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Goecha La – A trek to remember

7 Jun
    After covering the Himalayas of Kashmir, Uttarkhand and Himachal, our natural progression was to cover the Himalayas from the North-Eastern part of India. Tintin dug-in and found the Goecha-La trek suitable for our schedule. An 8-day trek across one of the most naturally gifted and beautiful places on earth – The mighty Himalayas. What better way to use 8 of the 12 allotted leaves per year?? πŸ™‚
    Monks the usual culprit in being the first guy to sign-up and drop out of the trek. The last time, it was for Leh and this time he wanted to compensate for that and go-to Leh instead of joining us for this trek. One can’t blame him though, but, he would be missing a trek with 10 of his friends. Tintin, Manja, Blank, MoMS, sk (formerly kaddi), ppr(me), Sen, Adarsh, Nagi and Boyz were among the final list of trekkers in a group of 24 who signed up for the May 19-May 28 batch of Indiahikes. Since 6 of us were working in the same organization, leaves required a bit of haggling and finally, we booked our flights, trains, arranged for local transports and on May 17th we were ready to leave but without my camera, which I forgot to pack at the last minute after charging the batteries overnight. It just proves that being too careful can be hazardous too.. πŸ˜›
17 May 2012
Day 1:  Its time to roll.. πŸ™‚
Bangalore to Kolkotta

    We took the 5:40pm Indigo flight to Kolkotta (my god!! what a humid city) and then a 45-minute taxi ride costing Rs.180 to NJP station. It is advisable to have your food at a hotel en-route to the station. There are no good restaurants close to the station and even after 1 hour of frantic searching, we had to be content with just the station-provided food. We then caught the 10:55pm Padatik express to New Jalpaiguri(NJP) close to Siliguri in West Bengal. Adarsh was the only guy who had to be content with a RAC seat instead of a berth in the train. That’s the punishment for booking late.. πŸ˜€
18 May 2012
Day 2: A day wasted.
NJP to Gangtok Singtam – 120km drive – 6 hours

    We arrived at NJP around 9am the following day. Our plan was to reach Gangtok, a 6 hour drive from NJP, spend the night visiting the famous boulevard and the early next morning visiting the palace, ride in the rope-way and visit the Rumtek monastery. About 4 hours into the journey, we arrived at Ranipool, 15km out of Gangtok, where got stuck in a traffic jam for 2 hours, caused due to a road-block setup by the Sikkim-Manipal University students. Based on the suggestions from localites who said that in the previous instance the road-block eventually cleared only at 10pm late in the night, we turned back to a Singtam, a small town about 30kms from Gangtok. We found a good hotel at Rs.1200 per room (a bit costly… but people were tired and were in no mood to negotiate) and had a sumptuous meal with MoMS throwing a tantrum about spilling food on the ground.. πŸ˜› One suggestion is the Lychee fruit found on these parts, is a must have. Also, one should try to buy jersey’s of various football teams costing mere Rs.250 (including the shorts).

Onboard the Padatik express heading to NJP

@NJP station

View of Singtam town

19 May 2012

Day 3: Journey to the base camp
Singtam to Yuksom – 110km drive – 5 hour
    Our destination for the day was Yuksom, the base-camp for the trek. Our first stop was at Rabong, where we had some of best paranthas and momos. The town also hosted the first sight-seeing spot in two days – a small monastery. Our next stop, was at the famous town of Tashiding which hosts one of the most beautiful and sacred monasteries one can find – Tashiding Monastery. Mt.Kanchenjunga in the backdrop, greenery all around, serene atmosphere. Just the right ingredients to let ones spiritual desires run free. Among all things, the Buddhists have a superb skill at finding the SPOT for constructing a monastery. πŸ™‚ We arrived at the former capital of Sikkim -Yuksom around 5pm. Lying around 5600ft, Yuksom is a small town with tourism and trekking being the major source of income for the local populace. By 11pm, we had packed for the trek and  raring to start the next day.

Teesta river
Tashding monastery
Our stay at Yuksom

20 May 2012

Day 4: Start of the trek-  A day to cross the bridges and the attack of mini-mosquitoes
Yuksom to Sachen – 3 hours
Altitude gain: 7,151 ft – 5,600 ft = 1551 ft
    We began the day by taking permission for the trek from the police station which requires us to submit an ID proof with photocopies and doing a final bit of shopping and re-packing. By 10am, we were all set to leave. Amit Pandey and Preetham were the representatives from Indiahikes. Pemtuk, a 36-year old localite who looks like a 20 year old was our trek guide and Kamal the actual 20-year old was the co-guide.

    The initial part of the trek is through the village and half an hour into the trek, with a small climb and gradual descent we arrive at first bridge over Pha Khola. On crossing the bridge, the trail is through thick forest and an hours journey takes us to the second bridge over Tshushay Khola. The view of the river and the bridge is a beauty in itself. Again the journey continues through the forest, with a small cement bridge – Mentogang Khola signalling the arrival of the first camp. The camp-site is about 15 minutes from here-on and present in a small clearing to the right of the trail, with the kitchen hut to the left, which has easy access to water. The area surrounding the kitchen left a lots to be desired. Hope Indiahikes takes care of cleaning up the area. Also, one thing is easily noticable, the mini-mosquitoes. My god are they in millions!! They are hard to be noticed on the skin until they bite and they outnumber us aleast 1 to 10000.. πŸ˜› So the only way to protect oneself is to wear long-sleeve T-shirt, apply mustard oil (suggested by Pemtuk) or use mosquito repellant. As the temperature dips the insects are no where to be found. So, just bear the brunt during the 3 hours of sunlight. πŸ™‚

First view of the terrain at the start of the trek

Bridge over Pha Khola

Our camp at Sachen

21 May 2012

Day 5: MoMS’ tryst with his twisted ankle
Sachen to Bhakim to Tshokha – 4 hours
Altitude gain:  9,689 ft  – 7,151 ft = 2538 ft

    The day has a steep climb to Bhakim. So, there were some streching excersies early in the morning. MoMS, the ever-hungry-man, wanted to enquire about breakfast and while walking towards the kitchen in a hawai-chappal, twisted his ankle. πŸ˜€ wah! He hobbled around for a few minutes complaining about pain and then was ready for the trek in a flash. Ever-hungry, incomplete statements during talk and quick healing – now we were begining to doubt if he was human. πŸ˜› By 8:30am, we were good to go. The start of the trek is literally a walk in the park. No steep climbs or descents. About 30 minutes into the journey we come to face with a very steep descent which lasts about 15 minutes heading straight to the huge bridge over Prek adorned with prayer flags. This marked the begining of the huge climb we were facing for the day. This part of the trek is again through the forest but though the climb is tiring, the cool air doesn’t let one buckle down to tiredness. An hour into the climb we arrived at Bhakim lying at 8636 ft (an ascent of 1500ft in 1 hour), which has a teashop with one of the most amazing views of the valley below. It is noteworthy that mobile coverage is available at Bhakim. We settled here close to an hour, while MoMS restarted his complain about the ankle. By now it started to swell and he was unable to even walk on plain ground. A painkiller, few quick-relief spray shots and an ankle-brace was all it took for him to get back to his feet and continue the walk towards Tshoka. This won him a few hearts but only a few know the truth that all that was drama to grab the sympathy and attention!!

    A small climb of 45minutes takes us to Tshoka, which has one of the better campsites we have been to in all the treks. The camp is at the hill top with the view of the valley on one side and the view of snow covered Mt Pandim on the other. πŸ™‚ By the end of the day, everybody had a doubt that MoMS was faking his ankle sprain because for the second time in the trek he ended up in the group finishing first. Though the girls in the trek saw MoMS as a hero. The attention seeker got the attention he craves. πŸ˜› We visited the local monastery close to a pond and ended the day with a Karaoke session singing songs from various languages including Kannada, Marathi, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and English.

Bridge over Prek

MoMS with the twisted ankle

Tshokha monastery

22 May 2012
Day 6: Super-serene climb amidst Rhododendrons
Tshokha to Phedang to Dzongri = 5 hours
Altitude gain:  12,981 ft – 9,689 ft = 3292 ft

    The D-day of climbing. According to the guide, completion of this day’s trek in good shape implies that the GoechaLa trek is majorly done. We began the day in similar fashion with streching excercises. By 9am, we were ready to confront the climb. The trek begins with a gradual ascent, with wooden logs added as steps enroute, to protect the trekkers from the slush in-case it rains, as the entire path is pretty muddy. One begins to notice a lot of Rhododendron blossoms in different hues of red, yellow, white, purple and pink enroute. A trek of an hour and half takes us to Phedang which stands at 12,068 ft. The camp was looking like a set from a movie with beautiful Rhododendron flowers on almost all the trees and the mist covering the entire camp. We had a break of about 30 minutes where we also took a 5 minute path taking us away from Dzongri and towards Kockchurang, to fill up our water with ice-cold water.

