Wishful Riding – a Partial Reality – Baralacha La to Leh

July 31, 2009 By:

I hope you all found the writeup of our ride till Baralacha La  pretty interesting… allow me to regale all you readers further about our sojourn with destiny and the realization of a dream to ride to Leh.

After that more than brief halt at Suraj Tal, we rode on to the summit of the Baralacha La…

Baralacha La marker

Baralacha La marker

Hung about for 15 odd minutes and started riding on towards Sarchu.  We would have been about 14 kms short of Sarchu, when we came across the first in a series of campsites set up to cater to all those travelers who travel to Leh by road.  This particular campsite goes by the name Blue Poppy Camp, run by Tibetans, operating out of Manali.  We clicked some snaps of the place, which was required by the clients who would be riding with me in August… Quaint Tibetan style tents with the interiors done up in the same theme… The dining tent was something which I found out to be very beautiful.  Small and compact, it can seat about 18-20 people in one go.

Poppy Valley Camp @ Sarchu

Blue Poppy Camp @ Sarchu

 

Poppy Valley Camp @ Sarchu

Poppy Valley Camp @ Sarchu

We had a yummy cup of tea, which the camp manager specially got prepared for us…  We got talking and figured out that the owner’s son is a student in Delhi University, and he was here on his vacation… Really small world I would say.

Anyways, we thanked the campsite staff for the tea and we made our move towards Pang.  The road from Sarchu till the Gata Loops was a dream.  Slight undulations and bumps which cant be called comfortable, but atleast there was a riding surface which was tarred/metalled… This was a sight for sore eyes… Out of the 225 Kms till Sarchu, we would have found roads, which were worth calling that, for a total of about 75 kms… the rest had been pure hell.  So everyone reading this can imagine what our condition had been till we hit this patch of comparitively awesome road :-)

Road fro Sarchu to Pang

Road fro Sarchu to Pang

Landscape between Sarchu & Pang

Landscape between Sarchu & Pang

The Road and the Mountains between Sarchu and Pang

The Road and the Mountains between Sarchu and Pang

The usual game of riding and then stopping to click the awesome natural beauty was the order of the day till we hit a signboard which said…

The Roadsign after Sarchu...

The Roadsign after Sarchu...

Now, we picked up our pace and started riding for Pang seriously.  But the going was painfully slow… the riding surface was worsening as we were nearing Pang.  We decided that we would have no more stopovers admiring nature and its wonders, but the shutterbug in me would just not listen… I still managed to squeeze in a few snaps :-). 

landscape between Sarchu & Pang

landscape between Sarchu & Pang

We also hit the Gata Loops, which are a series of 21 hairpin bends spanning about 17 kms and they take you up by about 450 mtrs in altitude.  According a local myth, a truck driver found a child who had passed away due to starvation and dehydration on the 19th loop on his way to Pang… he built a shrine in a shanty structure, which still stands and people who believe in this myth, stop over and keep bottles of water and biscuit packets there as their offering to the dead child’s spirit.  We also made our offerings of a bottle of water and a chocolate bar, which was all we had which could be termed as food and prayed for a safe journey ahead.

Gata Loops start

Gata Loops start

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The shrine on the 19th Lop

Gata Loops End

Gata Loops End

Gata Loops as seen from the top

Gata Loops as seen from the top

We also crossed the passes Nakeela and Lachulung La, without much fanfare and we realised only after seeing the markers that we were there… Nothing proclaiming that we were riding high up at about 15000 Ft plus alitutde… just a stone marker saying “Nakeela” and “Lachulug La”.  we were not prepared for such bland stuff and paid no attention unless it was too late… hence no photographs of the places :-( 

The only way you can feel you are ascending it that it becomes colder and colder as you progress further… we were already too cold to figure the drop in temperature… and we missed the markers for the passes.

Soon enough, we crossed over from Himachal into Jammu and kashmir… Although there is no line demarcating the state boundries, you can figure it out as the landscape changes from slightly arid to completely arid… the sparse green cover on the mountain slopes had started to give way to completely barren ochre coloured mountains… and then you come up on this mother of all things bad in a biker’s karma…

Kangla Jal - The nastiest water crossing on the entire manali - Leh highway

Kangla Jal - The nastiest water crossing on the entire manali - Leh highway

This is called Kangla Jal.  A water crossing which changes the flow rate as the day progresses and receeds as the evening approaches.  The best time to cross it is early morning when the snow melt rate is slow.  Anytime after 11 is asking for trouble to come up from the behind and… well you know what I want to say… The bikes with less weight and load cross easily but heavier bikes like the have every chance of getting stuck in the gravelly bed of the river.

