. This is a discussion on The Great Himalayan Expedition on Motorbikes within The Voyage Junction. Part of The Rev Zone category; SR is in the process of making the travelogue in an elaborate way.
So here are some few inputs from ...
SR is in the process of making the travelogue in an elaborate way.
So here are some few inputs from my side...
Travelogue (Episode 1)
The great Himalayan Expedition on motorbikes
The Riders and their rides
Raghuram (AR Ram)– Bajaj Pulsar 150 Dtsi, 2006 model and done 66000 kms
Dr Rajeev Ram (smooth rider) (Dept. of Respiratory Medicines, Pariyaram Medical College)
RE Himalayan. Model: 2016. Kms: 1000
Adv Suresh Kumar
RE Bullet Classic, Model: 2016. Kms: 1000
Mr Satheesh Kumar (Agriculture Officer, Govt. of Kerala)
RE Bullet Classic. Model: 2016. Kms: 10000
All the odo readings are noted before the journey started
How the idea of expedition to Himalayas by motorbike popped up in mind?
Three years back, we three of us, me, Dr Rajeev and Adv Suresh have made a trip to Himalayan Ranges in our Car and SUV. I was driving my Skoda Octavia and Dr Rajeev with his Mahindra Bolero with Suresh. Though we had done the trip in different months, I had to terminate my trip at Manali due to heavy snow fall, where in, they did the entire circuit as the weather conditions were not in adverse situation.
During our drive in those terrains, we were witnessing lot of bikers from all of the country and abroad were making adventure rides and we felt these ways we could make ourselves more exhilarated, or probably the lain dormant bikers in us were awakening. We felt the hustles and bustles of such rides will be more exciting than driving a car with the heaters or air cons on; restricting the opportunity to feel the roads and the weather directly.
These are the key factors influenced us to plan for this expedition.
Follow these links for more details of our previous trip...
As the days gone by, we were going through various websites and travel forums etc to research more on destinations, weather conditions, road conditions and predominantly the best time to travel; merging together with our own ideas gained from our previous experience, we concluded September is the most suitable time to make a trip to Himalayas.
I personally went to Payyangadi, near to Kannur where Dr Rajeev and Adv Suresh live, sometime in January 2014 to make a final touch on trip planning. We had an open discussion at Dr Rajeev’s residence in the presence of Adv Suresh; and the earlier plan was to have the ride from Kanyakumari to Sikkim, Bhutan and Nepal. Unfortunately, I was mentally disturbed little as my car broke down at Kannur and got stranded on the way for almost ten days. But things were rectified then with a loss of almost Rs 1.5 lakhs on damages and repairs. However our enthusiasm to travel has never been affected. In the circumstances then prevailing, we were almost sure that the plan is expected to come on stream as the way we wanted it to be. In addition to all the parameters exist in a trip like this; we have been managing the barricades likely to be there from family side, apart from the political issues from different states those are en route the journey. It took nearly two years for us to have a firm plan on this expedition, and finally took off to a different direction - “The Great Himalayan Expedition on motorbikes”, covering Leh-Ledakh region instead of North-eastern states, Bhutan and Nepal.
Birth of “The Great Himalayan Expedition on motorbikes”
On 1st August 2016 at 3 pm Dr Rajeev had sent an SMS to my mobile that the tickets have been booked on a train to Delhi for 5th September 2016 for four of us and we got to send our bikes by train to Delhi two days prior to our journey. It was really an unexpected message to me, and I had to rush up with things as the time left is only a month. The trip duration was curtailed as well, against the plan we had earlier to start from Kanyakumari; thus making them more practical in their leave planning by reducing at least by ten days.
I responded in a positive manner and the biker in me was born again after a short break.
Restoring and making my 10 years old Pulsar fit for the terrains and expedition.
Though I keep my bike in pristine condition as much as possible, I had to take additional care to make sure for a hassle free ride during the expedition. I had to replace the tyres with MRF all terrain tubeless tyres, more suitable for off road riding, auxiliary projector lights, ports for GPS navigation system and mobile charging, brackets for GPS device and other worn-out parts like chain & sprockets etc. Procuring the essential riding gears from online stores was another task at a short time.
As two of my co-riders had their bikes new from showroom they had to complete only the first service; and Satheesh’s bike was seasoned already as it had completed 10000 kms in its odo and not old as well.
“The key factors hidden in accomplishing the mission; for obtaining the mandatory consents from the respective home affairs had made a big hole in my co-rider’s pockets...ha..haa.... Thanks for their arduous efforts”
Everything was right in its place in trip planning and everyone of us had received their essential riding gears like amour-jackets, winter jackets, rain jackets, riding gloves, knee protectors, saddle bags and bungee cords etc etc from online stores.
For taking the inner line permit from Manali for passing through Rothang Pass and further, we had given the task to an agent at Manali and got it done four days prior to our journey.
Booking the bikes to Delhi by train
After completing all the necessary repairs and modifications on my bike, on September 3rd I had taken it to Palakkad railway station to book to Delhi, but to my disappointment I couldn’t book it as I was told that it may take more days for them to dispatch the bike as already a massive pile-up of bikes are there waiting for dispatch due to Onam holidays. After me explaining my situation and urgency to the booking staff they honestly suggested to book it from Shoranur railway station so that it can go faster and on time as the trains from there go through the Konkan rail route and number of trains is more as well.
