Wishful Riding Part 6 (Sarchu to Leh)

After tossing and turning the night at Sarchu, awoke to a chirpy mood and that set the tone of the day. Happiness and a blissful feeling awaited at the end of the day, as I would be reaching leh tonite.

With these thoughts, I get ready to ride again. Have been dusty, dirty and have not taken a bath in 3 days. The cold and unforgiving nature of the heights ensured that I don’t even entertain the thoughts of taking a bath again till I reach a settlement where I can get hot water. I long for that relaxing bath… can visualize the grime, dirt and the tiredness being washed away already.

Since it was going to be a looooong ride (227 kms) to Leh, I started the ride pretty early (0500 Hrs) in the morning. Thankfully the weather was clear and the skies were the bluest of blue. The snowcapped peaks look wonderful and the entire route is one big distraction as it is filled with those “Kodak Moments”….

I somehow resist the temptation of stopping after every couple of kilometers to click snaps… Got a long way to go and it is not going to be easy with three high altitude passes to cross. Soon enough, I am 42 Kms away from Sarchu, and about to cross the Nakila Pass… 4740 Mtrs high. Tough riding conditions and Mother Nature test your grit and determination… having come this far, I don’t want to turn around. I heed to some good advice by riders who have done this route… “Never halt/stay at such high altitudes for any longer than necessary.” Good advice which comes in handy. I cross Nakila Pass, bid adieu to it and on go on to cross Lachung la… 13 kms away.

Those 13 kms were like riding on the “Highway to hell”… AC/DC did a good job describing it in their song with the same title. The altitude of Lachung La is 5020 Mtrs and the cursory head bow to the diety of the temple later, i am off to Pang. I was advised to cross Pang, which marks a major landmark in the form of a check post, before 1530 Hrs. I am at the designated place way before the deadline… the cursory check by the security guard is completed without fuss and I am waved off for further adventure and fun on the way. Now that I have crossed two major hurdles in the ride, I am a lil bit relaxed. The next and the last high altitude pass to cross would be Tanglang La… the second highest one and a difficult nut to crack.

I keep dwelling on what else can happen in this desolate land… but decide to push negative thoughts aside… This would not be a good time to develop goose bumps and turn my hind side around and head back to safety and the comfy climes of Manali. More over, I always wanted to do this ride and now that I have completed 60% of it, turning back was not an option I wanted to even think of exploring. Well… I realize its time to kickstart B.B and ride on… that is what I do and I am in for the biggest surprise of my life… the Morey Plains… 45 Kms of a straight road in the high altitudes was like a dream come true. Although the road was not the best I have ridden on, it was good enough to goose the engine a lil more than what I was usually riding. Touch a speed of 60 kmph on that stretch… No where else on this entire sector can you touch those kind of speeds… the turns and the condition of the roads ensure that much. Those 45 kms are gobbled up by BB in about 40 odd minutes and I hit Debring, another small time settlement and I zip through. Now, 19 kms separate me from Tanglang La… scary sights of a huge monster ready to gobble me up are conjured in the mind… but again the stuff of dreams proves to be wrong. The dusty dirt track of a road leads me up to the summit of the pass… it is windy and cold but what an amazing view of the Greater Himalayas… decide to do the usual touristy stuff of clicking my conquest of Tanglang La by posing with the road mark built by project Himank… Then I bid adieu to my photographer friend cum soldier cum brother in arms and I hit the road for Rumtse. 29 Kms of bad roads, no roads and water crossings later, I am in Rumtse. Now I am on the Home Run stretch… I look at the watch and realize the time is already 1300 Hrs… Time flew by and I did not even realize it. It has been almost 8 hours of riding and I have just managed to cover 168 kms of the 227 which I am supposed to do today… an average speed of 20 odd Km per hour… I soon realize i am gonna get delayed no matter what… I decide to take it easy and have a cup of tea which I need… I feel like I haven’t had decent tea in ages… this one also does not even come close to what I had in mind… but anything hot going inside is more than welcome and I grab that hot cuppa and warm my hands… I just can’t stop the urge of having a smoke… but I realize that to get to the packet, I would have to peel off atleast two layers of clothing… what the heck, I can afford to spend 5 minutes doing that… Out come the ciggs and I fish around for the matchbox… borrow it from the “Chai wala Bhai” and light what I would call the “Spark of Bliss”… That first puff hits you like a wrecking crew gone mad with a wrecking ball… and then its the first sip… Not quite the right combo of A good Smoke and a cup of Good Tea… but I don’t have the luxury of choice here… its like “Take it or Leave it”… “My way or the highway” kinda situation… soon this Niravana-ish feeling comes to an end… the tea is finished and I pay up, pick up my helmet, don my gloves, zip up my jacket and kickstart BB… Thump Thump Thump and i engage the first gear, let out the clutch, twist the throttle and off I go to fulfill the stuff of dreams… 80 Kms separate me from the dream destination… Leh… the magical land of Gompas and Lamas and quaint building structures and high mountains and friendly people and the Salty Yak Milk tea…

