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Old 07-20-2010, 01:07 AM   #1
sumit OP
Joined: Jun 2010
Oddometer: 20
Heaven On Earth revisited - Solo on a Comet GT250

Namaste from India.
Sunday 19 July I came back to Bangalore after successfully completing my solo trip to Himalayas.
Covered the following route clocking approx 3000kms. Highlight of the trip was visiting the Batalik Village where "The War" happened and climbing K-top at 6 am in the morning with last 7 kms; freezing tempeartures and black ice everywhere after South Pullu.

Delhi - Chandigarh - Amritsar - Wagah Border - Jalianwala Bag - Golden Temple - Udhampur (Jammu) - Srinagar - Manigram - Sonmarg - Drass - Kargil - Batalik - Darchik - Leh - Khardungla - Tso moriri - Korzok - tsokar - Sarchu - Rohtang la - Manali - Chandigarh - Delhi
Will be putting up logs and pics slowly. Till then teaser Pics:
Comet near K-top for the second time; this time solo

Next to Deepak Taal. Clicked by BCMT members whom I met while coming down at Baralachala.

sumit screwed with this post 07-29-2010 at 09:13 AM
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Old 07-23-2010, 04:09 AM   #2
sumit OP
Joined: Jun 2010
Oddometer: 20
Haven't started putting up the logs yet. But couple of posts that I made in my blog before and after the trip:

The Touring Diary: Let's do it again........

The Touring Diary: Heaven on Earth Revisited - Solo

The Touring Diary: Trip Preparations and Thoughts
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Old 07-25-2010, 06:02 AM   #3
sumit OP
Joined: Jun 2010
Oddometer: 20
Edit: Putting the logs and pics directly on the forum instead of the links:

Updated some more logs:
Day 0: Bangalore to Delhi on train with the bike

2nd - 4th July:

So the D-day had come, July 2 Friday, I had decided to finish my work in office leave early say by 3 o clock so that I get the bike packed and book it on the train I was about to travel, Yeshwantpur to Nizammudin Sampark Kranti express. The train choice was obvious because I wanted to book the bike in a train which starts from Bangalore and ends in Delhi or Nizammudin. I came to office early and finish up as much work as possible. I got a call from Santosh who was also about start his trip one day earlier than I was supposed to. He had already booked and shipped his bike to Delhi and he gave me details of the booking procedure and that's when I realized that I had left my bike's registration book at home only which meant I'll have to go back to my house, go to the station, book the bike, come back, take the luggage and again go to the station and start my travel. Obviously I didn't have that much of time. Hence I decide to go home take luggage, put it on my bike just as I would do on the trip and go to the station.
I reached home and this is how my bike looked:

Notice the bike's tire, already showing signs wear and tear

Although the setting wasn't perfect and the width of the bags were way out of the scope of bike's width. But I managed to reach the station without hitting any other vehicle
Straight away I went to the packing guy in front of the station and asked him to pack the bike in a proper way. He normally charges 300/- but seeing my bike he asked me 350/-. I said to him if he'll pack my bike in the best possible way so that it doesn't get damaged. He agreed to put more of packing material to ensure the same.

My bike getting packed in usual way the train luggage is packed but with extra bubble wrap and cardboard paper. After the packing was done I put my luggage in the cloak room so that I can take the bike in the booking counter.
I took the bike to the counter gave the required documents (copy of bike's registration book, id proof) and the officer made a bill of 1670/- for the bike and I gave 1700/- to the guy and he never returned the change. This is the time from then on money talks to get your work done. Govt offices just work like that. After getting the paper work done they asked me to move the bike to the storage area from where the luggage is supposed to be transferred to respective platforms. Two guys came and started asking question about which train the bike should go in and then they started their usual drama that there are a lot of bikes already to loaded and my bike would go only in the next day's train. I knew all they wanted is money in levy of taking the bike to the right place. They asked for a 1000 bucks but I said it is just one bike and it is urgent. If they aren't taking it I'll take it myself. Then they agreed for 500 and no less. I gave them the money and the guy took the bike to the platform in front of the luggage compartment and said that he'll come to load the bike in the train. It was 8 o clock by that time and I just had to wait for the train to be opened and bike to go in.
At around 9.30- 10 o clock the train was opened and guys came to load the luggage but I didn't see the other guy whom I paid the money for loading the bike properly in. The other guys started loading the stuff into the train except the bike. Worried I was and I just asked one of the guys. He was drunk to an extreme level that he could barely speak to me. Somehow he talked and asked 300/- to load the bike into the train. The time was running out and I didn't have time to search for the other guy I paid and ask him. I agreed and paid him the money. They loaded the bike on train not in a great way. They put 2 other bikes on the compartment, both leaning on my bike and their handles resting on my bike's tank. I was so worried I asked the guys so many times to keep the bikes separately but all in vain. All the other luggage things were thrown in and the luggage room was sealed. I couldn't do much now hence I got my luggage from the cloak room and headed towards my seat praying to God that nothing happens to the bike....

At 10:20PM the train started and so did my journey.
I was supposed to reach Delhi on 4th July morning. Two days train travel and I was joined by a Punjabi family with lots of kids. I had a good time with them playing movie names, country names, etc. I shared my pencil sketches I kept in my Ipod with them and they liked it a lot.

The time past and 4th July I reached Delhi and all the time I was worried about my bike. Straight away I went to the luggage room to check my bike and it looked fine from the outside.
It was 10:00am I once again put my luggage in cloak room so that I can get my bike released from the station.

Day 1 - 4th July, Delhi:
Around Delhi and To Chandigarh

I went to the parcel office and as usual I had to wait so much to get it released. Eventually I got it released and while taking the bike out I saw another inspecting the bike and he found that his bike's battery is missing along with other stuff. It seems things had been taken out while it was parked in the store room.
Also one thing to note is that when the luggage reaches the destination, the owner has to get it released within the first 6 hours otherwise there is a charge of 10/- per hour from then on. The guy had come to take his bike after 6 days and he had to pay 6*24*10 = 1440/- which is well more than the amount he must have
paid for the transport plus he lost bike's battery and other stuff. Seeing all this I was just praying that my bike is intact. I took it out of the station paying 50/- yet again to the police guys who faked that he is checking the paper work for the bike. I opened the wrapping of the bike and the bike didn't have any damage whatsoever and I was so happy to see that unlike the last time when we were horrified with the condition of our bikes.
So by now I had already spent approximately 2500/- (including the usual shipping charges) for the bike to be transported till Delhi thanks to open and empty pockets of railway officials at every step.

Now that I got my bike out I had to get my luggage and for that I need to park my bike in a proper so that I can go get my luggage from the cloak room. Traveling alone has its disadvantages. How I wanted someone that I can leave the bike with and get my luggage. Anyways I had to figure an effective way to deal with it and I parked my bike in the railways parking and got my bags. I noticed that since I had not kept the bags properly on the bike while getting to the railway station in Bangalore, they were torn from the sides and next thing I had to do was search a cobbler who can fix it. This is where disadvantage of over-packing showed. It was very humid and I had to carry 4 bags all by myself and roam around the crowded place like Nizammudin station. Luckily I found a cobbler nearby and gave the bags for fixing. By this time I had drank 3 or 4 glasses of lemon-aerated water that is sold by guys around delhi roads costing 5/- a glass. It was so refreshing that I can't explain how I felt.

My bags getting tucked from inside so that it doesn't get torn again while touring

The bags were fixed and then I called up my college friend Nitin who stays in Delhi and asked about his plan. He asked me to come to his house before leaving for Chandigarh which was my initial plan i.e. as soon as I get the bike I'll push off for Chandigarh. I asked him about the route to his house and by 3 o clock I reached his house. Nitin and his mum welcomed me in the house. We had a nice lunch thanks to Nitin's mummy and then Nitin and I went out to buy some things that I couldn't buy before. Nitin had some work and I had to prepare to start for Chandigarh the same day. On the way to Nitin's house I called several people informing my whereabouts and told that I have reached safe and sound. The bike was running very heavy and was vibrating too much. I called my mechanic, Irshad Bhai, and asked him the reason for it because all this while the bike was running fine and suddenly this happened and the reason was beyond me. He immediately suggested me to remove the air restricter that I had again installed in Bangalore.
While preparing for Chandigarh I removed the tank and removed the air restricter. I was putting everything back in the bike and I noticed and there was a huge leak from the petrol tank when I used to start the bike. I checked the leak and found out that the fuel pipe from the tank had got cut probably because of my mishandling while putting the tank back on the bike.
I thought this is not a great start for my trip as I was already late starting for Chandigarh and I didn't know if I can find a mechanic near by to fix the problem. I headed out to look for one and luckily I found one just beside a petrol bunk. He replaced the pipe and it looked good to go. I came back put my luggage on the bike fastened two of the bungee chords Sunil sir gave me so that the bags aren't moving much on the bike which previously caused the tear in the bags.
It was 5 o clock by that time and I still hadn't started for Chandigarh. I was worried that on the first day itself I'll have to ride in the night. But since the road to Chandigarh from Delhi is all the way a four lane highway and it was just 250 kms I hoped to reach Chandigarh in close to 4 hours.
Finally I started my road trip a little late but still I was hoping to make up time on the way. One more thing I didn't buy for the trip was a torch and I decided that I would buy it from Delhi itself. I bought one from a departmental store closeby and started towards Chandigarh.
After some asking from the local guys I got the road to Chandigarh which is called "GT Karnal" road. This road as I told is a 4 lane all the way and kind of boring. Since I already lost so much of time I decided to do this leg with minimal breaks possible. I took two breaks on the way and unfortunately I didn't take any pictures on the way. I was just focused on reaching Chandigarh withing 9 o clock so that I can search for a decent place to stay, I didn't want to roam around with so much of luggage at midnight in Chandigarh.
July 4th and 5th was the day for Bharat Band against the ever increasing inflation which meant none of the shops were open on the way and so were hotels. This posed another question and that was finding a place to stay in Chandigarh if everything is closed. But then I couldn't have done other than carrying on to Chandigarh. The road was deserted which in one way helped me as I didn't have to worry about traffic and I could continue to ride fast (90-100kmph) all the way. By around 9:30pm I reached Chandigarh and started looking for Sector 22 which is where we stayed during our last trip, This sector has most number of hotels and also affordable.
Chandigarh is the most planned city I have seen in India where you get to see proper sign boards giving directions to places. I reached sector 22 and after about 10 minutes of searching I spotted a Hotel by name "Hotel Chandigarh" how obvious name
I parked my bike and asked if rooms are available, the guy said yes and told me that AC rooms are 1200/- and non AC rooms are 1000/- bucks. I hesitated for a minute and the guy himself said that he'll give me an AC room for 1000/- with taxes inclusive. I agreed after some thought as it was getting late and I didn't want to go searching for another hotel. I got off the luggage from the bike and left the bungee chords on the bike for just 5 minutes. After putting the luggage in the room I came back for the chords and it was gone. Somebody must have flicked it while I was inside the hotel. I felt so bad, not because somebody stole it but because it was given by Sunil sir and they were the good ones of the bungee chords I had. Sunil Sir got it from Singapore and I lost it. But nothing can be done now I learned a valuable lesson of not leaving anything no matter how small it might be unattended...
Went to the room, took bath (after 3 days ) and came out for dinner. Located a dhaba and ordered palak aloo and rotis. While having dinner informed my friends, family that I reached Chandigarh. Came back to my hotel room and crashed. Also planned to leave early from Chandigarh so that I can avoid the heat and reach Amritsar by noon or later.
So this is how my first day of the road trip went. Not very smoothly but who said everything would be smooth going . This is something you have to take into account on a road trip; things, bike going wrong, losing time, etc. If you ask me this is what makes the trip spicy :)

