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Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh…the ride to Leh…

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Part 3 of the Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh…

Day 6: June 28, 2012; Kaza to Keylong: This was the day all riders were having nightmares about – we were about to experience the rather dreaded water-crossings en route. There were speculations doing the rounds whole of the rest-day – how easy or difficult the ride’s going to be! Our morning briefing and tips shared by the RE Team did little to prepare us – I could sense palpability amongst a lot many of us. Yet, with the passion of riding in our hearts, we started our ride for the day.

Next 60kms to Losar was a great ride – I witnessed superb panorama all around – Spiti Valley continued to offer mesmerizing views. I encountered a mix of good to ‘not-so-bad’ roads during this stretch and we took only 90minutes to cover this distance.

Losar is also a police check-post, where one needs to enter the details for self and the bike.

A quick, refreshing tea-break at Losar charged me enough to ride 19kms uphill towards the first Mountain Pass of the journey – the Kunzum La, which is a tenuous link of the two valleys of Lahaul & Spiti, at 4551m AMSL. This pass has much-revered Hindu Goddess Durga’s Temple located a little off-route, which all travellers encircle, offer prayers and only then ride ahead.

To me, Kumzum La Pass appeared safer and provided easy ascent and descent. The panorama as viewed from the top was breathtaking. The lofty Shigri Peak can be seen right in front in all its grandeur.

Nature enthusiasts may note that the famous Chandra Taal (meaning the Lake of the Moon) is located before this Pass. From the town of Battal, a 6km motorable road takes you to the lake, which is situated at a height of 4300m AMSL. Though we didn’t go to this lake, I am told about it’s stunning beauty and that its deep blue-water is the source of the Chandra river.

From Kunzum La, I descended the Pass and arrived at the Chandra Dhaba, our scheduled halt for lunch. Hungry us! See our meal-plate and you’d understand what was our sumptuous lunch for the day!

Here, we met travellers coming from the opposite direction, who told us the water crossings were fairly bad this time – and that there were several of them one after another! Shucks!

After a 90-minute break or so, we resumed our journey.

Well, what we encountered hereafter made me opine – there is nothing that is truly waterproof while riding a bike on this terrain! Gumboots, rain-shoe-covers, poly-covers, expensive riding boots – all failed rather miserably from preventing the gushing water to seep in and soak us. It seemed the river changed its course and started flowing on what I call ‘no-roads’ itself! Some of us rode through this ordeal, some fell down and some needed support to pull the bikes out! See for yourself…

Water-crossings were aplenty – and as more and more came our way, I turned bolder, as if I decided to not let them scare me. Rode I on!

For the more vivid experience, do watch the videos on ‘youtube’ posted by the Royal Enfield Media and other fellow riders. One of them can be accessed at:

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ri6w8YzAINM

Gradually, we crossed all of them, and reached the town of Koksar, which is the police check-post. This is the point from where a route goes towards Rohtang Pass and Manali. We rode on after a brief stoppage of 30-minutes here; post completion of police formalities and feeding our tired bodies once again – the water-crossing had taken their toll! See my drenched shoes!

From here on, the road towards Keylong was both good and wherever they weren’t in the 43km stretch, we didn’t mind – the worst of the day was long over!

Riding a total of 180kms from Kaza, we reached Tandi. It is a small village, located 7kms before the town of Keylong. This is where the river Bhaga meets the river Chandra to become the Chandra-Bhaga/Chenab.

The adjoining signage would tell you the significance of this town to all road-travellers to Leh – it has the last petrol pump before Leh, which is still around 365 km away. However, I noted later that the next petrol station is located at Karu, which is 40kms before Leh; making the total distance without a petrol pump to 325kms. So, this is your last chance to fill your tank. You won’t miss it; there’s nothing else around and the sign is big enough. As they say, if signboards were celebrities, this one would have been their superstar for sure!

Here, the RE team came to our rescue. Depending on the mileage our respective bikes were giving, they purchased and stored spare petrol – 3 to 5 litres per bike. Typically, a 500CC RE needs about 3l and a 350CC needs approximately 4l to make it to Karu.

Keylong is the administrative headquarters of Lahaul-Spiti and is an oasis of green fields, on the banks of Bhaga River. It is located at an altitude of 3080m AMSL. After a long-hour’s wait at the Tandi pump, we rode towards Hotel Dekyid located in the town of Keylong. It had turned dark by this time and we rode carefully on the bad-roads, continually asking the locals about the address of the hotel. I reached the hotel at about 8:15pm. It was a neat and clean place, a RE regular for years – the several years’ Odyssey stickers were the testimonial of this fact!

