Solo Motorcycle Trip to Ladakh

They say as you reach the age of 35 you stop living an adventurous life…

Time to change the perception.

 

KTM Duke 390 Ladakh

Chasing the lama is a never ending story. Here is my other thread of chasing the lama in Tata Safari Storme in 2014. (Chasing the Lama in a Safari Storme: Pune – Ladakh – Pune, 7500 kms)

I decided to venture on same path again however with some more adventure added.
Presenting my Solo Ladakh Ride on KTM Duke 390 aka Stallion.

Five Passes
Zozi La, Pensi La, Khardung La, Tang La, Rohtang Pass

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Background

My last ride to Ladakh in Safari Storme left me with lots of memories and confidence about my ability to perform adventurous rides.

Initial plan for this year was to visit the place again with family in Safari however changed just 2 month before the actual planned date because of insufficient leaves.

I was on casual breakfast ride to Mahabaleshwar with friend where we had a talk on why not Ladakh on motorcycle which was our long awaited dream. This casual discussion resulted in serious topic and we attempted almost 600 km on that day to test our stamina. Unfortunately my friend had faced severe back pain and he was not confident on executing such big ride, addition to that he got workload which left with no question of long leaves.

I was always accompanied by my friend for all my rides, I have never attempted any solo ride till date. I was not very confident this time, but I decided to take a chance and try to do something different which will be the greatest achievement for lifetime.


Purpose of the ride

My four year old son is bike maniac and his favourite movie is “Himalayan Hero”, a father-son duo went on Himalaya ride on Hero Impulse. He watches this movie every time with full of interest and asks lots of question about road, bike etc. So I thought of creating my own movie/example for my son which he will watch proudly and he may follow the similar path sometime.

The first obstacle was to convince my wife and son, I was sure that my son will be alright if I tell him that I am going to Himalayas however wife will not allow such madness at all. It almost took me a month to prepare their minds not only for my motorcycle ride but also for the fact that I am going to ride all the way solo.

Finally I got green single with lots of pressure on my mind and I started the preparation in full swing. I still remember the D day, I was checking up the luggage if all the things are packed, my wife said can you please take Safari instead. I was like however I realized her worry and promised her that I will not take any risk and whenever I feel tired or exhausted I will drop in to hotel immediately.

So here I would to dedicate this trip to my lovely wife Amruta and energetic son Malhar.

 


Preparation

Tyres

KTM Duke 390 is having the Metzilers tyre which is very soft compound, I was attempting Zanskar Valley and Hanle were both the places have worst road which test each and every part of bike. After lots of posts and discussion on Team-BHP finally I went with off road tyres.

KTM Duke 390 Tyre

KTM Duke 390 Tyre Rear

As the front tyre have increased the profile, front mudguard modification done as per the guidance by Uday.

Saddle Bags

After lots of research and owners reviews I purchased Rynox Nomad Saddle bags. The main worry was of petrol cans for reserve stock as Duke have only 10 L tank which provides range of at most 230 km. It was decided to carry two 5 L cans in each saddle bags, mock ride has given confidence of enough space for other luggage.

This bags are made up of hard material which keeps them in shape, the bags are 100 % water proof without rain cover. I have tested it in Himachal rain for around 5 hours of continuous pour. Addition to that I added Dirtsack tank bag for camera and gadgets and a Wrangler casual bag for extra clothes.

Rynox Nomad Saddle bags 2

Ridding Gears

Aspida riding jacket – I am using this jacket for 2 years now, this comes with thermal / rain liner. This jacket is not water proof at all so I carried Duck bag raincoat which helped me in Ladakh snow fall as well as Himachal rain, total water proof solution.

Rynox Advento riding pant– I was using Cramster knee pad so far, purchased Rynox Adventoo after reading lots of reviews and it paid off totally in this trip. I hardly used single jeans as I was wearing cycling short inside this pant for whole trip. This pant comes with thermal and rain liner separate which makes it 100% water proof. Addition to that it has lots of pockets and 2 air vents on knee which helped a lot in Rajasthan heat.

Riding shoes– I used JCB Excavator shoes for this ride which is humbly serving me from last couple of months in all season. This comes with steel toe and basic level protection.

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Helmet– I used LS 2 Cartoon helmet for this ride which is also serving me for last couple of years, just purchased visor for it and kept the old in spare.

Please refer the picture form first post for these gears.

Bike Spares

Purchased following items for bike:
1. Clutch cable and lever
2. Accelerator cable
3. Front brake lever
4. Gear and rear brake paddle
5. Fuses
6. Motual Chain cleaner and Lubs
7. Extra nuts and bolts
8. Tubeless tyre Puncture kit

Bike Charger

Purchased A-Z 12 V Socket and USB Charger from Amazon for some 1200 rs and fitted at ASC. This device helped me a lot for mobile charging and GoPro battery charging on the go. Additionally I had a rear tyre puncture at Drass where puncture shop was around 4 km away, so I used the socket with type infiltrator.

ResQTech micro tyre inflator

Very useful purchase I will say, you can find it here

Visor for Duke 390

Purchased Yamaha Fazer visor for 350 Rs form local shop and fitted at KTM service centre for 100 rs. It helps to avoid the wind blast on chest, also it keep insects out on high speed.

GoPro Hero 4 Camera
This is the most expensive purchase of this trip. In my last trip I had used SJ Cam loaned from a friend hence was thinking to purchase SJ 4000; however I liked GoPro reliability. Purchased 3 way stick, jaw mount, dual battery charger and 2 extra battery with 64 GB data card. Total damage of 50 K.