Links to my blog:

sumit screwed with this post 07-29-2010 at 08:49 AM
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Old 07-25-2010, 08:27 PM   #4
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Old 07-27-2010, 04:11 AM   #5
sumit OP
Joined: Jun 2010
Oddometer: 20
Logs Updated:
The Touring Diary: Chandigarh to Amritsar

July 5th, Day 2: Chandigarh to Amritsar and places around

Early morning I woke up and a surprise was waiting for me. It was raining heavily and
although other tourers love riding in rains
I personally hate riding in rains; it is just not my preference. Since I needed to cover around 250 kms with not much of mountain roads, I had some freedom to start late and still get to Amritsar on time. So I decided to wait till the rains get lighter. At around 9 o clock the rain stopped and I decided to have breakfast, check-out and start my journey for that day. Went out had tea and breakfast in our good old "chai ki tapri" (usual tea shops), checked out of the hotel. I inquired with the hotel guys for the bungee chords that I lost last night but in vain.
Started my journey to a historically famous place and was very much eager to reach Amritsar to check out several places that I had planned out i.e. Golden Temple and Wagah Border ceremony.
Since it was still raining there were not many people on the road whom I could ask the way to the highway for Amritsar I roamed around here and there for sometime before figuring out the right way, I came to know that I'll have to go towards Jallandhar and then to Amritsar. The roads were still wet and since that day the Bharat Band day the continued to be closed. I wanted to buy some nylon ropes so that I could tie my saddle bags properly on the bike but couldn't find any shops open. After traveling some distance I finally spotted one shop from where I could buy the ropes. I stopped, bought the ropes tied my bags and continued ahead. I came a very bad stretch of roads which was full of slush and the rains had worsened the condition more. I crossed the bad patch and thought of taking a butt break. A break obviously means picture taking time. And this is that I actually started clicking more pictures.

I continued to ride in wet roads which really dislike. However the temperatures were low because of the rains which made easier to ride otherwise with the riding gear on (jacket, gloves, riding pants) it would have been a little difficult.

The roads were completely deserted and every now and then there was a police check post and I was stopped almost everywhere and inquired where am I going and other stuff. I would generally answer their questions that I am going to Amritsar coming from Delhi and their obvious surprising reaction when they come to know that I am traveling alone on a bike. Many suggested me not to as it is too dangerous riding solo.
Where ever I stop I would ask for directions and people will come to help, sometimes they tell wrong directions too. And which is what happened; I was directed to take a rather longer route which took me around 50-70kms more than the actual one. The actual route is through a village named "Una" but I was directed to take a detour which cost me a little more kms. I came to know that I am on a longer route only when I stopped at mechanic's workshop to get bike's tire pressure checked. He told me I should have taken the route towards Una and then to Amritsar. I had clocked around 120 kms till now and still there were some 175kms remaining for Amritsar. It was already noon and 175 kms meant another 4 to 5 hours of travel till I reach Amritsar. After reaching I'll have to search a hotel, check in, dump my things, and the head towards Wagah border. I started doubting that I'll be able make up the time before the Wagah Ceremony starts or not. But anyways pulled aside for my lunch when I spotted a dhaba. I ordered my lunch and cleaned bike's chain as it was totally soiled with mud and water and also it was sounding very bad while running.
This is was my lunch:

Obviously I couldn't finish all of it even though I tried a lot
I then continued towards my destination for the day and shortly after that I reached Jallandhar highway; nicely laid and wide highway where I could go a little faster. Traffic was anyways non-existent because of the "Bandh". Also the weather got cleared up considerably with blue skies all along which also meant temperature slightly going higher and with the riding gear on it gets more difficult to ride.

While I was going faster to cover up more distance this one incident happened which I was afraid of all the time. I was going around 100kmph at one time I overtook a Maruti zen and after about 2 kms or so I hear a lot of honking from behind. It was the same Zen car which I overtook. I slowed down and pulled over to one side so that I could give me side to go ahead thinking he was in some hurry. But he came near me and the lady in the car said to me that my luggage (saddle bags) had fallen down on the way. I looked back and indeed the bags had fallen off. May be due to the bumps on the road the Nylon rope that I tied around the bags had snapped and the bags fell off. I immediately turned back and started looking for my bags. While searching all these thoughts started coming; whether I'll be able to get back the bags, what all things were there in the bag and if at all I lost the bags do I have sufficient things to carry on and finish the trip without it, etc....
After going back for around 2kms I saw one old guy, a Punjabi guy, was carrying the bags on his back and walking towards the opposite direction. When he saw me coming he waved at me. I went to him and he told that he saw my bags falling down from the bike and he immediately picked it up so that no one else picks it and runs away with it. He even told he shooed a guy on scooter who wanted to take the bags away. He gave me the bags and I told him that the rope I tied around snapped. He helped me out in tying the bags back on the bike and which when my right hand touched the bike's exhaust. It was very hot and instantly my fingers got burnt pretty intensely. I poured water on it for sometime till it stopped hurting. While I tying the bags I noticed that there was one of the packing material that came with the bags was missing. The old man said it must be left at the place where the bags fell off. I asked him took look for my stuff till I go back and get that packing material but he said he will go and pick up the thing and bring it to me and he asked me to stay. He did find the thing and brought it back. I then asked the old guy whether I could do anything for me for his good deed of saving my bags. But he said he doesn't need anything and he said main thing was he could save his bag from getting picked up by the wrong guys and he could give it back to me. I was so moved by this gesture. I thought still people like him exist on the this planet. If it was some urban city I am sure I wouldn't have got my bags back. I thanked him a lot and I continued my journey. I was thinking what if this thing had happened on the mountains and the bags had fallen off the higher roads to the bottom of the valley I wouldn't have got it back. Hence I decided to keep an eye on the bag while riding and also this time I tied the bags pretty tightly.

A butt break or should I say pic break:

This trip I had decided to try out my hands on HDRs. And I started taking pictures in Auto Bracketing mode. I had read a tutorial on the web related to this:
Stuck in Customs - HDR Tutorial
I am not that good in photography but this was the perfect time for me to get my hands dirty and learn. On the other hand it was a gamble that I might not be visiting the places again for a long time and messing up the pictures wouldn't be a good idea. I thought how bad can it be if I do mess up the pics :)
I started and soon after the break a car pulled beside me and started asking something which I couldn't hear. The car pulled over in front of me and I had to stop and a bunch of 4 guys came out of the car and started coming towards me. I got worried a little bit thinking all sorts of possibilities. I thought is this the time when the suggestions I got by the local people, about riding solo is dangerous, is coming true?
But nothing of that sort happened. The guys were friendly, they just stopped for asking about me and my bike and where I was going. I told them about my bike, my route and where am I heading. They were impressed and they actual cleared the doubts that I had, of not making to Amritsar and Wagah border on time. They said the ceremony starts only at 6.15 or so and there is plenty of time left. After taking some pictures of the bike they continued and I also continued towards my destination; a little relieved from both worries i.e. reaching on time and also the other bad possibility .

sumit screwed with this post 07-29-2010 at 08:55 AM
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Old 07-27-2010, 09:00 AM   #6
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Joined: Jun 2010
Oddometer: 20
Another day's log updated

July 5th: Day 2 contd.. Around Amritsar

By 4 o clock I reached Amritsar and started looking for a hotel. But it was all closed/half closed.
Roamed around for about half an hour and then decided to do what works best in India i.e. asking people around. They told the obvious solution to find a hotel which I also had thought earlier and that is to head towards the main bus stand of Amritsar and search. I did that and all the hotel in front of the bus stand were half closed and not sure if they were operational or not. I anyways to one of the hotels named "Hotel Shangrila". The guy said both AC/NonAC rooms are available and the price for AC room was 800/- with taxes extra. It getting really dry and hot and being from Bangalore, where the climate is so moderate, I was feeling the heat more and I thought of taking an AC room itself. He showed me the room and I liked it and checked it. I asked the guy about the bike being safe outside and he said daytime I can keep it outside, at night I can bring the inside the office and park there. I was satisfied with the stipulation because I anyways will be out for daytime visting Golden Temple and Wagah border.
Took much needed bath and came out for heading towards Wagah. But then the hotel guy suggested that I should also visit Jalianwala Bagh which is hardly a kilometer away from the place, then go to wagah and then I can visit Golden Temple which is open till midnight. I thought why not! I had only read about the tragedy that happened at Jalianwala Bagh in the time British Rule in India and I must pay visit at the historic place. I would not go into the details of what happened in Jalianwala Bagh. The links that I provided describe the tragic event.
Some pictures of the place. Reading/Seeing the things there made me very sad and angry too on the atrocities in those times by the guys on Indian people:

An Artist's depiction of the event. Wanted to take a full shot of the painting but couldn't because of the crowd

Walking down the narrow entrance to the memorial, knowing what happened there in the past, one can feel the chill. The experience was very overwhelming for me.
After spending some time there I moved towards the Wagah border to attend the daily ceremony that happens in the evening. It is 25kms from Amritsar and it's all the way a straight road which connects Pakistan and India and that is NH1. More can be read here
I reached the place in 20-30 minutes and I was asked to park my bike and from their one has to walk or there are richshaw walas who will charge 10/- per person and they'll drop you till the point where the Military security check happens and then you go ahead to the ceremony place just 50mts away from the border.
Before going to the security I deposited my camera bag, helmet to a local guy as one is not allowed to carry any luggage along
Note: One thing to note here is whenever someone is visiting Wagah ceremony do not carry many things (especially anything valuable) along as they will ask to deposit every thing except your camera, wallet, etc to local guys who charge 10/- per item. Now the things are safe but there is every possibility of things getting misplaced.

