North

[North]
North, originally uploaded by recaptured.

Via Flickr:
I woke up at 3 in the morning at Sarchu, partly to prepare for the long ride that lay ahead of us that day, and partly thrilled by the prospect of seeing millions of stars at once (you get to stay in tents at Sarchu).

Despite not having an intervalometer with me, I could not give up the temptation to click star trails.

So here it is: the Northern Sky as seen from Sarchu.

Plains

Plains
Plains, originally uploaded by recaptured.

Via Flickr:
While you are crossing las (mountain passes) and other curves and loops in almost impossible to ride terrain at an altitude of 10,000-12,000ft, what do you expect to see?

More mountains?

Well, if you are on your way from Pang to Leh, prepare to be surprised. At this insane altitude you will see this piece of land called More Plains – a desert at 12,000 feet, with absolutely no settlement, no population apart from the people making the 40km stretch of road, and a collection of almost every type of terrain you can imagine as a rider: right from impeccable black tarmac to sand, dirt, rubble.

And juniper shrubs.

Also on 500px

Day 2

Day 2 of the trip or day 1 of riding was anything but fun.

The bikes, when being loaded from Pune, were stacked upright – all the weight was being supported by the rear wheels only. We were afraid our engine oil would leak out.

But nothing of the sort happened. What happened instead was a bent handlebar in one bike and a broken headlight switch in another.

After jumping through the bureaucratic hoops to get the bikes out of the station, and getting some fuel from a nearby pump, we went to a garage to get these problems fixed.

The day’s breakfast & lunch needs were satisfied at the garage itself with a few packets of chips and soft drinks.

Finally we began to ride at noon towards Chandigarh. Hardly had we ridden one hour that heavy rains started, and it became severely windy. During the rainproofing at a bus stop we met a few other riders from Bangalore who are also heading to Leh.

After the rains died down, we stopped at Gulshan dhaba for good old rotis, maa ki daal and aloo-pyaaz ke parathe.

The ride after the lunch has been largely uneventful. We passed through many places including Ambala, and stopped for good old Punjabi dhaba style dinner (including the oh-so-lovely maa ki daal) around 40km before Panchkula, where we put up for the night.

Day 3 travelogue soon.

Day 1: Trip to Ladakh

The Duronto is a very interesting train. Its bogies don’t all look the same. They keep feeding you till you want to run away. The staff is super efficient, and don’t let you keep the floor dirty for long.

Add to it the bunch of cute and noisy kids travelling with us, and you have all of us confused (“Are the vacations not over yet? My cousins/nephews/nieces have started going to school already!”). And that the non-stop train decided to stop at so many stations (technical hault they said, picking up your food they said. Oh yeah? Then why does the curry at dinner taste just like the curry at lunch?). And Siddharth decided to befriend the catering fellow, Praveen Bhai, but still didn’t manage to get us ice creams with our dinner.

The journey was also educative for all of us. We didn’t know, for example, that there’s a show on Star One at 8.30pm everyday except Tuesday, called Pyar ki Kahani, which is about vampires & werewolves (isn’t that so very original?)

And the same little gentleman who informed us about PKK also left us looking for answers when the following conversation happened:
Boy: aap bike chalate ho? (Do you ride bikes?)
Me: yes
Boy: Kaunsi? (Which one?)
Me: Bullet
Boy: kyon? (Why?)
Me: uhhh
Boy: Hero Honda chalao (Why don’t you ride a Hero Honda?)
Anish: (grinning wide) I’d like to see you answer that Amit
Me: (still looking for words)

Day 2 has already begun. We’re off the train, trying to get the bikes off. A little bit of preparations and we hit the road.

The rider in me is itching to do that. I can already see the Karmic cycles churning. This ride is going to be important for me. Delhi has welcomed me. It’s a clean slate once again πŸ™‚

Day 0

Amit should be sleeping now, because he has to reach the station at 8.30 in order to get the two wheels packed and loaded in the train, but he isn’t.

He can’t. He’s psyched. The countdown has ended. Tomorrow he will board the train that will take him closer to his dreamland.

He’s just done with the packing. A saddlebag pair, a camera bag, a bottle bags pair, and a sleeping bag – that’s all that he’s going to carry, but this will be his entire world for the next 15 days. Oh, and he’s sad that he couldn’t fix his camera’s intervalometer – bye bye stop motion animation and/or star trails πŸ™ Well, it can be done the hard way if he exerts himself enough.

But then all that is to be seen once he reaches the destination: Ladakh.

Maybe he will go to sleep now. Let’s see.

Ladakh Preparations: Major Shopping

Next on the list for Ladakh preparations: lots of things!

So the thunderous three set out in the lanes of Pune looking for these things last to last Saturday.

  1. Spares
    Each of us got foot-rest rods, spark plugs, headlamp bulbs (unique for each of us), taillamp bulbs (common between all of us), relevant cables (the A-B-Cs, forget the Ds), loads of chain links, lots of fuses, the entire clutch lever assembly & the brake lever and one chain (amongst all four of us) from the store at Bhawani Peth. Also, one of us got a pair of Gabriel shock-absorbers plus a pair of rear leg-guards (for better fitment of the saddle-bags), which was called the Bombay Guard by some shops and the Raja Guard by a few others.
  2. Tools
    After going to a number of tools shop near Boriali, we were directed to a shop where we’d get all relevant tools. There we bought two allen key sets, a few spanners, one tyre pressure gauge, and a nose pliers each.
  3. Raingear
    Almost the entire trip is amongst snow-laden areas. Snow which melts often. And there’re full chances of rain, since it’s July we’re travelling in. So we went out to look for rain gear. The requirements were that it should cover us nicely, over our riding jackets. The pants needed to be big enough to cover our knee-guards. With this brief we scoured the shops near Laxmi Road, and were disappointed. Even the mighty Duckback couldn’t give us large enough raingear. But we finally struck gold when we went to have a really late lunch at George (East Street), and I passed SoWhat on the way. SoWhat is an apparel store for people who require extra large clothing. It just struck me that we could get what we want from there. So after lunch we headed there, tried out a few of the jackets & pants they have for size, and were pleased with our choice. We’ll pick them up soon.
    While in Laxmi Road, one of us had the brainwave that instead of spending money on expensive riding boots, he could pick up a pair of gumboots for the wet rides. It’s a good idea I must say, if you’re not worried about falls and injuries. That purchase has also been parked for a later date.
  4. Tyres
    All of us got our hearts set on the Ceat Secura Sport (3.25/19″) as our front tyres, and in absence of other options we are going ahead with the MRF Nylogrip (3.50/19″) as the rear tyres. So we picked up the Ceat tyres+tubes from the Ceat shop in Nana Peth, carried it to Wanowrie, where we bought the MRF tyres & tubes and got everything fitted. Also, we bought one spare tube each, for emergencies.
  5. In the middle of all this we visited stores around Nana Peth and Camp, and the Mufi store to pick up stuff like bottle bags, bungee cords & nets, reflective tapes, visors and ropes.

My tyre fitment ended at around 8.30 in the evening. Wet, dirty and tired, I figured I had to cross the city now, with a backpack full of spares, tools & ropes of various kinds, plus I had to carry my old tyres+tubes back as well.

We kept one tyre+tube set on my rear seat, placed the other one on top of it and tied them to the bike with the newly bought rope. That wasn’t the tough part. The tough part was sitting on these tyres and riding the bike all the way home.

After reaching home, I needed a shower and something to make me forget the pain of the day. So I got that something. Will tell you some other day what it was πŸ™‚

Countdown: 9 days.