What started with an impulse to ride on the most beautiful roads of Indian Himalayas, turned out be a career defining experience. Everything was planned late. We begged and convinced our managers for last minute leaves, serviced our motorcycles and bought necessary gear to get ready for the adventure.
Below are some of the highlights of the Trip.
Late Night Showers On National Highway-1
It was midnight, when both of us left from Delhi on our Royal Enfields. Just after crossing the big city, we were greeted with persistent rain showers but smoothness of the highway and thumping sound of our bikes kept us going. Whenever the rain would pick up, traffic would reduce dramatically. Slowly, the weather improved to open up a beautiful morning. By sunrise, we were already 200 Kms onto our way. We rode from sunrise to sunset and after riding continuously for 20 hours, we reached Udhampur (bypassing Jammu) and stayed for the night.
Verinag, The First
Verinag was the first Kashmir valley we came across. We did not even hear about the place earlier. The name is taken from a Spring called 'Vernag Spring', which feeds into Jhelum river. The unique composition of the place set our expectations high about the beauty we would encounter in Kashmir over the next few days and we were not wrong.
Colours Of Dal Lake
Our second night halt was Srinagar. Next morning, we visited Dal Lake and were amazed by the vastness of the lake and the colourful surroundings. The lake and skies were blue separated by the tree line and greyish mountains. Colourful Shikaras added contrast to the beauty of the place. On one side of the lake were local food stalls. After eating delicious ‘chicken biryani’ from a small stall, we headed towards our next stop Sonamarg.
Friendly Locals Of Sonamarg
Green meadows of Sonamarg, coupled with blue skies made the settings of a dream destinations. The main highlight of the place, though, was the friendly locals.
There is a 30 minute walk on an unpaved road to the meadows from the road head. The local people, to earn livelihood, provide mules to take people to the meadows and so the vehicles are not allowed. We wanted to ride on our bikes for added adventure. Initially they refused us, but after seeing our disappointed faces, a large bunch of friendly young locals made sure that the guy at the entry let us go. Surprisingly, we were not even charged the minimal entry fee of 30 rupees.
Pink Road Of Moonland
We stayed in Kargil on the third day. After crossing Kargil, and midway to Leh, there is small town Lamayuru, named as moonland of Ladakh due to the moon like landscape of the place. The mountains and the road here all wore a gorgeous shade of pink. We stopped here to have a quick bite. The quality roads and the Indus river, flowing through the barren lands, are the major highlights of the place.
Camping In The Windy Desert
Upon reaching Leh, rather than staying in a hotel, we decided to camp in the huge desert just before Leh as we were carrying our own tents. There was no one in the sight, apart from an army unit in far distance, so we had the whole place to ourselves. The strong winds wouldn’t let us pitch the tents though. Eventually, we had to anchor our tents to the bikes for added support. Only then, we could erect them.
Chills Of Khardung La
We started at around 6 towards Khardungla pass, the then highest motorable in the world (currently second). Once we started moving upwards from Leh, the temperature started to dip and our poor glubs couldn’t take it. During the last few miles, the rocky road, with landslide prone areas and patches of ice, made us touch the ground a couple of times. Our riding speed was hardly more than an old man riding an old bicycle, so no damage done. Once we reached the top, I could barely hold my mobile to click a photo (see my face below).
While returning from the pass, the sun had warmed the place and we took a long break to admire the birds’ eye view of greens in barren landscape of Ladakh. We stayed in a home stay in Leh for the night.
Raisins at Changla Pass
Leh was crowded just like any other city. So, next morning, instead of exploring Leh, we started towards Pangong Lake. Enroute, we (and everyone) were hit by heavy snowfall at Changla pass. The cold and the slippery roads made it near impossible to ride. Thankfully, there are high altitude army camps at the pass and we, among many, rushed into one of them. The soldiers were very warm and receptive. They served us delicious raisins. Sitting in front of a diesel air heater and eating raisins was the last thing we expected at that height.
After returning from Pangong Lake, we started our journey back home via Manali. We took night halts at Pang and Kelyong respectively and reached Delhi on the third day.
Chaos at the office:
Upon returning from the trip, I told to myself that I am going to put more focus on my work. But destiny has other plans. The charm of the places and friendliness of the locals had lasting effects on me. Fast forward three months, I gave my resignation so that I can travel more. This is my story, what’s yours?
Let me know your feedback in the comments below.
PS: I had a poor camera, so the photos are not great.