My bike, a saddle bag, a couple of strangers, and the journey to Ladakh! Part 1

This travelogue was written by my fellow rider Maneesh Joshi who is a serving officer in the Indian Armed forces. I am publishing this post here with his permission. I have a small contribution in this travelogue where I describe the Pangong Tso. This entry gives a summary of the preliminary discussion, the 4 month old planning and what goes into executing a journey of such mammoth proportions!

Prologue

“I just hope that we get to serve on it before India and Pakistan come to an agreement, Operation Meghdoot closes down and then we have to see it as tourists! I want that steel grey and white Siachen ribbon so much, sir.” I glanced at the maker of this idiotic remark.  It was Capt XYZ, a brother officer and close friend, sitting in my office over a cup of tea. I empathised with him completely. It was sometime in October 1995. My unit – 22 RAJPUT – had been stationed somewhere in Punjab for some time and we were due to leave for some other place in a couple of months. For the past few weeks, there had been a buzz around the unit that it was to go to Leh and thence to the Siachen glacier.

Also, at this very time, the newspapers were rife with stories of a building rapprochement between India and Pakistan over this disputed barrenness. The papers went so far to say that per “official sources who wished to remain anonymous”, both countries were in the process of pulling their troops back and agreeing on a new ground position line. We young officers were all very eager to serve on what was then touted as the highest battlefield in the world (it still is) and we honestly did not want peace to come before we had been blooded in action.

Unfortunately, this peace initiative did not come through. And most unfortunately for my dear colleague, he did go to Siachen and there, he met his Maker. But I am preempting myself.

11 April 1996, 0730h. The aircraft stopped with a slow heave. The Outside Air Temperature gauge on the inner fuselage wall read 10 degrees. The door opened and I stepped out of the aircraft onto the ground. Instantly, my breath was taken away, both literally and figuratively. The air felt so thin yet so fresh, so invigorating. The mountain peaks far away, many of them with snowy tips, bathed in the golden glow of early morning sunlight. The vast spaces around, the clear air through which one could see for tens of kilometers. The clatter of equipment being unloaded, the chatter of voices, the muted roar of the engines and yet, an immense silence which absorbed these puny sounds into nothingness. I was finally in Leh and within the first few seconds, had fallen deeply in love with high altitude. As the days went by, my love was not unrequited and the mountains kept me alive and well.

That day had been a cool, crisp and cloudless one at Chandigarh, perfect flying weather. For the past several months, we had been preparing ourselves as the unit in general and as individuals in particular for this day when we would reach Leh. I was part of the advance party of the unit and so, on this slightly chilly morning, standing next to the Il – 76 of the Indian Air Force at 0545h, ready to move myself and my men to the fabled land.

All checks completed, the manifest tallied, we boarded and were off. This was the first experience of flying for all my men barring a handful who had served in Sri Lanka and they were not very comfortable at all. Looking out the window, I saw the greenery of the plains change to the browns of the foothills of the Dhauladhars and then, the savage, jagged peaks of the Himalayas. I had read the account of the Andes survivors and knew that to go down in this terrain meant certain death for most of the passengers. The aircraft kept flying serenely and in about an hour’s time, we were in Leh.

The next two years were a flurry of activity ranging from Drass in the West to Chumathang in the East. I was stationed at the Mashkow valley (to become known to the entire country in 1999 during the Kargil War), Drass, Kargil, Leh itself, Kiari, Karu, Tangtse, Chushul, Chumathang and Pang.

The high point of my stay there was the Siachen tenure. For obvious reasons, I cannot write in details about this period. It was the experience of a lifetime for all of us and for some, the experience to end a lifetime. I served on an outpost for 3 months. This post was at 19,000ft and one of the most strategic ones on the entire Siachen front. In 1984, this post had been captured from the Paki Army in a bloody hand-to-hand fight and I and my team of men were quietly determined to defend it at whatever the cost. Those days, there was no ceasefire and daily, we used to take on Pakistani artillery shelling. After some time, we had become quite blasé about it and would reply back with a higher quantum of explosive stuff (both, ordnance and language) from our side.

Due to enemy fire and weather conditions, casualties were high; I lost 3 men on my post due to an avalanche. But on the plus side, we had saved a horribly injured man from certain death too; he had been hit by shrapnel from an air-burst shell and we had had to evacuate him, bleeding profusely from multiple injuries, using a combination of ropes and slings and stretchers. He is alive and well today and like a brother to me.