Thanks to my friend Harinarayanan who was with me all thru the process and helped me in packing the bike at Shoranur for the dispatch.
My friends too had booked their bikes from Kannur to Delhi on the same day.
5th September 2016, the D-Day
The trip was totally adventure packed and was a real test of endurance, stamina and navigational skills.
More to come and stay tuned for the next episode...
__________________ Thank you - AR Ram
Born to Drive -- Expect the Unexpected!!!
Last edited by AR Ram; 14th October 2016 at 09:36 AM.
‘My mobile alarm clock struck four in the morning, the final count down had clocked zero already and the Sun just had risen, and there I was on the day we picked up and the day will go into my history books as our personal D-Day; 5th of September 2016.’
Well, I had packed all the necessary clothes, riding gears, tool-kits and all other essentials into the saddle bags, duffle bag and my camera Nikon D5200 in the magnetic tank bag and kept them all ready on the previous night itself and made sure nothing is left forgotten.
The preventive vaccines for Typhoid and Pneumonia were already administered a fortnight back as per the instruction from my friend Dr Rajeev – as you know, if one of the riders is affected by something, it will affect the whole team and perhaps, end up in calling off the complete activities further; we wanted to avoid such eventualities rather.
I had booked my train ticket on Train No.22610, Intercity express to Kannur from Palakkad and the distance from my home town to Palakkad railway station is 30 kms. My brother-in-law was kind enough to drop me at the railway station in his car. The train was to leave at 7.30 am and we reached well before time. My sister also accompanied us till the station (perhaps they might have thought – this fellow is crazy and he may not come back alive...ha...haa) “Jokes apart”, unexpectedly the train was on time and there again my friend Harinarayanan came to the station to send me off. I didn’t know whether he also thought the similar way, but ‘Yes’ he did, he confirmed it after me came back. I consoled myself saying ‘I am beyond anybody’s thought’.
After 5 hours of train journey I got down at Kannur station. My friends were to join me at the station at 3 pm even though our onward train (Train No.12617) to Hazrat Nizamuddin was at 16.55 hrs. But there was a last minute change in program, they called up and told they would board the train at Payyangadi another 20 minutes ahead. I had my lunch at a restaurant in the station itself and was waiting for our train. Though it was quite boring, I enjoyed seeing the activities of the people at the station – the girl sitting before me was busy breaking her pimples on her face using her mobile cam (front camera) as a mirror, and so many interesting activities had taken away my time till the arrival of train.... I found mobile phones are the busiest equipments in today’s world; and from the railway station I learnt from the youngsters the different applications and uses of smart phones.
As the time passed by, our train arrived at Platform No.1, as usual late, but only by half an hour, well-within the permitted limit of Indian Railways and our 2nd AC coach was almost in the back of the train – this forced me to walk with all the baggage till end of the platform, anywhere beyond half a kilometer. Again I concluded in my mind ‘the adventure started already’....and one needn’t have a bike for it.
I boarded the train of course with all the baggage, and the story inside the coach was different. Thanks to Indian Railways, we were allotted 4 seats/berths on one side of the coach where absolutely no breeze from the AC vent, where in on the opposite side the breeze was almost in the freezing point. Meantime the train reached Payyangadi station and my other friends also boarded the train. Ever since I came to know about the late running of the train I was making them updated ‘as a part of time passes’.
Well, now we have to solve the AC issue inside the coach and as a first attempt we thought to make a complaint with TTR. His immediate response was very interesting – ‘this is an old coach’. I was puzzled for a second and gone blackout – an old coach with the new fare? Difficult to digest and thought to fight for the right.... meantime the technician came and rectified the faults.
It’s the journey of almost 43 hours and the coach was only half full allowing us to change seats for a change. I found a unique way to kill time – stopped every food vendor and bought the stuff from them and I am sure I might be highest individual revenue contributor to IRCTC for the trip. ‘Even on the last day of the journey every vendor used to come fast and apply a sudden brake when they reach near my seat’. Thanks to ‘insulin’ I carried with me.
Ultimately, the train reached at Nizamuddin station on 7th September at 1.30pm almost one and a half hours behind schedule. Our friend and co-rider Satheeshkumar’s friend who is an IG in Delhi had come to the station to receive us with two cars. Our accommodation was booked by him at ‘Van Vigyan Bhawan’ a government guest house. First we had moved to the guest house and after freshened up we came back to the station to collect the bikes. The bikes were there already in the godown and after completing the formalities we took delivery and rode off to the guest house. As we wanted to start our journey early in the morning we filled up the fuel tanks on the way.
After a brief partying at the guest house, we went out for a dinner at ‘Barbeque Nation’. This delightful eatery is the ultimate contemporary Indian Restaurant with a great and relaxed ambience.
It was almost midnight by the time we reached back at the guest house. The packing process was already completed and we were ready to hit roads in the early morning.
Only few hours left and the countdown started for “The Great Himalayan Expedition on motorbikes”
More to come and stay tuned for the next episode with breathtaking pictures.
__________________ Thank you - AR Ram
Born to Drive -- Expect the Unexpected!!!
8th September, 2016 – the flag off day of our bike expedition fiesta
After partying and dinner celebrations we had time left only for a short nap, we set 5 am, the time to start from the guest house and hit the roads. Every one of us possesses the unique orientations and abilities, giving least chance for apprehensions, fears or any other concerns of similar kind – as this were our maiden adventure trip on motorbikes. We could see amongst ourselves a high level of energy and enthusiasm in accomplishing our missions effortlessly.
