Building roads through more than 15000 kms long sensitive border is a task which in itself is unbelievable even in dreams. In addition to it the toughest challenge in someone’s job profile is to maintain such a road that is constantly hammered by rain, ice, sun and landslides.  An organization would need supernatural power and will to even think of that. Yes its BRO (Border Roads Organisation) that made it possible (http://www.bro.nic.in/index.asp?lang=1&projectid=9). This time we would try to explore places which would be almost impossible without the presence of BRO.

 

We at “Rolling Wheels Motorcycle Touring club” always believe in the ability of the rider, not the power of the engine. We believe in the capability of a rider and how familiar he is with his machine. If someone is well versed with the vehicle he is driving, it is very simple for him to feel when the vehicle needs his attention or when it is having a slightest of hiccups. There are several footprints we left till date around the nation, all on regular commuter motorcycles and the notable part is that a 125 cc went places with other higher capacity bikes.

 

Locals says that ..

Only Place in The World Where One Can Suffer Frost Bite and Heat Stroke at the Same Time

 

and BRO says ..

  • Enjoy my virgin nature

 

Yes probably you are guessing right. I am referring LadakhJ. 4 years back we,Rolling Wheels were first entity to showcase beauty of Ladakh through an 11 Episode Travel Documentary, “DU CHAKAY LADAKH”, a journey on motorcycle, which is still getting telecasted in air. This time we are going to cover plateau where Himalayan Range meets with Karakoram Rangeand The Changthang Plateau as well.

 

A small intro of Ladakh:

 

Ladakh is a land like no other. Bounded by two mightiest mountain ranges of the world, the Great Himalaya and the Karakoram, it lies athwart two other, the Ladakh range and the Zanskar range. Ladakh lies at altitudes ranging from about 9,000 feet (2750m) at Kargil to 25,170 feet (7,672m) at Saser Kangri in the Karakoram. Thus summer temperatures rarely exceed about 27 degree Celsius in the shade, while in winter they may plummet to minus 20 degree Celsius even in Leh. Surprisingly, though, the thin air makes the heat of the sun even more intense than at lower altitudes; it is said that only in Ladakh can a man sitting in the sun with his feet in the shade suffer from sunstroke and frostbite at the same time!

 

We all at Rolling Wheels Motorcycle Touring Club, were in discussion on upcoming month long tour. Different places were suggested by everyone, but the ultimate surprise was by our dearest, Sanjoy Da, he presented a detailed day by day month long plan from Kolkata to Ladakh. We knew that he was in Kashmir this year in February with his family. But we didn’t know that it was his intention to collect information on his upcoming dream. It’s always a pleasure to be associated with one of the most reputed motorcycle touring clubs in the country not only because of its achievements, but for the valuable gems, like Sanjoy. We all at RW are so lucky to have our families, which always provide every kind of support in every scenario, no matter if it’s a 7 days or a 40 days tour.

 

There were several discussion and meeting held before we left for the journey. Most of those were at Sanjoy Da’s house where we not only got an environment to discuss, but also a warm welcome from him and his family everytime. I still remember, we were going to Sanjoy Da’s house with my Son (5 months then) for a meeting right after his vaccination and naturally he was crying out loud. But it was his family that did everything to stop him crying so that we could successfully complete the meeting. At Rolling Wheels, we were-are and always will be a Great Family.

 

It was May-2015; time to decide the Team for this epic journey and we had our first set back, we came to know that Sanjoy Da, the initiator of this trip will not be able to go due to his business problems. Frankly speaking no one was willing to go on thus we were planning for some other destination. Finally we all decided to chase the dream which Sanjoy da dreamt of because by then the dream was ours it had manifested deeply in our minds and it was fuelled by the non-stop motivation and encouragement from Sanjoy da. Team was finalized as ..

 

Swarnadip ————————- KTM Duke 390 cc ——————– (Thirsty)

Bobo ——————————- Bajaj Pulsar 180 cc ——————– (Whistler)

Ankan —————————– Bajaj Avenjer 200 cc ——————- (Soti)

Arup (myself) ——————– Hero Honda CBZ Extreme 150 cc — ( Blade)

Pratap —————————– Bajaj Pulsar 150 cc ——————— (Clutchy)

Dev ——————————– KTM Duke 200 cc ———————- (Fallen)

 

The start date of this remarkable journey is finalized as 5th June 2015, Friday.

 

First of all, the time we have chosen is when road to Ladakh will be at its initial days. 4 years passed by. Many tourists now a days love to choose this region as leisure destination. So, we can presume that roads will be in better shape than we saw 4 years back but had no idea what scenario we have to face on our journey days.

 

We have never taken bikes in Train. So, had to collect information and permission to bring our companions with us. With all adventurists, traveler, enthusiast’s blessings good always happen with us and there was no exception for this time as well. I got to see one of my coaches of my initial Cricket career days, who play for Railway now a day. It was a chat for sometime with him and other officers and the atmosphere got crazy for motorcycle touring J. We shared our journeys and came to know that many of them are aware of those via media. Strange to see that we are so popular and people are there who love us for giving a new definition to motorcycle journey. Anyways we got permission from top officers of Railway and everything is booked.

 

It was 4th June 2015 and we spent almost 8+ hours for packing our companions with fully empty tank L

 

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Finally we got this amazing sunset …

 

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Bobo’s  dialect:

 

Excitement would be a weaker word to describe the pre-ride preparations of Leh & Ladakh, for me the more apt word would be anticipation. I was waiting at Hamid da’s dhaba(a local meeting point on highway) since 2011 and finally could kick off on 4th June 2015. It was till that place I had gone to see off  team Rolling Wheels for the 2011 tour of Kashmir. The word kick off held a different meaning for us, as it was more like lift off, no we did not take a flight. It was Himgiri Express from Howrah and the boarding process was more hectic than riding to Jammu. In total it took three visits to the station to confirm the booking of our motorcycles on the same train that we had our reservations in, thanks to the CPLI Howrah without whose help the whole process would have been impossible. We were informed in advance that there was a shortage of staff and we had to load our bikes ourselves but on reaching the station to our horror apart from our six bikes three more bikes of a different group was to be loaded, the person in charge of loading said that not more than three bikes can be loaded in a single luggage compartment due to space issue. But we surprised him by loading six bikes comfortably in one.

 

 

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It was 7th June but our train was late. Instead of 12:30 noon we reached at 3 pm and finally the moment arrived. We got ready with our gears and preferred to take it till exit rather than waiting for help to arrive. There are lots of procedures before we could exit the station with everything, specially our motorcycle. It took sometime but we were lucky to have a police personnel who was excited after seeing us and even helped us getting petrol from a nearby fuel pump. We poured a bit of petrol in everyone’s bike, packed our luggage and bid the helpful gentleman goodbye and started our journey at 5 pm. Together we had our lunch at Vaishno dhaba outside Jammu station …

 

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We were feeling so glad after getting our motorcycles and enjoyed the lunch for long. We even didn’t notice but it was 7 pm as it felt like it was 4 pm. We decided to leave. We all visited the petrol pump again to get our tanks full. The journey was amazing through excellent road and few long tunnels. Suddenly we saw a big snake. Pratap tried to capture, but it got vanish in dark L. We preferred continuing the journey further.

 

We were feeling so glad after getting our motorcycles and enjoyed the lunch for long. We even didn’t notice but it was 7 pm as it felt like it was 4 pm. We decided to leave. We all visited the petrol pump again to get our tanks full. The journey was amazing through excellent road and few long tunnels. Suddenly we saw a big snake. Pratap tried to capture, but it got vanish in dark L. We preferred continuing the journey further.

 

We decided to stay at Udhampur. As usual Swarna and Ankan went and found an excellent stay for the night. We parked our motorcycles but found Bobo’s Whistler had a flat rear tyreL.We decided to fix it next day and went to our rooms.

 

Next day Bobo and Swarna left to fix Whistler’s tyre and we packed our luggage during their absence, they came soon and packed their luggage as well. It was 11 am and we left. Our plan was to reach Srinagar but we were a bit late for this long journey. We stopped somewhere around 12 pm for lunch.