BB got stuck and so did Santosh’s bike.  Then we figured out that we should have come from where the water was the highest as that was the place where the rocks were bigger… that was like water under the bridge coz we were already wet trying to get the stuck bikes out of the water.

Helped guide a couple of Delhi bikers through, copped a smoke break after the efforts of pushing a 200Kg bike and we ascertained our progress.  Pang was about 10 odd kms away and things were looking up… It was just 4 in the evening and things could not have been better.

The location of Kangla Jal is in a valley… towering mountains on both the sides… after riding up for a couple of kms, the closure opens up, and you are treated with this sight…

Landscape @ Pang

Landscape @ Pang

Landscape @ Pang

Landscape @ Pang

A couple of kms ahead is the temporary tented settlement of Pang.  You have a army medical camp just 100 mtrs ahead and they also have a communication post using Sat Phones… with a charge of INR 500-600 bucks a minute… No thanks.  I am no Indian version of Donald Trump.

Since it had been long since we had eaten anything, we decided to halt for a butt break and a meals break.  Talking to the locals led us to understand that making a push for leh would be foolish as the Tanglang La would already have started to freeze up… decided to hang up the riding boots for the night here… the owner quoted 100 bucks per head for the bed and quilts… food would have to be extra.  We gladly took him up on his offer and settled in… changing the clothes was an uphill task… well at 4800 Mtrs, everything you do feels like that… panting like having run a 100 Mtr dash and beating Usain Bolt at it, we settled down to catch our breath.  Ordered maggi, the usual fare available in such places, we had a cup of tea each and then decided to dry out the wet shoes and clothes, using the kerosene burners.

While drying the clothes, we also heard a bunch of another riders from Down South making themselves comfy in the tent next to ours.  One of them walked in and we had a ball of a time… These were the same guys who were facing problems on the ascent to Baralacha La with carburretor settings and pick up issues on the japanese  bikes most of them were riding… Yamahas FZ16, Hero Honda Karizma, Honda Unicorn etc etc etc… only one bike appealed to me in the entire bunch and that was the Royal Enfield 350cc Electra… and that was the only bike which did not have any performance issues… it did have a rock hard clutch, which was taken care of by changing the clutch wire and tweaking the adjuster nuts.

Sushil, who was dead by the time it was 8 decided to crash for the night, and by 2030 Hrs, Santosh followed sushil as well… I did not feel like sleeping and decided to venture out and brave the cold winds which were blowing…  Thankfully I had the camera out and slung on my neck… check out some of the night shots I took…

Night Halt @ Pang

Night Halt @ Pang

Dhabas opposite to ours @ Pang

Dhabas opposite to ours @ Pang

The Road to Leh from Pang

The Road to Leh from Pang

Caught up with the rest of the gang next door and chatted up with them for a while… finally at about 2100 hrs, I decided to crash as well…

Sleeping at 4800 Mtrs is not an easy task given the fact that I smoke like a chimney… kept tossing and turning and then at about 0300 Hrs, I felt like going out and taking in a lungful of air… not a very wise thing to do as the temperature was close to 1-2 degrees and the windchill made it feel like below zero… but all of this was worth all the pains when I looked up in the sky…

The halflit moon was brighter than a full moon night in the plains… I saw more stars in that patch of sky than I could ever see in an area 10 times bigger in the plains and the moonlit mountains and a peek of the snow capped peaks behind the ochre coloured mountains…  heaven indeed!

Finally, half freezing, I went back inside feeling a little better and conked off… only to be woken up at 0600 by shouts outside and the flapping of the winds. 

Stepped outside with the camera and saw this and went crazy…

Good morning in Pang

Good morning in Pang

Snow capped peaks peeking behind the Mountains

Snow capped peaks peeking behind the Mountains

had the tea and a couple of biscuits and decided to suck gas and haul ass for Leh.  loading up the stuff on the motorcycle seeemed difficult but we managed and were well on our way for Leh… which was only 150 kms  away… Rode up for a couple of hair pin bends and were taken to the Morey Plains… a flat plateau at 15000 odd feet… what it meant was 45 kms of straight and flat road… no inclines or slopes… usually, one can cover up on a couple of hours here but we were out of luck… the BRO road working gangs were widening the road… and whatever little surface was there was damaged… there was some tarmac and we really enjoyed those stretches but most of it was like what we had encountered till now… the only plus point was that the terrain was flat.

