The Dream Ride! Being a pillion through the mighty Ladakh on Duke 390.

Vrushali Surve

Happy pillion for life!
Thanks, I am still in 2 minds whether to transport or ride till Chandigarh.
Completely depends on time (how many days you can have in hand), rider's and pillion's readiness to sustain the ride, and the ride's objective. Honestly speaking, riding throughout is indeed tiring (and the return leg can get slightly boring, especially if the route is the same) for both. Moreover, if the ride is mainly a Ladakh ride, it's better to cut down some riding; I'm sure HvK will insist you the same. As per Rohan's and his friends' testimonials from their 2016 ride, riding all the way, especially riding back home, was both tiring and boring. Comparatively, if you guys fly till Chandigarh, you'll have more energy and enthusiasm to enjoy what you're going to enjoy—Ladakh—it will specially be better for your wife. Nevertheless, as I said, it completely depends on you guys' readiness and how much time you have.
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Vrushali Surve

Happy pillion for life!

1. They keep it caged in their warehouse as we pack and send it from here.
2. No, the charges are included in their total fees only. Our bike had also reached a few days before we reached.
3. We had got it packed in their warehouse here itself. I'll check with the packing charges with Rohan and get back to you.
4. Yes, we can. We had done the same. Had packed some clothes and some more stuff that we were not gonna need till we got the bike. They pack the bike with the saddle bags tied on.
Confirmed from Rohan: Transportation charges are approximately between 8 and 9ks. We got it packed from them while going, for which they charged around 500/- (we had provided a couple of old rugs extra). While coming back, we didn't get it packed; we'd got a slightly narrower cage, as we had requested at the last moment, but we ensured that it rested properly with the saddle bags tightly tied from both the sides; however, they charged 350/- for ropes and all. It was safe and sound at both the times. :)

Vrushali Surve

Happy pillion for life!
Chapter 6: Leh jaaenge, Leh jaaenge, Duke waale aaj finally Leh jaaenge!
(Day 5, July 11, 2018)
Part V: Leh

After having a cup of chai each and the maggie, the guys discussed with Mr. Dorjay about all of the permits and did the needful: gave him all the required documents. Then, we had to decide what to do that evening. We had 23 options; we could visit Shanti stupa and chill and do some shopping, or we could do the shorter of the two circuits. The Thar guys got their rental ride: RE Himalayan, and we unanimously decided to do only Shanti stupa and chill. Shanti stupa is located up in the hills and gives a breathtaking panoramic view of Leh city and its surroundings.

We parked our bikes and began climbing the road and then the stairs to the stupa. I should admit, this was the first time that I lightly panted while climbing the uphill, but trust me the two of us, Rohan and I, did not once feel the need to take resort to Dimox tabs for prevention from AMS. There was quite some crowd at the time we reached upstairs; these days it's difficult to find a non-crowded place even in Ladakh for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, the place was how a stupa should be and did what a stupa should do: peaceful and helping people feel peaceful. Also, all of the view from the top during sunset was just fabulous. We had reached way before sunset, but we didn't realize how the time passed and the sun began to set.


Holding mixed feelings in its true sense; tired yet excited and contended, all at the same time!



Panoramic views of the beautiful city before sunset


Yes, quite crowded! :p





Beautiful, nonetheless!

Next came my most favorite place and part. The stupa's prayer/meditation hall was surprisingly open even at that time of the evening, and there was no one! Not a single body or soul around. So, I took advantage of the golden opportunity and did what I love doing: meditated! I couldn't tell where the next, approximately, half an hour went, and it was time to go. Alas! Rohan and the Thar guys came, and we headed towards the market in search of Tibetan goodies and some good food.


The prayer/meditation hall of Shanti stupa from the inside


The lighted stupa


The city lit after sunset

HvK had already guided us on what to buy and what to eat and where. The market has, obviously, a lot to offer to tourists, but one should be aware of what's authentic and what's fake. Corals, dragon masks, prayer flags, and trinklets are few of the vast variety of souvenirs that can be bought in the Tibetan Flea Market. We bought dream catchers, some jewelry, small dragon masks (masks are beautiful but delicate and expensive, so weigh all of these things and buy), and miniature brass statues of Gautam Buddha and Tara. For dining, these are three of the best, tried and tested options: Tibetan Kitchen, Amdo, and Gesmo German Bakery. We chose the first one, as we wanted to have authentic Tibetan food, and the restaurant instantly became our favorite! Mind you, the place is recommended and favored by many; no prior reservations are done, as there is a lot of crowd at dinner time. So, you better take some time and patience with you while visiting the Tibetan Kitchen, coz it's absolutely worth the wait.


My first serving from the Tibetan Kitchen: Chicken momos, pan-fried lamb, and (stuffed) double roti

We strolled for some more time through the market and went back to our guest house. Thus, we ended our 1st day in Leh.

