Coming back to life - Zanskar, August 2017

Yogesh Yadav

Travel is the healthiest addiction.
This travelogue is related to a journey that hasn’t yet started. We decided to create a rolling/developing log of events leading up to the start date to share and learn from experts/veterans, the effort and deliberations that go into a trip like this and then keep updating as we go.
February 2017. It was on a random call that Nelson informed me about his plans for a ride to the Zanskar Valley in Ladakh sometime in early August 2017. Having been without a bike since 3 years, I was contemplating buying one. If Nelson would agree to take me along on the trip, it would provide further impetus to my decision to buy a bike. I asked and he agreed and that’s when I decided to buy the Royal Enfield Himalayan. And me being the ‘always in a hurry’ guy that I am, all plans related to the trip were set in motion with Nelson Fernandes riding a RE snow Himalayan, Allroy Dsouza riding a Honda CBR 250, Ajay Dsilva riding a 350 RE Thunderbird and me (Yogesh Yadav) riding a RE granite Himalayan being part of it.

We immediately setup a Whatsapp group to co-ordinate the tasks related to the trip and delegated responsibilities. Nelson had already worked upon a sample iternary for the trip and we were to meet up soon to fix the dates and for other related discussions. It was decided that we will follow the below iternary starting 3rd August 2017.


Tickets have been booked for to and fro train trips and the decision is to carry the bikes along as luggage along with confirmed tickets on the same trains. We plan to travel via the Swaraj Express from Bandra Terminus to Jammu station on 3/8/2017 and return on 24/8/2017 from Kalka (HP) to Bandra Terminus.

Useful information on transporting bikes via trains can be found at the following link. Loads of information is also available on the BCM touring – Transportation in India forum.

We would also like to appreciate the efforts undertaken by Yogesh Sarkar (BCM Touring), Vargis Khan and Dheeraj Sharma (Devil on wheels) via their respective forums to guide and create zest in the riding community.

The kick-off – 25th March 2017

Nelson serves as the nucleus of this group. Allroy is Nelson’s dad’s friend, Ajay his wife’s cousin and I and Nelson were professional colleagues back in 2003. We decided to meet and greet together as a group and what better way to do that than a breakfast ride. We set out together to Matheran, a short 100 km ride from Mumbai with Daryl, Mervyn, Basav and Yorrick joining us. It was a fun filled trip and Yorrick trumped it by losing his way and heading towards Ratnagiri on our way back to Mumbai. It was my first taste of riding with seasoned riders and the camaraderie that goes with it.


Sometime in April 2017, we decided to name the trip. To name it something that we could all relate to. And this came up.

We also decided to pen down our motivation for doing this trip.



Zanskar to me is like unfinished business. Back in 2008 a friend (Jonathan) and I decided to explore Ladakh for the first time since we had done Himachal the previous year, during the planning stage we were over adventurous and included Zanskar as part of the itinerary. The fact that there were no roads and that AMS had already taken it’s toll on us, we gave up on Zanskar after riding about 25-30 kms from Kargil, at that point I thought that I would never go back to Ladakh ever again, until we got back home and started missing it. Post that due to work I turned down a trip to Nepal and then I missed another trip to Ladakh in 2013 when Jonathan and Ajay managed to reach Hanle. They had the option to do Zanskar but turned it down as Jonathan wanted me to be there. Post 2011 I was only able to do one long ride to South India with Ajay and my wife Zenobia covering Goa, Coorg, Tamil Nadu and a little bit of Kerala before we moved to Philippines for 3 years where I deeply missed riding. We moved back to India in 2015, then last year my world came crashing down and I lost “My Hero" My Dad (Ray Fernandes aka Rayboy) which left this huge void in my life, each time I started my motorcycle I would look back at all the tips and tricks he gave me, I really wanted to just go on a very long motorcycle ride and the only place I could think off was the mountains.

Then sometime in August 2016 Jonathan came up with an idea to do “One ride” together, as Aj, Jon and me had never ridden together before and that’s when the idea of Zanskar popped up again. I was thrilled at the thought of going back to Zanskar.

