1. Intro. Whenever a biker makes a bucket list of the trips that he has to undertake, Laddakh surely comes on top. I started my biking journey in early 2011 when I bought the first fully fared sports bike launched in india, the Yamaha R15. Although the bike is not a choice that people make for long tours, I had a special liking for lightweight and nimble sports bikes than the big, heavy tourers.
After taking few local trips ranging around 100-200 kms and than increasing the range to 1000Kms in 3-4 days, I realised that going long distances on my R15 was'nt a problem at all despite of the racing riding poture that it offers. My friend Abhinav also bought the Royal Enfield bullet electra which at that time was one of the best tourers around. We both planned to do the Laddkah trip in june that year. Considering that we just started biking it was a huge step for us. So we made sure we are fully prepared both mentally and physically.
2. The Preparation Stage . We had done few rides as long as 200-300 Kms per day locally around Indore, where we were based at that time and we both were quite satisfied about our ability to ride these long distances. However nothing could prepare us for the terrain in Lahaul and the Laddakh region. We had never ridden in such high altitudes before. So we wanted to make sure our bikes behave well even when our bodies loose their efficiency. We reached Delhi on 5th of June 2011, five days before our flagging off. We visited the famous Karol Bagh market every evening to learn few tricks and basic repairs and replacements on our bikes.
These basic tricks included repairing a puncture, changing of throttle cable and clutch and brake wires and changing of fuses and spark plugs. In the process we met many riders who had either done the trip or were about to do it . We discussed all the issues that we might come up against including the harsh climate and the rough terrain. I also got a pair of projector headlamps installed on my R15 and Abhinav got a pair of fog lamps and the loudest pair of horns he could find, installed on his Electra.
In terms of luggage, I didnt get any of the saddle bags or the tank bags that time, a decision which I ended up regreting later. For that trip I just managed by tying my rucksack to the back seat by bungee chords and it did work quite well. Abhinav, however, got the frame installed on his bike to keep his bags tied.
3. Day 1, 11 June 2011.( Delhi - Manali 550 Kms) Finally, On 11th June 2011, we were all set for flagging off of what was going to be a life changing trip. Emotions were on a high and both of us stayed most of the night awake at Abhinav's home in Dhaulakuan. We planned to leave Delhi as early as possible to avoid the traffic. So we set out on the road by 0530 hrs. It took us around 30-40 mins to get out of Delhi and on to the Delhi-Chandigarh highway, the NH44.
The road was one of the best in the counrty so, by around 1100 hrs we were in Chandigarh after having our breakfast at one of the famous roadside dhabas in Ambala. After taking a small break at a restraunt on the outskirts of Chandigarh, we started to ascend towards the hills. Our destination for the day was Manali, which on the map was around 550 Kms. We however got lost in between when we took a wrong turn and ended up travelling around 60 Kms extra. Road from Chandigarh to manali was mostly smooth with patches of under construction road and narrow, busy streets through the cities that came enroute.
We were expecting to reach Manali before dark but it turned out that 550 Kms in a day was an overambitious target that we set, specially knowing that 1/3rd of the road was in the hills. We managed to reach Manali by around 2030 hrs that day. Another mistake that we made was not catering for the change in weather at Manali. Just as we crossed Chandigarh it had started to get cold and we had not kept a riding jacket within easy reach in our luggage for that day. By the time we reached Manali, I had already caught cold and a mild headache. Abhinav on the other hand seemed unaffected. We checked into one of the Hotels there and rested for the night.
This post was originally published on Deepak Travel Diaries.