Day 7/15 – Leh
This was a relaxed day in the entire ride. We didn’t have deadlines to get up and get ready. We could stretch a little in the beds waking up late having having a relaxed breakfast. Our itinerary for the first half of the day was to attend to the bikes.
Allen’s bike had the spark plug issue. Kiran’s bike had isuues all over. Apar’s and mine needed an oil topup. We couldn’t get the specified oil grades in Leh. After a little bit of hunting and consulting with the Chennai Probiking Service Engineer, we chose something that would do good for the moment and for a topup. Kiran had bad news; Juma, who was apparently the mechanic, said that the piston rings had worn out in the Karizma. However, he mentioned that it wouldn’t be a threat for the moment and that Kiran could manage and ride it until Delhi. Allen spent a while with this guy before he was satisfied with was done to his bike. By the time we rolled off back to the room, it was a little past noon.
I got a call from one of my friends in Chennai telling me that another close pal was on the line and that there was something interesting to discuss. Hooked by the topic, I spent almost an hour over the phone, well knowing that it would cost a bombshell. The rest of the folks were sitting in the room enjoying some program on the TV. I had to go back and shoo them to get ready, so that we could do some local sightseeing. By this time, the hotel guy had got the permit for us to visit the places that we wanted.
Anyways, lunch first! We dropped by a nearby hotel for a pretty expensive meal. Quickly wrapping it up, we asked the hotel guy for some nice places to visit. After the discussion, we decided to make it to the Leh Palace and the Shanthi Stupa. There were other places like monasteries, which didn’t seem to interest us much. The Leh Palace was well visible from anywhere in the town. It was in an elevated location on top of a hill. But then, it was surprising that a lot of the local people were unaware of how to reach the place. Finally, there was one gentleman who pointed to the right direction and helped us. We just took two bikes and rode pillion. It was about a 10-minute ride to the top.
Parking the bikes by the entrance, we walked to the ticket counter to buy the entry tickets. We noticed something interesting; the timings for the palace were mentioned as ‘Sunset to Sunrise’. The building looked majestic from the outside. Curious to know what was in there, we stepped into the main gate, after which it was darkness for a while. There were a couple of paths, at the end of which there was light. We chose to explore them one by one.
At the end of the first path, there was a flight of stairs that led to hall where a lot of paintings and pictures were displayed. All of them portrayed the lifestyle and landmarks in Ladakh. There was some information on the wildlife and vegetation as well. Quickly glancing through all of the content, we returned to the original passage to head in the other direction. Walking that way, we had to pass by a couple of halls where construction was going on; I believe the place was being renovated. At the end, there was door that led to a balcony, from where we could see one complete half of the beautiful town of Ladakh. Mesmerized by the beauty of view, we sat by the balcony walls, chit chatting for a while and clicking pictures.
We got back into the hallway where we came from and climbed a couple of floors. The last one was a ladder that was quite shaky. Being windy, it was a scary climb to the topmost point of the building from where we could see the other side of Leh. I was astonished to find that one half of Leh was completely dry, but the other one was full of greenery. The wind that was blowing was as if we were standing in front of an air conditioner. From there, we could see another structure atop a hill, which was even higher. Now we had to take a call on whether to visit the Shanthi Stupa or the other Fort.
We chose to go to the Fort, but had no clue on how to get there. We saw a vehicle coming from that side, and were almost sure that we had to catch that road to get to the Fort. We still had no clue on how to get to that road, and chose to off road via the shortest path algorithm that we could think of. It involved a little bit of inclinations that made us turn back, we ventured and made it to the Fort. From the area where we parked the bikes, we had to climb a few stairs to get to the topmost part of the structure. Kiran, Apar and I were puffing and panting before we could reach the spot, but Allen chose to settle down halfway. Most of these were ladders and some of them weren’t attached at the top. With the camera in one hand, it was quite a balancing act, but was fun helping each other get to the top. Once we had reached the topmost point, we could see the entire Leh from there, which was a breathtaking sight! It was one half of dry mountains and the other half of pure greenery.
After we were done with the place, we chose to split. Allen wanted to visit a temple to donate some money, Apar insisted that he would wear only Reebok socks, even in Leh and went in search of one. Kiran and I head to an Internet café. Kiran had to reschedule his flight and I had to backup all the memory cards on a DVD.
At the café, after Kiran was done with his job, we didn’t get a machine to burn the DVDs. So we just went in search of a Xerox store to photocopy the permit. The fellow charged us at 3 bucks a copy! Back at the hotel, we were waiting on Allen and Apar, so that we could tank up all the bikes and the cans.
The two came in after a while. Allen was all excited about this T-shirt guy who made custom embroidery T-shirts. He took me to the store, where we chose a good design for all of us, that read “World’s Highest Motorcycle Expedition – LADAKH – been there done that”. The guy agreed to give it to us the next day late evening.