Leh Ladakh- Himalayan diaries

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December 14th 2016
Published: December 14th 2016
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Leh-ladakh in flat Rs 25k

Yes, you might feel it unbelievable, but its practically possible.. We did it. Here we are a total of 6 happy go lucky members from Mumbai, I say so because we are travelers and not tourist, which in term would mean that adjustment is the name of the game.

The plan started 3 months back from our actual dates of travel ( sept 10 to 18) , so the booking of flight tickets is the most important aspect. Plan the bookings as soon as possible. Sept, I assume is the best month to travel Leh, the reasons being, It’s an off season period, you can get things cheap , the ideal travel period being March to Aug. Though Sept has the same features as compared to the best travel period, yes it might be a bit cold, but that’s what we go there to enjoy.

We got the Air tickets confirmed around June 16, all travelling through the same flight GoAir. There are other flight carriers ( Airindia and Jet air) , but Indigo will be the cheapest. Try to do personal bookings as you may have some promo codes to add( payback, makemy trip points) etc. So not necessarily all the members will have to pay the same. But on an average the flight tickets should be Rs 6500. One more aspect is if you get the bookings done together, then you dont need to worry about the baggage weights eg each person is entitled 22 kg, but its a group of 6 , we are entitled for a weight of 132kg flat. So if one person in a group has 23 kgs and other has 18 kgs and even travelling a same group , excess baggage will be charged. So I would say , travelling in a single PNR no will be helpful if you are sure that the baggage weight would be high.

Plan for your stay as early as possible . We stayed at khan manzil, Leh. Amazing place to stay, espically if you are on a low budget with the best possible amenities. The owner( Mr zaheer khan) , was the most helpful guy ever. Ever ready to do all the possible help provided to the guests. We booked through hostelworld.com, and it was a good decision made, as the place was the located near close to Leh market, the most happening place in Leh. The charges were Rs. 300 per person and we have taken the same for 7 days. It has hot water facility availability, best part being the hotel is wifi enabled, what else do you need to ask for in life.

Following points to be noted before travelling:

1. Keep yourself very fit, you don’t want to travel all the way and be ill. Start with brisk running and get good cardio exercise done. oxygen is quiet low at Leh( at 11500 ft) so fitness is the key.

2. Diamox tabl, is one important tablet which you would require to carry while travelling.

3. Take good rest atleast one day before the air travel, you should also get some mental rest.

We planned our travel on Saturday , sept 10 2016 morning 3:30 am flight. This obliviously would mean that we worked till Friday.

Tips fir stuffs to carry for the trip:

1. Sunscreen at least SPF 50 and above, if not you can purchase from Leh, wherein you have SPF lotions available above 70-90. This is very important as the sun will make your dry and dark.

2. Don’t carry much t-shirts, as you might assume for good pictures, but its already so cold all your pics will only be in the same leather jacket

3. Carry leather jacket, thermal clothes and minimum clothing’s along, no need to carry blankets and stuff, its available where ever you stay.

4. Face cover, as riding the bikes will require face to be covered

5. Carry enough medications as per requirements, like painkillers, gastric problems.

Reach the airport well before time as required, you don’t want to miss the flight. Be relaxed, chat along with friends, snap some photographs and enjoy the moment. The feeling of travelling to Leh by itself is amazing.

We touched down at Leh in the desired mentioned time of 7:00 am. The locations from above the flight was mesmerizing, snow clad mountains kissing the best skies. How long have I dreamt of this moment. The feeling was to just jump out of the plane and start exploring, just my fantasy.

Waiting for luggage is always a pain, can’t help it.

Airport to khan manzil was around 5 kms and it costs around Rs 250, its the rate if you travel from airport to Leh market. After getting hold of the room, it was best to take a quick nap. We ordered some tea to freshen our self. As recommended, rest is required for the first 2 days at least and that was our plan. We went around the market place, please note that you should not sleep around but indulge yourself along with the environment so as to get accustomed to the conditions. Best way to do is to visit the Shanti stupa., the closest monastery in Leh. It’s a total of 600 steps (as mentioned by locals, I didn’t count) and reaching on top by itself is an achievement. Yes, you should not stretch yourself and slow steady steps will do the trick. The feeling once you reach the top is amazing; the peace inside the monastery gives a sense of calm within. The entire city of Leh is captured from the top. There is also a cafe on top and its recommended to have a cup of tea/ coffee, you deserve it, after climbing all the steps.

