Category Archives: Travel Logs

The North Indian Road Trip – Day 8

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Day /Date– Monday, 27th June
Journey – Leh-Khardungla Top-Leh
Distance – 90 kms

Road Condition – Superb considering we were climbing highest motor able pass on planet.

Since all our permits were sorted by the guest house owner at very reasonable commission, hence we had no tension at all. In the morning we had a leisurely breakfast at the Guest house itself. The cook there was actually very good, working 50-50 by splitting time between Goa and Leh. Our typical breakfast @ Guest house included pan cakes, omelets and parathas followed by amazing cuppa of Tea. Farzin wanted to change his Engine oil in the morning since there was lot of leakage and the obvious worry was engine seizing. I also got the air-filter and spark plug changed because my Electra wasn’t giving very optimum performance.
Since our bikes were all fine tuned for Khardung-la we started our ascent for the world highest motor-able pass. I wasn’t keeping very high hopes about the road conditions after my encounter with Zoji-la. Typical climb to Khardung-la top (18380 ft) from leh (11500 ft) takes about 1 hr 30 min to 1 hr 45 min. Farzin and I looked at each other and acknowledged that this is going to give a good kick. Farzin hinted to take it slow and try to take some pauses en-route to acclimatize and drink loads of water during the ascent.
Considering most of passes have bad roads this one turned out to be an expressway. The number of river streams was like 2-3. Mikhil &Pravin led the route and took some stops for clicking pictures. We made it to the top in little less than 2 hrs and the feeling really was top the world. The view on the top were phenomenal from the highest view point of the region 18380ft. We clicked pictures near the milestones. Farzin complained that he isn’t feeling very great after. It was about 1:30 PM we decided to have the Maggie and black tea @ world highest café which had a whole lot of history behind it.
Farzin as usual even though not feeling very well had the most of the Maggie soup.  It was already about 45 mins we spent at such an altitude and before AMS starts kicking in we decided to start out descend. We met few cyclist also (mostly foreigners) who took an interesting push-bike decent  where (Jeeps takes you up, gravity takes you down. Few of these guys were descending @ >60kmph and I was unable to overtake these cyclists on my Motorbike. That’s what I call thrill of life, just scared with the fact that if you miscalculate your breaking, there is only one way ride down for life.
M&P took some shots of these guys and I was going conservative on my fuel as I had already hit reserve mode. I barely had gas left for 25 kms on this low oxygen terrain. The bike started showing signs of missing a thump about 6 kms before Guest house. I slowed down further and farzin tagged along with me to give company. We reached Moon light Guest house @ 4PM and somehow were super tired after just 5 hrs of biking. We all crashed on our beds for a power sleep of 2 hrs.
As always I take too much tension so I got up at about 5:30 and decided to leave for Airport road for getting my bike fixed. I went to Tashi mechanic and he tried to fix the missing problem, this time he totally messed up with the carburetor setting. I was now super pissed with the way bike was performing. I had to give in extra throttle to ascend on simple inclines. I tried to venture out on other mechanic on Airport road and all answers were no since it was dawn and there was no electricity. I decided to meet renowned mechanic Mohan again and expressed that I have urgent need (guess all guys that would come to him will have urgency due to tight time schedules we plan).  He opened up my spark plug and boom it was dead. The bike was still not picking up after putting in new spark plug. He opened up complete carburetor assembly in the light my mobile phone torch. He changed the fuel intake scale and said this is the reason my sparkplugs are blowing up. He also suggested that once I reach Manali get the setting to the original setting as this will reduce the fuel intake to engine which corresponds to the oxygen intake at height above 10k. Finally I had a breath of relief and reached guest-house back with a happy mood.  Farzin wasn’t feeling very great due to throat infection he had fever. I re-assured Farzin if he isn’t well tomorrow I am okay to spend one more day @ Leh. We had Pizzas for dinner at a nice café in the night and super tried we all crashed down @ 11:00 PM.

