December 19, 2011

Music That Inspires

They say music is without any boundaries either geographically or culturally. If this is not fact then how could one explain the fact of Indians shaking their legs for western music in Discos, Westerners doing an aerobic session for a Bollywood item number, or Chinki's gyrating to a Rajnikanth song and so forth. As expected in all the above scenarios the chances of an individual of actually understanding the lyrics right away is pretty slim , but what catches everyone's imagination is the music score accompanying the song.

Being a lazy person who literally finds some or the other reason to skip a workout in a freezing December morning, music that inspires is really a lifesaver. There is nothing more inspiring  (except if u have a few extra Kilos accumulated since the Diwali season :P ) for a person to run/cycle in those finger numbing temperatures than a good set of truly inspiring numbers. It wont be surprising if ones performance is actually improved when listening to those kind of music, hence resulting in me and my music player being inseparable during those tough times called "workout". Even though I am not a music person (I cant name all the members of the Metallica band, or for the matter of fact, not even a single person :P ), have come across some great numbers which I have "painstakingly" collected over a considerable period of time.

So here I am trying to list down some truly inspiring songs I have come across (And Kolaveri Song is not among the list , although it gave a tough competition :P). I would also be interested if the readers would recommend numbers which inspires them, hence increasing my arsenal. With 4 kgs of extra flab I have accumulated since the Diwali season it is time to get down to business. Have chalked out a rigorous session in middle of the winter and any help will be highly appreciated. Do some social service people :).

1. Dream On Aerosmith
 + a version by Eminem which is also pretty good

2. Sadda Haq - Rockstar

3 .American Flyers - The entire album is a must have.. A movie which inspired our desi version which is Joh Jeeta Wohi Sikander (The title track of which is also inspirational)

4. Back in The Saddle-Aerosmith (Default first track when I get to cycling after a long time :P)

5. Driving With The Top Down - Ramin Djawadi (A track used in Iron Man)

6. Dum Title Song  THe only good thing abt the forgetable movie. Watch with the video :)

7. Final Countdown

8. Right Here - Right Now : Fatboy Slim with some interesting video  

9. I want it all/ We Will Rock You- Sucker Punch The perfect mash up of 2 great classics from Queen

10. In the End - Linkin Park . Became a fan of Linkin Park after this song, even though their other numbers are not as good as this except a few.

11. Iron Man- Black Sabbath

12. Just Like You Imagined - Nine Inch Nails (Full heavy metal track)

13. Danger Zone - Kenny Loggins (Figher Jets... Sexxxxyyyy)

14. Kill Bill Theme Song - Wu Tang Clan

15. 3 Doors Open - Kryptonite

16. Numb - Linkin Park

17. Lose Urself - Eminem - Some intense lyrics from Eminem :P

18. MI Theme

19. Not Afraid - Eminem

20. Ride Of The Valkyries --- Variety is the spice of life... Orceshtra for u :P

21. Rock Climbing Music - Lakshya - Some Pretty good Moves and awesome music for an Indian Movie

22. Rock You Like A Hurricane - Scorpions

23. Rocky Soundtrack

24. Separate Ways- Journey

25. Stronger - Kayne West

26. Survivor - Eye of the Tiger : Another great track from Rocky stables.

27. Till I Collapse - Eminem : Yet another track from Eminem. Looks like I get inspired the most when I hear expletives :P.

28. Die Another Day - Madonna

29. Vandemataram- Lata Mangeshkar  A Truly inspirational number from the queen of Indian singers.

30. Azaadiyan - Udaan

31. Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana

December 17, 2011

Mission Impossible 4 : It Gets Better & Better


All the A-list action stars of Hollywood have atleast one major franchise from which they seem to be making endless movies. Arnold Had Terminator series until he got 'Governorated', Sylvester Stallone has Rocky and Rambo Series, Johnny Depp with his Pirates series, Bruce Willis has the Die Hard series, Jason Statham with the Transporter series (even though his A list status may be debated :P), Jackie Chan does his Rush Hour's with Chris Tucker, Harrison Ford with his Indiana Jone's, Downey Jr with his Iron Man, Christian Bale with the awesome Batman series, Hugh Jackman with X-men movies and last but not the least Tom Cruise with his Mission Impossible series. A kind of fallback safe money earners with minimum risks. Thats exactly what Tommy boy is doing over here , with him even producing the latest MI sequel.

If you don't really want to read my entire review but just want to know how the movie was in 3 words then my reply would be "almost good as the original" (Apologies for stretching my word limit :P ). Hence in short this is one best movies of the series if not better than the part I. Part 2 was the worst of the lot, which felt like a group of stunts strung together to make a movie just for the namesake. So does that mean MI4 is void of any stunts ??!!!!... Well you got to be kidding... MI movies without any gravity defying stunts are as if a body without a soul. The stunts are bigger and better... Especially the death defying free scaling stunts shown to be performed "out" of the Burj Towers (World Tallest in Dubai) and you start to wonder what is the fascination for Hollywood to take their stunts to the worlds tallest buildings (remember Entrapment on Petronas Tower's).

Story wise you got the usual settings of Russians, nukes, save the world kinda scenario which is pretty much foolproof with respect to entertainment quotient, with generous dose of car chases, gun fights, explosions and so on. The director Brad Bird (The Incredible's, Ratatouille, The Iron Giant) does a great job to leave behind his great animation legacy for his first full blown live action movie , which I can easily term as one of the best action movies of 2011.  The movie takes place primarily in 3 countries Russia, Dubai and the climax which was supposedly here in India. Tom Cruise is at his best action avatar. Even though in the previous MI movies he seemed like a one man army,  in this movie is a part of closely knit group consisting of Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead), Jeremy Renner (Hurt Locker, 28 Weeks Later) and the sexy Paula Patton. Simon Pegg's (The only major character continued from previous movies apart from Tom's) character provides some good comic relief at regular intervals of time and Paula Patton provides the oomph quotient. And if by any chance Mr. Tom Cruise is reading this blog, I would advice him not to go shirtless if he is pretty much out of shape. For those curious about Anil Kapoor's role in this movie... well he was absolutely wasted. He was supposed to play an rich Indian playboy , but seemed more like a sexual pervert, with his role not lasting more than 2 mins.

Now coming to FB chatter we had encountered a few months back about how they had created a Bangalore setup in Canada for the movie.. well after seeing this movie I was a bit disspointed. They have replaced Bangalore with Mumbai for the climax but surprisingly at many places you see Kannada signboards. I was like WTF!!!!! Kannada in Mumbai ???!!!... But the attention to detail given for the Indian setting was pretty good, but one word of advice to the moviemakers, if you want an Indian setting , come directly to India... It might turn out to be much cheaper.

Finally I would rate the movie 3.5/5 movie. A complete entertainer and full time pass movie. Go watch it in cinemas :).

November 27, 2011

The Adventures Of Tintin , Reviewed By Tintin

 Being a huge Tintin fan and having the same as an alias name (for obvious reasons) this movie was something which was not meant to be missed. Before I was caught on by the Harry Potter fever , was hooked big time to comics, with the jewel on the crown being Tintin and Asterix comics. Still remember the day in 6th grade when my friendly neighbourhood library started to stuff 2nd hand Tintin comics. Everyday I would be excited to pick up yet another book of the series paying 3 buck rental (against 1 buck for other books :P, demand & supply gap I presume :P) and when a "not so small" boy started to fantasize about some out of the world adventures (Destination Moon/Explorers on the Moon :) ). Still to this day I enjoy going through the entire collection I have in form of pdf documents, a return back straight to my childhood. Hence in short this movie was something more than any random movie that I was going to watch.

Now shifting focus to the actual movie. Frankly speaking I expected a lot more from this adaptation, and I presume it is the common consensus among Tintin fans. First and foremost the movie doesnt really captures the feel one gets while reading the comic strip. Even though the initial storyline was pretty faithful to the comic book, it was a tad too boring. Only from the 2nd quarter does the pace pick up. But on the other hand it has an awesome viewer experience with respect to motion capture technique adopted by Spielberg which brings life to the comic characters and an equally mesmerizing 3D content. So in short those who haven't read the comics before will enjoy the most as everything is completely new to them (my mom loved it :)), and it is not one of those movies like Harry Potter where you have to read the book before you see the movie to understand each and every angle. As expected Snowy (the dog) was at its comical best, to draw in more children/adult crowd alike.

The makers of the movie have tried to mash 3 books into one (Secrets of the Unicorn, Red Rackhams Treasure and Crab with the Golden claws), with a generous additions of their own to make the transitions seamless. This was done obviously since content of a single book (with just 62 pages of comic strip) was way below the content required to make a movie. So we can expect to get sequel movies for those comics which had continuity into another book (Destination Moon/Explorers on the Moon, Seven Crystal Balls/Prisoners of the Sun etc)

Overall I would rate the movie just above average at around 3.5/5, especially for its visual content than its storyline. But one undeniable fact is "Tintin literate" base is gonna swell and the comic sales is gonna soar because of this movie. A whole new generation is going to discover TINTIN :). 

