Initially, it was a dream for me, 30 years ago, to drive a car or ride a bike from Jammu to Leh. On second thought, I thought it would be a real challenge if I could ride two low-powered wheels instead of a bicycle like a bullet. I followed the positions of Mr. Gautam for many years, who rode a gear scooter in Leh; and Mr. Khan, confident that a 110 CC bike could also make this trip. This led to my decision to go to Leh Ladakh on a scooter; a non-facing. Two other reasons that helped me in this decision – the unavailability of gear scooters now in India and my inexperience in cycling!
Leh Ladakh on Scooter – The Plan
The original plan was to take a trip from Jammu to Leh. If that was successful, add a trip to Khardung La and, if that was also possible, why not return on the Leh – Manali route?
My preparations were minimal. The scooter (TVS Jupiter) had 22,000 km on the counter; but it was attended 3 weeks before leaving. I only had jackets, but I bought a jacket, at the insistence of a friend, from Chandigarh. I carried a puncture kit and a tool kit, as well as emergency medicine. My luggage was no more than 10 kg and even that was transported from Jammu in an Enfield Classic; mounted by my nephew who accompanied me at the last minute. Khan wrote in his post to take a test at a mountain station before leaving. I did it in the Jammu – Srinagar section! It was a dream, despite the bad roads between Udhampur and Banihal.
The journey between Srinagar and Leh was also smooth, in two days, with a break in Kargil. The difficult part was a 40 km stretch between Sonamarg and Zoji La, where there was practically on the road. After arriving in Leh, I had an overnight rest before trying Khardung La. The ride was smooth to South Pullu, so the road was in poor condition for almost 18 km. Still, the scooter continued its climb, although the traction has been greatly reduced. It was a difficult negotiation for the last two kilometers, but finally, my scooter and I were on the highest road in the world!
I reasoned that if the scooter can climb Khardung La, it can also climb TaglangLa, Lachulung La and Baralacha La, all over 5000 m on the Manali route. And I haven’t been hit by mountain sickness at any time since I left Srinagar. So, I decided to try Manali route.
Manali to Leh on the Scooter
I did it in two days. On the first day, I traveled from Leh to Sarchu, where I slept at night. The next night, I was on the Rohtang Pass. The ride was understandably more difficult, with cold and persistent winds, roads flooded and washed with water melted by the glacier, fear of skidding. In fact, I skidded and fell twice, once near Kargil and once near Pang, and in both cases, I escaped with minor scratches.
Well, this is my adventure story. This should be read in the context of my age (69 years) and health (diabetics and patients with blood pressure) and physical patterns (65 kg). Perhaps light weight was a plus point!
I plan to return to Ladakh again next year. However, I still don’t know where – it could be the Lahaul, Spiti or Nubra valley and the Siachen base camp. I hope to meet some of you, new adventurers, on the way! And I look forward to receiving incentives and help from Mr. Khan and Mr. Gautam!