As per others request before crashing to sleep, I took the responsibility of waking all up at half past three in the morning (I love doing that everyday, anyway). Our excitement had overridden the fatigue or physical exertion due to late night sleep.
We checked out at 5 am from the guest house, it took nearly thirty minutes for us to fix the baggage on our respective bikes and made ourselves ready to start off. The GPS navigation device was fitted on my bike and I initialized myself as a pilot to lead the convoy.
Yes, the security personnel of the guest house volunteered himself to flag off the convoy; and we did hit the road exactly on schedule. In the morning, traffic intensity was too low, my navigation system was so precise and I was cruising at 70 kmph followed by others, as an expert on Delhi city roads, though not. Almost in 45 minutes we were out of city limits and on Chandigarh highway. The destination we set was Manali, a distance of 550 kms on NH44. Leaving apart the regular and usual traffic on highways, the cruise was otherwise comfortable and hassle free and interestingly no deliberate harassment by ‘XYZ’. Later we found the adventure bikers are considered as legitimate and treated with all due respect by all.
During the ride we were maintaining a visible distance among ourselves. After covering a distance of almost 95 kms, we reached Panipet and had our first journey break for breakfast. So far the weather was good and comfortable so as the roads too. We were wearing all protective gears and jackets and assured, nothing was left for chance.
After breaking the fast at a Dhaba with some yummy and spicy food we continued our ride. Before we started, once again we made sure that everything was intact on bikes just as the way we started from the guest house.
The ride was going on and on, unlike cars the top speed we achieved was only 100 kmph on a safe stretch. We passed Chandigarh sometime in the afternoon after intermittent stops on the way.
After a while we had entered the Himlayan ranges and time was running out to have our lunch. As the baggage was tied on the bikes we needed to park them on a visible and secured place at the dhaba or restaurant. Around 2 pm after the fuel top-up we had stopped at a dhaba before Bilaspur for lunch.
We started again at 3 pm and after a couple of hours riding, the road condition was progressively deteriorating; forced us to move at a speed of 20 to 30 kmph. Soon after we crossed Barmana it started raining heavily. We never anticipated rain on the day when we started the journey in the morning from Delhi and no rain protective cover was tied over the baggage, nor we were wearing our rain jackets. We had no other option but to park the bikes under a shed and wait for the rain to stop.
Oh hell! We lost almost 90 minutes on the road due to rain; we started again, the rain water had made the road condition from bad to worst and totally gone haywire. Foreseeing the jeopardizing situation ahead we decided to abort journey for the day. We were only a few kilometers away from Sundernagar by then; started searching for a hotel to stay back and leave early in the morning. Finally, we got a fairly good accommodation in Sudernagar town itself and after the dinner we retired for the day.
Since we were already 130 kms behind the target of the day, we decided to start as early as possible in the morning. We were to collect our permits those were kept ready by the agent at Manali and cross Rothang Pass; a stream of heavy traffic is a regular occurrence on Manali – Rothang Pass stretch.
More adventures – More pictures: Stay tuned for the next episode
the travel in the train was pretty boring. we had nothing to do.when ever we got net connection we wattsapped messages to our friends and family. one incident we had in the train saddened us. we were in the outskirts of mumbai when two kids about 12 yrs old came into our compartment. we had just finished our non veg lunch. one of the boys looked longingly at the leftover of chicken bones i had in my hands and asked me for it. i was shocked he tried to get the plate from me. i forbade him. i then asked the catering guy to give them a non veg lunch each. but alas the non veg lunch was over hence they were given veg.
during our lunch break on the first day we saw few bikers in the dhaba. they came over to us and chatted. the first lot of mallu bikers we met in the circuit. they had flown in from gulf and rented bikes in delhi. they were going up to rohtang la and back. we wished each other a safe ride and they vroomed onto the busy highway. we met them later at rohtang
Amid the dooms and glooms prevailed in the skies and on grounds last night, the weather was looking pretty good in the dawn and there was no prediction of rain in the weather forecast.
All of us were adherent on starting in early hours, and as decided in last night, woke up at 5am, and got ready for the day’s adventure. We checked out from the hotel at 6 am, fastened our baggage on bikes and were on roads at 6.30 am. Though the skies were very clear we still were deeply skeptical, it might rain cats and dogs like previous day, hence we covered our baggage with rain covers, as well worn our rain jackets. Last evening Dr Rajeev called up the agent who kept the permits ready and reassured that we would have it collected before 10 am at Manali.
Though the distance was only 131 kms to Manali it took nearly 4 hours to reach there because of Ghats, winding roads and dangerous curves, however the roads were very smooth. When we crossed the 3 kms Aut tunnel on Chandigarh – Manali highway, we recalled the memories of our previous trips on four wheelers. This tunnel has become notorious on media and its here
After a smooth ride of 4 hours we reached Manali at 10.30 am. Doctor once again called up the agent and we were asked to wait near the market. After sometimes he called requested us to come to another spot from where the road starts to Rothang Pass. The fee for the permit was Rs 300/- per bike plus the agent’s commission. Having collected the permits we moved little further and stopped at a restaurant for breakfast. The time then was almost 11 am. I just went to the backyard of restaurant and it was the first time I saw apple trees with fruits in them; we could only see the trees during our last visit due to off season.