November 21, 2011

Things To Do Before I Go Kaput !!!!!!!

What do I want from my life ???!!!!!.... A weekend spent wondering on these things resulted in a Bucket List consisting at present 60 items (present count) which I want/ed to do in my life. Also I included stuff which I wanted to do previously and was successful in doing so, in order to not be unfair on those pointers. Even though inspired from the movie of the same namesake, where a couple of terminally ill old dudes try to live the last few days of their life to the fullest, I would prefer a more balanced approach hence the timing :).

Click Here ----- > My Bucket List

P.S> I would encourage the reader of this blog to also come up with their own bucket list. Its always interesting to know what made into their list.

November 2, 2011

Mullayanagiri -> Bababudangiri : Traversing through Karnataka's Stratosphere

 This trek was pretty much an unexpected one. Had got a weekend off from college thanks to Deepavali and with continuous holidays we planned for at least a 2 day trek. A bit of googling and the destination was decided to be "Mullayangiri to Bababudangiri" trek on day 1 and trek to Kalhattigiri/Jenukal falls the next day. In short we were having 2 single day treks :). Total headcount was just 5 (Vineeth, Shashi, Jenny, Manju and Myself) and we had rented a sumo (since there is very sparse public transportation available near our trek region) with a psycho driver behind the wheels.

29th Oct 2011 (Sarpadhari-Mullayangiri-Bababudangiri 15kms)

Climb to Mullayangiri via Sarpadhari
Explorers of the Darkness
Everyone was picked from respective stops and we were on our way to Chikmagalur at around 11.30 pm. Night matured and people started to feel drowsy, so much so that all the occupants of the cab were sleeping including the driver :P. Initially we suspected that he was snoozing behind the wheels , but it was confirmed for sure when he banged the sumo to a divider, well at least sideways, waking up all of us with a bang , and with a jolt where I felt I was really done for :P. After this we ordered the driver to sleep if he is feeling too drowsy. And by then I had decided that this is the last time we will be hiring a taxi to travel during a overnight journey. Overall we had an uncomfortable sleep , thanks to the hopeless seats of the sumo and driver playing 5 -6 kannada haunted songs on infinite loop till the morning. Dont know whether that helped him in any way or not, but we surely had a "Halloween Sleep":P.

Some 60 m inside the cave

Reached Chikmagalur, had our breakfast and packed our lunch. It was time to go in search of the starting point of the trek to Mullayangiri , ie Sarpadhari. Started from the Sarpadhari arch at around 8 am in the morning and at this time of the day the entire path was filled with mist. So we were void of any views , but trekking in mist offers a different type of enjoyment. Within an hour an half we reached the famed caves of Mullayangiri, which is just 10 mins walk from the peak. There were basically 2 caves and we decided to explore one of them which seemed to run into great distance. But being a little claustrophobic, I was little hesitant in the beginning , but couldn't resist the opportunity of missing an adventure. So off we went inside the cave system , armed with flashlights and nothing else. With me crawling up first, my first job was to check the ground for any sort of reptiles which might have crawled into this for shelter and later the roof for any sign of bats, and to my utter amazement there were a lot of bats in this cave system. Initially we were scared of the bats that they might attack us, but later we came to know that these are really misunderstood creatures. We crawled for some 60-70 meters deep into the cave and still the end was not in sight. At one point we switched off our lights and there was absolute darkness, unlike anything I have experienced, not a single ray of light seeping in. Not sure how long this tunnel goes, but we decided to return back since we had a long trek ahead.

Mullayangiri peak, at 1930m
The Ridge Path ahead
Went up to the peak, where there is a temple and also a motorable road which comes directly till the peak. We were now at the highest point in Karnataka at 1930 m. Rested a bit at the peak and started to move towards Bababudangiri after taking route advice from the priest. Now the entire path till the Bababudangiri was walking along a mountain ridge, hence a lot of ups and downs along the ridge. Soon enough the mist/cloud cleared and we were getting some beautiful vistas. Greenery everywhere and drops on the either sides. The initial part of ridge walking was not that difficult at all and soon enough we reached a point where we had to cross a road and continue along the ridge. Now this part of the ridge was narrow, had nearly 300 foot drops on either sides and had some scare quotient. At some places the walk was a bit challenging and hence this was not exactly beginners cup of tea. Soon we reached the BSNL tower after enduring sun,rain, mist and some breathtaking views. Beside the tower was a cozy lake where we rested for some time. From here Bababudangiri was 2 kms and at around 3:45 pm we reached the place.

Steep 300ft drops

Had some junk food at the local shops, got some firewood from this place to cook our dinner and by 5 pm we were moving towards Galikere, our camping spot (4 kms motorable road from Bababudangiri). When we left Bababudangiri it was a  bright day with very few clouds and at the end of our 4km ride to Galikere the entire sky was covered with rainclouds and it had started to rain. Freaky Nature !!!!!! . By the time we collected all our belongings and walked the last 100 m towards the lake we were literally in middle of a thunderstorm. Wind blowing at nearly 50-60 kmph and having no other option we took shelter inside a concrete structure, built quiet near to the lake. Seeing the intensity of the rain we decided to pitch the tents inside the shelter which can accommodate only one tent and hence we ended up with 5 people inside a 3 man tent.

Carpet of Flowers
Lake near the BSNL tower
Anyway with such a wind gust we still decided to start a bonfire to cook our food, thanks to some amount of petrol we had. But I did a really dumb thing, pouring petrol directly on a open flame and within no time the flames were burning on the mouth of the petrol can , just seconds away from becoming a full blown petrol bomb. I don't know what possessed me, but instead of throwing it away as far as possible I started to blow at the flame trying to extinguish it !!!!!!!!!!!! :P. Thankfully that worked :D. After that have lot of respect for petrol :P. After several attempts to start the fire we gave up and resorted to eating cold bread and jam. Spent some time playing dumb-charades inside the tent when the storm was lashing outside. Visibility was less than couple of meters with no one venturing outside that.  Within no time our tent was wet and water was seeping through. We could have only imagined what would have happened to us if there was no shelter :).

Reflection Photography

30th Oct 2011( Kalhattigiri/Jenukal Falls)

In Search of the falls
Kalhattigiri/Jenukal Falls
By morning the rain had subsized a bit. But still the entire place was engulfed in mist and it was freezing like hell. We packed our stuff and waited for our taxi who by the way had decided to bunk for the night in Bababudangiri. He arrived and after some scary hair raising moments managed to reverse the taxi. We went directly to Kalhatti falls , with a tea break in Bababudangiri and breakfast at Kalhatti falls.

The destination for today was kalhattigiri/jenukal falls which is around 5 kms walk from the similiarly named kalhatti falls. Took some tips from a local on the route but resisted hiring a guide, to increase our adventure quotient. Initial path of the trek goes through the coffee plantations and gradient gradually rises. There were a lot of crossroads and we literally took a pick among those randomly. We climbed and we climbed. After climbing for some 2 hrs we came to a point where we were in an adjacent hill to the falls, but we were unable to switch between the hills since the path was near impossible. With the path towards the falls having 1/2 foot of bog and it was a tough task climbing on this slippery substance. Now we knew for sure that we were lost and there was no option than returning back. Returned back to a crossroad and took the proper turn and now were in direct view of falls, but minus an hours climb. Anyway we gave up the idea of going further upstream, but still the view of this literally unknown falls from this spot was majestic. Had a half an hour dip in the mini waterfalls downstream of the main falls and returned back to the parking lot at around 3 pm, alighted with our taxi and started the return journey back to Bangalore. Reached Blore at around 9:15pm and reached home at around 10.45pm.

Our Jacuzzi Point

Overall in my opinion this was a very unique trek , with caving, ridge walking,water falls exploring etc thrown into a gravy named trekking. A change which I require at regular intervals, like regular adrenaline shots into my blood stream :).

Trek Details --->

Total Trek Distance(for both the treks) --> 15+8 kms
Difficulty Level ---> Between Easy and Intermediate (Some sections of ridge walking requires experience).
Total Cost Per Head --> 1800 bucks
Mobile Signal Info---> BSNL, Vodafone at many places

Rough Path of the Trail (Follow the Ridge)

Trail Marked in Red, Blue is the motorable route

Snaps Link ---->

October 4, 2011

Passage To Home, The Push Of A Lifetime :P

This post of a satirical take on the recently concluded bike trip to Ladakh, ( Passage to Ladakh, The Ride Of A Lifetime.) with the similar sounding title.

2 weeks of riding in one of the most inhospitable terrains in the world in our humble 2 wheelers and I had pretty much envisioned all sort of worst case scenarios. Puncture's, snapping of clutch wires, getting stranded in snow, rear wheel coming off during the ride, the engine exploding and so forth (U should at least get a hint of what I was expecting :P) and with the greatest fear of getting stranded in some remote location till eternity. But thankfully nothing of such sort really happened and in the end we had nothing more than a few punctures and a clogged carburetor ( in other bikes of course), a very tame scenario when compared to my so called 'Deja Vu' visions and not a scratch on my Pulsar 180, which came out with flying colors.