A hot shower can do wonders to your tired back! That done, I ate a light dinner and went of to sleep by 11pm.

Day 7: June 29, 2012; Keylong to Sarchu: As the ride was of only 130kms, the riders thought it would be an easy day. I knew it wasn’t going to be so – we were to cross world’s third highest pass today – Bara-lacha La and then ride into the Sarchu Valley.

Our first halt of the day was Darcha, which is a small village located about 32kms from Keylong. We crossed the scenic town of Jispa en route, where the greenery was highly captivating. Good roads with few bad patches took us about an hour to reach Darcha. All passing vehicles must stop at Darcha’s police checkpoint for checks. We left Darcha soon after and started the ascent towards loopy roads that led us to Bara-lacha La in another 90minutes or so.

Situated at 4890m AMSL, Bara-lacha La is about 40kms from Darcha. The name means ‘pass with crossroads on summit’ (roads from Ladakh, Spiti and Lahaul join at the top). This high mountain pass in the Zanskar range connects the Lahaul district in HP to Ladakh in J&K.

Bara-lacha La was all clad in snow. Luckily, the roads were devoid of any snow, making it easy of us riders to sail through. You’d notice that unlike other key milestones, I haven’t posted any image of a plaque reading Bara-lacha La – actually, I could’nt take any – there was a huge jam ahead, as we climbed up the Pass. I saw an oil-tanker overturned and fallen off the road, taking the signage down with it! Thankfully, the truck hadn’t taken the plunge into the gorge. It appeared to be a very recent accident – the driver of the truck was safely back on road and was assessing the damages done. The Border Roads Organization that manages these roads was very quick to respond; they had already arrived with a crane and were working out a rescue plan.

Advantage Biker! We quickly made our way through the mounting traffic and descended to the famous Bharatpur – our lunch halt of the day. This place is something – all full of colourful dhabas!

The images would tell you how we sank into the cozy mattresses and treated ourselves to food – maggi, eggs, et al! All through our journey, Dhabas like these acted as saviours for us riders – warm and hospitable locals, trying their best to serve us, without any intention to overcharge for anything they sell!

Our break at Bharatput was a long and tiring one – 3.5hours; the support vehicles were stuck in the jam at Bara-lacha La! Waited and waited, we all felt drowsy and lethargic! It was only at 3:30pm that the support vehicles arrived and we resumed our ride towards Sarchu.

45minutes later, we entered the Sarchu valley. Sarchu, also called Sir Bhum Chun, is a tented camp town located on the boundary between states of HP and J&K. As we rode into this beautiful valley, rows of tents could be seen one after the other. This was our overnight halt – first night in tents. Since the journey along the Leh highway is at high altitude and variable road conditions normally takes two days, the travellers and tourists use this spot as an overnight stop.

No sooner the sun went down, the weather turned dramatically colder, and the howling winds started to threaten to blow my tent away. Within a span of only an hour, we experienced freezing cold. The riders quickly queued up to refill their tanks from the stored petrol. Remember RE team stored additional petrol at Tandi?

I quickly ate my dinner – food was pathetic! However, it is important to have a filled stomach, so I ate somehow. Immediately thereafter, I tucked myself inside the quilt and an additional blanket on top of it! It was so cold that I slept with my warm-inners on!

Sarchu is a place where you can first experience acute mountain sickness and that could be dangerous. Thus, our doctor asked us to set an alarm for midnight, when we would get up and check upon the health of our roommate. Once that done, I slept peacefully.

Day 8: June 30, 2012; Sarchu to Leh: Slept peacefully last night, only to wake up to a freezing morning at 6am and to find there wasn’t any water in the tap – it was frozen in the pipes! I simply brushed my teeth using mineral water, washed my face and geared up. Soon after, cozy sunrays made it confortable to bear the morning chill.

During the briefing, I could notice considerable excitement. After all, this was the day for which we all were waiting eagerly – today we would finally ride into Leh! Another reason the anticipation was higher than usual was the fact that we would cross three famous passes today – Nakee La, Lachulung La and the second highest pass of the world – Taglang La! We would also cross Morey Plains today – the cold desert at 4000m AMSL!