Walking towards the border

It was "Bharat Bandh" but still there were hundreds of people gathered for the ceremony

Flags withdrawn in the evening
The atmosphere was electric with the ceremony going on and people chanting "Vande Mataram", "Hindustan Zindabad" and at the same time the other side chanting their own slogans praising Pakistan. The ceremony is executed by the Military guys from both sides doing exactly the same steps. Every actions is performed with so much of power, enthusiasm and anger; you tend to get drawn into it and yet again the feeling is overwhelming. One has to be there to experience it, it cannot be explained in words. I took a lot of pictures of the ceremony but due to lack of a zoom lens the above ones are some of them that came out good.
After the ceremony was over I came back to Amritsar to visit the famous The Harmandir Sahib, The Golden Temple
Reached the gates of the temple and was searching for a parking place when I was directed by the police men to the free parking provided by the Temple authorities and I was told that it is the safest place to park my bike. I parked and then went inside. Removed my shoes, tied the customary band (I don't know what it is called) and entered the premises. The first sight itself leaves you spell bound. Riding all day and then standing in the sun for the ceremony at Wagah, my head had started aching but after spending some time, taking pictures of the place my pain automatically got better. Took pictures of the temple from different angles, called my friends and family telling them where am I and what all other places I visited that day. Spoke to dad and told him that next day I'll start traveling towards the Kashmir and following two days will be of little worry as the situation in Kashmir hadn't improved. Mum told me that it started raining very heavily after I left Chandigarh. I was lucky not to get caught and stuck in Chandigarh itself. I also spoke to my best friend Artee telling her about my journey so far and she was all jealous hearing my story She so wanted to join so me on this trip but somehow couldn't. She has promised me that next time she will definitely join. Lets hope so fingers crossed
Some pictures at the Golden Temple:

Asked one person to click my picture with the temple

Beautiful and Magnificent

I came back to my hotel room feeling very happy that I visited the places that I had planned for the day despite all the delay.
Next day was starting travel to the north and towards the mountains. All this while I riding in the plains. The biggest problem was the tense situation in Kashmir and the curfew imposed. But still reaching that place was one day apart. I planned to reach Patnitop hill station in Jammu the next day which was around 230kms from Amritsar.

Links: Golden Temple
Jalianwala Bagh
Wagah Border

sumit screwed with this post 07-29-2010 at 09:09 AM
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Old 07-29-2010, 07:29 AM   #7
sumit OP
Joined: Jun 2010
Oddometer: 20
Members here and other forums too might complain that I am not putting up the logs and pictures and just giving out links. Hence from now on posting the same directly on the forum too.

July 6th: Day 3 Amritsar to Udhampur
The next morning I had decided that I would get my bike washed, get the bike's chain tightened, etc as I didn't know if something was available in Patnitop or further. I asked the hotel guy the time when the shops open up so that I can go and get the things done. He said it won't be before 10 o clock. For that day I was supposed to cover approximately 280kms and it was doable even if I start a little late.
Hence 10 o clock went out, after some roaming around found a mechanic's workshop and asked him to wash the bike and do other stuff. Took one picture through my mobile.

As usual everyone around got curious seeing the bike and asked me a lot of questions about it. I got the things done and it was 11am. I came back to my hotel room, took bath got ready, dusted off my luggage, riding gear as it was all soiled because of rains and wet roads from the last day's riding.
By noon I thought of starting my journey. But since morning I was having slightly heavy head.
I having a heavy head generally means my dreaded headache problem has come back to haunt me. I have this chronic problem of headache which when comes to me means I should practically ground myself, do nothing and just sleep to make it go away otherwise it will worsen which I couldn't afford to do as that I have to cover the distance and didn't want to lose any days as I was still far away from the "troubled" area (srinagar) where I could potentially lose much more time due to tensions, curfew, etc.
I took the tablet and hoping for the heavy head to go away I started my journey towards Patnitop hill station in Jammu.
I was on the way but as expected my headache worsened and I had no option other than continuing my. This is the part of the trip I do not remember much of it. I was riding slow just some how trying to cover the distance for the day. I didn't even feel like taking pictures whenever I stopped for water or butt relaxation. Hence this day might have the fewest number pics I have taken.

Had lunch en route, stopped for a fuel refill at a petrol near Jammu state entrance. Asked a couple of truck drivers, who where coming from Srinagar direction, about the situation. They told me it was pretty tense and it is wiser to just pass through the area in the night only otherwise the miscreants will pelt stones on the travelers. But I thought that was a bit too much and the guys are just trying to exaggerate the things because as far as I had heard from the local people and read in the forums, there was no dangers to the travelers or the amarnath yatra passengers.
There was still a day left for me to reach Srinagar hence I hoped for the best and continued ahead. I was riding very slow and it was 5 o clock already when the milestone showed 110 or so kilometers for Patnitop still. I thought of taking an extended break at a dhaba and try to rest so that my headache lessens and I would be able to ride that too most probably in the night.

I ordered tea and just lied down on the beds that are usually laid down in the dhabas. Clicked the above picture there.
After resting for sometime I started feeling good and my headache had come down a little bit. I clicked some more pictures. The dhaba owner's kids had come to me and seeing curiously the pictures I was taking. I asked the dhaba owner if I could click a picture of his kids. He agreed and they posed for me :)
The asked if he can get a copy of the picture that I just took but since there was no computer/printer available around that place I couldn't get a print of the picture and give it to him. I asked the guy if he could give me his postal address so that I can post him the picture. He said he didn't have a concrete address to give. His name is Bitu Ram. And this is what he gave me his address for me post:
Bittu Ram
S/O Sri Munni Ram
Swankha Mod
Near Petrol Bunk
He didn't know even the postal code of the area. I felt so bad for him. But I told him that I'll try to send him the picture somehow. He was happy to hear this. This was the picture I took:

One humble request here to anyone traveling to that part, Could you please take a print of this picture and if possible hand it over to the dhaba owner? His dhaba is after the petrol bunks where Jammu's state limits start, as the guy told the petrol bunk area is called "Swankha Mod" when one goes beyond the big board giving direction and distances for Srinagar, Patnitop, etc. The dhaba is on the left side of the road while going towards Srinagar. One cannot miss this dhaba as there is only one there and it is pretty big one.
I know it is a longshot and beyond practicality but I really wanted to give this pic to the guy.

One more HDR try
After talking to him for a while I continued my journey and hoping to reach Patnitop in good time.
It was getting dark fast and I was still pretty far away from that day's destination. By now I was in the mountains and it was all twisty roads all the way and obviously less distance covered. I was enjoying the roads and the cool temperature. Sun was setting beyond the mountains and couldn't afford to miss such fabulous scenes. Tried different clicks through my camera. Following are some clicks processed. Came out decent I believe :)
Also took my own picture keeping the camera on the rock and putting it in timer mode.

Soon it was dark and I was around 50 kms from Patnitop still, yes I was going very slow :( mainly due to headache. On top of that it started drizzling too. Next big stop was Udhampur and still I was bent to reach Patnitop so that the next day I would be reaching Srinagar in good time and if something goes wrong I would still have time to cross Srinagar and reach Sonmarg which is on the route to Leh from Srinagar and Sonmarg was supposed to be safer place.
Patnitop is 30kms from Udhampur. I reached Udhampur by 7:30pm and crossing it I saw a lot of hotel with nice parking places which was very enticing and my inner self was giving me ideas that I should stay in Udhampur itself and then cover rest 30kms next day when I leave for Srinagar.
But I ignored it and crossed Udhampur. Just after crossing Udhampur it again started raining a little heavily and this was the time I had made my mind to go back to Udhampur and stay there for the night. First of all it was all moutains roads plus it was raining quite considerably. Obviously not very recommended when you are having a severe headache and can't concentrate on the roads due to that.
Hence I went back and checked into a hotel name Skylark. Their charges were 800/- for Non AC rooms and 1200/- for AC rooms. It was quite cold already and I didn't feel the need of taking an AC room hence checked into a nonAC room. Ordered the dinner from the room itself because of my headache. Had dinner, took pills for the headache and slept. Next day I had to cover 30kms plus approximately 190kms for srinagar. And also if something goes wrong, travel another 40-50kms towards sonmarg. So again around 250kms of riding that too in hills. Not a great ask but still I wasn't knowing what was coming my way in Srinagar. Decided to start early so that I can reach the destination in good time.

Blog link: The Touring Diary: Amritsar to Udhampur
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Old 07-29-2010, 07:38 AM   #8
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Old 08-02-2010, 11:54 PM   #9
sumit OP
Joined: Jun 2010
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Day 4: 7th July
Udhampur To Srinagar (Curfew in the city)
So today was the D-Day, why because I was heading towards probably the most dicey route of my trip. Not because of natural difficulty but rather more man made difficulty. Generally one can prepare himself to face the natural obstacles but one cannot prepare himself for the obstacles created by a humans. Have been hearing till now a mixed reports of the situation in Srinagar. Expecting anything I started preparing for the day's journey. As mentioned earlier I was supposed to cover approximately 220kms plus anything that extra distance comes in my way. I started with plan of having my breakfast on the way. By this time my bike's fork had got lose and it was sounding whenever I went over any bump on the road. The fork bearing were already up for a change even before the trip. I stopped in a roadside dhaba for breakfast. The dhaba guy had only rice and dal which was okay for me. I asked him to prepare the food and tried fixing the lose fork myself but I didn't have the right tools for it. Had my breakfast clicked couple of snaps and moved ahead.

Just an example of my disastrous photography :). I messed up both these pics :(
In previous days when that unfortunate incident happened (me dropping my bags on the way) I had burnt my fingers especially right hand middle finger very badly while tying my bags. I couldn't find the band-aid strips that I had packed, I just had to wear the gloves directly on the wound due to which it had made it all worse.
Every other kilometer I would see an army personnel standing. I was going in a decent pace when I thought of stopping for a drinks break and also I'll have a chance to speak to the army guys and get a feel of the situation ahead. The army person was very helpful, he called his co-personnel who was placed further towards Srinagar. His friend told the situation and the person told me that situation is very tense as there were 3 people killed in the firing but I don't need to worry much because army will be there to help the tourists and travelers. He said to me, just believe in God and go ahead, everything will be alright. That motivated me very much to go ahead and hope for the best. The vistas en-route were just awesome. I wanted to capture them all but no matter how much you try you won't be able to

Another disaster :(. I managed to mess this amazing view in this pic
Soon I reached Patnitop and then started coming down to the place called Batote
I filled up petrol in a petrol bunk and as usual asked questions to get know more about the tensions. Again I got mixed reports. I had to again make a short stop at a puncture shop just to check the tyre pressure where I asked a mechanic to tighten bike's fork too.
I asked one of the guy to click my photo on the bike:

I moved ahead and noticed that the traffic was piling up slowly which after sometime worsened more and eventually came to a stand still. I asked around and the guys told the traffic is totally still and it is like this for many further kilometers but being on a bike I could sneak in the traffic and could move ahead slowly. I moving ahead but still in such a slow pace that I was surely losing time but nothing can be done.
Every now and then I'll get these kind of open roads:

And then again I'll be surrounded by vehicles. Didn't want to take any pictures of the traffic jam.
Whenever I'll get annoyed by the traffic I'll stop and this time I stopped at a place where one old guy was selling some kind of fruit, they call it "Khubani". I bought some from him and spoke to him for a while and as usual I took his picture :)

I continued and then the traffic started piling up really bad which was a clear indication that I near Jawahar Tunnel or The Banihal Tunnel, One of the longest tunnel in Asia. The traffic so bad and it ate so much of time and the overhead sun wasn't making it easy. I had lost a lot of time but still continuing to move ahead, crossed Jawahar Tunnel and then came up to the Titanic View Point which says "First view of kashmir valley". I parked there and saw two more bikes parked there. This was the first time I saw other bikers with the same route.
Took some pictures and yet again I was bad at it :(, processed this one a little dramatic.

