Ladakh Calling… (Part 1) – Delhi to Manali

(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.

Pic 2a

Pic 02

Pic 01

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.

Pic 3

View from Hotel "Lake View

View from Hotel “Lake View

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.

(Left to right Surya, me & Deepak Rawat)

(Left to right Surya, me & Deepak Rawat)

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”.

pic 06

pic 05

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.

Our stay for the night

Our stay for the night

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.


  • Harish Bhatt says:

    Hi Vishal,

    Let me take the opportunity to welcome you to the Ghumakkar community. Great debut. The narration as well as pictures are excellent.

    Regarding PaahJi, Anandarup and I work in the same office and it was him who introduced me to the It was sad that he could you accompany you in this fabulous journey.

    I am sure you must be great rider and I dont want to sound like mom, but as you yourself mentioned drinking and riding is not advisable ;-)

    Welcome again and will eagerly wait for next part.

  • Vishal says:

    Thanks Harish for this warm welcome and for spending time on our log.

    ;o) we all learn from our mistakes.

    Thanks to Nandan, Smita and above all Paahji for making me familiar with Ghumakkars :)

  • matadorv1 says:

    Paahji, I am so happy you finally got motivated to post this here.

    I must admit it was really tough for me to come to terms with the fact that you did Ladakh and I couldn’t. But on the positive side, my absence forced you to write the log :). And you have displayed a natural flair for it.

    I know this is going to be a super series. On to the mighty Rohtang La………

  • Anupam says:

    Awesome start, eagerly waiting for the next parts. This is one of my dreams to cover manali-leh and srinagar-leh highway driving self.

    Anupam Mazumdar

  • Vishal says:

    Thanks Paahi… but this year WE will make it. Rohtang La was just ok but as u rightly mentioned at that time it was “mighty Chang La” … Chal iss baar sab dekhtay hain… :)

    Thanks Anupam and hope your Calling… will some soon.

  • Stone says:

    Lot of paahji love flowing around :-)
    So Paahji 1( Anand), Paahji 2(Vishal), Bhatt-saab, Inam Bhai all work in same place, must be a great place to work and imagine all the coffee/sutta break conversations there :-)
    Excellent flow of narration, now waiting for few more gems from Dubey ji in the next one ;-)

    • Vishal says:

      Hi Stone. I Know you through your comments on Anand’s logs, in fact our trip logs :) No we all are not in the same Co. Me and Dubeyji are in one co. whereas Anand & Bhatt-saab are in other organization.

      Waise thanks for reading through. I have tagged Dubeyji also. He can see your comments and may come out and share one of his old travelogues.

  • Gaurav says:

    Impressive start and nice pics

  • SilentSoul says:

    Vishal welcome to Ghumakkar with a fantastic travelogue…

    hope to read next part soon

  • Great Starting……………..

    For the last couple of months , Ghumakar is bombarded with Kedarnath and Ladhak posts. Looks like that Char dham & Ladakh is one of the top most preferable hill stations.

    • Vishal says:

      Hi Mahesh, thanks for reading.

      I think Hills are always a preferred destination for all travelers specially for all Ghumakkars :)

  • venkatt says:

    Vishal, welcome to ghumakkar. Nice start to the series.

  • Archana says:

    Welcome aboard Vishal!

    Like many on our community and others, I am a huge admirer of Ladakh and bike rides! Well let me tell you, I have neither been to ladakh nor have I gone on a bike ride for that long a distance, which probably makes the craving to do both a bit more than any other craving I have ;)

    I liked a lot of things in this post, let me list them down here:
    1.the topic of discussion – Bike and Ladakh :)
    2.Content relevant pictures, especially because it is just enough (number-wise)
    3.A well laid format of the content – the initial briefing about the place, about the bikers and of course the experience.
    4.The brilliance in the flow of writing.

    The list can go on but these are a few things which I really liked! Well done Mr.Newbie. I take pride in welcoming you to the family!


    • Vishal says:

      Wow what a welcome on Ghumakkar.

      Thanks a lot Archana for your wonderful comments and for this great welcome.

      Nice to hear that you are also a great admirer of Ladakh & have passion for riding a bike. Though I have done Ladkah twice on bike, Manali- leh as well as Srinagar-leh, but still it hard to say “No” for the third time also for two good reasons. 1st I will be riding with Paahji and 2nd the mesmerizing beauty of Ladakh calling again and again. :)

      I suggest don’t let your desire fade out. Try and work out something for both your carvings. :) and once again thanks for this warm welcome and for liking our trip log. Stay connected 2nd part coming on 29th March


  • Wow! I loved this post.

