Above Sea Level – Bike trip to Gurudongmar Lake (Thangu to Gurudongmar)

Act IV, Scene 1: 8th October, 2010

Gurudongmar Lake is situated at an approximate altitude of 17,100ft, which is a high altitude mountain lake and needs special precaution. We had thus made our climb gradually and were pretty fit and steady to hit the roads for the final challenge. Gurudongmar Lake is 34kms from Thangu and is a significant 3200ft climb. Avik da’s FZ wasn’t tuned prior to the expedition and it surely proved a little discomfort, however we tried different methods to make the mixture lean but weren’t hugely effective. With a crossed finger, we finally cranked the engines and got ready for the ride of a lifetime.

Act IV, Scene 2: Ride of a Lifetime

We started from Thangu at 5:20am with every bit of excitement that we could afford in that chilling weather. For the first hour of the journey it was pretty difficult coping with the very cold weather our fingers seemed to freeze under the gloves. The beauty of the snow-clad peaks and the sun rays lighting them up should be further blamed for our thinking powers to be affected. The beauty is not explainable and neither will I try to do so. At certain moments I was so lost in myself that it seemed like a solo trip and every other living being around me seemed to be moving in slow motion. At around 7am, we reached the last Army Checkpost of Giaogong at 15000ft. The Indian Army jawans greeted us with salutes and embraces and they also provided hot drinks which were the need of the hour for all of us. The Road-Rollers team was also there at the same time. All of us got our permits checked and got ready to ride onto the cold desert. The officers debriefed about the route to us and warned us not to cross any iron bridge and to keep to the right of the valley.

After refreshment and formalities we finally started from Giaogong at 7:30am. The cinematic experience of the wide open valley till the horizon was heart-stopping. The large fields were filled with small black dots, which were the Yaks grazing in numbers. We rode through the valley and every stroke of the engine seemed to be coming from our own heart and soul. The streams that crossed the roads were frozen to sleets of ice and they sounded like breaking glass. The roads finally led us to a very wide valley with dusty straight roads extending to as far as we could see. For a moment all the powerloss, low compression, rich mixture, etc were buried into the sand and we rode in top gear at speeds of 70+. I still haven’t re-gathered my free soul that I had left there that day. After riding for 3:30 hours we finally reached the landmark that pointed “G-U-R-U-D-O-N-G-M-A-R”.

Act IV, Scene 3: Don’t stop at the top

Gurudongmar Lake was barely a 250m climb from the milestone, but this is where all the carburetted bikes were panting to death. Avik da’s agility was put to test here. He had to push his bike up now. The bike refused to take throttle and it barely stayed alive. Both of us had to give in our maximum efforts to push that 140kg beast to the top. We grew too passionate to leave the bike and walk up to the summit. The hard work finally paid up, we were at Gurudongmar Lake; the highest motorable road to a Mountain Lake.

But as soon as we reached there, the weather degraded and it started snowing. The condition was overcast and the scene was a little frightening. However, we gathered our guts and decided to hang around for the weather to clear out, whereas most of the tourists and even our Road-Rollers friends withdrew fearing worse conditions. Our wait was worthwhile as the snowfall was just a routine one and there wasn’t any blizzard and neither any whiteout. We stayed there for almost two hours offering prayers at the holy lake. Gurudongmar Lake is better known as “Sarv Dharm Sthal” and it truly puts up the best example of India being a secular country.

Doing little things at that altitude needed good amount of stamina and thinking and the world seemed to move slowly. The beauty had slowly hypnotised us and we were in no mood to return back. We had long chats with the Jawans appointed there, and they were very jovial and we had a hearty chat with them. All of us were appreciating each other for the feats of bravery, but deep down inside my heart they are the Unsung Heroes. Though we were feeling like guests, but they din’t have a guest house for accommodation, who knows maybe we would have opted to stay there itself. Every good thing comes to an end, and the end finally came at 11:20am when we finally decided to climb down to Giaogong. Photography sessions were very frequent and for a moment Avik da’s eyes reflected that this was the best place in the world; again I won’t try using words to explain the beauty. We finally returned back to Thangu at 1pm. The returned journey was very difficult for me, thanks to the extra thin front tires and the racing posture, which seriously caused a lot of damage to my shoulders. The climb down was almost like riding down an improperly built staircase. This was the part the FZ did with ease owing to its large tyres and a raised handlebar. However, no complaints for the discomfort every tingle was worth it.