 

As soon as we finished our lunch, we started again and it was around 1 pm. The more we were progressing, it was getting tough for us to drive. The only reason was illiterate driving culture of J&K State. There is no police checking or patrolling. Drivers are so rough we can’t simply imagine. They do not know the use of indicators, manual signaling or even basic rules of overtaking. Vehicles run haywire even overtaking at turns. We all got puzzled and we were really feeling unsafe driving with them. Apart from Army vehicles we didn’t see a single vehicle that followed rules. Later locals confirmed that hardly 30% drivers have original licenses. Anyways it was a really tough ride for us. We stopped couple of times for a quick snack or tea break. During one of these halts we were lucky enough to see this beauty at Titanic view point …

 

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Titanic view point is famous because it will give you the first glimpse of Kargil Valley at a distance.

 

The volume of traffic was also a bit high as it is one of the two entry points to this heaven and finally we reached Srinagar. Typically, most of the locals of Kashmir are now so much professional. Roads are full of agents who do hotel booking, car booking etc. for tourists. They might provide correct information only if you are booking hotels or cars with them. Now days, there are lots of agents roaming around the city, once called paradise. Asking anyone about a route was actually diverting us to somewhere else. So, finally we went inside a hotel, check with them, validated the same in GPS and left. We were infront of Dal Lake and it was 9:15 pm.

 

Brief:

 

Dal Lake is in Srinagar. This lake covers an area of 18 square kilometers. It is in history since Mahasarit, an ancient Sanskrit text. It is also said that a village named Isbar to the east of Dal Lake was once the residence of goddess Durga. This lake has seen many decades from Ancient times of Mughal Era to British rule and still continuing.

 

It was nice to see all houseboats lit up completely and reflecting on the water of Dal Lake …

 

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We were soaked and looking for a stay. But all the accommodations were charging too high for one night. Frankly speaking we found the place too noisy, dirty and ridiculous drivers were driving roughly beside the lake, even performing drag races as few vehicles were there at that time of the night. We were thinking to stay somewhere which was at least calm & peaceful. Suddenly Ankan called us and confirmed that he managed a good houseboat accommodation at unbelievable rate. It was 11 pm and we decided to had our dinner first and then go to houseboat. It was very good veg dinner and we went to houseboat around 12 am.

 

It was really an excellent houseboat accommodation and I couldn’t resist taking snaps first and then bring luggage…

 

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We gossiped a lot with the owner of the houseboat and came to know the real scenario of the last flood that engulfed everything. We all were feeling cold and decided to go to bed.  It was excellent feeling staying in wooden houseboat facilitated with bathtub as well (which was of no use at least for us). We all slept around 2:30 am.

 

 

As usual we woke up later around 8 am. Our plan was to reach Sonmarg and stay for the night. But, team decided to enjoy a day at Dal Lake.

 

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By that time we found that my Blade and Pratap’s Pulsar needed a few repairs. We were in doubt if we could get someone who understood our requirements and we were glad to meet Imtiaz (with the help of Parvez, our houseboat owner). He is a real gentleman and an excellent person. Our bike’s were not getting enough power after 60 kmph and he just fixed it within seconds with a few small adjustments. Great part was that he also called us and demonstrated the problem and the solution. Hats off to him, not because he fixed the issues but for his behavior, temperament and friendliness. Guys going through my write up can ask anyone in Srinagar for Imtiaz Automobile just beside KralKhud Police Station if you need any kind of help for your motorcycle.

 

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It took some time to fix issues and our companions are ready by 1 pm. Apart from Pratap & myself everyone was enjoying the beauty of Dal Lake and lifestyle of locals around it capturing snaps, videos and fishes(Bobo). We had a discussion and decided to visit Gulmarg on the same day. Team regrouped infront of Imtiaz Automobile within few minutes and we left thanking Imtiazbhai from bottom of our heart. The first few kms were again through illiterate drivers and finally we reached highway leading towards Gulmarg. We were feeling hungry and thinking about trying local food. Before we think and decide where and what to have in our lunch, our dearest Parvezbhai took us to a good roadside hotel and the lunch was …

 

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Non-veg items available in Kashmir are mostly of sheep meat. Every item had its uniqueness and all are amazing in taste. Starting from kebab’s to Gustawa to all other items, preparation and taste were amazing. Lunch of 6 folks for that day was the costliest deal of the entire tour rounded up at Rs. 7000/-. It was initially real shocking to us but later ignored just because of the amazing taste J. We paid the bill and left for Gulmarg.  Road was amazing through green pine & fir forest and finally we reached Gulmarg.

 

Gulmarg is a hill station in Baramula district of Jammu and Kashmir. This town lies like a cup shaped valley in the PirPanjal Range of the Himalayas at an altitude of 8957 ft. 56 kms from Srinagar.

 

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It was nice to see the PirPanjal range around us. But we were feeling afraid as we could see the entire sky behind us was engulfed in dark clouds. We hardly spent 5 minutes and decided to return ASAP. We hardly crossed the beautiful road through pine & fir forest and it started raining. Drizzles soon became hail and then profuse rain within minutes. We got stuck for more than an hour. As it started drizzling again, we decided to leave. We started driving and slowly as we were drenched. We did stop any more as weather was bad but suddenly we were shivering in cold, Bobo got flat tyre again. It was 8 am and all the tyre repairing shops were closed. As a true friend in need, Parvez requested again to a local tyre repairing shop in their local dialect and he was ready to fix Bobo’s tyre.

 

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With the help of excellent lights of Dev’s duke, repair work was done very soon and we left for our houseboat. We had our dinner first and then went to houseboat keeping in mind next day’s journey, as much as we can cover.

 

 

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We all woke up by 6:30 am next day. Everyone was packing his luggage and prepping up their rides. Finally everything got settled by 8:30 am. We bid our friend ParvezL good bye and left with Kargil in our minds. But again things were not moving correctly. Now Pratap had a flat tyre. It took time to fix his tyre and we observe dark smoky cloud is just in front of us.

We were infront of some girls school (can’t remember the name) where the mechanic was fixing the flat, it was here that I observed the horrible habit of crossing roads. School girls were crossing road, without even looking at either sides of the road. We observed a girl being hit by a motorcycle when we were at Imtiaz’s Automobile shop. Again infront of our eyes we saw another school girl crossing the road, looking downward and got hit by a bus. It was not that hard as the bus driver managed to break on time but the schoolgirl was pushed away few feet. Locals saw, bus driver shouted, but who cares, the school girl just stood up and went ahead. We were just praying, God, please give us more patience to drive carefully through this non-sense.

As soon as we started, again it started raining and we had to stop for a few minutes. But the remaining journey till Sonmarg was excellent through Sind river by our side. We reached Sonmarg at 12:30 pm. It was too crowded with tourist. We decided to have lunch comparatively at a lesser crowded place.
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As we were enjoying lunch and it started drizzling again. We put on our raincoats and left Sonmarg. Initial journey started through a huge traffic jam as there were 2 accidents with loss of 23 lives. Among those there was a family from our hometown Kolkata as well. So, army men were stopping all vehicles every now and then to clear the path. In between we were clicking pictures of the nature …

 

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Now we are going for our first milestone, driving through one of the world’s most deadly pass, the mighty Zoji La at an altitude of 11649 ft. Though often referred to as Zojila Pass in the foreign press, the correct English translation is Zoji Pass or simply Zojila, since the suffix ‘La’ itself means pass in several Himalayan languages.

We started driving and now its time to roll on Zoji La. I think it will be better to showcase, the rest of the journey through this mighty pass, through pictures only …

 

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Every year this pass receives heavy snowfall and thus is closed for six months every year. But this year the snowfall is a bit more. BRO and Army cleared 40-50 ft of snow. It was in deadly condition as we had that huge snow wall on one side and straight steepness on the other side. In addition it was still drizzling and road was full of mud and craters. It was really tough but we enjoyed the adventure of crossing such a‘La’. Now it started raining heavily followed by snowfall and we got stuck at Zero Point, just before Zoji La ends, at around 3 pm.

