Wednesday, July 11, 2012

2 - Leh Diary - Planning

Link to Part 1

The best routes are the ones you haven't ridden. You could pedal the same loops year after year. Many people do, literally or figuratively. But to grow, you need new rides. Risks. Run down lanes you've long seen but never travelled. Get lost once or twice, then double back to where you started and try again..Live like this and you come to see unknown territory not as threatening, but as intriguing.

-Mark Remy

Month passed and then planning started. Lots of Questions
- To take own bikes from Mumbai or hire? 
- To go to Jammu first and then come down to Leh/Manali or vice-versa? 
- What all to carry? 
- To ride one person per bike (ride lighter) or ride two per bike and take turn at the driving?
- Which route to take?

Initial group of 6 grew to 8 to 11 (and finally 10). Lots of unanswered questions and maze of information out there on internet. Amid lots of confusing/conflicting suggestions / views, it was decided to hire a bike. It was not a decision by choice but only feasible option (or so we thought) - railways told that they can not guarantee that bikes will travel on the same train as that of us. Only 5 bikes per train are allowed and it all depended on luck (~ under-the-table dealings) on that day even luggage (bikes) booked in advance ! 

Then, through some friends, got contact of the person (cousin of friend) who deal in renting the bikes from Dharamshala. Lots of negotiations and permutations went on fixing itinerary. Comfort seeking character in me also found a good deal for back-up vehicle and mechanic for the whole trip, which was promptly shot-down by the rest of group. All was  finalized and we were ready to pay the advance when someone came-up with 'I'm too short to drive Enfield (bullet). Let's look at some other smaller options - avenger, pulsar etc.' After going through other options, we felt that it was too risky to book it blindly with other dealers and better to go with the first option. A call to him revealed that 'all bikes are now booked'. So another decision was (automatically) made to test drive few bikes from dealers in Manali on the first reserve day and then select the best possible *.

Lots of check-lists were made and scraped. Lots of views were thrown on a possible items to be bought and equally justifiable how those will be useless on the tour. Lots of emails going back & forth and nothing concrete! We finally met at Puru's house in last week of May and decided on the tentative route to take and also kept lots of optional routes depending on the weather/landslides etc. See below.

Preferred route

Distance Arrivval Dep
Chandigarh 24-Jun 24-Jun

25-Jun 26-Jun
Rohtang La 54 26-Jun 26-Jun
Jispa 84 26-Jun 26-Jun
Sarchu 80 26-Jun 27-Jun
Pang 77 27-Jun 28-Jun
Leh 184 28-Jun 30-Jun
Kargil 257 30-Jun 30-Jun
Drass 61 30-Jun 1-Jul
Srinagar 141 1-Jul 3-Jul
Jammu 296 3-Jul 5-Jul
Manali 400 6-Jul 6-Jul

Google Maps

Optional Routes included rides via spiti-valley, trip to Tso Moriri, tours to two other lakes which are visible on Google maps but not on the other trip routes and so on. But further search revealed that travelling to/through these routes require additional permits and hence lots of optional venues were dropped. The last line in the plan above was added almost towards the end May as most of the bike rentals in Manali not prefer to collect bikes from Jammu / Leh / even chandigarh or quote insane money say 15k PER BIKE (even all he will do is to hire a truck and load ALL bikes and get back to Manali in less than 15k).

Still to be decided was list of items to buy/carry which could not be finalized till last week and hence we were forced to buy lots of items in Manali on the reserve day for bike hiring & testing. The finalized list of personal gear included obvious items T-Shirt, Jean, first aid kit, jacket and strategically avoiding contentious issues like shoes, riding gloves, saddle bags, rain coat, knee/elbow guards etc (some of which were bought in Manali after further discussion). Somewhere deep down I thought that the planning was not sufficient to take on worlds three highest motor-able road (passes) on yet to be decided bikes ! 

*Hiring the bikes after seeing the actual condition and test drive turned out to be one of the best things

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