Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh…Riding Back Home…

Day 13 to Day 16: July 5-8, 2012; Debring – Keylong – Manali – Chandigarh – New Delhi:

This was the last leg of the ride. A ride that took us to the farthest off places. The places, where life appeared so different, surroundings appeared so serene, away from the chaos of the urban world, no phones, no emails, no meetings…we only answered the call of the mountains…

Since the route was more or less that same for a large part of this journey, I am skipping the daily details and writing the last part of the travelogue in one go.

RRG’s Helmet

All through the route from Debring to Keylong, the weather was pretty cold. Morey Plains, Pang, Sarchu, Lachulung La, Nakee La and the Gata Loops were all familiar now – there weren’t any surprises in the store en route, barring the fact that weather was dramatically icier this time. I kept craving for a hot cup of tea – such was the chill in the weather. With clouds over our heads, and rain looming, we rode almost non-stop and arrived at Bharatpur, which was our stopover for lunch.

Clouds Looming

Yet again, our break at Bharatpur was a long and tiring one – 4hours this time; some riders and the support vans were lagging behind. Once fed and rested, we all felt drowsy and lethargic! Rainy clouds were intimidating over our heads, and it didn’t help our morale that many of us had packed our rain-gear inside the main luggage! Dreading the impending showers, everyone passed this time really impatiently. However, we left only after everyone of us arrived and was accounted for.

Crossing Bara-lacha La, Darcha and Jispa, we reached Keylong by 7pm.

Next morning, much time wasted by at the petrol pump at Tandi – remember the legendary petrol pump I wrote about earlier – first after 325kms from Karu! Luckily, Sun God shone upon us with all its might, boosting our energies and the riders appeared all geared up for our ride to Manali.

On way to Rohtang Pass

After a largely uneventful ride for 45kms, we arrived at Koksar, which is the police check-post. This is the point from where a route goes towards Rohtang Pass and Manali and another one towards Kaza – the route we came from. Our wait was longer than expected here – men at the Police post appeared hell-bent on creating bureaucratic hurdles, something that we hadn’t face although our earlier journey. Moreover, the traffic appeared more chaotic than earlier – we learnt that there was huge jam all through the mighty Rohtang La!

Well, jammed it were. And it didn’t help that there was slush all over the highway. I had this fear looming inside me about riding in slush. And the bustling traffic didn’t help my apprehensions.

Atop Rohtang

Atop Rohtang

Atop Rohtang

I am sparing the readers with details on what I saw at and around Rohtang – surprisingly, I didn’t find this Pass any tougher than Bara-lacha la. If it were not for slush and traffic, it would’ve been a smooth sail. However, I must say, riding amidst the clouds atop the Pass was some experience I would never forget…

After Rohtang, it appeared as if it were grand picnic spot all over! As if entire Punjab and Himachal gathered there! Eateries were aplenty on this stretch and so were the arrogant, abusive drivers! Honk, abuse, honk, abuse! Welcome to the neo-plains crowd!

Boys at Marhi

Boys at Marhi

Negotiating this heavy traffic jam, we riders descended Rohtang and arrived at Marhi, a small village en route. This was an extremely crowded place, with hordes of eateries and car parks. I was amongst the first few to arrive in here. This place turned out to be good fun! Our ‘boys moment’ was back! See for yourself.

Drive from here to Manali was easy – good roads and moderate traffic took us to Manali in next one hour.

Manali, a fabulous hill-station of yesteryears, is now a severely crowded and chaotic town. It appeared to me as Karol Bagh Market on a Sunday! So, I didn’t enjoy the place as much as I enjoyed the ‘Tandoori Amritsari Fish’, a superb preparation that I found at a small jaunt in the main-market! That made the day for me!

Next morning, we woke up to mild rains. It was a long day ahead – ride to Chandigarh was over 300kms. First 150kms, we rode non-stop amidst rains. The Beas River, flowing beside us, was at it roaring best. In fact, there was so much mist over it that one couldn’t possibly see the flowing water!

Good thing that roads were in excellent condition. So, despite it rained really heavily, we didn’t face any untoward incident and arrived at Bilaspur, our halt for lunch.

Lake View, Bilaspur

The State Guesthouse, located just outside the town of Bilaspur, just like other State-run organizations, was more than reluctant to host 60 riders! As if we wouldn’t have paid :)

Ride from hereon to Chandigarh can be divided into two parts – one, which is atop the hilly terrain, where we faced heavily loaded trucks riding at less that 20kmph and the other part, where the highway towards Chandigarh via Mohali – for over 80kms, was any rider’s delight. What a contrast of a ride it were!

