A Pillion’s Leh Travelogue: What to pack for a biking trip?

In most of my travels the luggage restriction was in terms of weight and not volume, so when my husband told me to fit everything we both needed for a 6 day trip in a single saddle bag, I was less than amused. Never the less, it is important to travel light, prioritize requirements and share with fellow travels.

Some of my tips as trip essentials that one can use as a basic blue print –

CASH:  Carry some money, ATM’s haven’t been installed and most people believe in the saying ‘In God we trust, the rest pay cash’.

CLOTHING:  On a trip like this you shall experience extreme heat and cold; you’ll get wet from the water crossings and have very dry skin from the cold harsh winds. So you’ll need it all. My suggestion is to only pack comfortable clothes and use the layering strategy. You’ll definitely need –

  1. All weather Jacket – water proof, wind proof, reasonably warm.
  2. Gloves – take a warm pair for the passes and cold that you can wear under the biking gloves. The wind is cold and harsh.
  3. Waterproof high shoes if possible, but keep a spare as your shoes will definitely get wet
  4. The normal stuff – T’s, socks etc take as few as possible, nothing really gets dirty under the big jacket you’ll be wearing. And all the pictures will have you in the same jacket and jeans anyway.
  5. I would also suggest Rain gear. It not only cuts the wind and rain, it makes up for an extra layer. Also, try to water-proof your luggage as this dust and slush out, especially during the water crossings.

TOILETRIES

  1. The basic toothpaste, toothbrush, hairbrush. Try to buy the small travel packs for everything.
  2. Must take sunscreen and Lip balm, and apply it like you are the Aussi Cricket Team. Your skin will peel off even under the goggles and helmet.
  3. Goggles or some eye protection
  4. Helmet and please wear it at all times on the bike. Not wearing it, is not Cool.
  5. Carry a roll or two of toilet paper and a box of garbage bag. One needs tissues and plastic bags all the time. As a special favor to me don’t dispose away the plastic bottles/ bags till you reach Leh. We have to protect the few clean places left in this world.
  6. Torch, Matches, Lighter
  7. Cell phone, camera, extra batteries, chargers etc

FOOD: You’ll find small eating places every few 100 km or so, they all will serve Maggie, tea/coffee, biscuits and dal-chawal. Trust me all of these taste awesome when you are hungry. Try to drink bottled water/ boiled water if possible if you have a weak stomach. Carry Mother Dairy Milk Chocolate for instant energy. Dry fruits and some small nibbles to keep in your pocket.

MEDICINES

  1. Diamox is used with varying success to speed up acclimatization. Those that are allergic to sulfa medication cannot use Diamox, should consult their doc. To avoid Acute Mountain Sickness drink lots and lots of water. The oxygen in the water helps especially on high mountain passes where oxygen is low.
  2. Basic stuff like pain killers, flu pills, stomach infection pills (constipation is not that big a problem), and other regular medicines one takes.
  3. Band-aid, muscle spray like Moove and crepe bandage.

BIKE – FUEL & TOOLS

  1. Fill up fuel where ever you can. We got a 25 litre tank fitted on our bike for the trip and had success with it.
  2. Check the air pressure and one of the travelers should carry an air pump
  3. Spark Plug, Clutch Cable, Accelerator Cable, Front brake Cable, Spare Tube -2, Duplicate Set of Keys, Chain Link,
  4. Spare Headlight- Halogen, Spare Tail Light, Tool-Kit, Petrol Pipe, Spare Fuses, Insulation Tape and so on.
  5. Map

STAY & RESERVATIONS

  1. Make your bookings in advance wherever you can. Keep a print out of your tickets and hotel reservations.
  2. If you are staying in tents on the way, make sure you have enough warm blankets /clothing.

DOCUMENTS & PERMITS

  1. Keep identity card with yourself while travelling.
  2. Get permits for going to various places like Nubra Valley, Pang etc
  3. License, Vehicle Registration+ Insurance Papers- Original Xeroxes of the same-2, keep one copy in bike other carry with you or in the toolbox, another in the luggage.

CAMERA: I don’t think there is a need for an explanation here 🙂

Also, The Lazymoterbike has some great tips for the rider & pillion.

 

Bon voyage!

 

 

(c) Photographs by Sharninder Khera and Nitin Joshi

Day 3 Part 3: ‘Ghatta Loops to Pang’

Ghatta Loops to Nakeela Pass & Whiskey Nullah (About 17 Km)

The road conditions worsened quickly. Tarmac was now being replaced by bumpy roads and soon we were left with loose gravel, stone chips, mud, slush and a lot of running streams. This was one of the worst mountain roads I had seen till now, and it was to continue all the way till Pang.

The Nakeela pass after Ghata Loops was actually a pretty soft pass, though it is just little shorter (15547 ft) than BaralachLa (16500 ft), unlike others it’s easy to just miss it. It’s one of those things that just creep up on you. That’s where the legend of Nakee La being dangerous both in terms of AMS and road accidents comes from.

