An Inside Story Of Leh Bike Trip
Fondly referred to as the Jai-Veeru of TripHobo, Jitendra (Jitu) and Kuldeep are a part of our marketing team along with being keen biking enthusiasts! While that’s one fun combo already, these two are known for their jovial attitude, keeping the vibe of the team fun and reveling. After a long stretch of work, the two took off for a rather adventurous sabbatical last month. To quench their thirst for thrill and feat, Jitendra and Kuldeep chose the ultimate biking destination of Leh, Ladakh. Here’s the inside story on all their planning, routes, insightful tips derived from personal experiences and some epic shenanigans.
Trip duration: 14 days
Total distance covered: 3329 kilometres
Places covered: Delhi, Amritsar, Bannihal, Sringar, Kargil, Leh, Pangong, Nubra Valley, Darcha, Manali and Shimla
Trip Cost: INR 57,000 PP
Bikes: Continental GT and Thunderbird 350
It is evident why the two chose Ladakh as their destination. Challenging terrains and unpredictable weather conditions overshadowed by the surreal beauty of the region were the pioneering factors. Indeed, it took a vast research on their end. From determining the best routes, zeroing on one of the many bike rentals in Delhi (for Jitu), transporting his own bike to Delhi (Kuldeep) and coordinating with friends in Leh; the trip was full of unexpected events and making a lifetime of memories.
Speaking of unexpected events, this travel story is such that had to be altered on the second day itself! Originally this plan was what Jitu and Kuldeep were set for. However, it had to be altered due to a curfew in Srinagar, that can be said to be a protagonist in the consequent changes. But what is a riding adventure without some fuel shortage, punctured tyres and even missing out on a day?! Read on.
The two chose to have Delhi as their start and finish destination. On Day 1, the much-anticipated expedition began with the first stop, Amritsar.
Located at a distance of 520 kilometres, Delhi to Amritsar was covered in a duration of 9 hours. With a stop for a night, they squeezed in a visit to the Wagah Border and Golden Temple, followed by a feast of a Langar.
Day 2 marked the entering of the pinnacle territory, Jammu and Kashmir. Following the original itinerary, but the 14 hours journey, over 440 kilometres had a surprise in store. The ride identified the essence of this biking adventure- expect the unexpected! The quest began with an unanticipated delay owing to a curfew in Srinagar, that was observed for Burhan Wani's death anniversary. This lead to the Jawahar tunnel to be closed for two days. So, they had to go till the tunnel, to find it shut and come 15 kilometers back to accommodate themselves for Day 2 and 3. This event did not dampen their spirits. However, losing out on a day of the itinerary, had them missing a visit to the Tso Moriri lake, planned with the three friends who had already reached Leh on Day 2.
View from Lamayuru Monastery
The Bannihal-Kargil ride, bequeathed the two with the characteristic echoes of the engine sound and it was here when they got that “arrived” feeling. The ride took about 15 hours to cover a distance of 345 kilometres.
A night’s stay on Day 4 had them looking forward to their next destination, Leh. The preceding region tested their endeavour too with one of the bike’s petrol coming to reserve while crossing the mountainous pass of Zoji La. Following a research that suggested petrol pumps on the Srinagar-Kargil route, these guys thought of carrying on till Sonmarg where they had planned a pitstop anyway. However, on reaching Sonmarg, they found out there was no petrol pump there! Having been lucky to reach Drass with that quantity of petrol, life struck again only to discover that there was no petrol pump in the entire town. The ride till Kargil which was still 54 kilometres away was covered relying on half a litre petrol from another bike and nature’s bounty of plentiful downward slopes. Kargil was like the dawn of a dark night, with finally a petrol pump in sight!
View from Leh Palace
Day 5 was characterized by a 9-hour ride, over 228 kilometres and a visit to the stunning Lamayuru Monastery, iconic Magnetic Hill and serene Pathar Sahib. This is where the two made some fond memories of local food and beer. After exploring these attractions and chilling out at the local cafes, next day (Day 6) was scheduled for local sightseeing. Into their sixth day of the expedition Jitu and Kuldeep visited some of the best things to do in Leh- Shanti Stupa, Leh Palace, Hall of Fame, and Main Bazaar.
