Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Part One of Three
I simply cannot begin writing this without quoting one of my favorite writers, Eugene F Ware---“All glory comes from daring to begin”.
So a bunch of us (my husband, two of our friends and me) decided to go on a bike expedition to this beautiful piece of heaven in India.
If “Leh Ladakh” came across your mind, then you’re bang on right!!
I was as excited as I am now to share my experience with all of you out there, when we decided that we will be riding on our KTM Duke bikes in the foothills of the Himalayas. I was a little anxious at the same time because this was going to be my first long journey on a bike and the fact that we were hiding it from our family added to my anxiety. Well, all that they knew was that we would be vacationing in Manali.
I'd have to write a whole other story about how we sneaked out all the time to buy new helmets, riding gears, shipping our bikes from Bangalore to Delhi one week before our journey date, right under their noses, making it look like nothing was happening at all. This, in fact, made our trip even more thrilling.
We travelled in the month of Aug-Sept in 2018. Our journey started in Delhi, where our bikes waited for us in the warehouse. For a newbie who had no idea about wearing those thick riding pants and jacket, tightly snugged helmet, Delhi’s humid weather (40-degree scorching heat) was not going to help in anyway. Knowing that this trip would be all about endurance and hardships, I made up my mind to get used to all of this for the next 12-13 days. This meant very minimal water and washroom breaks also!!
We roamed in the gallis of Delhi to get final checks for our bikes and started towards our planned destinations. Passing through the greenery of Kurukshetra, we reached the beautifully lit streets of Amritsar, Punjab. Obviously visiting the Golden shrine made up for all the tiredness from the morning journey. To talk about this place and how incredibly well they have maintained both the inside and outside premises, considering the number of tourist visits is very commendable. The next must-visit place was “Jallianwala Bagh”, located 5 mins from the Golden Temple. The history of this place just left us in moments of silence thanking our ancestors for a safer today (If you happen to be from outside India, do look it up). We then headed towards the Wagah border to only get a glimpse of the place and how close we were to the Pakistan border (just a kilometre away). Sadly, we missed out on attending the ceremony that happens at the border. ☹
While travelling on the Punjab highway, we were advised not to miss some authentic Dhaba food for lunch. So we had the yummiest veg Punjabi thaali with a glass of thick Lassi. I am not a foodie, but I enjoyed this so much that I would recommend it to all those who haven't tried it yet!
Stomach full and heavy, we rode for a few kilometres and to our bad luck our bikes broke down! We were in the middle of a highway (with only 2-3 shops around), struggling to fix it. Three men (angels I would say) came running to help us. They were so kind that they helped us fix the bike, offered us shelter and didn't expect anything in return. If they hadn't offered help, we would have wasted a lot of time there delaying our entire schedule.
Thinking about how kind and helpful these people were, we hit the road again and after quite a bit of riding we finally entered the heavenly state of Jammu and Kashmir!
Going by the beauty of the landscape, every angle we turned our heads to, I can say they were all postcard worth sceneries. The beautiful highway leading to Srinagar gave us a mixed feeling, as it was guarded by military check posts every 100 mts, which made the place look tense. The chilled weather however made the bike ride easy and now travelling 150-200 kms everyday had become a routine that we got accustomed to.
Srinagar’s infamous “Dal Lake” was the next stop, before we began our journey towards the Kargil passing the “deadly Zojila Pass”. It was a tough ride here as it started raining and the road got slushy. We experienced what is called “off-roading” and ended up at 11 thousand feet altitude standing in this beautiful place surrounded by huge massive mountains.
You know, when you travel on a bike, passersby want to talk to you, click pictures and wish you good luck for the rest of the journey. This made me feel special and I am thankful that I was able to talk to the locals there and exchange heartfelt smiles with them.
We entered the Kargil War Memorial and discovered that we had entered a very emotional and patriotic zone. At the memorial, they played an emotionally gripping short movie that explained the war and sacrifices our soldiers have made. So with teary eyes and a heavy heart, we started riding back with a sense of utmost pride for our country's saviours. Unaware of the time, only when we noticed that there was not a person in sight except for the Gulliver sized mountains, did we realise that it was already 7 pm. All we could see was some moonlight and our bike lights guiding our path. A while later, we managed to reach a place to stay in Kargil for the night.
And as I closed my eyes to sleep, reminiscing the day's encounters, I wondered on what exciting was in store for us at our next stop, "Leh & Ladakh"!