    We restarted the second major climb of the day with the path covered entire with Rhododendron trees on either sides. It is the most beautiful part of trek and looked truly a like a “stairway to heaven” or rather “pathway to heaven”. Then the path evens out before a steep climb along the ridge where we can see a lot of prayer flags put up. We didnt spot any shrine near-by in the mist. From here on, the path descends gradually towards Dzongri with Pandim, Khabru and Kanchenjunga range visible as one comes closer to the camp site which lies amidst the grasslands. This was the trek day which I enjoyed the most. Alone with nature for a major part of the journey – nobody in sight ahead or behind during the trek. Not a care in the world, the colorful birds chirping away, the beautiful Rhododendron flowers, the mist and the trek path. Wow! Just reliving this part is refreshing. It was a good day to trek… πŸ™‚

Trail heading towards Phedang


Walk through the Rhododendrons to Dzongri

Last stretch of the trek to Dzongri

23 May 2012

Day 7: First sunrise view of Kanchenjunga range
Part 1: Dzongri to Dzongri top and back to Dzongri  =  1 and 1/2 hour
Altitude gain:   13,676 ft  – 12,981 ft = 695 ft

Part 2: Dzongri to Kokchurang  to Thansing = 4 hours
Altitude gain:  12,894 ft – 12,981 ft = -87 ft

    This day was divided into two parts. The first one targetting the sunrise at Kanchenjunga veiw from Dzongri top. And the second part ofcourse the travel to next camp at Thansing. Pemtuk awoke us at 4:30 am so that the 30minute steep climb is covered before the sunrise. Trekking without bags, a majority of the 24 people decided to go and a tiring 45 minutes later we were at the top insight of one of the superb sunrises ever. Dzongri top holds a 360 degree view of the valley, along with the view of Pandim, Khabru and Kanchenjunga range. The snow plume that emerged out of the snow clad peak when the first sun rays hit the mountain will always stay in our memory. The rays of the sun were distinct as if photoshopped for us right in front of our eyes. Wish one of us had a DSLR or a good camera to capture the moment. But we did have good photographers if not cameras in tintin, manja and blank who clicked away happily at the amazing sunrise. After an hours stay at the peak, we descended and found that mist and clouds began to cover up the whole view and a small almost circular rainbow was visible ahead of us with the sun exact behind us. This caused our shadows to be cast at the center of the rainbow. Looked surreal to say the least. But these two views just “made our day” irrespective of what the trek had instore for us.

    Early in the morning, before the start of the trek, we were made aware that one of our co-trekkers, Sandeep had some breathing trouble even after regular use of diamox since the start of the trek. So, the Indiahikes representatives – Preetham and Amit, decided to wait for a day at Dzongri, to confirm if he gets better and in the worst scenario, travel back with him to Yuksom to get medical help. So, the rest 23 of us were left with just 2 guides along with a few helpers, mule-men and yak-men. But the days journey was supposedly very easy and the major part of the trek was gradual ascent and descent of small hillocks holding meadows. Two hours into the trek, with the gang moving slow as the mist might misdirect trekkers at the end, as the path is not clearly defined, we arrived at a steep descent point. 20 minutes into the descent we arrived at Kokchurang (12,096 ft) lying adjacent to the river Rathong Chu which joins Rangeet river, which in-turn finally joins River Teesta. The view at the camp is one more highlight at the trek. On crossing a few wooden bridges across the river, the final climb begins with the walk along small boulders on the hill which takes about an hour and half leading straight into the grasslands at Thansing, lying amidst the mighty hills in all directions.

Sunrise view from Dzongri point

Our shadow forming at the center of the rainbow due to sun lying directly behind us

Trek path to Kokchurang

wild yak

Rathong Chu river @Kokchurang

24 May 2012

Day 8: Penultimate day of the climb and visit to Samiti – the mesmerizing lake.
Part 1: Thansing to Lamuney =  2 hours
Altitude gain: 13,600 ft – 12,894 ft = 706 ft

Part 2: Lamuney to Samiti Lake and back to Lamuney = 1 and 1/2 hour
Altitude gain: 14,100 ft – 13,600 ft = 500 ft

    This day’s trek is as much about preparing for the next day, as much for acclimatization to handle the higher altitudes. So our next camp at Lamuney lay just across the valley so much so that the campsite visible to the trained naked eye from the hill nearby. A slow start to the day and a lazy couple of hours trek through the valley following a river, took us to the military camp close lamuney. Our camp lay about 10 mins from the military camp – the only one we saw during the entire trek. The walk is on flat ground most of the way with a very slight ascent. Most of us were preoccupied with the challenge facing us the of the next day. We dumped our luggage and left to Samiti lake allowing for the porters to arrive with our tents and setup the camp and prepare our lunch.Our gear changed from here-on, ready to adjust to the harsher and colder climate by wearing two layers of clothes and started using our gloves even at 1pm. An hours climb along the steep and barren hill took us to blue-colored Samiti lake lying in the midst of hills. Our visit to Pangong-Tso was the highlight of the trip to Leh and similarly this lake with its serene and mesmerizing beauty though on a smaller scale was a sight to behold. This just proved a saying “Less is More”. πŸ™‚ We spent close to an hour at this spiritual lake for the Buddhists, making a pradakshina (a full-circle) of the lake before making the return journey to Lamuney, for the much needed rest as the BIG day of the trek was finally upon us.

Trek following the river path to Lamuney

Military camp @ Lamuney
Blue watered Samiti lake

25 May 2012
Day 9: The D-day of the trek. Time for some fist pumping.. πŸ™‚
Part 1: Lamuney to Goecha La and back to Lamuneyvia Samiti Lake   = 10 hours
Altitude gain:  16,000 ft – 13,600 ft = 2400 ft

Part 2: Lamuney to Thansing = 1 and 1/2 hour

    The D-day had arrived. We were woken up at 1:30am when the first batch of trekkers started moving towards View point 1. Wearing multiple layers of clothing and only carrying things that was necessary, we prepared ourselves in the dark. A small delay cost us precious time and we were only ready to leave by 2:45am, a good 30 minutes late. Walking in the dark with our torches was very slow and some of us were very worried that we would miss the much expected sunrise. But by 3:30am, the brightness increased and so did our pace. The climb is steep at most places and it is advisable to take small breaks inorder to acclimatise oneself to such high altitude. We arrived at View point 1 just as the sunrise happened. It was a big relief for entire gang of 22 except1 person who didnot make the days journey. We had finally completed the major part of the trek and were insight of the Kanchenjunga range at sunrise. The beauty of the Himalayas in full glory was in our sight. πŸ™‚

    People returning to Lamuney decided to rest and then move back with Kamal while, Pemtuk led us towards View point  2. The journey is a very steep descent of 300 meters taking us straight into Zemathang which has a desert/barren landscape. One can enjoy this part of the 30 minute trek. Then begins the 700 meter ascent towards View point 2. 14 of us headed towards the summit. One can enjoy superb views of the range even during the the entire trek. After two hours of the journey since View point 1, I was out of energy. One should praise Sen and blank for continuing even with literally zero energy while I stopped 20 minutes short of the summit due to the cold causing a nose block making breathing tough. A 20 minute push might have taken the count of people to a record 13 in one batch. But sadly that could not be. Though, in hindsight, that was a wise decision as Pemtuk had adviced me not to trek the last part with a cold. As usual sk, MoMS, tintin, boyz and nagi were in the batch completing first which showed their good fitness.. πŸ™‚ We returned back to Lamuney as 12 heroes conquering Viewpoint 2 with me and Shantala, one of the other trekker just falling short of the final hurdle. No matter, it was worth a try, as major views of Kanchenjunga were seen en-route. Resting a couple of hours after lunch, we made the return journey to camp Thansing. It was another good day of trekking, which tested the physical as-well-as mental fitness of each and every one of us. 

View of Sunrise upon Kanchenjunga range from View point 1

@view point 1

Cold desert at Zemathang

Goecha Lake

View of Samiti lake enroute to Lamuney from Goecha La

Samiti Lake

26 May 2012

Day 10: Return journey – Its blackout time.
Thansing to Phedang to Tshokha = 6 hours
    Since the trek was as good as done, most of the people were already thinking about a good nights sleep on their own bed at home or home-cooked meal or even a chicken biryani from a specific restaurant in one case… πŸ˜› During the descent to Tshokha, we took the same path along the boulders and rough terrain heading down straight into Kokchurang and enjoying the view. But from here on the path is different, as we head towards Phedang instead of Dzongri via an alternate route. The terrain is simple but not usable by mules and yaks, which took the route through Dzongri to reach Phedang. About 30 minutes after Kokchurang , my health got the better of me and I blacked out. With the help of Raghu(doctor), Ram, Gandhiji (the veteran 60-year old trekker) and several of the gang (manja, bl, MoMS, sen, boyz and nagi) through constant ORS and glucose water helped me out. Pemtuk with the help of Komal and 3 of their helpers literally carried me to Tshokha. This just shows that one should not ignore minor signs and indications our body provides after having very less water and food since the previous day. I was lucky enough that there were people to help in the time of need. A small suggestion is to keep oneself fit for such a huge trek and make sure one has lots of water each day.