Basically, riders in just about an hour have climbed about 2000 feet, the air is getting thinner and no one has realized the slight headache yet. Plus by now everyone is tired. The thought of still having to cross another pass is looming in the head. Apart from the human body suffering from symptoms of AMS, the motorcycle will also under-perform in such conditions. A ‘critical battery’ popup would be very appropriate here!

One of our group rider encountered the classic symptoms of AMS, usually accompanied by headache, nausea, dizziness and vomiting.  We realized this when we reached a makeshift tent at Whiskey Nullah. We met a couple of other groups there, and almost all of them had one or two people suffering from AMS.  On my husband’s last trip too they had riders from the group needing oxygen.  The best way to avoid AMS is to drink plenty of water. The oxygen levels are low and H2O is 1/3 part oxygen, this is exactly what I was told at the Medical Aid room in Pang. (More about that on Day 4).

The tent owner gave us some hot lemon tea and made all of us have some glucose biscuits. We rested for a while till our friend felt a little better, but we were not sure if he was well enough to ride.  It was getting dark and we had to make some decisions – stay the night in the tent or move on. There was just one thought in our minds. Pang was just 30 km and medical aid was easier to get there. It was about mind over matter. We decided – we must reach Pang.

Although we had gathered courage and motivated each other as much as possible, things were not going to be easy. We had to deal with innumerable streams running with freezing cold water from the melting snow. The second halves of the day have the maximum streams flowing untamed on the road. The wind was howling and the temperature was reaching icy cold levels.

 

Whiskey Nullah to Pang (About 30 Km)

We crossed the Lachungla pass a tad bit higher (16616 ft) than BaralachLa within half an hour of starting from Whisky Nullah. The roads, or what was left of them were of no help and at our top speed of 30 km/h we were making slow progress.

As if things were not bad enough we encountered the deadliest water crossing yet. What makes a water crossing dangerous is not the length or the depth as much as the speed of the water. This was a raging river and deep. There was an abandoned truck on one side and a narrow gap for us to ride, naturally!

Can you hear the horror movie soundtrack yet? Listen intently to the gushing stream sound effects, howling winds and 4 bikers looking to the left and right? Now what??

Well, nothing much. The pillions took of their shoes, rolled up their jeans and walked across the icy cold water. Took out the cameras and put it on video mode. The bikers took a deep breath and maneuvered the bikes to the best of their abilities across the ragging river. We all made it.

We got to know the next morning that a lot of other bikers got stuck there at night and the Army guys at Pang had to send reinforcements to help them out. The Army, BRO and other defence forces of our country are just AWESOME. I don’t think I say it often enough.

Apart from the excitement of all the water crossings, working under time constraints and a headache from AMS, the ride is ‘Pure Bliss‘. The landscapes en route to Pang are breathtaking. It’s like you have landed on the moon or on the sets of Chronicles of Narnia /LOTR.

 

We saw some frozen waterfalls, amazing wind eroded Bagha Canyon walls and lots of dry arid features, tunnels and some things I can’t describe.

We finally reached the Army Transit camp at Pang, our destination for the day. A visit to the medical facility for a dose of pure oxygen, then dinner and off to bed. We could hardly move and the men in the Army unit were playing cricket. We didn’t even have the energy to think – HOW?

We had completed half of our six day vacation and in a couple of hours we would be starting the journey towards the highest motorable pass in the world.

 

(c) Photographs by Sharninder Khera and Nitin Joshi

A Pillion’s Leh Travelogue: Where it all started

Let’s be totally honest, when you hear stories about going to Leh on a bike there is a little part of you that says, I wanna do that some day. And if these stories are relayed to you every few weeks for 3 years or so – nothing can stop you from taking the trip.

My trip to Leh was a result of just that, a persuasive husband and his love for biking.

As a pillion rider I have a couple of new tales to add to the Chronicles of our Road Trip. But before I start let me just say a Big  Thanks to my dear husband and my friends for organizing a ride on what they call The Road to Heaven.

This was not my first ever long bike trip. The longest I’ve travelled was a three day trip from Pune to Ganpatipule with a day stop-over in between. This was a six day trip  as we were planning to fly back because we didn’t have enough leave. I am sure this was gonna be a little bit more exciting!!
The plan was simple, 6 people4 bikes. Ride down to Leh from Delhi via Manali. Take a couple of hundred snaps. Spend the last 2 days in Leh for sightseeing and fly back to Delhi. And all of 6 days to do it!

The route was essentially – Delhi – Panchkula –Mandi – Manali – Rohtang Pass – Tandi – Keylong – Jispa – ZingZing Bar – Baralacha La (Pass) – Bharatpur – Sarchu – Ghata loops – Nakee La – LachLung La – Pang – Morey Planes – Tanglang La – Upshi – Karu – Leh- IGI Delhi.

Luckily for us we stuck to the plan and had just a couple of minor hiccups, because no matter how much one plans, trip like these – the climate, road conditions and The All Mighty are very unpredictable.

I shall try to recount my side of the story in A PILLION’S LEH TRAVELOGUE series, hope you guys enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the trip.

(c) Photographs by Sharninder Khera and Nitin Joshi