This blog post is dedicated to those of you who have always wanted to explore Ladakh but are terrorized by the thought of handing in a letter to their manager asking for a week-long leave. I’ve put together a golden guide to help you get the most out of Leh-Ladakh in just 4 days. Yes, just 4 days is all you need to explore the gorgeous Pangong Tso lake and Nubra Valley with the kind of adrenaline rush you haven’t had in the Himalayas ever before.
I have been traveling for quite some time now. I was looking for a well-planned short itinerary tailor-made for my needs and that’s how I ended up in Leh this time. I had already booked my flight tickets even before my leave got approved. The journey to Ladakh is an experience in itself and the lack of network connectivity makes it all the while magical, letting you leave your work behind and connect more with your soul.
When I thought of wandering solo in this high-altitude terrain, the fact that people generally visit Ladakh with their squad did not bother me at all. However, the one thing that did worry me was what if I had a breakdown while riding! I shouldn’t invite the trouble of being stranded alone at a no man’s land. So I made the wise decision of getting in touch with the travel agency named Cruise whose sponsored posts usually pop up on my Instagram feed. Fortunately, that worked out great for me. You can plan your trip in association with Tripshelf without a second thought. I will leave their contact information at the end of my blog in case you plan to head out there. I absolutely recommend them, and I will give honest reviews about them as I tell you about my off-road expedition to the world highest motorable road pass.
So let’s start, shall we?
Day 1: Leh-Getting there
As this itinerary involves a limited edition of a full-packed adventure of 4 days, it is evident that I took a flight and landed at Leh early morning. The first day should be a rest day no matter how physically fit you may think you are! As much as it is good to be mentally strong, your body needs a day to acclimatize to the high-altitude terrain. Drink at least 3-4 liters of water per day to keep yourself sufficiently hydrated and keep handy a few Diamox tablets which you should take in the morning to avoid the dizziness.
I was sleep deprived because I had pulled off an all-nighter to reach Leh from Kolkata. But the moment I landed at Leh airport and the cool mountain breeze teased past me, the adrenaline rush kicked in. The weather was extremely pleasant at 15o C. The moment I got to my hotel room, I crashed into the bed for a power nap. Later, I went for a stroll in and around the Leh market. Due to time constraints, I couldn’t lay my hands on Ladakhi cuisines. So, I munched on chicken steak and of course, are you even in the mountains if you don’t have some momos? I needed my proteins to power me up to take on the adventures awaiting me the following day. My trip organizer had kept my Royal Enfield Himalayan ready, brought in as per my customized expectations. Needless to say, I had paid generously for this arrangement. I knew what the roads of Ladakh had in store and I wanted my off-road experience to be as smooth as possible. Most of the other bikers that I was supposed to join for the ride went for Enfield Classic 350cc and 500cc. Now that I have gotten back, I must say that I am glad that I made the decision of renting the Himalayan Enfield and you’ll know why.
Day 2: Getting to Nubra valley
Finally, the day for the much-awaited adrenaline rush! For people who love riding bike, they will know that the journey always matters a lot more than the destination. And when it comes to Ladakh, I cannot emphasize enough when I say that there are good roads, bad roads, and the worst roads that will make up your journey. Khardungla pass, the world highest motorable road pass, falls on the way to Nubra Valley. Adventure junkies from all over the globe come to this place to put a tick on their bucket list. It was now my turn to put a tick on my bucket list and bask in the warmth of the feeling that I can make it to almost anywhere I wish. I feel it’s all about the mindset that you have while you ride through such tough terrains. But most importantly, remember to stay hydrated.
The ride to Nubra valley is quite long. But the landscape along the way was breathtaking and as you can imagine, the sunset was as surreal and heavenly as it gets. It was almost 6 p.m. when we reached Nubra valley. Nubra valley is famous for double humped camels which are found only in Mongolia and Ladakh.
We had a couple of pit stops along the way. I chose the taste of Maggi and masala tea to complete my Himalayan experience. While we filled up our growling stomachs, our bikes had their tanks filled in the morning, which is taken care of by the tour operators.
After a much needed night’s rest at the camp, we finally were able to see the Nubra Valley in daylight. A high-altitude cold desert, with dunes and double-humped camels! It was surreal to ride camels among the dunes while being surrounded by snowcapped mountains.
