Deepika Shakya is a teacher in a private school in Delhi. Pawan Shakya is a marketing analyst with Droom. The two got married last year, and this summer, they undertook one of the most strenuous road trips the world has to offer.
Deepika and Pawan are the first biker couple to conquer Leh on a Hero Splendor commuter motorcycle. Known as The Lone Riders – they covered approximately 3,100 kms in a period of 14 days astride the Hero Splendor. And what is interesting is the fact that they managed this journey at a cost of INR 28,000 this includes stay, fuel, food, etc.
Here is a detailed travelogue:-
I am a frequent rider and had done many trips to places like Lansdowne, Shimla, morning ride to Aligarh etc (did all the rides on rented bikes or on friend’s bikes). I own a 100cc bike. I bought riding jackets and boots for riding purpose, and since the day I bought the same I became the target of some bikers who started making fun of me saying “Jacket pehen k platina chalaega” or “don’t tell me you will ride platina wearing all this” etc. This inspired me to do the Leh ride on Splendor, so that I can give a fitting reply to those who think that a biker is only who can ride big bikes.
The main message I want to share through this ride is “Its not what you ride but, its what you ride for”.
#Day Prior to our journey:
We went to Motorclub (near shadipur metro station) to collect the biking gears for our pillion riders and the bike (Hero Splendor). They told us, they could not get the bike serviced as promised and hence is out in the market to buy a new bike (as they promised me a splendour for the ride). I was so surprised by this, if it would have been some other bike rental shop, they would have just said sorry and would have ruined my plans.
By around 6 PM they handed over me the bike and accessories (riding jackets, gloves and helmets – for pillion riders, and other necessary accessories). From there we headed straight to the petrol pump, got the fuel tank full and reached home.
#Day1 (10th June 2017) of our journey from delhi to leh-ladakh:
We started our ride at around 3:00 AM from Vikas Puri with our fellow rider (on RE ThunderBird 500). We had one saddle bag and one more bag with us on our Hero MotoCorp Splendor (2016 model).
We did our first stretch of 136Kms and stopped at a restaurant in Mehmadpur (Punjab) for breakfast @ around 7:30AM, after getting fresh and having breakfast we continued our journey. We did a stretch of 235 Kms from Mehmadpur to Talsri and stopped there to give some rest to our bikes.
By around 6 PM we reached Manali. We were so tired that we dint even had dinner and went to sleep.
#Day 2 (11th June 2017 – Manali to Khoksar)
We got up early in the morning got fresh and went straight to SDM office for permits to cross Rohtang Pass. There was a huge line outside the office and we were so happy that we were at the 18th or 19th number in the queue.
But, that happiness dint last long, the moment guard opened the gate people in the queue ran like it was the last day. Everyone was shouting and pushing each other and dint even left the space for the people inside the room to come out. I saw 4-5 females making a different line (as it happens everywhere in India- a Different line for Ladies) I called my wife and one more fellow female rider. Somehow, I helped them both to enter the room. But still we were not that lucky, Officer sitting inside got frustrated and stopped working and called police which was ok to us as we assumed that they will be able to control the mob. To our surprise- 2 female constables came there to handle that mad mob (We were expecting some hattey khattey males) they shouted twice – thrice but of no use. Stupid people there ignored them like people ignore a barking dogs (Sorry for using this sentence but situation was like that only)
Somehow these two lady police managed to make 3-4 lines and Officer sitting inside resumed the work and we got the approval for permits by 11:30. Afetr getting the permits we went to mall road to buy some necessary things. As we had to check out of the hotel by 12PM I and my wife proceeded towards parking area.
One stupid guy parked his car at the entrance of the parking and came after 2 hours. Some people were so furious (including me) that they tried to beat him and damage his car the moment he returned but policemen saved him . (there’s lot more drama happened there but …)
We checked out from hotel and continued our journey at around 3:30PM. In between we got our fuel tanks and jerry cane full. We reached Rohtang by around 5:00PM. The roads after Rohtang were in so bad condition that we were unable to make it to Jispa and had to spend our night at Khoksar – @Yato Camps.