 

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It was a bit of pain for us as it was cold, feeling numb and we were drenched too. It was a painful halt of 2 hrs 30 mins. at Zero Point. Though we had 6 cups of coffee along with 3 fried egg and 1 packet of potato chips. But surprisingly it cost us Rs. 820/- L. There was no sign of relief in terms of having a clear weather and we couldn’t stay more as we were loosing sense at finger tips. We didn’t have any other choice, but have to ride further. Our gloves were completely wet but with no other choice we moved on …

 

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After riding for few minutes, finally the rain stopped. It was a relief for us, but we couldn’t spend much time enjoying clicking snaps as we were already running late. It was almost 7:15 pm when we reached Drass and it was nearly dark. So, we decided to stay at Drass for the night.  While Swarna, Bobo &Ankan were busy finding accommodation, I started gossiping with a local grocery shop owner, named Mushtaq Ahemed. By that time, our accommodation was fixed just beside that grocery shop in Nawab Ali’s “Ali Da Dhaba”. By the name might suggest that it is a restaurant, but it has also had rooms with hot water 24 hrs. Most importantly, the reception and care that you will get in this hotel is simply amazing. We got freshened up ASAP and went for dinner. Food was very tasty combined with Mr. Nawab’s utmost friendly behavior. From locals we came to know the real picture of Kargil war, how locals helped our Army, how we won the battle of Tiger hill etc.

 

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Brief:

Drass is a town of Kargil district of Jammu and Kashmir. It is at a height of 10990 ft (3230 mtrs). However, the mountain ridges range between 16000 ft to 21000 ft. Drass valley is the World’s 2nd Coldest inhabited place and India’s coldest. This valley starts from the base of Zoji La (La means pass in Tibet language). This town is also referred as “The Gateway to Ladakh”. This small town became popular since 1999 war between two neighboring countries, India and Pakistan and India regained once again the Pak occupied Tiger Hill and Tololing peak. The inhabitants of Drass, Dards, are also referred as “guardiansofLadakh”. Dards of Drass are Aryan in build (now mixed Kashmiri – Aryan) are known for their courage, bravery and straight-forwardness. Most of the Muslims of Drass are Sunnis.The language spoken by the locals of Drass is ‘Balti’ which is a Tibetic language spoken in Balitistan, a division of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan and adjoining parts of Ladakh, India. In local dialect ‘Balti’,Drass means Hell. Drass’s climate is subarctic. In winter the temperature climbs down to more than −40 °C. A war brings miseries, but in Drass, it has brought affluence too. It has changed the town that had been the epicenter of the armed hostilities between the two neighbors, from its architecture to its lifestyle. 15 years passed by after Kagil war and now Drass is a tourist town with money, new houses and jobs for locals.

It was a special feeling staying at a battle zone and seeing Tiger hill from our window, which remember us about the devastating war. I couldn’t resist myself but documented whatever information I had receive till then and found it was 2:30 am. Everywhere it was completely dark. Only visible object was snow caped Tiger Hill J. I went to sleep ..

Next morning we woke up around 8 am. There was another guy from Bangalore (originally from Kolkata) was staying with us. We previously planned to leave early. But that guy was in mood of joining us and was actually insisting us indirectly. But we always follow protocols strictly and can’t share our plan or journey with anyone, no matter if he/she is very close to us being in a tour. So, we tried to ignore his request and thus got late enough. He left around 11 am and we finally managed everything by 12 pm. It was really too late for our journey but sometimes some things happen that is beyond our control. With a plan of visiting all important places around Kargil and complete the journey till Lamayuru, we bid Mr. Nawab, Mr. Haji (owner of the property), Raju Nagvi (a great enthusiast and knowledgeable about nearby road condition) with a promise of meeting again and started …

 

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As per Shimla Agreement, signed in 1972, both the countries, India & Pakistan had agreed to pull out troops from both the sides during winter due to heavy snowfall. Till 1999, India did not deploy any troops at their posts in winter. India was not even aware that when Pakistani intruders had gained entry in the Mushkoh Valley of Drass, during heavy snowfall. Mushko valley considered as unsuitable for human habitation. This is the valley where the former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf had arrived as the then Pak army chief to give instructions to the Pak intruders regarding the war. Experts believe that the reason behind Musharraf’s visit to Mushkoh valley was that Pakistan wanted to first take control of the valley and then to seize Kashmir gradually.

Soon we came across a signboard which says “Bhim Bhat”. There is saying that stonyfied body of Bhima (from Mahabharata) could be seen. History says that all Pandavas, except Yudhisthir fell down on their ascend to heaven. This was the place where Bhima fell down. Our main motto was to reach Leh as early as possible and in this hurry we missed Draupadi Kund as well as there was no proper signage. We also came across Harkha Bahadur Memorial, just before entering Kargil. This memorial is in name of Subedar Harkha Bahadur, commander of Royal Gorkha Rifles who swam across the icy Suru (Shingo) river and forced Pakistanis to withdraw from Kargil.

 

 

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Our first halt was at Kargil War Memorial / Tololing peak. Tiger hill, Tololing and some of its adjacent peaks (Hump, 3 Pimples, Knoll) holds a very important part of the Kargil war / Operation Vijay.

 

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Tololing is a dominant position overlooking NH1D (Srinagar – Leh highway). Half of the total causalities suffered during Kargil war did happen at Tololing. History says that, Pakistan Mujaheddin along with Pak army (with influence of Pak Army Chief Gen Parvez Musharraf) infiltrated through Drass, Khaksar and Mushkoh sectors. Intrusion was first noticed by local shepherds. Upon getting the information Indian Army sent their first patrol and solders were captured by intruders and tortured to death. Heavy shelling from Pakistan damages ammunition in Kargil followed by loss of Indian fighters and bombing on NH1A connecting Srinagar to Leh. Indian Army launches major offensive and recaptured key positions in Batalic sector point 5140 (17000 ft, highest in Tololing range), 4700, 4875, Point 5060, 5100 (Junction peak), 4700 (Three Pimples) near Tiger hill and Tololing. This recent war finally ended with close combat and hand to hand fight. Notable names for their immense urge, contribution and sacrifice to secure our nation are:

Major Rajesh Adhikary – Operation Vijay. Awarded with Maha Vir Chakra

Major Digendra Kumar – Operation Pawan, Operation Vijay, Awarded with Sena Medal, Maha Vir Chakra

Major Vivek Gupta – shot on head while moving to capture Tololing along with Major Digendra Kumar

M.B Ravindranath –  2 Rajputana Rifles first radioed “Sir, I am on Tololing Top” on June 13

Vikram Batra – Operation Vijay Point 5140, 4700, 4875 (when he lost his life saving his Subedar, now called as Batra Top). Only Army person who got promoted being on the battleground. Awarded with Param Vir Chakra.

“I will either come back after raising the Indian Flag in victory or return wrapped in it”, what Captain Batra said before leaving for Operation Vijay. Infact he called up his commanding officer just to say “Yehdilmaange more” just before enemy launched a counter attack. Officers got injured and Captain Vikram didn’t allow other soldiers to go saying “Tumharebiwibachchehain (you have wife and kids)”. Being at Tololing, seeing the peaks captured by Captain Batra, Major Ravindranath and team, tears will automatically come to anyone’s eye who is a true Human Being. We were also not exceptions. It took us some time to come back to the real world …

 

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We forget everything and started feeling the pain through which our brothers in Indian Army are going through everyday. They have to stay away from their parents, families, kids for months in the most remote area just to save all of us from intruders. Question on our mind was “Do we really care for our Army jawans (men)?”. I believe that they are our real heroes. We probably will be in a better environment if we could nominate them to rule our nation not because of their sacrifice. But because of their attitude, temperament and sacrifice which these folks are doing everyday when we enjoy staying in air condition room in a hot summer noon, forget about winter.

We started roaming around, trying to see whatever document is available on the sacrifice of Indian Army at Kargil war.

