As I reminisced about the past two weeks, the laughter, the tears, the challenges, and the victories, I realized how much this trip had changed me. It gave me a new perspective on life, made me appreciate the beauty of nature, and taught me to live in the moment.
BHPian raptor_diwan recently shared this with other enthusiasts.
The mere mention of this name is enough to stir up our wanderlust and awaken our inner adventurer. The rugged terrains, picturesque landscapes, and the thrill of experiencing snow for a deep south guy like me – it’s a dream come true!
Although I had been planning this trip for the past 3-4 years, I kept postponing it because of my age in the way. However, I mean, I was practically a fossil at 23, you know? I finally went on the trip in 2019. My mom, of course, was freaking out about me traveling to the North without proper Hindi skills. But hey, I’m a millennial – I can figure out anything with just a smartphone and a WiFi connection, right? *
Yes, I don’t know Hindi and I have to do this trip with only English and a few friends who know Hindi. I’ve asked 3-4 friends to be ready to help me over the phone in case I need assistance. I’ll just call them, tell them what I want to say in Tamil, and they’ll translate it to Hindi for me. It’s going to be a hilarious trip – imagine the confused looks on people’s faces when I speak in Tamil and my friends translate it into Hindi!
On my Birthday, I did a Solo trip to Munnar and was returning from Munnar to Chennai. As I was driving back, I couldn’t help but think that I’m already 24 and my life is still as exciting as a loaf of bread. So, I decided to spice things up and embark on my dream journey to Leh-Ladakh before I turn 25. I mean, I can’t keep living like a retired sloth in my mid-twenties, can I?
I called my friend as soon as I got home and asked him to join me. To my surprise, he agreed! And, he even brought along another friend. We planned to go in August, but then realized it would be too crowded with tourists. So, we postponed it to October, the season of the ‘tourist exodus’. Let’s hope we don’t get lost in the ‘crowd’ of two people.
It was a piece of cake to convince my mom! All I had to do was mention that I wanted to go to the Himalayas, and throw in my friend’s name – the same guy who always leads me astray! But hey, every family has that one friend who our mom trusts more than us. Can’t fight it, might as well use it to our advantage! He’s even joining me on the trip, along with one more friend. The only problem is, all three of us don’t know Hindi. We’ll have to rely on hand gestures and Google Translate to get by!
Now it’s my turn to start planning. My other friends said, ‘Just choose the location, let us know the amount to chip in, and give us the dates to block off for leave. You take care of everything else.’ But now I’m worried – what if they agree at first, but then drop out at the last minute? I’ve had so many failed attempts at planning a Leh trip – people always say they’ll join, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, they chicken out. I need to come up with a plan to keep them committed.
How did I solve the problem of people dropping out at the last minute? Simple – I booked the air tickets in advance! Sure, they’re non-refundable, but that just means my friends will think twice before bailing on me. I chose to book the tickets for the end of September and the start of October – the off-season when everything will be closed for winter. That way, we won’t have to deal with crowds, and we can have a hassle-free trip!
I booked a flight ticket on May 22nd for September 28th and collected money from my friends faster than a cashier at a Black Friday sale! I made sure to emphasize that it was non-refundable, so they better not even think about dropping out. Haha, I’m not taking any chances on this trip!
The next day, I managed to plan the entire trip in just 3 hours. All I did was open Google Maps and make a few calls to hotels in Manali, Ladakh, and Srinagar to get the idea abotu travelling time and status of the roads and prices. I even created two plans – Plan A and Plan B – just in case. Plan A involves the usual route from Delhi to Manali to Ladakh, but if the roads get blocked due to snow, we’ll take Plan B – the Srinagar route from Delhi. And now, I proudly present to you the blueprint for our route!
And then, an important and surprising thing popped up in the news and went viral. In August 2019, the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, Article 370, was revoked. I was very worried that I might not be allowed into Kashmir due to the protests and riots, and there might be tension over there. However, I didn’t cancel the plan and hoped that the situation would be resolved by September. Fingers crossed!
