Leh-Ladakh is one of the prettiest places in our country. Not only us Indians, but people from over the world are fascinated by the sight of the scenic Himalayan mountains, the seamless barren lands, the high altitudes and the amazing terrain, which give you an adrenaline rush like no other. Right from the snow-filled ghats on the way to Khardungla top, to the cold sand dunes at Diskit in Nubra Valley, and the breath-taking views of the Pangong Lake, which lies partly in India and partly in China, a trip to Leh-Ladakh is one that will be etched in your memory for times unknown.
We chose the most adventurous way possible to get to this beauty of a place. Collecting our bikes from Pune, we sent them across all the way to Jammu via Gati, collected them there and then rode 2165 km to cover all the places. I was, of course, a pillion. I had never even been on a bike for a ride longer than Pune to Lonavala before this. However, since it was my experience being a pillion, I thought that a list of tips for anyone who is going be in the same place as I was in would be SO DARN helpful. I really wish someone had told me these things earlier. So here you go:
1) Carry music and a good pair of earphones. This is very, very important. One, it will keep you from falling asleep on the bike (especially after a rice meal). And two, the kind of music you listen to on the road will reflect directly onto the beautiful scenes that are waiting for you, so choose wisely.
2) Make sure that you sit with someone you completely trust. As much as you try to avoid it, you WILL be able to see the road and if you are in a constant fear of falling, you are not going to enjoy your ride at all. So have fun, hold on to your rider whenever necessary, soak in the thrill and adventure, and be ready for whatever is going to come your way!
3) Either your ass or your back or both of them are going to hurt a lot depending on what bike you choose to go on. For relief, you can place your hands under your ass once in a while. This will give temporary relief to your bum and also keep your hands from getting cold.
4) There are particular stretches you can do for your body once your ride for the day is over. Make sure you do them since they will instantly make you feel better and will really help your body in preparing for the ride for the next day.
5) DO NOT avoid buying a balaclava, assuming that it is not as important. You are definitely going to need it. I realized this on the third day and bought one. You can buy a warm one from Leh market itself. It is extremely helpful, keeps you warm and protects your whole face, excepting the eyes.
6) Everyone will tell you to carry your knee guards and elbow guards and wear them every day. I’d say the knee guards should suffice. They are important in extreme situations such as you falling off the bike but otherwise are simply for precautionary purposes.
7) Carry a pair of shades. Again, this is very, very important. When you are in midst of Khardungla pass where there is snow all around you, looking at it with bare eyes will give you a headache. So keep a pair that is comfortable and one that you can wear at all times.
8) If you have any kind of aches, use Volini or Relispray on the same day to make it better. There is no point in putting it for later and assuming that it will cure itself, taking instant measures is the wiser choice.
9) Breathing problem is an extremely serious one so do not take it casually. I felt a little breathless at the top of Khardungla pass and once inside the hotel room at Diskit. Take deep slow breaths to keep it from becoming severe. Carry Diamox tablets and oxygen cylinders in case of bigger problems.
10) Buy surgeon gloves to wear inside your normal woolen gloves. They are extremely handy and keep the chills from getting directly to your skin.
11) Wear two layers of socks and wear a layer of plastic bag on top of it. While going through water passes, try as hard as you may, a little water is going to splash on your feet for sure. The plastic bag will keep your socks from getting wet and will save your feet from freezing in the cold.
12) Carry almost 3 to 4 pairs of thermals because you will have to wear thermals each and everyday once you are out of Jammu and till the time you reach Chandigarh. I carried only one pair and regretted it since I had to wear it all through.
13) Carry a raincoat, the one with pants and a separate jacket because that’s the only one that will help you when you’re riding. Or you could also get the riders raincoat which looks like a huge poncho. Being in it could feel a little funny but it is helpful, nonetheless.
14) Click A LOT of pictures since being the pillion you have the advantage of doing so without having to stop the bike.
15) Give thumbs up/hi-fives to everyone! It’s fun! With thumbs-up to other fellow riders, you are showing your support and sharing the spirit of adventure, and with hi-fives to locals you are being a nice human being and simply spreading the love.
P.S. You can get riding accessories such as helmets, jackets, knee and elbow pads from MotoCentral located in Camp, Pune.