Ladakh – The Final Frontier
Ladakh, the land of high passes, is one of the most picture perfect adventure destinations in India. Every view as one enters the Ladakh territory is awe inspiring. It makes you stop and savor in the stunning vistas. Made up and bound by mountains, Ladakh was strategically placed at the crossroads of important trade routes.
Ladakh is also referred to as Land of Lamas and if you are traveling by road and observing enough then there are a number of warning signs erected by BRO (In charge of road building and maintenance) advising “Don’t be a Gama in the Land of Lamas”. Infact there are some really funny warning signs all along the way. At one curve the road sign read “Be Gentle on My Curves” cautioning riders to drive slow and safe.
Traveling to Ladakh on motorbike is a dream of every biker and not just Indians but foreign tourists in overwhelming number choose to travel to Ladakh on a motorbike. Whereas bikers come driving from as far as Bangalore, most of the adventure seekers either start from Manali of Srinagar and then travel towards Leh as their base camp.
Leh is the largest town in Ladakh and it is here that tourists make their stop to acclimatize to the high altitude condition. From here there are several destinations which could be covered depending upon the days one has at their disposal. The most sought after rides are Pangong Tso, Khardung La which is also claimed to be highest motorable pass in the world, Nubra Valley, Zanskar, Padum, Markha Valley, Drass, Kargil and Rangdum among others.
My motorcycle trip to Ladakh began from New Delhi and I travelled from Chandigarh, Manali, Sarchu towards Leh. Between Manali to Leh, I crossed 5 mighty mountain passes starting with Rohtang La. One of the major towns after crossing Rohtang is Keylong and then a small settlement Darcha before arriving at one of the toughest pass our group crossed. It was Baralacha La (16,500 ft).
My advice would be to stop either at Keylong or at Darcha and not to attempt to cross Baralacha la after noon as the currents of water streams on the passes makes it really tough to cross on motorbike. As our feet along with shoes and socks got wet in icy cold water we had to make our stop at the descent of Baralacha La where there are a few tented accommodations. Staying at that height, the acute mountain sickness was inevitable. Notwithstanding the severe headache, next morning we started for Sarchu and from there on the ride was just awe inspiring and we had our fair share of acclimatization too.
Driving on, the urge to stop after every 500 meters is irresistible. The stunning scenery, stark landscape and floating clouds across azure sky are simply out of the world experience as one rides on towards Leh. After Sarchu traversing through the stunning Gata Loops and Nakee La will lead you to another small settlement of Pang. From here there are two tough passes one of which is Lachulung La at 16,616 feets and Tanglang La before which one rides through the breathtaking ride across Morey Plains, a vast plateau.
The ride to Leh from Baralacha La was covered in one day. Even if one is starting from Sarchu, drive to Leh town is a one day affair. More adventurous souls and travelers keen on photography all along could make it in 2 days with accommodations available at quite a few places along the way. Keylong is a good choice and after that one can stay at Jispa, Darcha or Zingzingbar. It is advisable to cross the stream before noon because the flow of ice-cold water increases as the day temperature rises. As I found out to my peril, the flow of water in the stream was too powerful for motorbike to cross in the evening and it took us half an hour to wade across the stream everyone getting down and assisting one bike at a time to cross the stream and the water was really ice cold.
Leh is where I stopped and so does this post as I’d gather up more adventure in forthcoming post. A trip to Khardung La and Monastries around Leh.