But an incident back home here in Bangalore put a huge full-stop on the invincible status of my bike.

The Day:
30 September 2011

The Time:
10 pm Onwards

The Event:
Heavy downpour over the city of Bangalore.

I was returning late from office thanks to attending college in morning and then all of a sudden it starts to rain cats and dogs. Since I am the sort of person who likes to ride in the rain, I continued riding after getting some sort of protection for the electronics with me. But as I neared Lalbagh there was a big rain water pool in the middle of the road. Rode through this carefully and was successful in crossing it. But the problem were to descend upon me only after crossing this. Suddenly the engine was dying , sputtering to a stop. I guessed water must have entered the engine and after waiting for some 5 min in the heavy downpour tried to start it again. Still no response. Now the actual gravity of the situation dawned upon me. I was still around 8kms from my home.

First solution that came to my mind was to ditch the bike, get some transport to home and come back the next day for the bike. But thanks to heavy rain and time being post 10 pm there were literally no public transport or auto's plying on the roads. Now I was left to fend for myself. This is something which I had never imagined even in my worst nightmare , getting stranded within one's own city, just 8 kms from home :P. Anyway since having no other option decided to walk the remaining distance and quite wrongly assumed pushing the bike all the distance wont be problem too. So started the push of epic proportions, in a heavy downpour, almost nearing midnight, with the entire road pretty much deserted and occasionally dogs coming out of their shelter to bark at me and go back.

There were pretty huge inclines to climb and pushing the bike is surely a killer combo. The majority of the roads were filled with knee deep water and vehicles passing by were just splashing it left and right, pretty much no place for me to hide :P. And as expected within reaching half of the distance I was gasping for breath, as if I had run a marathon. But surprisingly (when I look back at what I did) I didn't give up pushing the bike. The primary reason being since I had already pushed half a distance and it would make no sense to ditch it after going through all the pain of pushing all this distance (glass half full concept :P). Finally reached home and flashed a "V" sign when my worried mom opened the doors :). "TASK COMPLETED !!!!!". (Took 1.5hrs for the 8 km dash :P )

After this incident I have truly come to the accept the fact that when the luck of the person is favorable, then it doesn't matter if he is in the remotest corner of the world, or among the deadliest people he will come out without a scratch, but if it is not favorable then the garden of Eden surely transforms itself to hell as it did for Adam & Eve and so did it for me. Luck is a bi**h  :P.

P.S. Anyway it was a great workout and a super-duper confidence booster having pushed the bike for 8 kms :P.

October 1, 2011

The Alpha Dog

Recently read an article in "The Week" magazine about how a male of any species can be divided predominantly into 3 categories (these categories are also present in females if not that transparent as in males). Even though this type of demarcation is clearly visible in animals when compared to humans , they have nevertheless mentioned the categories as follows.

1. Alpha
2. Beta
3. Omega

Alpha males are the born leaders, aggressive and other member of the same species literally follow whatever the alpha does. Talking in human terms they are the athletes, world leaders (except our PM :P, who by the way is an omega), army captains etc with testosterone levels running like rivers in their bloods. Of course too many alpha males and world will go into chaos :P. Beta males are the "wannabe" alpha's , but don't have in them to become the alpha. They are in constant competition with the alpha for supremacy , but as expected always end up loosing.

Omega males are the least aggressive of the species. Generally they follow others and keep a very low profile. Talking in human context they are geeks, mama's boys, shy and introvert people. They need others to take care of them, initially their mothers and later by their GFs/wife.High degree of accommodating other types of males, whether its an alpha, beta or omega types. Quite interestingly all these characters were portrayed in the movie UP  where the pack of dogs were clearly demarcated, which somehow dawned upon me after reading this article. The doberman is the alpha dog and not surprisingly named as Alpha, the leader no matter whether his intentions are good or bad. All of alpha dog's followers are beta dogs and again unsurprisingly one of these beta dogs is named Beta. The dog named Dug fits into the omega category, sissy, inefficient and bullied by others, with a constant companion being the 'cone of shame' :P.

Alpha and 2 Beta dogs- From "Up" Movie
Omega Dog-From "Up" Movie
 Also it got me thinking  as to what exactly I am i.e. what category I belong to?. After going back my memory archives, replaying and reviewing several instances, with pretty much my entire life being played before my eyes(black and white videos :P) I have come to a conclusion that I don't just belong to one specific category. There were times when I have shown traits of pure "alpha"ness and in majority of the cases being an omega, but quite surprisingly never a beta.The reason being , whenever I get the feeling that I cannot dominate, I pretty much go to the omega phase, skipping the beta category altogether. Overall considering all the instances of my life and with some amount of approximation I can deduce that the % of me being an alpha and omega is around 35 % and 65 % respectively.

So what does that mean. Is this sort of flip-flop possible only in humans, and I pretty much guess so. In animals an alpha to an omega transformation would surely result in it loosing the top position , usually being the head of the pack. Hence its pretty much like "Macho-ness Unlimited" :P. But in case of humans beings having the traits of an alpha male pretty much doesn't guarantee the top job. Also in case of humans we have something else which comes into play and which being much more powerful than the macho-ness. ie our brains, thinking power (intelligence quotient), intellectual capability, emotional quotient and so forth , making it a very complex affair. Nevertheless cases where alpha males marry/date an alpha female is a sure-shot recipe to disaster thanks to frequent ego clashes and battle for supremacy, whereas an omega man will be more than happy to be taken care and told what exactly to do by an alpha female and vice verse. Hence the phrase "Opposites Attract" surely finds its true meaning here :).

Furthermore the easiest way to go from Omega phase to Alpha phase in humans is without any doubt "sports". Any physical form of sports you take and within a matter of minutes aggression is dripping from the person's mouth. Enough of my personal analysis. Now lets see where the readers of this blog belong to :)

September 27, 2011

Passage To Ladakh , The Ride Of A Lifetime

 4 years, that's how long I waited for this dream to come true. Almost 1/6 th  of my entire lifetime. When the first images of a biker posing by the banks of the Pangong Tso lake filtered through my brain cells , there was born a dream, a dream which initially was thought to be nothing more than one and as years passed started to gain momentum, thanks to exposure to the great Himalayas gained the previous year and the required company brave enough to ride in one of the most inhospitable and beautiful terrains on bikes.

Many people told we were mental , going on a suicide mission :P, but having seen so many brave souls doing this circuit on 2 wheeler and returning alive and unharmed was an encouragement for us. Planning started almost 6 months prior to the trip going through numerous blogs and pieces of info, best time to visit and henceforth. Initially the plan was to do the touring in the month of june-july but by then suddenly something unexpected happened. I got a seat in IIMB, and not to miss an opportunity of 2 dreams coming true in a single year the trip was rescheduled to fall between 2 quarters so as to have a minimum interference on my studies. Finally only 5 guys(Senthil, Vineeth, Pradeep, Prasanna and Myself) were ready to endure 15 days of "pure awesomeness" .

Day 0: 27 Aug 2011, Bangalore

One of the more busy days I have encountered in the recent past. The day started at 4 am thanks to 2 exams scheduled for the day. With the exams lasting till 6 pm in the evening all the packing was left for the n'th moment. After returning from college could start packing only from 9 pm onwards and which extended all the way till 1:30 am in the night. Then it was time for some sleep, but who gets sleep when you are excited and scared at the same time :P.

Day 1: 28 Aug 2011, Bangalore-Delhi (flight) and Delhi- Jammu (Overnight Train)

Humayun's Tomb
 Got up quite early in the morning thanks to the morning flight and high degree of unpredictability of landing up in the airport. Reached airport at 9 am after a 1.5 hr journey from home with still some time left for the 10.35 am Jetlite flight. The flight journey was boring and all I did for most of the journey was catch upon my lost sleep. Landed up in Delhi and this being the first time I have been to Delhi after the CWG games was really impressed with the airport, atleast 10% of the sanctioned money found its way to the airport I suppose :P. From airport we took a high speed metro rail into the city centre and this journey was done in 22 mins flat, yet again impressed and this was the last time I was for the day.

It was still around 2 pm and we had almost 8 hrs to kill before we caught the overnight train to Jammu. So first thing I remembered was the UNESCO world heritage site "Humayuns Tomb" and decided to go for it. It took us 2 metros and an auto rickshaw from the city center to land up at this place and coming from Bangalore were there is a darshini or  Shanti Sagar in every nook and corner of the city we didnt initially worry about going in search for an eatery. But New Delhi was totally different. Around Humayuns tomb you dont have an eatery within a 5 km radius, a pretty shocking fact, and all eateries are just concentrated in some unknown "utopian" place as mentioned by the auto drivers :P. Another mild shock for the day was there was no luggage room at this world heritage site (unlike Qutub Minar and Akshardham temple which we visited last year) and it was simply an arduous task lugging around completely packed saddle bags, which are not meant to be hand carried in the first place.

