Road trip to Leh Ladakh is a dream of every biker. Last year this long cherished dream trip of mine came true when I went to Ladakh by road from Delhi. We were 3 persons. We left Delhi late in the night (02:00 AM in the wee hours) and our first stop was Mandi as it started raining heavily after we reached Chandigarh. From there our next stop was Vasisht in Manali.
After we had tea and breakfast in Marhi we rode towards Rohtang La. It took us 4 hours to cross Rohtang because of traffic jam but we did manage it. That was my first encounter with mighty mountain passes which one crosses during Ladakh road trip. The road was quite treacherous and more than 3-4 bikes broke down while crossing Rahtang La.
After crossing Khoksar and then refilling our bikes at the last petrol pump in Tandi we headed to Keylong. It is the last petrol pump before you encounter the next one in Karu which is located 365 kms away on Leh-Manali highway
The scenery changed dramatically after we crossed Keylong and the ride till Jispa was one of the most breathtaking I ever took till that point of time. From there it only got more sublime. The ride with mountain on one side and river flowing on the other and sight of sweeping valleys was simply amazing. Just after our lunch in Darcha we headed to Baralacha La.
Crossing Baralacha La was a tough experience, adventurous, scary but unforgettable due to the sheer thriss. It was late in the afternoon and there was a water stream with very fast current. One of my friends vehicle got stuch in the water and we had to jump into the freezing cold water. Our shoes and socks got wet and we had to make our halt after crossing the pass on high altitude as reaching sarchu in the condition that we were in was out of question.
My advice is not to cross Baralacha La if it’s late in the afternoon and you should return to Jispa or a stay in Keylong would also be preferred. All things said and done, crossing Baralacha La was thrilling experience and I loved it completely.
We couldn’t sleep in the night and our head was feeling as if it would explode. That was some lesson in acclimatization
From there it was comparatively moderate to easy ride. Riding on the Gata Loops was one of the highlights Leh-Manali highway. There are 22 loops in total offering stunning view of barren landscape and azure sky. You should make a halt and click some pick and even if you have your eyes closed and you just randomly point and shoot with your camera, the view would be magnificent. Then came 2 more passes: Nakee La and Lachulung La before we arrived in Pang.
We had lunch in Pang and then it was a mind blowing ride through Morey Plains. Conquering Taglang La, the second highest motorable pass in Ladakh was also quite an experience. The oxygen level at this high altitude (5328 meters to be precise) is quite low and don’t be alarmed if you feel your head spinning at the top of this pass.
After crossing Taglang La, journey to Leh Ladakh by road is quite easy. Rumtse is the first human settlement that you come across after crossing Taglang La. It’s a tiny little hamlet with scenic views of the mountain and green patches. Excitement surges as you cross this rustic settlement and you could feel very very close to Leh which will serve as the base camp for traveling Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso. Rumtse is also the starting point of trek to Tso Moriri and Khibber in Spiti.
As the sun settled down the Greater Himalaya, we rode through stunning sunset view with amazing sights of River Indus. The feeling was sublime to have finally arrived in Leh. A dream just came true. I was finally in Leh riding my Royal Enfield 350 all the way from Delhi.
Leh town is a small oasis and also the administrative center of Ladakh region. The population of Ladakh is mostly Buddhist and Muslim. One of the interesting thing about restaurants in Ladakh is most of them are German Bakery. I wonder why all of them proclaim to be German Bakery. BTW, breakfast in Gesmo German Bakery in the town was sumptuous. If you’d notice, the menu which you will be handed contains some hilarious spelling mistakes.
The next destination on our trip planner was conquering Khardung La, world’s highest motorable pass. We left early morning towards this mighty mountain pass. The sky was overcast, a rare sight in this region but we went ahead with our plans. The road towads the pass is in good shape with some rough patches here and there. At few places it does get dangerous but overall it’s quite manageable.
Khadung La was an important pass on the caravan trade route connecting Leh to Kashgar in Central Asia. This pass also connects Leh to Nubra and Shyok Valley. Reaching the top is an enthralling experience. The feeling that one gets is magical…almost undescribable. Riding to the Khardung La Top located at an elevation of 5602 meters or 18, 379 feet is quite an achievement.
There is an army canteen on the top of the pass serving tea and snacks. Refreshment room and a souvenir shop (all of which claim to be the highest in the world) are available atop Khardung La pass. Return journey from the pass offers stunning view of majestic peaks of Karakoram Range.
Our next destination was Pangong Tso a stunning high altitude lake in Ladakh region. This lake is partly in India and more than 60% of the lake is in China. Driving towards Pangong, we had to cross Chang La which is one of the most scenic high altitude mountain passes in Ladakh region. Sight of Pangong as you ride across barren beauty of Ladakh is nothing short of stunning. Pangong Lake surrounded by semi-arid cold mountain deserts is a sight to behold.
There are several tented accommodations as well as homestays available in in and around Pangong. We stayed in a Homestay at Spangmik. Homestays are cheap but comfortable option for nightstay. Our Homestay was surprisingly warm and so were the tents we stayed along the way. To fully enjoy the beauty of Pangong Lake and to soak in the sight, I’d personally recommend staying back for a night.
Ladakh Trip should not be rushed and the beauty of the place, surroundings and peaks of Greater Himalaya should be savored. Then, you need to stop enroute to click photos too which are vital for travelers. They also serve as reminders of the unforgettable Ladakh road trip. We bid adieu to Leh and took the Srinagar Highway route.
First major sight was the confluence of Indus and Zanskar at Nimoo where we also had our Brunch. We also stopped over at Magnetic Hill and tried what was written on the sign board but honestly I didn’t observe any magnetic property. We arrived Lamayuru late in the afternoon so couldn’t spend much time exploring the place. We had planned for stay in Kargil for the night but later rued the decision as it would have been cheaper and better to stay before Kargil as the town don’t have much to offer from travel point of view.
Next highlight of our tour was war memorial at Drass erected to honor martyrs of Kargil War. One of the strategic peaks (Point 5140) near Tololing range has been named after Captain Vikram Batra. We were quite lucky as the parade rehearsal were at fulkl swing to celebrate Kargil Vijay Diwas.
From here we crossed one more pass before arriving in what was a dramatic scenery change as the semi-arid mountains gave way to lush valleys of Kashmir. The weather changed as we neared Gulmarg and from there till we reached Srinagar it kept on raining cats and dogs.
The ride from Srinagar to Delhi via Pathankot, Jalandhar was monotonous except for the thrilling ride near Patnitop. We arrived Delhi at 03:00 hrs in the morning and a dream ride was thus concluded.
The benefits of bike riding for trip to Ladakh are many. It lets you soak in the surrounding, be in communion with nature and scenery. You feel the breeze on your face; you kind of meditate when you take road trip to Ladakh on a motorcycle. It’s as classical as traveling could get.