[Prologue: This is from my first trip to Ladakh. I was with three other friends and we did the Delhi – Srinagar – Ladakh – Manali circuit in a car. The Srinagar-Leh highway as well as Manali-Leh highway are both amazing for road trips with super awesome views, but more on that some other time.]
So the previous day we were in Leh and we were roaming around in the town trying to find bikes for a bike ride to Pangong lake. We initially planned to leave the car back in Leh and pick it up when we come back to the city. We went to every single bikes-on-rent shop and garages, many of them multiple times trying to find a bike which wasn’t booked. And even as the dizziness due to the high altitude of Leh was starting to wear us out, my determinism to do the bike ride refused to come down.
This is 2014 so one of my earliest travels in the remote mountains and was kind of a dream trip.
As the sun went down and Leh became darker, my friends decided that they’d all just go to Pangong in the car and forget the bike ride. But looking at my craze I did get a company to keep looking for “one” bike.
In the end, we found a Royal Enfield classic “Desertstorm” which is a 500cc beast. It just so happened that I am not the biggest fan of Royal Enfield and had actually never even rode ANY Enfield before! And here was a 500cc beast, apparently ready for this new rider.
As it was clear that there is no other bike available in the town, it was either this bike or no bike. Didn’t take a long time before a decision was made. 😉
So I brought the bike to the guesthouse and we all called it a day for the next day’s journey.
Early next morning, I, on the bike and the other three in the car started together and went to the fuel-station to load up the required ammo. The plan was that we’ll go together but somehow we got split up and couldn’t find each other on the whole route. And there is no phone network outside Leh.
So as I started moving out of Leh, I was getting a little better control of the bike which kept on improving during the long ride.
Come Chang La (5360m) and the really bad stretch of road along with the unbearable cold wind hitting directly against the chest made it a bit challenging. I wasn’t sure whether the others were ahead of me or behind so I took a break at the pass. Riding the troublesome past several kilometers making it here was a huge milestone, and even though I was hoping that I might see the others here, that didn’t happen.
I was hungry and the eatery here was closed but I did get some water to drink.
With a salute to the army folks standing near a bunker at the pass, I resumed my journey. The views from up here were nothing I had imagined. (The views throughout the route were a treat for the eyes and I didn’t bother taking the camera out of rucksack and as a result I don’t have any photos of the route except those from this break at Chang la).
I knew what Ladakh was going to be like but seeing the real thing and that too riding on two wheels, was an out of the world experience.
As the elevation dropped the breathing became easier and so did sensing of things around. After hours of endless no-man’s-land, I saw an army shooting range on my right and a small eatery on the left. Stopped for a while and ate maggie while listening to sounds of firing from the shooting range, arriving after bouncing off the opposite hill.
The energy boost did make the ride from here on, way more enjoyable and the last stretch to the lake was a real delight.
The first view of the huge Pangong Tso in the distance was nothing short of spectacular. As I made it to the lake I finally had a rendezvous with the gang with a huge, huge sigh of relief…