I go thump thump thump for the next 40 odd Kms, crossing Upshi and I cross the Indus River… 13 Kms more and I am in Karu… Query the distance to Leh and pat coms the reply… “30 kms ahead.”

Well, its 1700 Hrs and 30 Kms more would mean that I would be riding for almost 2 more hours… I speed up a lil, crossing Thikse Monastery on the way… like I did with all the rest, I have a look on the outside, skip the inside tour and move on… gotta be in Leh by 1900 Hrs Max.

Thikse to leh is about 19 Kms and comparitively, an easy ride… but that does not mean that it was over in a jiffy… it still took 30 minutes to cover and by 1900 Hrs, I roll into the hotel I have booked… The SpicnSpan Hotel…

227 Kms of hard a$$ed riding later, I plonk in the first bed I have seen since I started riding from Delhi. Haven’t seen a civilized loo since Delhi as I was staying at campsites and now that I have the option of a decent bath, I feel too tired and very lazy to do so… decide to postpone the bathing ritual for tomorrow. Gotta conquer the Khardung La, 52 kms away… Easy ride as the road conditions are good and I heard that they have paved the road for the oncoming season… my good luck seems to have gotten better ;-)

With these pleasant thoughts, I doze off for that much needed comfortable sleep… need to catch up on this precious stuff… will wake up with a fresh feeling and the tiredness would have been leached out of the system… Then I will have that bath I was dreaming about in the morning…

Soon, its snory times and time to rock the building…

16 Comments

  • nandanjha says:

    Wow !! I covered Sarchu to Leh pretty quickly and thats why I am panting. I took this long breath after I was finished reading and I think I am still short on it.

    you did it.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Simply breath-taking account of the journey from Sarchu to Leh. You seem to have the knack of holding your readers by the neck, which is loosened only after you observe the long breath one takes on reaching the summit.

    Would eagerly look forward to your next post.

  • bikerdude says:

    Nandan, Ram Sir, thanks for the encouraging words… they are what urge and egg me on to strive for writing travelogs… Hopefully, the next piece would not disappoint… Thanks once again.

  • celine says:

    Wow!!
    I could experience every bit of the journey since I’ve actually undertaken it 9 months back. My journey was in a jeep though, not on a beauty like your BB. Thoroughly enjoyed this post.

    Thank you for this joyous and wishful ride of fantasy. Quite aware of the awesome beauty of the places you pass by from Rohtang Pass to Leh, I can confidently say its quite likely that all your wishes would come true. All the best. :)

  • Nandan says:

    Celine -How many days did it take to do Manali – Leh ?
    If one has to do it from own vehicle, how many days would you recommend for Manali – Leh – Manali sojourn.

