Ravi’s journey began in Mumbai where the city’s infamous monsoons were already drenching his excitement. However, once he reached the airport and boarded his flight to Delhi, his enthusiasm returned. He and his friends had planned a classic Indian roadtrip to the city of Leh in Ladakh region. Tijo Rolls George, Jerry John George and Shekhar Beura made up Ravi’s gang of buddies on this trip. Here’s what unfolded:
From the Delhi International Airport, the friends hopped on a bus to reach the beautiful town of Manali. According to Ravi, ''the bus drive was heaven; I never ever felt so calm and close to nature with my eyes stuck to the roadside into nature. Each view got me into the wild where I was losing my heart as it was falling for the complete beauty around me.” After spending some time exploring the town, the guys then left for the spellbinding Himachali village of Kasol. Located approximately 75 kilometres from Manali, Kasol is situated on the banks of the bustling Parvati River in the remarkable Parvati Valley. Ravi and his buddies camped up right along the river, amidst dense vegetation. He recounts, ''There was music, talks, old memories and exquisite food with local flavor. To top that list we were in nirvana.”
The beauty of nature enchanted Ravi, to a point where he started having discussions with the mountains around him, for hours on end. ''Things will go out of shape but one must not leave its origin and curse its roots. You are what you are and that will matter till the real end. Alteration is good but the unique character of oneself will be remembered forever...” he pondered. The next stop on their itinerary was the village of Tosh. The guys had a ball of a time riding their bikes to this off the beaten path destination; on the way, they clicked lots of photos and even hogged on piping hot Maggie. After admiring the charm of Tosh, the gang headed over to the village of Guntar for a nightcap.
When the next day dawned, the further leg of their journey began. A ride of around 5 hours brought them to Old Manali. The town and its pulse enticed the group of friends and they went for a walk down the busy main street. Recalls Ravi, ''The street was nothing but an experience. It was full in motions all around. People singing on the streets, dancing with the portable speaker in their hands and smiling as the world is a friend. And certainly, it is.” Due to bad weather conditions, the roads to Ladakh were closed and thus the four friends had to stay back in Manali for almost a week. They made the most out of this bad situation by exploring the length and breadth of the intriguing town; they visited plenty of cafes and gorged on delicious food. Ravi recommends first time visitors to make a stop at the charming cafe of Bornfree. He also suggests Cafe 1947 for its lovely ambience and good food.
By the time the weather cleared up, the group had grown to a total of 13 people, with friends and ex-colleagues joining in! With their petrol tanks full and Go-Pro cameras fixed on their helmets, they all began their journey of 474 kilometres to Leh on the 8th of July. The first stop on the way was planned at 140 kilometres, at Jispa. Recalls Ravi, ''off we went again to the most challenging route, me and Jerry were on the hook as the curves, bumpy, hilly or perhaps just a path to ride came our way. We almost went off the cliff when a truck overtook us. Hell of an experience, riding is a risk, risk it.” At the camp in Jispa, with temperatures dropping down to 7 degrees Celsius, the entire gang just huddled around a raring bonfire, sharing memories, singing songs, sipping on drinks and gorging on hot local food.
Next on the itinerary was a stop at Sarchu, a tented accommodation located around 100 kilometres from Jispa. Although the ride was a bumpy one, the views that the buddies witnessed were mesmerising. From Sarchu, they proceeded onwards to Pang which is located at a distance of 78 kilometres. At Pang, a Ladakhi family hosted them and the group enjoyed an evening consisting of sinfully delicious mutton and a few rounds of Old Monk rum. The next day was going to be a crucial one, they were to travel a distance of 180 kilometres to reach Leh.
After enjoying a breakfast spread consisting of paratha, omelette and tea, the friends put the pedal to the metal and rode in the direction of Leh, their ultimate destination. Describes Ravi, ''The roads kept welcoming us and we hooked ourselves to the scenic and small details around us. The military stretch which had a signage of Trishul on it, the army by the road, a whacky bike shop, bells, locals and foreigners with a feel and zen of peace. There were monasteries and palaces on our viewpoint. After all this, I feel was it a dream.”
That night, after reaching the alluring town of Leh
, Ravi, Tijo and Jerry decided to walk and explore its streets. They found it to be a stark contrast to the bustling streets of Manali. At a cafe, the friends enjoyed the live telecast of the thrilling football match between Portugal and France. The pulsating environment of the cafe is something they can never forget. The next day, after having breakfast at Bob’s Cafe, the group headed over towards Khardung la pass which is claimed to be the highest motorable road in the world. The ride to the pass was not an easy affair- they had to ride on rough and bumpy roads and one of their bikes broke down mid way. But make it to the top they did! From there, their descent began towards Nubra Valley- the next stop on their Ladakh travel itinerary. Says Ravi, ''Riding downwards was more difficult as we had to go down on that road with a climate change affecting all of us... There were so many sudden turns but we kept our composure and sailed along.
” He also describes the region as such, ''Nubra valley is a blessing to all the nature lovers as you are doubly treated with the view of a river and the never ending rangers... We were off to Diksit which was 20 kilometres and that ride was one of the most beautiful and positive ones. The calmness of night and ease of Himalayan was the best part of the stretch until we got ourselves to a riverside camp.
After heading back to the town of Leh, the next stop that the friends wanted to visit was the magnificent Pangong Lake. Their tented accommodation was right next to the lake and the friends clicked a lot of photos at all the popular spots around the lake, made famous by the hit Bollywood movie 3 Idiots. Reminisces Ravi, ''This place is heaven and one doesn’t feel like going from here. It had lake, hills, strangers and soulfulness in the air. It is an ideal place to get away from the busy life and electronic connection we made and I feel great to find myself and know things better while I listen to a song of Amit Trivedi from Queen Sawaali Asmaan Hai. I am going to miss my coffee facing the lake with my friends and life, Pangong Lake!”
That was it; their journey had almost come to an end. The only place remaining was Srinagar
. However, due to some unavoidable circumstances, they could not explore this beautiful city in Kashmir.
Ravi signs off nostalgically, ''Each day was a new learning as I was in a new place with new thoughts, meeting new people alongside with my best buddies..The ride to Kasol and a stay there in the tents I will cherish for life... Those green plantations in the Parvati Valley, hill view, 5 kilometres up to our home stay with home food was an experience to die for... I realised that it is just a human nature to live break free. I met people and embraced happiness while I spoke to them.”
Check out more of Ravi’s captivating travelogues on his blog PanIndiaBlog
Note: All the photo credits lie with Ravi.