Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Journey to Leh... The Plan

This was a long cherished dream- to visit the land of souls.. 

I wanted to travel to Leh ever since I got to know about this place. I read everything I could get my hands on about this journey in these years and was mentally prepared to start anytime.
I love to travel but past 1 year had been so hectic that I did not get any time for a vacation. In this scenario, even thinking to get 12 days off, preparing a gang of friends and taking time off personal works seemed quite impossible.
But journeys like this happen when they are destined to... And this one also created its own path.

I have to get a holiday. Atleast 4 days off.  So, lets plan. Getting 4 days off from office should be easy...(I think so!!!!) Anyways, I can atleast plan. Search.. search.. search... I can go to many places. Mmmm.... Gangtok (It will be too far for 4-5 days). Give up!
Kashmir (Won't be able to see snowfall....Give up!)
Manali (Too near.. I need long vacation.. I have 4 days!!! Give up!)
Leh!!!! I want to go but it needs atleast 12 days by road. Give up????? No... Its the best time to go. And its too difficult. May be this year I can have all my friends and I may not be able to plan it next time. Oh... Its so difficult. Anyways, I can at least ask everyone.

Our Gang- Mohit, Vikram, Ankush, Aashish and Me
 By that evening, everybody confirmed their availability. By next day, we planned our schedule. In the afternoon, we asked our boss for leaves and by the evening we were all set to ho after 4 days. We got just a Sunday in between to do all the shopping and the list of essentials was really long.
We were a group of 5. Mohit, Vikram and Ankush, Aashish and me. (The boys were really skeptical about me.But I proved them wrong :-))
Mohit brought his own bike (Pulsar 220CC.. Nice bike with tubeless tyres. But cannot go with pillion and other luggage required)
Mohit and Aashish had to take their bikes from Manali. We took ours from Bikerentals.
Me and Vikram were pillions.
Thunderbird, Pulsar and Royal Enfield Classic- A Rainbow in the background

Before leaving form Delhi, we had to buy some essentials.(This is a list of essentials only):
  1. A good camera (Doesn't matter whether you are a photographer or not. The views will make you!!!)
  2. Sunscreen with SPF 50
  3. Sunglasses with UV protection.(Polarized will be better for riders
  4. Sturdy rucksack. (Better if comes with rain hood)
  5. Raincoat.
  6. Good quality anti skid shoes.
  7. Sandals or flotters.
  8. Good quality gloves.(Can be bought from Manali)
  9. Lots of dry fruits and chocolates.
  10. Medicines like Dimox, Aspirin, Disprin.
  11. Dettol, Betadine, Bandages, Pudin  Hara, Cotton, any other medicine which you generally require.
  12. Lots of polybags of all sizes.
  13. Woolen Socks (At least 2-3 pairs)
  14. Warm woolen Jacket. (Better if it outer fabric is like wind chitter)
  15. Waist Pouch.(Can be carried by any one or all in group)
  16. Torch
  17. Small Knife.

Also keep some copies of ID proof like voter ID, Driving license, PAN card apart from keeping original Driving Licence. One original ID will be kept by Bikerentals. We gave our PAN Card.

With all the things packed, we left Delhi on Monday night by Himsutta (AC Volvo by Himachal tourism). It left Kashmere Gate ISBT at 8:30 p.m and we reached Manali next day by 10:30 a.m. Mohit and Vikram were coming by bike and reached in the evening.

