Table of contents for Ladakh Calling
(22nd June 2010 to 7th July 2010)
Ladakh - ”The Roof of the World” does not need any formal introduction to a bullet rider. We all know Ladakh for its, seamless beauty, age old monasteries, virtually hanging from cliffs, high altitude passes & harsh weather conditions. It’s a land of extremes full of surprises. One can experience from a burning sun to freezing temperatures, from coldest deserts to beautiful salt lakes and from NO roads to world’s highest motorable roads.
This was the destination I chose for the biggest & the most challenging ride of my life. As rightly said by someone “A rider never comes back from a ride” he just has to close his eyes & he is there just like that.
I am sharing this travelogue as introspection to my own thoughts & feelings.
Veeru Paahji (Anandarup Nandi) also known as Matadorv1 on Ghumakkar & I standout from any lot of bikers around, in the way, for us it is not always about setting new riding records or achieving the biggest at the earliest rather we wait… hold our nerves… prepare ourselves & earn our rides with all the patience & respect. This makes us feel proud & gives us a high sense of achievement above others.
It was almost four years back when we both thought of doing this ride together. After 4 years of riding… 4 years of detailed planning… & after a long 4 years of endurance It was July 2009 when I told paahji that we should do this ride next year which Paahji immediately agreed without any doubt or any discussion. The feeling which we had was like “No matter what”. In a few days time I got my leaves approved in advance.
Paahji was always confident that he will be able to manage leaves from his office. But, HE was thinking on some different lines & had an altogether different plan for us, which we never thought of. Paahji was forced to stay back, for no other reason but, due to lack of leaves in his account, as he had already taken 12 days leave just two months ago for his brother’s (Deep) wedding. This was heart breaking for both of us. We never thought of doing this ride without each other but things were moving in different directions. I was in dilemma whether to cancel this trip this year & do it next year along with Paahji or just go ahead as per plan as the future is uncertain.
With all those unpleasant feelings within & with fighting thoughts in my mind I finally decided, with a heavy heart, to go ahead and take this challenge with two not so seasoned co-riders. Suryodaya Dubey (Surya) my office colleague & a good friend and Deepak Rawat (Deepak) my brother-in-law, a truly party loving guy. Both were equally frustrated from their office work & bosses.
This ride did not come to us so easily. We planned to kick start our journey from Delhi on 22nd May 2010 but got blessed with Western disturbance all over North India due to which all high passes en-route Manali – Leh highway received fresh snowfall. This put a dent of exactly one month delay in our programme. This was unusual in the history of Manali- Leh highway. Patience got tested, blogs, websites were mine & chased for information & updates & the fire finally erupted. We started on 22nd June 2010.
Before I take you to this virtual journey let me first give you a brief introduction of both the riders. Surya – energetic, enthusiastic, a bit comfort loving guy, blessed with great sense of humor and creator of veg./non-veg. punches. We named him as BAADSHAH AKBAR for his power naps AB NA HO PAAYEGA attitude. Deepak –named by Surya as RAMBO RAWAT (You will come to know the details later behind this name) a casual, happy-go-lucky, blue eyed boy, always smiling in all kind of situations, so whether it’s a flat tyre in the middle of the coldest desert or sleeping next to roaring Surya…ha…ha…ha.
Day 1 (22nd June 2010) – Delhi – Chandigarh – Swarghat – Bilaspur (450Kms)
We started our journey from Faridabad (my home) at 06:30Hrs which was a late start by one & half hour as per our scheduled time. My bike was fully loaded with all the required stuff (tent, Sleeping bag, mat, cameras, petrol Jerri can, tool kit & a bag full of warm clothes) with a Ladakh carrier. The other two bikes were consciously kept light due to lack of experience with heavy luggage behind. We soon crossed Delhi. Deepak & I were at a decent speed of 80kph on straight roads but Surya was not confident to match that speed, as he was not a regular bullet rider, but was easily sailing @ 60 Kmph which gave us a chance to pull his leg “Dubeyji on a solo ride to ladakh”. By 10:30 Hrs we reached Zhilmil dhaba, our favorite breakfast point @ Karnal. We were confident to achieve our day’s target by 16:30 or 17:00 Hrs. Just to remind you we were riding in month of June with temperature soaring up to 48 degree. It was 12:30 Hrs when we touched Shahbad. Due to strong hot waves around our energy got drained out & I, particularly, started feeling sleepy on the saddle. We took a break near a road side shed at Shahbad & had 4-5 glasses of “Banta lemon”. We spent around 2 hours in that life saving shed & see our “BADSHAH AKBAR” in his power nap.