@Thansing campsite

Rhododendron in full bloom

View of Tshoka town

27 May 2012

Day 11: Back to civilization –  A Blitz to the end of the trek
Tshokha to Sachen to Bhakim to Yuksom = 3 and 1/2 hours
    With my health showing minor improvement but still having weakness, the same trend continued. Pemtuk and co just ran a marathon helping me out, with MoMS, sk, Boyz and tintin making a beeline to help if there is trouble. We met Amit and Preetham at the bridge soon after crossing Sachen. With minor breaks, the total journey was cut short to a mere 3 and 1/2 hours, which usually takes about 6 hours. I will forever be indebted for the help these people made. On completion of the trek, me and MoMS went to the Yuksom Government hospital for a checkup, only to find dehydration and weakness as the root cause for me and MoMS leg was just a sprain. All in all, a good report to take back. After our lunch at 5pm, we held a small ceremony to thank the guides for their help, all along the 8 days of the trek, before heading out to Yuksom town to gobble up some local food/drink. It was a trek which tested the physical and mental boundaries of every one of us. Few of us like boyz and sk excelled at it while a few like MoMS got the attention they deserved :P, while in common many of us got what we came for – 8 days in the cradle of mother nature with not a worry in the world… πŸ™‚

Pemtuk and co entertaining us with a song and dance at the appreciation ceremony

The 24 trekkers upon completion

28 May 2012

Day 12: The long return journey and a trip to Kirateshwar Mahadev Mandir
Yuksom to NJP = 8 hours
    Adarsh was the first guy to leave, as he booked a flight from Bagodara to Bangalore. So, the gang reduced to 9 members and after a few goodbyes to other trekkers, we left towards NJP with some time to kill inbetween. The Shiva temple at Legship also known as Kirateshwar Mahadev Mandir is renowned and we spent close to an hour in the temple premises, built on the banks of the river Rangeet, which has to be crossed via a metal-bridge. Our next stop was at Jorethang where ATM’s are available. We were running short of cash and this was the town where we had planned to have our lunch and do a bit of shopping. But as luck would turn out, all the 3 ATM’s in the town were dysfunctional and the nearest ATM was at Siliguri a good 3 hour drive away. So, we dropped all our plans and moved to Siliguri to withdraw money, pay the driver Rs.4000 for the day before he dropped us at the Railway station, a good 3 hours before the departure of our train – Padatik express at 9pm. A few went ahead and visited the market buying the famous Darjeeling Tea, arriving just in time to have some edible but tasteless food at the station before departing to Kolkotta.

Ymmuy momos for breakfast

Kirateshwar Mahadev Mandir @Legship

29 May 2012
Day 13: Sweat and hurry in the “City of Joy”
Kolkotta to Bangalore

    The last day of the trip had finally arrived. At Rs.500 per taxi for two of them, we were taken to Howrah bridge, Vidyasagar bridge and then dropped us off at Victoria memorial. After the trek, these concrete structures are not much to look at. A 10km journey costing 1000 bucks in 2 taxis. And a road side shop selling nimbu-sherbet gobble Rs.25 per small matka. Talk about “shavara” (getting cheated) in the morning.  (that’s my personal opinion). I suggest people to move such visits before the trek. Even at 9am, it felt very humid. Since the memorial/museum only opened at 10am, we had a good hour to kill in the park in-front of the memorial. By the time everybody gave a fast tour of the museum, we were running late to catch the 2:10pm flight. To add to the delay, KKR -the newly crowned champions of IPL decided to take out the victory parade on the same route and we had to scramble among thousands of cheering fans to catch the metro train from Rabindra Sadan to Dum Dum station. A few last minute sweet eatery purchases was done before taxi’s costing Rs.150 took us the airport just 5 minutes in-advance to the 45 minute criteria for domestic flights. The flight departed at 2:10pm to Bangalore from Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport. A frantic end to a memorable trek/trip – A trek to remember for many reasons. πŸ™‚

Victoria Memorial

Pics link:

From L to R:

  1. MoMS – Got what he deserved. I mean the “attention”.
  2. ppr(me) – no comments πŸ˜›
  3. Adarsh – once in a lifetime trek for him.
  4. Sk – finished first everyday of the trek. Though he might claim otherwise.
  5. Tintin – best all-rounder. Always in the first batch and a good photographer. Only he can do that.
  6. Sen – My trek partner, matching my pace during majority of the trek days.  πŸ™‚
  7. Blank – Modern Shri Krishna for obvious reasons.
  8. Nagi – Fell in love with the trek on the 6th day. Thankfully! I was afraid he might complain that this was a poor trek.. πŸ˜›
  9. Boyz – The best trekker. He could compete with the guides and match their pace!
  10. Manja – Our best photographer.
the gang of 10 @ Yuksom before the start of the trek

Ladakh – A Ride across the bikers paradise on Earth

14 Sep
    Every individual has dreams – Dreams of achieving things, Dreams of following their passion, Dreams of places to visit. One of mine (in a list as big as it could get) is to drive across Ladakh. When Monks(shashi) started with the initial plan about 3 months before the journey, I knew I was going. This meant two birds in one shot – Ride for multiple days and visiting the heaven for bikers. Tintin started planning for the trip. As has been the norm in our trips these past few months, there were multiple drop outs and to top it all, even the original planner Monks dropped out (curses to u Monks.. u had the most stable bike in the gang!!!). Finally Nithin (Tintin), Vineeth (MoMS), Pradeep (sk), Senthil and ppr(me) were ready to go and when we couriered our 3 bikes (2 Pulsar 180cc – mine and tintin’s and 1 hero honda hunk – Senthil’s) on 16 Aug 2011 from Bangalore to Jammu through Gati couriers, we knew it was the point of no return – Our bikes have gone. So, we have to go. πŸ™‚
Day 1: Gentlemen its time to go!!!
Sunday, 28th Aug 2011 – Bangalore to Delhi to Jammu
    Knowing that Rohtang pass is one of the toughest passes to ride across, the plan was to avoid it in the first phase of the ride and instead go via the Jammu route to Leh. Even though this a longer route, the roads are superb and scenic beauty of Kashmir valley is one to behold. Since, tintin had his exams till the 27th of Aug, we planned our flights to Delhi on Sunday the 28th Aug 2011. The 5 of us were ready with 3 saddle bags and two trek bags at the BIAL to catch the 10:35am JetLite flight to Delhi. By 2pm, we were out of the Delhi airport and we had 8 hours to kill before the train to Jammu. So we planned to visit the Humayun’s tomb, a UNESCO World Heritage Site near Nizamuddin railway station with an entry is Rs 10 for Indians and Rs.250!!! for foreigners. Why is there such a huge difference in pricing? After all, they too are here to watch the same place.. Its not as if they are being shown the same place though a better view/position… The monument in itself is beautiful Persian architecture, but inside the monument, it literally stinks. Renovation on the outside itself is not sufficient, the government has to make sure that the money goes into cleanup inside as well. By 4pm, we were out and decided to visit India Gate, which is a memorial for the Indian soldiers who died in World War I. It is also one of the main centers of agitation for IAC(India Against Corruption) and their crusade in Delhi other than the RamLila maidan. It was the same day Anna was breaking his fast after the government approved to table the Jan Lokpal bill to the standing committee. So, there was a sense of celebratory mood around India gate. Tens of thousands of people wearing Gandhi topi and waving India flags were shouting slogans and dancing to the tune of a band. We dont know if the majority of the people assembled there understood the version of the bill, but still they were dancing away happily hoping it was for a good cause. The traffic policemen had a hard time controlling the tempo’s and omni’s with their loud-patriotic songs on their speakers, honking away to the joy of the people around India gate… Had food in Andra Mess and reached The Delhi Sarai Rohila station to catch the 10:15 Duranto train to Jammu Tawi.
Humayun’s tomb

India Gate

Day 2: Ride through the tunnels… πŸ™‚

Monday, 29th Aug 2011 – Jammu to Srinagar. 304km – 9 hour ride.
    The First Day of bike ride… πŸ™‚ We arrived at the Jammu station at 7:30am and took an auto to travel the 10km to Gati office in Shiv market. We got our bikes delivered and used the petrol we carried in bottles as the courier guys dry out the petrol tank before transporting. By the time we had the first taste of paranthas in this trip and were geared up with the saddle bags on our bikes and gloves, arm, leg guards to protect ourselves from any untoward bike incidents it was 11:45am. Senthil and sk in the hunk, Myself and MoMS in my pulsar and tintin alone in his pulsar along with MoMS’s and sk’s bags was the way we were gonna ride in the trip. We drove through to the hill station called as “Patni Top” about a 100km ride – One of the closest places to Jammu that experiences snow fall. The roads are superb at most places. We had a wonderful first view of the Kashmir valley from Titanic point. Then we rode through the most amazing 2.5km “Jawahar tunnel“, dug through a mountain of Pir Panjal range between Banihal and Qazigund. It is  guarded on both sides by Indian army and photography is strictly prohibited. Seriously, it was one of the high-points of this bike trip… The ride through the beautiful tunnel. Now the second high of the day: The “Green Tunnel” – On the way from Ananthnag to Srinagar there is a small town called Bijbihara. Here, a natural tunnel about 2 Kms is made by poplar trees on either side of the road. It barely allows sunlight inside and the ride along this stretch is absolutely amazing to say the least. We reached Srinagar by 8:30pm and booked a house boat (H.B – MoMS wink-wink :D) in Dal lake at the cost of 3.6K for the night including dinner for the night and the breakfast the next day. Titanic view point, Jawahar tunnel and Green tunnel – Triple delight on the first day!! Good day in office…. πŸ™‚
First view of the Kashmir valley
Green tunnel

