Watch a short video of our rafting experience in Ladakh.
River Rafting in Ladakh is a combination of both thrill and exhibition of alluring landscape. Bouncing on the freezing rapids of the Indus river surrounded by mighty barren mountains makes the rafting experience in Ladakh a unique one.The majority of travelers visit Leh to take on the treacherous roads or to witness the beauty of the place but If you want a bit more adventure you must definitely go rafting.
Rafting trips are organized by a many tour operators in Leh. With the help of the owner of our guest house we managed to get a package of 700 Rupees per person including pick up and drop.
If you are planning to take a camera make sure it’s waterproof.I used a Garmin Virb which according to me is one the best action cam available. The guides are qualified and all the safety measures are taken.
At one point our raft crashed into a large wave throwing me out into the cold river. Fortunately, I was holding the rope tight, which avoided any further unfortunate accident.
Read my next blog to read about our excursion to World’s highest motorable road – The Mighty Khardung La.
Finally, we were in Leh, the prime destination of our trip. Luckily we even got a decent guest house to stay at a reasonable price. It was the sixth day into our expedition to Ladakh. Getting up early was an exception for that day as it was allocated for rest and some sightseeing. Extremely tired and deprived of sleep, we were lying in our rooms like lazy crocodiles. Suddenly I woke up to the noise of a landing aircraft. The airport was very close to our guest house and you could clearly hear the aircrafts taking off and landing. Struggling to leave the bed, somehow we all were up around 11. Quickly getting ready, we left our guest house to spend some leisure time in Ladakh.
Getting on our mud-spattered and dusty motorcycles we headed towards the main bazaar. It was afternoon and the fierce heat of the sun was unbearable. Dying of hunger we went to a small eatery in the main bazaar to have some food. After gobbling some delicious Chole Bhature we advanced towards Shanti Stupa, one of the most eminent places in Leh.
Sitting proudly on a hilltop in Leh, Shanti Stupa is a white domed Buddhist stupa located 5 kilometers from Leh on a steep hill facing the Leh Palace. Situated at a height of 3,609 meters (11,841 ft), this magnificent stupa can be reached by a motorable road or on foot by climbing a series of 500 steep steps.Unaware about the motorable road that leads to the hilltop, we parked our motorcycles at the foothill and took up the challenging task of climbing the stairs.
Under the scorching sun we started to climb those countless steps. As we started to ascend higher, the view became more stunning. Climbing at a slow pace we took a couple of breaks to catch our breath before reaching the top.
Nearly after 20 minutes of making strenuous efforts we finally reached the hilltop. There was a quaint little restaurant on the top. We ordered tea to get refreshed and to celebrate our victory of climbing to the Shanti Stupa.
The Shanti Stupa was built to promote world peace and prosperity and to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism. The feel of that place was very unusual. The atmosphere was filled with peace and tranquility.
The panoramic view of the city from the top was totally mind boggling.
The panoramic view from the top makes it a popular tourist attraction.
It took us close to 15 minutes to get down. The steps were steep and we had to be extra careful while getting down.
It was 4 pm when we reached down. We were exhausted. Starting our motorcycles we left towards our guest house. On the way to our guest house we saw a small fort. “Zorawar Fort” was written on the main entrance. Parking our motorcycles we went inside the fort.
It was sunset when we left the fort. We went to a restaurant called LAMAYURU to have dinner. The only reason to eat there was free Wi-Fi, otherwise the food was mediocre. Post dinner we directly went to our guest house. After a brief chat session we took off to our respective beds. The next day was going to be packed with fun and thrill. Adventure awaits till the next day.
Read my next blog to know about the thrilling and deadly experience we had on our second day in Leh.
The morning was warm and pleasant. Sitting on the verandah of our houseboat I was awed by the beauty of Dal Lake. With Shikaras rowing all over, Dal Lake looked magnificent early in the morning. The milieu was so calm that I could clearly hear the splashing of water as the Shikaras rowed. Suddenly I realized that in some time we would leave this beautiful place and continue our journey ahead to reach our dream- Leh!
Getting ready we were all set to start our journey towards Dras. Loading all our luggage in the Shikara we left our houseboat. Reaching the shore we carried all the luggage from the Shikara and arranged them at one corner. Making two of our group members to stand near the luggage, we went to take our motorcycles from the parking spot.