#Day3 (12th June 2017 – Khoksar to Baralacha)
We had breakfast and click some pictures at the camp (surroundings were beautiful with clear weather). Before leaving at around 10:30AM, we received a warm good bye and lots of best wishes from the camp owners.
We planned our next stop to be pang but our destiny wanted something else.
We stopped at Jispa had lunch and continued our journey towards Pang. We crossed zing zing bar at around 6 PM and reached at a water crossing (before baralacha) at around 6:30PM. Water flow was high and hence Indian Army was building a temporary bridge for the vehicles. There was huge traffic of cars and trucks as Army had blocked the way so that they won’t face any problems while building the bridge.
We were left with only two options
1 : Return to zing zing bar and wait for bridge to get complete, Or
2: Cross the water (Knee High) and continue our journey.
After lots of arguments and discussions, three of four riders (two main riders and two pillions) agreed upon the second option.
I borrowed Gum Boots from a biker there and helped my friend cross the water body on his RE thunderbird 500 and then I crossed on my bike (hero splendor) mean while the person from whom I borrowed the gum boots approached us and requested to help him cross his TVS Jupitor, we did that as well. We were all wet and time was approx. 7:30 PM, now we dint even had the other option with us coz it took us approx. 40 minutes to cross that water body with our luggage and bikes.
My friend Krishna along with his pillion went very far from us and our splendor was giving problems while climbing baralacha. At around 8PM we were able to ride up to the top and instead getting relieved I got even more worried now as the temperature was dipping down to negative, roads were full of black ice and chilled air was making the situation even more worst. It was complete dark and we could not see any light or any person around us, it was only two of us. We also felt some problems in breathing. I was getting thought what if something happens to us or bike, where will we go? What will we do? The experience was so horrifying.
I was looking for some shelter where we can spend our night or someone who could help us reach some safe place. After few minutes, we saw a car approaching us initially I felt somewhat relieved to see someone in that secluded place however car came straight towards us and stopped in front of us leaving no space to cross. Inside the car were 5 males and looking at them my heart started beating even more fast. Person on the driver seat opened his window and called me I was too horrified but dint had any other option, I pushed my bike near him and whatever he said, gave us big relief in two ways
1st : They are good people and won’t harm us
2nd : There’s a place ahead where we can spend our night safely.
He said “Bhai aage jo bhi pehla restaurant mile waha ruk jaiyye, aagge mat na jaiyye”.
I started riding my bike at the speed of 50-60 kms/h not worrying about black is or anything else I just had one thing in my mind “I have to reach that place anyhow and as soon as possible”. After few kilometres I found my fellow rider waiting for us (He slipped twice on the black ice and got his carrier broken) we continued from there and after few more kilometres we found a tent like shop (Bharatpur tent colony).
The only thing we asked from the guy there “is the beds available?” the moment he said yes, we immediately got down from the bike and ran inside. My wife fell on the bed and started shivering it was like she is on the first stage of hypothermia. We (me and fellow female rider) rubbed her feet and hands for almost 20 minutes and the guy there brought a stove near her. After around 30 minutes she got conscious and we changed our clothes and had some food and tea. At the night when we were sleeping we could feel the air coming in from the stone wall or the boundary of the tent.
#Day4 (13th June 2017 – Bharatpur tent colony to Pang)
Somehow, we managed to spend our night in that tent with chilling air coming in from the stone wall or boundary of the tent. In the morning when woke up we could feel some ice on our quilts. I had a high fever and was feeling like puking every time I tried to eat something. Weather was clear outside but air was still blowing and making the atmosphere chilling cold.
We put our wet cloths on the walls in sunlight to dry them. By around 10:00 Am some more bikers came in there. One of them was injured as they were slipped on black ice at Baralacha. After looking at my condition they gave us 4 tablets of Diamox (one for each of us).
We got ready by 11:00 AM to continue our journey. I took combiflame and Diamox after having a piece of butter bread and got ready for the ride. As the luggage career of my fellow rider was broken, we refuelled our bike tanks from jerry cane to reduce the weight from his bike.