The road back to the hostel was filled with local fancy equipments (flags, pray wheel etc) we decided to purchase it later. Day 2 planning was still in our minds and it was Kargil war memorial on bikes. At Leh , we enquired at a travel shop( Yak travels) , the guy didn’t have bikes available , hence he recommended to travel to Tso Moriri by car( Innova). He offered good discount on it, hence all readily agreed to it. THAT WAS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE!!!!

Day 2: All are pretty excited to travel to Tso Moriri lake, already had a lot heard about it. Our travel agent( Mr Chilne) was a pretty decent guy and informed us to carry lot of woolen clothes as it would be seriously cold. The most important thing that he missed to inform was Tso moriri was at an altitude of around 14000 ft, which is 3000 ft above Leh and it was just our second day. Our driver ( Mr Nima) , was a cool guy informing about the locals , the places and general idea of Leh. All were exited, looking around the blue skies and travelling along the gushing Indus river. There were lot of monasteries along the way, was keen as to when can I visit those. We had our breakfast at Upshi village , had the best parathas. Issues started arising once the car started its vertical ascent. Two members of the group have now started feeling dizzy and headache. These are some of the initial symptoms that things are not right. We reached Tso moriri just to find that things are worsened. Entry to Tso moriri requires two inner line permits , done by the driver and at the end requires entry permit at the army camp at the beginning of the lake. Army camps are allover Leh ladakh and its a pride and privilege to meet the soldiers protecting our borders at extreme conditions. We entered the village and booked hotel dolphin for Rs 2500 for 6 ppl. The room was quiet spacious and directly facing the lake. There is a lot of camp stay along the lake, if you wish to book there too. The conditions of two travel members were further deteriorating, this was a tense moment. We quickly rushed both to the army camp to provide them with some medical aid. Army advised that the travel plan was wrong, and moriri should not have been visited within two days. Pain killers and Diamox was given and asked to take rest. Rest of the four members decided to have lunch and we had local chapati and egg omelette. Its amazing to have lunch as fresh as directly being served from the chula , nothing serves the stomach better than this. The lady cook was quiet old and she was helped by her grand daughter to help up prepare lunch. The condition of two of our colleagues has now further worsened and they were quickly taken again to the army camp. The army doctor put them on oxygen but it was advised to get out of here quickly( to a lower altitude) to have some sort of normal oxygen. We had to take some quick decision , so after just a small glance over Tso Moriri it was time to bid goodbye. The amount paid to Hotel dolphin was forfeited, a loss of Rs 2500, but here lives are more important. It was already 5 pm in the evening and our driver Nima suggested that reaching Leh would not be possible and we might need to halt in some nearby village to Leh. With the hope of reaching back to Leh, we quickly packed our bags and started our journey back. As always mentioned about the helpful nature of ladakhis , Nima drove no stop for 8 hours so we could reach Leh by 1 am. Reaching Our house was like heaven, as if we have reached some hospital. All were tensed about the next day, hence all slept off quickly.

Day 3: It was pre decided that we will be taking an off that day after Moriri trip. Everybody got up in the morning considering its a rest day. Both our companions were now feeling better. We were lazing around the day, with the guilt that this was something which should have been done in the first. Followed by morning breakfast at the hotel, we had afternoon lunch at the German bakery, and again more rest. The evenings were for shopping, so we had the Leh market to look out for. Apart from the front stores in the market, there are much better stores behind them. All the best stores for clothes and accessories. Again dinner at the German bakery, the best food in town. Both dinner and lunch cost us around Rs. 800-900 , ample food for around 6 people. In the meanwhile we also booked bikes from Ladakh bike rentals charges around 1100 per day per bike. The bikes were in good condition Royal Enfield classic 2016 bikes, so it was a good deal. These are the average prices of bikes throughout Leh. Fortunately since it was an off season we didn’t have to pay for the deposit money. We took three bikes; all are really exited to begin the journey. All returned home with a strong belief to travel to Kargil, all are charged up before dozing off to sleep.

