Another year, another Adventure, Destination - Motorcyclist's Paradise LEH. After a week's planning and some preparation I decided to leave for Leh on 7th Sept with my trusted companion, KTM RC390.
Itinerary -: Bangalore -- Nagpur -- Agra -- Pathankot -- Srinagar -- Zoji La -- Drass -- Kargil -- Batalik -- Leh - Kardungla -- Diskit/Hundar -- Pangong Tso -- Pang -- Sarchu --- Keylong -- Rohtang -- Mandi -- Noida -- Lucknow -- Nagpur -- Hyderabad – Bangalore.
Total Distance : Around 7800 km's
Vehicle -: KTM RC390
Preps -: Bought a 10L army petrol jerry can from a local outlet in Bangalore and it turned out to be a savior. Got the bike serviced cosciously, no extra fitting needed. A tank bag and a tail bag were enough for the whole trip’s baggage.
From Bangalore to Pathankot, it was a 3 day sprint where I covered almost 1100 km to Nagpur on 7th, another 800km+ to Agra on 8th and around 730km on 9th Sept. Though I was travelling solo, somewhere around 100km before Pathankot, I met 2 riders from Gurgaon and Delhi. They were planning on a similar itinerary as mine, for rest of the trip we were now a pack.
On 10th we left from Pathankot to Srinagar, roads were narrow and bad initially with traffic. Soon we were greeted by beautiful valley views and series of tunnels. We stopped by frequently enjoying the beauty around and the roads were full of curves too, causing a delay in reaching Srinagar at 11:30 in the night. In a weird way we found a nice stay just behind the Dal lake.
On 11th after enjoying some scenic drive around the Dal Lake and clicking some pics, we left for Kargil. Beautiful landscapes, tall mountains covered with green trees around, sheep swarming the roads at places like Baltal and Sonamarg, such beauty was enough for us to continuously stop by for clicks. It started to drizzle around 50kms before ZojiLa and witnessed a rare phenomenon of double rainbow. The rain drops were bone chilling. Luckily it didn't rain much and we could cross Zojila. We reached Zojila at around 7:30pm, it was late evening, we clicked few pics and moved on, night sky was a sight to behold, we spent sometime under the starlit sky and continued to Dras where we stayed overnight.
On 12th we left from Dras towards Leh, the highway was pretty good and we reached Kargil around 11am, from Kargil I took the Batalik route which is a less travelled route. After Kargil, the road starts ascending where you will witness totally different barren mountains, Hambuting La (4000m) pass is on this route, the views are stunning and extremely less traffic. The roads are almost manageable in spite of being broken and dusty, getting my KTM punctured. Luckily one of the other 2 guys had a puncture kit and I was carrying a pump. After the pass, the roads didn't improve but with Indus river flowing parallel to mountainous road none of us wanted to complain but overlook the difficulties. Crossed few villages, saw smiling faces. As a result of bad roads we could reach the leh-srinagar highway at around 7pm and from there on, another 3hr to Leh (stopped by for the view of night sky again).
After getting permits, had to extend my stay at Leh for another day due to food poisoning. On 15th Sept we left for Diskit via Khardungla. The drive to Khardungla was nice, the roads were being laid till the top but the work was in progress with bad patch for the last 5kms. The weather near the top was chilling, traffic was moderate, amazing views, even came across a small frozen waterfall. Reached Khardungla without any worries, had a coffee and maggi at the Cafe and after few pics started the journey towards Diskit. Scenic roads got me clicking lot of pics enroute and reached around 5 at Diskit. Found a stay, dumped the luggage and left for Hundar to watch sunset. Stayed at Hundar till 7, drive was beautiful and the views at Hundar were mesmerising. Due to weather change, witnessed beautiful clouds. A friend took camel ride while I relaxed clicking pics and admiring the beauty around.
On 16th Sept we drove towards Pangong Tso, towards Pangong from Diskit you come across water crossing, river beds, stone beds, broken mountain roads, sandy roads and proper tarmac and everything is fun to do. You can’t get enough of the view, drove patiently and clicked lot of pics enroute, stopped by the shyok river and tested by waterproof boots, clicked some good pictures too. Reached Pangong around 4pm in the evening, took a camp some 8kms ahead and after keeping the luggage, we went down to the lake. We spent the evening at the lake capturing pics and videos. The weather started getting cold by 6pm and we returned to the camp.
From Pangong we had planned for Tsomoriri Lake but many people warned about fuel scarcity, hence we decided against it and headed back towards Manali. We left around 9 - 10 am from Pangong and reached some 40km before Pang. We crossed ChangLa and TagLang La pass enroute. The road leading to ChangLa was in a bad condition and weather was cold. The road to TagLang La was in perfect condition. There was snow on peaks as well as on mountain walls, the weather was cold and the cold breeze was making it difficult to drive. Upon reaching Taglang La we had a celebratory tea, warmed our hands and left towards Pang. But it was too cold to manage riding, hence we stayed at a small shop for the night.
Next day we drove towards Pang early morning, we had breakfast at Pang and got fuel from a local shop. From there on, I decided to travel solo again. The road towards Sarchu was extremely adventurous, there's no other way to describe it. Water crossings, no roads but you had to make a way, this was the part of the whole trip I enjoyed the most, pure adventure. Crossed BarchLa, Zing-Zing bar, Jispa, Keylong, enroute to Rohtang Pass. The roads towards Rohtang were mix patches. For most of the distance, roads were good but upon approaching Rohtang they were pretty rough and adventurous. Rohtang presented a beautiful view of its own, took few snaps and moved on towards Manali. Roads to Manali were also mostly broken and it was getting dark, so I decided to halt at Mandi for the night.
Mandi was my last hill stop on this trip, it was a nice scenic, beautiful, adventurous trip in the midst of the hills, I had to skip few places I had planned, such as Turtuk, Tso-Moriri. After reaching Noida on 19th, it started raining and snowing a couple of days later in Tso-Moriri, hence I was quite happy with my decision. There's always a next time. From Noida I left for Lucknow (my native) and stayed a week there. Then via Nagpur and Hyderabad, I came back to Bangalore on 30th Evening.
They say "it's the journey that matters", the journey sure was beautiful and so were the destinations. I covered beautiful landscapes, drove along rivers, mountains, lakes, butter smooth highways, witnessed sunrise, sunsets, a sky full of stars, drove in extremely cold conditions (personal best), met old friends, made new friends and witnessed the Biker's Brotherhood at highest level, just pure joy to be among people with similar interests and intent.