Arranging our luggage on our motorcycles we left to have some breakfast. Riding for a couple of minutes we found a decent snack corner near Dal lake. Finally, after fnishing our breakfast, it was time to bid a goodbye to Srinagar.
Our plan was to complete the ride till Ladakh in 2 days. Starting from Srinagar we decided to reach Dras and stay there for the night. Next morning we would continue our journey from Dras and reach Leh by evening. The reason for staying at Dras was that you can easily get cheap and nice hotels at Dras which is hard to find in Kargil.
The only road that takes you to Dras is the Srinagar-Leh highway. The distance of Dras from Srinagar is around 150 kms, which is not very much but the risky roads and never ending traffic will surely make this journey a tough one. We all knew it was going to be a tiring day.
On your journey from Srinagar to Dras you’ll surely be fascinated by the stunning beauty of Kashmir. After riding a couple of hours we reached Sonamarg, a famous Hill station and tourist spot in Ganderbal district. Sonamarg which means Meadow of Gold is around 80 kms from Srinagar. The Roads connecting Srinagar and Sonamarg are truly scenic with a beautiful river running along the way. Apart from passing through some breathtaking sceneries, the roads from ” to Sonamarg was in excellent condition with very less traffic.
Ahead of Sonamarg, starts the dangerous Zojila. Riding around 9 kms from Sonamarg we reached Zoji La or Zojila pass. Running at an elevation of around 3528 meters (11575 fts), it is surely one of the toughest road you’ll be riding on your entire journey. The road looked like a thin like passing through the mountains. My hands were all sweaty as we slowly started riding on this mighty pass. The road was rough, rugged and narrow. I tried to look straight and keep my eyes on the road as the view down was quite frightening. Absence of proper roads makes riding on Zoji La more of an off roading experience.
It came as a relief to complete Zoji La and enter the Dras Valley. As soon as we entered the Dras Valley,we made a halt to have something to eat as we all were too hungry.
After visiting Zoji La War Memorial we finally entered Dras, the coldest place in India. We got 2 rooms for Rs.300 each to spend the night. The climate of Dras at night was too cold.
It should be kept in mind that your cell phones will not get network coverage when you reach Dras. It would become functional once you reach Leh.
Read my next blog as we celebrate independence Day at Kargil War Memorial and reach Leh, our ultimate destination.
Enchanted by Dodhpathri we started our journey towards Gulmarg, one of the most popular tourist destination in Kashmir. Gulmarg is a magnificent hill station in Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir. The name ‘Gulmarg’ means Meadow of Flowers. It is situated in Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas, at an altitude of 2,650 m (8,694 ft), 56 km from Srinagar via Tangmarg. On our way we made a halt at Tangmarg for lunch.
Watch the entire video of Gulmarg:
This heavenly Hill station is also known for the Gulmarg Gondola, which is one of the highest cable car ride in the world reaching 3,979 meters. Each one of us was very excited to experience this exhilarating cable car ride. Unfortunately till the time we reached the ticket counter for the Gulamarg Gondola it was closed. Due to this we decided to spend the night in Gulmarg because none of us wanted to miss that gigantic cable ride. Our Kashmiri friend had some contacts there which helped us to get a decent cottage for the stay at a reasonable price. Though it was August the climate of Gulmarg was freezing at night.
The next day we directly went to the Gulmarg Gondola Ticket counter. The line there was quite long. The charges for first phase was 600 Rs per person which takes you to Kongdoori at 3,080 m. While the charges for second phase was 1400 Rs which takes passengers to a height of 3,950 m (12,959 ft) on the Apharwat Peak. We decided to go till the second phase of the ride. On your way up you’ll witness some breathtaking landscapes of Gulmarg with greenery spread far till you can see. Once you leave the first phase the ride becomes more thrilling. It feels like the cable car is slicing through the clouds on its way to the top of the mountain. Gondola Ride till phase 2 is highly recommended if you ever visit Gulmarg.
Gulmarg is a famous destination for various winter sports like Skiing, tobogganing, snowboarding or simply enjoying and playing in snow.