The evening at Chandigarh was very relaxed; we were heading back home! Chats, dinner and drinks, not necessarily in the same order, went late into night. Discussions took place on all possible areas – Indian Culture, the ills of dowry, friendliness that biker-riders share on the road and car-drivers don’t, et al. No one even mentioned Delhi, as if we all wanted to avoid the ride’s end…some bonhomie this were…

Next morning was electric! This was the last day of our ride – 16 wonderful, eventful days were about to come to an end. Photographs and hugs were galore…kind of farewell before we wished farewell at Delhi…

Morning at Chandigarh

Morning at Chandigarh

Superb highway between Chandigarh and New Delhi took only 5-6 hours for us to arrive in at Gurgaon. We rode on NH-1 yet again! The same NH-1 that was also present at Leh! Riders, many of them, confided in me how they hated riding on such nice roads, they missed the ‘no roads’ of the mighty Ladakh! So true, it was…

A big bash at a South Delhi Pub marked an end to this glorious journey. The ride of the lifetime, it was. Royal Enfield team was at its hosting best, and we cheered every time a rider’s photograph was projected on the screen.

Late that night, when I was biding goodbye to my friends, a strange feeling of loneliness hit me. Next day wasn’t gonna be the same – no early morning ride, no Maggi as a staple diet, no fearing the heights, no looking forward to that next big Pass…

Words of Venky came back to my thoughts…“If you go to the Odyssey as a boy, you will return a man; if you go as a man, you will return a sage, and if you go as a sage, surprisingly you will return as a boy”.

Three months down the lane now, the echo of these words haven’t left my mind…indeed, the odyssey has had a casting effect upon me…

Odyssey came to an end on July 8, 2012. However, memories of the odyssey are etched in my heart and mind, forever.

Mountains are calling yet again…I am getting ready for the next ride…

Ready to Ride…call of the mountains…

Till the next ride, good bye and safe riding!

16 Comments

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Very happy to see you finish this blog RRG.

    Indeed an extremely engaging, highly involved and beautifully articulated series on ‘Ride to Ladakh’. The pics, the details, the fun all beautifully compiled and presented. Thank you RRG.

    Wish you luck for you Kumaon drive. Take Care.

    • Dear Nandan,
      Thank you. I must say, reading the travelogs on Ghumakkar written by others is indeed a humbling experience. I get a lot of courage to explore Himalayas from many of you.
      Will share the Trip-diary once back from Munsyari.
      Regards,
      RRG

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Hi RRG, you took nearly 2 months to write the last in this series, almost as if you didn’t want this travelogue; nor did we, for we enjoyed reading your experiences immensely.

    The call of the mountains…..why is it so strong and irresisitible? Is it due to the mystical feeling invoked by their majesty and splendour? Is it because we realise how small we are in comparison to the elements? People may come and go but the mountains will live on forever and more.

    • Dear Mr. Narayan,
      I am glad you liked the travelog. Thank you.
      I completely agree with your thoughts about the mountains – there is indeed something mystical about the Himalayas.
      Regards,
      RRG

  • ashok sharma says:

    A good and safe end of a marvelous tour.Travelling on bikes that too on Royal Enfield must have been a unique experience.Photographs are very good.
    Keep it up.

  • Wonderful series RRG . Enjoyed every bit of it.

    One thing I would like to tell you is that you look a great stud in your outfits. But change the color of your outfits often.

    • Ha ha ha! Vishal, you brought a smile! Thanks.
      Actually, we riders wear protective gear – jacket and riding pants – over t-shirts, etc. This gear is pretty bulky and you can’t carry more than what you can wear. Thus, no change of outside layer can be seen.
      RRG

  • JATDEVTA says:

    ???? ?? ?????? ??? ?? ??? ?????? ????? ?????? ???? ??, ?? ?? ??? ??? ?? ??? ?????
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  • Dr.Rakesh Gandhi,Advocate says:

    Read all post Dear RRG……gud adventurous job…nice clicks n beautifully defined whole episodes…..i liked centiments of Ring leader ‘ Not to disturb Locals” at any cost show true spirts of travelling.Congrats.

  • amit says:

    wow what a write-up……. just awesome.

    I also did delhi – leh – pengong trip 1 on bike and latest one by 4×4 fortuner and your story just reminded & flashback beautiful memories of those trips.

    The journey & place is really amazing and out of the world as you described, but one need to go there to experience the real thrill and creation of almighty GOD.

    Keep riding dear

    amit

  • Neel Kamal says:

    Truly, the best every travel story I v read.
    You just made Ladakh more magical

  • Harsh chaudhary says:

    Truly amazing with ‘true’…probable best story i ‘ve ever read about biking….thanks for giving me an idea that i can do it…

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