“Agar duniya main kahin Jannat hai to woh yahin hain, yahin hai”! One of my colleagues sent this famous saying on Kashmir to me when he got to know I am traveling to Kashmir and after reaching there did I realize what it means!
I and my ever energetic husband were wanting to do a biking trip to Leh-Ladakh from more than two years but were little skeptical since that is not an easy one to do. It requires a strong mindset and good preparation, otherwise, it can rather turn out be an unpleasant tour. We keep going on trips with different travel groups run by young travel enthusiasts and one such group is ‘crazyyatra’. We had been with them to few small trekking trips within Karnataka before and for the first time, they were organizing a trip to Leh-Ladakh. After thinking for some time (since it was their first one), we thought it is always safe to go in a group than going on our own and finally decided to explore this beautiful place with crazyyatra in June 2017 (Note: June-September is the peak season to visit the place). After completing the trip, we realized that going with the group comes with both advantages and disadvantages. I have described my take on the same at the end of this write-up.
So the first thing that happens when you confirm the trip is that you get all excited and start gearing up by reading the blogs, shopping for the trip etc! More than you, probably the people around you (friends and colleagues) are more excited and interested in the trip and believe me, it’s totally normal! 🙂 Such is the aura of the place!
I am going to keep this post limited to how we prepared for the trip with some tips and facts for the people who are planning to do this. I will further be writing more posts narrating the wonderful experience we had visiting the places. But before I do that, let me briefly describe why Leh-Ladakh!
So, why Leh-Ladakh ? If I have to answer in one statement, I can say that it is a journey into the heaven! Nobody has seen the paradise but I guess if there is one for real, it should be like Kashmir! You are going to witness the wonders of the mother nature all through out the trip! Nature is going to leave you dumbstruck with every view that you see during the journey. Below pictures just give a glimpse of what Leh-Ladakh is got to offer!
The places are so breath taking that we sometimes felt are we really still on earth? and that’s no exaggeration!
Now, being all excited is good, but it is also important to be very diligent and well prepared at the same time. I suggest doing good research on the risks that the trip can bring in and be very well prepared for it. So, why do I say this often! Let me explain.
The tour circuit would normally be Leh-Manali or Manali-Leh and some also go up til Srinagar or however long you want to do it :). Now, you can either go on the bike or can hire a local vehicle for the same. Irrespective of the mode of travel, few things are to be noted: First thing, it is going to be totally exhaustive journey because if you are going to do Leh-Manali/vice-versa, you are going to travel for approximately 470 kms in just 3 days.
Next thing to note, the roads are not the smooth ones. Most of the time you are doing an uphill or downhill ride on extremely bad/rugged roads sometimes filled with water or covered in snow/black ice, plus the cold breeze, rain and the mist will become your closest friends throughout the journey!
The last and the most important thing, you are going to be at a higher altitude of about 14,000 ft above sea level in Leh and 17,480 ft at Tanglang La pass (that comes on the way from Leh-Sarchu). And if you plan to go through the Kardungla pass (on the route from Leh-Nubra Valley), then you are going to ride through the world’s highest motorable pass at 18,000 ft. So, what does it mean? For those of you who do not know, higher altitude can cause altitude sickness. The reduced oxygen levels/air pressure can cause Dizziness, nausea, headaches and shortness of breath and of course, the criticality of the condition varies from person to person and various other factors.
So, after knowing all this, is it really worth traveling there with all these concerns? UNDOUBTEDLY YES! The place is so beautiful to make you forget all these. With good preparation and by being diligent, it will all go fine. Even if you face some glitches here and there, after all, at the end of the trip, those are nothing but wonderful and adventurous stories to narrate to your family and friends! 🙂
With this basic Gyan :), I will move to our trip itinerary and talk about the preparations we did for this adventurous journey. We directly flew to Srinagar and Srinagar to Manali was our complete route. We reached Leh from Srinagar in TT and biked from Leh to Manali. Below is our Itinerary:
Day 1 – Srinagar Arrival. Visit Shankaracharya Temple, Mughal Gardens(Nishat Bagh and Shalimar Bagh) & Dal lake
Day 2 – Srinagar – Kargil via Sonmarg
Day 3 – Kargil To Leh Via Lamayuru – Alchi – Magnetic Hill – Gurudwara Pathar Sahib
Day 4 – Leh Local . Visit Thiksey Monastery – Shey Palace – Hall of Fame, Spituk Monastery – Leh Palace – Kali Mata Temple and Shanti Stupa
Day 5 – Leh To Nubra via Khardunla Pass (5600 m)
Day 6 – Nubra To Pangong via Warila Pass
Day 7 – Pangong To Leh via Hemis – 3 Idiot School
Day 8 – Leh To Sarchu via Lachang La (5065 m) and Tanglang La (5360 m)
Day 9 – Sarchu To Jispa via Baralacha La (4800 m)
Day 10 – Jispa To Manali via Rohtang Pass
So, how did we prepare for the trip and how it helped. First thing, It is always good to be fit when you are planning for such adventurous trips. I and my husband made sure to do regular physical activity for at least 2 months before the tour and that probably helped us. We only felt mild head ache in the first day at Leh and we were just fine after an hour or so. Few others had prolonged head ache, nausea and few even had a bleeding nose. But again, being fit is one part of it, but that’s not the only thing to it. None of us could exactly figure out what really helps/not.
