The Motor Cycle Tour Travelouge
Ladakh tour on the Bike was on the mind since last 15 years & for many reasons it was not happening. Finally in Dec 05 we fixed the Dates and started to work on it. All of us committed by contributing Rs 5000 each as working amount. Then there was no looking back. With a heavy heart I requested for 17 days leave & it was a sigh of relief when Jaswant consented after probably looking at the anxiety & excitement on my face.
Various lists were out Dry food, Warm clothes, Rain Wear, Medicines , Spare Parts, Route Fixing, Team finalization ,etc. A few oldies wanted to travel in that region so we picked up 5 of them for Jeep Safari & the jeep also served the Bikers as a support vehicle, all our luggage was dumped in it & we could travel light with some emergency spares, dry food & water.
High altitude was the biggest challenge as only 3 members had experienced it earlier. This altitude sickness can strike anyone any time ( even the experienced ones). There are frequent casualties & deaths that occour due to this. The fear of unknown was haunting the minds. Yess this did occour to almost all in different degrees, headache , vomiting , nausea, breathelessness ( the oxygen level drops to 1/3 times & in some pockets even more. I followed some basic rules & was out of it in few hrs, deep breathing, drinking pleanty of hot water, keeping yourself busy by helping others & mild physical exearsises. After all this while decending from high altitudes I experienced sudden blackouts, this was a big potential risk because the road was treacherous with unguarded exposure to valleys & rivers ranging up to 7000ft. Deep breathing offered some relief but not all. PRESTO I remembered my previovs long journeys - pulled out 2 tabs of Chewing Gum & chewed hard & yess this was indeed working , when we chew it exearsises the jaws & the muscles around the brain ensuring the brain to be active & supplying more blood to it. One of our colleuges developed serious symptoms & started to get Dis-orientation this can lead to Cerebral Odema. Every halt we monitered him until we reached Leh , admitted him to leh Hospital to find that his blood oxygen level was alarmingly low. Dr Norbu,s ( Father & Son) our friends in Leh . Quickly attended him .
After 3 days of rest & supplementry oxygen he was fit to travel in the jeep.
This region of Himalayas offers the some of the most exotic & challenging terrains that include the Worlds Highest motorable roads that include Khardungla- 18350 ft & Lachangala, Tanglangala , Rohatang to name a few . During this Tour Ladakh experienced the highest rainfall which was never heard of before causing heavy road damages , a few Landslides were every day affair, streams crossing the road & flowing on the road offered goods challenge to our riding skills because apart from chilled flowing water they were full of rocks . The most tricky riding was through the mud-slides slippery n sticky, sometimes capable of swallowing half of the bike.
The Budhist Monastaries – Al-Chi, Lama- Yeru, Hemis, Stok & Thiksay took us to a totally different world with Statues ,Paintings, Frescoes & Scriptures dating BC, the life of the monks was both an Astonishment & Envy ( you know how much we Bombayites lounge for peaceful places & time) .
The amazing experience with the stone & the metal statues is that even today with most modern metallurgy & machining tools our artists & craftsmen fail to make attain the beauty in there work that can stand to compare with artifacts made a few thousand years back. The glow and the fineness is unmatchable. The same can be said about the paintings.The colourful silk fabrics and their designs are enchanting.