Unfortunately post our initial discussion lots of things changed, Jon was suddenly unsure of coming as he landed a new job and it was then just Aj & i, but we couldn’t do Zanskar without Jon. After long discussions Jon told us to go ahead and do it without him, but we needed to capture good pictures and video, reluctantly but over the moon we agreed. After this everything fell into place Allroy decided to join the ride and then after Yogesh heard about my plans he too decided to join in. Zenobia is also planning on joining at some point and that will be amazing.

Over the last nine years I have really started to enjoy offroading and I also got myself the Himalayan which is built for people like me who like to get off the tarmac. So this ride to me is all about finishing what we started back in 2008 and also getting back to some serious biking in and around India.


Having spent the last 9 years living meticulously, planning every hour of the day, planning every day of the week, at times having the Niagara falling on my head (read life’s pressures), the moment I got to know that Nelson was planning this trip, I wanted to be a part of it. It came with the promise of trusted and skilled company. It was a chance to break away from personal budgets, daily chores, professional meetings and deliverables, professional insecurities, the Internet, laziness and a sedentary life and above all a chance to reunite with Kashmir and Ladakh after 17 years (I was there in 2000 aged 16), a land and people that I hold very close to my heart and want to have numerous stories to talk about with my daughter and grandchildren. A shoutout to all my family members for making this possible, cricket team mates whose enthusiasm for fitness and a larger than life attitude has been a huge inspiration and all my office colleagues who’ve shared equal enthusiasm for everything that goes into a trip like this. Finally, a huge thank you to the almighty and a prayer for all those who lives have been affected by the turmoil in the current day world.


I love adventure rides and this is a dream coming true.


I have spent quiet a number of years riding a bike, did my first ride to Raigad Fort somewhere in 2001 with a couple of friends on my Hero Honda Cd 100 what an amazing bike. Since then the journey of biking started for me and progressed to a Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 (Magic Black) hence she was known as "My Black Magic Woman"
Then came along Nelson my cousin’s (Zenobia) husband. Learnt a lot from him and his Dad (the most technical and amazing person ). We did a ride down South covering Goa, Coorg,Tamil Nadu and some parts of Kerala what an experience it was, my first long ride.
One day Jonathan sent me a msg from Zanzibar where he was diving professionally and it said "The mountain's are calling" and that was it. We did Leh -Ladhak in 2013, a total trip of 18 days (Manali - Leh - Pangong Tso - Chushul - Changthan - Hanle - Tso kar - Tso Moriri -Manali - Bombay). One of my best experiences up in the mountains.

Another ride followed was from Bombay to Jaisalmer and back in 2014 with another great mentor of mine and our senior rider, Darryl Joseph.

Finally we are going back to the mountains which is just too exciting. Jonathan came up with this idea and there we go back to all the planning and plotting of the entire trip. Zanskar to me is a place I really wanna see because of the sheer beauty of two peaks, Kun Nun and the most beautiful glaciers called Drang - Drung near Pensi La mountain pass

Finally a vote of thanks to Nelson, Yogesh, Allroy and all those who have been a part of this build up.

Riding/camping gear
From all the logs that we read on the internet, heard from fellow riders and based on experiences gained by Nelson and Ajay on the previous trip, it was evident that a trip to Zanskar required a lot of planning. And riding gear topped that list.

Here’s a tabular list of the riding gear that we plan to use on the trip. Knowing that these decisions are at times tricky and budget considerations come into play, we decided to elaborate on our own decision making process as and where possible.



Some recent snaps of our bike setups:



Igatpuri Breakfast ride – 23rd April 2017

We planned to do as many rides as possible before setting out in August 2017. I was particularly keen on riding with the actual setup and gear that I will use in Ladakh with the intention of getting used to handling so many items on me and the bike. The mock runs also helped to identify any possible glitches that might come up and set them right, not that everything will happen then and now.

We rode to Igatpuri for a breakfast ride on 23rd April 2017 and it went pretty well. During the breakfast break, I bought up the idea of having a wider/longer rear carrier on the Himalayan to carry additional luggage on. I jokingly commented that a singer sewing machine footrest could be welded on the rear end of the bike and could serve us well.


