Epic Journey - Lahaul, Spiti and Ladakh on 2 Wheels

prk

Active Member
Prelog and planning

Introduction – We (Suyog and Prashant) have done many rides together back from the days when we had 150CC bikes Bajaj Pulsar and Honda Unicorn to Coastal Konkan from Pune. Recent big ride was Bhutan in 2019 on rental Royal Enfield’s. By profession I am into IT and Suyog is in aviation

Now back with another interesting and adventures trip log, this time it is special as we managed to complete this during the COVID time which in itself was challenging to plan and execute against it.

As for any other bike trip inception of idea started almost a year back but actual planning began in Jan’21 when Suyog agreed to apply for leaves this year. Again I was not really bought into idea of doing Leh again than doing the month long all India tour. We kept discussing multiple options to meet the common ground and finally it was agreed to do Spiti and Ladakh that way I get to do new route and Suyog gets to do his maiden Ladakh trip.

It was decided that we will ship the bikes to Chandigarh and start our journey from there, we would take flights from Pune to start actual ride on 6/June.

Route Planned -

Chandigarh-Narkanda-Chitkul-Kalpa-Kaza-Sarchu-Leh-Nubra-Pangong-Tso Moriri-Sarchu-Kasol-Chandigarh ( Pune-Chandigarh-Pune flights)

Teaser Pics :):) Please identify the places??? or read the full story to know the names of these :)


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prk

Active Member
As any other trip things never go to plan ( hopefully every rider will agree to this), In our case nothing was going in our favor till very last moment when we actually started the journey. In March we booked our flight to Chandigarh for 5/Jun as the Covid situation was improving but suddenly the shocker came when April on wards 2nd wave started and things started getting worse, we were still hopeful that things would get better by our start date but it was looking very bleak and Suyog decided to postpone his leaves by couple of weeks and now his leaves would start from 16/June so automatically we shifted our start date to 16/June and as mentioned earlier now the changes to original plan started.

Our Bikes :
Myself - Thunderbird 500 (2015)
Suyog - Meteor 350 (2020)

As there was still a risk of things not getting better and even missing the date of 16th we decided to ride directly from Pune instead of shipping the bikes as it would have been expensive to ship the bikes and in case we were unable to get flights it would meant that money spent on shipping unnecessary.

New plan looked like this -

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Drama was not over yet, we were waiting for the news from Himachal and Ladakh for tourist and fortunately on 14th June, Himachal announced relaxations and entry to tourist without RT-PCR but e-pass was still required. This was when our trip actually got confirmed and now the next hurdle was we needed the RT-PCR in both Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan that too with validity of 72hours. So now our task started to find the lab who can take the samples in the morning and give us the report in the evening on same day and that was 15th June. found the labs which were ready to provide the reports within 12 hours. Now next anxiety was, even if one of us is tested +ve then the trip is cancelled :(. Which obviously didn't happen that's why we all are here. So evening 8pm both of us got the-ve report and we were all set to start in the morning. Packing was all done and bikes were waiting to roar.



Day 1 (16/Jun) : Pune to Indore (Distance covered – 610km)

Route - Pune-Sangamner-Dhule-Sendhwa-Pithampur-Indore

We both don’t have problems starting early so we decided to meet at 5:30am at Bhosari Bus depot as Suyog was coming from Baner and I was in Vishrantwadi and we were taking the Nasik highway. As always everyone in family was up to wish be happy and safe journey I started from my place at 05:00am sharp and was at the meeting point 5 mins before time.

it was drizzling a bit which was not what we wanted at the beginning of the journey but it was not in our control and we were prepared for rains anyways. We got our rain-wear on and Suyog arrived in 10mins and without waiting for long we started and took small break to wear the shoe covers which Suyog had ordered for me as well.

The next break we took after crossing Alephata almost 100kms from the starting point. Tea stall early morning and fortunately rains disappeared after we crossed Chakan.

