"World’s most calm place is Ladakh." To understand how he felt, you must go through it yourself. "Ladakh-Bullet-Camera is the best mix for Nirvana," Vijay says, reminiscing about his recent bike ride from Manali to Leh with Thrillophilia.
Vijay was residing in Chennai when he decided to do the most talked about journey in the traveller's world, and he was resting peacefully with the memories of one of the best adventurous trips he had ever taken. Because his birthday fell during the trip, he decided to bring a friend along and celebrate the occasion in style at a location he had been wanting to visit for a long time.
Vijay and his friend finally booked their trip from Chennai to Delhi, where the spectacular journey began on the day these passengers boarded a luxury bus organised by tour operators from Delhi. The dreaded Delhi fog caused a minor snafu in paradise, as the bus had to travel at a somewhat slow speed. There was also the very real possibility of a landslide en route to Manali.
"The morning in Delhi was misty, and once the fog cleared, we could see the steep incline on which the bus was crawling through," Vijay says. “Also, unless you get caught in at least one landslide, you won't make it to Ladakh. Ours was a minor incident, and we arrived at Manali after a 15-hour journey."
The passengers visited the Devi Temple and adjoining hot springs after arriving in Manali, and after a shopping spree and a mouth-watering meal of chaat, fritters, tea, and hot gulab jamun, they parked themselves in comfy guest homes for the ultimate trip the next day.
The next day began with a twist when the travellers were informed that due to heavy snow, riding would be difficult and that they would have to be transported to Ladakh in an SUV. The adrenaline rush among the travellers had been so great that this setback was minor, and they all opted to proceed to the first stop: the massive Rohtang La.
Vijay stepped outdoors in the cold weather after being warm inside, and for the first time, he got a sense of the majestic snow, the chilling cold winds, and low oxygen level that actually made him comprehend what it was like to be at such a height. Vijay had never experienced anything like this before, having grown up in a city where the minimum winter temperature is 20 degrees. But the journey had just begun.
He crossed Keylong with his friend and other passengers after lunch and arrived in Jispa in the evening. The tents were erected, and Vijay had the opportunity to observe everything for the first time on his birthday. “One of the highlights of this beautiful trip was the sheer sight of the huge Milky Way galaxy filled with millions of stars. I could not believe that I was standing there after having dinner on cold soil, witnessing a panoramic view so serene.”
After all the unplanned emergencies, tortuous roads, stunning views, and unsurpassed beauty, Vijay travelled through Baralacha La, the second highest motorable pass, Pang, and arrived in Leh on the longest day of the adventure. Vijay and the other passengers were greeted with the gleaming, beasty bikes for the ideal riding experience after a hefty lunch in Leh. Vijay went on a tour of the local markets, the War Memorial, the famed 3-idiots school, and, of course, the Magnetic Hills with its mysterious power.
"The day had come for me to ride over Khardung La. With each passing kilometre, my desire to be on the K-Top got stronger. It ultimately happened around 2 kilometres from the K-Top. It began to snow! I took the picture of a lifetime and then drove to Hanle to ride a camel. It had a foul odour."
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When the company was on their way to the famed Pangong Tso lake after seeing the Diskit Monastery and passing Chang La Pass, Vijay's most adventurous adventure was just around the corner. Vijay was left behind over 50 kilometres from the lake to photograph the sunset while the rest of the riders continued, only to discover that his bike wouldn't start. He discovered the petrol tank was empty as the evening became darker.
He met the pickup vehicle that helped him refuel his tank after a 20-minute delay and no phone connection, and after riding in frigid conditions for two hours, he arrived at the campsite. "The spectacular view of the valley was even more aesthetic in the dark.” Vijay says. “That night, my pals and I got some of the best photographs of the entire trip."
Vijay had never seen anything quite like the dawn view of the Pangong Tso Lake. Though he was first suspicious of the popular lake, the scenery utterly blew his mind, and he was amazed to see the magnificence on the final day of the trip. The group returned to Leh and then to Manali, where they were again met by a landslide and forced to wait nearly four hours for the road to clear.
Vijay's journey was far from over. With an entire day on his hands, he accepted the risk of paragliding in Manali from heights of 9000 and 7500 feet, respectively, and the experience was life-changing. Vijay recalls the feeling of wind rushing between his arms and making him feel like a bird as the nicest experience he had on the penultimate day, which was cherry on the top.
Things To Consider Before The Trip
According to Vijay-
- In these places, landslides and traffic jams are prevalent. Maintain flexibility in your strategy.
- Bike, particularly a bullet bike.
- Pangong Tso is a great place to camp. It's a beauty queen you'll want to cherish for a lifetime of memories.
- In Dobhi Valley, try paragliding.
- Capture the beauty of another lake than Pangong.
- Purchase school supplies for children in Leh.
- Mountain sickness, also known as AMS, should not be taken lightly, and medications should be taken exactly as directed.
- If you want to save money, shop on Manali's Bazar Road rather than Leh's.
Words For The Readers
"One thing is certain: Ladakh is a narcotic." It's contagious, and it's deadly. You will become addicted to this once you have tried it. I have to admit that I have a mountain addiction. Every day, every hour, and every minute, I can hear them calling to me. While I'm talking to you, I'm making plans for my recovery in the Spiti Valley."