Before I scribble down anything, the first thing I learnt during The Mountain Trail Days was ‘Mountains and Motorcycles simply go together’. You are on your bike riding around the mountains then definitely you are going to relive those days throughout your life. Nature has so much to offer. No one can explain the essence, you yourself need to go there to understand and live it. Each and every day in the mountains will give a smile and the next day you will wake up with the urge to see more. And I assure you, every time you will be blown away with its magnificence. Ladakh is on the top of every traveller and bikers bucketlist. There in the mountains you live in the sunshine, swim in the water and drink in the wild air.
Before starting my travel tale, let me tell you what is The Mountain Trail.
It was a 15 days expedition organized by Mahindra for Mojo and non-Mojo owners to ride across the beautiful passes around Ladakh. It was a ride focusing on the Mahindra Mojo and also testing its capabilities. Despite Mahindra taking care of everything, the mountains are never easy.
The journey begins:
Although the ride had begun, I joined the Mojo tribe on the 30th of July from Leh. The feeling while flying over the mountains into the clouds to Leh was indescribable. Leh Airport is not a mega giant building. It’s an open runway covered by delightful clouds and surrounded by stunning mountains. The Mojo Tribe had made Hotel Thongsal in Leh as its base camp. The team was riding for 6 days so that was a buffer day for them. One needs breaks during such rides because the human body needs to acclimatise to the present temperature and altitude. As the day was off I and few others went for river rafting after breakfast. The rest visited Hall Of Fame post lunch. An army personnel was our host for the evening. He took us around the war memorial shared different encounters of Kargil War and different experiences of Indian Army. After this the team headed back to the hotel and the whole group was in a party mood. Around 9 the party started and the fun continued for good 3-4 hours. Almost everyone was meeting each other for the first time but the biking brotherhood was clearly visible. During the party we had a briefing session for the next day’s ride. I woke early and visited Shanti Stupa Monastry which was located close to our hotel.
Despite scheduled plan of starting at 8 the Mojo Tribe started their climb for Khardungla at 9. Yes first up was Khardung La, the “World’s Highest Motorable Road”. The itinerary was to ride to Khardung La followed by lunch Enroute Khardungla Village and explore the beautiful Nubra Valley. We were asked not to stay long at Khardung La because of AMS. Even though it’s just 45 km from Leh, everyone was excited to conquer it. But destiny had its own plan as due to new motor rules by local taxi union, everyone had to ride his own bike but since several riders were riding bikes provided by Mahindra we were stopped and hassled for 5 hours. All riders were shattered and were being forced to turn back. But after intervention of DC along with Mahindra officials and taxi union things got sorted out and everyone zoomed towards Khardung La. Soon the black tarmac turned into narrow mud lanes filled with black ice and stone, everyone was struggling with the rough terrain of mighty Himalayas. But the Mojo was easily manoeuvrable over this terrain. With increasing altitude it was difficult to breathe but Mojo showed its mettle. Turn by turn the group got broken up while ascending and as the moment arrived, everyone was happy and filled with excitement to reach the top. Riders shared moments and feelings while clicking pictures and greeted each other. Soon everyone descended the other side towards Nubra Valley as it was already past 3 in afternoon and as planned the marshal pushed riders to move quickly in order to avoid bad weather. After having late lunch at North Pullu whole convoy crossed 2 water bodies along Nubra Valley. It was already late and after reaching hotel at 9PM, everyone enjoyed the bonfire and dinner together. After an eventful and tiring day everyone crashed in early.
Sand Dunes to Leh:
I woke up in the morning to see the wonders of Himalayas. Tribe visited sand dunes in the middle of Himalayas and were spellbound to see a desert in middle of snow-capped mountains. After a jolly ride on double hump camels, everyone geared up for the return ride. Before leaving for Leh we visited the spiritual Diskit Monastery. Everyone easily reached Khardung La and spent more time there to enjoy it completely. Tribe reached Leh early in the evening and had leisure time at bonfire enjoying the local folk dance. This night was used by Mahindra mechanics to service the bikes in order to make the onward journey pleasurable.