Day 4: All got up in positive spirit, charged up visit the place where all the action happned- Kargil/ Drass. One important information Kargil is a district and Drass is the exact location where the kargil war was fought. All got up quickly with the aim to visit the place where it all started at kargil. To pay homage to our warrior protecting the country, all had decided to dress us in military pants and caps. As two of the members are still not in great health condition, we decided to first visit the governement hospital., S N M HOSPITAL. It’s a clean hospital with the best facilities available. The doctor checked both our members and advised them to have oxygen and it would be fine. As one team members was still feeling dizzy, we started out our journey to kargil. Petrol was filled at the pump in Leh and its best adviced to do so, though no need to carry extra filled cans. The toad to kargil is amazing neat clean roads , the NH1 well maintained by the BRO( border road organization). The first point on the way is the hall of fame war museum, a must watch place in Leh. All the important information about the war, our military personnel, basic military information, the local flora and fauna of Leh along with the basic history of the place explained. It also has the shaurya sthal , remembrance of the soldiers who laid down the lives for the country. We left from here to find the next destination, Gurudwara pathar saheb, should be unarguably a gurudwara at the highest altitude at 11k. The entire gurudwara is maintained by the Army. We had the opportunity to join the Langar. We thanked the almighty god and left for our way ahead to kargil. We are still lagging behind schedule, as it was already afternoon and it gets darker quickly. On the was the Magnetic hill, as described, the place posses anti gravity defying properties. Since we were on bikes, hence couldn’t get the opportunity to get the hands on experience of the effect. But there were lot of cars placed in to the boxes marked to check the effect. We could actually see cars moving, was amazing to see it. It’s also the best place to take some amazing pictures.. its just beautiful. It was time to move further ahead as time was moving quickly. On the way is also moonland, which resembles the surface of the moon another amazing place for photography lovers. We then encountered the highest pass in the Leh Srinagar road, Fortu la at 13479 feet. Its quiet cold and breezy very difficult to stay there for long. After a quick photography session we moved as it was now getting darker. The bikes has now gained more momentum as we now reached to reach kargil at the earliest, but as the same time its getting darker. Now it’s turned darker, and we are just relying on the bike lights to have any vision of the road. It’s now getting frightening as there are no villages to be seen in the distant sight. Finally, there is a village to be seen named Wakha wadoo around 35 km before kargil. We halted here to have dinner, as usual we had veg soup and paratha, quiet economical one. We decided to stay back in the village as it was dangerous to travel that late to kargil. We stayed back at Jaan guest house, got an entire big room for Rs 500. Was comfortable for 4 people with all the warm bed sheets and attached bathroom. Definitely would have charged us more if we were to stay in Kargil. It as a correct decision to stay back and we decided to get up early in the morning and start our journey as quickly as possible.

Day5: We started early morning with kargil in mind, to visit the place long awaited. We reached kargil , though some part of the roads were really bad. Kargil was as beautiful as mentioned, the entire city looks green surrounded by beautiful pine trees and around the Suru river. We took a small break at kargil for breakfast at a small bakery shop. We had tea and khari biscuits to refresh our self. Then we moved ahead to Drass where the Kargil war memorial is located. The war memorial is not located exactly at Drass but around 15 km before reaching Drass. The Indian flag is be seen