We left the tent and started our journey from there at around 11:30AM. Few meters ahead of the tent, was one more water crossing with ample of water level to create problems and my fellow rider who was who got so excited seeing a rider on his RE himalyan crossing that water very easily and followed him forgetting that he is riding thunderbird. His excitement turned into sadness when his bike got stucked in between the crossing and he had put his feet in water to get control of the situation. 😝 Luckily, I remembered the suggestion of some bikers who were returning from leh that “There’s a broken bridge at the water crossing and it can handle the weight of bikes, it will be better for us to cross the water using that bridge”
Roads to pang were also not good at some points.
by around 2:30 we entered J&K and at around 3:48 PM we were at lachungla pass (height 16616ft). We reached our final destination (Pang) by 5:30 or 6:00 PM.
#Day5 (14th June 2017 – Pang to leh)
In the morning we asked the hotel owner if we can get some Diamox tablets. Initially she refused for the same and said “tum log to hattey khattey aaye ho tumhey kya zarurat hai but later, before we left, she gave us only 4 tablets for ₹20/- and told us that she keeps it for tourists for emergency.
People at pang told us that roads to leh from pang are very good and we can touch or go beyond 100KMPH on our bikes (might be they were not aware that I was riding splendour 😝). We started early at around 9:00 AM from pang for leh. At one point, I started feeling some problems with my bike even on the plain and straight road maximum speed I could go to was 40-50 kmph due less amount of oxygen. I thought of removing the air filter of the bike and hence stopped in between but unfortunately, I forgot to keep the tool kit in the bike. After abusing myself for this shitty mistake, we continued our ride.
We reached Tanglangla pass by 1:30 PM and witnessed first snowfall in our journey. It was very cold up there. We waited for snowfall to stop and had some tea and Maggie at the small tent (shop). We also met couple of riders who appreciated us for riding splendor, they also clicked some pics with us and gave us some tablets of Diamox as my fellow rider felt some problems in breathing.
We clicked some pics and resumed our journey but few meters ahead we were again stucked for half an hour as some people were clearing the ice from the road.
At around 3:20 PM we reached the check point after crossing the bridge on Indus river. We gave our details and proceeded towards Leh. We reached leh by 4:50 Got refuelled my bike’s fuel tank and started searching some good hotel at low price. After searching for half an hour, we stopped at hotel shaynam.
#Day 6 (15th June 2017 – Leh To Pangong)
We got up early and enquired about the permits we require to visit nubra, pangong and other places. Me and my friend (Krishna Tamang) went to get the permits leaving both the pillions at the hotel. We got the permits by 11 AM and from there went to market to search for a bike mechanic shop. I got my engine oil changed, tightened the chain and got the carburettor tuned. We came back to hotel, had our breakfast, kept the extra baggage at the hotel and left for Pangong.
Main road to changla (near Shakti) was blocked and a temporary way was created which was not in good shape. While riding up on that way I was stopped by a group of 4-5 bikers (from south) they appreciated me for riding splendor and then said
“bhaiya thoda pretend kro na ki thoda problem ho rha hai bike chadhane me” on asking the reason, they replied “ mera bullet bura maan jaega, ye saala pehla gear me bhi nahi chadh rha hai aur app pillion k saath itne asaani se splendour chada rha hai”
we laughed and then continued the ride wishing them all the best. After crossing zinglar we again witnessed snowfall but this time weather was getting more and more worst as we were climbing up.
After riding for 2-3 kilometers (or even more) in that bad weather my wife suddenly realised that the bag we tied up at the back was not there. I stopped my fellow riders informed them that I have lost my bag and had to go back looking for it. On the way return we asked every biker or the driver about the bag but no one had any clue.
I was more worried because bag contained all the cash we had, my wife’s mobile phone, my G-shock watch, our mobile chargers, powerbank, credit cards, some important documents and our warm clothes.
I asked everyone I could on the way back about the bag but of no use. One army personal asked me to report the incident at Karu police station. Me and my wife immediately left for karu police station and upon reaching there we informed police about the incident. The reply we got made us sure that we are not going to get the bag.
They first asked us to go back and look for the bag once again, when we said we have already done that and as the weather is getting worse we cannot go back. Then they said ok, we will ask every driver passing by from here for the bag but as the bag contained cash it is not easy to get it back.