Morey Plains after Pang

Morey Plains after Pang

Dance of the Wind Gods... a whirling Eddy on Morey Plains

Dance of the Wind Gods... a whirling Eddy on Morey Plains

Break from dirt riding and billowing dust from the Army convoy os shaktimans

Break from dirt riding and billowing dust from the Army convoy os shaktimans

Santosh, giving his butt a break on Morey Plains

Santosh, giving his butt a break on Morey Plains

After some rest and smokes later, we moved on and rode non stop for Tanglang La.  The going was slow and the road, if you could call it that, was dusty… the dust resembling the clayey soil which one usually sees in muddy rivers… The ascent of Tanglang La was one crazy stretch… again no roads, potholes, rocks, gravel, stones, water, mud, slush and everything else you can think of was thrown at us together… imagine riding for about 10-15 kms on just the 1st and 2nd gears… that is how the road condition was, accompanied by the steep climb.

We finally made it to Tanglang La by 1130…

Tanglang La - Notice the jeans legs... this is what we rode through to get here

Tanglang La - Notice the jeans' legs... this is what we rode through to get here

Tanglang La Marker

Tanglang La Marker

What a View !!!!!!!

What a View !!!!!!!

Views from Tanglang La

Views from Tanglang La

The Road going down into Upshi

The Road going down into Upshi

The bad roads stuck with us for about 30 more odd kms… and then…. Oh boy oh boy… what a road… I mean, take the roads in Chanakya Puri Consulate area, add another layer of tarmac, flatten it with the heaviest road roller and let is set… this stretch was like a dream… orgasmic and heavenly and I was in wonderland… BB and I became one… zooming off at 70, taking the curves at 55-60 KPH… the feeling lasted till 20 odd kms… good enough for me to have let out my pent up road rage… and then decided to slow down as we started crossing inhabited places.  Stopped frequently to click snaps of the beautiful vales we were riding in…

Landscape while riding to Upshi

Landscape while riding to Upshi

Landscape while riding to Upshi

Landscape while riding to Upshi

While riding to Upshi, we also saw a sign which said “First sightinng of the Indus River – 1km ahead”… Rode and saw the Indus for the first time in my life…

Indus River - does not look like much but she gave us an entire civilization to be proud of

Indus River - does not look like much but she gave us an entire civilization to be proud of

Rode across the river over a bridge and we were in the town of Upshi. 

Bridge before Upshi on the Indus

Bridge before Upshi on the Indus

Decided to have a meal break here and rest the butt a little… Leh was an easy 49 kms away… Riding on towards Leh, we hit karu, a place about 35 kms short of leh, when we heard our phones ring in the past 2 days.  decided to park the bikes on the side of the road and call up our respective homes to let people know we were safe and sound.

Once this was done, we rode and rode like there was no tomorrow… good roads and decent speed limits saw us crossing the Thiksey Monastery in no time…

Thiksey Monastery

Thiksey Monastery

Thiksey Monastery, at an altitude of 3600 Mtrs is one of the most important monasteries of the Gelugpa Order of Buddhism.  It is one of the most visited and popular tourism destinations in Ladakh, housing a 15 mtr tall statue of Buddha, called the Champa, the Buddha of the Future.

We did not go in and clicked it from the outside, thinking we would visit this place on our way back… that was not to be.  More on that later.

We rode on and arrived at the Shey Palace.  The palace is made on a small hillock overlooking the Shey village. 

Shey Palace

Shey Palace

The palace overlooks a holy lake, teeming with ducks and other amphibians and fish.  Apparently, fishing in the lake is illegal and will attract punishment if the rules are broken. 

The historical importance of this place lies in the fact that Shey was the first capital of Ladakh. Around the constructed wing, you can also see the old ruins of the erstwhile fort, as Leh has become the capital and the royal palace has been shifted there.

Fort Ruins

Fort Ruins

Again, with the decision to ride through, we arrived at a board on the road which proclaimed “Sindhu Darshan Point.”