Waiting for Anna at India Gate
From outside, Humayuns tomb really looks impressive, a building made of sandstone and nicely maintained  surroundings with neatly manicured lawns and landscape. But on the inside it was a complete different picture, it was literally stinking with a stench of bat droppings. After getting tired by the afternoon sun , we decided to move towards India Gate. Directly took an auto and as we landed at this place we were greeted by a huge crowd waving the national tricolor and later it came to be known that Anna Hazare was going to make an appearance later in the evening to celebrate the government approval for the Jan Lokpal bill to be presented before the standing committee. Satiated our hunger by having roadside chats after getting to know yet again that there were no proper eateries around. As the day wore off the number of people swelled in number and people were shouting slogans and we too joined in :). But sadly Anna Hazare was facing some health issues and had cancelled the appointment and we were unaware of that and were waiting in vain till 7 pm. Then we decided it was time to move and started searching for the nearest eatery and google search gave an Andhra mess hall some 1 km. This was not a proper restaurant but a canteen/mess along with accommodation for the MP/MLA/bureaucrats from Andhra on a capital visit. So as expected we were subject to frisking, but conversations in telugu by our telugu speaking members resulted in some leniency shown (ie my bag was not checked whereas all others were .P.S. I dont speak telugu :P). Food at this mess was good , a pakka south Indian andhra meal and the only meal we had for the day. From here we caught a taxi to Sarai Rohilla Railway station which looked like a run down station of a 70's western movie. Caught the train and it was an event-less overnight journey.

Day 2: 29 Aug 2011, Jammu-Patnitop-Srinagar (302 km)
Our Bikes Ready to be unpacked
Landed in Jammu station at around 8 am , and by this time noticed my cell phone had gone dead(prepaids dont work in J&K), eventhough Vodafone postpaid works both in Jammu and Srinagar. We had to travel nearly 10kms to Gati godown to collect our bikes which we had sent on Aug 16 from Bangalore. So started searching for a suitable transport , which came in form of a single auto-rickshaw with all 5 of us  stuffed into it like cattle with all our luggage and rears packed to the brim :P. Enroute we collected petrol since our fuel tanks were dried up before parceling. Landed up at the office, collected the bikes from the godown and were really happy with the Gati Agent (near old airport road, Blore) to have done a neat packing job with almost zero damage to the bike.
First View Of Kashmir Valley
Loaded the luggage bags to the bike, with the basic plan being that the other 2 bikes to ride with a pillion and I was to ride solo with 2 extra loads of luggages. Did test runs with the luggages and when we were satisfied, started the bike trip of epic proportions. Of course there were no send-off parties, no breaking of champagne or a more traditional coconuts on the bikes/helmets/riders routine :P, but who cared for such formalities when you have got your bikes, tank loaded with fuel and thousands of kilometers of road in front of you ready to be tamed. But within 10 mins of starting this legendary(i know, i am using all the adjectives possible :P) journey we took a break at Chaudhary Dhaba for a brunch, as recommended by the rickshaw driver and we were not disappointed. So atlast we left Jammu at around 11.45 am and had almost 300 odd kms till Srinagar to be covered on this particular day. But the roads were good and as soon we leave Jammu city start the ghats, an indication  that the mighty Himalayas are beginning right away. As the ghats began, so did the deep gorges and drops. It was really unnerving to ride on the edge of the road with 1000 ft straight drop and no protection/barricades whatsoever. One brush by some other bigger vehicles and we would have become yet another statistic to be mentioned in a Govt report. The western ghats in comparison fair very badly in such a scare quotient.

One thing that surely one cant miss in these regions is the huge army presence. Every nook and corner you can expect an army convoy zooming past with a dozen or so army jawans in the backside. But there were no jawans every 100 m on the Jammu-Srinagar highway , as reported by fellow bloggers/bikers a few months prior to us. I suppose peace is finally settling down for good after a long and bloody struggle. The weather in Jammu was hot , but as we started the climb , mercury started to drop and by the time we reached Patnitop it was literally cold in the middle of the day. Patnitop is really beautiful with pine Trees lining up the entire highway , giving a beautiful invitation to keep on riding.

Green Tunnel
Soon we came up to the entrance of Jawahar tunnel , a tunnel build way back in 1956 connecting Kashmir valley with the rest of the world and it was really an awesome experience riding inside the 2.5 km tunnel all alone, enjoying an eerie silence, broken periodically by pattering of the water drops seeping through the tunnel roof and landing on the helmet. As soon we exit the Jawahar tunnel start the Kashmir valley and we took a break at a strategically located Titanic view point. The entire Kashmir valley was brimming with different shades of greenery, a feast to the weary eyes. We continued further and now we had endless fields on either side of an awesome highway, and soon enough it was dark , it was hard to ride and co-ordinate with each other in the dark and added the fact that many including me had no mobile connectivity. Finally everyone assembled and soon enough we were engaged by a broker for house boats. After taking us to a beautiful house boat(Peacock Houseboats) we decided to stay even though the package was on the pricey side, with the entire package of stay, dinner, breakfast and a shikara ride at 3600 for 5 people. Ofcourse this was done after much haggling, such opportunities which we never missed during the entire trip. The houseboat also housed 2 Israeli's, an American and a Korean(Jin-Ho Choi, a musician ) who bonded pretty well with us after getting to know that majority of us worked for a Korean company :P.

Fields of Kashmir

Day 3: 30 Aug 2011, Srinagar-Sonmarg-Zojila Pass-Drass (151km)

Inside our House Boat
 Morning was reserved for sightseeing around the city of Srinagar and as expected the first on that list was Dal Lake. The shikhara booked to take us around came at around 8.30 am and all 5 of us boarded this unstable form of water transportation. Thus started the sightseeing or so we thought. Dal Lake is so huge that we came to know that the place we are put up is miles away from the centre of the lake and from here slowly we made our way to the centre. Intially we loved the ride, pretty scenic views with row after row of house boats lined , but soon the actual headache started. Since this was an offseason and with very few tourists we are literally the centre of attraction. So many traders selling items from ice cream to saffron, photographs in traditional clothing to shawls etc chased us down in their boats and literally forced us to buy stuff. After so much haggling only Pradeep got some amount of saffron for dirt cheap price and which we came to know as counterfeit. Now this part of Kashmir I hated the most. There was no calm moment to relax before the next trader would barge in. We were irritated so much so that we literally cut short the ride and returned midway. Eventhough we visited the Dal lake market and some gardens enroute. 
Dal Lake
After returning back to our house boats had our breakfast, by this time the korean guy had given a mini concert for 5 of us and it was great. A mix of english and korean songs and this guy has plans of making it big as a pop-star, a sure reality if he taps on his talent :). It was time to leave and the destination for today was Drass, famous both as the town in epicenter of the 1999 Kargil war and as the 2nd coldest inhabited place on earth after a town in Siberia, Russia. When we were leaving Srinagar i could sense a lot of unrest among the people enroute, civilians and cops at many places were having a heated argument, we were not sure what the reason was but it was time to get out of Srinagar and as fast as possible. We didnt want to get bogged down by a curfew and wasting a couple of days so early in the trip. Anyway later came to know that this was a norm in Srinagar.

Enroute Sonmarg

Roads between Srinagar and Sonmarg are very scenic, gurgling streams, lawned up green grass on either sides of the road, huge intimidating mountains, awesome roads and to top it all a slight drizzle. Sonmarg truly matches its namesake which means "meadow of gold".  Also we started to witness snow glaciers high up in the mountains the first sighting for the trip. Just then Zojila pass appeared, our first serious hurdle for the trip. Standing tall at 11,575 ft this was our first high altitude pass to be crossed on bikes. And as expected the road high up to the pass was real bad, having narrow pathway and was downright scary , with bottomless drops. Eventhough this is not as high in altitude as the passes which we had planned to cross such as Khardungla and so on, this really tested our nerves. But slowly and steadily we climbed and crossed it. By now the traffic which was pretty decent had totally thinned out, and we knew that we have entered the gateway to Ladakh, and the landscape around us gave an affirmative nod with greenery gradually thinning out and brown , bald mountains making an appearance. (Reason being Ladakh is in the rain shadow region enclosed between Himalayan Ranges in the south and Karakoram ranges in the North ). We were now in the largest and most sparsely populated district in India.

The shadow of the clouds give an awesome appearance on these brown mountains, an effect amplified when compared to other mountains. After crossing Zojila the roads again became decent and we started to enjoy the unique scenery never having witnessed them earlier in our life times. At one point Prasanna clicked a picture of an army camp and the army guards came running towards us. I sensed trouble, but after checking that we were really tourists we had a nice conversation with them, and one statement by the soldier which I remember is "यह जगह देकने के लिए अच्छा है, लेकिन रहने के लिए बेकार है", signifying the hardship the soldiers have to endure in these remote places. They wished us luck and we moved towards our destination.

Mighty Zojila Pass
First View Of Ladakhi Landscape
Finally we reached Drass in the evening at around 6 pm. There were around 3-4 decent hotels here in drass and after checking out couple of them we settled for Hotel City View who charged us 500 bucks for 5 people. Drass was chilly even in this time of the year and from this town we could view the famous Tiger Hills, the focal point of 1999 Kargil war. During the war the Pakistani's had almost captured this town, knocking at its door.