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The roads till Sangamner were very good being the highway after that it was single lane till we almost reached Dhule around 40kms were bad roads, immediately after entering the town we were misled by gmaps and had to turn back to come back on proper road. Took small re-fueling stop.

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We were in a hurry to get on to the good road but it was almost more than couple of hours before we saw the good roads again, then we started to look for decent place for lunch but most of the restaurants were closed must be impacted by the lockdowns and never opened again. Found small place where we had aloo paratha and moved on,

Once we hit the good roads started covering distance quickly, some of the en-route pictures during bio breaks.

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DhudhSev (MP specialty) first time seen and tried - it was nice, since we didn't have the proper lunch earlier we had this around 4 after entering MP . To our surprise we didn't see any check-post on the road or border which would ask us for the RT-PCR for which we took so much efforts.

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After this just couple of more breaks before we reached Indore it was 06:00PM , which was good as we could see the daylight. Freshened up called families , nice 3 course dinner and called it a day. as plan for next day was also packed and wanted to start before 7am.

Hotel - Fairfield by Marriott
 
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prk

Active Member
Day 2 (17/June) - Indore to Jaipur (600kms)

As decided we were ready to roll before 7am and started our journey towards Jaipur, weather was overcast and it rained in the nights so roads were wet .

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Immediate next known town was Ujjan, we didn't go to the temples but could not resist from taking a photo stop at the entrance of the city, nicely done border.

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After this we wanted to pickup the pace but roads became small with lot of truck traffic and this stayed on like this for long time almost till we hit the Kota highway, We had packed breakfast from the hotel which we eat on the road in between around 09:15am, when we stopped for that 2 local folks stopped and requested a selfie with us which we couldn't say no. Missed to get their photo for the memory.


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On the way there were lot of wind mills and Suyog was excited as he had not been so close to wind mills before so he literally went close get some cool air :-D

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We stopped for lunch around 2:45 at the local dhaba and tried something we never had Shekavati roti and besan gatta curry. very tasty and we were feeling sleepy after this. Also it started raining when we finished lunch and starting next leg of the journey.

Picture of the roti scrambled ---it was yummy.

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Since it was raining couldn't get more pictures. After some time rain stopped and we did cover some quick distance . reached Jaipur at around 7 and checked-into hotel. Jaipur had restrictions after 4pm i guess as when we entered all the shops were closed. it was almost dark when we reached hotel.

Hotel - Royal Orchid , Jaipur.

It was nice hotel with dinner included, we had early dinner and called it a day.

2 Long days of riding and so far we were not really feeling any tiredness as most of the roads were good, on this day again almost 60-70kms single lane and bad roads otherwise it was good. No impact of covid so far as we were not going into crowds and hotels we stayed were following all the safety measures.

Thing to NOTE so far no one even stopped us or asked about the RT-PCR.
 

prk

Active Member
Day 3 (18/Jun) - Jaipur to Chandigarh ( 540kms)

Comparatively less distance than first 2days but we were ready before 7am as it became the routine, again breakfast was packed and weather was overcast but not raining so we were happy. Hotel was close to the Chandigarh highway so it was easy to exit the city traffic.

Ready :

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Roads were really nice now on-wards and we got good distance covered till we stopped for the breakfast on the way. It was food court "Hotel Highway Express" we were allowed to eat our breakfast inside and had tea from there. Also the important thing we brought from here which lasted for the whole trip was the mouthfreshner (dried Pan and Sounf)

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The roads were smooth so we were enjoying the ride with good speed, after this there was immediate stop expected and we took few bio breaks in between.

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After spending few mins at this place we started riding again, but Suyog spotted the sugarcane juice stall and he can't ignore. He has to stop for this and he can have 2-3 glasses easily which i couldn't do beyond 1.

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Our lunch stop at around 3 was the most frustrating movement for the day as we were expecting to be in Chandigarh by 5 as it was only 50kms left from where we stopped for lunch, it was supposed to be a big place and since 19XX's but they took 45mins to prepare aloo chat that too it was horrible aloo chat i ever had. Could not finish it without ordering a roti to eat with it. It was just fried potatos with some cucumber.

