Since '02 xBhp is different things to different people. From a close knit national community of bikers to India's only motorcycling lifestyle magazine and a place to make like-minded biker friends. Join us

Castrol Power 1

All the gear all the time (ATGATT).

Our Partners

Since our first roadtrip in 2006, xBhp has ridden in more than 63 countries on some of the most exotic motorcycles and cars that this planet has to offer... And the ride is still on. In these pages, let us take you on a journey through memory lanes of all these roadtrips. We are publishing one roadtrip at a time, so keep coming back for more!

Terra Rex: Mahindra Thar Heads to Ladakh

Country: India

Capital: New Delhi

Area: 3,287,263 km²

Population: 135.26 Crores

Language: Hindi, English, Regional 

Currency: Indian Rupee (INR)

Road Length: ~4,320,000 km

Road Details: The Road network of India is the second-largest road network in the World with a total length of around 4,320,000 kilometres. The Indian road network consists of 1000 km -Expressways, 79,243 km -National Highways, 1,31,899 km -State Highways and Other major districts and rural roads. Embracing a whopping length of 6,373 km of National Highways and a road network of 150,876 km, Rajasthan, India’s largest state, has the longest road length in India. 

Roadtrip name: Terra Rex: Mahindra Thar Heads to Ladakh

Year: 2022

Distance: ~1,200kms

Route and Map:

Sonmarg > Zoji La > Dras > Leh > Hunder > Nubra > Leh > Tso Moriri > Leh

Ride on: Left side

Metric System: Speed is in km/h and temperature in Degrees Celsius. Fuel is measured in litres. 

Machine: Mahindra Thar (Petrol A/T): 1997cc | 150 bhp | 320 Nm

One of the greatest roadtrips in the world. A pilgrimage. A rite of passage. Things to do before you die.

No matter how you put it and how many times you have done it, it will keep calling you again and again like an unknown voice in your subliminal, almost as if you were living there in your past life.

It is magic.

Ladakh. One of the most beautiful places on the planet. Of course, it is also being ravaged by incessant tourists who leave their mark and create a ruckus by playing loud music and whatnot. But it is still mostly a place where you will find solitude in the incredible mountains, deep gorges and unearthly rock formations with sunsets and sunrises that are hard to beat anywhere else in the world. The clear night sky with hundreds of thousands of stars is the icing on the cake.

The last time I had been to Ladakh was in 2006, on The Great Indian Roadtrip with Motoscooters from Kinetic Italjet and bikes like the Karizma and Comet GT250. And a rickety Tata 207 as our backup vehicle.

Fast forward 16 years, and it was time to go to Ladakh ‘again’. I put it in quotes because for many people doing this is an annual pilgrimage, going 16 years without visiting Ladakh is almost criminal. Especially if you are living in a city in north India like Delhi.

There are two routes to do this. From Srinagar’s side or Manali’s side. When I went in late April, the route from Manali was closed after Sarchu, so Srinagar it was.

The real fun starts in Srinagar. Heading to Sonamarg, which is 80 km away, you start getting a feel of things to come. snow-clad mountains started getting more common along the way.

On reaching Sonamarg I realized that I will not get the peace I want here. It was crawling with tourists. I know I am one of them, but it is what it is. Thankfully, the end of April is still not the peak season and snow does not thaw in many places.

The Mahindra Thar was one of the best vehicles to do this in.

In Sonamarg, I stayed in an army transit camp instead of moving ahead to Kargil as the Zojila Pass was closed for maintenance. Such is the nature of this region that roads and passes are susceptible
to flash snowstorms and landslides and one should be prepared for eventualities leading to delays or even being stranded on the highway with little or no water and food.

Thankfully my Thar had 40 litres of spare fuel in the auxiliary cans that I got made for my other roadtrips involving litre class Superbikes which drink fuel like no one’s business and require high-grade fuel.

But this time the Thar was the protagonist. And not just any Thar. This one carries the #19yearsOfxBhp livery on it with a sweet shade of desert green and edgy fonts. The functional and cosmetic modifications, both interior and exterior remain since last year’s #roadTripUnited2021.

Moving on after a night in Sonamarg that still looked beautiful despite being run over by tourists like me, we headed towards Zojila Pass which is located at an altitude of 11,650 feet and is famous for its treacherous narrow roads, insane views rivalling that of the Lord Of the Rings and the fact that in 1948 this pass was captured by Pakistani forces in a bid to capture Ladakh but thankfully, was regained by Indian army later.

I shudder to think just how can anyone fight at these altitudes where AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) is a very real danger if you push yourself physically. I personally know of a few people who have died because of this in the region on motorcycles. In 2011, I pushed the Ducati Multistrada in the Spiti Valley just a little bit to position it for a photo at the then worlds-highest village of Komic. I was in leather gear and the aftermath of that was almost fatal. I took two days to recover in Kaza just resting on a bed while my head felt that it would split.

This whole region is relentless and I salute the Indian army and the BRO (Border Roads Organization) for doing superhuman stuff here. They are the real-life superheroes and not the ones we aspire to be after spending time on social media. But then, that is my two cents.

