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Ladakh:A Soul Journey

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by dario1, Jul 17, 2007.

  1. dario1

    dario1 Been here awhile

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    Hi Adv folks,

    i would like to share my August 2006 trip through the marvelous territory of Ladakh, Indian Himalayas with all you Adv-folks .
    It has been the second indian journey i did in an eight month period, as i visited Rajasthan in December 06 .
    This first journey had such a big impact on myself, i couldn't wait to come back .
    If i had to describe what'so special about this country, i wouldn't mention the complex and rich history, or the magnificent architecture of the Hindu and Jain temples, or the scents of a spice market, altough all indications of
    great national identity, what is truly outstanding is the People.
    I found myself just watching everyday life passing by through the streets or in the markets, sometimes with ease , some other with great difficulties, but after all with a great will to go on nevertheless.
    Now back to the trip.
    With these thoughts on my mind, while i was playing with the destination of my summer motorcycle trip, i discovered Ladakh could be easily toured by
    motorcycle during the planned season.
    Being one of my most desired destinations from years, once i found out the opportunity to ride across the Himalayas in a fascinating Royal Enfield, i couldn't wait to be there .
    The trip has been organized the following way:
    arrival in Delhi, train to Chandigarh, car from Chandigarh to Manali ,
    pick up of the 500cc Royal Enfield in Manali, Manali - Leh highway, Nubra valley and Pangong Tso restricted areas en route .
    I have been riding by myself with my girlfriend as pilion and expert photographer .
    We had a support vehicle carrying on the luggage,gas , tents and sleeping bags.
    Honestly this may not be considered as true Adv-riding, given my limited experience and amount of time maybe it was the right choice at that time.
    Would i have the possibility of a second ride in the area, i will surely do it by myself, and i recommend to do so, as the Enfields have proven be reliable bikes even at greater altitudes, plus able to carry a lot of stuff,
    and the route is always clearly marked with no possibility to get lost,
    as it is ridden by many bikers during the summer season.
    Approaching departure time. International and local news providers claimed the Manali-Leh highway to be closed due to flooding, and reported Leh to be reachable only by aircraft .
    I obviously decided to take a look at the situation by myself, took my helmet and jumped to the aircraft which smoothly landed to Delhi .
    I always love the weird look people give me when taking my seat on a full aircraft with my helmet on.Sometimes i wear it, "it's for safety"i use to say:D .
    Delhi welcomes me with its amount of hot and humidity,but in the monsoon season it is the norm .
    Since my arrival date has been at the same time as the national celebration,every public area was fully packed with army forces.
    Tension in the air, but luckily nothing happened .
    After leaving Delhi, we approached Chandigarh in a few hours.
    This is the first approach with the Indian roads:

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    just to remind you that horn is essential on these roads, as i would learn later on.
    After leaving Chandigarh, we experienced the most tiring part of the trip:
    a 10 hour car ride to Manali, leaving the vast indian plains to climb the first mountain ranges of Himachal Pradesh.
    This was my face afterwards:
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    never had that look even after the hardest riding day:huh
    Manali welcomes us with a soft rain.
    It is a very small but characteristic town, made famous during the 60's and 70's by the Beatles and the hippy generation . Even nowadays it is crowded by western hippyes wandering down the streets with Enfields.
    After an acclimatation day, i made knowledge with my mew companion:
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    first approach is rather intimidating: the bike looks like it's going to break-up in pieces, almost no front brake and reverse shifter don't mix as a friendly package, but only for the first day, i must admit.
    So i begin takin a look to Manali area:
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    Manali:
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    After spending a couple days visiting the area, it was time to face the road .
    We met in the early morning with our pick up friends:
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    Everything ready , so up to Rothang pass:clap
    Rothang is the first mountain pass you meet in the Manali - Leh highway,it
    runs up to more than mt. 4.000 and it may be quite challenging, as the Himachal Pradesh area is usually under monsoon rain which tends to make the road stretch covered with mud and ice.
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    Ice blocks:
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    Approaching Rothang Top:
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    Prayer flags on Rothang Top:
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    #1
  2. Bimble

    Bimble In giro in moto

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    Awesome! Keep it coming!