After my high altitude and Siachen tenure was over, I slipped back into routine life, treasuring those memories and resolving to visit all those places once again, some day, some way. It took 14 plus years for factors to fall into place for a return visit to the beautiful places I had served in and to reminisce about those times as I went along.

Genesis of the idea.

From May 2009 till May 2011, I had been reading for an MBA in Pune. The germ of an idea – to do a bike trip to Leh – started sending out roots at around this time. It blossomed into a plan when I was posted to an NCC battalion in Rajkot. I would have adequate time to plan, prepare and execute this trip during this posting.

Solo or group?

I had been pondering over one important issue – whether to ride solo or in a group? If in a group, then whether to join any sundry group or gather together others of a similar inclination into a new group? Both formats had their pros and cons.

Riding solo would give me complete freedom of action and maneuver over my itinerary. Accommodation would be in familiar Army Messes and Transit Camps en-route. As I was a serving officer, I would be able to visit every single place that I had been stationed in all those years ago. On the other hand, a group would add support for the unforgiving terrain and weather. I would acquire new friends and develop an understanding of working in a non-military team – a novel experience for me. My experiential knowledge of those places would benefit others too. And riding in a team would simply be more fun.

In the end, I decided to form a new team of pure civilians. The task would be challenging and I wanted an opportunity to work with non-service personnel.

Gathering Information

In earlier times, getting information for such a project was at times a more arduous task than the journey itself but now, I had the utter luxury of Google. So, I started Googling for any information on bike trips to Leh and very soon indeed, struck a veritable cornucopia of information. Two sites in particular, namely, xbhp.com and bcmtouring.com gave me information overload! There were specific topics which I was interested in researching. These were mainly two in number, in order of priority:

The optimal time of the year

Right at the very beginning, I had mulled over going in Sep; my experiences of that month in Ladakh had been most pleasant. The day temperatures used to conducive for long drives and at night, one did not freeze. In fact, till the time for reserving train tickets came, I was still in two minds about June or Sep. Interaction with teammates shifted the focus to Jun on account of leave from work. The one weather phenomenon I wanted to avoid at all cost was heavy rain and the second week of Jun seemed to be a good time to go. The holiday season would make it easier for me to find commensurate team members to form a good team.

The condition of the roads

Distance in mountains is measured in terms of time and the condition of the roads would dictate the time spent on each leg as also the night halts for a particular day. It was very well to plan Srinagar to Kargil in one day but if the road turned out to be really bad, I would need to plan a contingency halt along the way. The condition of the roads would be directly influenced by the time of the year in which one rode on them.

The Itinerary

I planned to go via Srinagar in the onward stage and return via Manali. In between, we planned for the Khardung La – Hunder/Diskit leg and the Chang La – Pangong Tso leg. I shall not get into the pros and cons of this circuit vis-à-vis the opposite one as the subject is out of scope of this write-up. Suffice to say that I was vindicated in my choice through the experiences of the team members.

The Initial Plan

The original plan was to start the ride from Jammu on 02 Jun 2012. I postponed the dates based on feedback from my associates in Leh and Manali. One of the key parameters for me was to avoid rain as far as possible; I had had a couple of very “interesting” encounters with rain in this region back in the 90s and I did not want a repeat of them during this trip. So, the final date of the start was fixed at 12 June 2012, ex Jammu. For the benefit of readers, this was the final plan:

The Leh Itinerary

09 Jun SaturdayPune to Jammu Tawi, boarding Jhelum Express at Pune

10 Jun Sunday – En-route in the train

11 Jun Monday Jammu: RV of members, intros, prep for the next day.

12 June Tuesday Jammu to Srinagar (290): Start from a place agreed to on 11th.

13 June Wednesday Srinagar to Kargil (280): Alternate Drass

14 Jun Thursday Kargil to Leh via Lamayuru (225): Early start as members might want time for photography.

15 Jun Friday Leh: 1st day of acclimatisation, sight-seeing, application for permits, bike and equipment check etc. Carb reset done here.

