Scuba diving in the Bahamas, walking on the nature trails in the Amazon Forest, skydiving in LA, finding your soulmate in a city that you have never been to before, winning a lottery, attending the concert of your favorite musical artist, finding a treasure in the middle of nowhere and meeting your celebrity crush in a hotel where you are staying are few of the many events that can be called ‘once in a lifetime’ moments.
For Shrikant Gai, his once in a lifetime moment was when he decided to take a solo bike ride from Srinagar to Leh, the jewel in the crown of Jammu & Kashmir. Nestled amid the Himalayan Range, Leh has a captivating beauty of the scenic meadows, water bodies, cold desert, snow capped mountains, and stunning trails. It has become the dream destination for all trekkers, bikers, skiers, adventure lovers, explorers and backpackers.
“The feeling was awesome and words are not enough to express my experience of the expedition, but ever since I talked about it, it makes me feel that I am still travelling and I am still there. I have been a frequent traveler, but the emotions associated with this tour were different. We enjoyed, we had fun, we became emotional, we made new friends, we felt proud, we captured every possible feeling and emotions we could during the entire journey.”
To witness the undisputed beauty of Ladakh, Shrikant and his friends decided to explore the terrains on bike and have an epic adventure together with one of the best travel buddies that he had, who took care of each other and became friends for life. After an overnight stay at Manali and acquainting with fellow passengers, Shrikant started the ride towards Jispa passing through the Rohtang Pass situated at 3980 m. The bikers arrived to Lahaul Valley on way which transformed their view from hilly area to huge mountains and valleys and curvy roads. After covering a distance of about 140 km, the riders reached Jispa and rested for the night.
“The major riding experience started when we rode ahead of Jispa. The route towards Sarchu was magnificent. We crossed the mighty Baralacha La Pass at 4800 m and witnessed the beauty of Suraj Tal. After covering a distance of 190 km resting in those camps which gave us the view of starry sky was worth it. But, the best adrenaline rush I experienced was on the way to Leh where we crossed the 21 Gata Loops, 45 Km of Pang ground and the high mountain pass, Tanglang La at 5328 m. I cannot express the thrill of riding on that route.”
Connected from Leh is the Nubra Valley via Khardung La, which is the highest civilian motorable pass that was the next route taken by Shrikant and the other riders. The view of the nude mountains, cold desert and moon shining bright in the valley stunned the riders after a long ride of 130 Km. Before coming back to Leh, the riders ventured the Pangong Tso Lake, famous for its picturesqueness before riding along the Shyok River which took them to the kind of view that is usually seen in Hollywood movies.
“I have been to beach several times but I don’t dip in the sea water. I hate going into the water. I don’t know what kicked me at Leh but like a crazy person, I decided to do river rafting at Zanskar Rafting in Leh. The water was extremely cold and I grabbed my safety suit and sat in the middle of the raft. The rapids were strong and it hit me that I did one of the craziest adventures of my life I had thought I would never do. But I did it in Leh and it was one of the most precious memories. I realized that it is best to lose yourself in the barren panorama while you are in Leh and just do what you feel like doing barring all your inhibitions.”
Funny, Emotional, Breathtakingly Beautiful Ride Ahead
“After spending enough time in Leh, our next stop was Kargil and the journey started on a quite funny note. One of our friends, en route Kargil, started his bike and rode straight off 100 Km where we, in fact, had halted at fuel stations for refilling the tanks. He did not notice us and because of no network, we couldn’t even contact him. After we kept riding, we caught hold of him at Lamayuru Monastery, one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh.”
“The fun turned into an emotional ride when we entered Kargil. Looking at the amazing views of Kargil, Tiger Hill, we explored the famous peaks from the Kargil War and were stunned to feel how the army officials spend days and months protecting us from the enemies with absolutely no information on days, festivals or holidays. We even passed the second coldest inhabited place in the world, Dras and it was actually nerve chilling even to imagine going there.”
The riders visited the famous spots along the way and ended the ride at Srinagar after 12 days of travel only to leave the keys of the bikes but carried a lot of memories, experiences and stories along the way.
“We passed through all the ranges of the Great Himalayas, starting from the Shivalik, Karakoram & Pir Panjal. The memories of late night road journey from Jammu to Srinagar risking our lives while crossing South Kashmir, early morning (4 am) shopping at Awantipora, Dal Lake, Shankracharya Temple, Srinagar Market, Lunch at Lal Chowk, Eid Celebrations, Shalimar Garden, Noon & Kahwa Tea, Sonamarg, War Zone (Kargil, Drass & Batalik), Oldest Gompa Lamayuru, Rafting at World’s highest point (Zanskar river), Pathar Sahib Gurudwara, Leh Palace, grueling terrain & passes such as Zoji La, Namki La, Fotu La, World’s highest motorable road Khardung La, Nakee La, Tanglang La, Bara-Lacha La & Chang La, crazy bath in Pangong Tso lake (-4 D°C), cute Marmot, Yak, Deer & Pashmina Goats at Changthang Wildlife sanctuary, snow-capped Karakoram Ranges, Sand dunes at Nubra Valley, Diskit Monastery, the Gata loops (22 hairpin bends) at 4190 m elevation on Pang Sarchu road, Suraj Tal, whiskey & brandy Nallah, picturesque Jispa, hiking at 4350 m Himalayan ranges and driving alongside the rivers across the two states are never going to fade away.”
1. Don’t carry too much clothes. Few clothes which I took were left unused during the trip.
2. Take more warm clothes instead of regular fashionable clothes.
3. Carry light luggage as you get scope for lot of shopping.
4. Carry hard cash as few places don’t have ATMs.
5. Use the appropriate service providers’ SIM card.