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The North Indian Road Trip – Day 6

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Day /Date– Saturday, 25th June
Journey – Kargil-Leh
Distance – 230 kms
Riding Time – 10 Hrs – Hilly route through out with clouds defining colour of mountains.
Road Condition – Not so bad road to Lamayuru with some good patches. Post Lamayuru brilliant metallic road.

We started at 6:30 AM with an idea that road ahead are relatively nice , but tough luck. After refueling at Kargil Gas Station and made our way quickly through bad patches of road. Four of us had a nice rally following each other and pushing further and further. We reached Mulbekh about 35-40 kms from Kargil to have breakfast. Two Years back I remember having lunch at the same Dhaba opposite a small monastery. We jammed inside couple of parathas and restarted jourey at 9 AM.

Post Mulbekh, some patches of Black Metallic roads started coming in to give some riding pleasure. If I put this in my words “It was like orgasmic feeling on metallic road and when  a bad patch use to come it use to turn-off”. This job of making roads in Ladakh region is one of the toughest in the world – there are no trees, oxygen level at 3500+ meter altitude is very less, very less water to add on to scarcity . Hats of the workers of BRO – Border Roads Organization who are constructing/maintaining these roads. I read a quote on Army brdige – “difficult will be done immediately and impossible will take some time” and could make a proper sense out of it. Every year after winter icebreakers crawl on these roads and damage the roads in order to clear of the ice deposited on roads and BRO starts all over again – A perfect unavoidable vicious cricle .

We crossed our only pass big of the day – Fotu-la @ about 13478 ft by 11:45 AM to make our way through to Lamayuru Monastery. Mikhil and Pravin decided to pushed further faster as now roads in Farzin’s words were like ‘sex on the toast’. I and Farzin were bit tired, so we decided to take a small break at Monastery for some snacks. I bought a Ladakh map(eventually lost it the same day in Leh Hotel) some post cards. It was now blazing mid day hot at 10k+ height all throughout.

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At 1:30 we resumed our journey and all throughout only thing that could be talk of ride was, this is beautiful, I wanna live here forever. The purple mountains, the mega penis rock, black metallic roads, all dry weather, narrow gorge at >12000 ft. Enroute  there was  big traffic Jam in the gorge. Road maintenance was in progress, and wait time was no more than 30 mins (which is very effective considering the nature of terrain). We saw a robotic drilling machine – drilling holes for dynamites, which was operated via remote control (an un-common sight in India). I was standing in a zone which was going experience mega blasts in the Night. It was bit of a scary sight that we were in a cave like structure and rock above us was loose with trucks and car standing below it. Our bikes were the first one to cross after road was cleared.

The orgasmic roads continued and top speed we could gain on these roads was 80kmph.  I was really surprised that our bikes use to run at 100-110 on NH01 at sea level and this is what oxygen levels could do. (For Information: Royal Enfield Electra 4s 2005 performed better than Royal Enfield Thunderbird 2010 Twinspark).

About 30 kms before Leh crossed a zone called magnetic hill, this place showcased an unusual phenomenon – A car with switched off engine and in neutral gear will start climbing in the uphill direction due to magnetic pull. We both had a heated up argument, I was defending the magnetic pull as reason and farzin said it’s a slope which is not visible due to terrain location. We did test by throwing up a litre of precious water and it started climbing upwards/downwards as per Farzin (ironic) . When Farzin tried to do iron key test by bring the bike key closer to ground it showed strong magnetic pull and attracted it back. We left the argument there as no solid reasoning could be established. At about 5 PM we checked in New Moon Guest House,Leh-Khardungla Road (I remembered this guesthouse from my last stay in Leh, it was very cheap 400 rupees a night only).

We took some rest and decided that since our permits are not going to be sorted tomorrow as its Sunday, lets do White water Rafting. We booked in our self on rapids of Zanskar River which was Grade 2+ and definitely not for beginners. Mikhil and Pravin called us and they had booked in a different hotel near market. We  had wonderful dinner together @ German Bakery and called it a night.

