I have been riding a STD 350 for the last 19 yrs, a 1979 model but I was not into serious biking till I joined Inddiethumpers about three years back. I did Jamshedpur – Kathmandu in 1983 but that was again the adventurous soul in me. Now after I joined the Bombay Bullet club, I enviously watched every year someone or other doing Leh-Ladakh, saw their awesome photographs, listened to their wonderful stories and seriously kept thinking – mera number kab ayega. Finally the D-day came, leave sanctioned, bike done up with carrier and all, all set to conquer the biker’s paradise…LEH-LADAKH. The group this year was unique in its own way with the oldest being 46 yrs and the youngest being 21 yrs, the oldest bike being a 1979 STD and the youngest being a nine months old Electra. The biggest man being mighty Yash with all of his 140+ kg on his 500. The leader was unanimously Bruce with all of his experience of previous Ladakh trip. Now let me introduce the readers with the group:
1. Dilip astride Electra
2. Gautam astride Std 350
3. Bruce astride Std 500
4. Yash astride Std 500
5. Amit astride Campus 350
6. Ashish astride Machismo 350
7. Rajesh astride 350 aka no problem
8. Prahlad astride Electra
9. Akshay astride Electra aka the fall guy
10. Avinash astride 350
We reached Delhi on 11/6/05, picked up our bikes from transport, which was taken care by Yash with all of his logistics expertise. We met the other thumpers in a hotel at Usuf Sarai, thanks to Kartik dude and the Beasters for rendering all the help and guidance and also arranging a wonderful workshop on basic maintenance of a bullet at one of the showroom. The mechanics were of great help.
12/6/05, Day 1, Rout: Delhi-Panipat-Karnal-Ambala-Shimla. 306kms.
One of the best highways in the country. Cruising was a pleasure unlimited. One of the few problems was staying together. We stopped at a Dhaba at Panipat at around 0930 hrs. Then breakfast as usual the thumper style. We were gulping paranthas at a non-stop speed and by the time we realized we are killing lot of time it was already 1115. We started at 0630 in the morning and hardly covered any distance. Dilip alone had ridden ahead and we could not contact him. At Karnal there was two breakdowns simultaneously. Yash’s rear tyre refused to carry him further, we stopped to mend. A Good Samaritan informed us that a fellow biker had a breakdown about 10-15 kms back. We realized it was Prahlad, I rode back along with Amit to find that Prahlad’s chain snapped. Fortunately he got a mechanic who replaced the chain with a used one. I was carrying a spare chain though. Problem solved we started and I decided I wont stop before completing at least 100 kms. We were killing time unnecessary. I was riding continuously till I found Dilip at Ambala. Was not in a mood for lunch because of the heavy breakfast. Taken a small break and started for Shimla. We were told that we have to take a right turn before entering Chandigarh. We did that, few of us refueled and continued to ride and I suddenly realized I was riding alone. Stopped for few minutes, saw Amit and Rajesh crossing me, started my bike and caught them having tea just before the ghat starts. Then came the ride of my life. 91 kms of ripping on the ghats at a very high speed (say 75 kms average), I know you guys wont believe even I didn’t believe when Amit told me that “ dada we were doing 70-80”. Amit is a certified ripper and I followed him like a mad dog continuously honking my Dukker horn. Roads got cleared on its own and people were looking at us in disbelief. I will not drive like that in my life that’s for sure. It was like doing Hara-kiri; a small mistake could have resulted in anything. Anyways Shimla was great with people everywhere and hotel accommodation scarce. Even if you get a hotel you don’t get parking. We were lucky enough to check in to “ Hotel Rahat” with ample parking place. By 1730 hrs everyone arrived and we were ready to rock Shimla.
13/6/05, Day 2, Shimla
Shimla was so beautiful that we decided to spend a day. The last evening’s important event was apna fall guy’s clutch plate replacement. His bike wouldn’t pull at all and the poor guy was stuck while climbing a steep road. Bruce made him do everything to change his clutch. Freaked out at the mall. We did small marketing of batteries and film rolls etc. Lunch and dinner was grand as usual at the hotel itself. Ten bulls together was again center of attraction.