I met the guys on the bikes and they told they were riding all the way from Maharashtra which was amazing; I always wanted to ride all the way from Bangalore but couldn't do it because of lack of days put in the trip.
I met one more guy who was working there and I asked him about the situation and he told it is bad and people are pelting stones on the travelers too. He too was so much frustrated with all the chaos that was happening there. He just said nobody wants to do this, neither the local public nor the administration, except for the politicians.

The two bikers told me it would be best to be with the convoy of people going for the Amarnath Yatra so that you can get past the problematic areas under the eye of the army. I took that advice and moved ahead. I pushed off a little faster so that I can reach Srinagar early and see if it possible to stay in Srinagar or if I have to push further towards Sonmarg.
I kept going faster and stopped only at a petrol bunk which was open otherwise it was all closed and there was this strange silence around. It was such a shame to see such a beautiful place in such mess.
I filled whatever empty bottles I had with petrol because I wasn't sure where the next open petrol bunk I'll get.
Then after some time traffic again started again piling up and this time everything came to a stand still. First I thought it was just another jam due to more traffic at this time of the year. But soon after it was apparent that it was the intentional blockade done by the army guys. Apparently there was more tension and disturbance ahead and the army didn't want the tourist and yatra guys to move forward.
The blockade was a long one and meantime every body started talking each other asking where have the others come from and as usual my bike attracted attention. The two bikers I met also joined me and we all had a nice time talking about so many things.
While waiting for the army guys to clear the route for us I finally got introduced properly to the bikers who were riding with me all this while. They were Parag (riding a Yamaha FZ16) from Pune and Rajan (riding a Honda Unicorn) who was Parag's relative, from Mumbai. This was Parag's first trip to the mountains and Rajan's fourth, two times on a bicycle and second time on a motorcycle.
There was an interesting discussion that broke; one of the guys asked us why do we do it i.e. riding all the way on a motorcycle to a place like this bearing so much of discomfort.
Well obvious answer to that was asking him a question in turn: why does he do it i.e. coming to a place like this bear so much of discomfort. His answer was it is his way to reach to God. We in a chorus gave the same answer IT is our way to reach God i.e. Riding to this place, bear all the discomfort and see Heaven On Earth.
After about two hours or so the traffic was allowed to go further. It was around 5 o clock that time and as advised by the other bikers I was supposed to be with the convoy which meant not able to stop where I wanted. I was going through Heaven On Earth and it was a pity that I couldn't stop to capture some of the vistas :(
But still I managed to click some.

Seeing these two pics above in my camera I felt relieved that I finally captured something that did some justice with the actual beauty.
I clicked these and immediately climbed back on the bike to follow the convoy. While riding I promised myself that I'll be back to this place again next time and enjoy all that I am missing now because of the tensions around. I have been unfortunate twice that something was planned for this place and tensions in the valley have spoiled it.
Again we were stopped by the army and we were asked to park in a big empty ground, it seemed that the miscreants were at it again. One army officer saw me fully geared and riding with so much of luggage, he smiled and said to me with a chuckle in Hindi "oye tu kahan ja raha hai ladne" (hey kid where you going to fully geared, to fight somewhere?).
After about half an hour the traffic was again allowed to go further. Everything there was closed and it was evident that I wouldn't be able to stay in Srinagar. I will have to go beyond Srinagar and stay for the night.
The army guys led us through the Srinagar city and the famous Dal Lake. Again it was such a pity that nobody was allowed to stop and take a pic or two :(

Missed this place, the char chinar. Posting this one from the web

Missed The Mughal Gardens

Finally missed the stay in a House Boat :'(
Got all the links for the photos from this webpage about Dal Lake
After circling around the Dal Lake we were guided out of the city by the army guys. I was planning to move ahead to Sonmarg. It was 7:30pm and the day was almost over which meant I was required to ride in the dark. No other option but to do it. While riding through the city I actually saw the CRPF guys beating up some of the guys very badly on the street. Don't know if those local guys deserved that beating but it was sad to see that sight.
Sonmarg was 55kms from Srinagar. I reached a village called "Manigram" after 30kms of travel from Srinagar. I saw a lot of crowd there and I was stopped by army guys yet again and this time they checked my ID cards and they even checked my luggage. This was the place were the yatra guys were supposed to spend the night in the facilities provided. I told the army guys that I want to go further to Sonmarg but they said nobody is allowed to go as it is dark and I'll have to spend the night there only.
I parked my bike near the army tent and soon after the bikers whom I met on the way also came. There were thousands of people there and most of them going in the amarnath yatra. There were guys providing tents and we took one where all three of us could stay. For dinner all we had to do is join the crowd and have free food in the facilities provided. While going inside the premises the security guys checked my bags and took out the petrol bottles that I had kept as reserve and they didn't allow those bottles filled with inflammable liquid. I had to put the petrol where it belonged and i.e. bike's tank :)
We had nice FREE dinner and came back to our tent and slept. I decided to wake up as early as possible so that I could start early and skip all the crowd and so did Parag and Rajan.
So I had passed the problematic area so the worry also had passed.
I had already covered around 270kms for the day. And the next day was short in terms of distance to be covered and also through some very beautiful places.

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Old 08-19-2010, 07:36 AM   #10
sumit OP
Joined: Jun 2010
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Looks like I am the only one posting and viewing this thread :P

Day 5 Logs:

Day 5, 8th July: Srinagar (Manigram) to Kargil

The tent owners had brought one more family with two females in our tent and obviously they felt uncomfortable spending the night in a tent with three other strangers. But no other option, and besides after spending some time talking with us they felt comfortable. Three (Parag, Rajan and I) of us had nice small chat about the trip and further plans and soon slept. Woke up early morning at 5 AM. It was a short sleep but a sound one.
Spending night along with thousands of people in the same place obviously creates one big problem!!! Morning's nature's call :). The yatra facilitators had done some temporary arrangement for that and freshening up in that place is one hell of an experience. Won't go into details of that but yeah this wasn't planned in the trip at all. Anyways I was prepared for anything and everything. Soon after I packed and loaded the luggage on the bike with the nylon ropes that I had bought. Parag and Rajan were also ready to start the day's journey. My initial plan was to reach Drass and stay there.

Took out the bike onto the road and all I saw was again a big jam and as the last day's travel, the jam was because of army security checks. We had to wait a lot this time and only by 8.30AM the jam got cleared and the convoy started moving. Every now and then there will be a jam and was moving very slow. But I didn't mind it as I was passing through the such beautiful place. While doing the pre-ride checkup of the bike I noticed that there was less pressure in the rear tyre. I stopped at a mechanic's workshop to refill the tyre. The guy wanted a pic of his with my bike:

Took some pictures when I got some space free from all the traffic going in the same direction as I was.

Once the traffic eased out I started going fast, I passed through a rough road and lo! there goes my nylon ropes and my bags started falling off. I stopped at a dhaba to tighten the bags but the ropes were of non use this time. All this while I was carrying bunch of bungee chords with me and was just too lazy to search it in my bag. But now is the right time to tie the bags with bungee. The terrain is only going to get tougher/rougher from then on. I tied my bags firmly. The kids from the dhaba gathered around me and started asking me if I wanted to get my bike washed. I said no and then one kid started blackmailing me emotionally that whatever money I would give him will help him go to school etc. I still said because I really did feel the need of getting bike washed.
By this time Parag and Rajan also reached the dhaba. I had breakfast there only and moved ahead. The vistas were just awesome, captured some and went ahead.

I am trying to learn how to post process the pics. A lot of pics might not have come out good but please bear with me till I get better at this
Soon I reached Sonmarg and WOW! it is really heaven on earth!!

My friend Sunil had told me to stop in Sonmarg and take a horse ride. They will take you beyond the mountains and cover 3-4 lakes around. They take 450/- for it and takes around 4 hours; it is worth it. But somehow I wasn't that interested in leaving the bike with all my luggage at the place for such a long time. Had I being staying in Sonmarg I would have definitely gone for ride on the horses. I passed through the market of Sonmarg (which was very colorful and crowded). There was a diversion where the amarnath yatra guys were turning, I think it was towards baltaal, I decided to move ahead towards Kargil and didn't take the diversion.
Started going uphill with road condition changing (going worse) by every meter. This was the first time I was on this route and I asked myself is this the infamous Zozilla pass? After going some more distance indeed I was climbing the treacherous pass. Road condition was worse and on top of that my bike's fork again had got very lose. It sounded so bad, more of rattling sound. I stopped to at least tighten it to whatever extent I could.
Took some pictures and moved ahead.

The road I traveled

The road I have to go on

Parked the bike right on the edge for this pic

Spot the bikers :) Yeah! those tiny dots.

Bird's eye view

Mesmerizing views of the Great Himalayas

Zozilla is tough majorly because of the terrain, narrowness of the road and also because of the traffic and I experienced it first hand when I met an endless queue of trucks coming down the pass. I had no option but to pull aside and wait for the trucks to go by. I was accompanied by another lone rider. He was sitting on a rock taking pictures enjoying the views. He went to him and asked the usual question, what's his name, where is heading to, etc. He told he is was Denmark and his name is Villads. For pronouncing his name he said just like in India we have "Villas" I can pronounce his name :)
I told him that I am from Central India and immediately he asked am I from Madhya Pradesh. I was impressed by his geographical knowledge of India. He said he has toured a lot in India so he knows quite a lot about India. He also told that he has been waiting for truck traffic to come down from last half an hour.

Road Condition of Zozilla pass

Truck traffic at zozilla

He took couple of pics of me waiting for the traffic to come down. After some time the truck queue and I could move ahead. My fellow traveler also started. The traffic wasn't there but now a new kind of terrain was to be seen. It was actually repair work going on for the zozilla pass. The workers were putting stone tiles all along the route. This was even worse than the dirt road that I had come on because the lose fork was vibrating more and more on the uneven surface. I took a lot of breaks because of that and took a lot of pictures.

Crossed this kind of water stream every now and then.

Moving at a rather slow pace I reached the Zozilla milestone and customary photograph of the Zozilla details carved on the stone.

