Tour de Ladakh [Day 1] : A Sunny Start !

Planning. Weeks and weeks of planning; Hours and hours of churning numbers on excel, taking pointers from BCM Touring and xBHP forums; Countless saves and print-outs from Google Maps; Taking all permutations and combinations into account; Ironing out every possible details. We had planned out everything. Or so we thought. Plans are destined to fail. Every now and then the road throws you a curveball and nothing goes as planned. No one’s complaining though. You can’t plan awesomeness! Sometimes, things are more fun when not planned ahead!


The D-Day had come. Sukesh’s flight was supposed to land late on 30th May at New Delhi. So, Rahul and me had to get all the shopping done before he arrived. The crazy long shopping list everything from riding gears, Swiss army knives, Energy bars, Dry fruits, Motorcycle spares, Repair kits, etc. After hours and hours of running around at Gaffar market we almost got everything and our bikes refuelled to  As luck has it, Sukesh’s flight had been delayed. Somehow this always happens to him. The last time when we attempted Leh, somehow Indigo’s entire database went offline as soon as Sukesh reached the counter for his boarding pass. Trouble and Sukesh go hand in hand.

Anyway, we had planned to start off the ride at 2:00 am. This is mostly because we wanted to avoid the Delhi Sunlight. We wanted to hit the mountains by noon and reach Manali before evening. Sukesh finally arrived at 11 pm. We were all putting up at Rahul’s buddy, Nivesh’s place. And after a quick midnight dinner, we started unpacking our stuff and repacking them to minimize the space and weight. We had two Saddle Bags, one Tank Bag and one Rucksack. All the edibles, maps, documents, medicines, chargers went inside the rucksack; Our clothes went to one of the saddlebag and the motorcycle repair stuff went to the other; And the rucksack accommodated our jackets and shoes. Needless to say, this took more time than we expected and we were running behind schedule. To complicate matters, we had a hard time to put up the saddlebag on the Duke.


4 am. 31 May 2013. Finally. Finally after lots of thank you to Nivesh for playing an amazing host, we roared our way out of New Delhi! The first miles of out attempt to get Leh’d were being registered! After months and months of dreaming, this is finally happening! Initially we had planned to take things slow, ride at a comfortable 60 kmph, get used to the weight and the uneven balance of the bikes due to all those extra luggage, then rip it out once the roads get better. Sadly the roads never got better. We all pretty much assumed that it being the Delhi-Chandigarh highway, the must be of Nascaresque quality. Balls.

That's Rahul Pant and Sukesh Dash. Trying to tame the unruly Dirtsack Saddlebag.
Somewhere on the New Delhi-Chandigarh highway, that’s Rahul Pant and Sukesh Dash. Trying to tame the unruly Dirtsack Saddlebag!


Dawn. Crossed Panipat. Lots and lots of potholes on the road. Couldn’t go beyond 80 without risking cracked alloys. Daybreak. Crossed Ambala. Now we were starting to realise out blunder. None of us had slept the previous night and it’s effects were showing now, barely a couple of hundred kilometres down the road and all of were feeling sleepy while behind the handle. Sukesh was riding pillion with me on the duke and we were exchanging when either of us got sleepy. Rahul was riding alone. Finally we gave in to our exhaustion and decided to take a powernap in a Highway Dhaba after Ambala. We took some tea and grabbled forty winks. Did magic for us. Stopped again right before Chandigarh as soon as we spotted a highway McD. Barged in; Ordered our breakfast. Who knows when will be the next time we get a chance to dig our teeth into a yummy and cheesy burger while cruising on the Himalayas! The stares we were getting due to our riding rear was soon taken over by another ‘Harley Dude’ who entered the restaurant a few minutes later. Rahul always had a weakness for Harleys. He must have peed a little when that thumping piece of machinery made its presence felt in the parking lot.

Sukesh grabbing his power nap at the Shailalmahal Dhaba right after cossing Ambala.
Our rides getting bored while we lazy moron were taking taps in a Dhaba.
Inside the McDonalds right before Chandigarh. The last of the Earthly indulgences from the organised world for the next 15 days!


Arrived at Chandigarh. We refuelled our bikes at Panchkula. My bike was returning a respectable mileage of 38 kmph. A few miles down the road, I noticed that a weird sound was coming from our rear wheel. Stopped and to my horror noticed that due to the weight of the pillion, my saddlebag was coming in contact with the rear wheel and a part of it has been torn apart. Rip Dirtsack. Did a bit of jugaad, reinforced it with ropes and we were good to go again. Rahul got lost inside Mohali. That’s one new trait of Rahul we came to know about. He can get lost anywhere. Even inside a straight hallway!

