To Heaven and Back...
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To Heaven and Back...
They say that âAlways dream big!â We were a gang of 9 IT professionals who did exactly thatâŚby brewing a big dream in our hearts â˘ to go to Ladakh on a biking trip and reach Khar-Dung La which is the highest motorable pass in the world!!... A dream to reach The Mount Everest of the motor-biking world.
It was this unique dream which brought us all together and turned ourselves from common friends into the band of brothers.
In my opinion there are three good ways to explore the territory of Ladakh â˘
Âˇ By looking at the spectacular view of valley from behind the window pane of a comfortable SUV like Mahindra Scorpio OR
Âˇ By feeling the fresh breeze of air brushing against your face while you are riding down the curvaceous roads atop a sturdy motor-bike
Âˇ By paddling up and down the valley roads atop a strong mountain bike as the western world calls it
Well, we chose the second way as the first one is best suited for the rich and the elderly-at-the-heart type of people and the third option is best left for people from Europe and those who belong to the great American country of Lance Armstrong! Being the hard-core motor-bikers we were, our gang couldnât think of any other option but to take their Bajaj Pulsars and Honda Unicorns and hit the road.
However, for such an extreme adventure a thorough preparation was must. It began for us by getting our bikes serviced and ready for high altitudes, freezing temperatures, rough terrain and knee-deep water passes. We were next in line, as each one of us got ourselves checked from a general physician to get our physical fitness to the optimum level.
We then made a day-by-day plan and divided the 1800 KM road trip into 9 daily manageable parts of around 200 Kms each. In our route plan we made sure that along with enjoying riding on the roads, we also will get time to stop and enjoy the breathtaking views of valley and off course take photos!
THE ROUTE PLANâŚ
Our adventurous journey began at Pune, India when we boarded the train to reach a city in Punjab province called Ambala. It was the starting point of our 1800 Km biking trip and next main destinations over a period of 9 days were Kullu, Manali, Leh, Kargil, Srinagar and finally Jammu. We were going to ride through three northern states of India â˘ Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir.
On day1 we started from Ambala and reached picturesque Kullu. There we visited the very famous âHidimbaâ and âGhatotkach Open Treeâ temples.
On day 2 we visited Manali and moved on to first high altitude pass of our trip â˘ Rohtang Pass [13044 FT]. This is the most nearest and accessible pass from Manali and hence it was full of tourists and Para gliders. Towards the end of our day we reached a village called âTandiâ which had the last petrol pump on the Manali-Leh stretch. There was no more petrol pump for next 360 Kms! We filled our fuel tanks to the maximum and also carried some extra fuel in cans. We reached a small village called Keylong for our night halt.
On day 3 we started for Sarchu which is the border village between Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. On this road trip, sometimes there were very good roads, then there were roads, then okay roads and then sometimes no road at all! We were riding on pieces of small rocks, shattered stones and gravel and praying to God that nobody gets a flat tyre! But we also saw road construction workers working in extreme bad weather and dusty surroundings. And thatâs why, hats off to Border Road Organization (BRO) for making this stretch motorable.
We also climbed several other passes on this leg of the journey which included worldâs 3rd highest pass Lach-Lung-La [16616 FT], worldâs 2nd highest pass Tag-Lang-La [17582 FT]. Tag-Lang-La gave us our first taste of real high altitude sickness and made us understand what does lack of oxygen means! While crossing this pass in the evening, eight out of nine gang members fell terribly ill and we unanimously decided to call it a day at the nearest village from this pass, a place called âPangâ.
After settling down in a cozy and comfortable tent at Pang, we came to know that in Pang Indian Army has setup worldâs highest transit camp [15640 FT]! And it was equipped with free medical facilities and an army doctor. We couldnât believe our luck as many of us required urgent medical attention. The doctor inspected us and suggested immediate artificial oxygen for the few of the critical ones amongst us. We all were suffering from High altitude Syndrome and according to the doctor the worst mistake we did was not drinking enough water while climbing and passing through these high altitude passes!
On day 4 morning we were ready to face another challenge. One of our gang members lost his bike key! It was army again which came to our aid. An army mechanic fixed the bike in no time and surprisingly enough refused to accept any money we offered him for his precious and timely service! He proudly told us that to help civilians is his duty! We all were very touched by his gesture and words and clicked a photo with him to keep him in our memories for ever. We reached Leh and allowed ourselves comfort of a luxurious hotel.
On day 5 we obtained the inner line permit from Army to go to Khar-Dung La which is some 40 Km from main Leh city. It was a pleasure ride and within an hour and half we reached at the topâŚat KharDung LaâŚat the roof top of the world!
We all felt happiness and there were tears of joys in our eyes. We all were very thrilled and hugged each other in celebration. I felt breathless which was partly because of the lack of oxygen at the top and partly because of excitement of achieving my aim! This was the moment for which I had left my comfortable home and set out on an adventure rideâŚ a ride of a lifetime! I felt incredible joy and excitement and captured these wonderful moments in my camera and in my heart!
There was a âShiv Mandirâ at the top and also a souvenir shop run by Army. We all bought t-shirts, coffee mugs, caps etc. After spending 15-20 minutes at the top it was time to head back to lower altitude.
On day 6 we did river rafting in Zanskar River starting at Chiiling village and ending at Nemo village. It was a 36 Km ride of adreline rush having rapids of class 3 and 4 scale!
On day 7 we explored Leh city. We were lucky as it was Lehâs annual festival day and we got a chance to witness the world famous âMask Danceâ at the Hemis Monastery.
On day 8 we left Leh and reached Kargil. On our way, we visited Drass War Memorial which is built in memory of the battle of Kargil. We paid our tributes to the brave martyrs who died for the country. It was an incredible patriotic feeling to stand on the âVijay Pathâ and admire great views of Tololing range, Point 4857 and the famous Tiger hills. The nearest village Drass happened to be Worldâs second highest coldest inhibited place where once temperature reached -60 degree Celsius!
On day 9 we moved ahead from Kargil to Srinagar and finally to Jammu which was the ending point of our 1800 Km trip. We shipped our bikes from here to Pune and boarded the train for home.
It was a delightful experience, which gave me a chance to re-discover myself. It helped me to know my strengths and my weaknessesâŚto know who I am and what I can be. It turned me into a never-say-die attitude person. It was a very strong feeling of triumph, happiness and complete peace with your own self. I will never ever forget the awesome memories this adventure gave me becauseâŚ
It was my biking trip to heaven and back!!!