16 June Saturday Leh: 2nd day of acclimatisation and sight-seeing if required.

17 June Sunday Leh to Siachen (230): Onward journey.

18 Jun Monday Siachen to Leh (230): Return journey.

19 June Tuesday Leh to Pangong Tso {Spangmik (170)}: NH Spangmik

20 June Wednesday Spangmik to Nyoma via Chushul (150): Night halt Nyoma

21 June Thursday Nyoma to Karu/Leh (202): self explanatory.

22 June Friday Leh to Pang/Sarchu (175/249): self explanatory.

23 June Saturday Pang/Sarchu to Keylong (207/133): ditto

24 June Sunday Keylong to Manali/Kulu (114/156): depending upon what people prefer

25 June Sunday Manali/Kulu to New Delhi (541/500) OR Ambala (326/286): Ambala if people are tired, else Delhi

26 Jun Monday Reserve day OR Ambala to New Delhi (217)

27 Jun Tuesday –  Reserve

28 Jun Thursday New Delhi to Mumbai (by train)Pune riders to book bikes on Pune trains, travel by Mumbai train.

Total days on the road: 14/15. Emergencies etc: 2/1 days . Grand Total – 16 days.

Gathering a Team     

It is a major challenge to form a team, for a project of this magnitude, from a pool of complete strangers. I had some ideas about the composition of the team. If I was able to form a team which suited my needs, I would ride with it as a member. If I did not get the requisite type of members, I would either go solo or ask to join a team which I liked.

I wanted men only for team members. Before women readers label me as a typically Indian male Chauvinist pig, I hasten to add that I have the greatest respect for women and am married for the past 18 years to the loveliest of them all – my beloved wife Gauri. Women are superior to men in a very large number of functions (thank God for that) but that also means that the two genders have completely different thinking processes. I wanted members of my own gender so that all of us would be on the same wavelength in most decisions. This way, the chances of conflicts would be lesser. Also, women have their “days” at a particular time of the month. If a woman rider had hers during the ride and she was in pain, needed help and rest, she could disturb the whole team’s schedule. She would need a separate room with a bathroom unlike the men who could be less modest about their ways. This trip promised to be physically strenuous over 14 odd days and I really, really did not want a situation to arise wherein our respectively individual and instinctive concern for a woman rider in trouble would overcome our responsibilities to each other as a team. So, no single women.

A spousal team of husband – wife/ boyfriend – girlfriend would be welcome as long as there was another accompanying pair so that there would be mutual support between them. But getting two such pairs was a tall order and finally, I just dropped the whole thing.

My second parameter was that there were to be no Royal Enfields in the team. One of India’s favourite touring bikes for pillion teams, I personally distrust this bike’s reliability per se and had read of its propensity for trouble at the drop of a hat. In the high altitudes, rugged terrain and sparse service station availability so typical of  the remote areas of Ladakh, this bike would be a maintenance nightmare. In the days on the road, as I witnessed serious reliability problems about a  large number of REs, my skepticism of this bike’s dubious long-distance touring credentials grew stronger and was vindicated. To all RE owners who read these few lines, peace. To each his own. But, for me, no Royal Enfields. When RE owners did come into the team, I slotted them together as a pair along with non-RE owners for support.

The third restriction I laid on myself was that team members were to be single-seated i.e. no pillion riders. If such a pair wished to join my team, it should have to get another similar pair along for mutual support. These two pairs would be self-supporting in all their operations. Even with just one rider and his luggage onboard, a normal 150cc bike would be strained at the 10,000 feet plus altitudes with only a small reserve of power available for the extra steep climbs.

With a rider, pillion and luggage, there would be no reserve at all and the probability for all-round trouble increased manifold; a pillion with his extra luggage would put much greater stress on the engine, clutch, suspension, fuel efficiency et al thereby increasing the chances for problems in these areas. The implications of such trouble for the team had the potential to cause the trip to be terminated prematurely, at the worst possible time and place. For the overall welfare of the team, I was not going to invite such a condition if I could help it. So, no pillion riders.

Broadcasting the Intent

It was all very well for me to plan on my own but my intent had to reach similarly minded people out in the wide world.

To achieve this end, I signed up with xbhp.com and bcmtouring.com and opened a thread in both forums each titled “The Leh 2012 Planner” to enable others in the black space beyond to gather under one banner.

xBhp link:

http://www.xbhp.com/talkies/tourer/19998-leh-2012-planner-44.html

BCMTouring link:

http://www.bcmtouring.com/forum/ladakh-zanskar-f24/leh-2012-planner-t38095/

Member Data

Also, a Google Doc spread sheet was put up so that these aspirants could share information among themselves. (I have placed all links at the end of the travelogue for ease of compilation and viewer access. However, I have not posted a link to the spread sheet containing aspirant data out of respect for individual privacy.)

Well, pretty soon, I started getting replies. Those on xbhp were correctly aimed at a motorcycle trip while on bcmt, a number of people wanted to go on four wheelers. I replied to the queries in the best way I could.