En-route to Srinagar
Day 3: Zoji la here we come.
Tuesday, 30th Aug 2011 – Srinagar to Drass. 150km – 6.5 hour ride.
    The package in the house boat include a shikara or boat ride in the Dal lake. By 8:30am we rode in a small boat and within the first minute of the ride we were being pestered to buy ice-creams. Then came the ornaments, the Saffron flower stigmas called Kumkumpoovu, traditional Kashmir attire photos and the list goes on…. For an hour and half the ride was through the force-sellers and were happy when we arrived back to the House boat with sk being the only victim buying 12gms of Kumkumpoovu. Then we had Jin-Ho Choi, a Korean, whom we befriended in the House Boat, singing English country music songs for us. By the time we left it was again guess what!! 11:45am…. No matter what distance we were to do for the day, we were able start the first two days at the exact same time… πŸ˜›
     We hit the beautiful Sonmarg valley en-route with a slight drizzle and a beautiful river. The roads are not much to boast about but still we travelled at decent pace. Then came the Zoji La or the Zoji Pass, 9km from Sonmarg and a vital link between Kashmir and Ladakh. At 11,575 ft, it is the second highest pass after Fotu La on the Srinagar-Leh National Highway. The roads are pretty rough to handle with steep elevation at places, no tarmac and a rock ridden ride. We took quite sometime to clear the stretch. Once we cleared the pass, the roads became bearable to ride and by 6:15pm we arrived at Dras – the second coldest inhabited place on earth. The Tiger hills is clearly visible from the town. The rooms in “Hotel city view” are cheap at 500 for 5 people and the food is decent. We went to visit the Dras war memorial and found that the entry was prohibited for the day, as an officer of the Indian army was there to commemorate the memorial. So we turned back. The next day was Ramzan and this Muslim dominated region was in festive spirit with prayers running all through the night.

Route leading to Zoji La

Day 4: The day of double puncture.
Wednesday, 31th Aug 2011 – Drass to kargil to Lomayuru. 162km – 12.5 hour ride.
    By 7am, we were ready to leave as we had to cover the entire stretch to Leh which comes upto 290kms. A 7km ride led us back to the Dras war memorial. The designated person showed us around and explained the happenings of the 1999 Kargil war with the Tiger hills, Tololing and Pt.4875 – the three major points clearly visible in the backdrop of the memorial. We bought our souvenir T-shirts and were really moved by the number of soldiers who laid down their lives to protect our borders. As the saying in the wall of the memorial goes: “These soldiers gave up their today for your tomorrow“!! We salute you brave sons/daughters of mother India. On crossing Kargil, we found that none of the hotels that were open on Ramzan day served veg food, so we decided to continue and try our luck ahead. About 15km before the Mulbek town we had our first puncture of the trip. Senthil’s bike had a rear tyre puncture and to top it off, he had no tool kit. Our pulsar tool kit spanner didn’t match and we were in a fix. So, after struggling for 1 hour, we decide to remove the luggage from tintin’s bike. Senthil travelled alone and sk along with MoMS carried their travel bags along with Senthil’s saddle bag till Mulbek to find a puncture shop. It took another 1.5 hours to change the tube as the back tyre nut was so tight that it took three people including MoMS(who is a giant by the way) to remove it and replace the tube. From here on, an hours ride took us to Fotu la, at 13,479 ft, it is the highest in the Srinagar-Leh highway. Along the way, we can notice the greenery of the Kashmiri valley dissappearing to give way to the barren hills Ladakh landscape. To add more trouble to our day, Senthil’s rear tyre went bust once again. We were 25kms away from Lomayaru and we decide to repeat the process of Senthil riding alone. He rode at 10kmph which made our journey arduously slow. Finally, at 7:30pm, we were in Lomayuru, the Buddhist town. We took a couple of clean rooms in “Moonlight Restaurant” and enquired about bike repairs. To our disappointment, the owner said there were only puncture shops in the town which were closed at this time and it was better to take the bike to Leh to get it repaired and check for Rim/tyre damage after the 40km ride on a punctured tyre. It was decided that we shall take the bike to Leh through a small truck and get it repaired the next day but at the cost of losing the buffer day. Bad luck. But we cannot except a bike trip even without a small incident… So, after our first taste of Ladakh local cuisine, still in good spirits, we went to sleep like logs. It was a tiring day.
Dras war memorial

@Fotu La
Day 5: Bike service day.
Thursday, 1st Sep 2011 – Lomayuru to Leh. 138km – 4 hour ride.
    We were informed that the mini van will be available around 10am. So, we had time to kill and visited the Lomayuru monastery and had our breakfast of puris… πŸ™‚ The van cost Rs.3000 to travel that distance. And to make proper utilization, we dumped all our luggage (by all luggage, i mean even MoMS!!! πŸ˜€ ) in the van. The roads were blocked by the BRO for road widening for a few minutes and finally we were let through. The roads are absolutely marvellous. We also find the sangam of zanskar and Indus in a small town called Nimmu before we reach Leh. About 50 km before Leh, we reach the Magnetic hills which is said to defy gravity and pull the vehicle upward. But it is just an optical illusion and we too tried our hand on our bikes. Not very exciting to be honest. We finally reached Leh at 2pm and spent the next 30minutes searching ATM and garage shops. Finally we zeroed in on the garage and checked Senthil’s bike meanwhile tintin and sk booked a hotel for us to stay and also visited the DC office to get the “Inner-Line Permit” required for the travel to cross the check posts at several locations across Leh as we border two “friendly” neighbours. Finally, we tweaked our bikes too to make sure it doesn’t trouble us in the days ahead. By 6pm, we were free and visited the Shanti Stupa, a Buddhist stupa which holds the relics of the Buddha at its base. Situated on a hilltop, it also provides a good Panoramic view of the entire city. Our search to visit Leh palace was a disaster as we roamed around in the dark for an hour to finally give up and reach our rooms in “Shanti Palace” costing 1600 for a double room.
Lomayuru Gompa

Nimmu town

Shanti Stupa in Leh
Day 6: Khardung la baby!!!!!
Friday, 2nd Sep 2011 – Leh to Nubra valley. 132km – 7 hour ride.
    By 9:30am, we had left our luggage behind in the hotel (as we were returning back to Leh the next day) to start our BIG ride. We were going to cross Khardung La – the highest motorable road in the world, standing at 18380 ft. After a 40km steep uphill ride, of which, the roads deteriorate after South Pulu, we were finally there…. The zenith of motorbike riding. It is as of now, officially atleast, the highest point till which one can take his bike in the world. Felt absolutely happy with the feat. But along the way, we found about 50 girls trying to conquer the Khardung pass on their cycles. All I can say is “Bravo”!!! You need absolute determination along with physical capability to achieve such a feat. We took T-shirts as Souvenir and posed for a lot of pics. Had hot black tea at the restaurant in the top and after a stop totalling 30minutes, started our ride down to Nubra valley. MoMS had the first effect of AMS(Acute Mountain Sickness) due to the low air pressure at high altitudes. Then it got to me as well. After a 10minute ride down, I decided to sit pillion in Senthil’s bike and Sk rode my bike. We stopped at North Pulu for our lunch. MoMS puked out water… Good that we hadn’t had breakfast….:P Then the ride became easier with good roads and downhill ride. We crossed Khardung village. Here I took my bike back and sk instead rode Senthil’s bike. A 43km ride took us to Khalsar village. Here there is a deviation to the left which takes us to Dikshit and Hunder and going straight would lead us to the model village Sumur. Our plan was to halt at Hunder for the night. So after riding for 23km we reached Dikshit and a further 7km led us to Hunder renowned for its sand dunes. The gradual change from barren hills landscape to that of sand dunes, after crossing Khalsar, is quite beautiful and one to watch out for. The Shyok River can be seen all along the route. We found a hotel “Olgog guest house” charging 800 for the 5 of us. We then went for a ride on Double humped or Bactrian camel in the well conserved sand dunes for 15minutes costing Rs.150 per head. Then we sat on the dunes to watch a peaceful sunset and then retired back to the room.
@Khardung La

