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 🙂

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 🙁 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 🙂

Countdown: 9 days.

For The Happiness Of My Feet

Previously on Ladakh: Qasam UDaanjhalle Kii

Ok guys, it’s show off time again!

High up on the priority list for Ladakh preparations is comfort for the feet. 10-12 hours of riding every day in that terrain demands that I keep my feet warm, comfortable and dry under all circumstances. Which is why I went to my regular riding/trekking/adventure gear shop and bought Cramster’s waterproof riding boots.

DSC2452[Cramster riding boots][Cramster riding boots][Cramster riding boots]
I do have a few other pairs that I wear during my long rides. I used to have a pair of suede Woodlands, rugged and robust but not waterproof. Then I have a pair of tan leather Woodlands, which once again look good and are heavy and robust, but still not waterproof. I also have a very economical pair of DMS boots, which are the same as my leather Woodlands, but are black and cover my ankles properly.

I have never had any boots which were sold as “riding boots”, neither did I ever have boots which are waterproof.

These Cramsters come highly recommended, and thus I’m psyched about them 🙂

My other options were the Alpinestars riding boots, which are almost 4 times as expensive as these babies, or the Quenchua trekking boots, which are slightly cheaper and are waterproof, but are only ankle-high (not enough if you’re going to a terrain like Ladakh’s) and come with laces (would not want to spend time & effort in tying & untying when my lungs are gasping for oxygen on the highest motorable road in India, would I?)

I think I’ve made a good purchase. Let’s see how good it proves itself to be.

Qasam UDaanjhalle Kii

When this rider was little and rode bikes only as a pillion (or sitting on the tank), he dreamt of a place. A place high up in the mountains. A place where the landscape was white and brown, and the sky was bluest. A place where the terrain was unforgiving but the people were friendly, where monks lived, where kids were as pretty as dolls, where houses were clustered atop hills. A place where it was scorching hot out in the sun and chilling in the shade just at the distance of a few feet. A “cold desert” which was nowhere near Antarctica!

The place where, as he would later know, riders would go in big numbers every year. The place which would later become one of the hottest tourism spots in the country, where a major TV reality show’s first season would be shot, where a motorcycle company would organise an annual trip to.

But before all that, for him it was the place where Dara and Karan went on horsebacks to capture Yogi Thakur, who was out of jail and wanted revenge on his old accomplice Raja Singh, and Bacchulal of Akaalgadh fame spoke the immortal words “क़सम उड़ानझल्ले की” (qasam udaanjhalle ki).

Err what??? Are you wondering whether I have lost it completely?

Ladies and gentlemen, I am talking about the movie Joshilaay, the one which began as a Shekhar Kapur movie, but couldn’t be completed as such. It still is one of my favourite films to relax with. One of the reasons for this is Shekhar Kapur’s direction in the first half, another being R. D. Burman’s score, then there’s Anil Kapoor’s on-screen attitude, and Satish Kaushik with his inimitable dialogue delivery. But more than that, what drew me, the little would-be-rider, into this movie was the unique looking “desert”. Never before had I seen a place so beautiful and interesting being portrayed as a badland. Before Joshilaay, deserts and tough places were always amidst the sands of Rajasthan or rocks of Karnataka. Which is why this movie took me in so deeply. Joshilaay introduced me to the dream that is Ladakh.

Years later, I would see another movie. Not so commercial. Never seen at the theatres. The only popular star this movie has is Danny Denzongpa. And if you cared enough, Raj Zutshi. Set in Ladakh, shot in Ladakh, with dialogues in Hindi and Ladakhi. The cinematography and direction wowed me again, but in a manner different from that of Joshilaay. It wasn’t a hero film or an epic film. It was a sensitive film, telling an intricate story of a girl, and her father. Frozen continued the dream I have had for so long.

But why am I telling you about this dream of mine? Because it is going to come true soon.

Amongst the two big & impactful pieces of news in my life, this one is more urgent and delightful. I am going to Ladakh after all these years of dreaming. Along with my steed.

Towards the end of this month, three of my friends and I are riding off from Jammu towards Leh. Yaay!!!

Preparations have begun. The countdown has started. I dream of Ladakh every day now. I plan to keep the blog updated with the preparations, and with the ride as and when it unfurls itself.

For you to enjoy, here’s an all-time favourite song of mine from Joshilaay, and then a short scene from Shivajee Chandrabhushan’s Frozen. Towards the middle of July, I plan to start sharing my impressions and interpretation of the land. Hope it lives up to whatever expectations you have from me 🙂

Next on Ladakh: For The Happiness Of My Feet