The Google Doc spreadsheet started getting populated with names and email addresses of aspiring riders. I wrote an email to each and every one of the addresses there. Some replied, most did not. I knew that only those who were serious to go in Jun 2012 would respond and do so in a way which merited establishment and maintenance of contact with them. And so it turned out to be.

Gathering of The Flock.

Sometime in February, a group started forming. It consisted of 14 members including me. They were, in no particular order, myself, Neville Shroff, Fakhruddin Dahodwala, Shubham Jain, Vaibhav Modak, Samir + Surbhi Vora, Henry D’Silva, Prashant Upadrasta, Kathik Hebbar + Gloria Davis, Kaushik Jayaram + Atasi Giri and Siva Chaitanya. These people came from Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore and in the case of Henry, from Abu Dhabi.

I met Kaushik and Atasi in Pune and found that their team members including Siva Chaitanya were seasoned bikers.

The Bikes

All this while, I have been talking about the members and so it is now time to write a bit about the steeds which would take us into the wilderness.

Bajaj Pulsars (Qty 04) Kaushik Jayaram, Samir Vora, Siva Chaitanya and I Pulsed with energy! Mine was the original model circa 2002 while Kaushik’s and Samir’s were later models. Siva Chaitanya had a 220 FI model.

Bajaj Discover (Qty 01) Shubham was a Discover(er). Neville had most generously offered Shubham his older CBZ for the trip but Shubham preferred his Discover.

Royal Enfield (all models)(Qty 02) Prashant and Karthik were the thumpers.

Honda Dazzler(Qty 02) Neville and Fakhruddin Dazzled.

Hero Honda Karizma (carburetted version)(Qty 01) Vaibhav had Karizma in other ways too!

Yamaha R15 Henry was on this bike which belonged to his son!

One Large Group or Separate Smaller Teams?

This was an issue that consumed the better part of a month in analysis and many emails were exchanged in support of and in opposition to both formats.

I was an ardent advocate of the multiple team system. There were many reasons for my promotion of this format. For one, getting 14 complete strangers together for such a venture to agree to even speak on a similar frequency for a common course of thought and action would be well nigh impossible. Then, it would be very difficult for such a large formation of bikes to stay intact and in contact on the road. Hotel accommodation for the entire group, all along the way, may not be possible under one roof. Such a large group would be just too unwieldy for its own good.

Conversely, splitting the group into three smaller teams would make it much more amenable to better management of riders, road manners, hotel stays and most importantly, the attitudes of the team members. Each team would be free to make changes in the schedule for itself within the overall schedule of the group.

Therefore, I proposed a three team setup in this way:

Team One: Maneesh Joshi, Neville Shroff, Fakhruddin Dahodwala and Shubham Jain.

Team Two: Samir and Surbhi Vora (couple), Henry D’Silva, Prashant Upadrasta, Karthik Hebbar and Gloria Davis (couple) and Vaibhav Modak.

Team Three: Kaushik Jayaram, Atasi Giri and Siva Chaitanya.

The distribution was based on geographical proximity of members to each other as also the time when they gave their final decision to be part of the venture.

Predicted riding style too played a part. Henry was an avid photographer and would need more time than the rest on the route. The Vora couple and the Hebbar-Davis couple would be a bit slow owing to pillion riding. The two Bulls together could share parts and spares and yet be supported by non-Bull riders.

Kaushik, Atasi and Siva were alumni of the same engineering college and would prefer to stick together in one group.

A Precursor Ride in the Spring

Feedback from members of the Pune G2G suggested that a small ride prior to the main one would give a fair idea to each member about the riding styles of one another. So, I scheduled a ride on 29 April. It was in the general area of the Tamhini and Varandha Ghat; the Pune and Mumbai riders were to rendezvous at Hotel Gauri, Mangaon, the team would ride through the Varandha Ghat and exit onto the Pune – Bangalore highway. The Mumbai riders would then peel off short of Pune for Mumbai while the Pune riders would ride on to Pune.

Kaushik Jayaram and his team could not attend owing to leave issues. Vaibhav Modak from Team Two attended and Team One was at full strength.

The ride went off very well indeed. We surprised ourselves by riding in a very mature and dignified way (even the relative youngsters, Fakhru and Shubham did so!) More than that, we gelled instantly and found an excellent team spirit among each member of the team. The riding styles were different but not so divergent as to put question marks on any particular member’s place in the team.

After the ride, I put up a small ride report and analysis and send it to all members as an aide-memoir.