14/6/05, Day 3, Rout: Shimla-Mandi-Kullu-Manali 265kms
We all got ready and started our ride to Manali at around 0730 hrs. The downwards ghat road was not bad but narrow state highway. We enjoyed riding through Himachal. One very important aspect was that from Mandi onwards we started riding alongside Beas River and till we reached Leh there was some river or other accompanied us continuously, be it Indus or Chandrabhaga or whatever. Breakfast was again paranthas. Now, one very interesting part of our entire journey since we had breakfast at pan pat the first day was Dilip’s very specific way of describing – how the parantha should be. The conversation used to be –
Dilip: Bhaiya parantha milega?
Waiter: Jee saab.
Dilip: Desi ghee mein talke lana.
Waiter: Saab, desi ghee nahi milegi.
Dilip: Ek kaam karo, butter mein tal ke lao aur payaj alag se dena.
Now there were few instances where butter was not available but he forced the fellow to arrange and use butter only.
Fellow riders, please keep in mind that you have to take a right turn from a place called Brahmapushkar bypassing Bilaspur, that way you save about 20kms of bad road. Our fall guy was in action again couple of times and once a truck driver literally pushed Yash off the road but things were under control. Gradually the group became scattered and Amit and me told Bruce that we would go ahead and look for hotels. Rajesh was again out of contact so we took it for granted that he had ridden ahead. From Mandi to Manali was a beautiful drive with lots of beautiful scenarios. Lot of time was spent for photography. Amit and I was riding constantly when Amit all of a sudden put his hand forward and showed me the snow tipped mountain. We were 30 odd kms away from Manali and the scene was mind blowing. We touched Manali at 1630 hrs. It was very crowded, found Rajesh luckily and checked into hotel.
15/6/05, Day 4, Manali
We had to spend the day at Manali. Ashish, Rajesh, Akshay had to take their bike to Raju’s garage. Prahlad got his chain replaced. We all had to buy spare petrol cans, few of us bought gumboots, few of us bought some good raincoats, hand gloves etc. Guys, DO NOT miss MOM’s Kitcen by any chance. It’s on the old Manali road and the food is awesome, a bit expensive though. There we came to know about the first jhatka of our ride i.e. this years snowfall was highest in the last 36 years. It was raining too. We were mentally prepared for a tough ride ahead. At around 2100 hrs Avinash came back from few kms away from Rohtang as it was raining heavily and his bike went kaput. He was lucky enough to get a truck to get his bike back, got it repaired but in the melee lost his keys. It was made direct and he was asked to take rest in the night so that he can ride with us the next day. He started with the other group led by Sachin Shetty on 15/6 morning. We didn’t know about the other guys from Sachin’s group. They were six of them together.
16/6/05, Day 5, Rout: Manali-Rohtang-Khoksar-Jissu-Tandi-Keylong 135 kms.
We planned to leave little early but by the time we were ready it was past seven and then Bruce had to open Avinash’s petrol cap. It was done and luckily Bruce had a spare petrol cap which fitted nicely. We all had our tank full the previous day along with the cans. We had some small problems which took some time away. Ashis’s air hose was damaged, which was repaired. Unfortunately Machismo’s hose is different from other Bullet’s otherwise lot of us were carrying spare hose. The traffic was bad, there was jam at places. Before Rohtang we stopped for photography at a place called Meera where Ashis’s side stand failed resulting in clutch yoke crack. Rohtang was crowded and dirty but full of snow. We didn’t see a dry patch nowhere. Had tea and Maggie at Rohtang and moved ahead after plenty of photo session. As we were coming down after Rohtang it started raining cats and dogs all of a sudden. Fortunately we were all properly covered with raincoats and gumboots. It was too cold and our hands and feet were getting numb. Road was real bad, had to stop quite a number of times for the Bulldozers to clear the roads. We were experiencing high altitude breathing problems. Must have crossed n number of nallas and few of them quite deep ones but nothing can stop the Inddiethumpers when they are at prowl. I had a splitting headache and had to gulp down couple of Disprine. After crossing Jissu the roads were better, we topped up our tanks at Tandi and reached Keylang at 1700 hrs to check in to Hotel Chandrabhaga, a beautiful place. We met Rohit and Niranjan while filling Petrol. After reaching Keylang we found that Rohit went ahead and Niranjan stayed back with us.
