Thrill Along The Trails Of Leh Ladak
You’re loitering near Leh looking out at them mountains there besotted; when you hear a thump in the distance. Getting louder. And then another. And another. You turn around with “Son offa”... on the tip of the tongue, wondering who dares interrupt your eyes at Instant Nirvana when you see a new Bullet classic go by, Andhra registration. You smile. He’s far from home, you think, forget your nirvana and smile. Exactly like that time in the girl's loo in school.
You think about the one waiting for you back at home – the 1989 red and yellow beauty gathering dust. The one with the broken kick a Japanese American broke off. You cringe, but only till the next Bull rides by. Truth be told – it’s not easy to write anything about a Bullet. What do you write about the Bullet that hasn’t been written about 979 times by 765 publications already? Plus everyone has their own Bullet story. And many of these storytellers have one place to ride to before they die: Leh Ladakh. Many go alone, some lucky ones with the Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey (whose trip these pictures are from).
But before we race ahead – we’ve got two questions for you: If you are a bullet guy can you ever get bored? And if you aren’t will you ever get what the fuss is about? The answer is what the cute PYT told you when you used one of Austin Power’s pickup lines on her – No. The look of condescending disgust though was for just you.
Why are we going hoarse advocating Leh-Ladakh as the direction to point your Bullet in, and what’s new about it considering it’s been the destination du jour for a good part of a decade now? Well, Nubhra valley (where the picture you’re ogling at has been shot) in Ladakh and much of the road is to die for, plus of course, there’s a twist in the tale. The Rohtang Tunnel was inaugurated recently (for about the 4th time in 15 years) anyway the idea is to tunnel through and make an all-weather road to Leh; thereby Rohtang La, the Gateway to Lahaul Spiti valley will no longer need to be cleared off the snow.
To cut a long story short – it’ll take you less time to get to Leh, but it also means all the world and their grandmother will hop into a taxi and head there – which effectively gives you two seasons to use the ‘old’ Manali-Leh highway. The 475 km journey is often considered one of the best, butt toughest riding routes in the world, and you honestly feel a little bad about the boys from down south battling the cold.
But as it turns out, there wasn’t much to worry about – the riders went through a boot camp to prepare for their trip (Nubhra Valley beyond Khardung La was the new destination this year). There was a 5-km jog followed by 50 push-ups just to make sure your bike isn’t the only one in ship shape.
The Bull, most riders will tell you is one of the best things to have between you and a high pass – the muscle and the torque are only too eager to jump from one hair bend to another.
There’s a small tip though, the Petrol Pump that says that it’s the last for the valley – don’t ignore it. It is. The Himalayan Odyssey for this year wound down from Delhi to Manali to Khoksar and then on to Keylong. The 60 odd bikers then headed towards Sarchu through Barlach La riding through 10-15 feet of cleared snow. The riders then crossed the gruelling 21 Gata Loops and climbed into Lachung La and then down into Pang. From where they ascended again into Tanglang-La, the second highest pass in the world and then onwards through Bharatpur and then onwards to Upshi from where a paved highway took them to Leh. And it’s here that the most gruelling leg of the journey Khardung La – the Highest Motorable Road in the world amidst sleet, snow and zero visibility awaited them. It then winds down to the dunes of Nubhra Valley. The riders then rode back from Gramphu and Kinnaur to return via Shimla. P.S there were also some river crossings and all that stuff. How’s that for a trip you can boast to the grandkids about? Leave out the part about you not being able to walk properly for a couple of days after that though (trust me it might seem like a fun anecdote, it isn’t.)