So, the next thing to be prepared is buying and keeping medicines for basic health issues like headache, cold, diarrhea, motion sickness and most importantly altitude sickness (Diamox). Make sure to keep these tablets handy all the time. Throughout the journey, you are going to use washrooms that may not be very clean, you are going to eat whatever is available (mostly Maggi, Momos and Dal/rice is what you get during travel) and there will be constant weather changes when moving from one place to another. So, it is extremely important to carry the medicines.
Next thing is, the place is going to be very cold and if you are biking, you also have to be prepared for rain and snow falls, so pack your clothes accordingly. Thermals and rain wears are a must. We bought gum boots in Leh for 350 rupees and that proved to be the best investment for the trip since rain/snow fall/water logged roads when combined with the cold weather and cause your feet to freeze. Of course, carry woolen gloves, socks, and jackets to protect yourself from cold weather.
And the most important thing of all, preparing our mind for an upcoming adventurous and exhaustive journey is extremely important because most often, during the hard times, when the body gives up, the mind is what keeps us going. Going in a group has an advantage here. You feel relatively safer and morally up with all the people with you. we experienced the most adventurous day of our lives at Kardungla pass, the world’s highest motorable pass. Place where people can hardly stay for 20 minutes or so, we got stuck for hours and if not for the group being together, it would become extremely scary. I am going to write the entire experience in my upcoming posts.
So with the above-mentioned preparations and with the wonderful group we went along, we had our life’s most adventurous, beautiful and memorable trip to Leh-Ladakh. In my upcoming post, I am going to describe our wonderful experience of making a journey through the heaven on Earth, Kashmir!
Some suggestions from what I experienced and observed during the trip:
- In my opinion, if you are not a very adventurous kind but still want to explore Ladakh, you can opt for hiring local vehicle, local drivers are pretty good with their roads. Bikers need to be extra careful riding on those roads and biking is definitely more exhaustive and uncomfortable in comparison. And if you are a pillion rider on the ‘Royal Enfield’ (most common bike chosen for the ride), you have the bonus of an extremely uncomfortable seating which your back and bum are never gonna forgive you for 🙂 (I feel for all the pillion riders like me :P). Having said that, biking is a totally different experience altogether, being able to see the 360 degrees view, feeling that cold breeze, riding through the rugged roads could be really interesting for few like us.
- Whether to go with travel organizer or all on your own? – A personal choice Going on a biking trip on your own is definitely more adventurous and slightly risky in my opinion because you have to take care of literally everything, starting from bike’s rental, fuel and repair stuff. Also, the luggage has to be carried along throughout which makes it heavier and lot difficult to balance on the bad roads. If you are going through the organizer, you have all these taken care of. We had a caravan always following the bikers to take care of bike repairs if required and we had also dumped our luggage in the same. But it comes at a cost of not having the complete freedom of stopping anywhere you want to. You have to always stick with the group, even if you feel like stopping at some place to relish the beauty or to click pictures, you may not be able to do so. Also, riding speed could be an issue for few since few people love to ride fast and few are very diligent/slow riders but both are expected to maintain some agreed upon speed range.
- If you feel uncomfortable at higher altitude, take deep breaths, breathe from the mouth and keep sipping water. Avoid alcohol and caffeine and eat less. These tips helped us. Also smelling the camphor helped few in our group. For emergency, carry lung inhalers/oxygen cylinder if going in the group. Read more about Acute Mountain sickness and prepare well.
I have done my bit by writing this post hoping to help all you guys who are planning for the tour to Leh-Ladakh. In my next post, I am going to narrate our experience over this 10 days long trip. Stay Tuned!! 🙂