Beating high-altitude sicknessManali, Leh
A creative way to kick off a bike trip through Ladakh would be to ride into it from Manali. You will save two days of acclimatising, which would be imperative if you flew into Leh. Biking into and around Ladakh is the Holy Grail of biker-trails anywhere in the world. Terrifying mountain passes, thin air, the awe of the beauty around you—no other route offers as much. It is also a rite of passage that any biker worth his engine-oil must endure.
Biking through the world’s highest motorable roadKhardung-La
To the north-west of Leh lies Nubra Valley, accessed by the snow-bound Khardung La, which at 18,380 feet, is considered the highest motorable road in the world. Like the passes you have already crossed and those yet to come, there simply isn’t much road up there. The Border Roads Organisation has given up battling the onslaught of melt water, and you have to contend with whatever remains of the road.
Solitude amidst the mighty KarakoramsNubra Valley
Watch the two-humped Bactrian camels and furry soft-toy marmots scurrying around as you criss-cross over two gushing rivers, Nubra and Shyok. Here, precipitation is so sparse, you wonder how any life takes hold. But all around are lush poplar firs, and a few apple and apricot orchards. Well-appointed campsites are the new accommodation. You could also live in a Ladakhi home and guzzle their one-of-a-kind butter tea with momos and thukpa soup.
Probing the outer reaches of the NubraHunder and Panamik
Two days in the Nubra are usually sufficient to probe all its wonders, biking up to its outer reaches of Hunder and Panamik, on either side of the Shyok River. Check out the hot-springs at Panamik before heading east, back the way you came. Unavoidably, you weave past the Internet cafes and carpet shops of Leh one more time, until your motorcycle sniffs out the highway again.
Biking to Pangong LakePangong Lake
After a two-hour ride on plateau roads, your first sight of the lake is heart-stopping. As you nose your motorcycle past the dun-coloured rocks, you catch a sudden gleam of cobalt-blue, which extends into the most magnificent water body. Here are colours borrowed from the Mediterranean and splashed onto these ridiculous heights creating a basin of calm. With the best of Ladakh now etched in memory, you can begin your journey home.