Differences And Discord

It is Utopian to expect a complete agreement of opinions when 14 persons of vastly varying backgrounds, experiences and philosophies are clubbed into one entity. And it would be equally Utopian to expect a resolution of differences which satisfies all concerned.

For the benefit of readers of a similar inclination (the Leh trip), I shall list some examples. Rest assured that all through the planning, preparation and conduct of this venture, all issues were addressed with a gentlemanly demeanour. The language was courteous, the tone was respectful and the conclusions were pragmatic. Where needed, we agreed to disagree.

Bikes

Neville had wanted to ride his CBR 250R for the trip. I own an identical bike sans the ABS and had too, at one point, ruminated over doing this trip on this bike. The combination of incompatible tyres, low ground clearance and a complicated engine militated against this choice. My discussions with him regarding the overall inappropriateness of this bike for such a trip – the bad roads, lack of service cover, complicated electronics etc – gave him adequate justification to opt for his Dazzler instead. Just because others had done the Leh jaunt on their CBR 250s gave us no reason to replicate their feat – because something CAN be done does not automatically mean that it SHOULD be done was the way we saw it.

Siddharth had wanted to ride his modded FZ; I was able to convince him on the merits of his cousin’s Impulse over the FZ.

Bike loads

This was a major point. Samir Vora was planning on the ride with his wife Surbhi as pillion, on a Pulsar 150. I was quite strong in my opposition to this setup. However, Samir was able to manage the loads and completed the trip successfully. I request Samir to give his inputs on his experience for the benefit of all readers.

Team Formation

After the small ride of 29 April, it became apparent to me (and to the others too) that Vaibhav Modak could be a real asset and a compatible member of the Mumbai – Pune team. Coincidentally, it came to light that he was having some issues with his earmarked team i.e. with Samir, Prashant and Henry. Apparently, some members of this team were inclined towards hiring a vehicle to carry their luggage throughout the journey and Vaibhav was uncomfortable with this idea – the financial and other aspects seemed to not appeal to him. So, I, with the concurrence of the other members, included him in Team One.

Kaushik and Team Drop Out

As mentioned earlier, I had had met Kaushik and Atasi some time in April and was relying on them to be good supports for the ride. Out of the blue, Kaushik and his entire team dropped out – they were with Tata Motors and had not been able to wangle the required quantum of leave, it being their very first year of service. This was a major blow to me; I had found Kaushik Jayaram to be a most level-headed youngster with great potential and I had been relying on him to be a trusted lieutenant.

The Final Teams

Finally, the teams had formed up.  Team One comprised Neville, Fakhruddin, Shubham, Vaibhav and self while Team Two comprised Prashant, Samir – Surbhi, Henry and Karthik + Gloria. A last minute addition to Team Two was Ankit Tiwari.Very frankly, I did not find that Siddharth would gell with either of the teams and had to ask him to join some other group.

Schedule Change No 1

I had been monitoring the weather in the general area of Ladakh through a variety of sources – friends, weather websites, experiential feedback on Net fora etc. And I came to one critical conclusion – if, due to any issues with man, bike and/or the weather, we were delayed in our progress by two days, we would not be able to make it to Delhi in time to board the Mumbai – bound train on 28 June.

In my experience of that area, passes can close for days altogether due to snowfall. A slightly heavy landslide imposes similar delays. So, a delay of two days was not at all uncommon. We would have to examine three options for changing the present itinerary, namely:

(a) Delete some destination from the schedule e.g. not visit Pangong Tso. This option was not okayed by the team as a whole; going here and not seeing Pangong Tso seemed like heresy for us.

(b) Get extra days of leave sanctioned prior to the trip which would be availed in case of emergencies. This was possible but it left the train date dilemma unsolved.

(c) Cancel the return journey ticket and ride down all the way to Mumbai and Pune. This plan seemed workable and in the light of the biking mood that had seized all members by then, all members were enthusiastic in agreeing to this change.

So, sometime in May, I canceled the return journey rail tickets from Delhi to Mumbai and the plan was finalized with the following amendments:

09 June till 23 June – Sameasaforesaid

24 June Sun:     Manali/Kulu to Ambala (326/286)

25 June Mon: Ambala to New Delhi (217)

26 Jun Tue: New Delhi to Gwalior (382)

27 Jun Wed: Gwalior to Mhow (531)

28 Jun Thu: Mhow to Nashik (390)

29 June Fri: Nashik to Mumbai/Pune (165/211)

Total days on the road: 18. Emergencies etc: On the fly.

After this change, we were quite relaxed that there would be no pressure to reach Delhi by 28th June and that we could ride at our will.

