Ladakh Nostalgia

Dear Friends, This is my first post here and hope you enjoy as much I enjoyed writing it.

I remember I started on 30th July 2006 from Hyderabad. Now when I recall that trip of mine, it just gives me goose bumps that I actually accomplished it. My itinerary was like this –

30th July – Flew from Hyderabad to Delhi
31st July – Delhi -> Chandigarh
1st Aug – Chandigarh -> Narkanda
2nd Aug – Narkanda -> Manali
3rd Aug – Rest at Manali
4th Aug – Manali -> Keylong
5th Aug – Rest at Keylong
6th Aug – Keylong -> Sarchu
7th Aug – Sarchu -> Leh
8th Aug – Rest at Leh
9th Aug – Rest at Leh
10th Aug – Leh -> Diskit
11th Aug – Diskit -> Hunder -> Panamik
12th Aug – Panamik -> Alchi
13th Aug – Alchi. Visited Indus/Zanskar confluence, Basgo, Likir and Alchi Monastery
14th Aug – Alchi. Visited Lamayuru monastery
15th Aug – Alchi -> Drass
16th Aug – Drass -> Srinagar
17th Aug – Srinagar -> Jammu
18th Aug – Jammu -> Delhi by bus
19th Aug – Delhi
20th Aug – Flew to Hyderabad

It was unforgettable, life changing journey (may be bit exaggerated but definitely a milestone in my life) which I am fortunate I undertook. I was maintaining notes of the trip, very religiously initially and later cumbersomely but I still have them. When I came back I tried to write a travelogue out of them but it proved to be a herculean task for my temperament. Just like you require special preparation to undertake such a journey through that moonscape, you require skill to articulate it in writing. Anyways, I am closing my eyes and trying to recall some golden anecdotes from that trip.

Higher the risk, higher the reward, thats what I can call the first memorable incident on the initial part of my trip from Shimla to Manali. Just before Jalori pass though not that high but supposed to be test of man and his machine, front type of bike got stuck between stones and slush, what the road was left after a stream decided to run over it due to incessant rain. The bike wouldn’t move whatever method we tried. Then came a godsend savior, a Ladakhi guy called “Motep” who was veteran of such roads and was driving alone to Leh. May be his experience or his strength or both, he lifted the front portion of bike and brought it out of slush. What a relief it was. Once we crossed over the pass, in that wet atmosphere, we got to see some of the best views of the trip. Clouds swept over valleys, rising higher through cervices of hills as if hills are on fire. A small village was nestled midway on the mountain, its blue house and triangle canopy surrounded by mist. Amazing. My partner rightly said, we’ve stuck goldmine.

At Keylong, met an interesting guy who hailed from Jammu, a pea trader whose job was to load peas being grown in the region, do some accounting and then send them to Azadpur mandi in Delhi. Surprisingly he was an MCA but did not find a desk job interesting. Now he travles around this region to fields, meets farmers and spreads this trade throughout Lahaul Spiti, his brother being posted in Kaza. He told us about a ritual specific to Lahaul spiti. Around 15th August, there is a fair held in Keylong where young boys and girls of marriageable age are asked to come in the middle of a ground. Boy is free to pick any girl he chooses but girl is free to resist and run away. If there is competition among boys, then a boy has to face it and win over. If he captures the girl and keeps her for the night, then they are married the next day. Doesn’t look like it is fair to the girl but there might be specifics which probably could be understood only if we go that fair !!

Baralachala pass (16000 ft) got us a couple of companions who stayed with us up to very close to end of this trip. Two very affable Sikhs on bullets from Chandigarh who were trying to push their bikes up the mountain slope due to landslide. We helped each other and got through with it. I still haven’t sent them the CD containing pictures of this trip. I will send that on this anniversary. One more guy joined us, a British, thrice than my size and riding a 500cc bullet, an explosive engineer on an year long vacation through many countries in the world, going solo to Ladakh! Whoosh! I once took him as a pillion rider on my bike. I wish I could see how this scene looked, a monster sitting on a puny bike with equally puny rider.