(Leh Circuits 1 and 2 coming right away!)
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Vrushali Surve

Happy pillion for life!
Chapter 7: "Jaa betaa jaa... Ji Leh apni zindagi" said no one, but we still went! :p \\:D/
(Day 6, July 12, 2018)
Leh (Circuits 1 and 2)
Surprisingly, I was awake earlier than Rohan this morning. Perhaps, it was the lovely bright sunrise (or, may be, the excitement!).

It was 7 AM, and I was chatting Kumar (HvK) Sir early in the morning. He immediately suggested going to Spituk Gompa, as we had sufficient time for it besides the two circuits. However, we ought to have reached there before 8:30 AM, and I dared not to wake up the fast-asleep Rohan. Spituk Gompa, as some/many of you might know, holds one of the world's most dangerous landings, so all the planes land before 8:30 in the morning. I wished we could watch the landings, but the guys were too tired to wake up and reach there before 8:30.

We decided to have a heavy breakfast somewhere on the way (a foolish decision we recommend people not to take, as there are not many good places outside Leh city that serve much good food), so we had tea and some light dry snacks at the guest house. Our HvK-routed plan for the day was doing both the circuits throughout the day. However, we modified the circuit plan and skipped some places.

Original plan:
Circuit 1: LEH–SHEY–THIKSHEY–HEMIS: A drive circuit around Leh, which covers some of the most popular Gompas (Shey, Thikshey, and Hemis), and which can be done in half a day. The Golden Maitreya Buddha at Thikshey is not to be missed. Roads are good throughout, but there are limited restaurants around. On the way to Hemis, Karu has a petrol pump and some dhabas. From Hemis, you can either return to Leh or continue to Leh Circuit 2.

Circuit 2: HEMIS–STAKNA–STOK–SPITUK–ZORAWAR FORT–SHANTI GOMPA: This circuit starts from Hemis Gompa. Two more places can be covered in this circuit: Stakna Gompa and Stok Palace. Additionally, this is the same route for the return leg to Leh. On returning Leh, a small round of Spituk Gompa (a lovely place to watch planes land and take off from Leh Airport) and cover the places within Leh city: Zorawar Fort and the Shanti Stupa.

The modification that we did was as follows:
1. We visited Shanti stupa the previous evening.
2. We had seen Zorawar fort (General Zorawar Fort)—a structure built from a local type of clay, sun-dried bricks, stones, and wooden frames around its edges—from outside every time while going to and coming from Lingtse guest house, and owing to its play-like constructed structure, we decided to skip visiting inside the small fort. However, this does not mean that we don't recommend visiting it. The fort is said to be home to Ladakh's conqueror, late Zorawar Singh Kahluria, who consistently struggled against the Chinese Rulers. Even today, the major tourist attraction sits with pride amidst the mountains, and it is declared as one of the national monuments in India by the Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958 (General Zorawar Fort Leh Ladakh - Must Visit Tourist Spot).
3. We also skipped Stakna, Stok, and Spituk gompas.
4. We decided to have brunch in Karu and reverse the circuits, i.e., we did Circuit 2 first and then Circuit 1.

We reached near Karu around 11:30 and decided to halt at a decent-looking dhaba for brunch. I can't recollect the name, but our experience was not great. We ordered one aloo paratha, three sandwiches, and four cups of chai. Although the place was not super crowded, and it was pretty much brunch time, they took more than 45 minutes to get one aloo paratha, which was followed by the sandwiches and chai. The sandwiches were okayish, but the aloo paratha, without any aloo, was simply horrible. (It was the biggest mistake I made during the entire trip!) Nevertheless, we had brunch and left for our first destination of the day: Hemis Gompa!

Hemis monastery is, most probably, the inspiration behind the monastery depicted in the song Yeh Ishq Haaye from the movie Jab We Met. In the movie, they had transformed the Naggar Palace into a monastery. It (Hemis monastery) is as beautiful and colorful from both the outside and inside as is the one seen in the song. Unfortunately, we missed the well-known Hemis festival by some days. The dates of course vary because the festival is celebrated on the tenth day of the Tibetan month's Lunar calendar. In 2018, it was held on the 23rd and 24th June, and at the time of our visit, the monastery was being renovated after the festival. No photographs are allowed to be clicked inside the monastery, and a monk was taking rounds and scolding tourists who were trying to click. So, I couldn't click any photographs inside the ground floor of the monastery, but I did manage to skip the eyes of the monk and clicked a quick picture of Padmasambhava on the first floor just when the doors were being closed for the afternoon. :p

Before I share any of Hemis' pictures, I must mention that I was slightly irritated for an extremely short span of minutes to be a pillion who has had to be a things-holder and photographer along with being the pillion. We had to get down at a gate way farther before the monastery, and I told Rohan to hold the selfie stick and water bottle for a second till I hopped down. He blabbered something that meant something like, "What is this yaar? Why can't you just keep it / hold it and I get down?" And I became super angry on this! He wasn't rude or irritated at all, but I was for a few minutes. [-( I became so angry that I just refused to pose for a photograph, let alone with the bike! :lol: But as always, Rohan managed to pacify and convince me, and my irritation vanished in giffy. :p

After that, these are the lovely pictures that we clicked around and in Hemis!


