Initially it was a dream for me, since 30 years, to drive a car or ride a bike from Jammu to Leh. On second thought, I felt that it would be a real challenge if I could ride a low-powered two wheeler rather than a bike like a Bullet. I was following for many years the posts of Mr. Gautam who rode a geared scooter to Leh; and of Mr. Khan who was confident that a 110 CC bike also could make this trip. These led to my decision to ride to Leh Ladakh on scooter; a non-geared one. Two other reasons that helped me in this decision – non-availability of geared scooters now in India and my inexperience in riding a bike!
Leh Ladakh on Scooter – The Plan
The original plan was to undertake a ride from Jammu to Leh. If this was successful, then add a trip to Khardung La and if this also turned out to be doable, then why not return by Leh – Manali route?
My preparations were minimum. The scooter (TVS Jupiter) had 22,000 km on the counter; but was serviced 3 weeks before leaving. I had only windcheaters but bought a jacket, on the insistence of a friend, from Chandigarh. I carried a puncture kit and a tool kit, besides medicines for emergency. My luggage was no more than 10 kg and even this was carried from Jammu onward on an Enfield Classic; ridden by my nephew who accompanied me in the last minute. Mr. Khan wrote in his post to have a test run done in a hill station before leaving. I did that in the Jammu – Srinagar section! It was a dream run, despite bad roads between Udhampur and Banihal.
The ride between Srinagar and Leh was also smooth, in two days’ time, with a break at Kargil. The difficult part was a 40 km stretch between Sonamarg and Zoji La where there was practically no road. After reaching Leh, I had an overnight rest before attempting Khardung La. The ride was smooth until South Pullu, then the road was in a bad shape for close to 18 km. Still, the scooter continued its climb, though the pulling was greatly reduced. It was a tough negotiation for the last two km but, at last, I and my scooter, were at the highest motorable road in the world!
I reasoned that, if the scooter can climb Khardung La, then it can also climb TaglangLa, Lachulung La and Baralacha La, all above 5000 m on the Manali route. And I was not hit by mountain sickness at any time since leaving Srinagar. So, I decided to try Manali route.
Manali to Leh on Scooter
I did this in two days’ time. On the first day, I rode from Leh till Sarchu where I slept the night. By next evening I was at Rohtang Pass. The ride was, understandably, more tougher, with cold, persistent winds, roads flooded and washed out with glacial-melt waters, fear of skidding. In fact, I skidded and fell twice, once near Kargil and once near Pang, and in both instances, escaped with minor scratches.
Well, this is my adventure story. This should be read in the context of my age (69 years) and health (diabetic and BP patient) and physical standards (65 kg). Perhaps, the light weight was a plus point!
My message for all those who still waver between dream and reality. You can do it. You only need to be optimistic, take some precautions and have lots of patience.
I plan to return to Ladakh again next year. However I don’t know yet where to – may be Lahaul and Spiti or Nubra valley and onto Siachen base camp. I hope I will meet some of you, new adventurers, on the way! And I hope to get encouragements and help from Mr. Khan and Mr. Gautam!
Ladakh on Scooty – A Few Pictures
I am sharing a few pictures of my journey below.