’s memory chips.

As a daily affair in the evening we passed several hours over cigarettes, hooka, cheering glasses discussing the mesmerising locations that was covered every day. Perhaps our stories were longer than the evening and sharing them every evening over bonfire nights was so relaxing. With each day passing by the camaraderie between every rider grew stronger and the bonding was easily visible.

Our belief that Nubra was the most exciting destination held true till the time we visited Pangong Tso (lake). The serenity & vastness of the lake made us spellbound and we remained speechless standing its shore. Words fell short when I called back home to describe the mesmerising lake and am still at loss of words as I am summing my experience. One has to visit to witness & admire the heavenly place. I find myself fortunate enough to miss the drive through the Great Ocean Road and instead driving on the road around the Lake, which is by far the best drive of my life, which my fellow riders will certainly agree with. But the road to Pangong wasn’t an easy one either. One needs to brave the equally torturous Chang La (at 17590 ft) to get a glimpse of the lake & enjoy it. Perhaps the experience of previous pass had prepared us & made us strong enough to cross the stretch unscathed. The view of the lake from our camp was breathtaking and it was surprising to find that the colour of its water changed mysteriously in as short span of time. We also gave our best shot at lake front area in Spangmik where ‘3 Idiot’s’ climax scene was shot. Overnight we enjoyed the sub-zero temperature, thanks to the comfortable camps on the lake side & excellent arrangements therein making it a comfortable stay. While leaving the camp, I wished if we could had spent another night there and promised that will be there sooner.

We returned to Leh with hopes that the Manali route had opened for bikes, which unfortunately did not happen & we had to alter our return route, i.e. getting back via Srinagar instead Manali. This also meant that we were not covering Tso Kar, Tso Moriri, Sarchu, Rohtang pass, Manali etc. We all were disheartened on knowing this alteration & were hoping for a miracle till last moment enabling us to move ahead as per the planned route, which did not happen.

As we started our journey back to Delhi through the same route through which we had arrived, we had two options with us- First one being, we cry foul for going back without completing the pre-fixed route/loop and hold organisers responsible for this situation. The second option was to be flexible & accept the altered route with positive thought that we can see the remaining places during the next visit. Considering the numerous splendid locations that Ladakh had to offer, along with the beautiful skies, changing landscapes at every 20 kms, magnificient roads to make the ride a memorable one and many more, I chose to be happy that there was lot to be covered during my trip next year & will be looking forward to see them soon. However some cribbers chose the other option & kept complaining about the shortcomings. I wonder they must have made a blunder by considering to get on a ‘ride’ & not on a packaged tour. Feel sorry for them that their tour (& not ride) was not as per their expectation & that they did not dial a tour operator for this trip.

Series of unfortunate events kept disconcerting us in by means of shutting of the road to Zoji La form Drass resulting in forcefully staying there till the road was opened late in the night. We left Drass at 4am and crossing Zoji La in the early hours was the most challenging task in the entire trip. The pass was at its dangerous best characterised by snow covered roads, freezing temperatures, water patches & streams, bigger pot holes filled with sludge & water, heavy slush throughout the 9 km stretch etc. Rightly we were calling it the ‘Godzila pass’ after crossing it without any casualty. Nevertheless, together, we conquered it & a sense of pride settled within the riders. Overcoming the day’s loss at Drass we kept rolling to cover as many miles as possible in the day when our joy run was brought to near fatal halt at Nawgaon-Srinagar. A fellow rider had met with an accident injuring a local student & himself, causing a tensed situation wherein around 150 localites were waiting to deal with us outside the hospital. Thanks to the Army & Superintendent of Police- Srinagar, who managed the situation perfectly, ensuring our safety & allowing us to leave after completing all formalities. Need to mention the efforts of fellow riders Anuj & Samir, both from Indian Airforce, who did their best in during the challenging times to help the gang to bail out of the critical situation. It was a testing time for all of us & thankfully barring a few, everyone stood up to support each other, confronted the situation & overcame the hurdle without much difficulty. Cheers to this spirit which makes an RE rider so distinctive.

The drive back to Delhi through the plains was getting difficult as the rising temperature was causing dehydration & making riding difficult for all. However, we managed to reach Delhi late in the night on 7th June with bagful memories & experience of a lifetime and with a new self which was capable of overcoming several new challenges, which we did not realise earlier. In the words of Tim Cahil- “a journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles” my journey was successful as I met 40 passionate riders & made friends with many like-minded riders for life, along with clocking 3600kms on my Thunderbird 500. Not to mention I am a proud owner of the machine which not only braved all the hardships but also was instrumental in helping me to live my dream. I am sure after the ride, every rider will be kissing their machine & will proudly showcase the photo with their machines, clicked somewhere in the region, as the coveted trophy.

I and my fellow riders are filled with pride & happy to have chosen RE to get Leh’ed with Royal Bikers. I should not end before thanking the Defence forces for protecting us by guarding our borders braving all extremities, Border Road Organisations for building & mending the roads continuously, thus allowing us to fulfil our dreams. Also had to thank my wife, family, friends  for supporting me & encouraging me to get on my dream ride and the family of ever rider who have supported them & prayed for a safe sojourn.

To sum up, as Ibn Batuta says- “Travelling- it leaves you speechless & turns you into a storyteller” hope that our story will inspire many more to visit the mysteriously beautiful destination and help them REdiscovering a new self.

By: Rajendra Prasad



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