Nubra valley

Double humped camel ride in Hunder
Day 7: Back to Leh.
Saturday, 3rd Sep 2011 – Hunder to Sumur to Leh. 172km – 9 hour ride.
    We started early next morning, as we had to cover Sumur along the way. We visited the Dikshit Gompa. Then took ourselves all the way till Khalsar before taking the deviation towards Sumur. Visited the monastery and started the ride back to Khardung la. By the time we reached Khardung village it started raining heavily and we stopped to have our brunch. Once the rain abated by 1pm, we left to North Pulu and there I was affected by AMS again. Got severe head ache. This time SK took the reins and rode to Khardung la. About 5km before the pass, the rain had created a huge slush on the road and the BRO were doing there best to make the pass accessible once again. I got down from the bike and started to walk across the slush and in about a minute i was totally stuck in the middle of the slush which was about 1ft. The BRO employee helped me and MoMS out to walk across and we waited for about 1.5 hours for the road to be cleared by the time which it even started snowing. Head ache + ride in the slush + a bit of fear + snow = great combination to screw up one’s mind… πŸ˜› Finally they let the vehicles pass and we never even thought about stopping at the Khardung La top this time around. The ride after that was again easy on reaching South Pulu. Downhill ride and good roads again. We reached Leh back at 6:30pm.
Dikshit gompa

Gompa in Sumur

En-route to Leh
Day 8: Flop ride day: Bad bike day 2 + Bad health day… Another ultimate combo… πŸ˜›
Sunday, 4th Sep 2011 – Leh to Zingral and back. 190km – 9 hour ride.
    For the first time in the trip, the first thought that came to my mind as soon as i woke up was “I need to get back home!!”. My body was aching like hell and I was running a slight fever and I didn’t have a clear head. I told MoMS straight that they should leave me and go ahead with the trip. After 10 minutes of blunt “No” for an answer, I decided to go ahead but as a pillion for the entire day. Bad start to the day. By 8:30am, we checked out of our rooms and left to the route taking us towards Chang La. A 15km drive took us to Shey palace which isn’t much to boast about and then took an hours drive along good roads to Karu where we had our breakfast. Karu is the junction of deviation towards Chang La and ultimately to Pangong Tso while the other road leads to Manali. The route is pretty good with not so steep curves but Senthil’s bike decided to behave like a TVS 50 and grunt ahead even for small inclinations. On reaching Shakti, we were absolutely certain that something was wrong with the bike when I, who was riding pillion, had to get down and walk short distances to allow the bike some breathing and climb time. The bad day just had turned worse. So, we returned back to Karu to find a garage and the guy took 2.5 hours to clean the carburetor, airfilter completely and even changed the spark plug. We decided to go ahead with the plan of reaching Pangong Tso the same day as the roads were supposed to be ultimate. The second time around, the bike started moving a bit smooth and the by the time we reached Zingral which is 13km before Chang La, the bike sputtered to a stop uphill. We decided it was too risky to take a bike across the pass which might not climb back tomorrow as the towns after the pass were not renowned for a garage. We rode back the entire way to Leh, to not take any chances with the garage in Karu, only to find it closed for the day. The worse had just turned to worst. It was an end to a pathetic day of riding and hardship, with no distance achieved and a precious day lost. But we were finally able to visit the Leh palace… πŸ™‚
Shey Palace

Enroute to Chang La

Leh Palace
Day 9: Reattempt to conquer Chang La
Monday, 5th Sep 2011 – Leh to Lukung (Pangong Tso). 155km – 6 hour ride.
    Now the other 4 decided not to wake me up until the bike got serviced completely. Which was a good move; considering that, I got the required rest and was rejuvenated and ready to go ahead with the ride. By 10:50am, Tintin and Senthil had serviced their bikes. I was back to my riding position and since we had taken pics en-route the previous day we literally ran non-stop from Leh to Chang La, the third highest motorable road in the world standing at 17586ft. Both the bikes were looking in good condition, which was a positive as  tintin’s bike too gave a hint of problem during the previous day climb. It was the best climb we had during the entire trip with no hiccups or stops. From here it is a 41Km ride to Thangste which has restaurants and we had our lunch at 3:30pm there, before travelling a further 34kms to reach Lukung crossing the “Pagal naala” literally meaning “The Crazy Stream”. Lukung lies in the edge of the banks of the 134 km long endorheic lake (is a closed drainage basin that retains water and allows no outflow to other bodies of water such as rivers or oceans – thanks to wiki πŸ™‚ ) Pangong Tso. About 2/3rd’s of the lake belongs to Tibet. By 5pm, we were in the shores of the lake and clicking hundreds of pics with our bikes. The sunset changed the colour of the lake from aqua blue to dark blue to green to ultimately black. After all the bad luck the previous day, it turned out to be a good day to ride and awesome place to stay. We stayed in “Martsemik camping at Eco huts” costing 1300 for two huts; a bit on the higher side though. This was also the night, when the dreaded addiction started – UNO had stuck and it had two more new victims – sk and Senthil to its bag. uhahaha!! πŸ˜›
We played with the torches even when the camp people pulled the plug out of the diesel generator…. πŸ™‚

@Chang La

My beauty at Pangong Tso

Add caption
Day 10: The most beautiful sun rise and then the Start of the return journey.
Tuesday, 6th Sep 2011 – Lukung (Pangong Tso) to Rumtse. 165km – 6 hour ride. 
    Woke up at 6am to watch one of the best sun rises at the lake side. Now I am confused between Ethina Buja, Kumara parvatha and Pangong Tso sunrises as to which is the best. I Might never be able to decide for all we know. Its a good confusion to have though… πŸ™‚
    Tintin was courting the idea of riding all the way to Tso Moriri the same day, in-order to make up for the day lost on Sunday. Majority voted against it, as we had the biggest challenge of riding ahead through the Rohtang pass and we didn’t want to tire ourselves out before the main event. Also, the ride to Tso Moriri and back required us to carry petrol in cans as there are no petrol pumps en-route. Ultimately democracy prevailed and the idea was dropped (All hail democracy!!). After the sunrise, we rested for an hour and then packed slowly as to speak in a serious note, we didn’t want to the place. It was beauty beyond anything we can imagine for people living in other parts. I was in love with the place and the sun rise. The change in colour of the water from black to golden to green to dark blue to aqua blue will stay etched in my mind’s eye forever. These are the memories for which we spend our money to travel long and hard. I was really happy to have witnessed such amazing beauty.. πŸ™‚ Tintin and Senthil decided to go ahead a few kms ahead towards Spangmik to take a few more pics. The sadness had set in that we are leaving the place and I told MoMS that I will be heading back home directly from Leh for the second time in this trip. Gradually, I decided to go ahead with the ride to complete the journey. Had breakfast of noodles in the army camp close to the bank and bought a T-shirt as souvenir. The ride back to Karu was uneventful and nonstop again. My bike was showing signs of trouble similar to Senthil’s but not to the extreme. So, we cleaned the bike’s carburetor at the Karu garage before going all the way to Rumtse instead of the intended Upshi stay thus cutting the next day’s journey lesser by 35kms. By 5:30pm, we arrived at the homestay at a cheap rate of 100 per person. Now here’s something interesting…. We met a Canadian lady, who stayed with us in the home stay. She had travelled all the way from Canada to New Zealand to Australia through East Asia to Pakistan and now in India and she intended to carry on through Turkey into Europe in her cycle. Now we can make two inferences from this. This lady is passionate to the level of addiction in cycling. And most importantly, she must be having a pretty good pay package to cover such a huge trip. So, quoting this example we can claim for a good pay rise this coming year… πŸ˜› 
Day2 of UNO addiction continued into the night before sleeping hard for the big day ahead. A 254km ride through the passes.

My fav moment of the trip – Sun rise at Pangong Tso

Day 11: Long ride day in pretty good roads.
Wednesday, 7th Sep 2011 – Rumtse to Jispa. 254km – 11.5 hour ride. 
    We awoke at 6am to begin the big day. Starting early was the best way to begin a big ride day and we did just that. By 7:15am, we were ready with our bikes packed. A 32km ride took us to Tanglang La at a height of 17582ft is the second highest motorable pass in the world. The roads were under repair, so ride was pretty slow. The descent from Tanglang la leads us straight into the More plains which is 40km plain area of mud roads, flanked by mountain ranges on both sides which indirectly means, it is a heaven for dirt biking. On covering half the plains, sk wanted to ride and gave him the bike. This was the first instance in the trip where there was a request from the other side with the last 3 instances being due to AMS twice and bad health day…. πŸ˜› By 12pm, we reached Pang and had our lunch which turned out to be costlier than even some of the cities we visited in this trip. Then it was turn to cross the two passes Lachulung La and Naki La and cover the beautiful Gata loops-Upper and Gata-loops lower end. The scenery by this time had changed back to the eye pleasing green hilltops to which we had become so accustomed to all these years(thanks to the western ghats!!). By 4:30, we were in Sarchu and we were coming to the end of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and entiring Himachal Pradesh. I forced sk to give me the bike back… I couldn’t bear to see other people drive in those beautiful roads and its scary like hell to sit pillion in the Ghats trusting the other rider’s driving skills for your life…. All hail MoMS for his record of 100% ride in pillion position for 12 days!!!! πŸ˜€ On crossing Sarchu by about 20kms, we found dark clouds hovering in the proximity of the hilltop nearby. I feared a snow storm and suggested that we turn back to Sarchu but all others were in favor of moving ahead to Jispa which is 85kms from Sarchu (To hell with democracy!!! when u lose… :P). We crossed Barlacha La and reached Zingzing bar at a pretty decent pace. A localite there, to my relief said that the chances of snow storm was pretty less. This cooled me down a bit… One of the most dreaded things for me is to ride in a snow storm… never been in one but its pretty scary… πŸ˜› Finally arrived through superb roads to Jispa crossing Darchu by 6:45pm. The home stay where we decided to settle for the night had no display boards. They charged Rs.700 for two rooms with a guarantee of hot water which never materialized.. πŸ™‚ So no bath for the 2nd consecutive day… we were stinking literally!!!! πŸ˜€ 
@Tanglang La