Around 11.45 am we left the place after the breakfast and it took about 30 minutes to reach the check-post where we had to produce the permits for verification and to take the rides further. There were already few people waiting at the counter; we completed the process in 20 minutes and continued the journey.
When our ride was progressing, we found tremendous changes in geographical features of the land, landscapes and weather conditions etc. given us a unique experience in biking. Clumps of boulders are at large on both sides of winding roads with deceptive and blind curves.
Rothang La/Rothang Pass is 52 kms away from Manali with an altitude of 13050 feet.
The Pass is open for tourists from May to November under normal conditions. It is not particularly high or difficult to cross on foot/vehicle by Himalayan standards, but it has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards.
We stopped on the way for a short while to capture pictures of the wonderful valley and the river Beas flows beside it. Around 2 pm we reached Rothang La. On the previous day during the lunch break we met few bikers from Kerala at the Restaurant and to our surprise we met them again at the Pass; few pictures were taken with them.
We spent about half an hour there and then continued the ride. The roads ahead were miserable with absolutely no tarmac on the surface, but with loose soil and tiny boulders for a long distance.
Since we munched our breakfast little late in the morning, we were not ravenous rather, however we were drinking lots of water on every break we stopped to capture pictures.
Besides, we had slowed down the speed to a snail’s pace as we were passing through the toughest terrains. Riding after dusk in the extreme cold conditions will be a potential source of danger and we wanted to avoid it, experiencing the weather conditions prevailed there. Meanwhile we had to pass couple of water crossings on the way (glacial melts from the glaciers flows on the road without a bridge and it requires riding skill to negotiate such fast-flowing streams); thus making ourselves much more than us on riding skills, on acclimatization and temperature adaptations.
At 4 pm, we reached a place called Sissu on Lahoul and Spiti Valley. It’s a small town situated on the banks of Chandra River with an altitude of 10235 feet above sea level.
We stopped at a restaurant by name ‘Aliyas’ for a late lunch. Bread and Omelet were the items in the menu those could be served in short time; so we opted for them with lemon tea.
Again the same riders’ team whom we met at Manali and Rothang Pass reached this place and on seeing us, they stopped and joined us for the tea.
We started after 45 minutes and the ride continued. As the Sun disappeared at the horizon and daylight faded, the temperature was dropping to low degrees rapidly and riding became a nightmare, it was inevitable for us to find an accommodation for the night stay.
We found some Tent Accommodations on the way when we reached a village little before Jispa at about 7 pm. We stopped there to have a look of it and finalized the deal as the ambience found were OK with us. Every tent was having a bedroom with a toilet attached to it. That was a different experience for us altogether. We had untied the baggage from the bikes and moved in to the tents. After having tea, we ordered for the dinner and given instructions to make it ready by 10 pm.
Jispa is situated at an altitude of 10500 feet above sea level, 20 kms away from Keylong along the Manali-Leh highway and the Bhaga River. The important towns/villages we passed through after we started from Sundernagar in the morning were Mandi, Kullu, Manali, Marhi, Rothang Pass, Gramphu, Kokhsar, Sissu, Tandi, Keylong and Jispa.
Leh–Manali Highway was designed, built and is maintained entirely by the Border Roads Organization (BRO) of Indian army. It is capable of supporting the heaviest of army vehicles.
Meantime the boys there offered us a special service – washing the bikes. Their words were so refreshing and their attitude so free of pretension; we handed over the keys to them and asked them to do the job.
The dinner was made ready on time and after a brief cocktail session and dinner we retired for the day.
We set the time 5 am to start the ride on the following day and the destination target was Leh.
Bikes found missing – tackled the situation, mountain sickness (AMS), first aid to the accident victim and much more to come
Stay tuned for the next episode...
__________________ Thank you - AR Ram
Born to Drive -- Expect the Unexpected!!!
Last edited by AR Ram; 18th October 2016 at 04:56 PM.
‘An autonomous decision to hand over the bike keys to the Nepali boys at the so called Tented Swiss Cottage Accommodation – there we were seized by a sudden fit of panic on the early hours of the day’
The alarm clock was set for 5 am and we were to wake up to that, instead the thundering beats of bullets did the job at 4 am; it was an unusual notice of panic attack. We got up from beds, came out of the tents and shocked to find – Adv Suresh’s bullet and Dr Rajeev’s Himalayan bikes were missing. For a moment we never knew what was happening there? We immediately alerted the watchman, and after his search he found the boys too were missing and he started consoling us saying – ‘they might have gone for a short ride and would come back soon’. It was rather difficult to believe his words; had no other option but to wait for sometime before we proceed to take action against them. However, our subconscious minds were whispering – they would be back soon, as they are young boys in their early twenties they might not have thought the offensive part of doing such a thing; though a fear persisted in us.
Again, after 45 minutes or so we heard the same thundering beats of bikes gradually were increasing and suddenly stopped. Yes, they were there! They switched off the engine at the gates then pushing the bikes inside to the parking lot. They were shocked to see us waiting there and mentally prepared to get our scolding. When they realized their mistakes, felt sorry and expressed to us, we also didn’t want to make further issue out of it. ‘Probably the bikers in them must have woken up in the night’
After wrecking havoc and chaos in the early hours we learned a lesson by trusting the boys and handing over the keys to them. ‘Interestingly, my 10 years old Pulsar was safe everywhere’.