Sindhu Darshan point

Sindhu Darshan point

I did not realize the importance of this place at the time of clicking this snap… Found out later that this was the place where the sindhu Darshan festival is held to comemorate and celebrate the Sindhu River, which plays a major role in the lives of the people here…

From this place, we rode non stop till we hit the main entrance of Leh

Main gate of Leh

Main gate of Leh

Entering the city, we rode straight, past the new bus stand and hit a round about and entered the J&K Tourism Office, with a hotel block right next to the complex.  Hoped that we would get rooms here, but our luck did not hold.  we were told t try the plethora of hotels and guest houses in the main town which was approached by taking the right turn instead of the left we took to reach here.  Brought BB to life and rode to the centre of the town and located a decent hotel, opposite the vegetable market, which offered us, what we thought was a decent deal, and checked in.  The hotel is called Lingzi and we parked the bikes outside on the main road, since the hotel did not have a parking lot.  Took the luggage off and parked our rear sides into the bed… this was heaven indeed… after 2 nights of sleeping on rock hard matresses and the ground, tosssing and turning in the night, this was sheer luxury… a pleasure I intended to exploit to the hilt.

With our “Tashreef ke Tokrey” comfortable, we freshened up and decided to have a much needed cup of tea before the alcoholic celebrations kicked off… why you may ask… Well we accomplished a dream which had been with us, being nurtured over 5 years… the dream of riding to Leh.  Mission A accomplished… The remainder of the mission, the part B, riding to Khardung La, the highest motorable road in the world was left… we were in no hurry… we had the next day to fulfill that part of our destiny.

With this thought, we rang up the room service, ordered ourselves a hot plate of Chicken and started the party!

About bikerdude

Manish Chachra has written 21 posts at Ghumakkar.

An adventure tourism & hospitality professional, an avid motorcycle tourer, with a dream of visiting the entire country on two wheels... Writes from the heart and quotes from the hip...

18 Responses to “Wishful Riding – a Partial Reality – Baralacha La to Leh”


  1. Pappu says:

    Well, nice ride, Picturesque scenery, great place to visit.

  2. Mahesh Semwal says:

    Wow , wht . a adventures trip . Head off to you Manish. Greattttttttttttttttt

  3. Jerry Jaleel says:

    Impressive ride Manish,Santosh & Sushil; and congratulations for accomplishing your Mission A by reaching Leh on Motor bikes.

    Best wishes and good luck for your next mission.

    Jerry

  4. bikerdude says:

    Mahesh & Jerry, thanks guys!

    @Jerry, this was Mission A… reaching Leh. Mission B was to ride on the highest road in the world… that post would be coming up pretty soon!

  5. Sandeep Arora says:

    Great write up. Have been planning a trip to Leh for ages. This definitely gives the plans a leg up.

  6. bikerdude says:

    All the best for the trip sandeep.

    Planning makes it possible so plan and re-plan and then re-plan the plan and always have a back up plan to fall back on. The terrain and the weather can be unforgiven at those altitudes so all precautions are a must…

    This is not to scare you but to urge you to do this atleast once… it can be a life changing trip… it surely made me look at things differently.

  7. Nandan Jha says:

    Jai Ho Dude. And pass on my wishes to Sushil and Santosh.

    I am definitely more closer, just need to plan for a week and rest all would happen courtesy this valuable post. so much details, too good.

    On to Khardung La !!

  8. bikerdude says:

    nandan, Will pass on your wishes. But a week would not do justice to the place… I was tied with time limitations and the fact that I did what the clients are paying to do in August.

    if I had my way, I would have spent a night @ pangong Tso, Overnight at Tso Moriri, atleast a night in Nubra (K-Top would be covered in this) and a night doing the Lamayuru – Alchi stretch.

    I haven’t even started scratching the surface as yet… there is the Suru Valley, zanskar and the Kargil sector which would need more time… all in all I guess a month should be enough to be able to say you know all about Ladakh.

  9. nandanjha says:

    A month ? Wow, if that happens.

    Lets find someone who can pay us to write a travel-book ;-) , no charges for driver, only pay for fuel and I assure that I would try to be frugal.

    though it might sound that it may never happen but I am pretty hopeful, more so after our Kaza sojourn. When I read about it, after we decided to go, it looked pretty remote thing to, with a 4 old kid and all that but all that is now done :-), so inshallah.

    I am missing comments from Ram, Sethi sir, Manish Khamesra, Pat Jones, Celine (who was so regular on your earlier wishful series) and a lot more.