    :lurk
    #2
  3. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

    Joined:
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    67,903
    It's a gorgeous place to ride!! Thanks for the pics.. this reminds me DVD that is available about riding in this area. :thumb
    #3
  4. dario1

    dario1 Been here awhile

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    The view of the road towards Keylong
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    Snow melting down from the glaciers along the way[​IMG]

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    Women working alongside of the road
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    After one night spent on the roadside village of Keylong, where i had my first headaches due to the high altitude, we went forward through the route .
    During this day we began to climb to higher altitudes, facing the first 5.000 pass, Baralacha-La .

    Delicious food

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    Traffic Jam
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    Glacier lake before Baralacha-La
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    Baralacha-la Top
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    At these altitudes breath becomes really short.I tried a little walking around but i felt my head really light .
    Essential is to keep drinking a lot of water .
    After some minutes spent talking with the army guys directed to military
    installations towards the Indo/Pakistan borders, we began our way down the pass, where we met several glacier streams to be crossed and a partly
    flooded downhill road stretch .
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    The combination of the cruiser handlebar and seating position did not allow to stand on the pegs during strema crossing
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    Ladakh: an instant classic

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    #4
  5. dario1

    dario1 Been here awhile

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    A cold one near Sarchu
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    After descending the Rothang top, the climate and the weather change dramatically .
    Where in Himachal Pradesh you have regular monsoon rains creating a very humid climate, once you past the Rothang top the rains tend to stop because of the high altitude, and the green and lushious scenery found in the first part of the trip gives the way to a rocky, mineral-coloured high mountain landscape.

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    Washed out road
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    Coloured mountains in Sarchu plains

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    Base camp in Sarchu. In this section the base of the road never goes under about 12.000ft.

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    The following day we begin to ride alongside the river.

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    #5
  6. MrBob

    MrBob Distant Supporter

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    The photos are absolutely spectacular. Thanks very much for sharing. I assume you had a rented bike. Was it expensive?
    #6
  7. dario1

    dario1 Been here awhile

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    Bandito,

    renting an Enfield in India is absolutely not expensive :evil
    Many people find it more convenient to buy the bike and sell it
    at the end of the trip.
    I would suggest the latter solution only in case you have plenty of time available.
    Sure you can find used Enfields at cheap prices in most major cities.
    Other solutions can be taking part in an organized group ride, there are a lot of Indian companies doing that during summer months.
    Basically it's up to personal taste of travel organization,i would encourage anybody with a minimal experience to ride solo.
    I wish you to have a ride there as soon as possible. Maybe i will come back there next year..
    Later on with more pictures...:rofl
    #7
  8. doyle

    doyle RallyRaidReview-ing

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    Wow.
    #8
  9. dario1

    dario1 Been here awhile

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    The road goes on through majestic, lunar landscapes climbing up to other two mountain passes, Lachalung-la and Nakee-la .
    One curiuos thing about the Manali-Leh highway is that you are very likely to meet the same people in different times along the road .
    In this major communication road there are very few chances to take alternative routes, therefore everyone directed to Leh is taking the same directions, and at every stop you see the same persons.
    Every mountain pass summit and every food stop are a good occasion to talk with fellas sharing riding experiences.
    I met a very nice group from Israel. I learned that after the military service they usually take some traveling period , in fact they were touring Ladakh and Nepal during the summer season and retreating to southern India during the winter.
    Weather turned out to be really hot and dry .It was very difficult to wear all the riding gear:D .
    The traffic on the road is mainly formed by military and civil trucks .
    As you know, Ladakh is located in a really sensitive area at the borders of China, Pakistan and the region of Jammu-Kashmir, therefore military installations are throughout the Leh valley and the border areas .
    Furthermore, most necessity goods must be shipped by truck from the Indian plains.
    Given the fact that the road is usually narrow and full of blind curves, a powerful horn is vital .
    Unfortunately, my horn seemed to have a mind of its own which sometimes liked to work and sometimes to rest .
    In the latter , i have missed potentially harmful impacts only by fortune.

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    Refreshing waters

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    Can i enter?

