The vast hostile landscape of Leh-Ladakh region has been on my check list for quite a few years. Summer 2011, I got that dialled. Joined by one of my riding buddies Mugoo, a workaholic bike clown, we hopped on a Jammu bound train. With no seats available, the train ride was spent vertical, jumping seats, trampling over luggage cases and sleeping passengers. Continuing into a cycle rickshaw, a fuled rickshaw and a super slick cab ride through bad weather, we reached the lazy, mountain city of Manali. Switching on to a 4am Bus to Leh, our bikes thrown on the roof, the rally grade bus drive began from Manali. Non existent roads, landslides, cloud burst situation, washed off roads, snow clad mountains, bags falling off roof rack, frequent army check posts, super high altitude and its low oxygen levels welcomed us through the breathtaking drive from Manali to Leh. During the drive, Mugoo was hit by the high altitude grumpiness with a head blasting illness and Dot4 fluid running down his nose. Landing in Leh city, surrounded by big mountains and a blue sky, we were all psyched up to build our bikes and hit the deserted landscape.
Still struggling to acclimatize we headed out to scout for some ride able lines around the Leh town area. After a bit of cruising through the arid landscape we spotted a decent ridge line only few miles off civilization. In forty degree Celsius noon sun I started my two hour hike up the mountain, as Mugoo stayed at the bottom of the hill with all the gear. The sun still throwing the crisp light, I strapped up and started the two minute descent down the massive ridge. A little over the bar action down the ride caused a bruised ankle, keeping me off the bike next day. I kept the wheels spinning through rest of the trip with an ankle brace.
We bumped into a few of our photographer buddies from back home, while riding around in Leh market! Along with one of the citys leading bike tour operators, a quick visit to Khardungla was set. Being the highest motor able road on the planet, Khardungla did not disappoint. Some high altitude oxygen deprivation later we decided to session a bit (lower) at the ridge zone around town we had seen earlier. Post some image captures in the evening light, we descended back into the city area through some monastery trails. With locals and visitors packing up the little city streets, weekend in Leh town area looked pretty colourful!
After only a few weeks in the region and riding just about five percent of the territory, we still kind of feel we belong to the mountain land of Leh. With all its great food, super weather and wonderful people, Leh has embedded the mountain dust in our systems now! I can’t wait to throw some more of the 40a durometer rubber on fresh mountain slopes!
Before we could take all the Leh oxygen in, it was time to pack up for hometown. On our way back we opted for the alternate route out of Leh City. Another bus ride to Srinagar through Dras and Kargil. Leaving the city late evening this route sees quite a few road trippers cruising. Continuing into the night the hip-skip dodge the cliff drive was sketchy to say the least. As our bus driver kept sleep tossing aided by some “organic joints”, the squeaking wheels and the horse saddle like seats kept me awake! Armoured cop trucks, Army personals with LMGs, army check posts were the site through Srinagar and Jammu. A nights stay in Jammu and a train ride with sleep killing Ticket checkers, Pune it was. A tripping good ride indeed!