  10. bikerdude says:

    A travel book eh?? I would prefer to have a coffee table book published… more money there and definitely more space for creativity… I can experiment with a lot of stuff…

    You drive, I write and shoot, then I drive and you write and shoot… No expenses for stay… I am willing to park my rearside in a tent for the night. Have an inflatable bed which can come in handy… Food, now that could be a problem… but uska bhi jugaad hai…. MRE’s or the pre-packaged food from Ashirvad/MTR/Kitchens of India or one of the dhabas…

    4 years is an ok age to be travelling. Kids seldom suffer with AMS unless they have RAD or similar respiratory ailment. Its only the adults who have had time to abuse the bodies who suffer…

    Me missing their comments as well. dunno what has happened…

  11. Mani Gahatraj says:

    Hi guys,
    This is exactly the article I have been looking for as I am also planing this trip on Bolero or Scorpio – Delhi-Manali-Leh next season with a friend. I am 60 plus, so I need to know the precautions one has to take from Health Care angle. I am perfectly fit and climbing mountains regularly in North Sikkim. I would be grateful for guidence, tips, so please shoot.
    Thanks and regards,
    Mani

  12. Patrick Jones says:

    Lucid narration and stunning images. Dreams may be lovelier but nothing to beat the real thing.

    It says the north-east guys thrive on 5 Gs. Your favourite seems to be B – all 5 of them – BB, B, B, B – the fourth being Box (camera), the one in the middle is actually at the back ;-), and then there is Mission B!

  13. Celine says:

    I’m here Nandan…(since when has inshallah caught your fancy? lol)

    And Manish…
    Don’t know if you have noticed, I have already commented on Part 1 of this series.

    The mountain hoodoo formation seen around Kangla Jal is fascinating!
    Hehe..Nice to read what you experienced at 3 am at Pang.
    I’ve noticed that stars from high-altitude mountain areas of the Himalayas do look brighter, bigger and better…seen that in Auli, Tshoka, Sarchu, Leh….

    Your post makes me wish to go back to these places again. In fact, I almost planned a trip to Leh, Ladakh this time including exploring other parts of J&K but then finally postponed it because I could manage only 10 days of leave. And 10 days, trust me, is not really enough as Manish says, a month would be more like it to leisurely enjoy those mountain regions.

    For now Manish, celebration time..congrats on making it to Leh…cheers!

  14. bikerdude says:

    @Mani Sir, the MUV’s from the Mahindra stables are the best suited 4 wheelers for this route. Any other vehicle would wheeze and cough including the much famed Tata Safari one of which heated up on the ascent to Taglang La. I was a big fan of the Safari but not any more… It is the Bolero 4WD for me.

    Pat & Celine, Now the post seems kinda complete… still missing are Ram Sir, Manish and Sethi Sa’ab.

    • mani says:

      hi bikerdude,
      thanks for the tips. in fact my trip will be on scorpio vlx thats coming by the end of this sep. Plz send all the tips you have for a 64 yr young nature lover for the trip. i am planning to start the trip from North Sikkim and end up at Leh via delhi-manali. regards,
      mani

  15. bikerdude says:

    Mani Sir, apologies for this delayed post… was busy organizing a motorcycle tour for some american friends of mine… Tips are nothing… since you have been staying and travelling in the mountains, you are aware of the dangers… the only thing to take care of is AMS… although if you take care and rest and do not exert yourself unnecessarily, all is cool.

    I mean a smoker like me did not have any problems sleeping at 4800 mtrs in Pang… so you should be ok too. Keep a check on respiration, keep yourself hydrated, do not exert yourself, avoid alcohol on high altitudes and you should be ok.

    Hope this helps

  16. Manish Khamesra says:

    Mindboggling Manish.

    To be true, in-fact if you feel that this adjective is not suiting your travelogue its only because of my limited knowledge of English. I am becoming a BIGGGGGG fan of your travelogues, and the pictures you take. I am sure you would be an inspiration for many bikers :-)

    I don’t think that I will be able to do such trips, so I have to remain contented with the pictures and does it satiates my desire, in-fact No, it only increases it :-(

    And yes the story of the boy dying due to dehydration was really a sad one …

    So here I am with making it one less to make the story complete.The persons left are Ram uncle and Sethi Sb.

    Kudos to you and It was fun to read Patrick’s pointing to your affection towards five B’s ;-)



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