Planning Ladakh – A prequel

Photo of Planning Ladakh – A prequel 1/1 by Manu Sharma

They say don’t announce something big you are planning to do and haven’t completed yet. But why not! I just might find me a fellow traveler, a feasible group to join, or even good useful advice.

This year is going to be of dreams coming true; of taking up challenges I have avoided for the past several years; letting the after effects of growing up sink in and learn to be happy with the result.

This year is going to be Ladakh’s year! A little porcelain copy of the “Ladakh 0 kms” milestone sits on my bookshelf like the brightest source of inspiration, happiness and restlessness; looking back at me, daring me to get up and go. This year I will go touch the real one.

The year I do what I started when in class 8th. Me and Dadi were watching TV like we did every day, and then it happened, a woman correspondent reporting from Ladakh on TV and my dadi asking me casually, when will I go there and send her a video of me reporting from Ladakh? That’s what started it all, my memory does not allow me any other recollection, either before or after that particular scene. And that scene is stuck to me like a bloody itch that just won’t go on its own; or more gracefully, like a dream I know I need to get to know that life is worth a shot.

Ladakh used to be a big deal at the time I was a kid (and a nerd at that); there weren’t enough young people with enough money and will to do it; so it was an ambitious dream for me at the time. As I grew older, it came closer and closer, became more and more do-able. Last year this time, finishing the road trip brought me so close to the dream that I thought I would go crazy if I do not go as soon as I can. And then a new job, and a lot more crap took over. I was too deep in the shit to think about riding off to bliss. I was drowning down to doom all year to even be aware of the high roads to Leh waiting for me.

But it’s time for Ladakh to happen. I swear, if I fail to plan it and do it as planned, I will go stand at the Manali-Leh highway, hitch a ride and do it myself.

Now the process of planning things like that is painful. Everyone I ask will have an opinion, every route I intend to take will have a pro and a con. And money? Well money has always been a bitch to me.

Now there are a few questions poking at me and I am guessing at some of you too. I hoped talking about them out might bring in some alignment:

  1. What route should I take?

Well, I decided I will take whatever route I seem to like best. This is definitely going to be the only trip I take to Ladakh in several years to come (Yes, money is a bitch); I better not have to sit back and sob at what all I “could have” seen. So I have vowed to definitely not miss the Srinagar route and Nubra valley, not even if I have to do it myself. I take the biggest possible route!

  1. Where do I get the bike?

A harsh realization stuck me as I started to look for an inexpensive way to get me an Enfield standard 500cc; everyone loves you, but not enough to let go of their bike for a ride as taxing as Ladakh. Now this is a question I have failed to answer as of now.

In case there is someone out there who would love to see a crazy class 8th girl jump around blissfully, because she is finally reporting to her dadi from Ladakh kindly step up, now is the time. I will care for your bike like a mother, and would jump off the cliff before she comes to harm (Yes, I’ll treat her like a fellow human). I will also get it a fancy carrier that I would not take back with me.

  1. To join or not join a group

What tickles my adventurous side is the idea of starting off like some crazy, amazing, free traveler, meet strangers on the way; make a journey with them.

But the nerd, skeptical side of me tells me I may need oxygen, or spare parts, or a car to carry stuff my bike’s carrier cannot hold.

And then the cost of joining the group makes me wince like a woman whose best dress just ripped off. And if I do join one, which one’s going to be the best! Sigh! Another unanswered puzzle!

Now, if there is someone out there who is willing to join me and my friend on this journey, and if there are enough people to do this with; I could offer to work my ass off to help us organize it the way it is done by groups charging 50,000 bucks. Very very important! Ping me ASAP!

  1. When to go?

Now that’s an easy one. Too many of my really resourceful and kind friends have suggested June-July. So I take this unchallenged vote and go with it.

  1. Money?

Oh the most painful of things. I am wincing still as I type this. If I were rich, I would join any of those great looking trips. But I cannot afford both joining a group that costs me 30k or so, and additionally rent a bike.

These two really cannot co-exist, but will have to come together; like most married couples. If I get a bike, I am glad to pay up for the group, if not, I will be forced by wanderlust to rent a bike and do it myself.

  1. What to pack?

I am definitely not going to be ridiculous enough to pack a whole range of clothes to change. I will live like a skunk than lose my back. And if it isn’t clothes I take; what is it I take, in both scenarios; when I go with a group, and when I go without?

I watch my first road trips’ video every once in a while, just to keep the crazy alive. And the more I watch it, especially in a state of inebriation, I realize it was and will always be one of the most enlightened, real, and true things I will ever do in my life, as true as getting married and having children; maybe a little bit more than that. It is the last memory of me happy and free as I would like to be; and now I want more of these memories.

These trips are like experiencing a taste of what your destination is meant to be. Like taking a greedy bike off the cake that is yet to completely finish baking.