Little did we know that this change too would be superseded by another one at the very end of the ride.

The Attitude Of The Two Teams

I will be remiss if I do not comment on the attitudes of the two teams as this feedback will be of some use for any readers who wish to tread on this path in the future. I shall try to be as neutral as possible in my judgment but if some bias shows through, it is only on account of lack of information about Team Two’s workings.

Team One

From the very start, Team One was on the same wavelength for any and every decision. There used to be a minimum of two or three emails exchanged almost daily and each of us knew exactly about the level of prep of one another.

If one member found merit in getting rubber gloves, he discussed it with the other four. I had made a group with the email addresses of the other four and each email of mine used to go to all of them. The reverse was also true. As a result of this, we were up-to-date about every aspect of the ride on a daily basis.

Team Two

I do not know if this level of integration was achieved in Team Two.

Despatch of bikes

This was a daunting task. Team One had five bikes and Team Two had four. All had to reach Jammu Tawi railway station by 11 Jun at the latest if the plan was to be followed. During my short spans of leave in Jan and April, Neville, Shubham and I had interacted with officials of the parcel department at Pune railway station. Mr Agarwal at the main office advised me to start dispatch from 3rd June while Mr Deshpande at the railway station assured me of sending 2 bikes from 7th June. We did not want to face the unspeakable horror of a rider reaching on 11 Jun and staring into space, waiting for his bike! Accordingly, a dispatch schedule was devised. There were many changes that occurred through the days and weeks which are too tedious to mention here. This was the final dispatch schedule:

Neville and Fakhruddin – 03 June

Maneesh and Vaibhav – 06 Jun

Shubham – to send his bike from Bhopal to Jammu Tawi directly.

Henry and Samir – 08 Jun

Prashant – 09 Jun

Ankit – I do not remember the date now.

The Never-Ending Wait

09 Jun seemed not to arrive at all as we prepared and waited and waited and prepared. But there was some excitement before that.

03 Jun 2012 Neville and Fakhru’s travails

Neville and Fakhru reached Pune on 03 Jun to dispatch their bikes by that evening’s Jhelum express. The major issue they faced was about disposal of the petrol drained from their bikes’ tanks prior to the packing. Nobody seemed to want to accept a gift of one of India’s most precious commodities and ultimately, they were able to give it away for free!

Both seemed exhausted by the day’s proceedings by the time they returned to Mumbai and in hindsight, it was wrong on our part, as a team, to schedule the dispatch of their bikes from Pune instead of from Mumbai. Their experience was a fitting introduction to the rest of the members of the times that lay ahead.

06 Jun 2012 Maneesh and Vaibhav send their bikes

In sharp contrast to what Neville and Fakhru had experienced, Vaibhav and I had no problems at all. We had left just enough petrol in the tank to make the journey to the railway station. Yet, Vaibhav’s bike seemed to have some hidden capacity and it yielded an extra almost two liters of fuel.

We carried the drain-off home for consumption by our respective cars. Mr Samir, an agent, helped us at the railway station with the packing and documentation and it went off very smoothly indeed.

Hotel Accommodation

A major issue again but relying on feedback from the Web, it did not seem a problematic one; there seemed to be adequate accommodation available along the route without the need for advance bookings. To be on the safer side, I asked one of my Army colleagues in Nagrota to help us out. He was able to arrange overnight stays for five persons at Nagrota, Srinagar and Kargil which was much more than we had hoped for. For Leh and beyond, we would stay as and where rooms were available. Yet, I spoke twice to Mr Tsewang Dorjey, the owner of Shanti Guest House in Leh about rooms and this was to prove decisive as will be seen later.

My initiative to look for rooms for my team only was later to prove to be a bit of a sore point between Samir and me as he felt that I should have informed Team Two about my actions and I was at pains to explain that the confirmation of such accommodation was received at virtually the last minute. This and a few other such minor issues caused the two teams to gradually go their separate ways and form independent entities.

Pertinence Of This Travelogue

Till today, I have not received any feedback about the experiences of Team Two from any of its members. Naturally, they may have written separate logs either individually or as a team of which I am not aware. Therefore, this travelogue will be for the team comprising Maneesh Joshi, Neville Shroff, Fakhruddin Dahodwala, Shubham Jain and Vaibhav Modak only.

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Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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One thought on “My bike, a saddle bag, a couple of strangers, and the journey to Ladakh! Part 1

  1. jjjjj

    mast hai bhaijaan… kab jaa rahe ho vapas

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