Spending some memorable time in Gulmarg we then left again for Srinagar. It was decided that we would spend the night in a house boat at Dal Lake which would be our last night in Srinagar as the next morning we would leave for Dras. From Gulmarg we first went to our Kashmiri friend’s house to collect our luggage. There we were treated with authentic Kashmiri Kawah. It was refreshing. Bidding his family a goodbye we left for Dal Lake.
The sun was about to set when we reached Dal Lake. The lake was beaming wearing the glow of the sun. It was surreal.
Watch the magical sunset at Dal Lake:
Our House Boat!
Post dinner we went for a late night Shikara ride. It was all dark and silent. Coming back we rushed towards our rooms as it was quite late. The next day i.e Day 4 was going to be a challenging one as we would cross the dangerous Zojila Pass to reach Dras.
Read my next blog as we cross the Deadly Zojila to reach Dras – The Gateway To Ladakh.
On 11th August at the crack of dawn Ride To Ladakh began. The first patch of the ride was from Jammu to Srinagar. You’ll have to take Srinagar Jammu National Highway which is a part of National Highway 1A (India) system. The distance from Jammu to Srinagar is around 300 kms. We decided to leave around 6 in the morning. Getting up by 5, we were ready by 6 as planned but things dont always work as you want. It took us two hours to arrange our luggage on the motorcycles. Finally, after arranging the luggage we left Jammu around 8 am due to which we were behind of our scheduled time.
For Jammu to Srinagar the highway starts from Jammu city and then passes through the Udhampur district, Ramban district, Kulgam district, Anantnag district, Pulwana district and ends in Srinagar. From Jammu the highway passes through series a of Mountains up to Qazigund which marks the start of Kashmir Valley. The roads from Jammu to Srinagar are better as compared to ones from Srinagar to Leh.
After covering about 40 kms you’ll reach Katra which is the base camp for the journey to Maa Vaishnodevi.
After this comes the beautiful Patnitop which is almost 110 kms from Jammu. The hilly terrain may hamper your speed on your way to Patnitop.
Travelling a couple of kilometers you’ll cross Rambam and Banihal which will further take you to the 2. 85 kms long Jawahar Tunnel.
Just before entering Srinagar you’ll see line of tents on both side of the road selling cricket bats. These areas are famous for the Kashmiri willow bats.
We reached Srinagar around 7 in the evening. The climate of Srinagar was pleasant. One of us had relatives in Srinagar who came to receive us near Dal Lake. From there they took us to their home in Badgam. Their house was like a dream place surrounded by apple trees with a garden in front and a small farm in the back.
The journey from Jammu to Srinagar was tiring. Making ourselves comfortable, we rested for sometime. After getting fresh we were presented with some tasty Kashmiri Dinner. The food was excellent. Post dinner we chatted for some time with our kashmiri friends, after which we were ready to sleep.
“Kal me tumhe jannat dikhaunga” (Tomorrow I’ll show you heaven) our Kashmiri friend said before bidding us Goodnight.
To know about the heavenly place which our Kashmiri friend was talking about read my next blog 🙂
Upon hearing the word Goa we start thinking about beaches with golden sand and serene water, Shacks, Music, Parties, etc. Our visit to Goa for the new year’s eve is one of the most momentous trip of my life. At first when the trip was being planned I knew that my parents would never allow me to visit Goa for the new year’s celebration and that too on a road trip. But due to the perpetual insistence from my friends I gathered the courage to tell my father about the trip and asked for his permission. This was just a formality to shut the mouth of my friends as I knew he would never allow me to go on such lousy trips. That’s what he thought about such road trips I used to think. But to my surprise and sheer luck, he said YES. I was on cloud nine. It was like a miracle. We were elated.
Our ride, Maruti Swift Vdi was serviced a day before our departure. With the dawn of the new day we were ready to go. What lay ahead of us were two days of fun, gusto and open roads. Our first stop was at Vitava Petrol Pump. After getting the tank full we were all set to roll. Three friends, one destination and unlimited fun.
You can visit Goa via Trains, Flights, buses or private vehicles. With the rise in the number of biking groups, many bikers have started riding to Goa. I advice you to take on the road and your own vehicle if possible. I assure you it would be a memorable journey filled with several mesmerizing exhibition of nature’s beauty and some enduring memories to cherish.