 

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It was 4:30 pm and we felt we should leave now. We have felt enough the horror and agony of those soldiers who did ultimate sacrifice during operation Vijay. We decided to leave for Lamayuru. Journey was not so smooth as Bobo & Pratap started having breathing problem and we stopped at Khaksar.

 

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We found that it is basically AMS symptoms and we had treated them with the correct measure. We took a halt for about 40 minutes till both of them were feeling fine and started again. Initially road was fabulous. But with our utter surprise, the road condition was not good at all. It was completely dusty and muddy. But it was really enthralling driving through the rugged villages where it was feeling like driving through a war zone. Soon we reached Mulbek. It seems like completely devastated in war. We didn’t have enough time to wait and enjoy. I took only one picture …

 

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and we all left. Soon, we reached near Nun-Kun camping ground. It was about to dark and we thought of taking a halt for the day at Mulbek. Initially we have thought of staying at camping ground and partial team had gone to check out the price. Meanwhile we got busy taking some snaps as it was approaching dusk ..

 

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We came to know that the camping ground is charging about INR 4000/- per tent and we will require at least 2 tents for the night. We discussed for sometime and decided to stay somewhere cheaper and invest money on fuel rather than an expensive stay with no means. We got a good accommodation there at cheap rate. We parked our companions inside the hotel and went to room. It was 8 pm and we got amazed to see the sky. Believe me, in my life till date I have never seen a clear sky like this. We tried to capture as much as we can, but were shivering in cold.

I don’t use my Canon 1100D very often and also not familiar changing all the option to take a snap. I tried taking but was not that perfect  or clear that i was expecting. Chilled air was flowing all around us. We all preferred to watch the ecstatic clear sky where it was like watching a universe including stars, planets, Milky Way and moving satellites even. It was enchanting which none of us ever imagined of seeing with naked eye.

 

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We enjoyed watching sky for about an hour and went to had dinner. I must mention that the dinner was real horror for many who have ordered Fried Rice L. As per my earlier experience I preferred to stuck with noodles and was the luckiest J

 

We shared the food (apart from Swarna as he preferred to sleep having biscuits only) as much as we can and went to sleep. Rooms were well equipped and really clean and in excellent condition. We were feeling cold and went to sleep.

 

It was 6 am and I woke up seeing an orange line through the window. I wore the jacket and track and opened the door. It was so soothing seeing the early morning sun rays on top of multicolored hills. Just to let my readers aware that in this region of Leh-Ladakh, you will see different colored hills which vary from black – green – red – magenta -silver etc. Mainly these rocks have minerals due to which the colors are different. However, minerals are not present in that quantity which govt. could extract from these rocks. We have also observed ‘Shergol Cave Monastry’ at a distance. Wakha river was at just 100 ft. away from our place.

 

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The whole  Ladakh ( now is divided into  two  districts ie  Leh and  Kargil) was a Buddhist  country prior 15th  Century. The drive of  Islamization  started  from  Skardo / Skardu towards  Ladakh and  got  stopped  at  Mulbekh in  bulk. Thus the  Mulbekh is  situated  at  the confluence  of  two faith i.e Muslim populated district in its west and the Buddhist populated district Leh in its east which represent Mulbekh famous for its  secular identity. Now at present, Mulbekh and its surrounding villages are inhabited by both Buddhists and Muslims faiths.

One can have a 4 day trek from this remote village to Suru valley crossing Safi-La and Rusi-La. We enjoyed for sometime, had our breakfast and prepared us to ride till Leh which is approx. 175 kms. We left around 8 am, and it was mesmerizing. Weather was so soothing and everyone was enjoying the early morning ride. So far, our target was to cover the distance till Leh as early as possible. There are some beautiful monuments like Maitreya Buddha (curved during 2nd century A.D), Mul-dok-Khar, monasteries etc. However, we hardly had time to visit all these places. So, we decided to pass by with a hope of coming back to this state again to see the unseen. Actually Ladakh is so vast that anyone needs at least 6 months to capture it bit by bit. Hope, I could be in TLC or Discovery to roam around places and collecting their cultures J.

We started moving on and soon we reached Namika La (12139 ft.).We didn’t stop and moved on. Our first halt for Tea was just after Bodh Khabru at a roadside tea stall.

 

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We enjoyed for sometime and started. However, we never thought that something like this could happen with us. We just started and there was a steep right turn. Road was simply superb and not one of us ever expected that a turn can be completely filled with drained engine oil. There was a leakage in a truck’s oil chamber. Surprisingly being a driver they didn’t bothered to cover the engine oil, mobil etc. with sand or anything else. As the full stretch was covered with the thick oil, we skidded (myself first, as was leading the team followed by Ankan). We had enough luck that there was no inbound or outbound vehicle. My right feet got stuck under my Blade and Ankan was just thrown out from his Soti. We were hardly at 20 kmph max as just started 100 mtrs before, could imagine how devastating it could have been if we were in speed. Few locals were typically standing and watching us to fall but didn’t bother to help us until we called them. Blade was in bad condition as right mirror broken, brake paddle was misaligned, crack on headlight, handle bar misaligned, leg guard damaged etc. Along with that I was feeling too much pain on my right ankle as my loaded Blade was on top of my ankle for few minutes before locals could come. Ankan was also injured a bit. But we can’t let our enthusiasm, spirit, passion dampen due to this mishap. Team gathered and everyone tried to fix problem whatever we could and decided to start. We had a long distance to cover and no one knew what we were going to experience next. We started and crossed Fotu La (13479 ft.), the highest point of Srinagar – Leh road.

 

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After riding for sometime I experienced tremendous pain in my ankle. It was real tough for me to press break and I was driving too carefully to avoid engaging brakes. I understood that I have to reach Leh by any means ASAP. But Lamayuru is a very famous destination and we could not ignore visiting the monastery. We took a halt at Lamayuru

 

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Lamayuru monastery is just 15 kms. East of Fotu La at a height of 11,520 ft. According to popular tradition, this monastery was originally the foremost Bon Monastery in Ladakh. Bon, basically a Lhasa dialect, refers for being distinct from traditional Buddhist myths. History says that Indian scholar Naropa caused a lake, which filled the valley to dry up and then he founded Lamayuru Monastry. Naropa was born in a high status Bramhin family of Bengal. He was once a student of NalandaUniversity, now in Bihar, where he learned Sutra and Tantra.

Lamayuru festival was about to start and we were lucky to observe the practice session and prayers as well in the monastery …

 

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There was a sudden change in the weather and it started raining again. We got stuck for about half an hour as it was drizzling and then startedto pour. The journey was mesmerizing through “Hangroo Loops”, 32 kms with 23 loops from Fotu La till Khalste.  We reached Khalste and decided to have lunch around 3:30 pm. Quality of food was very good and we decided to leave. We started again and took a sudden stop to have some tea. As we ordered and turn around, we found that the road behind us is going to Rizong Monastery, Ulletokpo. This place was in my list due to its inaccessibility to most of the tourists. But the pain was unbearable and finally I have decided to pull out my right foot. But it was stuck due to too much of swelling. Finally after few minutes I was able to and found a big inflated chunk on my right ankle which was due to the fall of my blade along with the weight of the luggage (total of approx. 190+ kgs) on my ankle. I was not in a mood to miss the monastery at such a short distance. So, we all decided that Bobo & Dev will go for the offroad till monastery and rest will be with me. My love and respect once again to all my co-riders J. So, they left and we started gossiping and enjoying with the locals …

 

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But as time was progressing I was going through more pain. There were no phone network after you cross Srinagar. Only network which is available anywhere in Leh – Ladakh is Postpaid BSNL, sometimes Postpaid Airtel & AIRCEL as well. However, only Swarna’s and my phone had service , so without having any option we had to wait and they returned after 1 hr 15 mins. As soon as they reached it started drizzling again and we all got busy seeing the clicks they managed …

 

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Bobo’s  Experience:-

Rizong Monastry is one of a kind where we could not see a single tourist barring 3 elderly foreigners. The road leading towards Rizong is very narrow and strewn with blade like rock chippings. The road is constantly maintained by a dozer and a dynamite team. Just a few kms prior to the Monastery there is a small village which might have home stays for tourists but the monastery also has provisions to stay. This is the place to be if one wants to discover oneself in the tranquility of the Himalayas minus the ruckus of the touristic crowd who come to lose themselves during their “Himalayan Holiday”.