A dutch gang of oldies out to do some adventure met us at Narkanda on their consecutively numbered bullet bikes. They kept playing hide and seek with us till Ladakh. The leader was gritty lady who never spoke to us just smiled. We overtook them just before Leh.

Advantage of taking bike to these regions as against bigger vehicles is that you can get away with any kind of blockages like slush and rubble, climbing mountain slope and narrow passage. That is what happened when we cleared through probably 2 km of truck jam, a feet deep muddy slush, standing at the head of breach that Gya river has caused just before Upushi, 50 kms from Leh. Fortunately, a bulldozer was working to clear a part of mountain slope for at least smaller vehicles to go through. We were the first one to pass.

On the way to Khardungla, we learnt what an army convoy is. 40-50 trucks going in a line, squealing on every throttle or break application, dooming this world by spewing fumes through their chimneys. But the men inside were humane. They kept on giving us sides, not the snobbish behavior that we witness everyday in the city. The K-top as Khardungla pass is called has a souvenir shop selling t-shirts, key chains, caps announcing the glory of the pass and exalting the one wears it screaming “I was there”. Come on, 18,380 feet is not a mean feat. Earlier, there used to be free tea served here by army canteen to whoever comes here just as a gesture to his/her accomplishment but alas that practice was discontinued for some time now.

“How far is Siachen from here?” Where can you ask this question in India?
“These folks have come from India?” Where do you get to hear this in India?
Probably only place is Nubra Valley beyond Khardungla pass, close to Pakistan and Chinese border, much beyond consciousness of mainstream India, a warm and beautiful valley, a world apart from real world. Only thing is one can stay here for only 6 months a year only. To stay for rest of the year comfortably, you should probably need to transform into an eskimo.

I haven’t been to Rajasthan but I have now seen sand dunes. Where? In Nubra Valley at Hunder. You have real sand there as you find in Rajasthan; this is what I am told. Only difference is in Rajasthan the sand gets baked at 45 deg, whereas here it freezes to -45 deg in winters. One more stark similarity is camels. They are known as Bactrian camels who have two humps as against their counterparts in Rajasthan with single hump. But they are elusive and very small in numbers. We could find them only after lot of hunting around.

Driving in night is not advisable but that is what we did when we got stuck in a situation when we started for our destination with wrong estimation of distance. We were to reach Lamayuru but much before, night fell and we four riders were left alone riding along with only a single beam of light piercing the dark. It was moonless night and stars were not visible. Scary…

Allahabad is considered the holiest confluence but confluence of Indus with Zanskar river at Nimoo is magical. Two rivers full of water and character, with different shade of muddy water. Indus light brown and Zanskar a deep brown both coming out of gorge in the open. You get to witness this from main road quite high up in the mountain where you can appreciate the symmetry in their meeting. They converge like a perfect V and you can distinguish their waters due to a line getting formed in the middle.

Who can forget Kargil and Drass which became household names in 2001 when last skirmish with Pakistan happened. We too were excited to pass through the locale which come closest to the LOC. There is a sign on that road which says “You are in the eyes of enemy” depicting how close we to the LOC. This part was tense with heavy presence of military all of whom had nothing else but ogle at us and we going along sheepishly.

First view of Kashmir valley coming from Drass after days of rugged, brown mountains without vegetation, watching trees on mountain slopes was most welcome. When trees finish, a greet carpet of grass is spread all over. Here starts one of the most dangerous areas in the world in one of the most beautiful settings. I pitied all those soldiers who were posted every hundred meters on the road sitting all aloof. We had an idea and started waving to them as we passed them. Wow, they were equally enthusiastic to wave back at us. Then I started looking for them on road, behind the bushes and trees, sitting on a cliff higher up. Everytime we got an equally enthusiastic wave back. It was sheer bonhomie all the way.