The North India Circut – Day 5

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Date/Day – Friday, 24th June
Journey – Srinagar-Kargil
Distance – 202 kms
Riding Time – 10.5 Hrs – Climb To Zojila, Descend to Drass and Hilly route to Kargil.
Road Condition – Metallic road till Sonamarg, Tiny (non metallic) road on Zoji-la Ascent, plenty of bad patches post Zoji-la.

We decided to push of early, as idea was to get through the difficult part in first half of the day. It is a good idea to cross passes early morning because of river streams as intensity of ‘nullah’ increases  because of glaciers melting.

We left guest house at 7:30 am. I took out 10 grand from ATM, and we started our journey towards Sonmarg. We missed sight seeing of Dal lake during our stay in Srinagar, so we clicked some pictures enroute. The sight was so beautiful that I couldn’t resist to pull osut the cameras.

This is the view, why people like Srinagar as a honeymoon destination. The house boats, the shikaras, the mountains, the trees – a splendid view. We pushed further and reached a village before Sonamarg for a quick breakfast. Both of us realized that our trek gloves are no good for motor biking so we picked up another pair of resin gloves (Rs 100 for a pair), it turned out to be a horrible buy.  We corssed Sonmarg and majority of the view was of of a defence transit camp in a beautiful landscape. I had bit of butterflies in my stomach now i.e how is my bike which is un-tested on passes going to pass through tough terrain.

We started our ascend to Zoji-la (13500ft), to be very honest – we both are not very experienced bike riders when it comes to mountain pass climbing and this was our first mountain pass. The ascend started with a very good road, green trees, some snow patches, then a little un-even road, moving on to terrain with no road and no trees. The terrain became very dusty and we had to do an ascent over sharp hair pin turns of the pass.  I managed to stop my bike in middle of 60 degree ascend, and I failed to start my bike after 3-4 kicks. To increase my anxiety level, a Truck was ascending and blowing horn to move away as it can not afford to loose momentum. I started feeling breathless and now nervous because of height gain, thinking if my bike will give up here.  I calmed myself and kicked with giving in proper decompression and bingo. After ascending 6-8 kms we reached a straight road, it was about 2-3 kms long slush of mud, patches of glacial water streams on so called road. We understood that we have reached the mountain pass, and decided to hydrate ourself and click some pictures.

We started our descend to Drass at 12:00 and reached there by 1:30 pm to have lunch @ a local Dhaba (Farzin was happy to find non-veg food here). At 2:30 we pushed off for Kargil, hoping to reach there by 5 PM. Enroute we saw few defence walls, which were designed to shield army trucks from enemy attack. We crossed the Tiger hill which had a history attached to it (1999-2001 Kargil War). I was wandering how Indian army survive in this area during winters and even made me wander what happens at siachen glacier. After few kilometers we reached a War Museum, constructed by Indian Army in memory of the martyr. Farzin and I mutually decided that we will be spend some time here. It was very touching story of the Indian real heros we heard first hand from the soldiers(of 14 Sikh) guarding the museum. One of tehm narrated the complete war – the Heros, how Pakistan breached the Line of Control, how we regained our position over tiger peak. It was very difficult for me to believe that beyond tiger hill is Line of Control from where we could see Pakistan camps and activities. We met Mikhil and Pravin, two guys were completing the same circuit as we had planned but on a Maruti Alto. We started together from Drass, these guys were hoping somehow reach Kargil and buy new tyres, as both of there rear tyres had given up on Zoji-la. We all reached Kargil at 6:30 PM, these guys bought new MRF Tyres and checked in a local hotel. We had dinner in Shangri-La restaurant  on the main road to finish the day. Our plan was to start early the next day to reach Leh by 3:00 and try to get the permit of Khardung-la/Pangong/Tso-mirori.