After crossing Zojila, I stayed over in another army transit camp in the town of Dras, which is widely regarded as the second coldest inhabited place on earth with a recorded temperature of -60 degrees Celsius in January 1995. Just knowing that gave me more chills at night than it would have been on my stayover.

Dras to Leh gives you ample opportunities to feel what it might be like to land on Mars with its extremely
rugged mountains towering above and piercing into the clouds. Some snow-clad others bare as if they are pure evil against a dark black dense cloud backdrop.

Along the way, there is the city of Kargil that you can drive straight through in case you don’t want any supplies or food. The famous Kargil War Memorial is actually in Dras and not in Kargil itself.

From Kargil to Leh there are a few points of interest like Namik La (12,000 feet) and Fotu La (13,500 feet) which can be extremely windy and has a lot of prayer flags which look very pretty against the rugged mountains. This is also the highest point in the Srinagar- Leh road and can be extremely unforgiving should you get caught in bad weather on a motorcycle. But the Thar always felt rock solid and in fact, it best felt at home on the ‘bad’ days.

After this, I started descending towards Leh, which is located at 11,500 feet. Along the way to Leh, you will find many stupas, interesting houses built almost into the mountains and the stunning unreal La Mayaru monastery perched on a clifftop that you can visit.

The town of Leh has an airport and any amenities you could imagine. This can be used as the base for exploring the Ladakh region as different points like Tso Moriri, Nubra and more spread out in a few different directions.

I decided to go to two different places. Hunder, Nubra Valley in the north and Tso Moriri, Changthang Plateau in the south. Both offered me completely different experiences.

Hunder is a village in the Nubra Valley situated 125 km north of Leh city. My drive started towards the famous Khardung La which was jam-packed with tourists because it was unfortunately a long weekend. However, Khardung La after crossing over was beautiful as many tourists go back to Leh City from there. The name of this mountain pass is based on the Khardung village which is actually 33 km ahead of this pass. For a long time, this was considered the world’s highest motorable road to the general public at 17,500 feet (it is under debate whether it is 18,379 feet or not). Now Umling La is considered to be the king at 19,024 feet.

There are cafes at Khardung Village where you can take a break for lunch and then proceed further towards the Nubra Valley. It starts to get more desolate and the views start to widen as the valley starts to open up. As you near Hunder, the landscape starts incorporating sand dunes which sometimes stretch more than many kilometres. Unfortunately, there were a lot of tourists and activities happening on these dunes and it was a sad sight to see people playing loud music, trash all over the place and more. However, if you do not visit on a weekend (this is by no means a weekend destination anyways!) or on holidays, you will get the serenity you crave (unless you don’t, that is!). Might as well go to a local fair in your city than be disappointed after coming so far in search of peace.

Peace might be elusive sometimes even in this remote part of the world, but beauty is not!

This place will make you realise how small you are in the scheme of things and in front of mother nature while the Thar made me feel strong and invincible as I was shielded from the elements. This is completely opposite to what a motorcyclist would feel, especially in bad weather and circumstances.

The roads to and from Khardung Village onwards to Hunder vary in quality. Sometimes it is extremely bad and sometimes there is smooth tarmac.

Coming back to Leh the next day after the slight disappointment was more rewarding. The weekend had ended and there was hardly any traffic even at Khardung La top where you will find hundreds of people clicking photos and making reels and being generally loud. It had also freshly snowed apparently so I got some great drone shots.

The next destination was Tso Moriri, which literally means the mountain lake. The more popular Panging Tso was out of the question as it has become so popular in the wrong ways that a person like me looking for solitude will never go there. And I was right!

It is 220 km from Leh and the route passes nearby Thiksey Monastery which is another must-visit if you can ignore the loud tourists sometimes. As you keep driving southwards, the population starts to become sparser and then it was just amazing with just a car in many kilometres.

The road however was in extremely bad condition for around 50 km and it is surprising that cars don’t break down here. However, the Thar held on with aplomb! However, It is all worth it.

Around 30 km before Tso Moriri you will be greeted by its smaller cousin called Kyagar Tso which is absolutely stunning and desolate. And lucky for me, it was also partially frozen at that time since the ice and snow were not completely thawed. It was surreal to look at it and fly the drone over its frozen surface.

Moving on towards Tso Moriri, the roads start to a little better, but then these are not ‘bad roads’, this is a part of the whole desolate experience that helps keep the place safe from being inundated by too many tourists.

At Tso Moriri there is a small village called Korzok where I stayed near the military camp. It was almost on the shores of Tso Moriri which was much larger and it is actually a closed lake with no outlet. I went to the shore of the lake with the Thar and was greeted by some amazing ice formations on the hard surface. The whole experience was surreal and there was no one else to disturb. However, it did get very cold at night at around -4 degrees.

Overall the experience in the Thar had its advantages and disadvantages over a motorcycle, and those things will always remain. But because the Thar has that adventurous DNA, it is not that far from a motorcycle if you want to do this region and take a lot of camera equipment as well.

Just keep in mind that accommodation options are limited and always check the weather and if roads are open or not and keep some water and food along with blankets ready in case you have to wait on the road for many hours because of a landslide.

Drive safe!

This article was published in the Jun-Jul’22 Issue of the xBhp Print Magazine. Order your copy here, or read it online here.