When one imagines how these monks survive this treacherous terrain & Climate one thought always strikes the mind ie. “ We can never fight with the Nature- We must Learn to Surrender & Negotiate with it”
Pangong Lake only few words to describe it “ Pure Serene Beauty” When I sat with my eyes closed I realized that Serenity was more of a Feeling than viewing. I am sure God also envys this place because Heven can be no match to this. But it takes the hell out of you to reach there. We tried to reach there on the earlier day with 2 hired jeeps, but a fallen truck & landslides pushed us back, we returned to Leh to find that the bridge on the way to kargil had been washed away & Leh was cut off from Kashmir. The next day was declared a rest day, but Pangong was calling me, I requested my group leader for attempting Pangong on the bike, he sheepishly consented mentioning the total distance 328 kms,( normally we could cover maximum distance of 150 km on any other day in ladakh region it was physically & mentally tiring because of high altitute & the Rough & Risky roads required high degree of concentration while riding.) Then we could carry only one copy of road permit- we needed 8 of them to be submitted at various Army & Police Check Posts, we managed with one copy due to my Ex-Navy status & returned back with it , the Army guys were extremely cooperative & friendly all through the Expedition, the Greeted us with Tea & Coffee and their only demand that appeared was that we talk with them about outside world & offer solace in their loneliness.. we slipped on the road while going But escaped with a single scratch each, the bike also luckily survived and we resumed the journey within 3 mins. However our rain wear was torn & now we had to ride wet all through with 250 kms of journey still to go , reached Pangong at 1430 hrs cold spare only 1 hr , though staying there was badly what we wanted, a quick chilled water dip in the hevenly pond was refreshing to start the return journey with full zest, ( the temperature was 2 º), though the heart painfully lingered with the thought of staying back, the rain was more heavy now, & it was getting dark, they offered us to stay at 2 of the Army Check Posts, we thanked them & resumed, a landslide blocked us mid way & we pushed the bike through it to experience the bike sinking with its own vibration , some local truck drivers who were stuck in the same offered a hand & we were through it. It was dark & the visibility was hardly 10 ft. sometimes disturbed with thick clouds, we were inching the way , after a strong river crossing we reached Karu 50 kms of Leh where our colluge Bhau was at the check post along with the Jeep-driver –Gyalpo, Manju was thawed with cold & exhaustion, she immediately grasped the comfort of the jeep, it was 2300 hrs when we reached Leh, and a warm welcome by all along with a very much needed Double Rum, We could manage to eat a single omlet all through the day. But the Beauty of the Lake & the Beastly Road lay in my dearest memories.
Khardungla – The highest place in the world where a vehicle can take you, the road remained closed for 10 days again my friends from the Forces were kind enough to grant special permission for our group and the ‘Top Of the World’ feeling was great despite the chill.
The most dramatic river crossing from leh to kargil was full of chills & thrills,
Keylong town was the most picturesque place to live as it was located in a lush green valley surrounded with gigantic mountains.
We had to be very cautious while moving through Kashmir , not discussing the travel plans with outsiders was the key note. The locals & the armymen were very friendly, it was as if we were riding through a military camp for 100s of kms.
The road conditions greatly improved and we were missing the streamy & rocky roads.
Tiger Hills were quite a sight & I thought why should this place be selected for fighting ,why not party together & resolve the issues at such a nice place.
Then came the gurelling Jozilla Pass which was the steepest climb down & a view of the Sonmarg & Amarnath Road was a toast to the eyes, during our lunch at sonmarg we decided to come there next time with our own tents & stay there leisurely enjoying the lovely river side . A short halt in Srinagar & the Shikara ride in Dal Lake during sunset was nerve soothing after the most pleasurable strife in ladakh. Srinagar to Jammu was a very smooth one – Jawahar Tunnel –2.6 kms long appeared like endless for some moments but when we saw the light at the end we felt like going back through it again.
Arrive Jammu & all of us had fright in the stomach due to cancelled trains & the ghastly picture of dealing with the railway authorities for transporting our bikes.
The travel in 3rd Ac from Jammu to Pune gave good relaxation alongwith some nice co passengers to sing along & talk with.
Arrive pune unloaded my bike and it was very releaving to my bike intact, pushed it out to petrol bunk , had a short meeting with Jaswant & Manik Patil, Here too the rain offered thunderous welcome and continued till Mumbai, Riding alone all wet the memories of ladakh unleashed with every drop of rain water passing over the wind-screen of my helmet.
I have decided to travel next year again to ladakh but this time it will be on a by-cycle because I want travel slowly & enjoy every moment of the Beautiful Place & feel every breath of the ladakhi fresh air.
What I have experienced that in the most Trecherous Terrain live the most Happy & Hospitable People of the World . Hats of to the Ladakhis I yearn to attain their ever smiling & blissful personalities