Sunday, 31 August 2014

Day 7 : Leh - Khardung-La - Diskit - Hunder (Nubra Valley)

Day 7 : Events (Aug 21)
  • Morning 8:30 am had an appointment for my bullet check-up from Mohan Sharma
  • Bullet battery had drained out completely and had to push start it on a slope near hotel in Leh
  • After getting the bike checked (didn't find any issue with Battery) headed to Nubra
  • Passed Khardung-La and stopped for photos (yet to get hold of the photos of me riding)
  • Headed to Diskit and then to Hunder
  • Put a tent near the River in Hunder (Nubra Valley) and spent the rest of the night at the river bank and mostly inside the tent. It was an awesome experience
Leh - Khardung-La - Diskit - Hunder (Nubra Valley)

Road condition:
Leh till Khardung-La : Good...Bad...Worse...Freezing Cold....Low Oxygen...Worst...Sigh, you get used to it and then 'Hey I can see a Sign Board' :)

Once you are on the top at the KL, do what you do (take photos,etc) and better start descending again (soon,) either towards Leh or towards Nubra Valley. I chose to move towards the later one. Standing at the pass for long time in the extreme cold and low pressure may cause discomfort or worse AMS. So avoid goofing around on any of the passes for longer, unless you are very comfortable at high altitude and cold places.

Khardung-La till base of the mountains (towards Nubra Valley):
Worst than what you might have seen while coming up to Khardung-La from Leh side. But the good news is, once you make it through to the planes on Nubra side, the exotic view of sand dunes and beautiful golden mountains would more than make-up for the trouble you faced on the way. This region has been my favorite part of this trip and the struggle to reach here was totally worth it. 

As you climb up from Leh till Khardungla, temperature will drop drastically and I was shivering inside my jacket with thermal liners and winter riding gloves (both I had shopped in UK, which is a cold country btw). I was using a half face helmet and was using a buff as face mask all through. During this climb my face was exposed to the cold breeze and chill factor and by the time I reached the top, my skin felt like paper. Dry, crisp, thin and white due to dryness. It was difficult, once I took off the gloves for operating the camera.

As you climb down from Khardung-La towards Nubra (or even towards Leh), the altitude drops and it feels more normal (relaxing) to breathe. Sun light gives enough warmth and temperature is also in a decent range, say 15-17 degree C (I guess).

Fuel Stops:
Rs 600 / 79 pl = 7.5 Ltrs

Don't remember seeing (or even hearing) about a petrol bunk in Nubra Valley. So you should've tanked up in Leh while leaving for Khardung-La. Thats what I did.

At a round-about in Leh, just before starting the journey for the day.

Another drool worthy view, I just couldn't ride through without stopping for a picture.

A view of Khardung-La.

5 out of the team of 6 made it till here. Not easy I tell you. Now I have a lot of respect for anyone who has attempted this route.

I wanted to send Dad a pic of his bike at the highest motorable road in the world and am glad I could do it while the bike still has the original registration plate:)

I believe!

Himalayan Yak! I tried whistling to get it's attention, and when it finally turned, I didn't get any positive vibes :P So I just stopped doing that nonsense.

Some fellow riders passing through.. Yellow JK number plates are of rented (hired) motorcycles.

Sameer posing as a Ninja in the freezing temperature:D This checkpost is after crossing Khardung-La and we had some chow mein with egg here. Taste was horrible, but some hot food saved our lives after the KL ordeal.

See the terrain and colour of the mountains here and notice the gradual change as we get deeper into the Nubra Valley..

Sand storm on the river bank, but it appears as if it's on the water surface.

Beautiful view of a golden mountain.

A typical view of the region, which is also known as 'Cold Desert'.

Sunset view in the 'Cold Desert'.

When the sun hides behind the mountains, the whole valley is engulfed in darkness and with fading sunlight, it's warmth fades away.

Another straight stretch.

Ahem! With my scratched DSLR screen protector, I couldn't make out the sharpness, so its not the best possible shot. Still thats all I have for this trip:)

Sunset view in Nubra Valley

Inside the tent. After a long day's ride we three setup the tent to crash for the night, on the bank of Shyok River

Few visit to the mechanic shops and bit of fooling around inside the city, before I left for Khardung-La and then off to Nubra Valley.

Night Halt:
Place                : Hunder, Nubra Valley
Accommodation : Tent, On Shyok river bank
Cost per room    : Free (may have to pay local authority a small amount like 100 bucks per tent)
Tent Capacity   : 5 person OR Like we used it for 3 people + luggage for 3 riders
Other Details     :
- The whole area is full of various tourist agencies who provide tents and food at a cost
- It was not necessary to go through them, so we put our own tent after enquiring from few local people
- Food can be arranged from near-by restaurants before 8 pm (which cost us appx 500 bucks for 3 people)
- A warm sleeping bag and thermals should be enough to manage the temperature at night
- One dude who owns a resort on the river bank told us, he owns the cold desert area, so we can pick any spot and just pay him a fair amount. Glad we didn't fall for that :D

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Day 6 : Kargil - Mulbekh - Namik-La - Lamayuru - Leh

Day 6 : Events (Aug 20)