As you move in closer to the war memorial, there are two adjacent hills marked as Tololing and Kargil vijay divas. Every year during the kargil vijay divas, there are functions held here with honorary dignitaries visiting the place. All the war ammunition used during the war is placed here which includes the Bofors , one of the important reasons for willing the kargil war. There were Swedish made with Improvisation done by the arms factory Nasik. The Bofors were able to pinpoint at the bunker with precision. The name of the martyr of the wars are inscribes on the wall guarded by a soldier. The Manoj Pandey gallery has all the history of the war maintained within it. All the captures weapons from the Pakistan army s displayed here, along with the igloo tent. Don’t miss to attend the military personnel having a quick brief of the war, it’s around 45 minutes. All the minute details of the wars is being explained by him, something which fills our heart with pride of how courageous the wound warriors mush have fought the war under extreme conditions. There are also war memorabilia; you can purchase war memorial T-shirts and caps. It was already afternoon and we decided to move back to Leh. With a great sense of pride and with our salutations to the army personnel, we left from Drass. Kargil was the first spot on the way and we filled in the bullets, almost full tank around Rs 800 each bullet. We crossed Kargil as we were not much hungry. The next stop was Mulbekh, where we decided to have lunch. We has a simple lunch here (Paratha and Rice) and moved ahead to Leh. It was sort of raining in the distant parts , hence we decided to move on quickly fast, we didn’t want to get drenched in the icy cold water. As we has already stopped by while going to Kargil at Fortu-La, we skipped stopping by while going back to Leh. Thankfully there were no further rains, and we stopped by to have Tea at our next spot, Lamayaru at Hotel Shangri-La. After having tea and Maggie we left from Lamayaru, the next stop was our destination, Leh no stopping in between as it was getting darker. Finally we reached Leh by 8:00 pm with all the wonderful memories from Kargil war memorial, all charged up for the next day’s trip. As our favorite spot was the German bakery, we headed there had our dinner and planning for the next day to Diskit. The feeling to travelling up to 18k feet was terrifying at the same time challenging, all went back to our guest room to have a good night sleep.

Day 6 : All are tired now and started a bit late by 8 am, one of the biggest mistake .The plan was to return back from Diskit the same day, for which we had to start by6 am. Please always start any journey at 6 am. We had our breakfast at Dogra wet canteen that would b Maggie and tea. The owner mentioned that it would not be possible to come back on the same day as the roads are a bit dangerous. The roads to Kargil was smooth and asphalted, but the roads to Khardungla are not, may be initially for a few kilometers , then the roads are just hilly off roads. Hence the bikes need to be driven very carefully. As we ascent, we can see the snow clad mountains and if you are lucky enough some wildlife , we were lucky enough to see a herd of deer pass by descent the mountains. ON the way is south pullu a stop before khardungla. The ride is too tiresome and it’s just Khardungla in your mind, the only motivation for riding ahead. Finally you see the dream destination on every Biker, the mighty Khardungla standing tall at 18380 Feet. The sense of pride reaching there is unbelievable, as if something is achieved in life. All are indulged in photography quickly as you can’t be at this place for more than 20 min as the oxygen level is too low. We have the army there for any help to the tourist, in case of any medical emergency. There are landslides happening all the time, hence plan your travel carefully, at times it might take hours to clear the roads. It’s time to move ahead for Diskit, enroute to the village Khardung. We stopped for lunch at around 2 pm in Khardung village, with the decision of not to move ahead to Diskit as it would not be possible to reach Diskit and return back in Leh the same day. It was a tough decision as we didn’t want to miss out on the cold desert and the double humped camel safari. With a heavy heart, we returned back to Leh, though if his decision was made earlier we could have reached Leh much earlier, but that is how in Leh it is .You have to take decisions as per the situations ,as everything Is not in your hands. While on the way back we visited the Leh Monastery to seek divine blessings.