Our ride for the day was about 255kms. With comforting sun over our heads, we started at 8am. Our camp was located about 7kms before Sarchu and as we rode ahead, I could not help but get absorbed in the nature’s abundance – the sky was never this clear over my heads and the view never this captivating. The view of rock-formations around River Tsarap were unbelievable. However, as the day ahead was going to be long, I enjoyed the panorama but I didn’t stop much and rode continuously towards the famous Gata Loops. We crossed Sarchu’s police check post; Leh was 250kms from here. After this, we entered the boundary of the J&K state.

The flat terrain and straight roads near Sarchu did not last long. After crossing River Tsarap soon after Sarchu, the road starts ascending.

As I scaled the good roads, I saw two interestingly named bridges – Brandy Bridge and Whisky Bridge! Wonder why they were named so!

Then came the Gata Loops! These are 21 hairpin bends that will take you from 4190m to 4630m AMSL. You’d hit Gata Loops after 25kms from Sarchu tents. These bends took me up by more than 1500 feet in less than an hour’s time. The views from Gata Loops were too good. Clouds and the sundays were playing magic over the rocky mountains!

However, here I was reminded of the caution our group-leader Santhosh Vijay gave at Kaza about the oil-canters and their dangerous habit of taking shortcuts at these loops. Evidently, these trucks ply between Ambala to Tandi and Leh ferrying petrol/diesel and the drivers get paid about Rs.35K for a return journey – high incentive for a trucker, leading to hazardous driving habits! Watch out for them here!

At the top of the Gata loops is Nakee La, located at an altitude 4740m AMSL, which for some reason is not as famous as other Passes on this route. The terrain is very dry after Nakeela with no streams or rivers en route. The ride ahead was monotonous as the road descends into a dry valley and quickly climbs up towards the next pass – Lachulung La, which is located at an altitude of 5059m AMSL.

Hereafter, the road becomes serpentine and moves down through a narrow canyon – this was all very picturesque! Sadly, I didn’t stop and take any pictures – I simply enjoyed the ride. As the road descents to Pang, life was infused into the scenery from the clear flow of a stream – Kangla Jal. It soon widens to appear like a river, flowing next to the army camp of Pang, at an altitude 4600m AMSL. Just across the road is an army camp where a sign proudly proclaims it as the ‘world’s highest transit camp’.

Pang was about 80kms from Sarchu; and was our first halt of the day. We met Dorma Aunty – the sweet lady who runs the Shanti Dhaba. Our RE teammate Aakash told us stories about her kind behavior and good food from his earlier experiences. After filling myself with yummy omelets and rotis, we moved ahead towards Morey Plains. The plain area started after covering around 4 km uphill road from Pang. The road is mostly on the plain for around 30–35 km, before it again starts to rise to Tanglang La.

Voila! The roads that led to Morey Plains were superb! I relished riding at 80kmph after days and days of bad roads! Ride’s going be superb now, so I thought.

How grossly mistaken I was!

After 20kms of very good patch, we hit the under-construction roads. Bad, very bad they were! It was as if I was riding perennially over speed-breakers! The area appeared uninhabitable and has no construction at all, and also no population, save the migrant construction workers. Its was an extremely tiring and tedious ride; we also were forced from time to time to off-road into sand and ride wherever the roads were blocked for construction – BRO is constructing a two-lane road here. I always find riding in sand really painful and painful it was even this time. As we ascended, the road became worse – it is all under construction. Heavy amount of gravel on the road made the ride very tiring and I was in fact forced to stop several times before reaching Taglang La – the second highest motorable pass of the world. This was the worst patch to ride till now.

Despite a mild headache (one shouldn’t wait at high Passes in such case), I rested at the Pass for a good 15minutes. I needed it, badly!

After the Tanglang-La descent, we reached our last stop of the day – Rumtse village, which is located at 14000ft AMSL. A brief halt here helped me relax with a cup of lemon tea and a chitchat with BRO’s road-workers, who hailed from Jharkhand. These workers, I observed, were painstakingly constructing the road all through our journey. Far from there homes, they were engaged in hard labour at the most inhospitable terrains and in harshest of weather! Some toughness this act merits.

Leh is about 80kms from Rumste. The roads hereafter were not-so-bad and gradually turned good as we entered Karu, a town having the first petrol pump after Tandi. All through this stretch, small villages, green fields and kids saying ‘JULLEY!’ – a greeting in the Ladakhi language –  added life to the relatively straight road to Leh. We crossed Upshi and Shey Palace en route to enter Leh at about 7pm.

Leh – here I come!! What an amazing feeling it was! No words can do justice to elation that I felt when this picture was being clicked.