Srinagar, though considered fortified but we were not stopped even once. Dal lake is more than a lake, its an ecosystem, a flourishing town with a unique character never to found anywhere else in the world. It was sad to hear that it will soon be uprooted, if only the residents had been a little proactive in maintaining it up to the mark.

How I wish I could go on and on but just like this trip I will have to stop somewhere. Click here to look at the pics.


  • nandanjha says:

    Whoo. That was a long journey which finished too soon.

    First, Welcome to ghumakkar. I hope you find good and inspiring company here.
    Second, you need to break this trip and write more on specific sections or stretches. This is like showing a trailer :)

    Be around.

  • Patrick Jones says:

    What a thriller of a ride!

    Thorougly enjoyable reading, cut short abruptly, though. The guts to undertake such an ardous journey during wet season is enviable.

    How I wish I could do that trip myself (also to see that burly Brit riding pillion). What a pity, my 2-wheeler days are over.

    Keep going, guys.

  • Cuckoo says:

    Whooosh !! Don’t you think it was a wrong time of the year to go there ? Rains are major hindrance I think.

    Is this the best route to go to Leh ?

    You covered a lot in a small post. :)

  • ajeet says:

    Rupesh! I have always been waiting for this post. Kaushik came back with loads of fotos but only bits of story…now I got the missing piece of the puzzle. I haven’t read it yet, cos i wana save it for a good smoke and lots of time. haha. thanks mate.

  • Roopesh says:

    I agree that timing of this trip was a bit delayed in August but May to October is the only time when you can go there. The wet season is only for the mainland subcontinent, not for Ladakh. Once you cross over from Rohtang/Zozila, you should not see much rain. Ladakh is supposed to be dry but due to climate change across the world, Ladakh is witnessing rains like never before.

    There are only two ways to go to Ladakh by road, one is from Manali and other from Srinagar. There was one road under construction from Darch/Jispa to Nimoo but God knows when will it be over. I would suggest take the full circuitous route like mine and you will cover most of the things. Same way, there is plan to construct a tunnel underneath Rohtang pass to make this all weather road and it is defence strategic but again it will be sometime before we see this.

  • Rahul says:

    Great snippets from quite a journey you guys undertook.
    Bravo! The descriptions create a lot of visual imagery and have strengthened my desire to visit Ladakh as soon as possible. Just that it sure won’t be on bike, but yes I have decided that it’s gonna be a road trip. thanks again

  • Patrick Jasper says:

    I am wondering when i will be able to make that trip. The last frontier.

  • Arun says:

    Loved the write-up. Especially helpful for me, the wannabe traveller :)

  • Celine says:

    I’ve covered Aug 3 to 13 of your journey, minus and Alchi but adding other areas of Leh and Ladakh including Pangong Lake in July last year. I’m surprised how you have managed to condense the whole journey in one single post.

    Yes, a journey to awesome Leh, Ladakh can be ‘life changing’ as you put it. I’m looking forward to travelling to those areas again. Thank you for this post that makes me smile just at the thought of awesome Ladakh.

  • manish khamesra says:


    Beautiful write-ups and very well written anecdotes. When I first looked at the itinerary, I thought that how you would cover them in a single post and may be you would rush through. But your decision to write the anecdotes, made the read very interesting.

    I wish that you have posted some pictures too. Though without pictures also its a very interesting read.

    Welcome aboard. We will be looking forward to more from you (You have already posted another one, that I have to go through).

    Lovely post :)

  • backpakker says:

    wow..what a journey..I havent been to Ladakh and your post makes me want to visit there..Ive planned to be there next year..lets see


  • Currently YouTube video lessons quality is more better and better, so thats the reason that I am watching this video at at this point.

  • PROBIR says:

    I want to travel with my family during mid may in 2019. How is the weather and whether this time all the roads are open to tourist .

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