  • Celine says:

    Nandan,

    Many people rush through that journey, but I’d strongly suggest not to because, to me, it has been one of the best road journeys I’ve undertaken in my life. I lost my pictures of this journey. Not just for this reason, but otherwise too, I’d love to go on that same road again. It’s so worth it and more. For me, next time it shall be with 2 stopovers, preferably in Keylong valley (guess there’s a choice of lodges or tents) and tents of Sarchu (no lodges there).

    I took a sharing jeep that reached Leh with just one night stop in Sarchu.

    So, I’d recommend 2 night stops: Manali – Keylong – Sarchu – Leh (3 days, 2 nights for one way). Plus to explore Leh, and rest of Ladakh, keep at least 4-5 days. And then the return journey. 10 days would be the least you need. I took a flight back from Leh to Delhi, so saved 2-3 days. The amazing sight of mountains below from the flight is another matter altogether.

    Another thing is, there’s so much of beauty of mountains to enjoy. So if you hire a local to drive, you can simply relax and enjoy the fabulous scenery all the way. Moreover, you gotta keep in mind that some of the valleys, especially the Rumtse, can be daunting, and pretty challenging. Locals maneuver through the roads so well. I do not doubt your driving capability, its just a suggestion. Personally, I prefer not to drive when on holidays.

    Hope I’ve been of help. Feel free to ask if any more info needed. You or anyone on ghumakkar. This turned out long I see. It’s been a pleasure recalling my experiences as I typed this out. :)

  • nandanjha says:

    Thanks Celine. Got it.

    The world has two kinds of people, the ones who drive and the ones who dont :). I have not been a off-roader so in case I do plan to go this way, I would ensure that I am rightly informed and ably supported to make a worthwhile journey.

  • Arun says:

    Fun reading as always :) Hoping to do this in summer this year, but way to slower than your plan. First need to figure on finding a bike.

    Incidentally, I had been writing about my last year’s Manali – Kaza – Shimla trip on my blog till now and just completed it..

  • manish khamesra says:

    Manish thorougly enjoyed your wishful riding. I think very soon you would be leaving to make this dream come true. So wishing you a safe journey and waiting to see that the photos are as good as we have imagined travelling with you.

    Celine, thanks for your tips. I felt that its very practical advice. With small kids will it be better to go by flight or drive is better. Please suggest. Though I think it will take some time to really travel on this route.

  • bikerdude says:

    thanks 2 all who have wished me a safe journey… for the real deal, you would have to wait some time till august… just had an accident, rendering me immobile for 4 weeks minimum… then there is the physio part which will take 1-2 weeks and then i can think of riding…

  • nandanjha says:

    Oh. Hope things are not too bad. Wish you health. Take Care.

  • manish khamesra says:

    Manish,

    I Felt very bad to know about the accident. Take care and get well soon.

  • bikerdude says:

    nope… things aren’t that bad:-) just a busted shoulder, wrist and a chipped knee cap with possible ligament damage…. medically, its a boring case…. no surgery or reconstruction required. will have to wait for the casts to come off for an MRI to catch any ligament damage

  • booobooo says:

    I Too Have Done This Bit On A Gypsy King And Cannot Describe The Feeling.

    Himachal Is Like My Second Home. I Was Not Born There But Would Did To Die There.

  • Celine says:

    Manish, dude
    Sorry to hear about your accident. Get well soon! Am recovering from a ligament damage on my knee since almost 5 months but now almost set to trek in a couple of months. So, take heart, nature heals. :)

    Manish, new father
    You are welcome. Glad I’ve been of some help.
    To your last question, my suggestion would be to take a road journey, but no way would I suggest it with a new born. Wait till the ‘little bundle of joy’ grows up. You wouldn’t want him to be taken to 17,580 feet above sea level (height of Tanglang-la), do you? :)

  • NIthin says:

    I just did the Delhi Manali Leh Kargil Srinagar Delhi thing.. I have some pics put up.. take a look .. might trigger you to go back much before your next plan :).. Good work ..

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