  • Daspa Ji, the owner of the hotel (/homestay) in Kargil took us on a rare mountain road to show the Indo-Pakistan border
  • Had a good breakfast at Daspa Hotel and started for Leh
  • Stopped at Mulbekh for water and to checkout the ancient statue of Buddha
  • Crossed Namik-La pass
  • Had traditional Ladakhi food for lunch somewhere near Lamayuru
  • Reached Leh in the afternoon
  • Headed straight to a bullet workshop for a general check-up, as the road to Dras had shaken and stirred both the ride and the rider

Kargil - Mulbekh - Namik-La - Lamayuru - Leh

Road condition:
At a high level I could recollect, Kargil till Leh roads were good. I didn't had any challenge, other than feeling drowsy on the way, so stopped the bike on side of the road and caught a quick nap in shade. Amazing feeling, you must try that. I had left Kargil by morning 9 and were in Leh by afternoon, while still the whole of afternoon (=light) was there. This includes many stops, lunch break, etc all through the way.

Climate was moderately cold all through, but during the clear sky day time, sun rays are strong too. So when on bike I was getting cold breeze, but if I stand longer in the sun, it was bit annoying.

Fuel Stops:
Kargil : 
Rs 500 / 77.40 pl = 6.5 Ltrs

The last village on Indian territory called Hunder-Brok.

The greenery seen in the bottom of the photograph is the village named 'Hunder'. Again the green patch  (valley) visible in the distance is the last village of Pakistan called 'Brolmo'. Upon close inspection you may see some of the army camps on that far of mountain. The faint line/road visible is the Silk Route. Click on the link to know more about it. Currently civilians are not allowed on this route and its used only by Indian Army.

Special thanks to Daspa Ji for taking us to this place and sharing his first hand experience of the Kargil war.

There are still many landmines planted in the whole region, hence its instructed not to step away from the road. Notice the bullet holes on the sign board.

Leaving Kargil for a new destination. Kargil will remain as a special place in my memory and I may come back again to experience the winter here.

A view of city of Kargil from the higher mountains.

She gave me permission for shooting a portrait of her:)

Notice the pollen of cotton plants.

The temple at Mulbekh. There is a statue carved on the big stone, is said to be of the next Buddha. Not sure of the story behind it.

On search of a statue I had heard of, I took a detour and came across this school. Students are seated outside the building to enjoy the warm morning sun light.

Very excited to see me taking photograph.

Here is a cool dude in the making. Must admit I wasn't half as cool as this kid when I was in school:P

Selfie with Dan (UK) and Heiko (Germany)

Heiko's 20 years old Honda African Twin 750cc tourer with a custom 47 litre fuel tank o_O

Dan's BMW GS Dakar (650) Edition. He used to own a GS1200 and got rid of it as it was too heavy for adventure touring. I too share the same opinion with Dan on this one. GS1200 was my dream bike of sorts until I kept seeing it in my office parking in UK everyday, just to realise, its too heavy and too bulky for me for world adventure touring needs. Hence this 650cc single cylinder looks like a good option for me for future upgrade.

Prayer wheel at Mulbekh village.

Passing Namik La

That bridge on the left is the road to Leh.

Leh - 225 kms

Leh, another 120 kms.

Entrance to the area called 'Moonland'. 

A selfie at 'Moonland' for FB.

Notice the road has got washed off due to water in the river. When I passed the river had very less water, may be during a heavy shower this damage to the road might have happened.

Heading from snow caped mountain to more sandy region.

I just love drooling over my ride next to a breath taking view. Thanks Pegasus for the friendship and support.

Got to see many such straight roads, I had seen in wallpaper shots. Due to many reasons, I had a bit conservative approach while shooting at such places. However would take my time to shoot some beautiful shots, when I visit this place and not riding a motorcycle (*may be!).

Some adventurous riders testing the magnetic field bit too literally. Made an interesting shot for me though.

The stretch known to have the magical (/scientific) reverse effect of Earth's magnetic field.

Ahhhhhh what a view this was!!! :)

I was feeling sleepy, so stopped after this stretch and caught a nap and had some water on a shady patch of the road.

Entering city of Leh.

First visit after reaching Leh, was to a garage run by Mohan Sharma.

This is a completely worn-out disc brake pad. You can see a thin layer of pad is left on the metal.

This is the disc pad of one of the riders in my group. Yep, there is no pad left, its the metal base which has been rubbing against the disc. Scary stuff!

Beware when you ride long and keep using your disc brakes. A brake pad at this stage damages the disc and may make it unusable.

A contraption outside a welding shop. Not bad I say!

Until I reached Leh, I never really expected to see a city again, especially after doing the Sonmarg-Kargil strip. By the term city I meant a place with lot of people and all luxuries like restaurants, mechanic workshops, hospitals, shops etc. Nope, the riding route wasn't definitely far from a straight line, as it appears on this screenshot above.

Night Halt:
Place                : Leh
Accommodation : Reeyork Hotel, Near Police Station Area
Cost per room    : Rs 1200
Room Capacity   : 2 + 1 additional mattress
Other Details     :
- Bikes parked inside hotel main gate
- Simple rooms with hot water facility, but not available all the time
- For shower I needed hot water, rest all chores were manageable in cold water
- Food quality and taste was not bad, and cost of food was almost same as outside (so when feeling lazy it makes sense to order here)
- Owner/Odly-acting-like-owner was a stingy guy and was trying to make money out of everything
- Leh is the district and I found it has most modern conveniences, so for any needs its a good idea to roam around in the market
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