When we got back to the tents, the alarm was ringing and we realized we were very much on time, and whatever happened prior, we treated them as a dream. The tea was served to us complimentary to compensate the horrific incidents occurred.
The day started with horrifying incidents and later carried out till the closure of the day...
Why we terminated our journey at Rumtse though our target destination was Leh? –read further...
We all set ourselves ready, fastened our baggage on bikes and hit the road at 6 am. Due to the freezing and numb-cold weather in the morning, we lost all feeling in our hands, despite layers of thermal-wears we were wearing. When the Sun made its first appearance, the daylight as a natural warmer made us little comfortable while riding. The roads were laid new with a smooth tarmac and riding was a breeze after the Sunrise. The flowing rivers, sweeping lawns, landscaped vistas and snowcapped mountains alongside were a real treat to eyes and vivid picturesque mountains views would be a heaven to any photography lover.
We had short break near Deepak Tal and captured few pictures.
After an hour of riding we stopped for a tea at a restaurant on the wayside near Bar-Lacha-La. We reached Serchu around 10.45 am and at the police check point we registered our names with the vehicle numbers; this was the second check point after we left from Jispa and the first one was at Darcha. We were entering to J&K state from Himachal Pradesh at Serchu. Before proceeding from there we had light refreshments from a restaurant.
The road condition had become extremely bad and it took a long time to reach Gata Loops which’s hardly 25 kms away from Serchu. We had to negotiate 21 hairpin bends within a distance of 7 kms, nevertheless to mention its steepness. This stretch was looking absolutely deserted except for the people engaged in road construction.
Another team of bikers from Kerala were on their way to Leh and one of the bikers while overtaking doctors’ bike, lost control and fell into a small stream on the side of the road, and bike over him. We all stopped our bikes and with the help of road workers available there, we lifted the bike and brought him to safety. He had minor injuries and since Dr Rajeev was carrying a first aid kit, he was given first aid immediately. Those bikers were riding all the way from Kerala and after their visit to Bhutan and Nepal’ they were going to Leh; hats off to them.
There are lots of speculations and rumors about Gata Loops, as this place is haunted by ghost. One of the travelers by name Vargis Khan had mentioned about this in his travelogue and these are the information I got from it through Internet.
The Ghost of Gata Loops
Gata Loops is a name that is unknown to everyone except for a few who have traveled on the Manali Leh highway. It is a series of twenty one hairpin bends that takes you to the top of the 3rd high altitude pass on this highway, Nakeela, at a height of nearly 16000 ft. People who do know the name Gata Loops know it because of its stunning location, breath taking scenery around it and the difficult ascent. But that is not all; there is also the ghost who haunts these loops that only a handful knows about.
During my last trip to Leh, we were staying at a camping site in Jispa. There were no other guests there and all the other tents except for the one that we were occupying were empty. It was slightly past 9 pm and my fellow traveler Shoaib had already gone to sleep after the day long journey from Manali to Jispa but despite being tired myself, I just could not get myself to sleep. I was standing outside our tent when I noticed that the kitchen was still open. I walked over and found the guy who was running the camp preparing a cup of tea for himself. He asked me if I would like to have some and I immediately said yes.
After comfortably settling down on a chair in the kitchen itself with a cup of tea in my hand, I stuck up a conversation with him just to kill some time. He proved to be quite a chatter-box himself and pretty soon was telling me almost everything about himself and the place, how cold it gets here, how he moves to Manali in winter and so many other things. And that’s when he asked me that question,
“Do you know about Gata Loops?” He asked while sipping down the tea.
“Yes I do, we will be crossing it tomorrow” I replied.
“No not that”, He started sounding mysterious, “Do you know about the ghost?”
“There is a ghost that lives there. The place is haunted”
“What?” I laughed, “Why would a ghost live there on the road, out there in the cold”
“It’s not his choice” He kept that serious tone and expression on his face, “He is bound to that place because his body is buried there”
“Really? Who was that poor fellow? Someone who thought that this place is scenic enough to die here, be buried and just be here forever?” My tone was still of a mocker.
“No, someone who was just unfortunate enough to get stuck on the road and ended up dead”
“Tell me about it” Now I sounded curious and he started telling me the tale of the trucker who died on the Gata loops.