Day 7 : We have all planned to travel the most awaited destination of the entire trip, Pangong lake. All got up early and we planned to move as scheduled. On the way is the famous Ranchos School, the timings of the school are from 9-5, and we have reached early, so couldn’t find someone to guide us, but we made it on our own to look around the place. Just went back to the scenes shot for “Three Idiots”. We moved on to have our breakfast at Karu, the first stop to Pangong where the road gets bifurcated to Pangong and Tsomoriri. All the restaurants are good and cheap, ideal time to have a lip smacking paratha. Post breakfast, we moved on and on the way is the Shay Monetary. There are some green patch with lots of Yaks to look out for. We halted a bit at Zingral to take a quick break, before we take on the Changla pass. The roads are offroads, except for some roads which are asphalted, thanks to the Himank division of the BRO for maintaining the roads. The Changla peak is at an altitude of 17586 ft, and the lack of oxygen can be felt at this place. As generally advised, its better not to stay at this place for a longer period. There is a cafeteria at the top which served hot Maggie and all the general refreshments, advised to have some before you take the next trip ahead. Also take the divine blessings of the Changla baba for a safe journey ahead. On the way we interacted with some of the laborers who were maintaining the roads, really tough work under this climatic conditions. Their life was in turmoil and pain but were overcoming all the hardships to maintain the roads, for the army vehicles to pass by, thus contributing in their way to help the nation. As we moved on further ahead, the natural beauty was just breath taking. It was feeling awesome to ride the bike, the cool breeze and the breathtaking scenery. One of the mountains were filled with Yaks and amazing view, never seen before followed by wild horses and donkeys. Lot of sheep on the way, as white as I could have ever seen full of fur. As we were nearing the lake the roads are now getting a bit worse, its water clogged now. We have to be very careful while driving else our bikes could also topple off in to the mud filled water. So just followed one of the cars to understand the roads, and raced off behind it. There are also pebbled in the ditch, making the bikes to skid off easily. We asked the pillions to walk off and the riders followed the cars just following the tyres and crossed some 2-3 ponds in the same way. Pressure was on us to reach the lake as early as possible before the sunset, to have a clear view of the lake and have the best photography possible, and finally we made it to the lake after riding some 230 odd kms. It was indeed tiring, but the view of the lake had made it for all. We quickly took some snaps roamed around the place and had all the fun in the world by just being at this place, it was just like a lifetime achievement. The next part was to quickly find a hotel accommodation, we finalized the “Pangong kitchen” who offered a tent stay for Rs.800, it was connected to the hotel so we could also have the dinner there. The room was not thermal proof, just a make shift tent, but that was enough for us, considering the fact that we had all the warm clothing’s with us. It was now time for Dinner and which always started with soups and other stuff mostly Chinese etc. As the dinner was coming to an end , the place was getting much colder, so we quickly moved in to the rooms to pull over the heavy blankets on us. It was really really cold, nobody even managed to get up or walk around to watch the beautiful full moon light, as we had to be all prepared to get up again in the next morning and leave the place as early as possible.

Day 8 : We slept well through the chilly night and woke up early to have a quick move back to Leh. It was 6 in the morning and we are already feeling dizzy to move ahead, felt like sleeping here for years. So we made a move quickly only to encounter innumerable challenges like icy cold weather and roads. All the roads which had small ponds had now turned in to a ice skating arena. Riding the bike over it was challenging, you have to maneuver the bike very carefully, as the chances of the bike skidding are quiet high. With the name of the almighty lord, the bike was raced in high accelerator and we crossed the water stream. It felt like swimming the English channel, some sort of a remarkable feat. The next sopt was a small restaurant at Durbuk where we had our breakfast. Quickly move on to catch up with the ChangLa pass and then reached Karu by 4 pm to have a peaceful afternoon meal (Rs 500 approx). The drive had taken a toll on us and the only aim was to reach Leh and have a long nap. The feeling of reaching from leh was like reaching Mumbai. It was a sort of a big accomplishment, something which we had passed through with flying colors. In the evening we returned our bikes to Tashi, without any scratched to our bellowed baby .It was time to have the last dinner at Leh and nothing better than the German bakery with some awesome pastry. The dinner tasted the best ,it has the entire adventure sprinkled over it along with our passion and dedication to complete the trip.We reached home, thanked our Owner Mr Khan for his cooperation during our stay. He still has invited to go for the Chadder trek next year …which is still in our minds. Our flight was next morning at 7 and he advised to get as early as possible so the checkin process will be easy.

Day 9: All got up at 5 , moved out at 5:30am thanks to Mr khan who had arranged a cab for us. This is the beauty of the people in Leh , they will hep you out under any circumstances. We reached the airport and it was crowded as mentioned. There are people shouting at the counters for extra baggage money, one interesting rule in Leh is to put your bag in checkin and again identify your bags once your security check is done, something never seen in any of the airports. This is something which takes ample amount of the time, sometimes there is a feeling that you might even miss the flight its that close, but in the end all goes well. The flight back home was truly emotional, there was something in that place which was binding us to get back , so with a hope to return back some time we boarded the flight with a heavy heart.