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    #9
  10. Vicks

    Vicks gets stuck in sand

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    Dario1,

    heartfelt thanks from an indian, sitting in the middle of the arabian desert, 7Hrs away from home .....

    i could almost smell the lush green grass from the valleys in your pics ... thats my home .. thats where my soul resides ...

    thanks again for taking me there :clap :clap
    #10
  11. gothamAlp

    gothamAlp happy to be here

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    dang, you are one lucky dawg. that's the top o' the world right there, amigo.

    great pics. keep 'em coming! :thumb

    also, if you don't know it already, dario, there's a great book about visiting this area back in the 70s (if i remember correctly) by andrew harvey, called 'a journey in ladakh.'
    #11
  12. gothamAlp

    gothamAlp happy to be here

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    mi dispiace, dario, i meant 'amico.' :D
    #12
  13. dario1

    dario1 Been here awhile

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    Vicky,

    if my pictures could even come close to the real beauty of Himachal valleys....
    it's easy to understand your soul resides in these places, as they captured mine as well....:clap
    #13
  14. dario1

    dario1 Been here awhile

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    Gotham,

    you're absolutely right. It is in my opinion one of the most beautiful places on earth.
    Andrew Harvey? Thank you for the info, i will definitely check for it .
    And YES, reg. the top of the world, later on with updated pics....:thumb
    #14
  15. Air0ne

    Air0ne Adventure reader

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    WWWooooooooo... :eek1

    Fantastic pics... Please, give us more... :lurk
    #15
  16. dario1

    dario1 Been here awhile

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    After taking a sandy track detour, we finally get to Tso-Kar, where we pitch our tent .
    Tso-kar is a lake located at approximately 14.000ft. .
    Nothing is in the area except for a camping site.
    The night turns out to be rather cold at these altitudes even in mid August,
    but this doesn't stop me to keep staring at the stars, which seems to be hand reachable.
    Sleeping at this altitude can be difficult. Fortunately we didn't have much trouble as our bodies started to get used to the thin air .
    Food is always very good in Ladakh. A good tip is to stop where truck drivers are taking lunch, usually good food is served there.
    Ladakhi cuisine is very different from the most famous Moghul/Rajasthani .
    It is primarily based on eggs, lentils, basmati rice , nan and chapati, with kinda Tibetan influences up north in Leh valley, but the taste is rather smooth and mild, very few spices are used in the mix .
    Really healthy indeed .

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    Tso-kar

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    After one night spent at the camp, we reprise the main road.
    Climate is always dry and hot, road in in good conditions, except from the last miles before pass summits, where the rigours of the winters reflect in
    the damaged tarmac.
    Most of the times tarmac transforms into a proper dirt road, with bumps and rocky sections, and the Enfiled seems to handle everything she founds its way as nobody's business.
    Of course it's no dirt bike or anything, but i would say it is proper for the kind of trip .
    When you riding these areas i don't think you would care to race that much.
    Next stop , TangLang-La, 2nd highest pass of the world:clap

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    Prayer flags are always present on pass summits.
    Every colour represents a different mantra(prayer)and it is message it's spread throughout by the wind .

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    Since on TagLang-la top it is not recommended to stop for much time, we go our way ahead .
    Now we enter a red-green rocky valley, nothing short of spectacular .
    Only a few miles are separating us from Leh valley .
    The first chorten announce us we have entered Ladakh .

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    #16
  17. Ridemuch

    Ridemuch Ciao

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    Dario, thanks for bring back the memories. I traveled India in '97.
    Great pictures :thumb
    #17
  18. praveenkm

    praveenkm Speed Demon

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    Great ride dario:clap Me still seeing ladakh through ride reports though its close to home:cry may be not this year but someday someday....:1drink
    #18
  19. Air0ne

    Air0ne Adventure reader

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    Again... awesome pics... :lurk:lurk:lurk
    #19
  20. Chanderjeet

    Chanderjeet IndiYeah !!

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    Amazing Amazing Amazing,

    Comgrats on your ride to ladakh. One of my friends came back from a amry motorcycle expedition from Dehradon to Ladakh. They also visited the highest military post in the world, the siachen glacier. And from his words and yours all i can understand is "you aint a biker if you havent been to leh-ladakh"

    I can only but agree with the enthusiasm you share for ladakh. Im planning to visit there myself this august/september.

    Hope the weather remains fine.
    #20