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KTM Duke luggage carrier
This was last minute addition, I was leaving on 4th June hence went on one test ride on 28th May weekend and realized that one more bag was needed. Question was how to tie it properly for such long ride. I was following one company for long who have made a very nice carrier for KTM Duke. This person owns the KTM showroom and service centre in Pune. So contacted him; bad luck he was out of country still he assured to fit one on my bike before the ride. And finally I got the carrier fitted on bike on Friday 3rd June at 7 PM at his ASC. This carrier helped me lot in trip, I tied everything to this and it remained at its position for thousands of kms with three digit speed. Faaster Wheels

KTM Duke carrier 1

KTM Duke carrier

Two 5 L chemical cans

I heard a lot that KTM Duke has only 10 L tank capacity. This is the biggest disadvantage; I will differ here because I never felt as it. On hi-way bike provided me 230-250 range which is sufficient for touring as you always take some food or hydration break after these much kms. KTM console is well advanced and informative. The biggest advantage of this bike is it sets the EFI as per the altitude, I started getting 30+ millege after Zozi la 40 + around Leh. At one point when I was climbing Khardung La the meter displayed 48 Km/L. I know it was for those 40 km but still its better than wasting the fuel without power with black smoke like other bike. While coming back from Leh to Manali I topped up tank in Leh and when I checked fuel in Sarchu it was still not on reserve, Sarchu is 250 + km so definitely Duke 390 return 300+ range in mountains. I may be wrong here but this is my observation

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Ride Plan

The ride plan will not be complete without appreciating a help from HV Kumar and Central Hotel Desk team. The trip was solo however these guys were literally travelling with me as the tag line of HVK says “When you travel, we travel with you”.

HVK used to ping me for every 2/3 hours about location, on second day while having some snacks I forgot to send him location however send my location to other shared whats app group, with in seconds I received bombarding from Kumar sir . He cares a lot for everybody from forum travelling on road. Respect to Kumar sir for this.

I planned to start on 4th June as it was Saturday, got permission to work from home on Friday Thanks to my manager who understand my passion about bikes and rides. This gave me enough time for last minute preparation as well as sleep.

The original plan was for 22 days however have changed it a bit because of worst roads in Zaskar valley hence saved couple of days, addition to that KTM Duke 390 performed amazingly and I saved a day while climbing up as well as while coming down. This resulted in reaching home early to help in preparation of my son’s first school day.

Here is the plan I executed on this ride.

Trip Plan

All the hotels were booked by HVK CHD team, the route was shared in advanced with me in well managed excel file which I used daily in tank bag.

Every day I used to set the google map whenever in wifi zone, cross checked with HVK map for major towns and turns and each day used to end with discussion with Kumar sir on what for tomorrow.


 

Day One

Pune – Ahmednagar – Shirdi – Manmad – Malegaon – Indor – Ratlam – Mandsaur – Chittorgarh – Bilwara. = 950 km
Google map link

Started from Pune (home) on sharp 4.30 AM with a good buy to wife. Leaving family for so many days is very difficult task and there was bit hesitation in mind when I left home and I saw the first scene which made me upset for some hours. Just after a 2 km from home I saw police on road, they were directing vehicles to take other lane, while crossing the spot I saw that a body of a man lying on road in blood, a speeding vehicle would have knocked him down while crossing road in dark. The body was lying there literally like dog for some time till police reach the spot and block the road. This patch of the road is worst and it’s my every day commute road where I have seen people blindly coming on road from the trees on divider. Such a bad start of trip, but somehow gathered a courage to go ahead as I may have to see more event like this in 6000+ km journey I was on. My friend Prashant made it to my home and helped me to pack the bags on bike and rode with me till Nagar road. It was dark but cool weather hence completed first 200 km with no sweat. Stopped for a quick tea and biscuit after Shirdi. The road till Shirdi + 90 km is single lane and lots of uneven surfaces with huge truck traffic which was difficult to overtake. Once I crossed Manmad the four lane road started and then I forgot where I stopped for next break. KTM Duke is just an amazing long distance tourer bike, it was giving good 230+ km range on each tank full. The planned first day halt was Ratlam however I crossed Ratlam before lunch break. Quickly updated CHD team while having food and we decided to try for Chittorgarh.

I crossed Chittorgarh around 5.30 PM and then started feeling tired not because of riding for long but because of Rajasthan heat and cross wind. My clock was showing 48 Deg on that day, apart from lots of hydration break I did’t faced any other issue. At Chittorgard I asked HVK about next stop; where I can reach till 7 PM and started ride towards Bilwara.

I ended my day at Bilwara with hotel having secure parking for my bike and hot water and bed for me which was my primary communicated need to HVK CHD.

No photo or video as every gadget apart from mobile was well packed in tank bag which opened only after Jammu.

Here I would like the share the self-realization had on this day, I was out to enjoy the bike ride solo however being this my first solo ride for long distance most of the part of mind was covered with worry and very little part with joy. The worry part was literally troubling me, what if I meet with accident here? How my family will manage this? Will I be able to see my wife and my kid again?

Such questions are really painful and I wasted my whole first day with this state of mind. I was focused on road with 100% but you can’t stop your subconscious mind. While resting in hotel I shared this with my wife and she blamed me first for planning such stupid thing but then gave confidence to move ahead and enjoy the trip at most.

The only photo I just found in my mobile from Day 1, clicked somewhere at Rajasthan. Because this is the only tree I found to take rest after long kms.

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Day Two

Bilwara – Jaipur – Rewari – Rohtak – Panipat – Karnal – Ludhiana – Jalandhar – Pathankot – Jammu = 1074 km

Google map link

Started at sharp 5 AM from Bilwara hotel, crossed Kishangarh before sunrise and entered Jaipur within no time. After yesterday’s horrible mind game I decided to enjoy the trip. I enjoyed the good food and took sufficient breaks after some kms.

Initial plan was to stop at Pathankot however I wanted to have a check on Duke at Jammu before I enter the valley. So communicated to HVK that I am going to push today till Jammu. After Jalandar the weather started changing from hot and bright to cold and dark. When I was around Pathankot it started raining heavily. I was prepared with Saddle bag rain cover and a rain cot for me however visibility went for toss and the average speed dropped from 80 to 20/30. I still kept on progressing and finally rain god stopped pouring on me badly after Lakahnpur. However till the time I had lost much light and it was almost 8.45. Finally I entered the Jammu and started searching the hotel. It was very much crowded and no one was ready to guide me to my address. My hotel was located near bus stop so finally one guy who was going to droop someone asked me to follow him. I reached the hotel around 10.15 PM after lots of call with hotel person and Kumar sir.

