An Unforgettable Leh Ladakh Experience
A land of colossal mountains, highest passes, ever-changing landscapes, & pristine lakes, yes! you guessed it right, I am talking about Ladakh.
A dream destination that tops the bucket list of any adventure enthusiast.
After planning for almost 3 years, we finally made it!
Me, my husband, our friends Shishik & Pawan was determined that it’s now or never & that’s why we got going with selecting our travel partner & making an advance payment in the month of May. And it made us all smile wider because we knew that whatever it may be, we are going to hit the roads at the end of August.
Here, I must mention the efforts put by the bestie duo- Shishik & Kartik (my husband) for selecting the travel company & taking care of accounts & all other necessities, while I and Shishik’s husband Pawan, relaxed and waited for the day to come!
We decided to go with a travel company instead of taking our own bikes (which we initially planned) because we wanted to relax, enjoy riding through the virgin nature without being worried about stay, permits etc & also we wanted to meet people whom we have never met before, that is other fellow riders in the group & it was so well done, our travel partner was right there to take care of stay, food, bikes, fuel, permits, medical assistance & all that we could think of and our group of two other pillions & 2 solo riders was all what we could have asked for.
Our trip coordinator sent us the route itinerary after asking us about our preferred dates, our 11 days trip had to start in Srinagar by picking up the bikes covering Sonmarg, Kargil, Turtuk, Pangong Tso, Tsomoriri, Nubra Valley, Sarchu, Jispa & then end at Manali, our excitement knew no bound, I won’t lie, I could not control smiling knowing that I get an extra day to look around in Srinagar as I haven’t been lucky enough to explore it till now, though I am already in my 30s 🙁
Finally, after a lot of video watching, multiple visits to Decathlon, setting up the camera, buying a GoPro, unlimited gears for the GoPro (husband’s requirement) just when we thought we are ready, we received a bad surprise after turning on the T.V.
It was the starting of August & Government declared to lift off Article 370 from Ladakh, no doubt it was a great news but at that point of time we were just being greedy & all we could think of was about our trip, all flights to Srinagar were getting canceled and roads were blocked by Indian Army due to safety reasons.
Well our men were relaxed & just sat back, while I and Shishik (Shishik did more) kept following up with the airlines and Harshal (our trip co-ordinator), who was patient enough to calm us down & gave us the hope that whatever it may be, our trip will be on, but we may have to change the route.
Finally, Harshal sent us the updated itinerary minus Srinagar, Sonmarg, Kargil, & Tsomoriri, I was pretty sad but then again the excitement of seeing Ladakh on a two-wheeler told me to cheer up and go with the vibes.
So Now Our New Route For Leh Ladakh Trip Was:
Manali- Jispa- Sarchu- Leh- Nubra Valley- Turtuk- Nubra Valley- Pangong Tso- Leh- Sarchu- Manali
Since, now we were taking the same route back so 4 of us chose to skip the return by bike and decided to stay back in Leh, explore the city and then fly back from there.
Finally, after a lot of wait, excitement, and planning, the day arrived! Our friends, Shishik and Pawan reached Delhi from Bengaluru, we were all set with our backpacks!
On 30th August we boarded our bus to Manali (we decided to take an extra day since it’s the first visit to Manali for our friends)
Our Adventurous Leh Ladakh Trip Itinerary
Otherwise, reach Manali on this day.
Checked into Hotel Seven Hills followed by a briefing given by Nitin from the travel company and the most exciting part was meeting the beasts- Our Royal Enfield 500CC bikes and the trip captain- Tenzin (a part of the awesome trio of trip captain, driver, and mechanic)
Started the bike trip from Manali, rode till Jispa covering Rohtang la and Baralacha la approx. 138kms, spent the night at Gemur Tent, with river view and surrounded by beautiful mountains. Enjoyed the bonfire at night and bonded with fellow riders from the group.
Rode from Jispa to Sarchu only 80kms, stayed there at a tent. Now here you must not forget wearing your gumboots and rain pants since you have to cross Baratpur Nala, which is called a Nala but turns into a massive water crossing when it rains.
Well, many of you might think why to stay after riding for such a short distance. The answer is, to get acclimatized. Now you are at a height of 14,070 ft and yes! the night might be difficult for many. You may experience headache and breathing difficulty due to lack of oxygen, so I suggest pop up a Diamox the previous night.
