It had been in my mind for a long time; a trip to the famous Leh-Ladakh. It claims to be the best place for biking in India and rightfully so. I had quit my job in May. I realized that before returning to the hassle again, I ought to make it happen. Taking 12 days for the entire journey, the plan kind of looked like this –
Day 1 – Flight from Bangalore to Srinagar.
Day 1 – Shared Cab from Srinagar to Kargil
Day 2 – Explore Kargil
Day 3 – Cab from Kargil to Leh.
Day 4 – Explore Leh town, rest.
Day 5 to Day 9 – Explore all the places around Leh and Laddakh on Bike.
Day 10 – Return to Manali.
(Day 1)Flight form Bengaluru to Srinagar and then Srinagar to Kargil by Taxi.
If you are planning to go to Leh from Srinagar by a shared cab, reaching Srinagar earlier in the day is very important. As our flights got delayed, we were in Srinagar TRC ( 30 minutes’ drive from the airport) at around 2PM. With no plans or intentions to stay in Srinagar even a bit longer and finding no shared taxi to Leh or Kargill; I was disappointed. However, luckily for me a taxi offered to drop me off at Kargil that day for a few extra bucks. It was a reasonable deal.
As we started from Srinagar, meandering through the beautiful Kashmir valley, the temperature started soothing down. Travelling for around 80 kms from Srinagar, we reached Sonmarg valley where we had our lunch and headed straight towards Kargil. On the way, we crossed the mighty Zozi la where I could contemplate the reason for it being closed during the winter. Treacherous terrain!!
Travelling another 70 kilometers or so, we stopped at Dras to have snacks and coffee. It was in the town of Dras where the infamous Kargil war started when Pakistani troops directed artillery fire from Tiger Hill and Tololing in 1999 .It was almost 7 PM the time we reached Dras and it was getting even colder. The (Dras)Kargil war memorial is here which we could not see as it was too late.
Kargil town is 50 kms. from Dras and by the time I reached the hotel, it was 9-30 PM. We stayed at Silk route Inn which was located just a mile away from the main market place.A beautiful river gorges by this hotel.The cost was around 1400 per night for a double bed room.
(Day 2.)Exploring Kargil.
The next morning, after having breakfast I got a bike(you can find many shops at the market place) and set out on the road that leads to a small village called Tangol, about 80 kms from Kargil.The famous Nun – Kun glacier expeditions start from here. There are week long hiking programs that people take to reach the glaciers from Tangol which of course I had no plans for. So, this trip was only for the sheer pleasure of riding along the beautiful Suru valley, getting acclimatised with the air and also get a feel of riding which you ought to do a lot during the remaining part of the trip.
(Day 3/4. )Kargil to Leh, Explore Leh town and take good rest .
The same driver who dropped us at Kargil agreed to take us to Ladakh. We started at around 10 the next day. Almost the entire road from Kargil to Leh is accompanied by barren,multihued mountains on both sides of the serpentine roads. Few places like the famous Lama Yuru, Sangam of Jhanskar and Indus and the Magnetic hills fall on this route. We reached Leh before dark. We looked for a decent and cheap hotel there and stayed in one in the fort road. That evening was about relaxing and exploring the town and the market place. There is a fine little place called the Leh-Chen bar and restaurant where we had a couple of beers and our dinner.
Khardungla and Nubra, (Day 5/6).
It was on this day that we started the real expedition (if you say so). We got our bikes (Avenger 220 CC) for 1200 bucks each per day. Bear in mind that you ought to negotiate with these people. Everything is cheaper if you bargain. One more point; we did a mistake not starting for Khardung la early. It was 2 PM, the time we started which lead us to face a few otherwise avoidable problems. The road to Khardung la is quite tricky. A good chunk is pebbled, studded with pot holes, slippery sand, puddles and what not. Riding will not be a piece of cake and basic expertise is required. Reaching Khardung la, at 18000+ ft. above sea level, we had a cup of tea and started descending to Nubra valley almost immediately (it is recommended no to stay up there for a longer period, the air being light and low O2 levels). Again, a big stretch of road downhill is not in its best condition. Being careful, alert, well hydrated and well covered(scarfs/jackets etc.) are the keys to a safe bike ride in Leh. The sun was going down and it was getting even colder. We were to descend swiftly to make it to Diskit (in Nubra wher we planned our next stay)before dark.