The distance of Goa from Thane is approximately 615 kms and would take maximum 12 hours depending upon your speed and how often you stop. If you don’t have an idea about the road you can easily use a GPS or simply ask locals on your way for the directions. There are two major routes connecting Thane to Goa
Mumbai to Goa via Ratnagiri:
If you are a nature lover then this route is for you. But let me tell you one thing that even if you are not very fond of it this road would make you fall in love with nature. The road goes through picturesque forests on its sides. It looks more beautiful in monsoon. But with beauty comes some risk. The roads are winding and has a lot of curves. So a steady speed must be maintained in order to avoid accidents.
Many people choose this route for Goa in order to tackle traffic problems and also save time. People who are obsessed with speed also prefer this route. It is the best road to take if going to Goa as it has long unwinding roads with four lanes. The only drawback of this route according to me is the high number of toll booths. Repetitive toll booths are annoying.
We decided to take the Pune-Kolhapur Highway while going and the highway via Ratnagiri on our way back. Leaving at 6 in the morning we reached Kolhapur at 1 pm. We made a halt outside a local dhaba, for some authentic Kolhapuri lunch. We were delighted to have a scrumptious lunch consisting of spicy Chicken rassa, some yummy Misal and bhakris. Post the delicious lunch it was time for some rejuvenating sugar cane juice. It was refreshing and pure, unlike what we get in cities. Finishing the juice We were again ready to roll.
After driving for a couple of hours we reached Amboli, a lovely hill station resting in the arms of the the Sahyadri ranges. Amboli is approx 135 Kms drive from Kolhapur. Having a quiescent climate and away from the hectic city life it attracts a lot of tourists especially in monsoon. We stopped to click a few pictures with the waterfall. After some clicks we again continued our journey. Our next stop was directly at Sawantwadi for some energizing chai.
We finally reached Goa at 5.30 in the evening. There was a big check post at the Goa border, mainly because of the new year. The number of cars crossing the check post was very high. The roads were fully packed. People not only from different parts of India, but from different parts of world visit Goa to welcome the new year.
Now the most important task was to find a nice and cheap hotel which looked very difficult in that peak season. After inquiring in various hotels we were a little worried. The rates were very high and the cheapest fare we got was 4000 per day. We even declined that.
Parking our car outside Baga beach we decided to relax for some time.The beach was crammed with people. The three of us landed ourselves comfortably on the cold sand. The atmosphere was enthralling. Some nice music, beautiful sunset and cold breeze. It was a perfect evening. Spending some quiet time at the beach we left for dinner. There was a different menu card for the new year and the rates were quite high. We ordered some Chinese food. One thing I noticed that the waiters don’t pay much attention to you if you don’t have alcohol on your table and unfortunately we didn’t have. We were non drinkers. After dinner we were very tired and the only thing we wanted was some peaceful sleep. Not having any hotel to go we decided to spend the night in our car. This being the most awesome decision we took that made the trip worth remembering. Faizan took the driver’s seat while I took the non driver’s seat and Abhinav slept on the back seat. It was one of the most amazing sleep of my life.
The next day we woke up late from our luxurious beds. We took the car to the nearest petrol pump for refueling. Over there I saw a bathroom. It was pretty clean and we desperately needed to bathe. Parking our car at the side of the petrol pump, turn by turn we used the bathroom. Bathing in a petrol pump’s bathroom is something I had never imagined, but it was fun. We even got dressed at the petrol pump in the open. Having some fish steak burgers for breakfast we left to explore Goa.
We visited Aguada Fort, Calangute Beach, Vagator Beach and Chapora Fort.
Aguada Fort: It is one of the most popular tourist spots in Goa standing tall on the shore of the Mandovi River. This fort was built in the year 1612 and till now it is very well maintained and preserved. One of the outstanding feature of the fort is its four storey lighthouse built in 1864. I advise you to visit Aguada fort first as it is very big and you’ll have to walk a lot.
Calangute Beach: Calangute Beach is located 15 kms from Panaji in North Goa. It is also called as the Queen of Beaches. It doesn’t matter at what time of the year you visit,this beach is always crowded.