But I didn’t wait for the problems to settle down. I created a plan C. In any case, the flight ticket is from Chennai to Delhi. In case there are any issues here, we can proceed with the following plan.
I didn’t give a hoot about Plan C and decided to stick with Plan A like gum on a shoe. I geared up for some serious planning, and being the bike enthusiast that I am, I had to make sure my trusty two-wheeler came along for the ride. Now the real dilemma – do I train my bike to Delhi or book a rental? Decisions, decisions. .
Then my other friend was not ready with their vehicle. They wanted to take a rental as their bike was not in good condition for a long ride. To make matters worse, one of those friends had never ridden a motorcycle for more than 20 km, and now we’re planning a 3000 km ride. Now, I have two options. Either I put my bike in a *train and pick it up at the Delhi railway station, while my other two friends find a rental. But since none of us know the language and we’re all new to the North, we didn’t want to split up.
So I decided to go ahead with renting bikes for myself and my friends. I asked for their bike preferences again, and the friend who had never ridden a bike before requested a Pulsar NS 200, while another friend and I chose an RE Classic 350. Now, I need to find a trusted rental shop in Delhi. I searched for ‘rental bikes in Karol Bagh’ on Google since I remembered seeing this in a few YouTube videos. I found a list of a few shops and chose a highly rated one after checking a few ratings.
This had fantastic reviews, so I called them up and spoke in English. I asked for a rental price and informed them of the date. The first thing they replied was that the roads would be closed during that time, so they didn’t think we could go to Leh. October is the time when the roads are closed due to snow. However, I told them that i will take care of it because I needed the bikes. They said that last year, some people had taken bikes on the same dates but had to return them due to the road closures. They asked me if I was sure I wanted to go on those dates, and I confidently said yes. They said they would check and WhatsApp me, but they didn’t share any price. Although they had a website with prices, I asked if that was the price and if I should book through the website. They asked me to wait and let me know via WhatsApp.
Here’s the site
Later that night, I received a WhatsApp message from a different person asking about the details of our trip, such as how many of us were going to come. They also shared the documents required with me and informed me that they had both NS 200 and Classic bikes available on the days we requested.
Documents required :- There are 3 options for security deposit. We needs to select one out of these three.
1. Zero Cash Deposit – Post-Dated Cheque (Customer’s own cheque) + Original Passport + Copy of Driving License
2. Rs. 1,000 cash + Post-Dated Cheque + Copy of Driving License + Any govt ID proof (Adhar Card or Voter ID).
3. Rs. 2,000 cash + original passport + copy of license.
We opted for the second option since the other two required a passport. I informed them that I would be ready with it. Now, regarding the pricing, according to their site, the Classic 350 costs 750 per day, and they confirmed the same price to me. The NS 200 costs 600 per day.
Since it was the off-season, I bargained with them and asked for a reduction in the prices. They initially refused but later offered the NS 200 for 550 and the Classic 350 for 650. I requested a further reduction of 100 in each and asked for the prices to be 600 and 500, respectively. After some negotiation, they agreed. However, there were additional charges for the Ladakh carrier in the Bullet, which cost 50, so everything came out to be the same
They asked me to make an advance payment to block the vehicle. However, I had concerns about their reliability and the possibility of being cheated. I did not want to go to Delhi and confront someone without knowing the language or having any local contacts. So, I asked them to share photos of the vehicle to check its condition and the RC book. They agreed to share the photos within 24 hours, and only then would I make the payment. In the meantime, I collected some money from my friends and also searched online for other cheaper prices and reliable shops.
I have received the images of the vehicles along with the RC book, and also a few WhatsApp videos showcasing the acceleration, engine sound and overall condition of the bikes. I am impressed with what I have seen and am ready to make the payment now.
As per Plan A, I have rented the vehicles for 14 days, and the final cost for all three bikes would be approximately 27,300/-. I paid only 4k as an advance, and they have agreed to it. I have requested them to acknowledge the payment via email, but instead, I received a WhatsApp message confirming the payment.
Preparation time :-
Now that I’m done preparing for the north, it’s time to get my ‘southern’ game on!