The North India Circut – Day 4

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Date/Day – Thursday, 23rd June
Journey – Srinagar-Gulmarg-Srinagar
Distance – 100 kms
Riding Time – 2 Hrs Uphill/2 Hrs Downhill

We got up pretty late as we both were mentally prepared to travel for 4-5 hrs only. Our day started with mild breakfast and Initial assessment of our bikes. I was bit frustrated due to my bike seat not being very comfortable on previous day. My younger brother had warned me before the trip I ignored it to save some money. Farzin and I also wanted to get minor checks done on our bike by a professional bullet mechanic before we start our ascend to first pass (Zoji-la) of our journey. We roamed around Srinagar to find padding for my bike seat but failed. Also 2 bungee chords we bought were on verge of breaking, we started looking for the bungee chords and failed again. We visited all major bike shops near Dal Lake, Lal Chowk but no luck. Lucky we got bullet specialist for fine tuning our bikes for tomorrow and phew it was already ticking 12:30 on the clock. We decided to take just 1 bike for this day trip.

We chuked the idea of bungee chords and seat and made our way towards Gulmarg “Path of Roses”. The Accent to Gulmarg was super green clean. Single road but very well maintained and it started getting cold in sharp sunlight due to lush greenery. We clicked some photos and had lunch en-route on a local dhabha. We reached Gulmarg at about 3 and were told that we are late for Phase 2 of Gondola.

The Gondola service for Phase 2 stops operation at 3 PM because of weather conditions up on the mountain. We got tickets for Phase 1 and reached midway. The Gondola experience was pretty similar to the experience in Switzerland. We had some snacks till 4 PM and decided to descend back. We reached the Gulmarg base at 5 PM and started to descend towards Sri-nagar. We reached guest house by 6:30 PM and were dead tired. We ordered food(Spinach for me and Rogan Josh for Farzin) in our room and started packing our bags for the big day – Zoji-la.

The North India Circut – Day 3

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Date/Day – Wednesday , 22nd June
Journey – Udhampur- Srinagar
Distance – 230 kms
Riding Time – 10.5 Hrs
Gradient- Climb/Descend till Jawahar Tunnel (about 150 kms). Single Lane Highway till Srinagar
I was super excited, we were finally climbing Himalayas on our Motorbikes. We reached Patnitop in less than 2 hours. To be very honest we didn’t even realize that we had corssed Patni Top. We had roasted corn/water and moved on. We reached near a Hydroelectric Power project on Chenab River, clicked some pictures of the Dam releasing water. We decided to have lunch at the same place and it was again Veggy Dhabha, as obvious Farzin was pissed. Moving up further there were mega mountains and rushing rivers, green trees and smell of pine trees. Everything was going as planned and our mood was all set, Tripping, Thumping – this is all we wanted. At 3 PM we halted at about 10 kms before Jawahar Tunnel. We had a quick tea before moving further and as my habit is to ask about the route and weather ahead, we were told that after Jahawar tunnel the approach to SriNagar is flat out roads and no mountains climbs. We were told that this tunnel was British vision. A mega project which re-routed the big mountain pass into tunnel below the mountain to reach Srinagar. This tunnel was more than 60 years old, Water was dripping from the tunnel roof which was nothing but glacial melt seeping in through soil and concrete and it was super cold. These were 2 one way tunnels and no overtaking was allowed. Crossing Jahawar tunnel 2.8 kms was experience of lifetime. Infact later on someone told that this tunnel was suppose to be decomissioned but is still in use (oops). We descended from the last mountain of the day and reached flat land. I was again in search to re-fuel my bike. Have to say Electra 4s wasnt giving more than 25 kmpl, which is not great milage at all. I had to refuel near Anantnag. (View near Anantnag)

By 6 PM we reached Sri-nagar the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. We checked-in in a hotel near All India Radio office for 600 Rupees a night. It was bit expensive but very decent to stay in for 2 nights.  Our Dinner was planned one of my dad’s colleague who had come to see us and slept very well. I was very happy and satisfied with our planning, coordination, teamwork.

The North Indian Circut – Day 2

Date/Day – Tuesday, 21st June
Journey – Amritsar-Udhampur
Distance – 230 kms
Riding Time – 8 Hrs
Gradient- Single road from Amritsar to Pathankot, Divided 4 Lane Highway till Samba, about 60kms of Climb from Samba to Udhampur.

Day 2 started a bit late at 9 AM. We were dead tired after completing Journey of about 496 kms. We literary dragged out ourself at 10 AM to pay visit to Golden Temple. It was a majestic view.