Parked the bike securely, had a good bath and dinner in room and called it a day.


Day Three

Jammu – Srinagar = 258 km

Day 3 started bit late as I was visiting KTM ASC for bike check up which opens around 10 AM so took rest for some more time as I was riding for almost 15+ hours from last two days. . I had a word with KTM ASC and he was ready to do quick servicing.

Reached the ASC around 9.45 AM and found that they are just opening and no one was there from service floor. Saw two Bangalore riders also waiting their one with Duke 390 and other with Bullet. After discussion I learned that we both work for same company but from different locations. His Duke 390 was showing some stalling issue. Spent around 2 hours their, did oil change and chain cleaning and lubrication. It was around 12 noon, quick chat with Kumar sir and he said you are late today and can’t reach Srinagar. I started immediately from there with disappointment that I wasted more than required hours at ASC. With hope to reach Srinagar today itself I crossed Udhampur and started climbing the ghats and worst roads of journey.

I did not like to stay around or cross Srinagar, people here literally hate other state passing vehicles. Cab drivers and even personal vehicles are very arrogant and they just push you out of the road without any reason. This was my second time here and I got similar experience again so reaching Srinagar today and leaving early to cross the mighty Zozi la was must or me.

Encountered lots of riders groups on this road, most of them have transported their bikes to Jammu and have started from there. The Jammu Srinagar road is narrow and have lots of pot holes and dirt. The road work truck adds to that and throw dust, mud whatever they found to you.

I was covering the distance with good pace and the only bad incident of the whole trip happened. I was moving behind a Tavera taxi and we were climbing from outer side of valley, oncoming vehicle are on inner lane. The speed was not more than 40/50 and suddenly one moron private car driver from oncoming side decided to overtake. The taxi in front of me braked hard and then I did panic breaking to save my front alloy wheel. I did not touched at all to taxi in front however I lost my balance as it was turn and slow, I was about fell in front of oncoming taxi however I managed to leave pretty bike and jumped on other side. Bike dropped badly and I was unable to lift it as it fell on slop. Taxi driver in front came out and helped me to lift the bike, enquired about my condition and left from the scene when I confirmed that I am good. Stopped there for 5 min, had some water and started again. Every moment on road adds to your experience.

This is the place where I managed to drop the bike only once in whole trip.

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From there on-wards I tried to avoid bumper to bumper riding and reached Jawahar Tunnel.

Crossed the tunnel and the weather changed drastically, clicked some snaps at Titanic point and moved ahead as there were chances of good rain on the way.

Srinagar Selfy.PNG

When the Srinagar was around 60 Kms away, it started pouring badly. The road work made the bad road worst and skiddy. Helmet visor was fogging badly. Somehow I kept moving ahead as there was no point in stopping as it was getting dark and bit scary.

Finally I reached Srinagar and started navigating to Dal lake where my hotel was booked. Rain stopped for some time and I reached hotel without getting lost. The hotel was very nice and cozy as good as a romantic Daal lake. Unloaded the bike, had bath and came out to have dinner and enjoyed the beauty of Daal Lake at night.

Unfortunately I decided to take GoPro instead of DSLR out however I was not able to record in night mode in GoPro hence started clicking with iPhone 5.

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After having nice Punjabi dinner called it a day as the real adventure was about to start from tomorrow.


 

Day Four

Srinagar – Zozi La – Drass – Kargil – Panikhar = 295 km
Google map link

Started from Daal lake around 5 AM, navigated through Srinagar which looked more beautiful in morning when it was silent. Tried to have a breakfast, all the hotels were closed hence kept on riding.

Stopped at one nice location for photo before Sonmarg.

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Thought of taking out the DSLR; tension of crossing mighty Zozi la kept me moving fast.

Reached Sonmarg and had a breakfast before check post, had aloo paratha and a tea. Had a chat with cabbies about the schedule and he said biker can cross Zozi La anytime. So I started moving towards Zozi la, no one stopped me and I entered the empty road as the traffic was coming from other side.

First couple of kms were a joyful ride with greenery and snow on mountains. Soon I encountered the oncoming traffic which started pushing me to the side of the road. We couple of bikers were lined up to negotiate with truckers and kept moving.

At one point other bikers stopped for photos so I moved ahead and soon entered the narrow patch of Zozi la which was looking dangerous. Suddenly I saw a huge convoy coming from other side which contained more than 50 trucks. An army man was walking in front of trucks to clear the road asked me to stop at one side. There was no space to move ahead or go back and I was looking around for danger of sliding stones. Those 15 mins of trips were the most threatening minutes because it was straight drop of more than 100 ft at valley side.

After the oncoming traffic slowed down I moved ahead and soon reached the land of Lama…

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Zozi la 15

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Zozi la 18

Here is video composition of Zozi la

 

After crossing Zozi la I came out of big burden and started enjoying the awesome view. I was approaching Drass and on one of the corner I felt that something is wrong with bike, it was pulling here and there when I tried to lean on corners. Entered the Drass village and saw a hotel so stopped for quick bite. On close look found that rear tyre was losing its pressure. Enquired for puncture shop and learned that there was single shop and that was closed.

However some people told me that there is one more shop after 4 KMs. One shop owner assured that it is open today as he just got his bike repaired from there. Till the time I saw that tyre lost pressure totally. Saw a big nail on tyre which was hanging and not stuck fully but it had made the required damage. Within no time pulled my tyre infiltrator and used it for around 5 min where it tried to put the air pressure around 25 but not above that as nail was lose and which is allowing air to pass out. Did a trick and pressed the nail inside which helped to keep the pressure on 25 so started riding fast with load balanced on front wheel.