This one comment would stay within the group as a favorite joke on me bought up by Nelson every chance he would get and could fit the joke into. Post breakfast, we rode up a hill just to get some off-roading into the ride. I remember a point on this climb when I stopped sideways with a steep downhill slope on my right and no way to proceed further thus needing to turn the bike around to descend. I managed somehow but noted that I will need to research how this is done well. Some searches on Youtube bought up this compilation of off-roading training videos which I keep watching regularly and have implemented some of the techniques, especially the standing and riding positions with much ease. It is fun to do and certainly helps on unpaved roads.

Off-Road Riding Techniques for Adventure Bikes - The Basics:

On the ride, I was particularly pleased at the support rendered by my riding mates. They are seasoned riders and accommodate every bit of my needs, anxiety and ride in a well co-ordinated formation.


Bhandardara/Devlali Ride – 3rd June 2017

Nelson works offshore and is in Mumbai off and on. We decided to do some off roading whilst he’s on shore and Bhandardhara with an overnight stay in Devlali came up as an idea. Unfortunately, Allroy couldn’t join in due to some personal work. We startd out early and reach Bhandardara by 10.30. It was a bit of a downer to see the area completely dry and not lush green with drizzling rain as we are used to seeing it and the way we love it. After riding around Wilson dam, we decided to head back down and onward to Devlali. We practiced a lot of standing and riding on this journey which should help on unpaved roads once we hit them after Kargil on the trip. The Royal Enfield Himalayan has this involuntary feature wherein once the fuel level drops to 5.5 Litres (including reserve), the display switches to trip F and keeps blinking annoyingly until you fill fuel and the level rises beyond 5.5 litres. Based on prior experiences, I’ve factored that the bike runs upto 110 Kms on Trip F mode and need to fill fuel accordingly once Trip F is hit. On this ride, my bike suddenly stopped running on the highway and I looked at the display and it was on Trip F mode but with just 84 Kms completed. I was shocked believing that the bike had delivered very low average and requested Nelson to push me until the next fuel pump. While filling fuel at the pump, I realized that I had not switched to Reserve mode and that the bike had actually delivered an economy of 28 Kms/litre before shutting off as it had hit reserve. I confessed my mistake to Nelson and Ajay knowing that they would pick this one up as another joke on me.
On the return journey back to Mumbai, I developed severe neck pain and it greatly impacted my ability to focus. I was riding with saddlebags mounted and the neck pain and strong crosswinds on the highway, slowed me down frequently. Being the reassuring riders they are, Nelson and Ajay would keep with me along the ride and stopped whenever I had to take breaks to rest. This neck pain episode reminded me about my initial commitment to work on my fitness, an essential requirement for a trip that will include riding for 20 days.

Nelson - What Yogesh is not telling you'll is that he wanted to be the best tour guide in Devlali and he really did a fantastic job with that but due to his over enthusiastic approach, he wanted to climb up about 100 steps to get to a top of a small hill and then descend down the hill face. At first Aj and I were not particularly interested but Yogesh convinced us that it was worth it and yeah it was really worth it. The problem was Yogesh was set to descend wearing flip flops and that turned into disaster. He slipped and his neck went through whiplash and aggravated his existing neck pain. Aj and I weren't sure if it was funny or serious but then Aj helped out by riding Yogesh bike back.



Here are some pictures from my weekend rides to Gorai beach in Mumbai. My daughter loves to spend time here digging her sand castles and running around on the beach and I get to practice some riding on the skiddy shore area.




We are currently working on getting an initial introduction done with the luggage In-charge at Bandra Terminus, Mumbai, getting our medicine kit ready, planning what food to carry to be used when we camp and other items on the To-do list. It has been a whirlwind 4 months of preparation and frankly, quite exhausting at times trying to choose between must-haves and unnecessary items factoring weight and utility.

We have been working with a local contact is Leh to figure out the permits for the Pangong route. News regarding terror attacks in Anantnag has been flowing in frequently. However, we have a contact over in Pahalgam who Yogesh knows since 17 years now who has reassured the group that there is no trouble and to travel with an open mind.
Nelson is currently offshore and we are waiting for him to come back, probably he’ll be back by the 1st week of July, to co-ordinate the pending tasks.

Stay tuned!!
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