  • asg says:

    Welcome to the Ghumakkar Vishal. Eagerly waiting for the next post.

  • Saurabh Gupta says:

    Great Start.

    It’s my dream to visit Ladakh but don’t know whenever it comes true. Thanks for sharing the experience.

  • Vishal says:

    Just Keep trying Saurabh and dont give up. It took us 04 years just preparing ourselves for this ride. ope your “Ladakh calling…” comes soon :)

  • Wow………..What a start. I love it.
    Welcome in Ghumakkar family.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Welcome aboard Vishal as an Author. As a Ghumakkar, you have already been talked a lot by Anand. :-)

    You know what, when you read about a character we try to create our own version of it. For me Vishal was quiet, very thought-fully restricted, big bro (the Paahji branding) tall guy who takes less risks, always ensures that all is well and so on. That is what I made up from Anand’s log but after reading you, you know what my situation is. hehe.

    Drive safe and drive steady. The pic of Bull with all the load is truly inspirational.

    @All – Incase you wondering on what Paahji means, it is a salutation or a way to address your elder brother. Commonly in northern India (Punjab, HP, etc)

  • Vishal says:

    hahahahhahahaha :) :) :) smiles and lot of smiles Nandan

    Thanks to Anand Paahji and YOU for giving me so much space here on Ghumakkar. Yes you are right our mind creates its own version of character and we assume certain things.

    But, that also mean that Paahji (Anandarup) has to work hard and write a lot about me “The Real Me” hahaha.

    Yes that “bull pic” many people have liked the idea of carrying a jerrican with a bull. That was my own creative idea.

    Thanks a lot Nandan for keeping this post alive and for all the appreciation.

  • Vishal says:

    hahahahhahahaha :) :) :) smiles and lot of smiles Nandan

    Thanks to Anand Paahji and YOU for giving me so much space here on Ghumakkar. Yes you are right our mind creates its own version of character and we assume certain things.

    This also mean that Paahji (Anandarup) has to work hard and write a lot about me “The Real Me” hahaha.

    Yes that “bull pic” many people have liked the idea of carrying a jerrican with a bull. That was my own creative idea.

    Thanks a lot Nandan for keeping this post alive and for all the appreciation.


  • Matadorv1 says:

    @Nandan, make no mistake brother, Paahji is everything I say he is and more. But, may be barring one thing that came across. More often than not I am the calming influence in the team and Paahji is the agrressor.

    Slow and steady is good, but fast and reliable is a hell lot better. Paahji says this and I agree. :)

    But of course, Paahji is a little different when he is with me. I have this knack of bringing out the best in him. :)

  • Vishal says:

    Bulls eye Paahji, :)

    These are my fav. lines.

    “It’s good to be slow and steady but it is better to be fast and reliable”.

  • Kailash Mehta says:

    Hello Vishal,

    Welcome to ghumakkar. Nice start to the series with good details and supportive pictures.

    Keep Travelling & Enjoy Driving

  • What a wonderful post, with amazing pictures… Must salute Rambo for saving the poor biker in glacial stream…

  • Vishal says:

    Thanks Mr. “desi Traveler” for your words and reading through. This is the reason why Surya named him as “Rambo Rawat” :)

  • Amitava Chatterjee says:

    Welcome aboard Vishal*.
    We all knew you through Anandarup’s post and what a start it is.
    Enough has already been said, so just one word from my side ‘thoroughly enjoyable’ post.
    ‘ll read the entire series one by one…

    * Though, you already have written four posts, I couldn’t visit your post yet.

  • Vishal says:

    Thanks Amitava for reading through. Yes paahji has talked a lot about me on Ghumakkar so lot of people know about me :)

    Thanks once again and hope you will other posts as well.

  • sudarshan says:

    Where did you get the carrier that is fitted on the bike esp the petrol can. Please let me know if this is a custom job or was available somewhere

    • vishal says:

      Hi Sudarshan,

      The carrier attached was a standard “ladakh carrier” bought from Karol Bagh. For carrying the petrol jerrican I designed the frame and got it welded from a local welder with the carrier .

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