Food at this place was bad , but you cant really expect more, in such remote places. We had planned to visit the Drass war memorial some 7 kms from the town , but after reaching there got to know that it was closed since some Brigadier was paying visit , else the memorial is open till 8pm.


Day 4: 31 Aug 2011, Drass-Kargil-Mulbek-Fotula Pass-Lamayuru (165km)

Drass War Memorial, Bimbit
This day was Ramzan and being in a muslim dominated town, we wanted to leave as early as possible so as to avoid witnessing slaughter-fest. Left quite early in the morning and directly went to the war memorial enroute to Kargil. This place is a must visit, a reminder of the sacrifices done by our armed forces to keep us warm and cozy in our houses when they fight with intruders in highly inhospitable conditions. There is an indoor exhibit room and outdoor memorial. An army officer accompanied us explaining the nuances of the 1999 Kargil war. After spending nearly 2 hrs at this place it was time to leave. The destination initially was assumed to be a ride all the way to Leh, a distance of nearly 280 odd km , but as we know everything is unpredictable when touring on bikes. One thing you will notice when touring in J&K is that lot of kids give high fives and one hand clapping , probably a tradition started by westerners who tour a lot in there regions on bikes and we were more than happy to continue that. But nevertheless my first attempt at a riding and moving  hi-fi with a school going kid failed miserably. There was a palm to palm contact instead of less sturdier finger contact and it must have pained like hell for the kid, since it surely did for me :D.

Tiger Hill, Focal Point of 1999 Kargil War
Town Of Kargil
After Drass, majority of the roads are in bad condition, with few good stretches in between. Hence as expected the average was low. We had expected to have breakfast in Kargil , but thanks to Ramzan all the restaurants were closed and we decided to move further on. The average was further brought down when Senthil's rear tyre got a puncture. Now it was left to us to fix the tyre, but we failed miserably. Even though I am an expert in fixing cycle tubes, we couldnt even remove the rear wheel which was screwed in real tight and to top to all Senthil didnt have his bikes tool kit. We tried and tried with whatever equipment we had , but all attempts were futile. Ofcourse we were trying to unscrew the wheel nut in the proper direction, but the nut was not at all budging. Some fellow travellers on the road stopped and offered help (good thing abt J&K, everyone is ready to help each other), but still it was unsuccessful. Hence it was decided to ride the bike all the way to the next town, i.e. Mulbek to the puncture shop. Hence after shifting the luggage from Senthil's bike we left in search of a puncture shop and found one in Mulbek. Now this guy took almost 1.5 hrs to loosen the wheel and that too with help of proper equipment and overcompensating manpower (read the 5 of us :P)


Finally after the tube was replaced we started moving forward. Leh still seemed possible even though it was midday and roads were bad.But as it goes without a mention, the view were simply awesome. The river Indus was accompanying us on the major part of the journey and the view of the valley on either side of the river were breathtaking. But as things started to settle down after the initial hiccup, again we got a puncture in Senthil's bike after crossing Hansikot. We had ensured that the puncture guy had checked the tyre for any sharp materials , but after getting a puncture so soon we were wondering what could be problem. Having no patience of again removing the wheel and checking for puncture we decided to go till Lamayuru and look for puncture shops. But we had one small bump enroute, "Fotula", the highest point on the Srinagar-Leh highway at 13479 ft. But the roads till the top were awesome and  it somewhat made matter easier for a bike now running on its rims :P. From Fotula it was all the way downhill till Lamayuru , and by the time we reached the town it was pitch dark.

Went directly to the best hotel in the town which was Hotel Moonland and booked 2 rooms for 800 each. Had a pretty decent  traditional Ladakhi/Tibetian buffet filled with Momos, tupka, chowmein etc. But sadly there were no proper mechanics/puncture shop in Lamayuru to check the wheel rim which we were suspecting in the first place. So it was decided that we ship Senthils bike in a pickup truck with all the luggage and other's follow it on bikes.  
Forula Pass

Day 5: 01 Sept 2011, Lamayuru- Magnetic Hills- Leh (139km) 

Lamayuru Town
According to initial estimates this was supposed to be a rest day, a day were we lazed around and did nothing in particular , having covered 700 and odd kms. But thanks to yesterdays turn of events we were still around 140 km short of Leh. The first thing in the morning we went to the Lamayuru monastary eager to take a look inside an age old monastery (the one at Bylakuppe is a recent one), but sadly the doors were locked we had to be content roaming around the main buildings spinning the prayer wheels at every possible opportunity. After coming back from the monastery it was time to leave for Leh, we loaded the bike on the back of the pickup truck and left the place.

Just after Lamayuru is a site called moonscape where the surface resembles the surface of the moon. Frankly speaking I saw the entire Ladakh region to resemble moon's surface and not just this one site in particular. There were lot of road blocks on this route thanks to some maintenance work carried out by the BRO (Border roads organization), but the road condition between Lamayuru and Leh are real awesome. You could cruise non-stop. And the beauty of this land is that the views you get in one place is totally different from views you get at a different section of the highway, so the chances of getting "brown mountain fatigue" is less. In short the views offered in Srinagar-Leh highway are completely different from Leh-Manali highway, so it is always preferable to enter via one highway and exit via another, so as to enjoy both routes.

No:1 in terms of scenic beauty

Enroute we came across magnetic hills. According to the internet this gives an optical illusion thanks to a horizon lined up differently. But we were not seeing any illusion, after spending a lot of time doing circus on bikes we finally gave up. As we neared to Leh, there were a lot of snow capped peaks in the surroundings, a awesome contrast to the brown colored mountains, surrounding it. Also caught sight of Stok Kangri peak. Soon we were entering the town of Leh and as our pickup truck went to a mechanic others went in search of a hotel. Found a decent budget place, Hotel Shanti Deluxe charging 1.6k for 5 of us in 2 rooms. By this the time was 3 pm and we asked the hotel manager whether we can get Inner line permit (required for places near the Chinese border) today itself and he replied in negative and told he can get the permits the next day if we paid some 1800 for 5 people for 6 days permission, which seemed too much since I read somewhere that it cost 20 bucks /person/day coming to a total of 720 for all the 5 people. So decided to give DC office a visit and to our surprise the DC office was still issuing permits and to our great luck we were issued the last permit for the day at 4 pm. and costing exactly 720 bucks :P. (For details regarding ILP go to bottom of this blog) Those who came after us had to return disappointed.

A snow capped peak, probably Stok Kangri
Got our bikes checked for the long journey ahead and by evening decided to do some sight seeing in Leh. Went to Shanti Stupa which gives a pretty decent views of the Leh city and after that decided to visit the Leh palace, but the roads to the palace were so confusing and whenever we asked a person he would send us via a totally different route. Finally exhausted we just dropped any hopes of going to palace since it was already dark and we had to big day tmrw. One more thing I observed is eventhough Leh is filled with more western tourists than Indians, the locals do not discriminate between them and us , as seen and observed in other places frequented by western tourists in India, which makes Leh all the more likeable.

Shanti Stupa, Leh

Day 6: 02 Sept 2011, Leh - Khardungla Pass- Diskit - Hundar (131km)

Today was an important day. We were to attempt climbing the mighty Khardungla Pass, the highest motorable road in the world at 18380 ft. Kinda like Mt.Everest for bikes, even though there is Marsimik La at a much higher height, but it is not termed motorable and more of a dirt track. Day started with us leaving Leh town to climb Khardungla and plan was to cross the pass and go and stay in Nubra Valley. But soon enough all our bikes started to struggle to climb this high altitude pass.

And as the altitude increases your mind starts playing moody and in very unexpected ways. You feel a tinge of depression, headache etc, all this because of lack of oxygen (actually its oxygen pressure and not %) at this high altitude , there is less than 50% of oxygen content at Khardungla (at 5602m) when compared to sea level, so you know what we were facing. Soon reached South Pullu till which the roads were good, after this roads become bad till the top and this part of the road we didnt actually enjoy riding both mentally and physically. There were a lot of girls on a cycling expedition from Youth hostel (YHAI), but as expected majority of them were walking and covering the climb than cycling all the way, but still this requires a standing ovation to even think of attempting such a feat.

Khardungla , Worlds Highest Motorable road, kinda like Mt.Everest for bikes :)
Khardung Village at a distance
Finally we reached the top. This was the highest altitude I have reached (on firm ground :)) at 5602 m beating previous personal record of 5030m during the Roopkund Trek done the previous year.  There were a lot of bikers getting their snaps taken in front of the "Highest Motorable Road In the World" boards. Of course we too got those, had some tea, got a souvenir T-shirt and in process we spent nearly 45 mins at the top. This was a big mistake. The army recommends not to stay more than 20 mins at any high altitude pass, be it Changla, TaglangLa or KhardhungLa. And becoz of the extended stay each member of the group was hit by AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), right from mild headache to severe headache and vomiting (Mr. Vineeth, just check him out in the Khardungla Snap :P ). I too was having mild headache and this headache stayed on for the entire day even after descending to much saner altitudes.

