Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ride to Ladakh: Planning and Preparation

Ladakh meaning “Land of Passes” is an arid, barren and cold desert, situated high in the Himalayan and Karakoram ranges. Yet it’s a place which manages to enchant poets, artists and explorers with its beauty and unspoiled splendors, and entices them to brave the harsh and unforgiving conditions to reach this roof of the world. So much so, Ladakh today has become a goal of sort for every adventure tourist; who would like nothing more than to visit The Land of the Lamas and get swept away by the sheer vastness of this wonderful and magical place.

Ladakh has been a great destination for adventure tourists. There are lots of things one can do in and around Ladakh like Trekking, Bike rides, Motorcycle rides, Jeep Safari, Camping etc and even a Marathon for the running enthusiasts. In this blog, I will write about what goes into planning for a Ladakh trip on a Motorbike. A short FAQ section and route planning tips will follow.

The number of days for the road trip may vary from 10 to 16 based on the comfort level of the riders, knowledge of the routes, weather and places you plan to cover during the trip. Planning a trip to Ladakh requires not only time and money but requires a commitment and a resolve from the person to withstand the harsh realities of traversing through this harsh and unforgiving landscape. In addition to willingness to travel, its also important to be physically fit and being in shape to face any challenge or a daunting task enroute. Physical stamina helps at high altitudes as lack of oxygen tires unprepared riders very fast and with 10+ hrs of riding, even a second loss in concentration can lead to serious accident.

Weather plays the most crucial role how the trip blossoms. May – September is considered the preferred travel season. However, disturbances due to rain, snow, landslides are common on certain routes and one has to be very careful when riding in smaller groups and always keep a tab on the weather report from different sources like Leh official website or BCMTouring threads dedicated specially to discuss about the status of roads. There are 2 ways to get to Leh. Either you can go via Srinagar-Leh or Manali-Leh. Its best to plan for a trip in early June to avoid the peak season rush as well as enjoy the awesome weather. Early September also promises great weather with fresh snow on the mountains.

Another important aspect of the trip is Group Riding. A 2 week trip to Ladakh can leave even a experienced rider tired,prone to Acute Mountain Sickness ( AMS ) or any other casualty. So its best to ride in groups. If you do not have a company you can post your trip details on Royal Enfield Rider wants Rider community page and look for others to join you. Other options include riding with organized tours like

1) Road Veda
2) Team 456 Follow 2010 Ride updates here.
3) Outback Adventures
4) BCMTouring Forums
5) Tyre Mark
6) Thrillophilia
7) Rider Wants Rider
8) Delhi Bull Riders
9) Ladakh way Round
10)Himalayan Odyssey

Another very important ingredient for the ride is the Motorcycle. You could take your own or rent a one from Delhi. There are lot of places in Karol Bagh from where you could rent a motorbike. I got a Royal Enfield Electa from Tony Motors in Karol Bagh, Delhi. If you are planning to take your own motorbike, its best to get it serviced and get it in shape. Also, if you are not in Delhi, you could get it transported through Gati or through a private agent by rail ( Shashi - 9845761222 )

If you are travelling in June or July and travelling in a bigger group, you may have to book hotels on the way for stay prior to starting your journey. However, the downside of this is that you have to reach the destination no matter what happens which can be tough in case there is a major breakdown of vehicle or you are stuck due to weather disturbances. Leh offers lots of accommodation options with varying budget options.

Pre-trip planning also involves shopping for all you may need during the trip. I found a nice checklist on the BCMTouring Forums. Bike Nomads also have some important pointers too. I have made a exclusive checklist which will be very helpful for new riders. If you are riding on a motorcycle other than Royal Enfield you may need some extra spares. Here in my checklist.

After you have finished with the basic arrangements comes the big task of shopping for everything you need for the ride. For spares, its best to shop in Karol Bagh, Delhi. Other things can be bought at your current location. If you are in Bangalore you could get cheaper/best deals from below places.

a) Army Stores, Shivajinagar – Shoes, Thermals, Sleeping Bag, Rainwear, Saddle Bag etc.
b) Eastern Stores, Commercial Street – Thermals, Jacket etc.
c) DSG - Jacket, Gloves etc.
d) Cramster – Jackets, Saddle Bag, Gloves etc.
e) Decathlon – Sleeping Bag, Tent etc.
f) JC Road – Bungee cord, Balaclava, Spares, Helmet, Tarpaulin sheet etc.

BCMTouring forums provide lots of information necessary for making the ride enjoyable.


AnkushParwe said...

Good Stuff Kaushal...What are the issues if riding in May from Delhi to Ladakh ..?

SmartKid said...

Weather can be tricky at certain places. Rain in the valley and snowfall in the hills ( mostly passes ). Check for updates.

Unknown said...

good tips for planning a trip,, can you also guide is it necessary to go on enfield or we can trvael with any regular bike

Unknown said...

good tips kaushal ,, really useful in planning a trip,, i am planning in june this year and will find them useful, also if you can guide is regular bike ok or is it necessary to carry a enfield

SmartKid said...

Hi Sharat,
I saw many people travel on non-Enfield bikes. But the bike should be well maintained. Khardung La may be little difficult to climb on regular bikes due to less oxygen available to burn fuel.
Are you planning to ride in a group ? With a pillion ?
Enfield has better options for keping saddle bag and cans for petrol. Please check if you can have such facility for other bikes.