Act IV, Scene 4: Night Hawks
After coming back from Gurudongmar, we both were extremely tired and almost felt like calling it a day. We had some tea and maggi with omelette, but still we didn’t feel like riding anymore. As we were resting in our rooms, we decided that we shall ride down to Lachen (32kms) and rest there for the day. While resting Avik da repeatedly insisted on staying back at Thangu, I was wondering about my options when suddenly Avik da woke up and agreed to ride to Lachen. We packed up in 15mins and started from there at 3:15pm. The ride till Lachen was still quite difficult for me as my shoulder wasn’t in the best of shapes. But without even discussing or stopping at Lachen, both of us continued the climb down to Chungthang. We kept on riding as the roads gradually got better. The ride from Lachen to Chungthang was quite a fast one as we had mastered hill cornering by then. When we were in Chungthang it was already dark, but still unaware why we kept carrying on that day. Finally, after riding through the dangerous clayey zone from Chungthang to Mangan, we reached Mangan at around 7pm. It was a crazy night ride and it was a frightening experience when I recall it now. The low altitude and dense air felt amazing and we were soon rejuvenated.

Act V, Scene 1: Stunts & Races
The last ride back to the plains on 9th morning remained an eventful one as well, thanks to me I revamped our trip with some stunting and racing as well. While coming back from Mangan the roads seemed very good after Dikchu, with proper banking & tarmac and I was occasionally finding my foot scrap the road. In a photo break, I suddenly got hyper-pumped-up and tried pulling off some wheelies. Quite a few of them went off pretty well and Avik da was enjoying capturing the session until my foot slipped off the rear brakes & I broke my bike’s rear fender from a 12’o clock. As we were nearing Sevoke suddenly a RE350 & a black Pulsar 180 guy started enticing us. I suppressed my temptation and held on to their tail until blank roads came up, and then I could feel the air at ‘x’Kmph speeds. So finally we had it, some Stunts, some Racing and a Mind blowing Trip.

We are immensely thankful to the following who made this trip a success:
Santanu Da
Suman Da
Santosh Bhaiya
& all our well-wishers

Apologies to Arghya from my side for carrying on with the trip, damn I missed your partnership dude…hope to do it again soon!!

“Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” – Benjamin Disraeli


  • Nandan says:

    Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen. Benjamin Disraeli

    Very well quoted Tanny.

    Marvelous end to a fab journey.

  • Aditya says:


    Awesome post and pics… :)

  • Jaykakarla says:

    Great pics! Best way to see Himalays is by biking!Regards

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  • vinaymusafir says:

    Great pics bro! Pics show how much fun you had there..
    Must visit place.

  • Archana says:

    I feel in love with the photos you have taken!
    Is it the skill of your photography that I should admire or is it the beauty of the place itself? I am confused .. pleasantly though :)
    I have been to Siliguri ( on my way to Gangtok) but never on a bike ride which gives us ample time and opportunity to stop by at every scenic spot!!
    Would want to go on such a trip once!

    Great write up too!!

  • Rohit says:

    great travel experience…i have been to Gurudongmar lake twice before and your travel experience is pushing me to for third time on a bike. I like your photography, specially the one with backmirror..its simply awesome.

  • Dipika Banik says:

    Visited Gurudongmar just two weeks back and the visit to this lake may last as an experience of a lifetime despite the hardship and difficulty associated with visiting it… Simply loved ur photography and this brought the memories fresh and alive… An unforgettable trip indeed..!!!

  • Naveen says:

    Myself and two of my friends planed North-east trip by bike coming Sep-2012.. please advise us how to get the permits visiting Gurudongmar Lake by bike..

    Thanks & Regards,

  • pankaj ghosh says:

    that is the very greetful journiy,the life enjoing the ride with me & my BIKE

  • Subhadip Roy says:

    We (Me and one of friend) are planing to visit Gurdangmar Lake by my Royal Enfield 350 cc. Please tell me where I will get petrol. We will Carry 5l but I think it will not enough. Please guide me.

  • Prasun says:

    Bro how did u get ther permit for the bike …. whom did u consult plz mention….

  • Sahana says:

    let me know if you found any fuel stations on the way

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