Soon I reached the war memorial of Zozilla. Took some photographs there too. It feels so sad as well as proud to read the stories.
By this time Parag and Rajan had also come to the place. Had a chat with them and moved ahead.

Again slowly moving ahead. My hands were shaking and it felt like ants crawling all over my finger tips thanks to my bike's rattling fork which gave all the vibes to the handle bar too.
Drass wasn't that far now and no problems in going slow as my plan was to stay in Drass itself as everybody (who have done this route) had suggested to stay Drass rather than in Kargil. I had ample time hence took every opportunity to take pictures

Crossing this part felt so spectacular

As said I was close to Drass

Spotted some horses and again photo clicking time

Again stopped near to this flower bed just before Drass. Was amazed with color contrast of the rocks around and the flowers.

Took some flower shots

Customary picture of the board through my mobile

Just when I was about to reach Drass I saw a guy on a bicycle with two saddle bags on it. I waived at him and he waived back.
Reached Drass and started searching for a mechanic so that I can get bike's lose fork tightened and relieve myself and the bike from the torture. Couldn't get any mechanic around. People said I'll have to go to Kargil for that.
Anyways no option left I entered a hotel for lunch and I saw Villads, my fellow rider, having lunch. I asked him if I could join him on the table. He welcomed me and we started chatting. He told me where he works (in delhi) and he bought a bullet recently. He had already toured a lot in India but in a car and the last time when he visited Drass this biking bug bit him and this time he came solo on his bullet. He showed pictures that he had taken along the route and also showed me my pics that he took. He said he'll email me those photos once he reaches Delhi. He told that he was able to stay in Srinagar at the time of curfew in his friend's house. He told a horrific incident when he was there. During the protests and curfew the police guys would fire randomly in the air to disperse the crowd, one lady from her house was peeping out of a window just to check. got hit by those bullets and died. He also was sad and disappointed with the conditions there.
I was about to order lunch for myself and Villads recommended me a non-veg dish "mutton rogan josh" :), he said it is very good. I took his recommendation and ordered it. It was really nice. Finished lunch while talking to him. Rajan and Parag also joined and they told that they had a chat with the guy on the bicycle and the guy's plan is a huge one. The guy has planned for cycling through Srinagar, leh, all the way to china and then if gets visa, he'll enter Pakistan and Afganistan. Hats off to the guy for the effort.

That's Villads saying Namaste to all the readers :)

We finished lunch and then I had to decide whether I should stay there at Drass or move to Kargil and then stay for the night. It was 2.30pm and I had a lot of time left. Kargil is just 58kms away from Drass.
Parag and Rajan had already left for Kargil. Villads asked me if I would like to join him for visiting a mosque nearby. I thought for sometime and decided to leave for Kargil as it would lessen my next days travel in terms of distance. Although I wanted to stay in Drass. The kind of treatment the hotel guys gave me was just awesome; very humble, polite. I felt so special just having lunch in that place. I would really recommend anybody visiting the place to stay there in Drass.

Stopped at a mechanic's place to refill the tyres, now the tyres were losing pressure in half a day probably due to the small punctures on the rear.

Clicked some more pictures on way. Reached the historical Drass Tololing memorial. Parked my bike and went inside the memorial. I was very cordially greeted by the army soldier standing there which was surprising for me as generally army guys will be in their own state of mind and not mixing up with the civilians. This place was an exception. Went inside the gallery that the army guys have put up with lots of photos and items from the war itself. Seeing all those things you feel so overwhelmed with pride as well as sadness that our soldiers had to go through all these situation just because some people our neighboring country cannot sit quietly.

View from the tololing way memorial

The path way

The memorial

Items confiscated from the enemy bunkers

Funny poster

The guys working there wanted their pic

They had some mementos on sale. The money will go to the war victims' families. I bought one key chain and one cap from there which is what I am wearing in the below photo.

Yours truly with the soldiers

Continued ahead after spending some time there talking to the soldiers. Took some more photos en-route.

This one's my favorite.

Reached Kargil by 5 o clock and started searching for a hotel with proper parking place. The first thing one will notice about Kargil is the people there. People there are so fashionable top to bottom, right from there hair to their sun glasses to their shoes. It is quite correct when visitors say it is the fashion capital of that part of India.
But on the other hand the behavior of the crowd is not what you'll like much especially when one compares it with the kind of treatment people in Drass give. They are in their own world not bothering about anything. I had to roam around quite a lot for searching a good hotel. Eventually I found one guest house with very good parking; I could park my bike almost totally hidden from the public which is what I wanted. When I was checking the rooms I noticed that my new friend Villads is also staying in the same hotel. There was only one room available which was actually for 3 people and was worth 500/- , quite neat with attached bathroom and hot water facility. I took that room itself because I was pretty sure I wouldn't get a better hotel in terms of parking place for the bike which is more important for me. I got freshened up, took out my bike to search for a mechanic so that I could get my bike fixed and also for some evening snacks. I had not spoken at my house too for a long time too.
I had postpaid airtel number and it wasn't working there. It seems only BSNL numbers work there due to security reasons.
I got my bike fixed and searched for a STD booth to make calls but there was some problem with landline in Kargil itself. I had to wait for a lot of time till the line got fixed and I could speak to my parents.
Kargil, apart from the name in Indian history, didn't entice in any way whether in terms of people or the place itself and I kind of got to know why people suggest to stay in Drass and just pass through Kargil on the way.
Anyways this was how my day 5 ended, not much in terms of happening but all in all it was good. Clicked many pictures, enjoyed going through such beautiful places, also kind of enjoyed crossing Zozilla pass.
Next up it was the day for Leh through the usual route i.e. through Lamayuru. I was looking forward to ride on the arrow straight road on the way to Leh. I had seen the photographs of it and boy does it look like a run way or what
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Old 08-19-2010, 01:27 PM   #11
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wow! Stolen battery, bungee cords, petty bribery, good food, great scenery. Sounds like another awesome Indian adventure!

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Old 08-19-2010, 01:45 PM   #12
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Great ride!
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Old 09-15-2010, 02:28 AM   #13
sumit OP
Joined: Jun 2010
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Apologies for a long gap.

Day 6, 9th July: Kargil to Leh (A different route)

So a new day a new destination and I am loving it. Got up early packed up things, spoke to the guest house owner so that I can pay him and start my journey. I casually asked him whether the roads till Leh are good or bad. He said there are construction works going on the route before Lamayuru. New road was being laid and they were using explosives to clear out the way which meant if I reach the place at a wrong time I could get stuck for hours there.
The guest house owner suggested me to take the route from Batalik. He told the road through that place is really good and only one high pass to cross plus he strongly suggested me to visit Batalik telling me that the Batalik has a different culture and visiting there I would feel good. I took his advice, got directions of the route.

Looking back at the trip I had until now, things not going as planned (stayed in Udhampur instead of Patnitop, couldn't stay in Srinagar, etc), I had made up my mind that I would rather go with the flow and care little for the route that I had planned. The trip that I had planned was planned keeping in mind that my brother will be on his first long trip in the mountains and it shouldn't be a tough one for him. Now that he couldn't join I thought why not be a little more adventurous and take an impromptu route plan. And from then on I sure did an impromptu trip , details will come in due time.
I wanted to get my bike washed before starting but I came to know that the garages open only after 9.30-10.00am hence I started just like that. One thing I noticed that there are a lot of guys from other states (specially UP and Bihar) working there. The garage where I got my bike's fork tightened was from UP and out of curiosity I just asked him how come he has come to work so far away from his home. But he didn't answer my question and just smiled. I also left it there and started my journey. Filled up petrol and took the left on the diversion after the petrol bunk that said Lamayuru to the right and Akchamal/Batalik to the left. It isn't a proper sign board telling the directions and one might have to keep a look out for it to spot it.
After climbing a little bit I looked back towards the kargil city and it was a fabulous view:

After taking the detour I looked back in my view mirror and the view was just awesome. Stopped right there and captured it

"Chhod aaye hum wo galiyan"

Soon I came up to this beautiful house and a superb view.

The Kind of house one would love to own

I was passing through the village named "Akchamal" and I started hearing some noise out of my rear tire. I thought it is just dirt kicking out of the tire and continued. After around one kilometer I thought of taking a drinks break. I got down from my bike and to my horror I noticed my rucksack which I kept on top of my rear has almost fallen off and almost getting dragged along the road :(
I immediately checked if anything had fallen off and fortunately everything was intact. I removed all the bags from the bike and started putting them back again. I was tightening the bungee chords around the bags and suddenly there was a bunch of school going kids surrounded me looking at my things anxiously.
One kid was so enthusiastic that he wore my riding gloves and put on the helmet right away.
They were very inquisitive asking me where am I coming from and where would I be going next etc.
I was happy answering their questions, they all agreed me to take their pictures but only on condition. And the condition was that I would send them their pictures when I reach back home. They even gave me their village address so that I can send it to them. Here are the pictures that I took. I still have to send it to the kids' addresses, don't know if it will reach them or not but still I will send it soon keeping my fingers crossed :)

As I continued from there on I started climbing up up and up and generally that means one is crossing another high pass. And indeed it was a pass named Homboting La having an altitude of 13,202 ft above MSL. This pass had pretty decent roads despite being high. Probably because there was not much commercial traffic in this part of the Kashmir.

Nicely laid roads on Hamboting La, no pot holes, etc

I reached the top and had a drinks break. It was very sunny and hence felt thirsty frequently. Not many people were around except for some army soldiers trying to search for mobile signals so that they can make calls.
Took pictures and continued ahead

Superb vistas from the top. Tried my best to capture it.

Came down the pass and continued towards Batalik. En-route I passed a lot of small villages stopping almost every place to take a picture or two. I guess the village name was "Silmo"

I was stopped by a army soldier passing through the check post asking regular questions like where am I going and where am I coming from. This was not the usual tourist route as it is a high security area. Apparently the LOC (Line Of Control) was only 10 kms away from the village and hence army guys are extra cautious. I spoke to the guy for some time. He asked me why am I roaming in such a place solo. I just said I wanted to experience a different route than usual and also the village "Batalik" is place of historic importance for India hence wanted to visit the place especially when coming to Kargil.
Usually people will visit Kargil and straight away head towards Leh taking the usual route through Lamayuru, Nimmu, etc.
He also told me that in winter season it is very difficult to stay in that place as temperatures go negative and there would be 4-5 feet of ice/snow. He offered me tea/coffee but I chose to continue towards Batalik.
I took so many breaks on the way that it was 12.30pm reaching Batalik which was only 58kms from Kargil. I reached the check post of Batalik and yet again I was stopped by an army guy.
I stopped the bike and started talking to him. He asked me the usual questions and then told me about the war that happened with our neighboring country in the year 1999. How the peaks behind the village were captured by the enemy and they used to bombard the villages Batalik and the next village "Darchik". He pointed out to a specific peak and told that, that was the peak they had won back from the enemy. I asked if I can take a picture of it and he said go ahead.