Mighty Chang La:
This day is the most important of my trip. Marshal informed us that even though Khardung La was of higher altitude ride to Chang La was more treacherous, testing our endurance and skills. Total distance was 130km but it was majorly off-road and less tarmac and even encounters of mud and boulders. As usual we started at 8am and once the off-road section started we were riding while standing on the footpegs. Steadily I gained confidence on my Mojo and soon I built a connection with the bike. Took a small butt break at Soltak and had lunch at Thangse Village. As we rolled down between the mountains we got the first view of the Pangong Tso. Zeal and enthusiasm was uncontrollable and we just accelerated towards the lake. Tribe reached early and the adventure began after hearing that we were camping there. Sub-groups were allocated tents and then everybody went to explore every possible corner of the place. Pictures were clicked at millisecond rate and everyone tried to portray their favourite movie star style. After having a plain dinner, we went out for a walk in a chilly night and enjoyed star gazing. Milky Way Galaxy was in its full glow and we had a view of one of the best natural phenomenon.
Return to ground zero:
Woke up late but managed to click numerous pictures. Whole tribe was divided into 2 sub-groups and rode back with their respective marshals. Meeting point was Karu and nothing adventurous happened on the way back. Since this was a free ride so everyone had their own comfortable time to stop anywhere and some went to Shey Monastery.
This day was filled with multiple episodes. Leh-Kargil route is one of the best tarmac routes in Ladakh and on this day whole convoy was riding together along with backup vehicle. We stopped at Nakee La and Fotu La and had a good time absorbing the fresh wind coming from Lamayuru monastery after lunch. Tribe reached Kargil in the evening and many got down to business using free Wi-Fi available there. Even I contacted my family down in the plains and shared pictures with them. Best part of this day was that rider Sarath Shenoy aka Baba Mojo completed 50000 km on his mojo and it was also his birthday. After the celebration everyone slept after another eventful day.
Plan for the day was visiting Kargil War Memorial at Drass, 42 km from Kargil. An army personnel took us through the stories of unsung Kargil war heroes, other different military activities, weather conditions and army life style. After visiting Drass it was time to return to Leh and the group was divided into multiple sub groups which lacked coordination. There were issues like punctures, technical issues like brake fail, disc bend and even small falls (inexperienced riders). Slowly everyone coordinated reached Leh after dark. Trouble didn’t end there, after riding 2 hours in the dark and an exhausting ride, the tribe came to know that the hotel had been changed. Spent couple of hours searching for the new hotel. Everyone had dinner before going to their rooms, but soon realized 6 bikes and a backup car was still missing and there was no connectivity with them. All questions were unanswered until they arrived at 1 AM. There were issues with those bikes which delayed them. Kudos to the servicing team who worked the whole night after a tiring day and prepared the bikes for another ride.
Ride Back Home:
The trip was about to get over. I came to know that teams were divided into 2. People who reached early the previous night, left early in the morning but another group who got delayed were to leave at 10, but left at 12. I was part of the 2nd group. A successful ride is riding home safely. Marshal informed us of the same and strictly emphasized us to stick with the groups and stop after reaching Sarchu. Obviously we took butt breaks but everyone adhered to the team. Reached Tanglang La in the evening and then your truly also had a punctured tyre. Left stranded for an hour I was gazing at the clouds waiting for them to come and shower me with rain. I planned not to take out my camera and after some time backup vehicle arrived and they replaced the tyre. Since I was already last, gave the backup vehicle a heads-up to go ahead to avoid any delay for any breakdowns ahead. I had the most thrilling ride from Tanglang La to Pang riding alone in rains and after reaching there I was already numb and was a bit lost in my own thoughts. There were 2 more breakdowns in Pang and since it was already late and raining, half of the stranded team stayed back in Pang whereas the other half reached Sarchu. Support vehicle and marshal went ahead to check the first team’s status. The first team was unable to reach Sarchu since a bridge had collapsed. Accommodations were made for them near that place and marshal rode back in the middle of the night and instructed the team to be prepared to ride to Manali directly the next day. Tribe had a gala time in chilly night by playing fun games amid a lot of laughter.
People didn’t have a pleasant morning as they had to attend natures call under open skies. Everyone got ready after wearing their wet gear and with determination to ride back in rains. We joined the first team in Keylong and started the ascent towards Rohtang Top. It was 8 in evening when we reached Rohtang top and the last treacherous ride started through rain, fog and with almost zero visibility. Took us 3 hrs to reach Manali and everyone breathed a sigh of relief from their wet gears. Next morning again it was raining and it was all about riding back to Chandigarh as soon as possible without instructions of any pit stop or any planned breaks. Ride ended at Pal Dhaba, Mohali with lots of celebrations and memories. One team showcased small video clips of each day, dinner was served and we from the respective media teams handed over our keys with gratitude.
Text & Photos: Sauban Ahmad