I checked in at Hotel Namgyal Palace on the Fort Road. A leisurely hot-water shower took away a lot of pain of the tiring day. Good food and nicely done room soon made me forget all the miseries of the Sarchu tents!

The next day was to be the rest day – I was in Leh and there was so much to see around. And then, we were to drive to Khardung La – world’s highest motorable road! With these thoughts, I dozed off…

To be continued in the next blog…

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‘Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Lodakh…’ was written in 8 parts. You can read all 8 parts of this travelog here.

Published during July-September 2012, this series of travelog – ‘Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh…’was recognized by Ghumakkar.com as their Featured Story of the Month, October 2012.

Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh…

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Part 2 of the Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh…

“If you go to the Odyssey as a boy, you will return a man; if you go as a man, you will return a sage, and if you go as a sage, surprisingly you will return as a boy”.

With these words, Dr. Venki Padmanabhan, the CEO of Royal Enfield, flagged off the Himalayan Odyssey, 2012 from the India Gate, New Delhi, on June 23rd.

Listening to these words, I wondered, what would bring the above-mentioned changes in us? Both True (that’s what I call my latest Enfield) and I pondered alike…

Well, now that I am back home after covering over 3000kms on this ride of a lifetime, I can tell you it did bring out the boys, men and sages in & amongst the 60 of us riders! The group had riders aging 21 years to 62 years, from fittest to not so fit, extroverts and introverts alike, riders having tremendous riding experience to those having very little experience of riding a Royal Enfield, et al. Riders came from all over India, and parts of the world too! We had doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, managers, and students amongst us. Married and happy ones would ride together! And what united this diverse group was our passion for riding an Enfield and this band of brothers came together to ride on this fascinating journey to this rather inhospitable land of passes, mountains, roads and no roads, and to the highest motorable road of the world – it was passion and boyish exhilaration writ on faces all over when I saw them first.

It has been six days that I have come back, and haven’t stopped thinking about it as yet. The overwhelming experience has been quite enriching and before I started to pen down this blog, I had several thoughts coming to me – should I simply write a travelogue, or I should write about the elevating experiences I had before and during the entire trip.

Let me try and attempt both.

Day 0: ‘Day Zero’ would constitute months of preparation – working on a grilling fitness regime, getting the bikes ready, buying loads and loads of required riding gear, the works! The enthusiasm over the yahoo-group was simply infectious – you’d note the boyish excitement spread all over! Finally, on 21st & 22nd June, we got together at the Vishwa Yuvak Kendra, New Delhi and completed the scrutiny of gear, bike and the physical fitness was tested – try the 5km run plus 50-push-ups in 60minutes – you’d understand what am I talking about!

Day 1: June 23, 2012; New Delhi to Parwanoo: A day that shall always remain etched in every rider’s memory. The day when we turned into celebrities! The day when, as it appeared, every bike-enthusiast turned at India Gate to flag-off the Himalayan Odyssey. Interviewed & clicked by media, Cheered and waved, congratulated and photographed, envied and hailed, and after receiving the blessings of the Buddhist monks, Dr. Venky flagged off the ride.

I tied the blessed flags to my bike, said my prayers, waved to well-wishers present and started on to this dream ride…

On NH-1 and then on NH-22, the ride of 270kms from New Delhi to Parwanoo, a hill-town near Chandigarh was largely devoid of any mentionable events, barring the fact the Mayil Anna, one of us and a great senior of mine had a narrow escape when a rogue oil tanker barged onto his ride! We learnt – protection gear pays, it really does!

Passing the curious onlookers and braving the severe heat, all riders arrived Parwanoo and reported to our respective hotels – Shivalik and Windsmoor. It was an easy day’s ride and day ended with loads of beer flowing all around. We were getting to know each other, chatting about what not and also tended to our bikes; ready to roll on the windy roads that lay ahead…

Day 2: June 24, 2012; Parwanoo to Narkanda: We resumed the day after a short briefing. Straight roads had already given way to the serpentine roads as we entered Indian State of Himachal Pradesh (HP) yesterday. Good roads lay ahead and we drove towards Chail, via the Kanda Ghat. After this turn towards Chail, narrow roads started as we rode towards Kufri. After crossing heavy traffic jams at Kufri, we took our lunch-break at Theog, about 11kms after the Kufri town.

We reached Narkanda at about 4pm, covering about 155kms. Hotel Hatu of HPTDC was a very good place to give rest to our bodies and bikes. A brief medical check ensued – to check any untoward symptoms that we may have developed in last two days.

