Road to Pangong Ladakh, bike

Practical guide for LADAKH

Before you read further, let me assure you something. Ladakh can be done in less than what some of us would spend on a trip to Goa! Absolutely.

I and my friend have visited Ladakh five times between us. And all those times, we would see groups of people wearing identical caps and T-shirts alighting one after the other from their chartered buses. Right in front of us at the buzzing Changspa market. Such a pitiful sight. Gets me back to those exacting school days!

But, don’t you worry. You won’t be doing that. People need to be given absolute freedom, and that’s what we practise, here, at Hoboist. If you’re with us, you get absolute control over your trip!

Well, let’s get to our itinerary, shall we? So, Ladakh is certainly not a piece of cake. You may be aware, already; good. The roads in Ladakh are one of the toughest in the world! But, if you know what to expect in Ladakh, you will be enjoying your trip, all the while.

Day 1: Delhi – The adventure begins!

Now, people may get a tad worried about the prospect of  a long journey; but, tell you what, all the times that we used this service, we were filled with a renewed eagerness. Each time. Every time. Our faces would be filled with a distinct cheer. And we’d know, we were always getting closer to our promised land!

HRTC Delhi Leh bus
One of his dreams came true.
Day 2: Explore Manali

The ride within the city limits could get a little boring, for some; but the comfortable seating and the constant change in landscapes should keep you occupied. You may even try out these tips. And, once we reach Manali, things can get only better! You have one entire day to explore the place. This break could also be used to buy those last minute accessories to make your Ladakh trip more comfortable.

Kids playing in manali monasteries
At Manali
Day 3: Keylong/ Sarchu halt

Onward to the Himalayas and after crossing the much-celebrated Rohtang Pass (13,050 ft), it’s pure bliss, then on. (You’d be always leaning your head out of the window; if you can bear the cold, that is!) These are the times when you realize the true beauty of India! The scenes unfolding as the journey progresses make it worth the time spent.

HRTC bus Ladakh
“Pee stop” on the way to Keylong

Depending on the bus driver, he may either stop at Keylong or Sarchu for the night. You should reach Keylong around 2pm. The remaining time is yours to explore. One can check out the local market or have a chat with the cute “student Lamas” roaming around in their typical attire. On one of my trips, I met a monastery-dropout who had turned into a pimp in Manali! No kidding. He says, proudly, “In Manali, I’m known by the name Cheeni bhai”. Apparently, he was researching the market in Keylong. Hard luck! 😀

You should pitch your tent before sun down. And, before you retire for the night, don’t forget to try out the delicious momos served at the stall at the bus stand. It was manned by an old lady; she reminded me of my cute grandmother.

Tent pitched at keylong bus stop
Tent pitched at Keylong bus stop. Just beside is the momo stall.
Day 4: LEH

Finally, after several bouts of motion sickness and headaches, we reach our destination in the late evening. Just kidding…actually, not! But, you know, I didn’t suffer any of those; neither did my friend. One or two persons in our bus seemed to have a tough time, though, last time around.

Still, I would say, it is better to reach Leh by road; we have several pit stops in between, and also, the night stay at Keylong (~10,000 ft) really helps us at acclimatization; also, the travel through several high passes like Taglang la. The poor guys who land in Leh by flight, mostly, end up having a tough time for few days. Some even need oxygen masks! The sudden change in atmospheric conditions can do some bad things to your body.

Taglang la: second highest pass in the world.
Taglang la: second highest pass in the world.

So, after you reach Leh, you head to Changspa, a few minutes walk from the bus stand. This is the buzz spot in Leh. This is where you meet those hobos and travellers and those crazy adventurers who’d always have amazing stories to share. Like Vashisht in Manali, perhaps. Only, even better! Anyway, so you could check into the cheapest one you can find (~600) and try and have an early night. Long REST. Much needed.

Note a simple rule: LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. If, by the next morning, you don’t feel refreshed, don’t hesitate to rest for that day, as well. You can enjoy the place only if you are fit! And, do visit a doctor if you feel sick, or if the headache doesn’t die away. The doctors, there, are very helpful folks.

Castle Tsemo Leh
At Castle Tsemo, Leh. The view from this vantage point is worth the arduous hike. 🙂
Day 5: Rafting at Zanskar

Rafting at Zanskar! One of the best rafting experiences in India, if not the best! The 29.6km from Chilling to Sangam, (the point where the rivers Zanskar and Indus meet) is laden with surprises, and some crazy twists and turns. Literally. If you are lucky, you can find someone in your group who can afford professional photographers to tag along downstream. Beg them for your photos. Totally worth it! Oh, you even get to take a dip when you reach Sangam. Epic! 🙂

On the way you could see the Magnetic hill and the Pattar Sahib (a famous Gurudwara that serves amazing 3 course meals for Langar! ;)).

Rafting, Zanskar
Rafting, Zanskar
Day 5: Trip to Khardung La

Honestly, you wouldn’t see much novelty in Nubra Valley, except, perhaps, for those double humped camels or the hot springs at Panamik. And, with the number of people lining up to “hump” that poor Bactrian creature, you would feel much better leaving it alone. As for the hot springs, imagine 100 people in one small pool. Imagine that happening everyday. Now, would you still don’t mind jumping into that pond?

khardung la silk route
The ancient “silk-route” passing through Khardung La.

By the way, Khardung La is no longer considered as the highest motorable pass. One more reason to not spend time exploring an overrated place. (However, the Indian army guys posted at Khardung La are very kind. They serve hot tea and some biscuits, and endless stories to few of their lucky visitors.) One good thing is, this short trip (~40kms) will prepare you for the mega ride that is coming up.

Later in the day, you could visit Shanti Stupa. This place is simply magical; you can see most of Leh from here, and even some distant villages.

Next page – Day 7: Pangong Tso

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Travel transports me to some euphoric placetime. Once there, I, almost, only, meet beautiful people; see places that fill me with pure bliss; and face experiences that inspire me to be more of myself. Then I go back home and write about them. Email: thehoboist[at]gmail[dot]com


    • Anil

      We stayed at Malpak Guest House, last time. There are several guest houses along the main market as well as the Changspa area.
      There’s also Dolma Guest house, then, Irfan Guest house, Julay…quite a lot, actually! 🙂

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