17/6/05, Day 6, Keylang
We had to stay back at Keylang as Bruce and Niranjan was sick. That gave us the opportunity to visit Shasur Gompa where some festival was due that day. The ride to that Gompa was another experience. We were misguided by the locals that there was a motorable road. The so called motorable road was nothing but a 12 kms stretch of rubbles where we couldn’t even engage the second gear. We were scared about our clutch plates but by Gods grace nothing happened. Bruce was back to his elements after a long duration of sleep and Niranjan had to take medicines. We found a bullet mechanic also, Ashis replaced his clutch yoke, and he found a spare hose so his damaged hose was thrown away. We freaked out on local delicacy like Thukpas and Momos.
18/6/05, Day 7, Rout: Keylang-Baralachala-Sarchu-Pang 198kms
The worst time of the ride, worst road, all of us were physically exhausted at the end of the day. Well the day started with Niranjan’s flat tyre, we tried to replace the tube but that also failed. So by the time the puncture repair fellow opened his shop got his wheel repaired and we started ahead it was already past 1000 hrs. The nallas on rout was treacherous. Worst was from Sarchu to Pang. It was just 72 kms. We reached Sarchu at around 1630 hrs and decided to go ahead till Pang. That nightmarish journey took all of five hrs. Then at Baralachala pass all of a sudden it started snowing heavily, we rode ahead. Gata loops were as usual eventful. We all stopped at the small temple to offer few packs of biscuits. I hope it is not necessary to describe why the biscuits are offered? I also don’t believe in supernatural but two things happened, 1) while starting my bike, I found it dead with my first kick but the second kick happened on its own like a M-80’s and then 2) Rajesh was riding ahead, we found him at a place totally zapped and standing at 180 degree, there was no tyre marks mind it. I was feeling so sleepy that I dozed off couple of times but again God was there to save me. By the time we reached Pang at 2130 hrs we didn’t even had the energy to eat food. We all gatecrasher into a tent to find Sachin and gang already there.
19/6/05, Day 8, Rout: Pang-More plain-Tanglangla-Gya-Upshi-Leh 290 kms
Fresh enough to cross the final leg of our journey we again got delayed in the morning because of Niranjan’s flat tyre. Sachin and gang left early. We started at 1030 hrs and soon speeding on More Plains. The 50/60 kms kms stretch was simply beyond description. Good, flat road against the beautiful backdrop of virgin Mother Nature. One has to be there to realize how beautiful nature can be. It was like as if we are riding on a poster itself. Then between Gya and Upshi the mountains had a multicolor façade… unbelievable. Tanglangla at 17500 ft was the second highest pass we crossed and it was eerie. Well we finally reached Leh at around 1630 hrs and checked in to hotel Sun-n-Sand at Chanspa. Wait …. Surprise again, the hotel was owned by Flt. Ltnt. Prerana Chaturbedi who was a bulletier herself. She accommodated us at a quite cheap tariff, cutting down the room rent to almost 1/3rd.
20/6/05, Day 9, Khardungla
In the morning along with Bruce went to DC’s office to get the permit. By the time we got the permit in hand it was already 1230 hrs. So we had our lunch and started for Khardungla. Only 48 kms from Leh but the roads were awesome. When you look at the road from far it looks like someone has scratched the snowy surface with a knife. On the way we met Sachin and gang. By the time we reached Khardungla top, there were 16 thumpers together. I think that it was an unbeatable record…. THE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF THUMPERS FROM ONE CLUB.
Thereafter the group split because Dilip, Amit, Rajesh, Avinash came back via Drass-Kargil.
Bruce, Ashish, Prahlad went to Pangongtso lake the next day. I and Yash stayed back at Leh as we were tired. My heart was urging me to go ahead but my body was not.
I would like to sincerely thank the following without whom the trip would not have been a roaring success:
1) God almighty for guiding us, saving us and helping us sail through successfully without any major problems.
2) Bruce for his immense patience and guidance to such a big group.
3) Kartik dude and Royal Beasts for their great help and guidance.
4) Moderators of Inddiethumpers for arranging the trip.
5) Prerana at Leh as a great host and her guidance.
6) Lastly my 26 year old darling, my “whispering thunder”, who took me effortlessly.