Narkanda is a beautiful hill-town, located in Shimla District of HP. It is at an altitude of 2750m above mean sea level (AMSL) on the NH-22, about 65 km from Shimla. It is surrounded by the Shivalik Ranges that span a large part of HP. Evening was slightly chilly and gave a pleasant respite to our sunburnt bodies from the Day-1!

Day 3: June 25, 2012; Narkanda to Kalpa: Our destination was Kalpa; about 200kms away, continuing on NH22. We covered towns of Ramnagarbusair, Jeori, Poari and Peo enroute.

After experiencing superb roads descending into the town of Ramnagar, encountered what I call ‘not-so-good roads’ (wait for ‘bad-roads’!), where the JP Group of Companies is digging tunnels into the mountains. Taking our first break at Jeori, we found that it has no proper eating-places and most of us filled up our stomachs with whatever little available around.

Kalpa is a small town in the Sutlej river valley, in the Kinnaur district of HP, at the height of 2960m AMSL. During the ride, I observed for the first time the free-flowing Sutlej River, which races through deep gorges. As we reached the town of Kalpa, it was around 6:15pm. All of a sudden, it started drizzling. Our destination was Rakpa Regency Hotel, which was located above 8kms the main town and we rode in rain. Wow! The first feeling of out gloved fingers freezing, as we soaked in rain, was such a welcome change from all the heat the North India suffered whole of summer!

Once settled into the hotel, I took my time to notice the serenity of this sleepy hamlet, now sitting in the lap of snow-clad mountains in front of me – the Kinnar Kailash range of peaks. Also visible from this place is the sacred Shivling rock on the Chota-Kailash peak. I was told that this peak changes its color at different points in the day. That true or not, I did observe the pristine beauty of the peaks – both as the sun took shelter behind them and as it rose the next morning – some sights!

Day 4: June 26, 2012; Kalpa to Kaza: Next morning, we all started early, only to find out that there was only one petrol pump around, located at Peo. It turned out to be a very busy one too, with 65 of us in the queue. The riders took close to an hour getting their tanks filled, wasting about 60min of the precious riding time during the day. Thus, I would recommend you start at about 7:30am, as the distance to be covered was around 220kms to Kaza.

Covering 30kms of ‘not-so-good roads’, we reached the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) check-post, where the travelers must stop to get their inner line permits to continue upwards to the Spiti Valley. Luckily for us, we were only asked to get out details noted down and move on.

Viola! Next 15kms were superb roads – we cruised at about 80kmph! Only to be stopped for the rock-blasts! Yes, you’d encounter a LOT of them, and landslides, as you ride on this route – watch out! As you’d ride ahead, you’d come across what I call ‘bad-roads (wait for ‘no-roads’!).

Sutlej flows in its full beastly glory, as if determined to drown all the rocky mountains that dare come in its way.

As I rode though barren patches, I would not help admire the exquisiteness of the rocks all around – they were as spellbinding as the Grand Canyon, all through the journey on the Indo-China border. No images can describe this splendor!

During last 100kms, as the terrain turned bad to worse, I had consumed all my water. Thirsty and tired, I found water only at Dubling, after riding for over 3.5 hours. As I gulped down water, I couldn’t help observe that the same Kinley packaged water bottle we paid Rs.40/- at the HPTDC hotels (a premium of double the cost!) was being sold by this mom-&-pop shop at the MRP!

After covering about 110kms from Peo, we arrived in at Yangthang. This place came as a respite to us craving-for-food souls! Jumping at simple vegetable-rice and mashed-eggs, we ate like there is no tomorrow and relaxed thereafter.

After a long halt of over 2 hours for remaining riders (that’s the rule – we would wait for each and every biker at all scheduled halts), we started riding ahead at about 3pm.

What we encountered ahead is I call ‘no-roads’! At an altitude of 3500m AMSL, this is was the scariest patch I have ridden to in my life. Rough, narrow and steep ups & downs! Barren mountains all around us and the Sutlej roaring down below, my heart almost took a permanent place in my throat for next 30kms! So much so, I stopped at a place, chanted Ik Onkar and with the divine intervention providing courage, moved ahead.

Can you make out where is the road on the mountain that you see in the adjoining image to your right? I bet you can’t! Believe me you, there exists a road in that fine line that you see 🙂

Once in a while, I could see snow-clad peaks behind the rocky-mountains. Some sights I would love you to enjoy.

After more than a 150km ride through the rocky mountains, greenery at Chango was pleasant to the eyes. Also, the very fact that Kaza was only 40kms odd from here brought some relief to the aching back and hurting wrists – today was a long day!

