LADAKH: A Journey to a Land of Cold Desert


Above the height of 4000 meters, the trees get disappeared and the terrain of the Himalayas changes into a cold desert. The thin air makes your lungs work harder and the unpredictable weather put more obstacles in your way, but the immense beauty of Ladakh cannot take your heart away from this region for longer because it attracts your soul.

I have been traveling in the Himalayas for a long time, but I never got a chance to ride a bike in the Ladakh region. I was so busy in my travel business that I forgot to enjoy the true nature of my work. This time I determined to take a solo ride to Ladakh hence I started my preparation for this trip. Being a tour operator in Himachal Pradesh, I knew the area and weather of the mountains, but I have never been to the Trans Himalayan region. There was excitement in my mind and I shared my plans with my friend Mohit who is from Rajasthan. He got tempted by listening to my plan and he wanted to join me on this epic journey. Therefore, we both decided to meet in Manali in the first week of August from where we would hire our bikes.

In Manali, we stayed in a small but beautiful Homestay surrounded by an apple farm. While having breakfast I met with another biker who came all the way from the USA to ride in the Himalayas. His name was Juan; Juan hired his bike from New Delhi and he came to Manali by riding his 500 cc Royal Enfield. We put our ideas on the table and decided to ride together as a group. Our next step was to get our permits from the Manali SDO office, without them we were not able to clear the check posts on the way.


After analyzing the weather condition, the adventure began in the afternoon. It was already too late to reach Sarchu on time. The weather was cloudy, we were afraid it would rain on the way. Unfortunately, after a few minutes, the rain started, but we continued as true bikers don’t stop. The road to Rohtang pass had steep climbs and hairpin bends but I was enjoying every turn of the road. Due to heavy rain, the small water streams were coming out and crossing the roads. Here the thought came into my mind that these water streams had just shown us the trailer of the movie, but the whole movie is yet to be watched. This kind of thought rushed adrenaline through my whole body. When we were descending from Rohtang la, the road was replaced by mud. The whole track was slippery thus we all were riding like a tortoise. Somehow we reached Khoksar where all tourists had to show permits. As today’s target was to reach Sarchu but the bad weather and our late start stopped us, hence we decided to stay in Jispa.

The next morning, we outset early since today we were determined to hit Leh before night. Before arriving Sarchu check post,  we rode on the zigzag road to Zingzingbar and crossed Baralacha la (4830 m). On this tour, we had already got experienced snake-like roads and high mountain passes, but the only thing we did not experience was facing a big water stream. This wish was going to be fulfilled soon before Sarchu. By afternoon we came across the big water stream on the way, it was told that we have to cross this area before afternoon since the water was less in the morning due to the slow melting of glaciers. The trucks stood on both sides of the stream and people were helping each other to cross that giant stream. All bikers in our group passed that without any hassle, but some people got stuck when they stopped their bikes in between the stream. That was an amazing experience and I will never forget it in my whole life.

ghata loops

In mid-afternoon, I and my fellow bikers followed a road to Nakee la pass. It was a steep climb and the weather suddenly changed. First, the rain started, but we kept on riding, few minutes back the hailstones were striking our helmets and the cold breeze was penetrating into our bodies. There was no shelter where we could stay, the only thing we could do was ride without stopping. The weather was harsh till Nakee La, when we were descending,  the sun came out of the clouds and we felt a great relief. The next pass was Lachung la which was easily covered. Now we entered a region that seemed like a dry desert. From far away, on the road, I saw a light brown colored dog running in the middle of the road, when I came closer to it, I realized that its size is bigger than a normal dog. When I was passing by I stopped about 6 feet away from it, I wondered, if it was a wolf. That wolf ran away from the road as I came closer. This really thrilled my heart because it is rare to see a such animal on the road.

By the evening we came to know that today we will not make it to Leh since the sun was setting fast so our hope to reach Leh also setting with it. Therefore, we were planning to stay at Rumtse. My bike’s brakes were not working properly, hence I rode at a slow speed. The sun was setting and the weather again showed its color and rain began. I was tackling three difficulties one is the rain, the second is loose brakes, third is dark Night. Anyway, we reached Debring where we had our dinner and changed our wet soaked clothes. One of our bikers was not feeling well and he was having symptoms of high altitude sickness. First, we decided to stay at debring camp, but after some time my fellow biker told us that the weather is clear and we can continue to Rumtse and the journey continued. When we touched the second-highest road pass named Tanglang la, the weather deceived us again, not with rain but with the worst snowfall. The cold became unbearable and the air become thin, It was hard for us to ride in such conditions. Luckily, I brought a tent and sleeping bags with me, we set the tent on the roadside and spent that night at 5200 meters in harsh weather. Nobody slept that night as all of us had headaches and we were breathing heavily. Many things happen for the first time in life same happened this time.

tso moriri

The morning came up with shiny snow all around. Our bikes were covered with snow, we shattered snow from our bikes and commenced this day by descending Tanglang la. There was a police post in Upshi where we had to register ourselves again. From Upshi the road was smooth so we reached Leh in the forenoon. With all twists and turns, we made it and enjoyed our evening with a big party at a café in Leh.

Ladakh’s culture shows no resemblance to other parts of Jammu and Kashmir. It has different terrain from the rest of the Himalayas. This cold desert greeted us with a magnificent panorama of the Trans Himalayan mountains. Throughout this journey, I learned those things that I thought I already knew. On this trip, whenever, I ascended to a new pass there was an excitement to see what lies on the other side of the pass. This Journey was full of fun, and adventure, and most importantly, it gave great satisfaction to my mind, body, and soul.

3 comments on “LADAKH: A Journey to a Land of Cold Desert”

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