Visiting Ladakh: Surreal Trip Along The Leh – Srinagar HighwayPosted by Laura Knight on Date November 2, 2016
If you are a motorcycle adventurist then a trip to the Jammu and Kashmir state of India along the Manali Ladakh road is a “Must Do” as it is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Every time you visit it, you would find that strange serenity that cannot be experienced anywhere else.
As you drive on your bike with your motorcycle boots along the long winding roads into the heart of Himalayas, you realize how miniscule you are when surrounded by these lofty mountainous ranges.
Leh is a varied landscape with endless undiscovered beauty very diverse in nature. You will come across snow-capped mountains as well as bare mountains, sandy desert like areas, as well as pristine blue rivers.
The place is so amazing and mesmerizing and has so much to offer that you would be left asking for more after every trip.
There are travelers who do cover this area by air, but to get the real feel of nature, there is nothing that can be quite compared to a motorcycle trip. In fact, it is a sport that is fast becoming a favorite amongst the tourists and many operators who offer organized trips. You can get a motorcycle on rent, along with a backup vehicle for logistics and of course the company of many like-minded fellow riders with whom you can plan your future trips to other beautiful places in the world.
At the end of the trip, what you gain is not only the rich experience but also a few friends who are equally passionate about adventure!
Before the start of the trip one day was spent in acclimatizing and resting at Manali. The entire group was abuzz with excitement. Reaching Leh by road on a motorcycle was a dream because the nature of road tested not only the driving skills but also the endurance of the driver.
This trip was also a means of finally realizing my dream of seeing Asia’s highest saltwater lake – the Lapis Lazuli bordering India and China.
My trip started early as we strapped on the motorcycle boots and headed for the first lap of this 434 Km long trip along the Leh – Srinagar. The best time to do this is in Aug-Sept as this road is open only for six months from June to November. Driving was a pleasure because the tourist traffic was virtually non-existent. We did come across bikers and an odd vehicle every now and then, but these were few and far between.
The journey was most enthralling, with snow still afresh by the road sides and snow capped mountains at a distance looking very picturesque. Driving along the highway you are tempted to make various stops to view the scenic changes from lush green to arid and barren deserts interspaced with beautiful valleys and pristine water bodies.
It was a feeling of euphoria as our motorcycles headed towards the famous azure waters at Pangong. If you haven’t seen the charming Pagong Lake, you haven’t seen anything! It certainly is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
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Crossing the Zoji-La Pass
Starting early from Srinagar we drove past the green rolling meadows at Sonmarg, and cruised past the famous Thajiwas Glacier before belting up for the ultimate test for a rider – the ascent to the highest motorable pass, the Zoji La Pass. It lies at 11,500 feet along the Himalayan ranges.
Driving here can be a bit scary as the road is non-existent at most places and all we could make out was muddy and gravelly remains of the road that was cleared of the snow only recently. We were glad we were wearing motorcycle boots which made it easy to negotiate such areas.
With deep valleys all around, we drove excitedly along the path higher and higher, often leading to the precarious edges. The Indian army camps with the convoys of trucks plying in the opposite direction reduced the breadth of the road, forcing us to stop often. This was good in a way as it made us look around and absorb and seep in the amazing beauty all around.
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Gumri Check Post
The Trans Himalayan road journey over these high passes was interspaced with massive snow-scapes and often an abrupt change of scenery. We reached the Gumri Check post soon after noon. It is a check post for monitoring vehicles and certainly one of the most uninhabited yet picturesque places to be in, with brilliant blue skies set against the backdrop of snow-covered peaks.
The Scenery changed and became gentler as we crossed Gumri and headed towards Dras – which is the second coldest inhabited area, only after Siberia. It is also one of the highest battlegrounds in the world and we could see abandoned bunkers and the famous Tiger hill in the distant peaks.
We had a slightly late lunch at Dras and started towards Kargil. As we moved we crossed vast valleys with pristine blue ponds and lakes along the entire journey with mountains looming large with snow capped peaks.
We stopped at Kargil for the night as it was not advisable to traverse the high mountain roads after the sunset.
Night at Kargil
This is a place that had witnessed some of the bloodiest battles in the recent past. There was a distant sound of army trucks plying till late night, perhaps because in the day movement would be observed from the nearby border posts. Soon we fell asleep after discussing the events for the next day.
As the rays of morning sun filled the room, we started to get ready for the last phase of our journey.
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Trip to Leh
Fortunately, our motorcycles were well maintained and barring a few cases of flat tyres due to rocky patches, we had not faced any problems. From Kargil to Leh, the trip was most memorable as it had the most unexpected variations in the scenery around us.
Leaving the lush greenery behind, we encountered stretches of desolate landscape, brown mountains and dunes of sand! It was unbelievable to find sand dunes so high up in the mountains!
It was a totally alien culture, landscape, and religion.
On the way to Ladakh, we drove past many monasteries; the notable amongst them being the ancient Lamayuru monastery.
The majestic hills, the desert region near Spituk and the confluence of the mighty Indus and the Zanskar River at Nimoo/Nimu Village are indeed sights that are some of the most beautiful places in the world and remain etched in mind till today!