List of things I had to carry and I carried :-
1. Riding jacket
4. Action Cam ( SJCam 9 ) ( Addtional 4 batteries & 3 powerbanks )
5. Riding gloves & thermal/wollen gloves
6. UV & Polaizred sunglasses.
7. medicines ( Bandaid, painspray, diamo and few other tables for fever cold etc )
8. 5 Socket power Extension Junction
9. Document pouch ( Aadhar card, License, flight tickets – Copy of all and original ) ( Also soft copy was in email )
10. Mobile holder ( Bought it in karol bagh )
13. Pocket knife
15. Sunscreen, lipbalm
( And other times such as cloths and garments )
I’ve watched countless videos of people taking permits online, and even read about it in BHP travelogues. But when I tried it myself, I ended up filling the form wrong and didn’t bother trying again. So I thought, why not just wing it and go there without any permits or room bookings? Who knows what kind of crazy adventure we might have, like sleeping under the stars or getting chased by wild animals! Plus, I never book rooms in advance because bargaining is half the fun – I mean, who doesn’t love getting a good deal while haggling with the hotel manager like a pro?
One week before the trip, the situation in Kashmir was still out of control. The entire Srinagar side was on fire with lots of protests. The mobile internet was dead, you guys might remember this incident where all of the internet was shutdown and mobile phones signal too, it’s like a lockdown! Remember my plan A? I was not sure how I am going to complete that! So, before one week, I called a few hotels in Ladakh and Manali to check on the status of hotel bookings and asked them if they can pick us up from the airport. Is it open? Is there any problem? Out of five calls, only two people answered, and they said it might not be possible for us to come during those days as we are not allowed to enter Srinagar or Sonmarg. I was worried, but I was hoping that the problem would solve before we go there.
The much-awaited day had finally arrived!
Day 1 :- Chennai to Delhi — Punjab ( Patiala )
The plan is to reach Delhi from Chennai by flight, with a landing time of 9:55 AM. From there, head directly to Karol Bagh to pick up the bike and then head towards Shimla.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go as expected. I had planned to leave Delhi for Shimla by 11 AM at the latest, but the actual events turned out completely differently.
I asked my dad to drop me at the airport while I picked up my other two friends from their homes. As my dad was driving the car, I felt a bit nervous and sad at the thought of being away from my parents for more than a week. I had never stayed away from home for that long before. Nevertheless, I bid farewell to my family members, and it was time to leave.
We reached Chennai airport at 5:20 AM and boarded the flight as scheduled.
We flew all the way across to the northern part of India and landed there 30 minutes ahead of schedule.
We claimed our luggage and set out to meet our pre-arranged travel companion, which was actually our bike. By 9:30 AM,
We asked a few auto and taxi wala for the price to Karol Bagh and found out that it would cost us more than our kidney to get there! We realized that we might have to sell our bike just to afford the ride. So, we said goodbye to our crazy transportation ideas and booked an Uber instead and reached our point. Thank god for technology! Maybe they thought we were foreigners since we spoke in English or whatever. This is all expected.
Once we reached Karol Bagh, the shop worker had just opened the store. I had planned to pick up the bike and head directly to Shimla, but that was not the case. I had to wait for several formalities to be completed, and unfortunately, the bike was not available at the shop. We had to wait for the manager, and of course, there was a lot of paperwork to be done.
After thoroughly inspecting the bike and completing all the necessary paperwork, we created a checklist and conducted a short test drive. The bike passed with flying colors and was in perfect condition.
It took almost half a day to complete all the formalities. By the time we finished, it was already 12:30 PM, and we were all extremely hungry as we hadn’t had any breakfast yet. We searched for nearby restaurants in Karol Bagh and found a place called Janta. We ordered biryani, but unfortunately, it turned out to be the worst biryani we had ever tasted. It didn’t live up to our expectations and didn’t even taste like tomato rice. We were quite disappointed, but I had no choice but to finish my meal as my stomach was growling due to hunger. After lunch, we headed towards Karol Bagh Road to buy some spare parts for our trip.
Continue reading BHPian raptor_diwan’s travelogue of his trip to Ladakh for more insights and information.
Source: Read Full Article