Reached the puncture repair shop but is was over crowed with private and army trucks, all the men from shop were fully occupied. They just ignored me saying no without looking at me. I was having puncture repair kit however did not want to take chance on new tyres as kit was just for emergency situation. In the meantime; Army man started talking to me and they were really curious to know how I came from Pune on bike. One of them shared his experience of living in Pune when he was in Southern Command. They appreciated my efforts and asked tyre wala to help me.

Puncture got repaired within 10 min and I kept the pressure to 35 so that there will not be more puncture in Ladakh. After some days I realized that tyre was still losing pressure above 25 but there was no option as all shops were same so kept on adding air every day and rode the bike till Pune with same puncture.

Left from the shop and reached Kargil, I did not stopped at Kargil war memory this time as I have visited this place on last trip, also the plan was to reach Panikhar so kept riding.

Filled the reserve cans in saddle bags with 5 L petrol each and topped up the tank as well. Then went in search of good hotel for lunch; didn’t found single good hotel in Kargil just for food. On top of that there was one way in Kargil which was totally messed up. Came back to petrol pump and opted my reserve quota of food. After having good food, topped up my water bottles there itself and started riding to Panikhar.

When you leave Kargil; the Suru Valley starts after 10/20 kms and the scenery changes dramatically. It is totally green on ground and snow covered mountains in background. I immediately got a paisa vasual feeling.

When you leave Kargil, the straight road goes to Suru Valley and Iron Bridge on left lead us to Leh. Many people make this mistake and start riding / driving on Suru valley road.

The roads here are awesome till Panikhar and the people are happy and nice. The time I was riding from this road the school kids were walking back to home and everybody was waving to me with smiley face.

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This is the JKTDC Panikhar maintained by a humble man Bashir Ahemed (9469365469). He is taking care of this guest house from last 10 years. There was no one in guest house on that day so we had good chat. He told that Suru and Zaskar valley are ignored by JK government and they are not providing basic facilities like road hence tourist do not visit this side of Ladakh. He is hardly getting any bookings here as very selective people chose this route. There was not running cold / hot water in guest house, he is struggling with local JKTDC officials to get it fixed however no success.

I asked him that how you feel that you are living in heaven here. However he said what the use of heaven is as we suffer because of this extreme weather, also we send our kids to schools to big cities like Delhi, Mumbai and they do not return here as they are happy there only. I felt very bad to hear this sad truth but what can we do, it’s the truth.

Bashir was on Roja however still he prepared a rice and daal for me as he said you have come long way here and we can’t keep you hungry. I passed my appreciation to him and paid him full amount as I was leaving to Pensi la early morning.

It was very cold there may be negative temp so I used 2 blankets and called it a day.

Here is video composition of Suru Valley


Day Five

Panikhar – Tongul – Rangdum – Pensi La – Rangdum – Panikhar – Kargil = 265 Km
Google map link

It was very cold in Panikhar and I was feeling lazy to come out of cozy blanket but destination was attractive and the road was known to be worst so pushed myself out of the bed and started packing. Loaded all the luggage on bike and left the guest house, Bashir was sleeping in his house which is near to guest house.

Still it was bit dark I was navigating through sleepy village slowly. The road after Panikar is changing at every corner, sometime it is dusty and sometime it’s muddy.

Soon I started climbing the mountains and the glaciers became clearer. It was feast for eyes to watch a fresh greenery with fresh snow background.

Zanskar 1

Zanskar 2

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Zanskar 3

The roads were very narrow and roads work trucks have made them worst with deep tracks. One had to be very cautious while chaining track otherwise you will be in valley for sure. Soon I reached Tongul village, there was hardly any house other than a tea shop. I was accompanied by some passenger busses as they had started very early from Kargil for Padum. Had a tea and biscuits at Tongul for 10 mins, chatted with passengers about the road and how much time this bus takes to reach Padum. They were also curious to know where I was heading. Started riding again from Tongul, this part of journey was really difficult as there was no single village till next 80 km which is Rangdum. Addition to that road were in worst condition with fresh landslides and numerous water crossing. My luck was that I got good number of trucks and busses which I over took for assurance that someone is behind me and if my bike breaks or if something happens to me there are people behind.

Enjoy the photos from Tonglu to Rangdum.
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I saw these three interesting people, stopped for a minute to enquire if I was on right road because before this there was circular road on river bed which was confusing. And this blue shirt person asked me if this is KTM Duke bike.
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After negotiating through up and downs, water crossing and boulders from river bed finally I reached Rangdum. Totally exhausted and hungry but with feeling of achievement of travelling on such road alone.

This is the Rangdum village

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I spent almost an hour here for food and some rest as I was riding on foot peg for almost 30 kms in last 5 hours. Had a maggy and hot tea. There were some foreigners staying in this hotel, they were having good chat over food and from there attire I guessed that they are living here for long.

Because of the road condition and the worry of bike I started thinking that should I ride till Padum or return from here to Kargil. Talked to hotel owner; he confirmed that there was no road improvement ahead; advised to visit Padum. So decided to take a call after Pensi la and started the bike again.

Rangdum monastery in view.

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After riding for 30 kms on same road but totally up hill I got the glimpse of Pensi La. The snow here is very clean and fresh compared to Zozi la or Khardung La.
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And here clicked the photo of achievement of the trip.
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When I planned this trip Zanaskar Valley was the main target which I achieved on this day. Spend very little time here because I was feeling bit uncomfortable here as the wind was very high and the temp was also less. So left immediately on return journey.

While climbing Pensi La I met one RE group which was coming from Padum, had a chat with them and asked if I should go till Padum but they confirmed that there was nothing exciting ahead after Pensi La. So I made the decision to return to Kargil today itself.

Clicked some photos and videos at Pensi La, bid Adieu and returned to Rangdum for lunch.

Somehow I was feeling more uncomfortable on return and I thought that I was going to vomit here. However popped a dimox and drank some electoral water and took some rest for 30 min. Situation started improving so had some rice, daal and a tea.

I filled the reserve can of 5 L and decided to move on return journey.