Several years ago [he couldn’t tell me exactly how many years ago], it was late October when a truck with its two travelers, the driver and a cleaner, crossed Rohtang and moved on its way towards Leh. It had already started to snow at a few places and the driver was warned but he had no choice. He had a time-line and had to reach Leh which meant that it was too late for him to turn back and take the Srinagar Leh highway which was still comparatively safer. It was the last truck to cross Rohtang as it snowed heavily the very same evening at the top and the pass closed. Kunzum Pass was already closed weeks ago and there were no vehicle coming from Kaza as well which means that it was the last truck plying on Manali Leh highway. The driver managed to bring the truck safely all the way to Gata Loops but this is where disaster struck. On one of the loops, his truck broke down and came to a complete halt. After trying for hours, the driver couldn’t fix whatever was wrong with the vehicle. They waited and waited but no one crossed them by because they were the last vehicle on the route. So the driver decided to walk to a nearby village and get some help. Cleaner however was ill and not in a condition to walk. He was so terribly ill that he could barely stand up but what he was suffering from, our narrator couldn’t tell. To add to this, Truck was also loaded and could not be left abandoned with the cargo because of the risk of getting robbed hence the cleaner stayed back with the truck to guard it and also because he was in no condition to walk. The driver walked and walked for miles until he found a tiny village but alas, there was no mechanic there. He somehow managed to make a phone call to Manali to get someone to come and fix the truck but to his bad luck, while he was still waiting at the village, the weather closed in. It started to snow heavily and became impossible for the driver to get back to the truck. It took several days for the weather to clear and he was stranded in the village all this time. Finally help came from Manali and they all hurried back to Gata Loops, to the spot where the truck broke down only to find the cleaner dead. Poor chap was left alone on the road for several days in freezing temperature, in poor health, with no water and nothing to eat and eventually died of thirst, hunger and cold. The truck was fixed but it was impossible to drive it either to Leh or Manali because passes on both sides were closed. So the driver drove the truck to the village he was stranded in and waited there until it was possible to drive across Rohtang and return to Manali. The body of the cleaner was buried at Gata Loops by the villagers, right at the spot where he died. Next year when the highway reopened, people started noticing a strange thing. There was a beggar at Gata Loops who would waive at the passing vehicles to stop and begged them for water. Some people did not stop but the ones who did and offered the beggar some water saw the bottles drop right through his hands. The word spread and sure enough people were scared of the ghost who begged for water, thinking that it might harm them if they stopped or curse them if they didn’t. In order to pacify the ghost, the locals set up a small temple at the spot where he was buried and made offerings of water. Since then, whoever passes by and is aware of the story leaves some water at the temple, as an offering.
“Have you seen this ghost?” Was my question after the guy finished his story.
“Do you know anyone who has seen the ghost?”
“No but tomorrow when you cross Gata Loops, look out for a dump of water bottles. That is where the temple and the grave of the dead cleaner is”
So is the legend of the ghost of Gata loops where people still stop and make offerings of water. See the small enclosed cave like thing between the bottles, made by putting bricks together? There is a real human skull placed inside that. Next time you are on this highway, take a moment and check it out. - Courtesy Vargis Khan
__________________ Thank you - AR Ram
Born to Drive -- Expect the Unexpected!!!
Though personally I don’t give room for these kinds of speculations and superstitions, after reading the story a small amount of fear persists in my heart and probably if it happens to me to travel alone on this route again I would get a bit nervous, especially when I see the water bottles and the skull as well, at this isolated place. Let’s not go deeply into it.
Let me narrate an incident happened to me on this stretch. When I stopped for short while there to take few pictures, my other fellow riders who were coming behind overtook me and rode off. The gradients were extremely steep on those curvy roads with sandy surface, at one spot on a hairpin bend I was trying to shift the gear from third to first but fell on neutral and the bike came to a halt, I engaged both the brakes firmly, in spite of that bike was sliding backwards rapidly with the heavy baggage on top and nobody was there to help me out of that worst situation; somehow I managed to escape from the mishap. When I started explaining the incident to my co-riders later, doctor said he too had the same experience while negotiating another hairpin bend and somehow he managed from a fall. It was very strange that all of us, those incidents happened at the same place.
Mates, please make a note of these points.
If you get stranded in any of those roads, sometimes you may have to wait for a long while to get help, so it’s advisable to go in groups and travel at a visible distance.
Prepaid mobile SIMs won’t work in J&K state (for security reasons), so carry a postpaid SIM.
Mobile signals are very erratic mainly because of two reasons- Human settlements are isolated and scattered, hence less number towers, and secondly due to the geographical features of the land.
After Gata Loops we crossed two important passes and they were Nakee La and Lachalung La, we didn’t stop there to take pictures, as we were to take the same route on our return journey and thought of stopping on the way back.
Just before we reached Pung, we were passing through the most dangerous and scariest roads of the entire journey. That was the first time we, all of us felt AMS and the experience was totally bizarre. AMS is caused due to lack of oxygen in the atmosphere of high altitudes. Pung is situated at an altitude of 15280 feet above sea level and the view of unique looking soil formations on the mountain ranges was really mesmerizing.
Let me narrate to you how I felt? For a few seconds I was totally blacked out and the brain stopped functioning, not able to see, not able to feel or not able to sense anything and of course it was only for a moment. And this was happening very frequently until we crossed the complete stretch. I found little relief by taking deep breath during the ride; and the moment I stopped, I started getting the same experience.
After we crossed that scary stretch, we reached Pang and stopped near a restaurant. Firstly, we were taking rest for a while, and then had our late lunch; the time by then was 5 pm. We found out from the locals that the roads ahead were of good condition.
After covering 70 kms we crossed Thanglang La at an elevation of 17480 feet and then the plateau called Morey Plains (15400 ft) within an hour or so. Morey Plains are a well known stretch to most of the Himalayan travelers. It stretches over 35 kms on flat plains of the highest mountains in the country.
Riding was a breeze on this stretch of roads, some places we touched even100 kmph.
However one should be very cautious on unexpected humps over the culverts exist there at short distances; they are capable of toppling the bikes on high speeds.
As we wanted to reach at our destination before dusk, we didn’t stop anywhere further for capturing pictures. But on our return journey, we made sure enough pictures had been captured.
Availability fuel is scarce for the demand on this highway as the numbers of petrol stations are very less, so one should ensure to top up the fuel tank at every available fuel station. You might get petrol in black market with exorbitant price and it would be adulterated for sure. I will narrate an incident later, happened on our way back. I had seen the bikers carry at least two cans of petrol tied in their bike-carrier.