We had already booked Hotel Silmog garden through Expedia so we just went to our Hotel. But the hotel did not give us entry as it did not allow bachelors and Expedia mentioned it nowhere.
After 3 hours over phone and useless battle with Expedia, the hotel manager favored us and arranged another hotel for us. After some rest, we left for lunch. After that we went to get our bikes.
By the time we were ready with bikes after some preleminary fault corrections (Like one bike got punctured, another had fuel tank leakage, some spares were missing initially), it was already quite dark and we dumped our plan to leave early morning next day.
We started on Wednesday morning (Read Afternoon... It was nearly 1:30) after getting   other essentials like:
  1. Bungy ropes
  2. Petrol cans
  3. Funnel for petrol
  4. Water cans
  5. gloves for both riders and pillions
  6. Safety gears for elbow and knee guards
We filled full petrol in Bikes and 4 cans. Water in 2 cans.
Now we were all set to leave...
Full packed thunderbird. Shaan ki savaari
 We planned to complete our journey as-

Day 1- Manali to Keylong (118 Km)
Day 2- Keylong to Sarchu ( 106 Km)
Day3- Sarchu to Leh (260 Km)
Day4- Local Leh
Day 5- Leh to Pangong and back
Day 6- Leh to Khrdungla and back
Day 7- Leh to Sarchu
Day 8- Sarchu to Manali
Day 9- Local Manali
Day 10- Buffer day

This itenary seems so normal when we made it after all the googling. But, it changed every single day.... And all the conditions created their own itenary. We were just following... It was unpredictable, scary but adventurous.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Salute... Indian Army!!!

"We all love our country. And we respect our army."
This is what I have always believed. But I was wrong. Just being born in India and believing this does not make us feel the same way. I never knew the difference between believing and feeling till I traveled along the borders. It had to be changed and it surely got changed.

2 years back, it was a random thought. I saw some pictures, read few blogs and just wanted to go to Leh, the capital of the district of Ladakh. Way to Leh from Manali is one of the toughest motorable roads in the world. (Sometimes we forget if there is any road!!!). For me, it was just for fun and for some nice memorable days. But it turned out to be far more than that.

One aspect which I could never even think of became such an important part of our journey that it is inseparable, that it could not be given just a paragraph in journey to Leh... It is a journey in itself. Journey to the oneness of this country. Journey to various divides, problems, conditions, religions, people and journey to understanding the great forces which safeguard us in unimaginably tough conditions. Conditions are tough because of two reasons:

1. High altitude, snowy terrains and unpredictable natural conditions.
2. It shares borders with two neighboring countries- China in East and Pakistan in North.

The mountains that seem amazingly beautiful, the roads that seem so peaceful and the waters that create a sense of vibrancy, all look horrible at some point or the other.

BRO- Building and maintaining tough routes

And if we have have to live in such conditions for 2-3 years, the idea itself daunts.
Army maintaining roads
Whenever we thought that this is tough, this cant be done or we cant find even an insect over here, we used to see military camps.
Military has made very good transit camps enroute to Leh. All through the day we can find military trucks supplying essentials like food, clothing, petrol, medicines and much more to its soldiers. 
We know this is the toughest route and when it opens in May-June, its raw. totally thrashed by water streams and rocks. In these conditions, Border Road Organisation works wholeheartedly to build and maintain these extremely tough and rough terrains.

To safeguard our mountains and our borders from any crossborder attack army maintains these roads, puts transit camps, provides all kinds of help to tourists and local people with an extraordinary zeal.

In conditions, where we lost all our patience on a kind of luxury trip, our soldiers fight for us, in conditions that can not be imagined without experience.

In such conditions, we realize the true worth of our army officers and jawans, who guard the border at a very high altitude, including the world's highest battlefield in the Siachen glacier. Temperatures in the Ladakh region dip to minus 30 to 40 degrees in peak winter. Still the army stands strong that too with all discipline, patience, vigour and courage.

While returning, we came through Leh-Srinagar-Jammu-Pathankot-Delhi route. Kashmir is truly a paradise but somewhere inside, it creates a sense of discomfirt. The valley is still living in a world of its own and dislikes to be intruded even by the tourists from the other parts of the country. There, in those conditions, stood our army, making us feel safe and secure.  Each time I saw a soldier or an army truck or a transit camp, I was filled with pride and a feeling of being safe. And the feeling... Gosh! that feeling... can't be explained.. It can only be lived. And one must live if we want to love our country and respect our armed forces.