After we left this place in no time we were at the Ambala border,

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We reached Chandigarh hotel before 6, but then we had like horrible experience of check-in with reputed hotel like Holiday Inn. it took 1hour for us to get our rooms as they were running on very less staff and rooms cleaning was taking lot of time.

Today we tried ordering from outside(Zomato), some rolls and couple of chilled one to call it end of 1st leg of our journey.

The real trip begins tomorrow. Wanted to meet one of my colleague who used to leave in Chandigarh, but as she was busy in some function couldn't meet and promised her that will definitely meet her while coming back....Did that happen ???? stay tuned till the end;)
 

prk

Active Member
Day 4 (19/Jun) - Chandigarh to Narkanda (Distance - 180kms)

Started early around 7am as usual and hotel people were laid back didn't have any housekeeping to get our luggage down and even after we go it down ourselves no one was ready to help carry out, just after Suyog picked up the trolley someone came to help. Overall hotel experience was not great here.

Suyog trying to help with the trolley.

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Finally got our luggage on the bikes .

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We didn't have the tea at the hotel so stopped at the road side shop and re-fueled the bikes to brim before we started towards Shimla highway. nice roads throughout. In no time we reached the checkpost where they were stopping vehicles for checking the e-pass. for us they just asked if we have the e-pass and we said yes (We really had it) we were allowed to move on.

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Now the feeling of real trip started and it was very cold so stopped for quick lemon team at the roadside shop.

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It was really fun riding on nicely laid tarmac and Suyog just checked on the maps and we had an option to bypass Shimla and go directly towards Kufri. when we inquired we were told the roads are small but we still decided to take that route which was really narrow but scenic so we enjoyed the ride through that.

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We had lot of photo stops as we were to cover small distance and not in hurry today.

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We crossed through Kufri, where we saw lot of tourist crowd and we were asked for Horse ride which will politely refused and moved on from the crowd but it was really cold in that patch. roads after we came down Kufri was really wide and smooth we were really enjoying.

In Himachal they had lockdown after 5pm and Tuesday's were supposed to be dry days and all the non-essential shops were closed. We wanted to buy few things for the onward journey for which we had to travel almost 15kms beyond our place of stay and Suyog was bit agitated . Eventually after some efforts we got what we wanted and returned to Aramgah(stay) .

It was a nicely done place in a private Apple farm, this area had many apple farms so views were really good from this place and owner was very welcoming.

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Aramgah ( Narkanda)

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The cook they had here was really great we had freshly cooked hot dinner at around 9 and then did some planning for next day as our original plan was to go to Chitkul from here and spend a night there but the owner here recommended that we go to Kalpa stay there and do a day trip to Chitkul. which was obviously wrong suggestion which we realized next day when we reached Kalpa.
 

prk

Active Member
Day 5 (20/Jun) - Narkanda to Kalpa ( 159kms) - Original plan (Narkanda to Chitkul)

Today we were entering Kinnaur district and waiting to see and travel through road which we saw in photos and videos, personally i was eager to get myself clicked on the road (Gateway to Kinnaur) so were excited.

Started on the journey little late today as wanted to do some photography at the Apple orchard and breakfast was only going to be ready at 08:30am.

Morning Views :



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To protect apples from hailstorm they have been covered with special kind of a net, which you would see on all the mountains in this area.

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We settled the bill and on the road around 09:45am.

En-route there were signage which said first view of Sutlej or something which we crossed but we stopped bit ahead for few pictures and here we saw another biker group from Delhi crossed us.

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I must say this road was so scenic we felt like stopping every another spot, but we kept moving with small stops.