We reached Rumtse around 7 pm and we couldn’t continue our journey further as we were fully exhausted. We found an accommodation, a room with five beds, more or less like a dormitory, though not to the standards we managed with it.
Reaching Leh and more– Stay tuned for the next episode
‘We were absolutely ecstatic – beautiful roads yet curvy on the banks of Indus River, started breathing free, then began to ride at a faster pace and speed followed us closely – the Leh dreams came to a reality’
After crossing Debring and passing through Thanglang La, the highest pass on Manali – Leh highway with an altitude of 17480 feet ASL and then descending and reaching Rumtse at 7 pm last evening, took the first available accommodation in the village. Entering the Leh Valley, that was the first settlement we came across with an altitude of 14000 feet. We had the dinner there itself and retired for the day.
Next day morning we woke up at 6 am and after breakfast we started at 9 am; the distance to be covered was only 80 kms to Leh and the roads were good but with blind curves. The roads were on the banks Indus River with a smooth tarmac, without more of ascents and descents. The incredibly looking mountain formation with blue skies above them was beautiful and absolutely there was not a moment when the view was not pleasing.
After riding 35 kms keeping to the sunny side of the cliffs under a cool pleasant weather, we reached Upshi. We stopped at the police check point there for registering our names with vehicle details. Our co-rider Satheesh Kumar was kind enough to do this work at all points. Later we were proceeding to Karu, nearly 14 kms away. Karu is a small town with plenty of restaurants, a petrol station and other basic amenities, but accommodation facilities are limited. We didn’t stop at this place instead we were heading towards Leh which’s another 34 kms away.
As we were approaching Leh city we found the roads were blocked due the scheduled Ladakh Marathon. Due to this, there was a number traffic diversion in operation in the city outskirts; caused chaos in the region.
The world's highest Marathon
The Ladakh Marathon is the World's highest Marathon at an altitude of 11,500 feet. The race begins and ends in Leh, the historical capital of Ladakh, taking you through the outskirts and the stunning Leh Valley where the race track crosses the Indus River several times.
We had overcome the situations then prevailed and reached Leh at 12 noon. During their previous trip Dr Rajeev and Adv Suresh were staying at Hotel Jorchung which got a good reputation and without any second thought we opted for it. The owner as well the staff did remember them and made sure we were comfortable during our stay.
Later, the same hotel had become our base camp – read further
After freshened up in baths we went to the well known restaurant ‘The Tibetan Kitchen’ which was only a street away from the hotel we were staying. As we entered the air was filled with the smell of yummy food and a slight sniff of alcohol; had the lunch there over a drink in moderation. The Chinese dishes we had were exceptionally tasty.
The pleasing weather had tempted us to loiter along the Leh city and after doing so, came back to the hotel and took rest for sometime. After the tea, late in the evening we went out for a small shopping at mall road, Leh, hardly couple of kms away. Like the mall roads in Shimla and Manali, no vehicles are permitted inside the market.
We spent few hours there and got back to the hotel. By late evening the hotel rooms were full with the people came to participate in Ladakh Marathon. Had our dinner at hotel restaurant itself and went off to bed.
Biking to Kargil and more – Stay tuned for the next episode
“The long day of romantic getaway - passed through some of the country’s most beautiful and impressive cliff scenery and serene landscapes – Virtually landed on an alien planet...”
Leh is situated on an average altitude of 11500 feet ASL and one of the largest districts in the country. Unlike other districts of the State, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) is in charge of governance in Leh. The District is bounded by Pakistan occupied Kashmir in the west and China in the North and eastern part and Lahul Spiti of Himachal Pardesh in the south east. It is at a distance of 434 Kms from Srinagar and 474 Kms from Manali (HP). Topographically, the whole of the district is mountainous with three parallel ranges of the Himalayas, the Zanskar, the Ladakh and the Karakoram. Between these ranges, the Shayok, Indus and Zanskar rivers flow and most of the population lives in valleys of these rivers. Leh is a paradise on earth with its mesmerizing scenic beauty and is blessed with majestic snow laden Himalayan ranges, lush green landscape, sparkling blue waters and deep gorges. This is the place which makes you enter a whole new world where you can relax, rejuvenate and give a treat to your senses. It attracts millions of tourists from India and all over the world as well.
Well, last night we spent time on a small shopping at the cobbled streets of Leh market, came back to the hotel and retired for the day.
We all got up at 6.30 in the morning, as per the schedule our plan was to ride to Kargil at a distance of 210 kms. While my friends were getting ready, I just went around the hotel and captured some images around.
We wanted to stay back at Kargil for the night and come back to Leh on the next day; hence we decided to leave some of our baggage at the hotel itself. I packed up the essentials in the saddle bags and left the duffle bag at the hotel custody, so as my co riders too.
The job of getting the inner line permits required to travel to certain places, was entrusted to the hotel owner, and assured he would keep it ready by the time we come back. Had breakfast there itself and were on tracks at 9 am. Before leaving Leh city the fuel tanks were filled and washed our bikes at a service station we came across on the way.
We continued the ride and after 25 kms, had the first stop at GURUDWARA PATHAR SAHIB around 11 am. Before entering the Gurudwara, one has to remove the footwear.