Day 12: Hardest day of bike ride.
Thursday, 8th Sep 2011 – Jispa to Manali. 134km – 6 hour ride. 
    The pre-finale day of bike riding and the toughest yet was to be faced. We were ready, but not raring to go.. πŸ˜› The initial journey is pretty good with decent roads in most of the places… The scenery and beauty of Himachal was in its full glory all along 74kms ride through the small towns till we reach Rohtang pass. The roads again turn bad during the final part of the climb and MoMS and his negative comments began (again!!)… “Is this it?? I was expecting much more from Rohtang pass”. 20 minutes had passed since he commented when we found the first signs of slush filled road. At first, we continued to ride together and then each of the pillion riders got down to walk while the riders tried to maneuver through 1/2 a feet of slush while trucks and tourist vehicals were stopped to prevent from movement to and fro. After half-an-hour of struggle it became almost impossible to ride. The next 3kms took 2 hours to maneuver through, with suggestions and help from multiple stranded passengers. After struggling through the next 1km we found a camp conducting Paragliding. At Rs.600 per head for a 3minute jump, it was a short ride but for a first timer it was quite sufficient. We parked our bikes and jumped from the top of the cliff along with the pilot/maneuverer. It provided a good relief after a painstaking ride during the past 3 hours. We climbed back to the cliff and had our food at “Fouji Dhaba” – an interesting name.. πŸ™‚ Meanwhile the vehicles which were trying to climb the Rohtang were returning back to try their luck the next day. Hard Luck!!.  It was good planning of tintin to shift the Rohtang for the return journey thus making sure we covered the hardest part of the ride the last. It then started raining in the Ghats reducing the visibility to less than 5meters. The drive was painfully slow to avoid colliding with incoming vehicles. We reached around 6pm and stayed at the “Rohtang view” hotel in the outskirts of the city for 400 per room for the night. We finally took a bath after 3 riding days!! Lucky… thankfully we weren’t travelling by public transport else we would have been kicked out for offending the senses… πŸ˜›

Rohtang pass slush

Thats me paragliding… πŸ™‚

Day 13: The last bike ride day and the case of “Crazy insane nutcase maniac driver”!!
Friday, 9th Sep 2011 – Manali to Mandi. 110km – 3 hour ride.  And then to Chandigarh
    The final day of bike riding began late. We got up-and-running only by 11am. A three hour ride to Mandi covers Kulu, along with the second 2.809km double-laned tunnel(near Aut) of our ride in NH21. Again it felt awesome to be a part of and experience good engineering. We couriered our bikes through Gati back to Bangalore at the cost of 4211 for transportation including packing. We booked a Bolero from the taxi stand for Rs.3400 for us to be dropped in Chandigarh. Now when the driver started the drive, we the front seaters immediately knew we were not going to survive the trip. This Foul-mouthed maniac drove like a maniac too… He had no sense of care but had absolute control of the car (I think so!! hopefully!!). If I counted correctly atleast 8 people should have been killed including a dog, a horse, our own driver and tintin who was sitting right behind the driver at multiple incidents. Along with that atleast 10 other drivers were foul-mouthed by him. We wanted a peaceful ride and we never got that till we reached Chandigarh after a 6 hour drive through bad roads, worse traffic and worst driving. This was also a day when we didn’t have any food… πŸ˜› The drive itself was sufficient to keep our brains occupied. I am not talking about our 12 day ride but about the cab ride to Chandigarh!! It will last a lifetime for sure…. πŸ˜› We were taken to a Rajhans hotel in area 52 for the night. 
P.S: UNO had continued through since we started playing in Pangong Tso…. πŸ˜€

Manali view from hotel
2.809km Aut tunnel
Day 14: Two faced Chandigarh
Saturday, 10th Sep 2011 – Rock garden, Rose garden in Chandigarh
    The hotel didn’t provide bedsheets, neither a mat nor a towel. One of the rooms given to us was stinking. To avoid all this me and MoMS went in search of better hotels near the ISBT bus stand only to find that the other hotels were in far worse condition. So, we decided that the only sensible thing that could be done was to get out of the rooms and roam around the city till night fall. Before that, we played the most boring 3 games of Rummy ever possible in the history of the game, with not even 1 person showing even the faintest sign of interest in the game. We then visited the 12 acre Rock garden designed by Nek Chand and then the 40 acre Rose garden. We then took a long walk across the city. This is when we observed the second face of the city. The area 52 in which we were staying was the worst area in the entire city with water logging, slush, bad planning and even worse conditions. But the other sectors were magnificent to say the least. 6 lane roads everywhere, huge footpaths with huge green cover, lush greenery and cycle tracks all along the road. This is when we came to know why Chandigarh is called the most planned city in India. I would love to stay there but never visit it for a trip because there is nothing worth seeing. The rock garden is a waste of space according to me… (Absolutely personal opinion!!) and well there is nothing else to see in the city when you remove that. We had a big dinner before retiring back to the stinking rooms for the night.

Day 15: All good things come to an end
Saturday, 10th Sep 2011 – Chandigarh to Delhi to Bangalore
    We caught the 7:33am  Janshathabdi to reach Delhi at 2pm. Reached airport 4 hours before the scheduled departure. Even the security guard didn’t allow us in saying “Itni Jaldi andar jake kya karoge saab”… πŸ˜› We read novels which we had carried for the entire trip without even opening them once properly, to kill time. Finally caught the 7:10pm JetLite flight back to Bangalore to reach home at 10:45pm.
A memorable, once in a life time trip. A dream fulfilled. 2 weeks of life spent wisely !! πŸ™‚
L to R: ppr(me), MoMS, Tintin, sk and Senthil
Things to be taken for the trip:
1. Saddle bags / Backpacks : Ones which can be easily fastened to bikes. Small back-bags for camera etc easy to wear while riding. 
3. Bungee chord and nylon ropes
4. Raincoat/Rain jackets 100% waterproof ones.
5. Riding jacket, gloves and helmets . Gloves,helmets for pillion riders. 
6. 1/2 pair Thermal inner wear and 5-6 pairs of normal inner wear. 1/2 Shorts
7. Good sturdy shoes and 1 pair rubber/foam slippers. 4-5 pairs of socks woolen/cotton. 
8. Knee and elbow guards (optional).
9. 3-4 pants (get 1-2 quick-dry track pants and remaining 1-2 jeans), 5-6 shirts/t-shirts.
10. Toiletries.
11. Huge plastic covers to cover the luggage during the rides. 
12. Medical kit including Diamox tablets.
13. Bike spare parts (tubes, clutch cables, brake cables, etc)
14. Bike Original Documents (Insurance, license, RC book, emission certificate)
15. Camera
16. Puncture and bike tool Kit 
17. Air Pump – leg powered pump
18. Sleeping bag (optional)
19. Torch.
Highlights of the trip:
1. Kashmir valley view at Titanic point.
2. Ride through Jawahar tunnel, Green tunnel en-route to Kashmir and Aut tunnel in Himachal pradesh
3. Clearing the Zoji La, Fotu La, Khardung La, Chang La and Tanglang La passes.
4. Sunrise at Pangong Tso…. Best of the trip… πŸ™‚
5. Senthil’s bike giving 2 torture days… πŸ˜€
6. UNO games and the tauting/tricks.. 
7. Visit to the Dras war memorial 
8. Chappars tintin, sk, MoMS and Senthil for making this a memorable trip and
9. Finally, most important of all, The 12 amazing riding days in my very own beauty Pulsar 180cc though all kinds of road and weather -A Ride across the biker’s paradise on Earth —- Priceless…  πŸ™‚
1. Distance travelled in bike – 304km + 150km + 162km + 138km + 132km + 172km + 190km + 155km + 165km + 254km + 134km + 110km = 2066km
2. Cost per person including flight charges and bike courier to and fro charges = 27000
3. Ride Route: Jammu-Srinagar-Dras-Kargil-Mulbek-Lomayuru-Leh-Hunder-Sumur-Leh-Pangong Tso-Rumtse-Jispa-Manali-Mandi
4. A Big thanks to BMC Touring forum for helping us out during the planning of this bike trip.
5. A Bigger thanks to Himank, Vijayak and Beacon divisions of the BRO -Border Roads Organization for keeping our border roads in good shape and the roads along the passes… well passable!! πŸ™‚
6. And the biggest thanks to the 4 chappars who were brave enough to accompany me and make this trip a memorable one!! πŸ˜€
Route maps:

Pics link:

Roopkund – A Himalayan Odyssey

21 Jun
Our gang’s tagline should be – Nithin plans and we follow… The story is the same almost every time. This time was no different. Around 3 months ago our Tintin came up with a trekking plan to which his bro too was going for. I was skeptical at first thinking of the arduous journey but, agreed on the point that once booked we can get full refund of the fee if we cancel 15 days before the trip (inspite of me being a trek lover). Paid the amount and registered for the “Roopkund trek” from India hikes.

