Friday, August 3, 2012

How I got LEH'd! ( Part 2)

J's Journal:

Manali to Leh: 
16th July
1:39 PM

For the major part of this journey, I can't believe I'm finally here!
For the other part, I can't believe this is in India! The landscapes, the scenery, the feel of this all is just mindfuckingly beautiful! I can't seem to fall asleep even for a few minutes. I want to breathe in all of this, store it in my memory and never ever forget that yes, I know that I have lived my life well, just because I made it to Leh!

The road route to Leh from Manali is one not to be missed. For you will see some of the most spectacular landscapes you have ever witnessed in your life on this route! We had arranged for a cab to take us to Leh with our cab driver, Mr. Bunty being throughout stuck on a bad mood. We all tried to make some jolly conversation with him, but nothing worked. We finally dismissed his case on the grounds that the guy must have had a bad fight with his wife/gf just before leaving for this journey!

 Throughout the journey, I saw more foreigners in and around Leh than Indian tourists. That is probably the reason the place is still clean! The stamina and the enthusiasm of some of the foreigners who were cycling on Manali to Leh route was beyond belief for me , on that rough terrain, where our bodies ached by just sitting in the cab, with the rough cold winds blowing and the altitude sickness showing it's earliest signs in all of us with nausea and mild head aches, these men and women cycled, paddled their way through the rocks, through the wind and the scorching sun and the gravel and sand! Wow! I wondered when was I going to be that fit? I wondered when was I going to have the guts to do something like that? When ? If not now?

We met a foreigner couple,  they said they were from Australia. They must have been in their 50's. They were on a bullet and this was their 3rd time in Leh. They told us they had an option to visit England, but they felt there was nothing like Leh! So they came here in stead.

We met many foreigners along the way who had come to Leh for the 4th, 7th, 10th time! Some of them were staying there for months. We met people from Holland, France, Germany, Czech, America...they came from all over the world. 70% and more tourists in Leh are foreigners!

The Indian bullet riders mainly come from Maharashtra and Karnataka. With just a few groups from Delhi, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. We were over joyed to see GA registration on the way to Pangong, on getting a bit closer, we realised they were all foreigners!

Well! Hopefully, the next time I go to Leh, I will take my bullet with GA registration and I will be riding it.
97% were male riders, with just 3 females ( foreigners) riding  bullets. One on the way to Pangong, the other a french woman who was leading a troupe of bullet riders from whom I took a ride to the hospital on one of my tougher days in Ladakh, and another female I noticed in Leh market, gracefully riding the bullet!
And of course our own Teju, with the Avenger was the only female Indian rider I found on the Leh roads in those 10 days.

 Leh can be easily identified as the Bullet Capital of India. 98% of 2 wheelers on the Leh roads are the Bullets. I never ever took a bullet so seriously as I did in Leh. I remember my uncle had one, but then I was just too little to notice what the big deal was all about? Then my brother in law bought one, and I still did not know why the guys went all ga-ga about this machine! But I spend 7 days with a bullet? And man, I love it! There's undoubtedly no other Indian bike that can do what a bullet can do on the rough Leh roads. Yes, people do those roads with Pulsars and Avengers....but I recommend something as strong and sturdy as a Bullet! Period!

Well! The whole journey in the cab was comfortable until we reached this point! The world's 2nd highest Pass!
After booking the tickets for Leh by end of April, I had got too busy with studies and after exams had hurriedly rushed to Tumkur for a Vipassana course that I just about squeezed into my schedule before the Leh trip. In short I did no homework on Leh. The thing about me is I trust Sharvani to study all the literature and give me the highlights that can help me get through the situation. But, the Vipassana course put me into 10 days of noble silence, and after that was just some mad rush of taking care of pending work in Bangalore, and rushing from one state to the other, in which I just about took a look at things to pack but not at what things to expect! I have done Himalayan trekking when I was younger and I trusted myself to deal with the altitude. What I did not know was the altitude sickness that hits most people who travel too fast from lower to higher ground.

The first thing that was noticeable about my behaviour in the cab was the general irritation that did not let me sit in peace. I tried to sleep, but couldn't. I couldn't appreciate the scenery outside. Every bump, every jerk the car would take, would have me clenching my fist. The sudden change in my mindset got me confused! Within a few minutes I was having a mild head ache which soon turned into a splitting head ache, there was general uneasiness. I couldn't really point to one factor that was getting me troubled, my stomach lurched, my ears were blocked, I couldn't breathe properly, plus the head ache! I couldn't stand , nor could I vomit if I tried to.

Soon I heard some group members talk of altitude sickness. Everybody in our car was troubled!

Then someone searched through some prescription, and came up with a tablet. It is called Diamox, and it is taken for altitude sickness. I don't know if other's pounced on this pill, but I did. I'm generally uninhibited in taking unprescribed medication. And I was to learn the biggest lesson of my life in Leh for taking Diamox, not one, not 2, but 5 of them in all!

  The sickness did not go even after taking the pill. It loomed over us for over 8 hours! Someone said it's a precautionary medication, to be taken before you start ascending to a higher altitude. Someone else said it's to be taken every 10 hours. I noted this fact in my mind. After all, I was to be in Leh for only 10 to 12 days! I did not want to blow up my vacation with any sickness, I would take whatever medication/ remedy that can help me survive here.                          

 By the time we got to Leh, we were exhausted, and in no mood to hunt for the cheapest hotels! Luckily, we found a guest house within the first 5 minutes of getting to Leh. It's called AlimJaan, and it rented us rooms at Rs.700/- per day per room with no extra charge for an extra person.
If any of you are going to Leh, do take a note of this guest house because you won't find anything cheaper and cleaner for that rate in Leh.

Now that we are already in Leh, in the next part I'll talk about the most interesting ride of my life, to Pangong Lake and to Nubra Valley, and getting till the highest motorable pass in the world, The Khardung La! Also , the side effects of Diamox that got me blind for 36 hours straight!

I'll part with this interesting short film shot in Leh of a F1 racing car making it to Khardung La in 8 minutes! It's a world record!

Also, I will upload some of our funnier videos shot along the way.
Until tomorrow,


  1. Nice writeup. Already waiting for the next part :-).

  2. Hope I have my share of Leh experience sometime :):)

  3. Yeah Gauns..After seeing these guys trip pics, I think it's high time we plan a trip to Leh :-).
    ( Btw, Rajsthan is still on the cards :-p )

  4. The backdrop of the last picture is just amazing !
    Must have made your journey worth it ;)

  5. That's absolutely right Ritika :)


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