When I asked them to file an FIR for the loss of bag, they said they will provide me the missing reports for all the documents. I again said no I want an FIR for bag, one guy standing there said “bag bhi duplicate nikalwana hai kya? “
After all this I returned empty handed from police station and went back to leh searched for hotel again (for this time my friend offered to bear all our expenses for that night)
I was thinking of ending my trip there only but my wife said “Humari wajah se un dono ko bhi wapas jana padega (my friend and his pillion rider) aur aap itni dur aakey ride complete kare bagair jaoge to achha nahi lagega”
after that we arranged some funds from one of our friend in Delhi to continue our ride.
#Day7 : (16th June 2017 – Leh To Pangong)
We woke up early and planned to leave as soon as possible so that we can look for the bag again. But wait, I suddenly got a thought, why dint I hear the alarm in the morning and suddenly realised that I lost my mobile as well. We searched it in the room, it was not there. I immediately ran to the Punjabi dhaba where we had dinner last night and asked the waiter If he saw my mobile. He asked few description of the mobile and after confirmation handed over the same to me. Haaahhh, Got big relief!
After shopping for necessary products (we lost with the bag) we left leh at around 10:30 AM and went straight to karu police station just to confirm if they got any update about the bag though I knew we will get nothing but still there was a little hope.
We again returned empty hands and continued towards changla. On the way up, our eyes kept looking for the bag (on the road, in the ice etc.) but of no use. Till now we were 100% sure that we will not get our bag. Forgetting whatever happened I continued our ride. In between I met person named Mahesh who was standing with his Yezdi (1975 model), it was not getting started as, because of slope fuel was not reaching to engine and once again my fellow rider went very far leaving us behind. On asking Mahesh if I can help him he said he has to take his bike to a plain (or flat) surface so that fuel can reach to engine and he can start the bike.
I said Ok and we both started pushing his bike. After pushing for few meters we both started struggling to breath he fell down on the road trying to calm down himself. I stopped a biker passing by, took water from him and gave Mahesh a Diamox tablet he was carrying. After few minutes, he became normal and asked me to inform his fellow riders about him if we find them up at changla.
From there we reached changla and I searched for mahesh’s fellow riders but couldn’t find them, his group’s name was dream riders.
Then we had tea, maggie and momos at the army canteen, clicked some pics, enjoyed in ice and we are about to leave when we saw Mahesh coming on his yezdi. I ran to him asking if he was ok as he was looking very tired and exhausted. He gave his fellow rider’s number so that we can inform them but unfortunately, we dint had network. ☹ we left him there as we could not do anything, wished him good luck and continued our journey.
We met one rider on the way suggested us not to stay at pangong as it will cost us a lot and also that place is very cold at night. We dint wanted to have another experience like baralacha and took his advice and booked a hotel at durbuk, kept our bags there and went to pangong lake. It was really beautiful.
After clicking some pics we returned to durbuk at our hotel. My wife and other female rider cooked food with aunty ji (owner of the hotel). We had our dinner, played ludo and went to sleep.
#Day8 (17th June 2017 – Panogong to Nubra)
Even after cooking food by ourselves, we dint got any discounts and hence ladies with us dint wanted to cook breakfast 😝 now. We got ready and left from there by 10:00AM. We saw a medical centre on our way to Nubra and stopped there to buy Diamox tablets. We got the whole new pack of Diamox tablets for free (yippee) as it was a free govt. supply for tourists and locals. We were now little worried about the fuel as it was almost half the tank. We asked people around if we can get some fuel on the way to nubra and they replied we can easily get the same on the shops in between however it will be charged at ₹100/ltr (which is very high) or we can get a petrol pump at Diskit. We again chose the second option and continued.
Roads to nubra from pangong are like hell, my fellow rider slipped in the sand and broke his luggage career once again (we got it welded at mechanic shop in between Baralacha to Pang). We tied the career by ropes we had and continued. By 1:30PM we reached a small dhaba kind of shop (which is on the right turn to nubra) we had Maggie and tea, first time in our journey we actually liked the maggie and also got it for ₹30 only. 😝
From that place roads were awesome. We reached Diskit and searched for petrol pump. The only one we got was seemed like it is of ancient time. Meter (we had seen in old scooters which used to show kilometres run) only showed the amount/volume of petrol filled. We had seen such kind of thing first time in our life and hence were so excited that we started clicking pics of that petrol pump for memories.