Most of the guys in our “Thotti gang” were ready for the trip. Decided to go ahead on the trip all fears forgotten looking at the enthusiasm in the gang. When u decide to go on such a trip the costs are above normal. Sheiki never bothered to read any mails regarding the trip to such a point that during the last week he even missed the mail where we decided to buy all the essential stuff for the trek. He finally managed to do so in the last few days.. πŸ˜›

Day 1: Jun 4, 2010 -> Bangalore to Delhi.

The D-day arrived. The gang comprising of Tintin (Nithin), Sheiki (Maneesh not Meneesh :P), Harsha, Manju, D-bug (Deepak), Chandu, Abhi, Sachin, Monk(Shashi) and myself (Prasanna alias ppr) met at the BIAL for the 10:30 flight by Indigo. Checked in the rucksacks and boarded the flight which amazingly didn’t even offer a single peanut during the entire flight. We were pretty hungry within half-an-hour of the flight and found Sheiki as the perfect bakara. We decided to have a in-flight treat where the attendants sold cold-old-parathas, sandwich and juices which i must say are pretty bland and over-the-top prices. Had an uneventful flight and reached Delhi by afternoon to be greeted by a gust of hot air. For folks like me who are visiting Delhi for the first time found it as if i was standing next to a boiler spewing out steam…
Our train to Kathgodam was scheduled at 10:30. So, had time enough to visit the Qutub-minar and the Akshardam temple. We were unfortunate to have missed the visit to the main temple in Akshardam though, as we were late in reaching there. Manjanna’s record as a last minute shopper continued to be intact with him buying sun-caps for us in Chandni chowk. Met up with a group of 6 cousins Kishen, Siddharth, Anish, Abhishek, Kshama and Kausalya along with Anser and Sagar who were part of the gang belonging to Jun 5 batch of this years trek. Had a simple dinner of bread-jam and bananas and we boarded the Raniketh express to Kathgodam.

Day 2: Jun 5, 2010 -> Delhi – Kathgodam – Loharjung.
Altitude: 2530m

The train reached a couple of hours late to which we had no complaints for once as we had a goodnight’s rest before the long bus journey. Met up with “The Doctors” Vinay and Harish who were the last 2 of the Jun 5 batch. The bus was ready when we arrived and we already were able to observe the difference between the hot-crowded Delhi to the cool-peaceful-town of Kathgodam. The entire route of 260 kms was through the ghat section with us having breakfast at a small town called Bhowali. The ride was very scenic with Manjanna taking every oppurtunity to click his cam. We had lunch at Kausani by which time most of us were tired of the ride and feared some of us might decide to throw-up omlettes in the bus..:P So to take our mind of that and to kill time decided to play “Mafia” organized by our “Games co-ordinator” Monk. I must admit that the game sounded pretty boring as he explained but, when we started playing we were totally engrossed and didn’t know how time flew. Within no time we were in the outskirts of Loharjung and the snow capped Himalayan peaks (Trishul) clearly visible. Finally we arrived at Loharjung after an 8 hour bus ride through the ghat-section. We were recieved by Dr.Ankit who was our camp manager at Loharjung which is incidentally the base camp and starting point for the trek.Had an hours rest before we were briefed by Ankit and Dinesh about the stories and significance of Loharjung and Roopkund. Recieved our trek passes and caps. (Sheiki’s dialogue: thu sumne 60 rupayee waste madidri cap mele… πŸ˜‰ )
Our rooms were at a higher elevation than the rest of the rooms and the 8 of us excluding manju and harsha settled and had a good nights rest before the trek.

Day 3: Jun 6, 2010 -> Loharjung-Didina.
Altitude: 2600m

The day finally arrived for which we had prepared for months. Left out all the unnecessary items in a spare bag and started moving towards our first destination Didina at 7:30am. Dr.Swapnil was our guide and manager for the trek along with Pradyumanji and Narendraji. The route taken is named as the “Curzon trail”, most of the first part of the days trek was downward gradient with all of us grabbing sticks for our support. Mules carried our tents and spare jackets. All along the way we can observe red flowers shaped like lotus. These are Rhododendrons which are used by locals to make a drink called braas and believes to be good for health. Had breakfast of Poori near a Raun Bagad iron bridge over Kali river at 10am. Then the ascent began. The journey from here on was tedious and very slow. We took mini break about midway in the ascent and started wondering about the toughness of the trek in the coming days. The entire route is a zig-zag with approximately 52 such turns. Finally, we reached Didina around 12:30pm. Though, the trek was moderate, we were exhausted. Had braas juice (Rhododendrons) which tasted like a mixture of sherbet and cough syrup. Some guys in the gang had two cups of this too and blamed the drink for their cough later that day. πŸ˜› Our stay was a dormitory with all 10 of the gang settling in the ground floor and the rest in the floor above. To kill time we decided to play cricket in the open field next to our camp. With 10 per team, Swapnil and Raju bhayya(caretaker of our mules) as captains we started the game. Manju had a ball on the mouth moment with Sheiki smashing the hard tennis ball straight into manjanna’s face. Thankfully nothing serious happened. We won the match by 2 runs even with Harsha’s reminiscence of Steve Bucknor’s umpiring in India vs Aussie. Had a campfire setup by 7 and dinner at 8:30. Slept like a kid on this night.

Day 4: Jun 7, 2010 -> Didina-Ali Bugyal-Bedni Bugyal.
Altitude: 3354m

We were woken up again at 5am and finished the day’s essentials. Swapnil explained that this was the toughest day in our trek and had our body warmed up by doing some streching excercises. Ali Bugyal is clearly visible from the camp. Bugyal meant grassland or meadow and can be clearly differentiated even from Didina with the change from dark green forests to the light green meadows. The climb looked menacing to say the least. Swapnil said that it would be difficult for people to complete the entire trek if we take more than 7 hours on this day. So, a few people were allowed to leave 30 minutes ahead to make some ground in the trek. Had Poori for breakfast and were ready to leave. 10 minutes into the trek and we wished we were back in the warm bed in the dormitory. The climb took the breath out of us and were panting and resting. Then we began to ascend slowly through the Oak forest at a steady pace with the group separating into various gangs based on speed. The trees are covered with moss and dead leaves muffled our footsteps all along the way. There are around 106 zigzags to be taken to reach Ali Bugyal. With the cool breeze helping us and water bottles acting as our saviors took 2-1/2 hours to reach. The view from here is nothing short of amazing. Green meadows, with Trishul forming the backdrop, Didina visible way below and Loharjung visible far away to the left. Forgot all our tiredness in a jiffy. Took some good snaps and had our breakfast of parathas and moved toward Bedini. The walk was totally along the meadows which we enjoyed a lot. We saw wild mules grazing away happily. The last 15 minutes is a descent and taking snaps all along the way reached Bedini by 12:45pm. We had hot tomato soup which tasted good. The weather took a drastic turn within minutes of our arrival. Heavy rains engulfed us and we settled in our tents. Few of the guys came in totally drenched. Thanks to our organizers, we had our lunch and dinner within the tent. In between we had a few minutes relief where we stretched our muscles and roamed around the campsite with its beautiful view. It rained the entire night and our tent started to spray water on our faces to wake us up every few minutes. Thankfully the tent held out for the entire night and we had the rest we needed before the trek the next day.

Day 5: Jun 8, 2010 -> Bedni Bugyal-Ghora Lotani.
Altitude: 3906m

Due to the easy trek we had on this day we were woken up only at 6am and spent time slowly packing our bags and transferring 50% of our luggage to the mule. πŸ˜› Sandip was our guide from Bedini to the entire climb till Roopkund. The entire day’s rain had done one good thing; It cleared up the weather for us. According to the locals, the weather turns bad every 3 to 4 days. The trek started with a gradual ascend with us crossing the Bedni Kund(kund refers to local tank or lake). Then it became much flatter and very easy to walk. We trotted along the path and reached midway around 1-1/2 hours. Here the guides started searching for a special root called keeda jadee which they sell in the market for 100 to 300 which is sold in-turn to China who use them in energy drinks. Me and manju tried our hand in finding one for about 15 min but were unsuccessful as expected..:D We waited for about an hour here as our organizers could not book the metal roof tents and had to set up the tents manually. We moved towards the destination which is gradual downward descent from this point and reached the tents by 1 hour. The view here again is good with a water source nearby and the next days route to Kalu Vinayak visible clearly. The weather was perfect for the entire day. We roamed around the camp site with our heads and foot covered as our tents were very warm and caused headaches and feverish feeling to any1 who stayed inside. Went for an evening walk to the forest huts; which incidentally, we were unable to book. They sold chocolate, biscuit and Omelet at decent price. We had our fair share and returned back to the camp by 7pm. Had dinner and went to bed early as we had nothing else to do.