While descending the roads were bad till North Pullu, and after that it becomes good. We stopped and had  maggi's (a dish most commonly found in these regions) here. After North Pullu you have officially entered Nubra Valley and man there were some breathtaking views along the way. Deep valleys by the river Shyok, and some towns totally covered in greenery against the brown background giving great contrast views.  Every 5-10 mins I would stop and take a snap. This is the prime reason why I decided to ride solo else all this routine would make my pillion rider pull out his hair in frustration :D.  After Khalsar village there is a 'Y" fork, one going to Diskit and Hunder and another going to Sumur, Panamik and Siachin Base Camp. We took the former and we had plans to stop at Diskit to visit the gompa/monastery , but somehow we missed the entrance and decided to visit the next day on the way back, since all of us were in irritated state thanks to AMS.

Sand Dunes of Hundar

After Diskit within a few kms start the famed sand-dunes of Hunder. But this high altitude sand-dunes were totally pale and white in color against the much livelier , red/brown sand of Rajasthan. Went in search for a homestay and found Olgok Home Stay. The owner was a good fella charging 800 bucks for 5 of us. Food was lipsmacking :). After dumping all our luggage we went towards the camel safari, with Bactrian camel found in these parts of the region, a reminder of the Silk route legacy of the yesteryear's which passed right through this region. The double humped camels looked strong and healthy hence I too decided to go for a ride, which I usually avoid in other circumstances. The ride was pretty amusing, but the most painful part was when the camel gets up and sits down. Having a tender part pressed against a hump in an incline is pretty painful :P. After the safari spent some time sitting in the sand dunes and by night fall returned back to our homestay, had dinner and slept like logs.

Double Humped Bactrian  Camels

Day 7: 03 Sept 2011, Hundar - Diskit - Sumur - Khardungla Pass- Leh (172km)

Diskit Monastary
First thing I noticed in the morning was that the headache had vanished miraculously :). So was pretty determined not to repeat the previous days mistake. Today we were to return back to Leh having a detour to Sumur enroute. Left Hunder pretty early and we directly went in search of the Diskit Gompa. The first thing that catches your attention is the nearly 50ft tall statue of Maitreyi(future buddha) in the Gompa's premises. After paying the required entrance fee we climbed to the Gompa which is situated on the edge of a cliff and requires a steep climb both on foot and on vehicles.

Monks In Diskit Gompa

Finally reached the entrance of this ancient Gompa. There were a lot monks going through their daily morning prayers, chanting them in a very hypnotic fashion I must say. Also surprisingly there was a temple for Goddess Kali, I dint know abt Buddhists worshiping Hindu gods even though there is a lot of similarities between the 2 religions. Spent nearly 2 hrs exploring the gompa , its surroundings and the huge Maitreyi statue. We retraced our steps back to Khalsar and took a deviation towards Sumur. This road goes all the way to Siachin Base Camp, which supports the forward posts on the Siachin Glacier facing both Pakistan and China on 2 sides , but of course they are restricted areas and for civilians like us getting permission is close to impossible.

Entered the village of Sumur and this was cozy little place, surrounded by fields, mountains, trees, rivulets and houses. Decided to visit the Sumur Gompa, which seemed to be much younger than the one at Diskit. There a monk came to talk to us and we came to know that this guy had stayed in Mysore for nearly 4-5 years. We actually found quite a few locals who had been to Mysore for education and probably bcoz of its proximity to Bylakuppe. He chatted with us for quite some time and then it was time to leave.

Slush Near Kharungla, Was an effort to cross this
As we were nearing to Khardung Village, on the base of the Khardungla Pass, it started to rain quite heavily. We were a bit worried since near the top it will be much worse. Anyway we took a break in this village and had a great meal at Maitreyi Open Air Restaurent(were huddled inside a tent for most part thanks to rain :P) and when we thought the rain subsidized a bit we moved. When we reached North Pullu at 16000 ft Prasanna was hit with mild AMS and Senthils bike was having problem with pull. So Prasanna sat pillion on my bike and we started the second assent to Khardungla Pass, it was actually fun riding with a pillion because you had to put full trottle and ride continuously on the damaged potholed roads no matter what , else you will loose momentum. When we almost reached the Khardungla Pass, we had a very close shave. When I stopped by the roadside and to our badluck on the slope side (with deep drop to the left and road to the right) to check whether others were coming or not, Prasanna suddenly dismounted putting all weight on right side of the bike which I didn expect in the first place. So as expected we had a fall (a stationary fall though) on the road, Prasanna on the ground, me too smelling earth and bike on top of me. Somehow with great effort I lifted the bike , which was so difficult at this altitude that I actually felt proud abt it later :P. Thanked our lucky starts since if by chance Prasanna had dismounted in the opposite side (ie to the left) it would have been a much serious case.

After this incident we were shaken up a bit, but we continued on , but nature had put up one more obstacle in front of us. A roadblock in form of a landslide, thanks to the incessent rains the past 24 hrs. It was actually snowing when we were waiting for the landslide to be cleared, with near freezing temp the limbs were going numb with cold. It was our first high altitude slush-fest, both man and machine getting stuck in nearly 1/2 feet of slush, and finally pushing it to safety which overall took nearly 1 hr of our time. Eventually we reached the Khardungla Pass and I didnt even stop there since Prasanna was already down with AMS. The downhill ride to Leh was quick and eventless and by evening we reached Leh.

Entrance Gate of Leh

Day 8: 04 Sept 2011, Leh - Karu -Sakti- Zingrail - Karu - Leh (190km)

Shey Palace
We had reached only halfway of the trip and by this time couple of members of the group (Prasanna and Senthil :P ) were loosing motivation and blabbering plans of ditching the bike trip and directly going home. In short they were home sick, and during all this time I was thinking "What did u expect on Bike Trip? A walk in the park ??" :P. Agreed touring on bikes is not easy as it sounds, it is very demanding and doing it for 12 days continuously takes a toll on the rider, but seeing the bright side it is one of the most exciting form of touring and of course a person needs to be reasonably fit to do that in these regions. We were to visit the famed Pangong Tso lake on this particular day crossing the mighty ChangLa Pass. But we couldnt be more wrong. This day is best remembered as the day were Senthil's bike was determined to give us some more hardship.

Left quite early in the morning in order to reach Pangong Tso lake by late afternoon and we never expected to come back to Leh. The weather didnt seem that favourable with constant drizzling in Leh. We expected a repeat of KhardungLa episode and were quite wary abt it. Around 11 km on the Leh-Manali highway we came across Shey Palace, which looked impressive. Eventhough it was not part of our itinerary we decided to have a look. But sadly on the inside it is quite the opposite of the word 'impressive'.  Hence after spending some 20 mins here we moved on. Stopped at Karu for breakfast, a staple diet of aloo parathas and the hotel owner gave us info that it was snowing at ChangLa and a Qualis returned back bcoz of that. Eventhough this made us even more jittery we decided to move on. From Karu we had to leave the Manali road and the beginning itself there is a check post were we have to submit our permits.

A Beautiful Monastary Enroute
The roads till now were good and we reached the town of Sakti and were gaining altitude in leaps and bounds. And suddenly Senthil's bike was having problem pulling both him and the pillion rider. We attributed the problem to high altitude and some dust in the fuel line and decided to move further. But as the altitude increased , Senthil's bike performance went down. We decided to return back to the nearest mechanic for check-up which was all the way back to Karu . So we rode back to Karu and considering the roads were good didnt take much time. The lone mechanic at Karu can be termed as inexperienced as the least. He removed the carbuerator, cleaned , tuned it and fit it back and all this took close to 2 hrs and surprisingly this didn help at all and Senthil again started to have pulling problem when climbing ChangLa the second time. We somehow rode till Zingrail which is the army base/checkpost before vehicles start climbing all the way to Changla (which was around 15 kms from here). Here we had a difference of opinion, some wanted to ride on and others including Senthil wanted to return back and get his bike checked and considering that the mechanic at Karu didn't inspire much confidence in us we decided to return back to Leh.

Leh Palace
So started the non-stop ride to Leh were we covered nearly 80 odd kms in less than 2 hrs. But sadly all the mechanic shops in Leh were closed thanks to it being a Sunday and we had to wait for the next day to get the bike checked. So we had entire evening to spend and so decided to visit Leh palace,which we finally reached after roaming /getting lost within the town innumerable no of times. Similar to all palaces in Ladakh , this palace too was a disappointment from inside even though from outside it looks impressive. From inside it looks more of a cow shed, sans the cattle and the dung :P. After this we went exploring the commercial streets of Leh, window shopping in most of the cases :). With this ended the day where we achieved pretty much nothing, a precious day lost into oblivion.This also meant that we would have to drop one lake destination and with a heavy heart Tso Moriri was dropped from the plan (sniff...snifff :'(  ....)