Soon I was joined by couple of other army guys and a local police person. They also told a lot of stories from the war as how they used to see missiles flying away in the air through those peaks and all they used to hear was explosions everywhere. Both the villages were destroyed.
They told that before winters the soldiers will start taking the essential things like food, warm clothes, etc, to the bunkers situated on the peaks using horses, donkeys and they won't come down till the winter season is over. And one can imagine how cold it will be at the peaks.
Hearing all these made me realize once more that there is no glory in wars and nobody wins a war even after achieving victory.
There was such overwhelming feeling hearing the stories, talking to the very people who guard our borders going through such hardships and yet they were so friendly and polite.

They asked me which I am coming from. I told them that I stay in Bangalore. Out of the guys two were from a place near Bangalore only and they asked if I knew the local language of Bangalore i.e. Kannada. I said no and to that they were making fun of me that being in a place for such a long I didn't pick up the local language, etc...
I asked them if I can take their pictures, they agreed.

The mountain ranges...

That these brave soldier guard...

So that we civilians can live peacefully

The guys asked me if I had lunch and if not I can have it in the village. But they warned me not to go too much further into the village as it is very close to the LOC border and higher officials won't like a civilian from outside roaming there. I took their advice and went in the village till the point I was allowed to.
I stopped in front of a tea stall and was welcomed inside by the guys inside. I asked if I can have lunch and all they had was the usual maggi noodles. I asked them to prepare it. Meanwhile again talking to the locals about their day to day jobs in the place.
One thing I noticed in kargil was the same and that was the fact that there were a lot of people working there coming from very far off places for e.g. UP, Bihar, etc. I again asked the same question that why do they come so far from their places and work. This time I did get an answer from the guys and that was the fact they get paid better working there in that remote village than other places. And they could save more money and send it to their families.
Had lunch while talking to the guys and they made me promise that I would come back next year or so and meet them again. It was so nice interacting with them.
One thing I realized which I might have expressed earlier too is that when I am touring solo I tend to interact more with the places that I am visiting. I talk to locals, mingle with them, get to know them better. These things I won't do if I am touring with a group like I did my previous trip in 2008. May be because I don't have someone with whom I can share the experience and instead I approach the locals to talk to and may be share a laugh with them.
There are pros and cons in touring solo and this thing sure came out as an advantage.

I bought some chocolates so that I can give it to the kids that I meet on the way. I came back to the same place where I met the army guys and asked them how was the road till leh and they told it is very good all the way. Leh was still 175kms from there and I had around 5-6 hours left with me for the day.
They told me I'll be able to cover the distance very easily.

As the army guys said, the roads pretty good ranging from tree covered roads...

To empty roads like this...

To roads like this...

Passed through a lot of small villages. This one was Darchik Village

Just after Darchik

Roads were pretty good all the way

Weird patterns on the mountains
Continuing my journey through the twisty but smooth road. Passing through villages enjoying the vistas around. Stopped beside a huge prayer wheel. Had biscuit, rested for sometime.

Reached a junction and a big board that said "take right for Lamayuru" and "straight for Leh". This is where the usual route for Leh from Kargil and the route I took from Batalik join. This place is just before the town "Khaltse". From that point on the roads became super smooth and super wide :) like the ones present in express ways.

But then soon enough I was stopped by this construction work going on which consumed a lot of time.

After this road block the road continued to be mix of good and bad roads till Khaltse. I stopped at a restaurant at Khaltse and had evening snacks.
Continued ahead and was eagerly waiting to ride on the famous arrow-straight-runway-like road. And indeed it was a pleasure on that road. On top of everything the road is a downhill. Here are the pics:

Bit overly processed. But fantastic variation in colors of mountains

On the way I didn't stop at couple of places which were of tourists' attraction for e.g. the gurudwara just before Leh, The confluence of river Zanskar and indus, etc.
Then I reached the famous magnetic hill and saw a lot of people trying to experience the phenomena. I too tried but wasn't able to experience it. May be I was doing it in a wrong way.

After unsuccessful try, I decided to get just a photo of mine next to the board

Confluence of Zanskar and Indus river
There were a lot of hooligan kind of bikers around make a lot of noise my be to impress their fellow female pillion riders. I decided to push off from there and reach leh
Finally reached Leh in good time.

Leh Valley from a distance
As soon as I reached Leh I started searching for a decent hotel to stay. I called up couple of contacts that I had in Leh to ask for places to stay but none of them were reachable. Then I decided to straightaway go to place where I stayed the last time I came here. The hotel name is "Hotel Hills View", it is on the left hand side on the diagonal road that goes in the Leh city from the main petrol bunk junction.
The rooms pretty decent (don't expect starred hotel rooms), the owner charges 300/- per room per day. The thing I like about the hotel is that it has a nice parking place inside the hotel campus pretty much hidden from the outside traffic and people. Plus the owner of the hotel is very nice, humble, polite.

I checked in the hotel and met the owner. I was talking to and asked if he remembers me from the last trip that we had. And surprisingly he remembered and told me that generally he won't remember the tourists coming to his hotel as there are so many frequently coming and going, but he remembered our whole group which nice to know :)

Dumped all my luggage in my room, asked the hotel boys to get me hot water which they gave immediately, took bath, and went out for just roaming around and do some shopping.
Bought couple of things from the shop and went into a cyber cafe to check my email and stuff. By the time I got free it was dinner time. I tried contacting parents so that I can tell them my whereabouts but couldn't reach, there was some problem in the network in leh.

Located a punjabi dhaba and ordered some chapatis and curry for myself. I was having dinner when a guy came and sat on my table. As usual I started talking to him and he told that he is actually from Netherlands and has been touring India for over 9 months now. He told he has been to almost all parts of India except the north east. He didn't tell his name. I asked him how does he manage his finances when he is on the move all the time. He told that tries to spend very little on the travel by taking local transport, have food at cheap places plus for the first six months he had been working as a content writer for some firm. He would just join any group which will let him stay and spend the night. He also said one thing which was very interesting: "If you know how to manage, you can manage things without spending much".
The guy finished his dinner before me and said to me that he'll go and pay the bill on the counter itself. Before anybody could notice anything the guy vanished and not to be seen on the counter itself. Now there can be only two possibilities: One, the guy paid the bill quickly and left, and second the guy slipped through without paying the bill and probably showing me how it is practically done what he just said to me i.e. "If you know how to manage, you can manage things without spending much"

Well not thinking too much about it whether he paid the bill or not. I paid my food bill and returned to my hotel room. Next day was a rest day for me i.e. just be in Leh, get the permits for other places and visit Khardung la if possible. Then there was one small problem and that was, on 10 July Leh has a public holiday and I wasn't sure if the Commissioner's office will be open on that day or not. Didn't have any idea about it and hence decided to think over it the next day itself and also consult with the hotel owner who himself gets the permit work done for his customers.

So this is how my day 6 ended. A very good day indeed, I got to go through a very different route and visit some of the less visited places.

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Old 09-27-2010, 08:55 AM   #14
sumit OP
Joined: Jun 2010
Oddometer: 20
Day 7, 10 July 2010: Leh City and getting permits in Leh on a local holiday

Day 7 was a rest day for me. I was half way through my trip. I had planned for the customary Khardung La visit (K-Top) and after this as earlier planned, a visit to Pangong Tso.
Morning I woke up and first thing decided to get my bike washed and get the fork tightened once and for all as I was really frustrated with the rattling sound and the vibes the fork was giving.
Came out of my room for going out and was greeted by the hotel owner. Told him that I will be going for bike things to the bike workshop named "Juma Autmobiles". Apparently the mechanic is pretty well known in Leh as he has been in this business from a long time and respected for his work. The last trip the guy had helped me a lot fixing my broken key issue, read this for details:
Day 6 Leh - Getting Permits and Learning photography

As I mentioned in the previous day's log, 10 July is a local holiday in Leh and none of the government offices are open on that day which means one can't get permits to visit places around Leh for e.g. Khardung La, Diskit, Pangong Lake, Chumathang, etc. I asked the hotel owner if I can get the permits or do I have to just wait for the next day. Waiting for the next day meant losing one day totally and on top of that 10th was a Saturday. If I couldn't get permits on 10th I won't be able to get it on Sunday. Also the news I have been getting about the Leh to Manali highway wasn't good. Apparently Rohtang La was blocked due to landslides also I heard Baralacha La was totally under snow. And so I couldn't afford for waiting for one day for permits and visit Pangong Tso, come back to leh and start my journey towards Manali.
While I was talking to him another visitor who came on a car joined us. He took the Manali - Leh highway and told that the roads are in really bad condition.
I was worried about the road condition because if at all the roads are bad and my bike gets stuck somewhere in the snow, it will be very difficult for me to take it out alone. Knowing that it is not the first time I'll be going on the Leh - Manali highway, in fact this will be my third time, the hotel owner said to me "Why do you worry sir, the guys have come here for the first time and never driven in this region, they will obviously feel the road are worse comparing with normal city roads. It won't be as bad as you think". Hearing this was kind of an encouragement.

The hotel owner also told me that there is a new rule that has come out in Leh that if there is a holiday on a weekday the Commissioner's office will open for one hour from 2 PM to 3 PM in the afternoon.
That was another relief that I can get permits on the same day.

The hotel owner told me not to worry and if I decide to skip Pangong Tso, he can make an itinerary for me to visit places around leh.
I came out and went straight away to Juma Automobiles to get my bike fixed but it was closed and will only open after 9AM. I thought of getting the bike washed first and then come back and in the meantime I can finish my breakfast. I roamed around the city to look for a place for bike wash. Took this picture:

The Leh City gate
Unfortunately couldn't go further back sitting on the bike to cover the whole view, still decent pic eh? :)

Last time we got our bike washed in a Maruti showroom situated on the road to airport. But they were too busy to wash my bike. Hence went to Tata Showroom just ahead on the same road. There also the guys were busy but somehow I convinced them to at least wash the bike with water so that all the dirt and mud can be removed. They charged me 50 bucks for that, expensive but no other option :(

A view from Commissioner's office

After the wash while waiting for the garage to open, went in a restaurant to have breakfast. All the while I was trying to figure out my options to visit places. I had to come up with a plan in which I could visit at least one place around Leh, head towards Manali and this all should happen keeping in mind that I can get stuck due to bad weather.

I had to reach Delhi by 17th July evening as I had my flight ticket for Bangalore on 18th July night and I should have enough time for getting the bike packed and shipped on train. So basically I was left with 5 days with me. Hence going to Pangong Tso was out of option as I would be having 4 days exactly for reaching Chandigarh. This is possible normally when the climate is favorable but it wasn't.

I was thinking all the time I have already visited Pangong Lake once and this time I can plan for something else. I had heard a lot of Tso Moriri and Tso kar, situated beyond Chumathang, and also heard that there is a route that opens towards Pang which is on the Leh Manali Highway. But I had not seen many itineraries/trips through that area and wasn't sure about it. Still I thought I'll inquire and plan for it.