Day 6: Jun 9, 2010 -> Ghora Lotani-Kalu Vinayak-Bhagwabasa.
Altitude: 4375m

Woke at 5am after the easy trek the previous day with the fears of fever and headaches long gone. By 8 we started moving to our first destination Kalu Vinayak which refers to the shrine of Lord Ganesha which has a black idol. The climb is steep and our movement was slow. The meadows ended midway where we waited for the entire gang to assemble and started moving towards the rougher terrain.The route is again a zig-zag and we saw the first sense of snow. Met a lot of piligrims from the nearby villages who came here to say their prayers. Reached the Kalu Vinayak with the Chota keluva temple along the way. Said our prayers for our safe climb and return and moved towards Bhagwabasa. Normal to oak forests to meadows to rough terrain to snow. What a change in a few days!! I loved this part of the trek. Me, Tintin and sheiki had a sooper walk. Had a snowfight. Took several pics along our way. There are stone huts built by locals which we can observe to our left along the way. Finally reached the destination with the amazing view of snow covered peaks all around us by 12:30pm. Here we had the forest huts booked. All 20 of us settled in one while the guides and cook took up another. Had maggi for lunch which tasted good after days of roti-dal. Sandip entertained with Stories of Roopkund and his card tricks. Had a big snow fight with most of the gang participating and enjoying. Many were on the snow for the first time in their lives. While the weather outside changed to a hail storm, we played a few games and had our dinner inside before we slept in the cramped up tent.

Day 7: Jun 10, 2010 -> Bhagwabasa-Roopkund-Ghoralotani-Bedini.
Altitude: 4844m

The day started with clear weather with a white sheet of snow all around our campsite. The moutain terrain which the previous day was a mixture of black and white had changed to total white. We had to get up and start moving by 5am if we had to reach Roopkund and travel further to Junargali. Looking at the state of snow Sandip decided it was unsafe to go to Junargali and setup our last destination as Roopkund. We left with no luggages for the first time since we arrived. Had mango juice, energy bar and chocolates for our climb. We started around 7:30am with a group moving ahead of us to keep pace. The walk on the snow was moderately difficult with steep ascent at a couple of places. We assembled before the final onslought to Roopkund which had the steepest climb in the entire trek. The climb was very steep to say the least and we panted to take in breaths every few steps. The climb was very slow and every1 made it to the top in about 30 to 45 minutes. The sense of accomplishment of reaching the destination was beyond words. We were happy and hi-fived each other. Slided down the gully towards the Roopkund pond which lies at a lower altitude to the point where we had settled i.e, Roopkund is basically a crater in the midst of the mountains. We could only find a few bones but not skeletons as the lake was totally frozen. Had our Breakfast of parathas which many opted not to have. If you considered one bite good enough then even I had breakfast.. πŸ˜› Then began the journey downward back to Bhagwabasa with the melting snow making things worse. The descent was very very slow with one person making a nuisance of himself. The monk decided to be a part of himalayan folklore and slid along a gully with scared shouts of “Maga Maga” from Abhi. I must admit that at this point I lost hope of seeing “The Monk” again and sat down where ever I was. Every1 were dumbstruck. Then Deepak saw him hanging at the edge of the cliff with the help of his stick and called Sandip who raced down the terrain at Bolt’s speed and brought him to safety. A storm had started by this time and we moved even slowly than before for the fear of skidding down. After about 30 minutes the storm subsided we trotted happily to Bhagwabasa where we had dinner and rested for a few hours before we moved back to Bedini which is not difficult as the gradient is downward and path not snow laden after Kalu Vinayak. How wrong was I !!!!! I storm which subsided picked up full force by the 1st hour of the return trek. Hail storm beating down our face, our ponchos flying all over the place, Drenched from top to bottom, walking-skidding along the way reached Ghora Lotani. Here the cold got to me and my movement was limited. I consulted Sandip who was staying back here to assist the next group to Roopkund the next day. He adviced me to stay back and move to Bedini the next day. Slept in wet clothes that night. The locals were very helpful. One guy gave me his dry shirt for which i cannot thank enough and wont forget. Took a paracetamol and rested for 9 solid hours.

Day 8: Jun 11, 2010 ->Ghoralotani-Bedini-Wan-Loharjung.

Woke up shivering the next day. Sandip had asked me to rent a mule and not take chances with my health. I did that and left by 7am and reached Bedini by 8:30. The gang welcomed me as though I had won a prize to which I was embarrased a lot. Thanks to friends even weaknesses of the moment can be forgotten. Tintin created a “Bollywood moment !!” ( as the Monk called it πŸ™‚ ) by lending me his jacket and after hour-an-hour the shivering subsided. Had breakfast and by 9:30 we were ready to move. The trek is full descent and Me, Monk and Tintin formed a gang and ran across the Oak forest laden route taking shortcuts all the time and for a change not allowing the mules to overtake us..:D But after a distance the stress on our toes and knees started to take effect and we had to eventually slow down. Here we can again observe a lot of Rhododendrons. We reached Ghairoli Patal which is a concrete building halfway into the descent and had chocolates hidden away in Harsha’s bag…:P After about 2 hours trek we reached the Neel ganga river where we dipped our aching feet. The water is cold and tastes sweet. Stayed here for about 30 mins. Then the ascent to Won starts. After the fast climb down the upward climb was at a gradual pace and the route is quite confusing at places. We had to stop at quite a few places to confirm the directions. Most routes take you to Wan but who would want to take a longer route??? πŸ˜‰ Here we could find huge pine trees which could be easily more than 50 years by the looks of their height. Saw a lot of kids along the way who were very well-mannered and said namaste with folded hands to every passer. I cursed myself for having eaten the couple of chocos. The kids would have enjoyed them. The descent after the 30 min climb was swift and we reached the jeeps awating us. After an hours drive reached Loharjung to be greeted and congratulated by Ankit for the successful completion of the trek. Had lunch at 4pm and roamed around the town. Had hot jelabis and pakodas at Narendarji’s (our guide during the 2nd phase of the trek) shop. The sweaters here are pretty good and cheap than any place I know of or have been to. Bought a couple of them and returned to our rooms. Collected our certificates and called it a day.

Altitude and hours taken for the trek:

Day 9: Jun 12, 2010 ->Loharjung-Rishikesh.

Our bus started to move by 7:30am. We had said our goodbyes to Patwalji, his wife and son the previous day. Loaded our luggages on the bus and moved to Rishikesh. The driver, I guess had registered to participate in slow-driving competition so practised that for the most part of our return journey. Dropped us in Rishikesh around 6pm where we bid our goodbyes to the other 10 members of our batch. Got a room for not so reasonable price. But the rooms were good and hot water for 24 hours. Everyone washed off the dirt accumulated since the past 9 days. Yes u heard it right. The past 9 days!!! Now it was D-bugs turn for the treat and Ice-creams were good is all I can say. Watched my first football match in this worldcup. Eng drew to USA. 2 hours sleep wasted to watch a dull match. Slept cursing the English…

Day 10: Jun 13, 2010 ->Rishikesh-Haridwar.

Woke up at 6 to visit Lakshman Jhula and the Bhara mandir. It was pretty empty at & in the morning. Had breakfast and reached the red chillies office by 8:30. We had booked for rafting “Kodiyala down:” 35 km rafting in Ganga. We were pretty excited. It had one grade four rapid. Reached the starting point by jeep. Had a wonderful time rafting. We even dived from a 15-20 feet cliff into Ganga. Lunch was provided by the organizers. Reached back to Rishikesh after 4 hour rafting at 5pm. We had earlier decided to visit Haridwar temple but now that was not feasible so visited the Ram Jhula and had some snacks there. The dinner was in the famous Chotiwala restaurant. The food was not so good but the Lassi rocked!!! The best lassi I had in quite some time. By this time we were in crunch time mode as we had 2 hours to reach Haridwar in-order to catch the Mussorie express to Delhi. To our bad luck the autos were not ready to take us to Haridwar. We took the help of Red chillies cabbie who dumped us to haridwar for 800 bucks. Reached station on time and caught the train to have a good nights rest.

Day 11: Jun 14, 2010 ->Haridwar-Delhi-Bangalore.

The train reached Delhi 1/2 an hour late and we caught a metro to Central Secretariat. Had breakfast in the metro station and took an auto to the Delhi Palam airport. The route takes you through the important offices in Delhi where you can see the Rajpath, consulates of most of the countries. Monk and Manjanna gave their treat in Pizza hut. Boarded the plane and landed in Bangalore. Home sweet home!!!

P.S: Once again thanks to Nithin for organizing and Sheiki – Chandan & D-bug – Abhi – Sachin combo in providing so much laughter all along the trip. Monk – the Games coordinator for preventing many “Omelettes” in the bus. Harsha and manju for being yourselves.

Best of luck to Deepak and Sheiki for their US bound Aspirations and to Monk for his new work. I Dont know when this gang will again be able to go on such a trip!! 😦

This was one of the best trips and treks we have undertaken. I wouldn’t think twice in doing it all over again…