 

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After sometime as the rain stopped we started again. My pain was increasing with every passing minute as I couldn’t take medicine, apply pain relief gels due to less availability of time and I have to unpack the entire luggage. Team had to stop for taking pictures, but those stops were getting difficult for me as I could not keep my right foot on the ground. Thinking about the team, I decided to keep on moving while team can take halt for capturing snaps. We came across the confluence of Zanskar River with Indus River, Magnetic Hill, Leh-Manali highway (490 kms)  etc. …

 

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Team took halt at every places to capture snaps and somehow also took pic of myself driving ..

 

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I was in pain and facing difficulty if I stop. So, I continue driving slowly so that my team can join me and once they join, we all started moving together. Soon I observed the road towards Likir monastery. Finally I stopped somehow and told my team to visit Likir, as it’s a bit far from Leh, and I will continue riding slow. Swarna replied that “we all will go to Leh first as you (myself) need medication, we are not at all interested in visiting a monastery when you are suffering”. I just smiled and we all continued till Leh. We reached Leh at 6:45 pm but it felt like 3 pm  as we could still see the Sun and could understand that  it will take at least an hour for sunset.

 

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We had to wait for about an hour for accommodations to be finalized, as Leh was overcrowded and overbooked well almost. While waiting there we also came to know that road to Khardung La is closed as 23people died due to avalanche (which we have heard while coming to Drass from Srinagar). Meanwhile we remember that the owner of our houseboat at Dal Lake, Srinagar, gave us the contact number of a hotel in Leh and we found it is in the main market. By that time Ankan called and confirmed that he got a hotel which is still under construction and we will be their first guest. We all got overwhelmed and immediately went there. The hotel had a huge parking place and on top of that it was only a 5 mins walk from the main market. We reached, got down and received a pleasant welcome with warm tea and biscuits. I found it easier to hop on one leg and enjoyed the tea with the team. Once done, we started unpacking our luggage. It was taken into our room and it was simply awesome.

Bobo’s dialect:-

The whole concept of touring has been reborn in Leh. People have started to mix the two minute noodles concept into touring. It is the melting pot of bikers from each and every corner of the country as well as global tourists. The bullets get fitted with “Punjab Silencer” which does ever thing other than silencing the bike. Each and every bullet is modified to produce the maximum sound as if every tourer has reached there just to grab attention and satisfy their pride by announcing to the world that I am here on my(hired) bullet ridding through the passes in Leh and Ladakh ridding at maximum speed possible while producing the maximum sound. The statement was clear ”we are just ‘PASS-ing’ through no time to observe nature, got to go ‘there’ ” . But there were tourists who truly were there to enjoy the place as it was, they never tried to change the place according to their needs but changed themselves according to the place. It is because of people like these that all tourist places have not yet transformed into cities, yet.

The temperature outside was 2-4 degree C. We freshened up with hot water and I took medicine. I was about to apply ointment and Bobo came. He took the entire responsibility of taking care of my badly injured ankle. He informed that he suffered a similar injury when his ankle twisted, back in 2012 during Sikkim tour and requested my permission to take care for few minutes. With my due permission, he started massaging my ankle and I started feeling better after 2 hours.

 

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After enjoying for sometime, everyone left for dinner except me and Ankan. After an hour they came back with excellent quality butter nun and butter chicken for Ankan & myself. I was feeling lucky being in a team like this. It was feeling like being at my home where everyone was concerned about the other’s health and other issues and had a grudge to solve it immediately. We had our dinner and went to sleep.

 

It was 13th June, 2015, Saturday. We all were tired and woke up around 8 in the morning. My plan was to make the permit and leave tomorrow. I was feeling better than yesterday after medication and decided to have a look at Blade. First view on my blade gave me hints that he needs a mechanic’s supervision. As the right oil seal was broken and nearly all the shocker oil had squirting out. So, I decided to visit mechanic first. But after crossing Zoji La, everyone’s motorcycle was full of dust & mud. So, we decided to wash all our partners first and then to go to a mechanic. We were done with washing and went to a popular garage, opp. to the hospital. I was about to fix my Blade’s right shocker seal when Swarna came and we were all in for a shocked to see that his front wheel is completely locked. It’s because of caliper jammed the front disk. Mechanics were puzzled as his machine is completely new in market and they hardly have seen it, forget about fixing. It didn’t take much time fixing Blade’s problem.

 

They were trying to fix the KTM 390’s problem and Ankan & me left for permission. In our plan there was a special route which does not exists at all now a days and that requires a special permission. We went to different places looking for that exact permission we require for the route we are intend to complete. The day was not ours. After frantically searching for hours we came to know that we could only get the special permission on Monday.  Without any other available option we came back.

 

It took the whole day and our bikes were fixed by 11 pm. Every shop or food joints was closed as we left.  But the garage owner was too much helpful and he showed us a small hotel. We had rice, rajma dal, gulab jamun (sweet) and went to the hotel. Next day was Sunday and there was no other option but to stay at Leh. The tour was not going on as I like, but sometimes you have to accept things as they come your way. Anyways, we planned to roam around Leh for local sight seen and test if any of our motorcycles giving any trouble so that we could fix it as well.

 

We woke up early morning and started as we planned. Road condition in and around Leh is just fantastic. We decided to start with some non-touristic places and thus came across Model Village Saboo.

Saboovillage is situated around 8 km from Leh. In 2003, it was adopted as a model village in Leh after a visit by former President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, who said it reminded him of his native place, Rameswaram, though separated by thousands of miles at the other extreme end of our country. A model village, at least that’s what former President APJ Abdul Kalam had called it in 2003 on a visit to Saboo village, when he saw its modern facilities comparable to any city. This village was the epicenter of the devastating flood in Aug-2010 when Saboo river overflowed and as a result 14 people died with huge loss to property and livestock.

The natural untouched beauty was excellent. The more we were moving inside, everything from collapsed building to twisted shutters were describing the brute force that wiped out everything …

 

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Next plan was to visit Shey monastery. Soon we reached there but we decided to go further and visit Shey monastery while returning. Without knowing anything we somehow reached a nearby school. We saw many beautiful little children were playing around. We parked our companions and amazed to find that we are at “3 Idiot School (Bollywood movie 3 Idiot was filmed here).

 

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This school is basically an orphanage and run by Drukpa Trust of London. We were out of our home for long time and being in that place with all beautiful kids around us gave us a flashback of our families. There were multiple houses and classrooms all around us. They are named by the name of the high passes of Ladakh region like Zoji La  House, Khardung La House, Tanglang La  House, Baralacha La House etc. This school was also affected by the devastating flood which happened due to cloud burst.

 

As we were roaming inside the school, we found kids were giving tickets to visitors for their annual function. We were unfortunate that we could not celebrate with them as we will be somewhere else on the day of their function L. But what came to our mind was, does it matter if we were there or not, at least we could help them with whatever we had and we purchased tickets.

 

Being there we were like in different world all together and could feel their pain. Mistakenly I asked a little boy, “Where does he stay ?” and he pointed to “Khardung La House” … I couldn’t resist tears 🙁

 

Would request readers to keep books, chocolates, clothes etc. for the beautiful kids if you are planning to visit this school. Hope we all could at least bear that little cost along with the amount getting incurred on tour to Ladakh.

We spend enough time and it was 6 pm. We planned to leave and visit next destination and decided to visit Thikse Monastery.  This monastery is located on a hill top in Thiksey village. It is popularly noted for its resemblance to Potala Palace of Lhasa, Tibet. This is the largest gompa / monastery of Central Ladakh affiliated with the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism. This monastery is situated at an altitude of 11,800 ft in the Indus Valley. It is a twelve story complex and houses many items of Buddhist art like stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings, swords etc. Another main attraction or point of interest is 15 metres (49 ft.) statue of Maitreya which was installed to commemorate the visit of 14th Dalai Lama in 1970.