Got my bike fixed from the workshop. Surprisingly he also remembered me that he had fixed my bike two years back.
At 10 AM I reached the Commissioner's office and it was closed and people there told that it'll open at 2 PM only. I came back to my hotel room and asked the owner about the route towards Tso Moriri and towards Manali Highway from there. He told the way towards Tso Moriri is the usual one towards Mahe Bridge through Chumathang. Once I reach Tso Moriri and Korzok village there is a route towards Pang through a place called "Sumdo" and the route will join the Manali Highway in Moore Plains to Pang and this way I'll skip Tanglang La, Second highest mountain pass in the world (17,582ft above MSL). The route also covers Tso Kar, another lake, which has now dried mostly.

I saw the map that I had with me and it showed the place Sumdo but no clear route towards Pang, Manali highway. Also there are no petrol bunks on the way which meant I will have to carry petrol with me.
Tso Moriri is 230kms from Leh and I had no idea how much far is the next petrol bunk (or a place where petrol is sold unofficially) after Tso Moriri.
I knew that Leh is around 440kms from Manali and my bike goes for roughly 350kms full tank.
I also knew that I can get petrol unofficially in Chumathang though a little expensive than normal price. Hence I decided to keep around 10 litres of petrol extra along with a full tank of 17 litres in my bike, fill petrol in Chumathang again and it should be enough for me reaching a place called "Tandi" in Himachal Pradesh which is the first place to have petrol bunks when one goes from Leh to Manali.
I didn't have much space in bags hence I bought a 5 litre can and some smaller bottles to keep extra petrol.
So it was decided that I would go for Tso Moriri lake and find out my way towards Manali Highway. Kind of adventurous eh? As I mentioned earlier too that now that I was riding solo, I was more interested in an impromptu route than whatever I planned initially.

This way if the information, that I had got, was correct I would reach Manali in good time and will have enough time in hand if at all I get stuck somewhere due to bad weather though one can't estimate the time (days) it will take for me to get out if stuck. But I was willing to ride my luck on this one...

It was 11.30 something and I had a lot of time till the commissioner's office was supposed to open and hence thought of visiting the Leh Palace.
On the way to the palace took this picture from a distance.

Bigger size here
Gave the picture a little treatment :)

A different Processing
The entry of the Leh Palace has this board giving information about the Leh city and the palace itself.

Some info on Leh City
Bought a ticket at the entrance for 5/- and took pictures where ever allowed. Not much to tell here but the palace is magnificent. The place where exhibits are kept, photography is not allowed.

The Leh Palace Entrance

From the Palace terrace the famous Shanti Stupa can be seen. Below is the pic.

Shanti Stupa

The truth is out there, get off your couch!!!!

Leh City as seen from the Palace

Leh City as seen from the Palace

While roaming around inside the Palace and adjoining gompas I met a monk and spent some time talking to him. He was very inquisitive and interested about me riding solo, where do I work, etc... It was nice talking to him. He told me he'll be in charge of the gompa for the next two years and he asked me to visit him again whenever I visit Leh in these two years. But he said next time he would like to me to have a partner (a girl friend or wife ) I just promised him that I'll meet him for sure.

Old wall paintings. You aren't allowed to take pictures of these paintings with your camera flash on as the flash can damage them

Rays of enlightenment?

Didn't go to the top

At around 2PM I reached back at the commissioner's office to get the permits and I already saw quite a lot of people waiting.
I parked the bike and suddenly I heard a voice calling my name. I checked around and in the parade ground (in front of the commissioner's office) I saw a person waving at me. And that person was a friend of mine, Santosh, who started his Leh trip 1 day before I did.
This came as a surprise because I thought he had already started for places around Leh since he started earlier. Went to him and talked about the trip. He told that they took the usual route from Srinagar to Leh i.e. through Lamayuru. They were three of them of Santosh got separated from them and hence reached Leh a little late.
He also told about a sad incident that he lost his DSLR camera on way somewhere.
We all went together for the permits. They asked us to get the permit form from the local stationary shops around and fill it up. I filled up the form mentioning Tso moriri, Tso kar, Khardungla, Chumathang, Mahe Bridge. I had to pay nominal charges along with the application and got the form stamped though it took a long time as there were a lot of people especially agents who gave multiple applications for their guests.
Santosh and friends filled their applications for visiting Pangong Tso.
I met quite a lot of riders who came via Manali route and again I got mixed reports of the weather condition. But one thing was sure and that was the landslides in Rohtang Pass.
By 5.30 I got the permits work done and it was wee bit too late for me to visit Khardung La Top. I had earlier thought that I will visit K-top on 10th itself so that next day I can straight away start for Tso Moriri. But since the distance till K-Top wasn't small, it is 42kms one way, and there won't be any light while coming down from the top even if I make it to the top in good time. Hence thought of visiting the place early morning next day.

I ended my day with usual roaming around in the city. Got 5 copies of the permits as I would have to submit it at each check post where ever they ask for.

Will scan a copy of the permit and post it here soon, right now I don't have the copy with me.

One more thing which I had not discussed all this while was the problem of AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness). My last trip wasn't a good experience with high altitude as I was badly struck with it. Read more about my last trip's experience here.
This trip I had to be extra careful because if something bad happens there will be nobody around to help me. Hence I did some reading on the web and found an informative link.

Non-Physician Altitude Tutorial

For first time visitors it would be better to take the Srinagar route and then come to Leh as the height increase is gradual and human body will acclimatize better compared to the Manali - Leh route.

So next day would be a long as well as an interesting one. First I'll be visiting K-top and then will be starting the most unpredictable part of my trip.
Firstly I do not know the route fully and not sure if there is way through Tso Moriri to Manali Highway, secondly I wasn't sure about the weather conditions in Baralacha La and beyond.
I took the pill, Diamox, at night as prescribed in the above mentioned link, 24 hrs before the altitude change, since I will be spending the night at 15000+ ft which will be more than 500m height difference from Leh in a matter of one day.

Visit my flickr album for better quality pics (selected ones) : Flickr: Sumit!'s Photostream

Blog Post: The Touring Diary: Day 7 Leh City and permits

PS: Please don't mind the random sizes of the pics. I just copy it from my blogger dashboard and convert it into forum compatible format.

sumit screwed with this post 09-28-2010 at 12:17 AM
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Old 11-04-2010, 03:15 AM   #15
sumit OP
Joined: Jun 2010
Oddometer: 20
I am back with my next day's log...

Day 8 Khardung La (not just a customary smooth ride) - Leh - Tso Moriri via Mahe Bridge, Chumathang

Note: you might get sore eyes looking at the pictures taken/processed by a noob photographer

So day 8, a new day new route and a lot to look forward to.

Morning I woke up early and the plan was to complete the customary K-top ride and come back to the hotel, pack my things finally to leave Leh for the rest of the trip. Although I did think of a default plan of coming back to Leh if at all I am not able to find my way to Pang from Tso Moriri through Tso Kar.Or at worst if at all my fuel is not sufficient for the next segment.

Khardung La is 42kms from Leh and almost all of it is an uphill and the last time I was here it was, the roads were mostly good except for the last 3-4 kms.I expected to come back by 10 and start for Tso Moriri, never had an idea what was installed for me on the ride.

By 6.15 I was climbing towards the K-top. It was chillingly pleasant :)
I had just carried one tank bag for this ride as anyways I was coming back to the hotel and start again. I kept chain lube, my camera, water bottles, etc...The main reason was the thought that in case I have a fall and since this is early morning no body would be on the roads, I won't be able to put the bike back on to the wheels alone (Comet IS a heavy bike, approx 170kgs with fuel and other liquids in the bike).
As expected no soul was around except for occasional truck drivers on the road. As I was ascending the temperature was going down pretty quickly, my hands were going numb hence I had to put on two gloves on but still it was really enjoyable ride and all the way I was thinking that the roads are pretty good and this is going to be smooth ride to the top...(I was so wrong)

I reached South Pullu (K-top is 7 kms from this place) which is where the first check post is situated. By this time it was freezing and my hands were totally numb even though I was wearing two layers of gloves. Didn't take any pictures as well just because I didn't want to take out my hand in this freezing temperature. The army person asked me to come inside for showing the permits and registering my details. Seeing me struggling with my numbs hands he asked me to put my hands over the kerosene burner on which he was preparing tea but only after I make my hands a little warmer by rubbing them with each other.
While entering my details in his register he told me to be careful on the next 7 kms as the weather is really bad and roads aren't in good condition. Also there will be trucks coming down from the other side. I was confused because till now I found the roads to be smooth but this is Himalayas where conditions change within meters and keeping this in mind I continued only after quickly taking this snap:

The army person was indeed right, the moment I crossed the check post, the roads started deteriorating pretty fast and also the temperature was really low.
Soon I reached to the point on the road which every tourer dreads and that was "black ice". There was a shiny layer of ice on the road. This was going to be my first encounter with the black ice and just didn't want to fall down
For the first few meters I went in a constant pace and tried to be in a straight line despite road being very rocky. Just as I was about to reach the first U-turn the very obvious happened, without warning the bike just spun and threw me off and the next moment I see myself on the ground with my tank bag thrown off too and the bike lying in front of me :(
I said $hit, here is my first fall though I didn't take it so seriously. I got up, switched the bike off and collected my tank bag checking to see if my camera is alright or not and then picked up the bike. The road surface was really slippery, I was barely able to walk on it.
It was my first and hence thought of taking the pic of the road. Following is the pic.

Notice the my boot marks on the broken ice as I walked on it.
As you can see from the photo the ice wasn't that solid (due to gradual rise in temperature as the sun comes out of the mountains) and as soon as the bike goes over it, it breaks and causes the bike to change directions suddenly.
The fall hurt my left shin bone but it wasn't hurting much at that time may be due to adrenaline pumping or cold weather.

I took the U-turn continued to ascend and the temperature was still dropping with ice all over the road. It was very slippery and my bike's tyres weren't working on the surface at all. I would pass through the ice and the ice will break leaving the bike's rear tyre stuck in a pot hole. I'll try to throttle the bike so that it comes out of it but the tyre will just slip on its place. I'll have to eventually push the bike through my legs...The whole road was covered with ice and even my boots were slipping. Sometimes I'll get stuck and nothing would work, eventually I'll switch the engine off, rest for a while and then try again. Meanwhile a couple of cab drivers passed by looking at me struggling to go up but didn't stop to offer any sort help too which is quite unlike ladakhi people. People in ladakh are quite friendly and ready to help anyone in need. Anyways I got over the issues one my own with a little more effort
To add to my problems there were small stream crossings too with chunks of ice floating along with lose pebbles and rocks...