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And finally Gateway to Kinnaur :)

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We were at the junction to turn towards Chitkul in no time and we kept thinking if the roads from there to Kalpa is same as the road we rode on then we should be able to come back next day for a day trip but we were proven wrong by the road condition immediately after this Chicham Dam. So after travelling few kms on the bad road we realized we missed the opportunity to cover chitkul ( something to be left so we come back again) but because of this we missed the photo opportunity on the bridge which was another item on the list.:sad:

Everything was getting closed very early in this area after we turned towards Kalpa from Reckong Peo, worst part was we were damn hungry as it was already 2pm past, and we couldn't see any place to eat on the road to Kalpa. Road to Kalpa was adventures as it was gaining altitude on every curve and we had some many of them we were like when will this end but some how we reached on the top , there is no town as such but mostly hotels and we had one recommendation from the Aramgah owner which was not really good so we decided to start hunting for good place to stay at the same time hunger was making both of us irritate. After search for around and hour we finally found the place which had availability as well and they said they will cook food for us at around 4pm . We settled for few mins after late lunch and very happy with the room we got after hard search. SUperb view of Kinnaur Kailash from the room was the biggest point for us to forget everything else.

View from Hotel room - Kailash.

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After freshening up we decided to visit so called Suicide point which was just 2kms from the hotel. Road were very small and risk to reach there. But great views and few people were doing crazy things at the point to stand on the safety railing and clicking selfies. We moved further from the actual point and went on the other side which had better views.

Actual designated point.

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After spending around 30mins we started back for hotel as it also started drizzling, which got really heavy by the time we reached hotel.

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Evening views of Kailash from Hotel , we just spent time in the balcony of the rooms looking at the different shades of the beautiful mountain.

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We kept talking about plan for the next day and after lot of consideration we dropped the idea of going to Chitkul, when we asked around we had different views from people, some were in favor some said similar to Kalpa . So finally we decided we will go to Kaza next day starting bit early. Stay tuned for next day it has interesting story ...Did we reach Kaza???

Few pictures of Hotel.

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Rose garden, it had so many different colors of roses and even size was huge.

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prk

Active Member
Day 6 (21/Jun) - Kalpa to Tabo ( Original plan Kalpa to Kaza) - Distance covered 175kms

After nice breakfast we started at around 08:30am from Kalpa hotel, today's target was Kaza as we skipped Chitkul which added 1 extra day in our plan for any contingency which we didn't know will be consumed same day.

Suyog posing at hotel lobby -
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Here we decided that we would buy diamox as a proactive measure , though we didn't feel any symptoms of AMS. Which was proven later that we didn't need it as we were well acclimatized when stayed in Kaza. Suyog wanted to buy prayer flags so we stopped at Reckong Peo and first time we saw the traffic signal , this is the town in this region.

Market area (Reckong Peo)

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After this we were back on the main road going towards Kaza after getting down for 5kms. The roads were super smooth and recently laid tarmac. This was beautiful ride with amazing views and this was a quick stop near the waterfall, which was huge but couldn't capture the full view.

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After this break we both started riding together but Suyog stopped to get his Go-Pro operational and i kept riding slowly further which is what we generally do, but after riding for 2-3kms i couldn't see him behind which was unusual so i stopped at a place and clicked few pictures and after waiting for another 5mins thought that something is not right so called him (Thanks to Jio which had good network throughout the trip, this was my backup number and original number Vodafone didn't have coverage) as soon as the call got connected the response from Suyog was he fell down and i should return to him as bike had some damage. This was bit worrying while i reversed to go back to him, lot of thoughts went through the mind. reached the spot and was happy to see him fine and no scratches (thanks to the gear we had) , but looking at the bike i was not able to figure out what really happened. It was the narrow blind turn with big potholes, so one of the pickup truck brushed Suyog to avoid the pothole and he fell down.

The bike condition was not good and we had to get it repaired before onward journey, so the same pickup truck agreed to load the bike and take us back to Reckong peo which had the RE mechanics which we saw while passing there. Fortunately we were able to get the bike fixed quickly with very small money and so well that we didn't get any problems till we completed the trip. But this meant that we were behind schedule by 3 hours and another important thing we learnt in this trip is don't follow gmaps for travelling time, just use it for directions if needed. Even though distance was just 200kms to Kaza we knew it's gonna take time atleast 8-10hours. Suyog was still optimistic about reaching Kaza but i was not really keen to stretch as it started getting ascent and speeds were dropping.