Gurudwara Pathar Sahib is constructed in the memory of Guru Nanak, about 25 miles away from Leh, on the Leh-Kargil road, 12000 ft above sea level. The Gurdwara was built in 1517 to commemorate the visit to the Ladakh region of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder Guru of the Sikh faith.
During his lifetime Guru Nanak travelled to many distant places and one such place was Tibet. Guru Nanak is well respected by Tibetan Buddhists who consider him a saint; The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Buddhists in Tibet, has confirmed this in his discussions with some Sikh leaders saying that Tibetans revere Guru Nanak as a Buddhist saint under the name of Guru Gompka Maharaj.
In the late 1970s, during the construction of the Leh-Nimu road, a large boulder was found by Lamas in the middle of the road bed covered with Buddhists prayer flags. The boulder was covered with Buddhist prayer flags, the type of flags that are often found, strung by Buddhist Lamas, along mountain ridges and peaks high in the Himalayas to bless the surrounding countryside.
The bulldozer driver tried to push the huge stone to the side, but it refused to move. Gunning the engine he pushed the powerful machine to its limits, but the boulder refused to give way. Suddenly, with a large snap, the blade broke and the work stopped. That night the driver had a dream in which a voice told him not to move the stone.
In the morning he narrated his dream to one of the army officers who guard the mountain passes of Ladakh. The soldier told him, not to give any importance to the dream. When all efforts to remove the boulder had failed, it was decided to blow it apart with dynamite the next day. That night the army officer also had a dream not to remove the stone. He too decided the dream should be ignored, but early that morning, being Sunday, he and the workers were visited by several Lamas and other Ladhakhis who came to tell them the story of a Holy Saint they called Nanak Lama and the unyielding boulder.
Listening they learned that the pathar the road crew had been having so much trouble with was a 'mould' with a negative impression, of their revered Lama Nanak that contained a hollow imprint of his shoulders, head and backside. He was told that during the period of 1515-18 when Guru Nanak was returning to Punjab through Srinagar, after travelling to Sikkim, Nepal and Tibet, he had rested at this place. It is believed that Guru Nanak Dev reached Leh via Sikkim, Nepal, Tibet and Yarkhand. Today the site and the Gurdwara that now covers the boulder is revered by both the local Lamas and Sikh sangat. Currently the Army is looking after the Gurdwara.
According to a local legend, once a wicked demon live in the area who terrorised the people where the gurdwara is now situated. The people prayed to the Almighty for help. It is said that Guru Nanak heard their woes and came to their aid. He settled down on the bank of the river below the hill where the wicked demon lived. The Guru blessed the people with sermons and became popular in the area. The locals called him Nanak Lama. Seeing this the demon got into a rage and decided to kill Guru Nanak Dev. One morning when the Guru was sitting in meditation, the demon pushed a large pathar (boulder), down from the hilltop, with the intention of killing the Guru. The boulder gained speed as it rumbled down the hillside, but when it touched the Guru's body, it softened like warm wax and came to a halt against Guru Nanak's back. The Guru kept on meditating unhurt and undisturbed. Thinking that the Guru had been killed, the demon came down and was taken aback to see the Guru deep in meditation. In a fit of anger, he tried to push the boulder with his right foot, but as the pathar still had the softness of warm wax, his foot got embedded in it. Pulling his foot from the boulder the demon was dumfounded to see the impression his foot had just left in the stone footprint in the rock.
On seeing this, the demon realized his own powerlessness in comparison to the spiritual power of the great Guru. He fell at the feet of Guru Nanak Dev and begged for forgiveness. Guru Sahib advised him to get rid of his wicked ways and asked him to lead a life of a noble person. This changed the life of the demon, which gave up evil deeds and started serving the people.
Guru Nanak Dev thereafter continued his holy journey towards Srinagar via Kargil. The pathar pushed down by the demon, with the imprint of the body of Guru Nanak Dev and the footprint of the demon, is at present on display in Gurdwara Pathar Sahib. It is said that since the visit of Guru Sahib (in 1517) to the building of the roadway in 1965, the local Lamas had held the pathar sacred and offered prayers to it as, no doubt, they do to this day. – Courtesy Wikipedia
We spent nearly 30 minutes there and continued the journey. The famous and mysterious Magnetic Hill was only a few minutes away. We stopped at this place, and seeing us on bikes few of the tourists and couple of military personals got fascinated, came to us and asked about the ride and adventures. They posed on our bikes and been photographed by their mates.
Magnetic Hill is a "gravity hill" located on Leh-Kargil road at a distance of about 30 kms from Leh; is a place where the layout of the surrounding land produces an optical illusion, making a slight downhill slope appears to be an uphill slope. Thus, a car left out of gear will appear to be rolling uphill against gravity. There are hundreds of recognized gravity hills around the world.
15 minutes later we started from there after taking some pictures and the roads then were on an average condition. The sprawling green landscapes, valleys on the banks of River Indus and the sheer cliffs – we had been awed by the sight!
We stopped for lunch at Khaltse around 1.30 pm; we had covered almost 75 kms from Leh by then, after passing through Nimmoo, Saspul and Uleytokpo. The parking was on the backyards of the hotel as the road in front was bit narrow. The lunch was exceptionally tasty and I was much thrilled with my all time favorite “Samosas” served hot there.
__________________ Thank you - AR Ram
Born to Drive -- Expect the Unexpected!!!