When I was about to move rain started showering, so packed all cameras in bag as I had enough clicks while coming and also I had to save time to reach Kargil before it gets dark.

Reached Kargil around 6.30 PM and checked in to the hotel which was booking by HVK CHD. Had a good hot water bath and got connected to wifi to pass on the updates from last 2 days to family and friends.

Hotel served good testy dinner so topped up the stomach and dropped into the bed. The every part of body was in pain due to last 250+ km off-roading.

Here is the video composition Panikhar to Pensi La.


Day Six

Kargil – Lamayuru – Leh = 240 km

I was just running every DAY with tight schedule for last 5 days and the body was paining badly with Kargil cold so decided to start bit late today. Took enough time to get ready, filled up the remaining 5 L petrol from can and started for Leh. This is the awesome road for every traveler and every km is scenic and you can’t resist to stop. I was not in much hurry, as 250 km and NH 1 was easy target.

Stopped at each and every corner, mountain and pass. Whenever I use to stop for photo people used to gather in curiosity of what bike it is. Somehow the Duke 390’s look is changed totally after my modification and it is looking like big-shot touring bike. Many people particularly ladies asked for photograph with bike.

Leh-Kargil Road Namik La
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KTM Duke 390 Selfy
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Here is my favorite video of the trip.


Day Seven

I was riding everyday when I started from Pune hence decided to take good rest now in the city of Lama. So woke up very late with lazy tea. Thought of having good lunch however Leh market was close as there was some strike by merchant union. After chat with guest owner Mr. Lings decided to give a nice wash to Duke and some lube work if available in market. There was a bullet mechanic on Shanti Stupa road who was open; so washed the bike there and headed in search of good hotel. Unfortunately all the hotels were also forced to close. Not sure why Leh people have started behaving this way, last year they did big drama with Zoom cars and this year with the strike in peak season. Finally found a hotel which was serving with doors closed, so had good veg lunch and went back to guest hotel for some more sleep.

Because of this my shopping plan went for toss in total. Mr. Lings the owner of this guest house is very interesting person, he was a tour and trek guide in early darys, then worked with Kingfisher airways and then started his own guest house in Leh. He shared lots of experience and listened to my experience as well. This is how I spent the whole 7th day of trip in very relaxed manner.

In the evening met new friends who have come in FIAT Linea Jet which is my favorite car so we started chatting on car and then we spent many hours together on different subjects. They were three people, one working in Pune and other two in Bangalore. On the next day there plan was to visit Nubra valley so we all went to bed early.

 


 

Day Eight

Leh – Khardung La – Leh

Today is again going to be easy day for time and kilometers however the challenge was the snow on road and the mighty Khardung La. Khardung La was closed down one day before because of snow and the weather was still cloudy and cold so there were chances of snow again.

Started from guest house around 7 AM with just a tank bang and water bottle, topped up the fuel and left for Khardung La. It was calm and bright day, additionally Kumar sir advised to start early to beat the Aircraft crowd which was a valuable advice, I got literally empty road. I experienced what he meant by aircraft crowd. All cabbies were driving like crazy and overtaking each other without thinking much.

The road was good and clean till South Pullu and it started showing its color after it. First it was dusty, then it turned into muddy and then snowy. It was good experience of riding on snow. Addition to that as I was riding very early at some places there were no tracks on road and it was snow bed, front wheel was cutting the soft snow and I was enjoying it thoroughly. Awesome!

This was my first experience of riding on snow, last time we didn’t found such situation in Safari.

After negotiating corners and climbs finally I reached the mighty Khardung La, every biker’s dream destination.

I achieved the biggest milestone in my life, as SOLO ride to Khardung La, Ladakh.

Khardung La 1

Khardungla_KTM_Duke390_3

Khardungla_KTM_Duke390_2

Khardungla_KTM_Duke390

Khardung La 2

 

Video composition of my Lifetime Achievement, Solo Khardung la.

When I reached Leh from Khardung La the market was still closed, after enquiry found that it was not going to open. Out of frustration I decided to move on my plan. The next destination on my plan was Hanle.
So how I got attracted towards Hanle? Which is not very popular destination. The total credit goes to tsk1979’s (Tanveer) thread and his star gazing photographs.

In the evening guest owner told me that the strike was ended and some shops in market were open. I just jumped on bike and went to market, the important shopping was for my kid to whom I promised that I will bring him a Yak and Bike printed T shirt and some stone jewellery for wife. However I found only T shirt shop so came back with half done shopping , because of which I travelled some 60 kms back to Leh from Hanle again instead of staying at Upashi. But what is 60 kms in front of 6500+.

Visited Shanti Stupa while the T shirt selected design is getting ready for kid.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0574.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0577.

After shopping, topped up the fuel tank as well as cans as I decided to leave early from Leh for Hanle. Reached hotel and had nice Daal rice and called it a day.


 

Day Nine

Leh – Karu – Upashi – Himya – Chumatang – Nyoma – Leh = 254 km
Google Map link

I was aware that some 40 km road is in very bad condition however the scenery is awesome so charged all the batteries for GoPro and DSLR and left Leh around 5.30 AM. Stopped at Karu for quick tea and continued immediately. This was the first destination where I have to take a permit which was arrange by guest house owner. The challenge was of creating copies of it to submit at every check post because of closed market. Still he managed to get me 2 copies. First check post at Upashi where I submitted one copy and then remained with single copy which submitted to Mahe. The police person at Mahe was very friendly and told me that there is only big village ahead is Nyoma where you will get a copier.

After Mahe road changes from good tarmac to a bouncy/bumpy dirt road which is totally washed by Indus River. Road work is going at many places however it’s still in bad shape. Cars may feel it good as they can go fast however bike can’t because it is like rumbles on hi-way. Still I managed good pace, after lots of photography halts came back on tarmac road.

In the whole trip I liked this only place because of mind blowing scenery, I even didn’t felt like this in Zaskar Valley. You can’t ride continuously and will stop at every km for photos. Such a beautiful place it is.