Then we searched a guest house to spend night, kept our luggage in the rooms and went to Hunder to see the sand dunes. We enjoyed a lot there, had camel rides did some masti on sand dunes. Before getting dark we returned to guest house had dinner played badminton and did some cycling.
#Day9 (18th June 2017 – Nubra to Khardongla to Leh)
Morning we got ready to continue our journey. My fellow rider was still having the fear of whatever happened at Baralacha Pass hence, started searching for some other route back to leh (so that we can avoid Khardongla Pass) and was trying to convince me to avoid going khardongla as some other bikers also suggested me not take go to khardungla because of the bad roads.
They even said that my splendour won’t survive there. All this was making me furious coz reaching khardongla was my target which I set before even starting my journey. I ignored whatever my fellow rider or other riders suggested me. We had our breakfast and continued our journey to khardongla.
When we were riding back I noticed one innova following me and driver was honking again and again. I gave them the way to pass but they dint and kept on following us. After around 2 kms I stopped to ask the way to khardongla from some bikers clicking pics of their ride and these guys in innova came and stopped near me, 4 of them got out and asked me “Bhai konsa engine laga rakkha hai isme”
Me: Splendor hai jo engine hota hai wahi laga hai.
One of them: Bhai lag to nahi rha, jis tarah tu bhaga rha hai isey.
I started laughing and jokingly said bhai kal hi hayabusa ka engine lagwaya hai and started riding towards khardungla, by 1:30 PM we reached there. Roads to khardongla were really in very bad shape and it was hard to ride there but my splendor dint gave any trouble in climbing and we did it quit easily. After reaching khardongla, me and my wife climbed up on ice did lots of masti and clicked pics.
We left for leh by 3PM and reached leh by 5PM.
While searching for hotel I came across one guy who suggested us very good guest house at cheaper rates but why I am mentioning about that guy is because when I asked him if he has any idea about the situation in Srinagar he replied “aap araam se jao koi problem nahi hogi. Hum logo ko tourists se koi problem nahi, Hume sirf govt. se problem hai.” I was kind of in shock after hearing these words from him. Anyways, we took rest for an hour went to market to have some food and for a little bit of shopping.
#Day10 (19th June 2017 – Leh to Lamayuru)
In the morning, we decided to visit patthar sahib gurudwara, so we left the baggage at the guest house started riding after few kilometres we realised that gurudwara is on the way to kargil (we had planned our next stop to be kargil). So, we returned from half the way to collect our luggage.
After collecting the luggage and making the payment we again headed towards Gurudwara. We left from gurdwara at around 3:00PM.
As we were late, we decided that we will cover as much distance as possible before it gets dark. By around 5:30Pm we reached Lamayuru. Our female riders wanted to go to washroom so we stopped there. Meanwhile me and my friend Krishna had discussion on if it will be ok to go further or shall we spend our night there.
I stopped two three vehicles to confirm if we can get some accommodation till kargil and all of them suggested us to spend night in lamayuru only.
So we booked rooms at Lamayuru hotel and restaurant. The owner of the hotel, also an ex-army men suggested us not stay at Srinagar and to cross the same in the morning. Hence as suggested by him we planned our next stop to be Sonamarg.
After getting fresh, we went to a monastery near our hotel, people told us that it was built in “11th century”. People also told as that the place “Lamayuru” was actually a lake and that is the reason why the mountains had sand on top, they also told us that we can still find fish fossils in the mud up on the hills.
#Day11 (20th June 2017 – Lamayuru to Sonamarg)
We started our journey at 10:00AM. Roads were good and we were mesmerised by the beauty of Kashmir it was really amazing. I was wishing if I could stay there forever. After sometime we reached Drass and that was the last place where we saw an Indian flag. After few kilometres from Drass it started raining. Somehow, we reached to the army cafeteria near Zojila pass. We stopped and waited there till the rain stopped. After around half an hour we continued towards Zojila. We were riding and suddenly saw a board saying “You are at Zojila” We looked at each other and started laughing and Saying “Ye zojila hai ??? isse zada ucha to Key long lag rha tha” but we were not aware that the real horror of riding zojila is waiting ahead for us.