We started from Shahbad @ around 14:30 Hrs & reached Chandigarh soon without any further break. It was 4:00 in the afternoon & we passed through lot of “Thekas” (Liquor Shops) on the Chandigarh bypass road. Finally, we succumbed to the temptation & stopped at a decent place. Deepak & I happily ordered chilled Beer while Surya, a bit apprehensive for beer-n-ride, was having fun with his chilled Limca. We dozed ourselves quickly & without wasting much time we soon crossed Ropar, Kiratpur Sahib & reached Swarghat. On the way we negotiated well with the heavy traffic spilling out diesel fumes & with all the dust & pollution on our bodies we reached Bilaspur @ 18:30 Hrs. The sun was about to set & we took a small room in the Hotel “LakeView” at Bilaspur. It was time to cheers for successfully completing the 1st day of our ride. Without wasting much time we took out our B.P bumper & sat in the balcony with the lake view. We had good round of discussion & comments on the riding styles & also planned for our next day’s target – Manali.
Day 2 (23rd June 2010) – Bilaspur – Sundarnagar – Mandi – Kullu – Manali (190Kms)
It was drizzling in the morning & we were keeping our fingers crossed for those high passes on our way. We got up early, dressed ourselves & without having any morning tea or breakfast, which was a regular routine for all of us, we started journey @ 07:00 Hrs.
On our way crossed Bilaspur city & NTPC Koldam site on river Sutlej. By 08:30 Hrs we were dying from hunger & we finally took a halt near a road side dhaba “Evergreen Hotel” for breakfast. We had the best of the possible breakfast available on this route “Gobhi/Aaloo Parantha + lot of Butter with hot tea”. We tanked up our stomachs & thanked the owner for making such tasty fresh “Paranthas” & promised him to come back on our return journey. On the way we crossed some recognized towns like Sundar Nagar, Mandi. With some short breaks we soon touched Kullu at 12:30 Hrs. As I was leading I decided to take both, Surya & Deepak, to our (Paahjis & mine) favorite Beer point on Kullu bypass road. We all had 03 rounds of Strong Beer & spent around 02 Hrs under a wall shade. See our photograph below.
Soon Beer took charge over us but we pushed ourselves a little & we were back on the road, which is not at all advisable. After riding for 2-3 kms I finally decided to STOP near riverside at Kullu itself to which Surya & Deepak agreed without being too heroic. We spent about an hour near riverside to get back to normal before we proceed further with our day’s destination – “Manali”.
On the way to Manali heat & dehydration (after 3 beers) started killing us from within. We filled our stomachs with a few glasses of “Banta Lemon” near “Bhakhra Beas Dam” which gave us some relief from the scorching heat. By 16:30 Hrs we reached the over crowded market of Manali & struggled with the crawling traffic due to tourist rush. After a lot of efforts we finally got through & took a large single room at “Kanchani Koot” hotel on Manali – Rohtang road which had all the basic facilities with the sufficient parking space for our bulls, which impressed us the most.
Just to remember you, we skipped our lunch for the day. We just had “paranthas” in the morning which Surya named as “Zehreelay Paranthay”.
By evening we were all exhausted to explore the local market. We ordered proper food at 17:00 Hrs, which was an odd time for the hotel staff & for cooks too but, they happily arranged what all we ordered. This is one of the reasons why I always prefer to ride in Northern part of India. You get good fresh food, reasonably comfortable stay & very helpful, supportive, and friendly people without costing any extra penny. We freshen up & had fresh warm food along with 2-2 pegs of B.P (Blender’s Pride). Soon our energies got restored in our bodies & we went out to buy some left out stuff from the local market of Manali. Surya’s comment on seeing newly wed couple “firing kay saath bhi… firing Kay baad bhi”
While I was standing in the long queue at the only working ATM in the market both (Surya & Deepak) escaped to see some of the local market. We finally relaxed leisurely in fountain park in the main market. The day ended with lot of unrefined jokes & with a relaxed evening at the Manali market.