But hey you all photographers! You might just forget about oxygen scarcity because Sarchu has the clearest sky and you will certainly get to capture the Milky Way and Star Trails.
Now after a sleepless night, again we were all set to hit the roads and rode 250kms to reach Leh. After Sarchu, you will be entering J&K/ Ladakh, also it is the day to encounter Nakeela Pass (15,647 ft) and Tanglang la (17,480 ft) you will experience off roads till Pang after that the roads are as smooth as silk.
Roads to Ladakh is as scenic as it can be but I found nature at its best with mountains changing colours, a river on the right with all sorts of colourful flowers, few kilometers before reaching Leh.
Spent the night in Leh at a hotel, explored the market, bought ‘How I reached Leh’ T-shirts (they have all possible routes embroidered in all possible sizes and colours), had a hearty dinner at Tibet Kitchen (must-visit for local food.)
Oh yes! Here you get new bikes since H.P bikes are not allowed in J&K. Ensure that you check your bikes and get it fixed by the mechanic from your support team, though the bikes look shiny but J&K bikes are not well maintained.
Rode from Leh to Nubra Valley (comprising of 3 main villages Diskit, Khalsar & Hundar) covering approx. 160.3kms. Today we also got to witness the ‘Mighty Khardungla’
The road from Leh to Nubra is full of sharp and blind carves, so extra caution required here. After reaching we stayed at a hotel in Diskit.
Rode to Turtuk from Diskit approx 90kms. Well, they say this is the last village of India beyond which you can’t travel. I didn’t find it very exciting since I have already visited Wagah Border.
But yes, holding our ‘Tri-Colour’ high and singing the National Anthem definitely gave goosebumps. On our way back we visited Hundar, the Cold Desert (Khapa-Chan.) You get to watch traditional Ladakhi dance here, ride ATV and watch the famous Bactrian Camel (two humps) I would only say watch because I am strictly against riding animals and would urge everyone not to do so. Your holiday is there every day, so please don’t!
Spend the night at your Hotel, before you leave Diskit, make sure to visit Diskit Monastery in the morning.
Rode from Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso covering a distance of approx. 150kms. Now here you are! Do not, I repeat do not leave without putting on your gumboot and rain pants. Today you will encounter 3 river crossings, the second one will have you looking for route to ride, it did give me shivers when we had to cross these, though they were not as scary as some parts of the roads which we already crossed, but I really didn’t want to fall down and get in contact with the chilled water, so I almost fought with Kartik (the husband) got off the bike, walked and crossed these rivers (we were lucky, the water flow was not much as we travelled during ‘No Rain’ season.)
We stayed at a tent in Pangong Tso, after arrival, we changed and put on our best attires which we saved for this spot and got ready to get photographed.
We reached there before sunset, experienced the best shades of ‘Blue’ and an unforgettable Sunset.
A con that I found is, the impact of Bollywood & 3 idiots at this beautiful lake site, I mean, I really would not have want to spot, yellow scooters & 3 idiot bums in a place as scenic as this, but what to do, Indians, our craziness for Bollywood & the want of earning money by the localities have made a certain spot at the lake sit pretty commercial. So, I chose to ignore it & took shelter in a Yak tent with my friend Shishik to run away from the super cold breeze.
We got talking to a localite who said that during winters, it goes down to -30/-40 degrees & Pangong Tso freezes but only localities know how to cross it, others who tried stepped at the wrong spot & got drowned.
At night we had a great time playing games & listening to ghost stories from our captain Tenzin & driver Arun around the bonfire.
Ride to Leh from Pangong Tso covering a distance of approx. 225kms.
This was a difficult day for me! 20kms of off riding through snow avalanche area almost made my back numb but being the strong woman that I am 😉 I made it, kidding. I actually forgot the pain after seeing another highest pass- Changlalng la.
I must say it was really cold, throughout our journey we had only experienced pleasant weather but the moment we started from Pangong Tso till Changlang la, we experienced a cold that hits your bones while riding, so stay well-prepared!
In the evening the biker group decided to take a break, we all believe & swear by safe riding & hence we stayed away from all kinds of intoxications in the past few days. But as this was the last day of being together & we didn’t have to ride, hence we celebrated the night with loads of beer at our hotel, I must not forget taking the name of ‘Six Fields Wheat Beer’ here, it is manufactured in Ladakh & can easily give a run for money to any imported wheat beer.