After riding for few minutes, we reached the one of the most dangerous roads in the world. Trucks approaching and the slippery wet roads were making the things worst for riding. I was like shivering at one moment when I had to stop at the edge of the road to let 6-7 trucks pass.
We found army people at almost every turn managing the vehicles and helping tourists to cross.
I saluted all the soldiers I found on the way and the response they gave with a smile on their face was so satisfactory. We reached Sonamarg in evening at around 5PM and booked a room in J&K tourism affiliated hotel. Knowing the situation of Srinagar, we were not willing to go out and preferred to stay in hotel room only.
#Day12 (21st June 2017 – Sonamarg to Ramban)
As suggested by people at Lamayuru we wanted to cross Srinagar as soon as possible but mother nature wanted something else. Weather was not clear with continuous rain. We waited till 11:30AM and then went out to buy rain coats for all of us and left the hotel at around 12PM.
We also met a group of bikers who came via Srinagar and spent night in the same hotel. They were uncovering the Indian Flags printed on their bikes. On asking why they covered them? They told and suggested us that if you will carry anything related to Indian army or a Indian flag we will have to face the trouble at Srinagar. They also told us that they were chased by a group with hockey sticks and iron roads when they were crossing Srinagar.
Even the hotel staff had the same suggestion for us. The guy who served us, told us that we might have faced some issues if it would have been Friday on asking the reason he casually said, “Friday ko namaz padhtey hain na to namaz padhney k baad hum log road pe nikal jaatey hain” I really dint understood what he meant by “road pe nikal jaatey hain” but sounded like he was kind of trying to frighten us.
I was in a complete fear and said to my fellow rider that we won’t stop anywhere near or in Srinagar and would stop at some place very far from there. The moment we reached near Srinagar we started witnessing army at every half or a kilometre with guns in hand. We also saw convoys of army vehicles surveying on the roads. Seeing them was a bit of relief for me.
At one point, we saw some mob and police after crossing that place hardly few meters ahead was a petrol pump my friend stopped there to refuel and the guy at petrol pump told us that 15 minutes ago people pelted stones on the vehicles passing by and this is the reason why there’s so much of police and people.
We ran from there and planned our next stop to be any place after crossing a tunnel (which is 9kms long) however due heavy traffic we were not able to make it and had stop at Ramban.
Even though we were in rain coats we were all wet, even cloths in the luggage were wet.
#Day13 (22nd June 2017 – Ramban to Jalandhar)
We woke up in the morning and put all our cloths on the hotel roof to dry them. Once they were dried we packed our bags and started our journey towards Jalandhar at around 12 PM.
by 8 PM we were in Jalandhar.
#Day14 (23rd June 2017 – Jalandhar to Delhi)
We left early in the morning at around 9Am for Delhi. It was all plain roads and we were riding our bikes as fast as we could. The moment I entered Delhi I received a call from unknown number, I dint picked it up as I was riding. I again received the call from the same number and again ignored it. We reached VikasPuri and I again received the call from the same number, I disconnected it. Then I received a message from that number “Kindly call” but Ignored and thought of calling that guy once I will reach home.
After reaching home my wife asked me to call on that number and I said “baad me karunga abhi thaka hua hu thoda fresh ho jau haanth muh dhoke then will call him.”
Finally at around 10PM I called on that number and the guy on the other side said “Aap pawanji bol rhe hai?’
Me : Haan, aap kaun?
He : Aapko kab se call kr rha hu, aapka bag gir gya tha changla me wo mere pass hai. Aake le jao main Safdarjung enclave me hu aur kal subeh udaypur k liye nikal jaunga.
Me : Oh Thank you so much, Mujhe do ghanteyabhi pahoch rha hu.
He : fir aap morning hi me aajana.
I said Ok and disconnected the call and abused myself for ignoring his call again and again and thanked god for getting the Bag back.
Next morning I met him at his place and he returned my bag with each and everything being intact as it was.