Coming back to life - Zanskar, August 2017

Yogesh Yadav

Travel is the healthiest addiction.
Yessssss!! We made it. Finally the day has arrived and for the next 23 days, we will live our lives by the camera and not the clock. 6 months in the making, countless to-do lists, fantabulous collaboration has got us here.

The Himalayans were serviced to perfection by Unison Automobiles, Borivali. A huge shoutout to them.

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Ajay and Allroy are all set too. All of us tried out our setups one last time.

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As per plan, we set out today to Bandra Terminus today, a day in advance to get our bikes booked as luggage on our train.

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We got the shock of our lives since 7 army bikes were already booked as luggage when we arrived. Destination Jammu. Going on our train. I started hearing chatter about riding all the way to Jammu tomorrow morning, which was certainly that i wasnt sure about subscribing to. 2 hours later, a lot of negotiations later, we were finally told that our bikes will go on the train with us and that the 7 army bikes will be detained and sent on some other train. 3 hours later, the bikes were ready, packed to perfection and PNRs obtained. Special mention for Mr. Anand Pandey, Chief Parcel Supervisor at Bandra Terminus for all his efforts in getting us the spot on the train. All's well that ends well.

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All our bags are packed and we're ready to go. Zanskar beckons. With the blessings of all our near and dear ones and all you wonderful people, we set out tomorrow at 6:30 AM onward to Jammu. Godspeed to all of us.
 
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Yogesh Yadav

Travel is the healthiest addiction.
So I finally could spare sometime after returning back to the madness in Mumbai to complete the blog.

We travelled via train and reached Jammu on 4th August 2017. It was quite a task offloading the bikes from the train since there was practically no one available to help out. There were dozens of other parcels thrown around in the luggage compartment and the agents and their men were interested only in getting those off. Once they were done, we requested them to help get the bikes off and luckily it all happened before the train started running again.

I had requested Vinod, a friend who lives in Jammu to deliver 2 litres of fuel each for our bikes which would be enough for us to ride for a refill until the nearest fuel pump.

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It was extremely hot in Jammu and we were ecstatic that we were finally all set to exit the station premises and head to the hotel.

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In the night we spoke to some of the Armymen deployed around the station about our travel the next day. The plan was to try and patch up with the Amarnath yatra convoy (we had heard there would be one) which is escorted by the Indian Army on our way to Pahalgam.

We started at 5AM towards Pahalgam and were zapped to see no sign of any Amarnath yatris nor any armymen deployed along the way. It was a pleasant ride up till the Jawahar tunnel with some patches of bad roads. We stopped along the way for breakfast.

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We got pulled up for overspeeding and overtaking inside the Chenani tunnel and were detained by the CRPF personnel for 15 minutes. We somehow convinced the same office to click a picture of us while we waited for our release.

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We reached the Jawahar tunnel after nearly two hours of riding and were surprised to see no trace of any army/police guarding the entrance. While looking around to spot them, I forgot to take my black glares off and entered the tunnel. The bike immediately started slipping owing to a lot of muck that had accumulated on the center of the tunnel road and with black glares on, I couldn’t see a thing and ultimately fell. Luckily, I had Ajay and Nelson trailing me and not the loud honking trucks that were following us. That’s what it looked like inside the tunnel.

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During the planning stages of this trip, we had heard a lot of chatter in the media about trouble brewing in Anantnag and how it could be best avoided. A lot of riding groups were also every reluctant to do the Jammu – Leh route and instead opted for the supposedly safer Manali-Leh route. With all my visits to Kashmir, I knew very well that the situation on the ground is usually a lot peaceful than what the media portrays it to be. There were no signs whatsoever of any disruption all along on the route. We stopped around Anantnag for some refreshments.

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I was looking forward to reaching Pahalgam while it was still bright so that others could see how beautiful Pahalgam really is. The roads leading upto Pahalgam were very scenic.

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We reached Pahalgam by 4:30PM and stayed there for the night.

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We left Pahalagam early next morning with Kargil in sight. We witnessed heavy army movement around Pampore however the journey upto Srinagar where we were to stop for breakfast was extremely peaceful and of course scenic. Well, we were in Kashmir after all.

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Allroy wanted to catch up with Mansoor at Dal Lake, his friend from Kashmir, who also bought us some local delicacies to enjoy on the road ahead.

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I have stayed at Dal Lake numerous times but riding along beat all previous memories. It’s just amazing how the motorcycle exposes you to the elements and helps you see the beauty around you in a different light.

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We stopped at Kangan on the way to Sonmarg. The twisting, winding mountainous roads leading upto Sonmarg were at bit too much for a novice rider for me to handle.

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We reached Sonmarg by 2PM. I remember being approached by a PWD engineer who was involved with some road construction activity in the area. He spoke about the road ahead and advised caution on the Zoljila pass. Having struggled on the winding roads upto Sonmarg, his words started playing on my mind.

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Zojila was a true and the first test on the trip for a novice rider like me. However, being on the Royal Enfield Himalayan was a blessing, which was at home on the road that never was at Zojila. Having Nelson and Allroy by my side watching me was hugely comforting. I wasn’t taking my eyes off the road for a second and I suddenly had someone throwing snowballs on my helmet. It was Nelson and Ajay who had stopped to take a break. We stopped there for a few clicks.

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Zojila was finally conquered and a ceremonial picture was essential. Check out Nelson, Ajay me and posing.

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It was quite a long day on the road with me slowing down the others. Winding roads yet again in the run upto Kargil completely wore me down and it was dusk by the time we entered Kargil.

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We stayed at Saqi guest house over the next two days fitting a rest day in.

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We preserved some of the water bottles to carry them en route to Rangdum.

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Zanskar was beckoning.
 
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Pardeep Dhounchak

जाट देवता ने कहा है : घुमक्कड़ी किस्मत से मिलती है
:rock::rock::rock::rock::rock::rock::rock::rock::rock:
Trailer is superbbbb.....waiting for rest of the part..............
 
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