Stay at Nubra Valley
Our stay was arranged at The Regal Camps stationed at Hunder Valley. These camps were so swanky lit. There were a king-size mattress and a western commode with hot water facility! This is me telling you that this travel agency is undoubtedly the best and if you must need even more validation, just read on..
Day 3: Getting to Pangong Tso
Just one day of adventure and excitement wasn’t clearly enough and so, here we were off to Pangong in the early hours of the morning. Most people return to Leh after a stay in Nubra Valley. I wouldn’t recommend that at all because the way from Nubra valley to Pangong via Shyok valley feels like a ride through heaven. Although the roads wouldn’t be a big delight to the faint-hearted, this ride will give you a pocketful of unforgettable memories to be cherished forever. I would also recommend that you leave by 7 a.m. or else you might not be able to cross the water ridges. The river lacing alongside the road and the valleys that you would be crossing through will leave you speechless with its wild beauty. It’s a long ride of approx. 170 km ride but the heavenly view will keep any tiredness at bay. I hope you get live this experience soon and thank me later!
We were hardly 10 miles away from Pangong when it started raining. The rain was a reminder of how cold it is going to get. But the excitement, energy and wonderful experience kept our insides feeling warm and fuzzy. Moreover, the lack of network connectivity gave me the kind of detachment I had asked while planning this trip. This also helped us in interacting with our fellow riders and making friendships that are to last a lifetime. While most of them kept themselves warm with rum, my preference is always beer regardless of the temperature.
Stay at Pangong Tso Lake
The night was extremely cold and I had to rely on two blankets to keep me from freezing. All that aside, not many travel agencies offer a campsite at Pangong lake. Also, our camps were pitched right in front of the Pangong lake and it couldn’t get any better. The name of this camp was also the same- The Regal Camps of all the exclusive camps offered by Cruize Operators.
Day 4 – Adieu Pangong Tso –
It was time to head back to Leh and the very next day I had an early morning flight to Kolkata. I couldn’t afford to get stuck at any point on the journey back to Leh. Your hopes and prayers or anything for that matter fall short when one is against the mighty nature. It had been raining all night. The thought of getting stuck on the way due to landslide had already given us enough anxiety. We were all getting ready to gear up our bikes to set off for the final lap. The moment we stepped out, a gust of cold wind got our adrenaline up and rushing and we rode off to our first pitstop– Changla pass.
The Ladakhi roads were revealing their ruggedness as we rode on. The tourists traveling in SUVs that went past us had their own perks of staying warm and enjoying the snow-clad mountain views except for the one worry that their car might skid off the road that was layered with snow. I kept on humming songs in an attempt to distract myself from the subzero temperature. It is very essential to be equipped with the right set of riding gears or else you can only imagine the kind of trouble waiting to surprise you.
Kaka, who had been leading us all this while, told us not to stop anywhere unless it’s inevitable. He emphasized the weather at Changla Pass would be deteriorating further, thanks to the incessant drizzle. We reached an army checkpoint where we were told to halt. The news was that the road to Changla Pass was blocked due to snowstorm. Meanwhile, we were getting desperate to warm our feet and hands that were frozen by now despite the gears.
After an hour of desperate prayers to the Almighty, the roadblock was cleared by excavators. Thanks to the Indian Army for being there to serve day and night. En route to the second-highest pass, I got a tad bit shaken while cruising my Himalayan Enfield through the roads that were buried deep by layers of snow. But I made sure that no matter what I won’t turn off the engine and reach the peak without getting stuck. One wouldn’t want to get stuck in such intense weather. We had almost reached Changla Pass when we were hit by another snowstorm which led us to another hour of being stranded in the snow. Check out my video post on Instagram for this. We relished a second breakfast at Changla Pass. On our return journey, the snow on the roads had started to melt and we heaved a sigh of relief that the weather was getting better for the rest of the day. I could feel the relief of not having to miss my flights the next morning as I entered the beautiful city of Leh again.
Leh, you’ve been a wonderful experience and I will be definitely back again for more of biking.
PS – Please get yourself ILP for Ladakh if you’re traveling all by yourself. ILP
Cruize Operator contact – firstname.lastname@example.org