This is the spot i returned to check on Suyog.
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Bike gettting the required treatment -

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Naturally we were bit upset about the incident but since there was no injury to Suyog we were thankful and started the onward journey with positive spirit.

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Around 1:45pm we stopped for lunch on the way, forgot the name of the town. Met this aggressive furry friend.
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After lunch it was mutually agreed that we would take a halt at Tabo, which was the town 50kms before Kaza. as we had to visit the Nako village on the way.

Few Clicks on the way where we had nice roads and scenery,

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We went through this road in the pic below and after this the patch and road further became so bad it was just boulders and this is what gmaps doesn't know and even if we wanted we wouldn't have reached Kaza.

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Looking at the below pictures of road we travelled and hearing the latest news about Himachal Land slides we consider ourselves very lucky.

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After travelling few kms on very bad roads we entered towards Nako as we wanted to visit the lake to click some customary photos, didn't find it great to get down from our bikes and returned back towards Tabo.

Nako Lake and town - It is very small town with few stay options.

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Great views on the way -

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Final stretch before Tabo, straight roads reminded me Ladakh.

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It was almost 07:30pm when we reached Tabo, we started searching for hotel to stay and went near the Monastery had one decent hotel but almost all of the rooms were taken by "Spiti on Wheels" big group. They had all high end SUV's not sure how much they charge but they were there with us almost till Chandratal.

Suyog found Zostel on google and he is big fan of this chain as he has stayed in their hotels in Maharashtra, so we went searching for the same it was bit inside from main road and we couldn't take our bikes there so we walked to that and didn't like it much so we finally came back to the one i had seen on the mainroad itself which was decent enough to spend the night . We finally settled in at around 08:30 .

Eventful day but successful.

Few Pics of the hotel we stayed -
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prk

Active Member
Day 7 (22/Jun) - Tabo - Dhankar - Kaza (Distance coverd 85kms)

We were relaxed today as smaller distance to cover and rest day in Kaza, so started bit late around 9am from hotel.

Morning views from Hotel -
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Ready after good rest at night, fresh morning.

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On the way we had plan to visit Dhankar valley and Monastery which was at 12775 feet , so after about 20kms we had to turn right and ride up for around 10-15kms to reach the monastery. Roads were narrow but smooth and curvy which took us some time to reach the monastery.

Distant view of the Dhankar :

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After reaching monastery gate we saw queue in front of the hall inside the compound, which we thought to be for going inside the monastery, but when we stood in the queue locals told us that it was for vaccination ](*,)

Monastery was closed for tourist , so we went to the restaurant behind the monastery to admire the beautiful views and have some tea.

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After spending some time here we started going back and after reaching the Kaza highway and immediately after crossing the Pin valley we got the opportunity to go down and do some photography near the river bed. River water was crystal clear.

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At this same place we met one family from Pune who traveled all the way in their Tata Harrier, salute to the guy who was the sole driver and if they had taken the same route as to reach manali then he definitely deserves the credit.

After this we straight went to Kaza and from our last nights hotel search experience and not finding anything online we were kind of prepared for spending some time in search. Went into market area and checked Osel rooms which was decent but didn't have the balcony, so decided to look around for more and we went almost 5kms ahead towards the fuel station and the good ones were full and others were not something we liked. After roaming for almost an hour we settled in Osel rooms due to proximity to the market and we had famous Himalayan Cafe next to this.

Settled in and got few chilled ones and ordered Himalayan Burger at the same hotel, the burger was different in all aspect right from bread they used till the patty inside, but it was tasty and very filling we didn't eat anything at night after this heavy burger.

Took some rest and in the evening went for a walk uptil river bed which was dried and we couldn't go till the water as it was very windy and cold.

Home for next 2 nights :
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Plan for next day was to cover few points like Highest post office, village in the world, Kay monastery.
 
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