 

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It took time taking snaps of Thikse Monastery and view of Indus valley from top of it. It was almost evening and we decided to visit Shey Monastery. It is located on a hillock in Shey village. Shey was the summer capital of Ladakh earlier. This palace was built in 1655 by the king of Ladakh then, Deldan Namgyal. Most parts of the palace are now in ruins. Main attraction of this palace/monastery is its giant (39 ft.) copper with glided gold statue of a seated Shakyamuni Buddha (because Buddha was the sage (muni) of the Sakya (among the four major school of Tibetan Buddhism Myingma, Kagyu and Gelug) people in Himalayan foothills and their capital was Kapilavastu).

 

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It was an amazing feeling watching sunset at Indus valley …

 

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We enjoyed the sunset and left. All of our motorcycle passed all kind of tests and we were happy to roar next day. With utter surprise we came to know that Sindu Darshan festival is going on and we immediately hopped to the place …

 

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We were fortunate to enjoy their culture for sometime and left for hotel. Before we return to our hotel, we had our dinner at the best place, The German Bakery in market area. Must mention that while visiting Leh, one must try the different menus at this place and also the food from the restaurant Lamayuru just beside it. Both are just opposite to the famous hotel “Yak Tail”.

 

Next day was Monday, 15-Jun-2015 and I planned to make the necessary permission in the first half and leave as soon as possible. Let me inform my readers that now a day ILP (Inner line permit) is not required for all the places tourists visit often, which include nearly all the main attraction points across Ladakh. Myself with Swarna and Ankan wrapped up all the permission required by 11:30 am, because the initial documentation and our introduction was done last Friday. We were planning to leave early but things didn’t move as we wished. We got a call and came to know that Dev’s Duke started showing same problem, like Swarna’s, with which we were stuck for 2 days. So, again we couldn’t start our journey and had to wait for another day LLLLLL. We decided to have our lunch first and then figure out the solution. As usual we went to the German Bakery.

Frankly speaking we were feeling irritated with same problem happening again and again. I was thinking for some alternative rather than visiting to the local garage. We had been staying at Leh for 4 days and since we reached Leh, we were observing a middle age guy, riding on Yamaha RD 350 and sometimes on Triumph tiger. He also was aware of us by then. I went to him to had a chit chat while rest were busy in ordering food. I am never bothered about food so they carried on. During the beautiful conversation I came to know that he is the owner of hotel “Yak Tail”, nick name Bobo (same like our friend & team mate Somjeet, nickname Bobo), an automobile engineer, passionate lover & rider of 2 wheels, also had a garage where his mechanics works on his vintage & superbikes. I was delighted and excited. I shared the problem that Swarna and Dev was facing on their KTM Duke’s.  He told us to have our lunch and assured to fix it.

 

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Team was happy after I shared the story of our conversation. By that time he came inside the bakery and conveyed that his mechanics arrived. We were surprised to saw to young champs on another Triumph tiger. Immediately Dev & Swarna left with them to the workshop. I introduced our Bobo with famous Bobo from Leh and they started epic conversation on history and technology of 2 wheelers J. Meanwhile Ankan and Myself decided to test my Blade as well as it was the last day. Both the Bobo’s were done with conversation and we decided to leave. Bobo and Pratap planned to go to the garage to be with Dev and Swarna and help them if needed, while myself and Ankan planned for few kms of vrooooommmm around the city.

 

It was 7 pm and we found Dev’s and Swarna’s duke are ready to roll for the rest of the journey, the toughest part of this tour. Surprisingly we didn’t get chance to visit Leh palace so far. Team decided to go back to hotel and Ankan & myself went to visit Leh palace. It was almost about to dark and we both were delighted to see that we are riding towards “World’s Highest Motorable Road”.

 

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It was not completely dark yet but we decided to return. I was enjoying very much capturing nature on my Canon 1100D and Micromax A106 Unite 2 while Ankan was driving my Blade with full control. Finally we reached our hotel around 8:40 pm. We got freshened up and left for dinner immediately. It was drizzling by that time and we visited some local shops for checking their artifacts. We had our dinner and went back to hotel. From tomorrow we will start the journey for which we left 15 days back from home. We packed our belongings and went to sleep.

 

We woke up early around 6 am. Our target was to cross “World’s Highest Motorable Road – Khardung La” and reach Nurba valley. It was fully engulfed with cloud. We couldn’t think of wasting another day. After checking with locals we came to know Khardung La is closed due to too much snowfall last night. Without wasting a single moment, team started packing luggage while Ankan and I went to check with the Indian Army jawans nearby, if the road is approachable. After collecting data from all the local drivers and Army officer’s we came to know that vehicles are approaching, but no news if anyone reached the Khardung La top yet. We conveyed our regards and went back hotel. We discussed for sometime, packed our luggage, went to the nearby IOCL pump and left. It was very much cloudy and we got our first halt somewhere after starting. Local drivers started agitation and asking us about showing valid papers of our motorcycles.  Especially they thought I might not have the documents as I am from West Bengal but Blade’s registration is of Gurgaon, Haryana. That’s where the beauty lies and I like it so much. After discussing with them for sometime we started again and had to stop as it was raining on the next mountain which we could see …

 

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We put on our raincoats and started again. As we were very near to southpullu, we had to stop. There was a queue of 2-3 kms at least as all vehicles were stuck since morning. It was 9:30 am and the atmosphere was …

 

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No vehicles were getting permission to enter. In that condition there is no other way but to wait. We were already late for 3-4 days, in terms of our plan and could not waste a single minute in fact. We shared our achievements so far with the respective person and were allowed to ride further on the closed Road to Khardung-La to the point we think we could without taking any extra risk. We again conveyed our regards and started. 10 other guys, 6 from nearby state and 4 from Maharashtra, started with us hoping to climb till the top with us. But as we progress we found …

 

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Let me tell you all that we were not in a position at all to pull out our cams and take the snaps. So, all the following snaps are taken on mobiles, mostly mine.

Road was full of solid ice sheets along with snow pallet and glacial ice. In addition the weather was so harsh that we even couldn’t see more than 20 ft. Now we were entering a world of snow. We couldn’t believe that we have to ride for next 15 kms through this kind of road, may be worse. We were skidding like anything and I started with a fall. All of these are covered in the video which I could not share here but hopefully you will understand the difficulty going through these pictures …

 

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All other bikers, who started with us, stopped every now and then and started going back. We had a quick discussion and decided to move on. 2 other folks from Maharastra decided to follow us. So, now on in this next 15 kms stretch till the top, there will be only we RW’ians and the other 2 folks. Let’s share the rest of the journey till the top through pictures …

 

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Bobo’s dialect:

I took the lead from Swarna as the VDO cam was set on Swarna’s bike. It was very difficult to see the road but somehow we managed. The snow as it started in flakes but at some point it took the form of pallets and we could hear it knocking on the visor of our helmets, the oxygen levels dropped drastically as we could feel the bikes were less responsive. Walking 20 ft in this thin rarified environment felt like climbing a 20 storied building. I administered oxygen sprays to everyone even if not needed. Ankan was the worst hit by AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) but luckily he had that extra can of oxygen that I had forcefully strapped on to his luggage. I kept on pushing hard keeping Pratap in my rear view mirror I saw the sky above me was crystal clear but the swan did not make any sense “where was it coming from?”. Soon  just 30 meters away from the top I got stuck in ice and Pratap was not in my rear view mirror, I could move forward after some help from an army jawan who pushed me back on the road and I made it to the top.