 

Stopped at Nyoma for lunch, there was only 2 hotels cum shops on road and the village was bit far from main road. Went to the village as I want to get copies of permit. There was really a good shop with all the things like camera battery, mobiles, SD cards and a copier. Ladakhi peoples are really friendly and humble they answer your every question very gently. Learned from the shop owner lady that road ahead is good.

Came back to main road and stopped at hotel, After enquiry found that they have momos only, however on request they made some maggy and tea for me. I was carrying some cookies which had purchased last night from Gesmo Bekery. While I was having a lunch, a Gujrathi family dropped in same hotel for lunch however being Gujrathi they were not very happy to see only two options of maggy and momos so they immediately pulled out their Channa chor and borrowed some onion and tomatoes from hotel and stared on their lunch. The girl from the family got some interest in my bike and after looking at number plate she shouted Maharashtra, from where Mumbai. Then she came to me and had a long conversation for around 20 min on how I came down here from Pune on bike and why I am doing this and what type of job I do etc. She was literally not allowing to eat my lunch however I amazed with her interest to know about a stranger. So answered all her queries, then the whole family came to me and appreciated my efforts and passed me wishes for my trip back to home. These Gujarati people are just awesome they do not hesitate at all in things they are doing. Chel chabilo gujarati.
Bike road trip is awesome just because you meet lots of different people which you can’t really while travelling in a closed car.

Finished my lunch and while paying I found that hotel owner is selling petrol in 1 L bottles, so purchased four liters and filled the tank again for safer side and moved ahead towards Hanle. I didn’t bothered about fuel quality in Leh at all but Duke didn’t pushed me down at any place.

Soon I saw the clouds and with no time it started raining, the weather was already cold and its now rain. Hanle was just 60 kms from there so I didn’t bothered much about it and kept riding. The amazing this about this rain was, the drop was freezing while travelling down to ground. I don’t know what to call it but I found it amazing, it was different story that it was hitting me badly and making funny sound on helmet. Tap tap tap …

After some time clouds vanished and I blessed with bright sunny weather, stopped at couple of time to click the magic of nature. Soon I saw the board of Hanle and a monastery on right side.

Saw the guest house board which was booked for me, reached the location dropped the luggage, had a tea and left to see the Hanle village and observatory.

The observatory is up on the hill adjacent to Hanle village and it takes around 5 minutes to reach there by bike. Once you reach there all your efforts and money gives you returns. There is a situated parking space, parked the bike and sat down for 10 min and watched the surrounding. I am short of words how it is and only I can tell you that if you have not seen Hanle you have not yet completed the Ladakh…

Below is the video composition

This day of the trip was awesome not just because of scenery but also because of new friends with whom spent lot of time on that night sharing everybody’s different experiences.

Ended this day very late compared to other days in trip, Hanle was the most cold compared with Zanskar, Kargil and Leh. I was under a blank which was thick like a mattress however still it was not enough.

 


Day Ten

Leh – Nyoma – Chumatang – Himya – Upashi – Karu – Leh = 254 km

It was bright sunny morning but still cold so I was not willing to even wash my mouth. Had some warm sun rays in open space of guest house and then went for nice breakfast offered by guest house owner. Paraths and Tea, had enough on which I can survive for a day.

Fuel was available with guest house so again filled the tank and left the Hanle for Leh.

Surprisingly there was no single cloud while going back, so enjoyed the scenery again, stopped by at one place were kids were playing cricket and then moved ahead.

Had a tea break at Mahe check post and then to Karu without any stop. Spent some time in Karu for lunch, had some discussion with bikers who were heading towards Manali.

The good news was Leh strike was ended and the whole market was open. Being this is my last day in Leh, had enough shopping on that night and good food at Gesmo again because this time I didn’t got chance to enjoy the Gesmo because of the strike.

Came back to hotel and packed all the things and went to bed as next day was going to be one of the tough day again because I have to reach Manali after crossing lots of hurdles.

Paid the hotel in advance and called it a day.


Day Eleven

Leh – Tanglang la –Debring -Pang- Sarchu – Jispa – Keylong –Gramphoo- Rohatang La – Manali – Mandi = 610 km

It was last day of my Ladakh solo ride as from next day it was going to be just ride to reach home back from highways. Packed the lugguage and started from the Lings guest house on 4.30 AM with a cup of tea from care taker. It was very cold and misty with empty road, the duke tank and reserve cans were filled on last night so started riding on Manali road with fresh mind. Soon reached the Upashi check post, made an entry for Manali and started again.

The target was to reach Manali so that I can reach Pune in next two days, it was not very challenging target however you can not take the road and the weather in Ladakh region for granted. The first hurdle was to cross Tanglang La, the road is awesome and one can easily ride constantly on 50 Km/hr speed. It was around 6.30 AM when I was climbing Tanglang La, sun was still behind the mountains. The road was covered with hard ice bed at some water crossings which was difficulty to cross, bike was going fish tail so I was very cautious. On top of that it was badly cold there and I was feeling the cramps in my figures. At one water crossing the patch of hard ice was very long so I waited for a truck to cross it first so that the slice will break and then it will be easy for me to move on. After riding for 15 min I reached at the top of Tanglang la 17480 ft. The top was totally deserted, clicked some photos / videos and started moving. I was very used to these passes till this point so did not interested to spend time there.

In my last trip to Ladakh I missed this road as Rohatang opened twice and closed with heavy snow hence we have to come back from Zozi la. Riding on this road was dream come true for me. I was dreaming of this road for so long as many Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey videos are made on this road. Then come the More Plains. If I am not this patch is of around 40 km where the road runs from middle of the mountains and Sumkhel Lungpa river at some places. It was amazing experience of riding on More plains. Nomad tribes with ships and goats are the only companion I had for long patch of more than 50 km and nothing else. These people are living in removable tents with their hundreds of ships and goats.