Vagator Beach: Adjacent to the famous Anjuna Beach is Vagator Beach. This beach is less crowded as compared to other beaches like Baga or Calangute. It’s a peaceful place to witness the beautiful sunset.
Chapora Fort: Popularly known as “Dil Chahta Hai Fort” Chapora fort is located high above the Chapora River. About 10 kms from Mapusa this fort was built in 1617. The fort is very old and very popular among tourist, but sadly it is not very well maintained. There is no proper parking facility. Moreover, there is no proper access to the fort. You have to climb a lot, but once you reach the top you will realize that it was worth your effort.
We visited only a few places as our trip was only about 2 days and our main aim was to experience new year’s celebration in Goa.
By sunset we went to Baga beach. It was the last night of the year and the milieu was breathtaking.
The crowd had gone berserk. Every single shack was full with people. Finally the countdown for the new year began and as the clock ticked 12 there were some splendid fireworks all over the beach. The black sky got painted with various radiant colors. It was enticing. It was a night worth remembering.
We smoked hukka till 5 in the morning, which was very awful and expensive. After that we went to our car for some sleep. In the morning around 9 with left for Vasco to pick a friend who was to travel with us to Thane. Reaching Vasco we used the public bathroom to get fresh. We changed our clothes on the side of road which was very awkward but we didn’t have any option. Getting some burgers for breakfast we were ready to leave. Leaving exactly at 12 noon from Vasco we reached Thane at 2 am by taking the highway via Ratnagiri.The highway via Ratnagiri is very much scary at night.
Though the trip was very short, the experience and the memories we made in those 2 days were simply amazing.
When someone says Ladakh we automatically start thinking about huge barren mountains, azure skies, colorful Tibetan flags, serene Pangong Lake and most important the beast – Royal Enfield. Also known as the Land of High Passes, Ladakh is an ultimate destination for adventure lovers. The trip to Ladakh was a long awaited trip for me and my friends. Ladakh was like a dream for all of us. It had become an obsession. The trip was being planned for more than a year. Getting delayed from May due to a friend’s marriage, it was rescheduled to August 2015. We were very excited for the trip.
The plan was to reach Jammu by train and parcel our motorcycles from Bandra Terminus to Jammu two days prior to our departure. To be on the safer side Tickets was booked three months before the trip in the month of April. So Jammu was the starting point of Ride To Ladakh 2015.
On the morning of 9th August 2015, our dream journey began. Swaraj Express departs from Bandra Terminus at 7.55 am and covering distance of 1952 kms it reaches Jammu at 14.40. This journey will definitely make you to witness some breathtaking landscapes and sceneries. We reached Jammu Tawi around 3 pm and directly rushed toward the parcel office. It came as a relief to see our motorcycles reaching there safely. Completing the formalities we took our motorcycles and started our hunt for rooms.
It was a hot day in Jammu. The climate was scorching and by the time we found a decent and convenient hotel we were dripping with sweat. After getting fresh we took our motorcycles to the nearby mechanic for some minor repairs. Post dinner we were ready for the much needed sleep as we were completely drained.
Here is a list of essential things one should carry for a Bike Ride to Ladakh:
Water: Dehydration can result in some serious health issues at such a high altitude hence having sufficient quantity of water is very important. Drinking water at regular interval is vitally important.
Documents: Drivers License, One Identity Proof and all the documents regarding the motorcycle like RC Book, Insurance, PUC etc should be carried. If you are not taking your own motorcycle or it is not registered on your name then you are required to carry a non objection letter by the person on whose name the motorcycle is registered.
Medicines: Having a proper First Aid kit is must. Medicines for AMS ( Acute mountain sickness) is must. Moreover medicines for headache, stomach ache, fever, cold and cough should be carried without fail.
Clothes: Riding Jacket of a high standard along with fine gloves and a balaclava is very essential. You should also carry proper woolen clothes, warm inner and clothes which can be worn in layers so you can easily adjust your attire according to the existing temperature. You will be crossing a couple of streams on your way hence, it is advisable to carry water resistant shoes.
A postpaid SIM as a prepaid SIM would be dysfunctional once you enter into the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Extra clutch and accelerator cables.