Within minutes I was tensed and nervous to see no one on Khardungla top, no sign of my team but I found that my phone had signal on the highest motorable road in the world. I immediately called Sanjoy da back home to inform him that I was on top and there was no sign of the team and asked him to try and contact the team. Just like a Hollywood thriller the phone’s signal was fluctuating like a game of see-saw, I observed that the army trucks with chains on the tyres were going down. I was asking them frantically to look out for bikes from West Bengal and tell them the silver bike was on top, at least 10 drivers were briefed by me. By this time I was fully exhausted and felt AMS kicking in, my prior experience riding on high Himalayas kicked in, I searched for the army canteen took in atleast 3 packets of kitkat and a bottle of warm drinking water and ordered momos and went out for some news. I was so glad and relieved to see Swarna’s bike parked beside mine that the feeling could not be expressed in words as I knew Swarna was the tail and he would not leave any one behind. But then I could not find any one and later found out that Ankan was in bad shape and the army was administering oxygen. Ankan was back on his feet in 30 odd minutes and cracking jokes as usual.

There were scenarios as well where we had to relieve ourselves with the oxygen sprays Ankan, Bobo & Pratap (captured in vdo).  Almost everyone fell  2-3 times except Bobo.  Finally we reached the KhardungLa top @ 18380ft. around 1 pm. We reached another milestone JJJJJJ. There were none other than we 8 folks (who helped each other in need throughout this rigorous ride whenever needed).

Khardong La is historically important as it lies on the major caravan route from Leh to Kashgar in Central Asia. About 10,000 horses and camels used to take the route annually, and a small population of Bactrian camels can still be seen at Hunder, in the area north of the pass. During World War II there was an attempt to transfer war material to China through this route.

We were suffering from AMS and were shivering in cold as were fully drenched socks and shoes. Without wasting time further we went inside cafeteria and started having hot Maggie, momo, biscuits, coffee etc. Whoever was feeling fatigued (another symptom of AMS), went to Army’s medical camp where they tested BP, pressure, oxygen level etc. It was recommended not to spend more than 20 mins at this height as you might be under AMS which had major repercussions on health, including water retention and lungs, brain etc. But it took time for us and we finally got up when it was 3:30 pm. Tourists started pouring in since the gate opened at 3 pm from Southpullu. We planned to take some snaps …

 

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Suddenly a guy, whom I have never seen, approached me asking if he and his friends could join us. I have to say NO as we couldn’t allow outsider in our convoy and neither we could take some others life into risk. We ate a lot at the canteen, took whatever snap we could and decided to cross the top and started for Nubra with a clear blue sky. Point to be noted here is that the road ahead of us is full of avalanche zone with loose ice everywhere. The death of 23 folks I mentioned earlier happened within 5 kms from the Khardung La top towards Nubra in last 2 weeks. This time there were no vehicles which will be going towards Nubra. All of them will be back to Leh. It was 4 pm and we decided not to waste a single minute and we started …

 

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It was like driving in heaven. Everywhere snow around us and the beauty of this stretch is much enchanting than the beauty till Khardung La top from Leh. We were having trouble as we were riding downward and tyres were skidding. There was a scenario when a small avalanche started falling between Pratap and Swarna, which got recorded in vdo cam mounted on Swarna’s duke. In this stretch amount of snow was just for 3-4 kms max but all were snow dust. Finally we reached Northpullu around 5 pm.

As soon as we reached Northpullu, we observed a gun salute was going on (can’t disclose scenario). We paid our homage and started taking snaps around us. Surprisingly we found our beloved RW logo formed by cloud

 

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We had a cup of tea and decided to carry on as far as we could. We started and managed to capture the following spectacular sites around us …

 

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It was getting dark and finally we managed to reach Diskit around 8:15 pm. As usual Swarna, Bobo & Ankan managed an excellent accommodation and we were in J. We unpacked our luggage and gathered to discuss and enjoy the day’s great journey. We enjoyed a lot and went to sleep after having dinner.

 

Brief:

Diskit is the capital of NubraValley. Original name was Ldumra means the valley of flowers. The Shyok River meets the Nubra or Siachan River to form a large valley that separates the Ladakh and Karakoram Ranges. Nubra is a high altitude cold desert at 10,000 ft. The valley produces wheat, barley, peas, mustard and a variety of fruits and nuts. Majority of locals are Buddhists.

Next morning I woke up first and found Swarna awake. We decided to leave as early as possible. But let me tell you all that the major problem after you leave Leh is fuel. You have to keep enough fuel  10 ltrs of extra petrol per bike with you. The last fuel pumping stating in the rest of the journey in this region is at Diskit. All of us were with low cc machines with higher mileage and performance. So, we planned to refuel at Diskit. We kept only the necessary items with us and left. We got amazed after reaching Diskit petrol pump. Luckily it was operational after a week of gap, but fully manual. Locals kept big jars to pour fuel, probably for a week (as there is no surety when you will get fuel).

 

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We were lucky that the pump was refilled with oil last night, so the pressure was huge. Apart from Swarna & Dev’s duke, every other machine was in no need of petrol. But we needed fuel for rest of the journey and were not sure if we could get it anywhere else. We asked and the owner said we will get it next day. Swarna, Dev & Bobo poured petrol and we left. We drove for few minutes and first halt was at Hunder. Being at Hunder it was mesmerizing to see sand dunes between Hunder and Diskit at a height of more than 10,000 ft. Notable part is that as soon as you cross Diskit, you will find sand all along roadside. Hunder is also famous for Bactrian Camels / double hump camels. Their specialty is that, they can survive in very cold temperature for long time and can carry 300 – 500 lb of weight at a speed of 30 miles per hour if needed. We took few snaps …

 

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We started again for the next destination. Road condition was good except few stretches, which couldn’t be repaired due to the rough weather and tremendous air flow. We were feeling hungry and stopped at Skuru around 1 pm. There is a monastery, but was closed.

 

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We met some young, energetic IA Jawan’s being at that roadside stall. There was exchange of knowledge and hiccups of regular life in these remote areas. We bid them and started further.

 

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Reader’s please note that there are beautiful places, hanging bridges etc. which I couldn’t share with anyone. It is because these areas are very near to either Pak / China border. We drove for sometime and reached Bogdang. It looks like a disturbed village as people now onwards are originally from Baltistan, kids kept coming infront of our vehicles on the road to block which may frighten you. But it’s not like that in real scenario. These villages are so remote that these folks hardly get their daily needs and they stop tourist basically to get chocolates, dry foods etc. We drove further, crossed Chalunka (a battle-scarred zone, where some buildings blown up by Pakistani artillery shells during the Kargil war, stood abandoned) and reached Turtuk.

Turtuk is a village 205 km from Leh on the banks of Shyok River. Turtuk gram panchayat is the northern most village of India. Turtuk was under Pakistan’s Control till 1971, but later India got control of this strategic area. The two countries once again had massive conflict around this area in 1999 during Kargil War. There are few memorials built in memory of soldiers on Main Road going towards the zero point of India Pakistan Line of Control. Predominantly a Muslim village, residents speak Baltistani, Urdu and Ladakhi Language. Turtuk, is the last outpost in India from where the Pakistan- controlled Northern Areas begin.Turtuk was opened for tourists in 2009. The village offers views of Beautiful valley, part of Shyok Valley. On clear days tourists can have glimpse of K2 mountain peak located across the border in Pakistan. Though a Muslim village, there are few gompas located on the plateau above Shyok River and there is an old royal house to see in village.

 

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We decided to ride further and reached Tyakshi, the actual border between India and Pakistan. Thanks to all the Army personnel’s who have allowed us to visit the last village Tyakshi, between India and Pakistan. This remote and untouched village, lies just beside the Shyok River with Pak bunker on the other side of the river visible. K2 Mountain, World’s second highest after Mt. Everest, 28251 ft. (which is in Pakistan), visible from this border village, infact throughout the road from Turtuk to Tyakshi one can see the K2 range.

K2 is the highest point of Karakoram Range. This peak is also knownMount Godwin-AustenorChhogori (as per Balti dialect), which is Chhogo (Big) and Ri (Mountain) or The Lord of Mountains. The other peaks are named as K1, K3, K4 and K5 which were eventually named as Masherbrum, Gasherbrum IV, Gasherbrum II and Gasherbrum I.