More plains ends suddenly like a magic and the road turn right downhill, the natural mountain structure on this location is awesome. After travelling around 4 km downhill I reached the Pang, first place after Upashi where you can get a food, shelter and most important is the puncture shop. There are lots of tent which provides good accommodation and food for travelers. I had a good breakfast here, it was a bread omelet with tea. Had some 10 min rest for natural call under warm sun, enquired with hotel owner about road condition ahead and started for Sarchu.

Leh to Manali road is the road of passes after staring form Pang I travelled around 25 km to reach the next pass Lachlung la. The road after pang is in very bad shape and truckers have made it worst. I forced to ride behind trucks couple of time which was frustrating because neither you can stop nor overtake them. Reached Lachlung la after spending good amount of time eating the dust behind the Indian Oil truck. Lachlung la is placed at height 16600 ft, then Naki la which is at height 15547 ft. After this pass the famous ghata loop starts which is of just 10 km however I felt it like never ending. Truckers have made some short cuts here to avoid long travel however I didn’t dare to take those short cuts as I do not wanted to end my trip with damaged bike or my body. I rode straight from road and soon reached Whisky Nallah, the view was breath taking. I searched a lot on internet for how this name is given to this place however didn’t find anything. And then come the brandy nallah. I think this names must be given by either truckers or army people. I stopped at these two nallah for video and then moved towards Sarchu.

In my earlier plan we had planned my stop for this day at Sarchu however I reached Sarchu lot early than lunch time. Saw lots of tent accommodation here which were looking just beautiful on those mountains I have decided that I will stop here for a day in my next trip for sure. I met the BCMT friends here again from Hanle, when I left to Leh from Hanle these people left for Pang from Hanle on same day. They were staying at Pang last night and have started for Manali. I had a cup of tea with them, fill the 10 liter in petrol tank as the tank was below reserve. KTM Duke just rocked these hilly roads and on full tank I covered more than 270 km.

Next attraction was Baralacha la which is 40 kms away from Sarchu. Road is of mixed condition, it was good at some places and worst at some places. After crossing couple of water crossing which was a challenging and fun experience. At one of the water crossing Duke submerged at half engine level however no single miss fire or hitch up and we kept moving. Baralach la is at height of 16040 ft and very cold. The ice was still on both side of road and it was sliding at couple of places. The road was very narrow which can hardly accommodate 2 crossing vehicle, on top of that there were some idiots with cars like Fortuner and Pajero who had parked there vehicles on road. Two minutes traffic jam at Baralacha la so two minutes silence for these three idiots. Again very small break for video and moved ahead.

Then comes the miraculous Suraj Tal with clean blue water, I saw a board there which renames this to Vishal tal. An armed force captain Vishal lost his life here when his helicopter crashed in Suraj tal. Rest in peace champ!

Road from here ahead are in decent condition and you can achive good speed. After riding for around 10 Km I reached the Zing zing bar. I saw that couple of biker where riding ahead, chased them for some time and found that this was the same group to whom I met at Rangdum Zanskar. Presented thumps up on the go and moved ahead. Lots of bikers particularly bulletrs where come from opposite side as well. At one corner a truck was climbing so slowed down and riding from valley side, from now where I saw a bulleter started over taking that truck with full speed. Without thinking I just tried to save myself however his Ladakh carrier (one of the worst accessories bulleter use for Ladakh trip) crashed my saddle bag, for microseconds I thought that this is going to be end of the trip however managed to force the bike to other side and come on road again. I was literally in mood to smash that person’s face however he left the scene in dust.

Soon I reached Darcha CP where some drunken HP police where harassing everyone so prepared myself as well for the encounter however when I made my entry they were busy in looting one trucker so did quick entry and left the place.

Road after Darcha is very good except some land slide patches where the road work was going on. I was feeling good now as I can at least some greenery here which was missing from last 10 days. I kept riding and soon crossed Jispa. Jispa is nice village on road side facing the mountain and angry river. Himachal rivers are really angry and muddy. With no time I reached Keylong which was again back up plan location to stay but as usual I was ahead of time and its was just 3 PM. Searched for a nice hotel and stopped for lunch. The lazy hotel owner promised to serve me food in 10 min but took around 30. So I lots unnecessary 1 hour here.

The road from Keylog to Gramphoo to Rohatang is in very bad shape and full of dust. My helmet was all pack from neck but still I was eating the dust. Excavators and trucks were blocking the road at many places, soon I crossed the famous fuel station Tandi which I always use to watch in all videos with special note of no petrol pump for 150 something km ahead. My duke was still long above reserve so I didn’t bothered to stop for fuel.

Started climbing Rohtang la which was not challenging but very frustrating because of those trucks and excavators. There is not road at all and you just right through stones and mud. After riding for long 25 km on those road the good road started which was upper part of Rohatan la. Voila! I reached Rohatang, this pass is very different than others. Not much snow however it is misty and the cloud were literally on road. I was on cloud 9. It was very joyful moment. I pulled helmet out so that I can capture this heaven but realized that GoPro was running out of memory. My mistake, I left the camera on recording while climbing the Rohatang which it kept capturing for long 30 min which ate the whole remaining memory. That moment was like what the hell in heaven. Enjoyed the environment and decided to move on.

I was warned by everyone at Ladakh those who came from Rohatang that there are heavy water crossing so take care, being a solo rider I was very tensed from morning about it. At this point I laughed on those advices. Heavy water crossed? I did lot more water crossing in Zanskar than this.
There were lots of bikers riding toward manali I meet a group from Ahemadnagar when I stopped for some clicks, they were riding Vstorme, Tiger and Duke 390. It was time to wrap up now as the sun was going down and tall trees were adding to it. After riding curvy road of Manali road for couple of kms nonstop I reached Manali. It was around 7 PM so did quick chat with HVK and decided to move on till Mandi. I aimed Mandi so that I can reach Jaipur or Bilwara on next day and then Pune. When I refueled bike in Sarchu from reserve can, it gulped only 7 liters so filled the remaining in tank at Manali and started riding ahead towards Mandi. It was evening time the road to Mandi was full packed with cabs and buses. Somehow made the way out of the crap traffic and started riding towards Kullu. The road is very narrow and with heavy traffic. At one point I thought that it was wrong decision of aiming Mandi and I could have rested at Manali. There was no other way than reaching Mandi so kept moving. I reached Mandi around 9.45 PM, checked into the hotel booked by HVK. Parked the bike securely and called it day with hot shower and good food.

