Ladakh on Two Wheels – Desert in the skies!

Gigantic mountains, magnificent landscapes, treacherous roads and mountain sickness – all form the experience of traveling in Ladakh. If you have ever traveled on a motorcycle you would probably agree that motorcycling in Ladakh is the best of all trips you’d ever take on two wheels.

When we reached the hotel, we were mesmerized by the view of ice-capped mountains right from our room.

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The next day we decided to stay in the hotel and walk around the Leh town, a bit. For our travel to Nubra Valley the next day, we rented a motorcycle a Royal Enfield Standard 500cc.

It was 8 am in the morning, and we were packing our saddle bags on the motorcycle, readying the machine for a long journey. There were other tourists in the hotel who were busy filling their taxis with food, water, and wait… oxygen cylinders! They looked at us in utter disbelief when we said we were going to Nubra on the bike. The hotel guys suggested we drop the idea of going on a bike because the road and weather near Khardung La is ‘bad’. We just smiled and told them that this is our third time to the summit, and that we’d manage it.

With our biking gear, which we were carrying with us,  we started our journey from Leh, and soon we reached the monastery en-route to the pass from where you get a breathtaking view of the town.

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As we reached near the summit we could see the roads we just travelled on as tiny lines on the huge mountains.

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It was getting colder and colder, and we took breaks to rest and absorb the views that our camera failed to capture.

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The roads do get worse as you go up from South Pullu to K-Top. Finally, we reached the top, and stopped for a few minutes to take pictures. Khardung La appears very different from 2010 with a huge number of tourists and taxis. We measured the true height of Khardung La using his watch and from the road it came to be 17206 ft, which is far from the claimed height of 18,379 ft.

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We didn’t stay at the top for more than 5-10 minutes, as the acute mountain sickness is always a threat. But as we started to move down the other side of the top, the mountains were clad in white snow and the roads were in very bad shape.

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Riding here was particularly challenging because of the cold weather that kept fogging our helmets time and again. Roads and weather became better after we reached North Pullu, which is almost 15 km from the top.

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As we were moving towards Nubra, the views again start to mesmerise you. The roads were very good, and we were enjoying the ride.

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After almost 7 hours or riding, suddenly, when we were about to reach Diskit, the landscape changed dramatically. It seemed like the mountains on either side of the road moved away giving way to an empty plain in front of us. We could only see a dust storm in front of us, and rays of sun through it. The wind was so hard that sometimes it would sound like a thunder when it hit us shaking our motorcycle.

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It took us eight long hours to reach Diskit. We were looking for a decent place to stay and thankfully, we found The Desert Himalayan Resort in the valley. In the evening, the dust settled and the views became clearer.

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We could see the giant Diskit Buddha sitting right on top of the hill from the resort.

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The mornings are particularly beautiful with much clearer blue sky.

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The next morning we went to see the Hunder sand dunes which is no more than a 15-20 min ride from Diskit.

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In Hunder we saw the double-humped camels and tourists taking ride on them in the sand dunes. The valley has its surprises to offer and just when we thought we have seen it all, we were amazed to see sand dunes with mammoth mountains all around making for a perfect picture. We just stood there basking in the glory of nature, trying to absorb every bit of it.

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We stayed in Nubra valley for two nights and then we headed towards Leh again ready to climb the mighty Khardung La yet another time. This time the weather near the top was much harsher. It started snowing, and we had no option but to keep riding. Our riding jackets had turned white as the snow clung onto us.

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We quickly passed the top without staying there for much. And the beautiful views of Leh started to welcome us.

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BRO men working on a road in between.

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The first sight of Leh city as we descended made us feel we were home. Except that Delhi was still 1000 km away and we had many more miles to cover before we got home.

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