Extra Tyre tubes and puncture kits.
Tyre inflator and Air Compressor Pump.
A Proper Tool Kit.
Sunscreen and Lip Balm.
Chargers, Extra Batteries and Memory Cards.
Sturdy Helmet and UV Sunglasses.
Extra key of your motorcycle.
In my next blog read about our journey from Jammu to the beautiful Srinagar which happens to be the first stop of Ride To Ladakh 2015, as we move a step closer to our dream.
It was the last day of April. At this time of the year Summer is at its strongest in Mumbai. The scorching heat along with the tormenting hot wind becomes unbearable. We desperately needed a getaway at least for a day to get some relief from the fierce weather. And after a small meeting and a brief discussion on our WhatsApp group, a bike ride to Kashid Beach was finalized.
About Kashid: Kashid is a very popular beach town in the north Kokan region of Maharashtra. It is mainly known for its sun-kissed beaches with white sand and serene blue sea. The beach is stretched up to 3 kms and is considered one of the cleanest beach of the Kokan region. Kashid beach is very popular among tourists during holidays especially summer but remains deserted during weekdays. The feeling of sitting tranquilly on the cold sand with cold breeze blowing around and witnessing the beauteous sunset is totally spellbinding. The beach has many water sports like Banana Ride ATV, Jet ski and Para sailing. The charges for water sports are less as compared to Goa.
Its is around 125 kms from Thane and approx 135 kms from Mumbai.
How to Reach:
By Bus: All buses that regularly ply between Mumbai Central-Murud halt at Kashid.
By Ferry: You can take Ferry service from Gateway of India to Mandava beach. From Mandava beach you’ll need to take an MSRTC bus to Alibaug. Then from Alibaug station private shared tempo to a naka (road junction) near Kashid. It would take approximately 1 hour to reach there.
Nearest Airport -Mumbai (130kms), Pune (170kms).
Nearest Railway Station – Kolad(57kms), Nagothane(63kms), Khopoli(105kms).
We were a group of six people out of which four had already been to Kashid. It was my first time. Our rides were an Avenger 220, a Pulsar 200NS and a Pulsar 180. Next day i.e May 1st around 8 in the morning we commenced our excursion. Just before the start of our ride I got a little tensed as the other two pillion riders were wearing balaclavas and over it they were wearing helmets. I didn’t have either of them leaving my face completely exposed to the harrowing sun. That was my greatest mistake. It is highly recommended to cover your face and head from the direct rays of the sun. Wearing a balaclava and helmet is must even for the pillion riders. If you are going by bike I will advise you to start your ride early in the morning, especially in the summer so that you can reach Kashid before afternoon. Riding in the afternoon heat can be very tiring and could ruin the day. This was the mistake we did. Our first halt was at a petrol pump in Navi Mumbai. To be on the safer side Rs.800 of petrol was filled in each bike. It was very hot so we stopped outside the petrol pump to have some cold drinks.
Once we left Navi Mumbai we directly made a halt at Vadkal Naka for some refreshing soda and milk cold drinks. On your way you would also pass through the famous Karnala Bird sanctuary.
From Vadkhal, the road diverges from the Mumbai-Goa highway and extends to Alibaug. The road passes through the fascinating kokan villages and lovely green forests.
Traffic is very less on this road which runs along the resplendent sea. This stretch of the road fades away all your tiredness with its marvelous view.
We finally reached Kashid beach around 1 pm. Parking our bikes we settled ourselves under the shed near the beach and relaxed for sometime. Some Maggi and bhurji pav were ordered for lunch. It is advisable to carry your own food if its a one day trip. There’s a small stall just outside the beach that serves Egg Bhurji, Maggi, kanda (onion) bhajiya, chips, cold drinks and tea. But these items are quite expensive. We had a light lunch as we had to go into the water.
After sometime we got changed and entered into the water. The water was warm and clean.
After spending some soothing time in the water and playing with the waves we went to get changed. There are two small bathroom behind the food stall where you can change your clothes. The charge for using the bathroom is 20 Rs. per person. After getting changed it was time for some group photo.
Some beautiful sunset shots taken on our way back.
This is my first blog if there is any error feel free to comment 🙂