In the morning we said goodbye to our group who took the same way back & also to our bikes provided by The Great Next. I won’t lie, it was an emotional moment 🙂
Post that the four of us decided to spend on food & shopping. Meanwhile, we hired 2 Royal Enfield’s 350CC for Rs. 1100 per/day, you can easily hire bikes in Leh, check with your hotel for assistance or just google it.
We hit the World Garden Café, located & Changspa road followed by a visit to German Bakery for lunch later serves the yummiest desserts. In the evening we rode up to Shanti Stupa, try to reach there before 8 so that you can grab a cup of kawa or coffee at the café & sit back to enjoy the view. Later we chose Café Il Forno for dinner.
Visited the Thiksay Monastery followed by Leh palace, Zanskar-Indus confluence, Gurudwara Pathar Sahib & Kargil War Memorial (be there before 7 to visit the museum & watch the light & sound show.) Oh yes, we also encountered Magnetic Hill on the way, which I felt is over hyped.
Left hotel at 6.30 AM to catch our flight at 9 am. Airport is just 9kms away from the city, so you can stay away from the fear of missing your flight. And if you are fond of sleeping in the flight then please don’t! You will miss the scening take off & snowcapped mountains once you are up on the sky.
Well, this marked an end to our long-awaited, most discussed & planned trip.
Someone in Manali told us that “when you go up there & come back, you come back as a different person”, now somehow, I can connect with his thoughts. The experience of seeing ‘Nature at its best’ & encountering some of the riskiest roads, makes you value ‘Mother Earth’ & your life more. Nature can be so surprising; it can mesmerize you every moment with something new.
I feel Ladakh is still so beautiful because not many have reached there & those who have knows how to value & protect ‘Mother Earth.’ So, let’s ensure that we all do our bit in protecting this ‘untouched-by humans’ part of our country from the species who travels & creates mess that’s ‘human.’
I am thankful to Kartik, Pawan, Shishik, our group & our travel partner for making it happen, it was pure adrenaline rush that we experienced in these 11days.
So, till we meet again to hit the roads together, keep travelling, ride safe & save the nature!
Things to Keep in Mind for Leh Ladakh Experience if You Are Riding During August-September:
- Carry very few clothes- You actually won’t feel like changing so keep it minimum, carry comfortable pants as jeans is not very comfy while riding.
- Carry rain jacket, pants, baklava cap, gloves, polarized shades put them on every day (if you are not wearing biking suit) my friends laughed at me for wearing rain jacket every day but it saved me from the wind and dust also saves you from applying sunscreen.
- Buy a good pair of gumboot otherwise, it doesn’t save you in the river crossings.
- Good quality helmet, knee and elbow guard is a must, after all, safety is beyond everything.
- Dress in layers, so that you can take it off when you feel hot, if you are travelling in September then a sweatshirt and windproof jacket is more than enough during riding but keep your raincoats handy if you aren’t wearing them, the weather is unpredictable.
- Sarchu and Pangong Tso would be cold, keep thermals, woolen cap, and gloves for these places.
- While riding from Pangong Tso to Leh, make sure you wear thermal, jacket and then a windproof jacket, as I said it will really be very cold.
- Never overtake or honk, especially when you see army vehicles. They will let you pass anyway when they see you coming.
- Do not miss a chance to salute our Army Men, my respect for them have increased more after seeing them survive in the extreme climates just to save us.
- On the way back from Zanskar-Indus confluence, pay a visit to Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, it said that Guru Nanak Dev Ji stayed there and now our Indian Army is maintaining the Gurudwara, you must experience the way they welcome you and make you feel taken care of.
- Save some space in your bag, if you want to shop in Leh but do not forget to bargain, visit the Tibetan Refugee market.
- Speak to the locals, they are very sweet and friendly people.
- While riding in Ladakh, survive on Maggie is a total myth! At the smallest of cafes and highway Dhabas, you get a long menu to choose from and the food is yummy. You must not forget to try the local delicacies.
- Well, I am going to end with a note for crazy dog lovers like me, throughout the way you are going to meet these fluffy and cuddly dogs known as ‘Gaddi Kutta’ please feed them and play with them, they have so much love to give and will only add to the memories of your trip.
So, What Are You Waiting For? Enjoy Leh Ladakh Experience
Get Lehid! Bon Voyage!