Unfortunately I will not share any picture taken here as it will be violating govt. and Indian Army norms. However, sharing some of the beautiful shot taken enroute …

 

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We were honored and privileged to interact with the real heroes of mother Earth, who are protecting their country, no matter if they are from India or Pakistan. We interacted with IA jawans & locals for sometime and left. While returning we stopped couple of times to take snaps …

 

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While crossing Bogdang village, we were stopped by local kids. As I stated earlier they tend to stop passerby just to have snacks, chocolates etc. However, one very strange, risky and bad habit of children in this remote stretch is that, they will stretch their hands towards you. Assuming to shake if you stretch you hand, they might hit you with tree branches etc. just for fun. That was real ridiculous experience we had. Anyways we drove fast and reached Army canteen (name can’t be disclosed). We planned to have our lunch and it was 5 pm

 

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My plan was to visit Hundar and its sand dunes while returning. However, everyone was feeling tired as we were driving since morning. So, it took sometime to had the lunch and we left around 6:45 pm. It was about to dark and we reached Hunder. We saw couple of Bactrian camels returning.

 

Upon enquiring we got response “kal subhe 9 baje baat karenge” means “lets meet tomorrow morning at 9 am” .. L. Because of too many tourists people living around popular destination are too much business minded now a day and this is an example. We left and decided to return to hotel after visiting Diskit Monastery.

Diskit Gompa / Monastery is the largest & oldest gompa of Nubra valley, Ladakh. It was founded in 14th century and is a sub-gompa of the Thikse gompa of Leh. It has got an impressive 32 metre statue of Maitreya (Buddha).

However, it got too dark by that time and we hardly were able to capture snaps …

 

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We left and reached our hotel rooms. Today there was no luggage to unpack and so we got into room as soon as we reached. We had our dinner, started copying entire day’s collection of snaps and vdo’s. We enjoyed watching the day’s journey and went to sleep with next day’s plan.

 

It was 18th June and we woke up early. As per yesterday’s discussion we headed towards the petrol pump for petrol. But our utter bad luck, it was closed. There was no one around with whom we could check if we can get fuel anywhere. We frantically searched, but no one came with any solution. We kept faith on the manager of the fuel station, but it went in vain. We have fuel but not that sufficient to cover the distinct route we had in our plan. We gathered again and planned to ride till Khalsar with a hope if we can get any help. We reached Khalsar and decided to have our lunch, at the same time checking if we could get petrol, may be at higher price.

But there were no solution. We planned everything based on the map available online, but practically kms are much more than mentioned on the map. We understood that there is nothing we could do, apart from completing the rest of the route. We decided that we will be heading towards Pangong Tso. But this time not through the popular route via Khardungla. Rather via Agham – Shyok, which used to exist once, but doesn’t now at all. As per as we have heard, river Shyok has destroyed the route as it criss-crossed the Shyok river at several places.

We started and soon entered that route. Oh my god … it started with a sharp fall towards the river. As soon as we entered it was pretty much clear to us that we will hardly find anyone to help us in this route if needed. The road was narrow and 75% covered with landslides L. It was rough and had on the narrow steep falls.  I was feeling like I am heading directly towards Shyok and then a sudden turn takes me away. Riding like this we entered the dried river bed after 30 mins ..

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It was feeling like driving through an unknown era. The plants all dried up and became yellow except those which are near Shyok river. There were signs of asphalt which will remind you that once it used to exist. So far this route is not too much touched by tourists, so the natural beauty still remains and is in enchanting shape.

We didn’t have much time for taking snaps. So, we drove continuously and come to the best point. Now onwards there will be no road and its time to off-road J. As per the information we had, I knew that we would hardly get any sign of asphalt road going forward. Further journey will be through gravels, boulders, stone, sand etc. So, lets share through pictures only …

 

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t was really picturesque as it is hardly touched by anyone, due to nonexistence of road. We were crossing mountains with different colors. As I said, due to presence of minerals like magnesium, sulpher, coper, aluminum etc. colors of mountains are different. Ankan’s Soti was not performing up to the mark due to clutch & carburetor issues. So, the journey was mostly dependent on Soti’s performance on this day long off-road journey. But Ankan is an experienced fellow who has crossed many high altitudes passes so far, so was managing quite nicely. It was a day long journey without even a place where we could get at least a cup of tea. We took halt whenever we needed to attend the nature’s call or feeling thirsty and rode again.

Some interesting yet adventurous moments were those when we found skeleton of animals (seems of cow or buffalo) along with blood stains, inside roadside caves, which depicts that there are big cats who roam around the river bed for  food and water. Seeing those all of us got nervous and rather than capturing it, we thought of continuing our journey at a steady pace.

This kind of adventure continued for the day long journey and we finally came to a place called Durbuk. To me it was like going through a war zone like what we saw in Project IGI (computer game). Now we had an asphalt road and in very good condition. After a rigorous day long off-roading it was a real pleasure for us. We were in need of fuel and finally we came to a village called Tangste. Enquiring local we came to know that we could get fuel from a local grocery shop and we immediately headed towards that. What happened next ? go through these …

 

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Tangtse is a Village in Durbuk Tehsil in Leh Ladakh District of Jammu & Kashmir State, India.

First time we have observed any local grocery shop can have such a huge quantity of fuel preserved for vehicles in need. Though it was Rs. 30/- more costly than normal priced @ 106.75/- per lt. but we were happy that our companions now had a full stomach. It was almost 8 pm and about to be dark. So, we all decided to take a rest there for that day. AS usual Swarna & Ankan went and arranged for a great accommodation.

Surprisingly we all found Swarna & Pratap took responsibility of cooking dinner for that night J and we have rice, dal & boiled potato.

After a long time we got network and everyone was a busy talking with family & friends. But as this village a remote one, so there is always a scarcity of electricity. I tried taking snaps of beautifully lit up snow clad mountain top on moonlight. View was excellent but we decided to go to sleep as we have to ride early next morning.

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It was 19-June, Friday and we have a clear sky. Complete luggage was unpacked and we had to pack it back again. Its always a tedious job but we have to do it. We started packing our entire luggage on our buddies. It took time and we had our breakfast. It was 10 am and we all were ready. We decided to leave for next destination the Pangong Lake.

The journey from Tangste to Pangong is 35 kms approx. and it was fantastic through changthang valley with mixture of asphalt – sandy – stony road. After driving few kms finally we got the first glimpse of Pangong Tso ..

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Brief:

Pangong Tso (Tibetan: spang gong mtsho) means “long, narrow, enchanted lake”. This lake is basically endorheic basin, means a closed waterbody with no outflow to other external bodies like rivers or oceans.  This lake is at an height of 14270 ft. and 134 kms long. This lake extends from India to Tibet. 60% of this lake is in Tibet and its max. width is 5 kms at its broadest point. During winter this lake completely freezes, despite being saline water. It is said that during the making of The Great Himalaya, saline water from sea got trapped  in this region. Thus the lake contains saline water which is rare to find at this altitude. The actual Sino-Indian Line of Control passes through the lake.

We decided to drove further and reach near the lake. It was an enchanting view of seeing the clear blue water of the lake and riding by the banks. However, we decided to book our accommodation first. We got well-furnished tents just beside the beautiful lake. We took rest and enjoyed taking snaps. We discussed and decided to reach our next target the next day. We had our lunch and left for Marsemik La.

Pronounced as Marsimik La or Marsimek La is at 18,634 ft is a high mountain pass. Initial journey was fantastic through wild changthang valley

 

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However, we had to stop at Phobrang check post. We had a long discussion with ITBP personnel. It was heartbreaking moment for us as they were not allowing us to ride further. They told that due to some conflict at border they stopped visitors from visiting the pass since 2013 LL. We couldn’t accept that we have to return to the base after 15 days of rigorous journey.

Out of option we had to return. It was 2 pm and we had ample time. So, we decided to enjoy the day by the side of the great lake ..

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Finally we decided to come back to our tents and enjoy the rest of the evening …

It was the most boring day really as we were in motion for so many days and sad as well as we were stopped unnecessarily from entering Marsemik La. We roam around and enjoyed the evening gossiping and planning for next part of the journey.

 

 

 

 

Part VII

Coming Soon