Day 9: 05 Sept 2011, Leh - Karu - Sakti- Zingril - Changla Pass - Tangste - Pangong Tso Lake(Lukung) (155km)

Changla Pass, Third Highest in the world
Today we were to reattempt climbing ChangLa and go all the way to Pangong Tso lake. But first thing we had to do in the morning was to get the bikes checked. We went to the mechanic from whom we had got our bikes checked the previous time around and this guy took just 10 mins to fix the bike. Shocking and surprising at the same time. Got my bike checked out too and we were all set to leave Leh. Our hotel owners wished us success and hoped we would not return back again as we did the previous night :P.

Left Leh at around 10.30 and since the views were a repetition of the previous day the ride till Zingrail was done in least possible time with minimum possible photo breaks. From Zingrail the roads turn a bit bumpy , but when compared to the roads of Khardungla , these roads are much-much better. Finally reached the top and surprisingly there were no crowd/tourists at the top, unlike the K-top even though this is considered the third highest motorable pass in the world (5360m). Lot of army guys speaking Kannada/Telugu/Tamil were present at the top and they were giving us a lot of "gyaan" on how to cope with high altitudes. Spent close to 15 mins at the top visiting the ChangLa Devi temple in process.

After ChangLa start one of the most scenic roads of Ladakh (which is super awesome considering Ladakh in general is simply mindblowing ), mountain valleys, innumerable rivulets, a thick carpet of soft grass flanking the rivers. And as expected on this route we took a lot of breaks, to enjoy the scenic beauty. We stopped at the town of Tangste for lunch which was pretty decent and moved towards our most revered destination for the entire trip.

Finally Pongong Tso Lake, My Dream Atlast Came True
Just some 5-6 kms before reaching the banks of the lake we start getting the first view, and even this first view was much more beautiful than my expectations. Few kms from the lake the roads turn bad , but we were not complaining. The first view of the lake had boosted our motivation to a very high level and we were hungry for more. Finally reached Lukung on the banks of the lake at around 5 pm. There in front of us was the sight to behold , to be remembered for a really long time. Went directly to the banks of the lake (which was actually not allowed and we came to know abt it much later) and were clicking the dream pics sitting on our bikes and with the beautiful lake in the background. One of the few traits of this lake is that it changes colors during the period of the day, Dark blue during the morning and evenings, Aqua green during afternoons, golden during sun-rises and obviously black during nights :). After spending considerable time to our hearts content we went to Eco-tents just on the banks of the Lake for accommodation. Got 2 tents for 1.3K , but on the inside it was nothing like camping tents. It had huge comfortable beds, with thick spreads for protection when the temperature drops considerably during the nights. Also their buffet hall was pretty impressive , even though the food was nothing more than OK.

After dumping all our luggage we decided to take a walk on the banks of the lake and it was an awesome experience. A serene one to be precise. After nightfall we returned back to the tents and spent time playing cards and so on. Went very happy to bed considering my dream of 4 years was finally completed :).

Day 10: 06 Sept 2011, Pangong Tso Lake(Lukung) - Tangste- Changla Pass - Karu - Upshi - Rumste (165km)

We woke up early (only 3 of us) to witness a spectacular sunrise in the backdrop of Pangong Tso Lake. I would recommend spending atleast a day near the lake to enjoy all its forms. Literally I was in love with this beauty. With every other opportunity I would sneak in to meet my love :). There were quite a few signs of wildlife at this high altitude lake (4250m). Ducks and Sea(Lake)-Gulls made the majority of that number. 
Just before noon when we had packed all the stuff on the bikes, we decided to ride some distance along the lake towards the village of Spangmik. By now the lake had changed its mood to Aqua Green and a couple of km ride turned to nearly 10 km ride totally. By afternoon we left Lukung after shopping for some souvenirs at Army shop and maggi at Army Canteen. It was time to start the return journey towards home via Manali.

As we started to climb ChangLa, it was Prasanna's bike's turn to give problem . It was now having a tough time climbing up and to make matters worse it had to carry Vineeth on its back :P. So it was decided that Vineeth take lift till the top and we got this within a matter of minutes :).  So riding solo Prasanna somehow climbed the pass, and this time we went for free tea offered by the Army for all the tourists who visit this place. Came back to the same mechanic at Karu who had messed up our bike the previous time around (Since we had no other option and bike's condition was not that bad , to ride all the way to Leh). This time around too he cleaned the carburetor (his standard operating procedure :P ) and this somehow made matter a bit better.

From Karu we took the road towards Manali and it was good till Upshi. After that it turns really bad. With a lot of landslides and road cave-in into the river, running alongside the roads. Probably this is the remains of the disaster, Ladakh witnessed the previous year. Reached Rumste and within no time got beds in a home stay for 100 bucks per person. Here 5 of us were to share a room with a Canadian female cyclist , pretty much on a world tour, with an awesome determination. But apart from that what stuck me was her fearless attitude in sharing a room with 5 men who were complete strangers. Slept like a kid after having a  very tasty dinner prepared by the home stay lady.


Day 11: 07 Sept 2011,Rumste - TangangLa Pass - Morey Plains - Pang - LachulungLa Pass - Nakeela Pass - Sarchu - Baralachla Pass - Jispa (255km)

Climbing the Taglangla pass
Got pretty early in the morning since we had a long day on saddles. Left the home-stay at around 7 am and man it was freezing like hell this early in the morning. The worst affected were the palms and the fingers, eventhough everyone had protection in form of riding gloves. Soon after Rumste start the climb towards the TaglangLa pass and as we start the climb the temperature dropped making matters worse. We were desperately looking for some spots in direct spotlight of the sun to warm up our bodies. Finally reached the TaglangLa( 2nd highest pass) after getting almost frozen by 2 hrs of riding. Spent some time there and it was time to descend.

Morey Plains
Soon after start the famed Morey Plains. A place having a flat surface flanked by mountains on either side and running for around 40 kms. This high altitude plain has no tarred roads eventhough at many places they have started to build one. You literally make your own roads , and man it was such a great experience offroading in these lands. The best offroading destination I have been to, and it was so much fun traversing the plains at pretty good speed. The most thrilling part was while riding the bike in motocross style to absorb the deep drops and rises in the dirt path (a great advantage of riding solo :P ) . But surprisingly it was pretty hard to stand on ur bikes and ride for more than a couple of minutes in these roads. Respect for motocross riders :).

Morey Plains: An Offroading Heaven

Morey plains is pretty much the highlight of the Leh-Manali route. The other highlights for this day were 4 high altitude passes (TaglangLa, LachulungLa, NakeeLa, BaralachLa) and innumerable water crossings. Just after Morey plains is the Campsite of Pang. We had our brunch in here and soon enough start the climb to LachulungLa pass. The roads were bad again and not as fun to ride as Morey plains. The climb to this pass was eventless and as we started the descend I saw an empty truck taking a sharp right turn and going downhill head-on instead of taking the ghat roads. Observed the truck for some time, and still having an itch for offroading decided to ride this downhill dirt-path after getting an affirmative nod from Senthil who was following me. Yet again this part of downhill riding was equally thrilling with the downhill gradient of almost 45 degrees more than what we had expected :). Somehow everyone reached the bottom of mountain safe and sound and in process saving nearly 5 kms of riding in the not-so-thrilling ghat roads.

Water Crossing
Soon enough start the climb to Nakeela Pass with the fact that LachulungLa and Nakeela pass are very close to each other. Yet another pass was crossed and we were heading towards the Himachal Pradesh border after crossing the Gata Loops (a drop from 4667m to 4201 m within 21 loops of road). Reached the town of Sarchu by 4 pm and this marks the start of Himachal Pradesh. Affter Sarchu start the climb to BaralachLa pass , our last high altitude pass for the entire trip.

But surprisingly the roads at the bottom were bad and awesome at the top which goes against the norm we witnessed at the other passes. But before we could ride all the way towards the top Prasanna caught sight of a single rain cloud and started to convince others to return back to Sarchu to be better safe than sorry. But nevertheless we moved on and later on this became a point to tease him with the title "Prasanna and the Single Rain Cloud" :P. At BaralachLa top was a gorgeous emerald colored lake called Surajtal. By this time Prasanna was literally speeding for the obvious reason stated above and I was the only one to stop at this pass to enjoy the view.

Downhill ride : we took the path which starts perpendicularly

After we crossed this pass we witnessed the obvious, we had left behind the Ladakhi landscape and there was greenery in all the direction. A pretty sight after 10 days of witnessing just brown everywhere :). Just before the town of Darcha was a water crossing. Eventhough we had crossed nearly 5 water crossings on this day with good success , at this crossing Prasanna's bike hit a stone and got stuck in middle of water. So we had to literally get into ice cold water and push the bike, totally drenching the shoes in process. From Darcha we moved towards Jispa , our destination for the night. Searched for some accommodation got in form of a homestay. Forgot the name, but the food and stay was good.

Near Sarchu
Day 12: 08 Sept 2011, Jispa - Keylong - Rohtang Pass - Manali (134km)

View From Jispa
Today we were to attempt the "unpassable" Rohtang Pass, as put by some riders whom we met during the trip. So even though we had to cover just around 134km we left early. The roads were a mix of good and bad roads, but the views we got were real good. Greenery everywhere, innumerable no of falls, with a particularly beautiful one near Sissu, just visible from the main highway.