After having ‘Guru ka Langar – The community meal’.
we continued our journey towards Jammu in blazing heat, None of us had summer gloves which was very bad idea. It was about 41 degree C outside and we were toasted. Farzin also took a small fall en-route while applying sudden breaks. I think it was heat taking its toll on us. To beat the heat we nice Verka Lassi which made him feel better We reached Pathankot by 3 which was mid way of our Journey and had lunch in a Veggy restaurant. Whenever I decided to check-in Veg Dhaba, farzin’s face use to become :(.

I was having chat with Punjabi Driver about route and approach towards Jammu, he suggested us to take a shortcut to Udhampur from place called Samba rather than going to Jammu. This idea could save us additional 60km of un-necessary Journey. We decided to save these kilometers. I tanked up again at Samba(Royal Enfield Electra 4s was giving no more than 24kmpl), and had some quick evening snacks. This route had a decent climb over Lower Himalayan Range. Wow – We touched Himalayas. This moment we both were waiting from very long. We started climb at 5:30 PM and reached Udhampur at 7:30. It wasn’t exactly a smooth ride but decent enough climb. We checked in a very cheap hotel for 400 rupees a night and ordered food. This time Farzin couldn’t resist and said I am eating non-veg, I am out of home and I am not eating Veggie grass.
He ordered some meat and I ordered veg meal. We called it a night and decided that tomorrow we should leave early morning and try to reach SriNagar by 6 PM.

The North India Circuit – Day 1

Date/Day – Monday, 20th June

Journey – Delhi- Amritsar

Distance – 496 kms

Gradiant – Flat lands

We kick started our bikes at 7:30 AM (my Royal Enfield Electra 4S 2006 and Farzin’s Royal Enfield Thunderbird Twin spark 2010). Our bikes were all set and ready for their first cross country trip.

My mother flagged off at 7:30 AM, and get set go – the idea was to stay away from Delhi peak hour traffic. We reached Delhi outer ring road in no time and tanked up our bikes to the brim of the tank. We got on to the Grand Trunk Road (NH01) a 8 lane highway. There was a major accident on Delhi Border because of which we were stuck for about 40 mins in a Jam. Once cleared of the jam, we throttled to the top speeds. We reached our first pit stop Panipat for breakfast(with my grandparents) at about 10:15. We had a quick breakfast, I met my grandpa, grandma and my cousin and we resumed our journey. The NH01 is a 6 Lane Motorway/freeway/highway which has speed limits bit rarely followed by anyone. We were cursing consistently at 90kmph. I was humming the song ‘Highway to hell’ while riding flat out on these mega highways. We had a mini pit stop near Ambala, this time to refuel and recharge ourself. We turned left from there towards Amritsar. Suddenly after a small Bump my bike chain started making some noise. On closely checking I realized that the Chain cover had broke because it was rusted. Damn – not on Day 1. First I got it welded from a local highway shop and continued our journey, and the song Highway to hell kept coming back in my ears. After sometime the same noise started irritating me again. (I am kind of a person who will not move with work-around so easily; it has to be a solid one to convince me to move further). I decided to find out nearest Royal Enfield spare shop to get a new chain cover (Android phone came to rescue).
After about an hour, We eventually found one and I got the bike fixed, we also bought some more bike spare like tubes, cables etc. We reached Ludhiana at 5:30, which was already quite late. I have some family roots in Ludhiana(My birth place), I really wanted to meet my cousin Aman who had got married while I was in UK and he also has a kid now. I convinced Farzin to go 7km off route. It was a nice feeling meeting everyone even if it was for an hour. My cousin suggested that we can make it to Amritsar by 11 and we should do it unless we have a free stay in Jalandhar. It’s a good omen to start climb after visiting The Golden Temple. I and Farzin agreed and accelerated towards Amirtsar at 7:15 AM. We had a quick McDonald Dinner on NH01 and reached Amritsar at 11:30 PM. We checked in a guesthouse very near to Golden Temple which was arranged by my cousin. We were sleeping like babies in no time.