However, after crossing Samdo, as I entered the Spiti Valley, which about 70kms away from Kaza, I was spellbound with the natural beauty that unfolded turn after turn. As I moved ahead, I reached the famous Tabo Monastery, which was founded in 996 AD and is located in the very arid, cold and rocky area of Tabo village, at an altitude of 3280m AMSL. With its original decoration and art images intact, it is considered to be the oldest continuously functioning Buddhist monastery in India and the Himalayas. The unique beauty of its art and its pivotal historical role in the transmission of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism and culture in the 10th and 11th century makes Tabo Monastery an historically significant site. Within the ancient monastery’s compound are nine temples built between the late 10th and the 17th century and numerous stupas. (http://tabomonastery.org). The famous Dhankar monastery is only 31kms from this place.

Riding ahead, I was enthralled to note the stunning beauty of the Spiti Valley, as I rode into this the gateway to the northernmost reaches of the nation. The setting sun made the view even more pristine…

Spiti Valley forms one of the Trans-Himalayan frontier regions of northern India with a population of around 10,000 people. The name ‘Spiti’ means ‘The Middle Land’, i.e. the land between Tibet and India. In the past the region was included within the boundaries of Tibet.

The town of Kaza, the capital of Lahaul-Spiti District, is situated along the Spiti River at an elevation of about 3800m AMSL. The valley is cut off from the north up to eight months of the year by heavy snowfalls.

My destination was HPTDC Hotel Spiti at Kaza. However, before that, I did stop at the only petrol pump located near the main market. See this amazing signage for yourself…

Due to high elevation one is likely to feel altitude sickness in Spiti. I too felt severe headache. However, a hot cup of green tea (I carried tea-bags with me!) and a Disprin, I felt OK after a while. Tired like hell, I was relieved to recall that the next day was our rest day. Pleased to find hot water’s availability and a descent bed, I dozed off to sleep after an early dinner.

Day 5: June 26, 2012; Rest Day at Kaza: Rest day it was – for the bike and not for us. Whole of the early part of the day went about servicing the bikes. We had negotiated half-journey to Leh by now and what lay ahead of us (please wait!), needed the bikes to be in the fittest conditions. Luckily, True was riding in its best conditions and needed only cleaning & oiling of the chain and a refill of the engine-oil.

After a thorough cleaning and washing regime, both True and I were ready for visiting the local sites. Aman, my roommate, friend and great rider, joined me and we rode towards Kibber, a village located at about 22kms uphill, at a height of 4270m AMSL. It contains a monastery and the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary.

Enroute, after about 15kms, we came across the revered Key Monastery, which is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery located on top of a hill at an altitude of 4166m AMSL. It is the biggest monastery of Spiti Valley and a religious training center for Lamas.

The view from Kibber is amazing – it almost feels like the end of the world! And even this end of the world had a restaurant leased and run by men from lower hills! With other riders joining in, we ate our lunch at this place and then rode back to the town of Kaza.

The marketplace of Kaza is small, just like any other hamlet located on the hills. I spent some time roaming around; mostly interacting with local people. I noted that many of the traders/shop-keepers hail from other parts of HP, and from Jammu & Kashmir, the northernmost Indian state. They stay there for only the season – May to October every year and before the routes get cut-off, they go back to their hometowns, away from this cold, arid and inhospitable terrain.

Spiti Valley’s calm made me sit and think…this was just another world, way different that where I came from. The outlook towards life has very little to do with luxury or comfort; organizing the basic essentials takes most of the waking times. No one appears to be in a tearing hurry, not even the cab-drivers. Shop-keepers smile at the customers as they enter; and they aren’t trained by any retail training managers. Help is easy to come by, no one offers a doubtful look to any curious onlooker. This is truly virgin & untouched…away from the mad rush of the world I came here from…

Five days have gone by…the riders have come a long way. Some of us experience falling, some of us encountered bike-breakdowns. Some are anxious & apprehensive, some appear keen to face the challenge. Some simply remain pensive, may be thinking as to what lay ahead…

Tomorrow, we would ride towards Keylong…and experience the much-awaited and rather-feared water-crossings. With these thoughts, most of us would go to bed tonight.

To be continued in the next blog…

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‘Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Lodakh…’ was written in 8 parts. You can read all 8 parts of this travelog here.

Published during July-September 2012, this series of travelog – ‘Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh…’was recognized by Ghumakkar.com as their Featured Story of the Month, October 2012.

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