The Ladakh region, nestled between the Karakoram and Himalayan mountain ranges, offers a feast for the eyes of a travel enthusiast. The region is a highland with rolling hills highlighted by hues of orange, red, green, and grey. The shimmering crystal blue water bodies and rugged landscape promise you a surreal experience.
Biking to Ladakh and around it is often referred to as the Holy Grail of bike journeys. The best option to get there would be a bike trip from Manali, as this would acclimatise you to the weather conditions. It is imperative that your body is used to the weather for a period of two days before you embark on dangerous bike trails, and this would not be possible if you flew down to Leh. But once you have decided to endure the thin air and the terrifying passes through the mountains, you will experience a slice of solitude that no other route can offer.
How to prepare for the trip
Planning for the road trip should ideally happen well ahead of the start of the journey. Here are some tips that will help you prepare:
- Plan the route - You should have a clear idea about the places you will be riding through and when you will be getting there. Get an estimate of the distance you will be travelling and the amount of time you can realistically ride each day. Remember, even if your Royal Enfield promises you the smoothest of road trips, driving for 9 hours each day for 10 days in a row can tire you out!
- Carry all vehicle documents - Make sure that your two-wheeler insuranceoffers you comprehensive coverage to ride worry-free. You need to carry your bike insurance papers, driving license, and Pollution Under Control (PUC) certificate with you all throughout the trip.
- Get your bike checked - When going on a long road trip you should ensure that your bike is in good working condition. Take it to a reliable service centre and get it checked by a mechanic. Take the appointment with the mechanic at least 3 weeks before the scheduled date of departure, so that there is enough time to get the vehicle ready for the trip.
- Get roadside assistance coverage - When buying bike insurance, it is best to compare policies online and arrive at the most cost-effective option. If roadside assistance cover is not an in-built part of the coverage, you can opt for it separately. The insurance company will have a network of affiliated garages across the country, even in remote locations. If your bike has a flat tyre, breakdown, etc. you can inform the insurance company to get help from the nearest network garage, provided you have roadside assistance cover.
- Get Personal Accident cover - Another insurance rider you should have in your financial portfolio is the personal accident cover. This is offered by multiple health insurance companies as an independent plan or as an add-on plan that enhances the coverage offered by the base policy. It provides financial protection from accidental injuries and death. Although, discussion about death is a conversation that is inherently difficult, you should inform your family about your decision of getting adequate insurance coverage. This is applicable irrespective of whether you are going on a road trip or not.
- Make lodging reservations in advance - If you book your lodging in advance, you can get affordable hotels without any issues. Prepare to book the accommodation at least 3 months in advance, so that you do not struggle at the last minute.
- Pack as per the weather - You should pack appropriate clothing according to the weather of the place you are travelling to. Since you will be riding, you will have limited luggage. You can pack clothes that you will be able to mix and match to be worn together. Also ensure that your clothes are comfortable for the journey.
- Carry credit/debit cards and cash - When going on a road trip, apart from your driving license and motor insurance policy documents, you should have sufficient cash in hand. You may encounter situations wherein you will be required to pay by cash, say at a hotel or a food joint. There may be limited access to ATMs in remote areas as well. You should also carry your credit/debit cards, as these come in handy when you run out of cash.
Charting an itineraryA typical itinerary for a memorable road trip through Leh and Ladakh is described below:
- You will start your journey from Manali and the first area you will touch upon is the Rohtang Pass that is a bone-jarring terrain with unpredictable weather.
- The next region you will ride through is the Lahaul Valley where you can pamper yourself with lip-smacking momos and soulful thukpa soup.
- You will then pass through the Baralacha La where you will encounter enormous snow-capped mountains. You will then pass through Tanglang La towards Leh. This is the most peaceful leg of your journey. Don’t forget to explore the town of Leh and its marketplace that is a treasure-trove of silk and spices.
- Towards the north-west of Leh, you will find the highest motorable road in the world through the Khardung La. There will be a lot of melt water on the narrow roadways, so be very careful here.
- You will then come across the silvery twin rivers of Nubra and Shyok amidst apricot and apple orchards. You can camp here or even visit a Ladakhi home to enjoy the delicacies they serve.
- If you stay for two days exploring the Nubra, you will get to see the hot springs at Panamik from where you will head east, which is essentially the way you came.
- You should also visit the Great Tibetan Plateau, one of the wonders of nature. From here, you will head out to Pangong Lake for a thrilling view of the cobalt-blue water body.
You will return home from the Pangong Lake region with a slice of the heaven that you witnessed, etched in your memory forever.