On this day I didnot click much using DSLR but did GoPro wonder, so watch a 10 min video below:


Day Twelve

Mandi – Ambala – Rohtak – Jaipur = 730 km

It was second last day of trip where I was going to just ride to reach home also there was no need of the petrol cans as well so re arranged luggage and pulled the cans out which then tied on rear carrier and seat. This decision was really valuable as I was literally washed out b Himachal rain. Planned to star early however still it took some time get ready. Addition to that hotel was not serving and breakfast or tea before 8 AM so decided to move on without it and left hotel on 7 AM. There was some chances of rain however after around 10 kms it’s started pouring like a hell. Pulled bike on road side and added one more cover of raincoat, checked bag for proper packing and kept moving in rain. There was no other option than moving out of this region and reach Panjab. The intensity of rain was very heavy and all the roads were started flooding. Trucks where adding to that with huge splashed on my whole body as well as helmet visor. I was using Rynox mobile holder however it failed to be a water proof hence I switched off the phone so the google map. Because all this mess I missed the road and rode around 10 km on wrong side which then realized. I was riding in this rain for around 5 hours but I think that was the right decision at that time, because when I approached Chandigarh it stopped raining. My riding shoes were carrying Himachal water of around half liter in each.

Soon entered the Chandigarh but decided not to stop until I see some clear skies. So kept riding and soon crossed Ambala. The improved a lot and I can see sun after so many hours of riding. Stopped at one dhaba and removed the water from shoes, no other option that riding without socks. Had a cup of tea and biscuits here and switched on the iPhone with eyes closed. I carried iPhone in mobile holder which was half filled with water from last more than 5 hours so there were very less chances that it will start. Jiyo mere laal… iPhone started working without any issue, checked weather for next cities and started for Jaipur again. I was able to complete only 200 + kms from last more than 5 hours because of rain so it was going to be tough ahead. Soon I entered Hariyana and the familiar names of the cities started appearing. Karnal, Panipat, Manesar… I saw a live accident on this road, I was riding from the right most lane after over taking some cars. I saw a Tata Nano approaching from other side of road on right most lane. With no time nano jumped on to the divider, I was in good speed an it was highway. I thought that now this is going to come on this side of road and might hit me as well. Within fraction of seconds I controlled my bike and prepared to navigate wherever I can. It was my luck and the nano crashed on the street light pole, rear thrown in air and again settled on road. Some plastic parts etc. dropped on both side. I managed to navigate from those scraps and stopped after some 100 meter. It was shocking moment of the day or of the trip I can say, stopped for some on by lane and had some water. Tried to find out about the occupants however cars on my side of road flagged me to move on. Soon I crossed Raweri and entered Rajasthan. Now I felt that Jaipur is with in my reach so stopped for food break however not in mood for having heavy food so opened by reserve stock and had some dry foods and then cold drinks.

After this stop I took it easy as Jaipur was within reach, soon crossed Behror and then reached outskirts of Jaipur. Quick chat with HVK and I confirmed that I do not want to move ahead so can take rest at Jaipur today. Hotel was booked by CHD where I reached around 7.30 PM. This was the best and costliest hotel in my whole trip.
Had a good hot water bath after long time to get rid of body pain and called it day with veg pulo and cold drink.


Day Thirteen

Jaipur – Pune = 1163

I did chat with all friends who were following my trip, everybody was against my next day ride Jaipur to Pune however I was sure that I can do it. My calculation was simple, in this trip I have completed 1074 km on second day from Bilwara to Jammu so it is just matter of 200 more kms. If I complete thest first 1000 km I can reach Shirdi, if I feel stressed I can rest there and start early morning and reach Pune by 10 AM.
This calculation in mind I started from Jaipur on sharp 4.30 AM and crossed Bilwara before 8.30 AM. Weather was cool in early morning and the plan was to cross Rajasthan before afternoon heat. The city names were very familiar and urge to meet family as soon as possible was pulling me towards pune. I did not pushed it hard at all, I ensured that bike and I reach Pune safely. The only thing I did was consistency in riding nonstop with only fuel breaks and food and natural call at same time on fuel station.
I crossed Rajasthan and then Madha Pradesh and soon entered my state. Call it whatever but when you enter you state and you see the MH number plate you get very different feeling and confidence too. Jai Maharashtra!
I approached the Shirdi and the best road ended here, single lane roads and truck traffics started which reduced my speed. I was on time as per my calculation, additionally I was not stressed at all so decided to take some rest in Shirdi just for safer side.
Found a basic hotel where a Misal paav and water, slept for some had time and then decided to move on till Ahemadnagar where I can take some more rest. Ahemadnagar is as good as Pune so I am on track. I reached Ahemadnagar around 7 PM, took small tea break and did some bike check as well. I found that the chain got too much play which was hitting the frame a lot however there was no other option than riding as it is slowly.
Started from Ahamadnagar and soon greeted by a Pune traffic on entry, it took very less time for to reach Pune but more them to reach home from outskirts of Pune.
When I reach near to home called my wife and asked her to come down to give as surprise ro my son as he was not aware that I am reaching home today. When I reached my parking he just jumped on me and sat on bike, he got a big surprise and his joy can’t be expressed in words.

So what I achieved from this trip:
I got answers to lots of question like who I am and where I am heading in life?

What is the aim of my existence?

And off-course my son got a role mode, his own Himalayan Hero…

***** If you like my blog, please hit the like or comment. *****

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7 thoughts on “Solo Motorcycle Trip to Ladakh

  1. Awesome trip log Vishal. Just the perspective I had always wanted.
    Between, you skipped Pangong Tso. May I know the reason?

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