Rohan and I at a gate before the monastery


Rahul and Ginesh at the gate

P. S. Please note that this is not an entrance gate to the monastery. This is just a gate on the way; the monastery is further across the gate's road, i.e., you do not have to enter through the gate to reach the monastery but just have to continue straight on the road.







Padmasambhava; magnificent, isn't he?!




The monastery's premises


I simply love these tiny prayer bells









The fields in front of Hemis Gompa

(To be continued...)
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(Yes! As unbelievable as it may seem, I am back with the rest of the chapters!)

Chapter 6: Leh Jaaenge, Leh jaaenge, Duke waale aaj finally Leh jaaenge!
(Day 5, July 11, 2018)
Part II: KhaltseNimmu–Sangam–Magnetic Hill

So, after having our brunch in Lamayuru, we headed to see the edge of River Indus' water in Nurla, Khaltse (also known as Khaltsi or Khalsi), located 337 km away from Srinagar on the old main road to Leh. The village crosses Indus over an iron bridge and is located 337 km away from Srinagar on the old main road to Leh. We rode passed River Indus' edge, just watching it while riding, without actually stopping, and directly stopped to see the confluence ahead. On the way, I, the pillion, did click a few photographs and shoot some videos, but besides merely doing this, today, I was assigned an additional duty—attentively spotting the cute yellow NH1 signboard and asking Rohan to stop as soon as I spot it! (He was desperately looking for the yellow NH1 sign board and must have told me me to be alert about spotting one at least 2 times every minute. :p)

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Probably the first shrine I spotted en route!

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Finally, the long awaited sign board was also spotted: standing along the bank of River Indus.

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Photo toh banta hai!!!

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Nearing the destination...

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The iron bridge across Indus.

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It is better to travel well than to arrive, so has said the Buddha himself.

About 48.5 km ahead from Nurla is Nimmoo (or Nimmu) where the breathtaking sangam (confluence) of rivers Indus and Zanskar can be witnessed. This is where we stopped for a while.As I had said earlier, the merger of the two magnificent rivers is just mesmerizing!

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Needless to say, the confluence!

Honestly speaking, our intention was to reach Leh as soon as possible so that we could do the first circuit on the same evening. Nevertheless, we did stop at the next site on the route: Gurudwara Pathar Sahib. This Gurudwara was built in commemoration of the visit of Gurunanak ji in Ladakh, in 1517. As some enthusiasts might know, an extremely interesting historical tale is associated with Gurudwara Pathar Sahib. The tale goes like this: A demon used to torture and eat locals. When he got to know about Guru Nanak ji's miracles and visit, he planned to kill Guru Nanak ji. To achieve his goal, on one night, the demon threw a huge boulder toward Guru Nank ji while he was meditating with his back faced at the hill where the demon was dwelling. On seeing the firm posture of Guru Nanak ji and believeing that he's killed, the demon came where Guru Nanak ji was sitting; however, to his surprise, Guru ji was breathing! He was still and lost in his meditation. The boulder had turned into warm wax on touching Guru Nanak ji's body. In a fit of anger on knowing this, the demon pushed the boulder ahead, but because it was still warm, the boulder got a footprint of the demon himself in addition to the imprint of Guru Nanak ji's body. This left the demon startled and made him immediately surrender to Guru ji. Historical records have it that Ladakhis worship Guru Nanak Sahib and fondly call him Guru Gompka Maharaj.

We did stop at the Gurudwara, but only Ginesh and Rahul went inside. Rohan and I waited outside, soaking in the purity in the air and watching the army convoys around, in awe. Actually, we hadn't bathed that morning, so we refrained from going inside.

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From there, we headed forward for the Magnetic Hill, the Cyclops hill located approximately 25–30 km (26.7 km, to be specific, according to GMaps) away from Leh. As the yellow signboard reads, the layout of the surrounding sloping terrain creates the appearance of a hill. The board also has instructions telling riders or drivers to park their vehicles in the box marked with a white point on the road, which is known as the Magnetic road. We tried it with the Thar but couldn't really feel or see any magnetism; this might be a result of the crowded surrounding, but we aren't sure. Nonetheless, it won't harm to wait for a while and try out the defiance against gravity amidst the Magnetic Hill!

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Trying out the magnetic effect.

Our anticipation was increasing more and more, as we were finally going to reach LEH!!!

(Part III...)
Beautiful travelogue..!! The first shrine that you saw Enroute was the Kargil War Memorial :) So nice to see people of Ladakh hoisting the National Flag ever so proudly. =D>=D>=D>=D>

Vrushali Surve

Happy pillion for life!
Beautiful travelogue..!! The first shrine that you saw Enroute was the Kargil War Memorial :) So nice to see people of Ladakh hoisting the National Flag ever so proudly. =D>=D>=D>=D>
Hehe.. true that Kargil war memorial was the first shrine. ☺ And yes, it is indeed great to see the Tricolor boasting there! ☺