There are many reasons for planning a trip to Ladakh. For some, it’s the draw of the ethereal beauty of the place; to others it is the photographic potential of the place, the terrain and its people. Then there are people who are drawn by the challenge of riding through some of the toughest terrains and the highest roads in the world to reach the place. And there are some for whom a ride to ladakh is like a notch on the belt is to Casanova. Why do I make a date with Ladakh? For me, I guess all of the above reasons would apply (including at one time, the last).
The first time I signed up for a ride to Ladakh was back in 1998, when a bunch of crazy friends, then still in med school, were planning to spend their study leaves riding all the way from Kopargaon to Ladakh and back! For a variety of reasons (read: finance), I had to drop out then. But Ladakh would stay on the mind ‘cos just 2 years later, I heard from another friend who chucked up his job and went backpacking through Ladakh for 2 months and came back with thousands of photographs. I can still remember meeting him at our hangout “Vaishali” and shuffling through thousands of photos in utter shock. The sheer photographic potential of the place was revealed to me! That was the time, I knew I just had to do it! But it would take 4 long years, and a new bike! And since that first time back in 2005, Ladakh has had a magnetic pull: calling us every year on a holy pilgrimage!
This year the urge struck early: February to be precise! A sunny day on the beach in Goa, chilled beer in hand, the decision was made to “get Leh’d” in June. Good thing as it turned out, because planning such a trip and setting out the time for it is hard work! We planned to send our bikes up to Mandi, fly down to Delhi and then take a bus to Mandi. Starting the ride from Mandi has a number of advantages the main being that it would save one full day of riding through the plains: and time was indeed in short supply. Once the plan was frozen, dates were blocked and tickets were booked: 3 months in advance!! Things really started moving in earnest again a week before the ride when our bikes were dispatched by truck, the old favorite GATI being the courier of choice again.