Yet another Royal Dhaba! People from IMT will get this.
Somebody please explain me, what’s a ‘Fatta Box’? Right there, on the Truck. Below the ‘We Two Our Two’ signage!


From Chandigarh onwards the roads got better and were awesome in patches. Both bikes topped 100 consistently and we were making up lost time. We stopped at a Dhaba on the Kalka-Baddi Road and refuelled there. Had a nice lunch and started off again. Soon after the good roads ended when we hit the Mountain Ghats for the first time. We all had enough past experience of driving on bad Ghat roads but this came in too early in the trip! We just hadn’t burnt enough rubber on the highways yet. We were supposed to have lunch at a friend’s place in Bilaspur. Wee, too late for that. Now the sun was getting crazy. We were all uncomfortable and sweaty. The roads were no fun. The milestones were inaccurate. Every now and then we would come across a milestone saying ‘Bilaspur : 80 kms’ and after a couple of miles it would be like ‘Bilaspur : 105 kms’. This used to confuse the hell out of us. Soon enough we learnt to ignore those.

The heat was treacherous. Adding to our woes, we went able to find the rendezvous point our friend in Bilaspur, Roshan had asked us to find. Every now and then we were giving him a call, a after a myriad of direction blurting, landmark hunting, we were still lost. Finally after an hour, we realised that Bilaspur apart from being a small hilly town , was also a district and we were searching for our guy in the wrong end of the district off by around 100 kilometres. After a series of facepalms finally we arrived at Bilaspur. We had one helluva meal there, all cooked by Hotel-Management grad Roshan, had a refreshing wash. Could feel almost an entire layer of grime coming out of my face. It was almost evening. So after thanking our hosts, we started off again.

Searching For Bilaspur. 100 Kms away from Bilaspur.
How the hell does it get so hot on mountain? Very hot. Very Uncomfortable.
Error 404. Bilaspur still not Found.
Bilaspur, Finally! Roshan Dash on his mean ride. Amazing Cook. Superb Host.


I was planning to hit the KTM Mandi service centre to buy a few extra nuts and bolts for my Duke and Sukesh and Rahul had to buy some extra winter clothes at the Mandi market. By the time we reached Mandi, it was dark. KTM Showroom was closed; Got our clothes and yes, the roads in Mandi were amazing. We decided to discuss our options over the dinner. It has been almost 18 hours and we are still 100 kms behind schedule. And things are complicated now because, we had to get permits in Manali to cross Rohtang Pass. And we wanted to avoid the Rohtang Pass traffic at any cost by crossing it in the early morning, which seemed difficult now. So our options were now…

  • Push for Manali after dinner; Wake up early the next day and cross Rohtang Pass without permits as the DC office opens at 10 am. Unsure about this as it would have been tough for us to find accommodation at Manali so late in the night.
  • Drive overnight; Cross Rohtang Pass in the dawn without permits; Rest at Khoksar after Rohtang La. Sounded Crazy unless we wanted to freeze to death at Rohtang Top.
  • Sleep at Mandi; Wake up really early next day; Push for Manali and cross Rohtang at 7 am without permits. Sounded the most sane option.

So, we had a nice dinner at this idyllic place, outside Mandi on the banks of The Beas. The name of the place, believe it or not was ‘Assdeep Hotel’. The dinner cost us some 170 bucks and a double room cost us Rs 400. Had a refreshing bath. Must have choked the plumbing system with all those dirt and grime we had collected after riding 18 hours that day. Went to bed at 11 pm aiming to wake up at 2 am, so that we can push for Manali and get back on schedule. We had no idea back then that… Plans. Plans are always made to fail.

Rahul Pant. All Exhausted. With Champufied Hairstyle and all.


New Delhi Karnal, Ambala, Chandigarh, Swarghat, Bilaspur Mandi
Duke 200 5314 5795 481 KMs
Pulsar 150 35331 35783 453 KMs

2 thoughts on “Tour de Ladakh [Day 1] : A Sunny Start !

  1. Pingback: Tour de Ladakh : Prologue | Tour de Ladakh

  2. Pingback: Tour de Ladakh [Day 1] : A Sunny Start ! | Vrigu's Myndspace

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