Eventhough we had heard horror stories of Rohtang pass, the climb upto the pass was nothing out of place when compared to the other passes we had climbed. But the real picture emerges when we start the descend. Since this side of the pass is on the Rain exposed side it was thickly engulfed in mist and in the beginning the entire picture didnt emerge with us encountering few sections of bad slushy roads, bad but manageable. But soon the slushiness of the road started to increase. What began as a couple of inches of slush had turned to nearly 1 ft at many places. The bike was literally struggling to move forward eventhough we were coming downhill. Surprisingly this was very tiring since pushing the bikes took a toll on us , eventhough this altitude is nothing compared to what we had encountered.

A Gorgeous falls near Sissu
There was a huge traffic jam , probably the highest traffic jam in the world - for record sake :P.. But being on bikes we were able to squeeze through the jam eventhough our progress was slow with us stopping every 20-30 m to have a breather. At one point I was ahead of my group and I was deceived by the depth of the slush and my bike literally sank into 1-1.5 ft of slush. Half of the wheel was invisible and the hold of the slush was so strong that the bike was standing without any support :P.  Revved the engine, but the bike didnt budge, called for help and within no time a Sikh, a foreigner(a biker too, taking a break :) ) and a BRO worker came and pushed/lifted the bike. Help available just a call away :). We took nearly 2 hrs to cover 5km of these super bad roads. After we crossed the bad roads we were literally thanking our good luck since if I had planned to start the trip via Manali and climb Rohtang Pass , the chances of trip being a failure was pretty high. Even imported BMW offroad bikes weren't able to climb up the pass and had to return back.

Rohtang Top
While coming down saw some people doing paragliding, so we too decided to do so. It cost us 600 per person after bringing it down from 800 with the ride lasting for 2-3 mins and maximum height of around 200 m. The paragliding session was mildly thrilling , with the most exciting phase being the take-off and landing :P. (check the video at the end of this blog). Unfortunately I had 2 bad starts thanks to no wind during my takeoff and only during the third time was able to successfully take flight. After the paragliding session we had food at the nearby "Fouji Dhaba", which was very good. We were still some 35kms from Manali , but the locals assured the roads were good all the way till Manali. So off we started and soon enough it started to rain pretty heavily. Out came the ponchos and rain coats and we were riding in mist filled roads. Pretty good experience. Dog tired after wrestling with bikes in mud/slush we finally reached Manali at around 5pm. Psychologically speaking this was the end of the bike trip, with just a formality remaining to take the bikes till Mandi since Manali didn't have an outlet for Gati , our preferred courier.  Went inside the first Hotel we got "Hotel Rohtang View" and got 2 rooms for a total of 700 bucks, pretty much an off -season I suppose. The rest of the evening we did nothing but take rest and sleep.

Slush and Mud: A Nightmare for Bikers
Me Stuck Up and Helped By the Foreigner- Rohtang Pass-----(Image Courtesy--Karthik MB)

Day 13: 09 Sept 2011,  Manali - Mandi (109km), Mandi-Chandigarh (Taxi)

Mall Road, Manali
The final day of bike riding had arrived. We were to ride till Mandi to courier our bikes back to Bangalore and  from Mandi we were to catch a transport to Chandigarh. Also we didn't want to do any sightseeing at this place since a majority of the places will be frequented by Honeymooners and we didnt want to look out of the place :). Anyway left out Manali sightseeing to be covered with my better half (whenever that happens :D) in a true blue honeymoon fashion :D :D.  Roads between Manali and Mandi is in great shape , but nevertheless it started to rain again.

The high point on this road is the 2.8km long tunnel near Aut which again was an awesome experience, reminding greatly of the 2.5 km Jawahar tunnel we encountered during the start of the trip eventhough the latter one has a single carriage way. We spotted the Gati office just a couple of kms before Mandi and our Biking trip came to a screeching halt. Registered the bikes for courier after providing the necessary documents and decided to hire a taxi till Chandigarh instead of slugging out in public transport. Couple of guys went and booked a taxi in Mandi town and after some time the taxi , a Bolero arrived. But we had a surprise in store for us.

The driver of the cab was the most foul-mouthed and rashest driver I had ever come across. Every other minute our heart would pound with fear seeing the reckless state of driving. By this time I was thinking that I was better off riding 1000 more kms on my bike than ride in this shortcut to hell. Somehow we reached Chandigarh safe and sound , although we had countless no of close calls. The driver took us to a hotel called Rajhans in front of the new ISBT bus stand. The area we were in ie sector 52 sucked big time and so did the hotel. Very bad first experience of Chandigarh in short :(.

Aut Tunnel : Manali-Mandi Highway

Day 14: 10 Sept 2011, Chandigarh Buffer

Rock Garden
 The most boring and least exciting day of the entire trip. This day was reserved so as to compensate for any unforeseen circumstances during the bike ride and considering that we finished the ride on time , after dropping Tso Moriri, we had to spend a day in Chandigarh. The rooms were pretty much stinking and we were in a confusion whether it was bcoz of us (especially the shoes :P, thanks to Rohtang Pass) or the room. So whichever the case we decided to change rooms and Prasanna and Vineeth were our scouts for this task . But they returned back saying this was the best among the lot and so we decided to stay put. Even the hotel management were surprised and not once but we were asked abt it in 3 separate instances.

Since it was very hot during the afternoon we decided to do some sight seeing post afternoon and left our stinking rooms at around 3 pm. Went directly to world renowned Rock Garden and I must say it was a disappointment. I guess when it was constructed in the 80's, people's idea of entertainment was very simple, this must have caused a rage then, but in today's world I must say it ain't happening. Also we found huge violations to the basic idea of this place... "art created from garbage". Nevertheless we spent close to 2 hrs in this place, thanks to the entire park being shaded and cool when compared to the outside. From here we decided to walk to the Rose garden and man I must say, Chandigarh is India's best planned city (except for Sector 52 where we stayed , which sucks big time) with wide straight roads, cycle lanes, and broad footpaths covered with thick vegetation. Reached Rose garden after a walk of nearly 45 mins and this is projected as Asia's largest rose garden, spent some time in here. From there we moved to the central business sector having malls, shops etc.. Kinda like Brigade/MG Road of Blore. Had a good dinner enroute and returned back to our hotel for the night.

Rose Garden

Day 15: 11 Sept 2011,  Chandigarh - Delhi (Morning Train), Delhi - Bangalore (Evening Flight)

IGI Airport, T3, Delhi
The last day of the trip and I was having mixed emotions. Took a morning train from Chandigarh to Delhi and landed in Delhi at around 1 pm, having almost 6 hrs to kill till our flight to Blore at 7 pm. Vineeth and Senthil met with a common friend of theirs and they decided to go to his room for some time and the remaining 3 of us decided to move to the airport, since all of us were pretty tired for any sightseeing. Took the super-fast airport metro and within no time were in the airport. Spent time reading , sleeping and so on till the flights started boarding at 7:10 pm, with a 30 min delay. A handful of flights were also canceled, and considering this day was the 10th anniversary of 9/11 I didnt look for any other possible explanation. Landed in Blore at around 9:45 pm and took an airport bus to reach home. My mom was so happy that I returned back safe and sound that I almost got the feeling that I had returned back from some war :).

Finally the ride of my lifetime came to an end. Now I can say that I have travelled the entire length of the nation from "Kashmir to Kanyakumari" (or my own "Ladakh to Lakshadweep" :)), but of course there are lot of gaps in between which have to be filled.  For me it was like a huge climax for motorcycle touring, since nothing can possibly better it at least here in India. Even though this circuit can be done in  a "easy way" (ie Flights to Leh, and taxi thereafter), the fact that we did it in "our way", makes it all the more satisfying. This was one of those trips where I felt truly alive. The happiness, the pain, the frustration , the anger, the proud feeling, with the entire body both the physical and mental front on an overdrive. Hence retiring on a high and as promised to my mom (which was how I leveraged for permission in the first place :P ). Now its time to shift focus on cycling as the means for touring after getting inspired by so many westerners in Ladakh, building stamina and becoming 100% eco-friendly. And when you combine cycling and Himalaya's it takes you to a whole new different level altogether and this somehow reminds me of the quote by Abdul Kalam which goes "You have to dream before your dreams can come true.". Ain't I doing that already :).

Waiting for the Sunrise-Pangong Tso Lake

Below is compilation of some videos I recorded during the trip.

-------COMING SOON :)---------

Trip Summary:

Trip 'O' Meter -> 2068 kms
Cost Per Person -> 27 K (including flights, bike courier, shopping prior to the trip,paragliding ,food, accommodation etc)

Our Route :

View Larger Map

Snaps Link ---> 
A Special thanks to the members of BCMTouring for being there and guiding us in the right direction. 

Some Useful Maps- Click to enlarge (Courtesy BCMTouring) :

Inner Line Permit Form(click to enlarge) (Details to fill Here) : 

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