Leh Main Bazaar
The ride to Pangong Lake, through the summoning Chang La pass stretches over 163 kilometres. Ideally the ride can be covered in 7-8 hours but owing to harsh weather conditions of snowfall and rainfall it took 11 hours. This called for a night’s halt on Day 7 before heading back to Leh. The Pangong Lake and its beauty was just what they needed at the median of their adventure. On Day 8, Leh beckoned once again to tread further to the Nubra Valley. This was when some more avenues for local food was explored.
Khardungla Top Towards Nubra
Leh to Nubra Valley took about 6 hours 30 minutes to cover a distance of 121 kilometres via the landslide-prone Khardung La pass, on the exciting Day 9. This was the shortest route of the entire transit, giving enough window to check out the incredible Diskit Monastery along with the quaint village of Hunder. Revering this as the last destination in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, our very own Jai-Veeru revered the valley by taking a Bactrian camel safari in Hunder! After spending a night here on Day 10, they headed back to Leh again to further travel to Jispa on Day 11.
Hunder Desert Safari
After leaving a piece of paradise behind, the two took on a 342-kilometre ride over a span of 13 hours in the supremely picturesque region of the Lahaul and Spiti district. High on the beauty of the region, a punctured tire shook up the two! This called for a stopover for the night on Day 12 in Darcha that further demanded a change in the original plan of traveling to the Jispa village on the same day. What came along with this unexpected alteration was a very memorable stay at a road side dhaba in Darcha! The puncture was sorted in Jispa the next day.
On the second last day of the adventure, They reached Manali after a ride of 8 hours over 153 kilometres that was noted with dense fog and negligible visibility at Rohtang Pass. The ride along the River Beas with endless views of apple orchards and a burgeoning sight of civilization was no less than withdrawal symptoms of the mountain desert.
Zero Visibility at Rohtang Pass
Day 13 had them in the last leg of the journey, in Shimla after riding 265 kilometres that took about 11 hours 30 minutes. Ideally taking about 7-8 hours, Kuldeep’s bike’s puncture caused the additional delay. It was a long journey, so the best decision was to spend the night here before summing up the biking expedition at Delhi. Into the finale of the adventure, the trip saw yet another thwart. With four spokes of the wheel broken, that actually caused the tired puncture, Kuldeep had the handle of his bike shaking vigorously only to find himself looking for a jugaad to aid a ride till Delhi! Lying at a distance of 350 kilometres, Delhi was finally and safely reached in 10 hours, on Day 14!
Tips for travellers:
- Bike rental
Riders with bikes rented from outside J&K, be wary of local Leh bike union when you go from Leh to Nubra and Pangong. They have a checkpost before South Pullu (on the way to Nubra) and just after Karu (on the way to Pangong) to check if you have a private vehicle or a rented one. Riders with rented bike from outside J&K are not allowed to go from Leh to other attraction points. In this situation, you will be asked to rent one from the local vendors. Luckily, Jitu and Kuldeep got through but there were some riders who got stuck.
- Petrol pumps
There is no petrol pump in Sonamarg and Drass. You can find petrol pumps on the way from Srinagar to Sonamarg. At all times, it is better you keep some extra fuel with you in jerry cans.
Choose a homestay for your accommodation instead of a hotel. Leh people are wonderful hosts. The two stayed at Chamtse Guest house and the experience was amazing owing to their great hospitality.
Local food and eateries:
- Lala's Art cafe in Main Bazaar, Leh
- Beer at Sangam bar - the only place in entire Nubra Valley where you get beer
- Local food in Leh- Khambir (Local bread), Timok, Thukpa (Khambir and Timok, you will get in a homestay only. Ask your hosts to make these for you)
- Non-vegetarians, don't forget to have Kashmiri Wazwan when in Kashmir
- Seabuckthorn juice - Leh's local berry
Guilty as charged we maybe for urging you to shut up and get on the bike!