This trip will truly be one of the best adventure tripe I have done in my life and will cherish it throughout my lifetime.

I would be happy to answer all you questions, so for any query mail me as jitheshpanicker@gmail.com

Till then

Happy travelling

Additional information:

Reliable Bike Rentals Shops in Leh

1. Gurmat Namgial: 09419980089 (Ladakh Bike Rental) : You can refer my name or DoW to him. Very down to earth guy, knows me well, clicks some really nice photos too ... The office is located at Changspa road .(Ladakh Bike Rental, Tsavo complex, opposite hotel zambala inn Changspa.)

2. Rinchen Olthang Runs Apex Adventure for bike rentals in Leh. You can contact them at: +91-9622975375, +91-9419218233

3. Tsering Norboo/Some Adventures - 09906994949, 9697814545

Tips while riding the Bike :

§ Since you will be traveling or riding a lot almost every day in your Ladakh trip, on an average 7-8 Hrs per day, it is very important that you as well as your pillion are comfortable with such long rides together and do not complain about such long distances of travel. So, endurance and passion levels has to be high.

§ You have a very good condition of the bike that will not ditch you in the middle of no-where when put load on it and also enough power in bike, at least 150 cc, though preferable is 180+, so that your pillion does not need to get down at every other steep turn or rough patch which will be in abundance and then you asking him/her to run after bike on such high altitude with less acclimatized body

§ You carry as light luggage as possible or just enough to complete the 10-11+ ride to Ladakh may be in a single pair of jeans or riding jacket. Balance it out for you and carry only enough what is required bare minimum to reduce the load and increase every millimetre of comfort … While riding within Ladakh to places like Pangong Tso or Nubra Valley, better drop all the unnecessary luggage at the hotel/guest house store room in Leh itself to shed more load for some days at least.

§ You need to also judge your own size as well as the size of your pillion to understand if you guys fit enough well without suffocating the bike power in plains as it will surely suffocate to an extent in Himalayas especially in high altitude. May be go for a test ride of 200+ KMs a day with it to get a feel of it before your Ladakh trip

§ Last but not the least, you have all the skills of maintaining the balance of bike on slippery roads, gushing water crossings, slush stretches, control on curves as your pillion moves, etc.. with a pillion sitting at your back with all that luggage you can imagine …

Checklist to carry apart from normal stuff , common stuff to be discussed during meeting:

1. Itinerary Printout (at least 2)/ / Map Print Out with all members

2. Bag locks (2 or more).

3. Small Scissor / swiss Knife

4. Power bank

5. Hand Sanitizer (Dettol, Lifebuoy)

6. Match Boxes or Flint or Cigarette Lighter

7. Multi-Plug

8. Jacket for bike riding.

9. Thermals with socks

10.Woolen sweater with monkey caps and normal caps

11.Good pair shoes

12.Medical kit(combifam./paracetamol/roko Entroquinol /crocin/ pain Relief Spray Pain Relief Cream or Gel/Betadine – Antiseptic cream/Savlon or Dettol /Avomine – Relief from Dizziness, Motion Sickness and Vomiting/Digene /Zinetac 150mg – Acidity or gastric problems /Eno Sachets /D-Cold Total or Vicks Action 500 for cold/ Pudin Hara for stomachache.

13.Torch and candles

14. Photo identification (pancard /election card)

15. Energy drinks (gluconD)

16. Eating items (Maggie)

17.water purification pills

18.SPF sunscreen lotions(in sept UV light is high)

19.Balaclava(cowering the entire face)


21.Hand Gloves

22.Thin single bed sheet

23.ORS or ORS-L Tetra Packs

24.Candies, chocolates, books, pens, pencils, crayons etc. anything to distribute among the local children(from common fund)

25. Oxygen Cylinder (Portable)


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