Obviously I didn't want to but it was only a matter of time and place that I'll fall down again. And lo! again the bike's front gave away due to the thin ice layer cracking when I went over it.
This time I fell right in the middle of the road. I got up, put the tank bag aside and tried lifting the bike. Unfortunately the bike got pivoted on its foot rest and instead of coming up it slipped more. I wasn't able to stand on the slippery ice and I was trying to pull up the bike. Instead of picking the bike up I ended up making the bike point to the opposite direction. I was exhausted, panting for air, my head started spinning due to the altitude and sweating a bit even in extreme cold environment.

Unfortunately I didn't take any pics of all this.

Thought of leaving the bike for sometime and gather some energy so that I can try picking up the bike again. This time I got an idea of breaking the ice around the bike so that I myself don't slip much and probably this way it'll be a little easier to pick up the bike. I was wearing the army boots with the hard rubber sole and I made good use of it and broke the ice. Eventually I was able to put the bike back on its wheels and a big relief. Put my tank bag back on and continued again.

I hardly reached the point which is called "India Gate" on the route and again bike's rear tyre gave away throwing me off again and hurting me again in the ankle.

Since these falls were happening at very slow speeds (not even 10kmph) I wasn't getting hurt seriously, but still the shin bone and the ankle was getting pounded every time I fell, both my shin bones had become red wherever I got hurt. Neither the bike got damaged much, a big thanks to the custom crash guard Irshaad bhai prepared for the comet.

This is the point at which I thought, Am I taking too much of risk; first of all I am alone with no soul around (if something bad happens, help will be probably be available pretty late when the traffic starts coming) and how will this effect my rest of the trip. The thought of giving up and heading back had crossed my mind. But then a voice from inside said to me that it is only 2-3 kms left and I haven't come this far just to go back without reaching the top. Feeling motivated again I picked up the bike again and continued to ascend. Finally I reached the top without any more falls. I was feeling elated and feeling proud that I made it to the top.

It was still very cold There was nobody around except an army person. I asked him if the tea shop is open and he said yeah the person will be there in the shop. I went in and had tea. Came out took some pictures at the top and saw another couple had reached to the top from the other side. I asked the guy to take my picture with the bike. Took some more pics at the top. I'll let the pics do the talking now...

Finally reached the top

Doggy peeing on my bike

If you still haven't realized how cold it was, see the water droplets (probably what the doggy did in the previous pic ) freeze right on the bike's fender.

Me with my steed.

Smooth Finish

After taking the pics started back towards Leh. It was already 8.30am and by this I was expecting to somewhere near reaching Leh. Jumped back on the bike and started for Leh. Going down the same path was even tougher now as it will all be a descend and the ice is still there on the roads; if I slip there is nothing stopping of the bike...

My favorite spot on the route.

This one is from the previous trip, Same Place same bike same rider but different weather conditions

Again a comparison from my last trip with the current one.

From my last trip...

The route from which I came and will be going back.

One of the water crossings while going back.

I was slowly going down being cautious trying to avoid the ice patches. As I said earlier too my bike's tyres had absolutely not grip that type of surface and as I was coming down the most frightening thing happened. I was tried avoiding the ice patches and in that process I moved away from the mountain shade on the road and tried going close to the edge of the other side (the valley side of the road) where there was more of water and less of ice. As I was going through the patch, the ice layer broke and the bike's rear ended in a pothole as before it started spinning on its place. What was frightening part was that I was on the very edge of the road and the more I throttle the more the rear spins and shifts towards the valley. I couldn't peddle the bike out of that pothole too as my boots were slipping.
I could actually see the sheer drop just centimeters away from my right foot and it was so scary. I said to myself if I throttle more or try to push the bike I might end falling into the valley. I could hear an engine voice approaching me, I switched off the engine, waited for sometime in the same position for the vehicle to come so that I could ask that person to just push the bike from behind and I can come out of the pothole without leaning to left or right. The engine voice was from a truck approaching me and as soon as it came I signaled them to help me out and the helper came out of the truck, pushed the bike out of the pothole. And this is how I escaped a scary rather potentially fatal situation.

It was stupid of me to do what I did and swore to myself to never take the edge of the road to avoid the ice patches. Falling down is much more safer than ending up in the valley :(

While going down had one more fall thanks to my incompatible tyres. After the south pullu check post, the roads got better and came back to my hotel. I was thanking God for being with me in the difficult times, it was Him who was watching from up above that I or the bike didn't get hurt badly in all those falls At the same time I was happy that I didn't give up and completed what I had thought of.

So now it was 10 o clock and I was already very late for starting towards Tso Moriri which was approx 230kms from Leh. I quickly took bath, gathered everything from the hotel, checked-out, thanked the hotel owner, paid the bills (and tips) and reached the petrol bunk. Filled up the tank, 5 litre can, and other small bottles that I had with me. So basically I had around 17 litres in the bike and 8 litres as backup.

Took the first break in Karu to have lunch as it was close to 12 and wanted to finish off lunch so that I can push more to reach Mahe Bridge. It wasn't a big ask as I knew the roads were good all the way till Mahe Bridge because I had been here once in my last trip when we visited Hanle, Chumur going through this same route.

Showed the permits on the checkpost towards Chumathang (famous for hot water springs) and continued. Kept taking drinks break often as the sun was really pounding on me. Drinks break obviously means snap taking time too ...

I have no idea why I took all of the following shots in portrait mode . Could have been so much better...

Road to nowhere..

From somewhere...

As I was amazed in my last trip, yet again amazed by the varying colors of the mountains. Amazing purple colored mountains

I reached Chumathang and stopped at a restaurant for some biscuits and team. I casually asked if I can get petrol in this part and they said I can buy petrol from there in lose bottles but I have to extra for it. They asked me to inquire an old lady outside who has the petrol. I thought it would good if I can get some extra petrol that I can put in the tank. I asked the lady and she told she sells petrol in those liquor bottles for Rs 75/- per bottle. I asked her to give me 3 bottles

Reached Mahe Bridge and I was stopped by the check post for the permits. Here one needs to take a right turn to go towards Tso Moriri and if one goes straight, the route leads to Hanle, and then Chumur (road is non-existent to the best of my knowledge)
As usual the guy checking the papers was surprised to know that I am touring alone to all these places. After the general chit chat with the guy I asked about the route and he told that Tso Moriri is 60 kms from the place and 30kms roads are pretty good till a place called "Sumdo" where I need to keep on going straight for Tso Moriri but the rest 30kms is just jeep tracks.
I asked him if there is any route to Pang from Tso Moriri and he said yes there is a route which goes through the same place SumDo via Tso Kar (another lake which has dried up mostly) and he has gone there once in his jeep.
So some more encouragement as to there is actually a route which I can take.

It was 5PM now and soon I reached Sumdo passing through some of the beautiful vistas and one pretty high mountain pass. I could n't get the name of the pass but I can know that it was pretty high because my bike again started struggling to climb up like it did in most of the higher passes...Again no pics of this route as I was hurrying up to reach the place where the bad roads start so that I reach Tso Moriri in day light.
Right at the 30 kms mark on my bike's odometer (as told by the check post guy) the good roads ended the jeep tracks started. It was pretty bad with big big rocks lying on the road. I knew these 30kms are going to take no less than 2 hours to cover which was fine by me as in this part of the world there is a still sunlight till the 7.30PM mark. My speed dropped to 15kmph and slowly I made my way through the bad roads. After sometime there was this lake I spotted in front of me which I thought was Tso Moriri and I was surprised that I haven't covered 30kms yet and I reached the place. Going a little closer I realized this is not the one as there was nothing around the lake but there is a village just beside the actual Tso Moriri lake by the name "Korzok".
Shot of the lake I spotted:

Continuing, every now and then I will come up to these kind of roads and I'll be confused which one to take as they all disperse to different directions :)

But my concerns got over going a little ahead as all the routes eventually joined in the single route which I meant I am going in the right direction :)

I came up to this bridge which said "Welcome to Tso Moriri" and I was greeted by this donkey

The first look at the Tso Moriri lake:

The first look at the Tso Moriri lake was mesmerizing! Although the above picture doesn't do justice to its beauty even one bit.
I was relieved that finally I reached my destination in good time when ample light is present to search for a place to stay and also take some pictures...

Tso Moriri is very much like the beautiful Pangong Tso but not as huge as Pangong. Same impeccably blue colored saline water and ice covered mountains in the background. It was a pleasure riding through Pangong and so was riding beside the beautiful Tso Moriri...A couple of snaps I took before packing the camera for the day as the light was going down quickly.

I had to stop a lot of times to adjust my bags. Apparently I didn't tie the bungee chords properly and the jeep tracks had no mercy :)

Finally located Korzok village and started searching for a place to stay.
At korzok there are good options for the tourers to stay in the form of homestays. The residents of the place have built pretty good rooms to let out to the visitors with nice clean bathrooms etc..
I reached a camp where tourers were having snacks and started talking to a Thai guy who reached a little earlier than me. He suggested me to stay at the place where he is staying. It was getting really cold out there as the place is situated at a pretty high altitude of approx. 14900ft above MSL.
He introduced me to the homestay owner, his name was Nam Gayal, who was pretty cordial and he told me that he himself will prepare the food for the night and he'll charge 250/- (not sure if it was 300/-). After seeing the rooms I agreed, parked my bike nearby and covered it with bike cover as it was not parked under any shade.
There was no cell phone signal in that place and couldn't find an STD phone booth to call my loved ones and inform my where abouts. This was a little worrying as I wasn't expecting any signals anywhere till I reach Jispa or Keylong in Himachal Pradesh which was around 2 days further and not informing my loved ones of where/how I am isn't nice...

I asked Nam Gayal about the route from Tso Moriri to Pang and he confirmed that there is a route but I would have to track back the whole jeep tracks for 30kms to reach the village Sumdo and take a left from there to reach another village Puga. I showed him the map and showed me the place to go through. The route goes via Tso Kar, Nam Gayal told that the route is very much like what I had traveled through coming to Tso Moriri i.e. all the way it is jeep tracks but not as rocky as this one. The route is around 120kms long which meant I won't be going more than 15kmph and I will need to start early otherwise I might not make it to Pang in good time.

The Thai guy I met had decided to go back to Leh instead of taking the other route which I had planned.

Night he prepared rice and dal for me because that was the only thing they had in the village. It was delicious. After having dinner I opened my rucksack and found that a small amount of petrol from the cans has leaked and now every thing inside the bag is smelling :( But luckily it was all bike things and not my clothes...

Next day I was about travel on totally unknown, probably not explored as much as the other places I visited. I was excited and nervous as well but yet again next day had a lot of things to look forward to...

Visit my flickr album for better quality pics (selected ones) : Flickr: Sumit!'s Photostream

Blog Post: Day 8 Khardung La (not just a customary smooth ride) - Leh - Tso Moriri via Mahe Bridge, Chumathang

sumit screwed with this post 11-04-2010 at 03:22 AM
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