While some may consider a trip to the harsh yet spectacular terrain of Ladakh a once-in-a-lifetime experience, for Urmez Bhote and his friend Pranav Pingle, that is definitely not the case. Having ridden to and throughout its mountainous regions up to five times over the last 10 years, Urmez still hasn’t been able to get enough of its gorgeous sights, friendly locals, and clean air. He recently returned from his sixth trip of immersing himself in these mysterious and picturesque landscapes, and this week You & I gets a taste of a getaway so grand that it is sure to pique many a traveller’s interest.
In a bid to get away from the Hyderabadi heat, Urmez and his friend began this slightly dangerous yet worthwhile trip from Delhi. With motor bikes being their preferred mode of travel, this to-and-fro journey lasted around three weeks. By choosing different starting points for each trip to Ladakh, Urmez has made sure that every trip differed from the previous one. While he began the long journey from Manali last time, this ride started in the country’s capital.
This particular route that they took usually takes riders through Srinagar, Sonmarg, Kargil, Lamayuru, Leh, Pangong, Nubra, Sarchu, and back again to Leh and the Manali highway. “No matter where I go, I like to take the time to take in as much of every place as I can,” said Urmez. “Typically we would make at least five stops in every major city or town during these Ladakh trips,” he added. Among their many other fascinating stops, this trip even allowed the riders to tick the Golden Temple and Wagah Border off their list.
But this was clearly an adventurous getaway rather than a luxurious one. While Manali offered quite a few options for hotels and boarding houses, Urmez and Pranav were perfectly content with setting up base at the huts and tents they would come across along the highway itself. “When both the journey and its destinations are so peaceful, pristine, and beautiful to behold, the decision to come back again and again is not a difficult one to make,” he shared.
While a trip such as this one is never without its challenges, one of the most common issues visitors here face are that of acclimatising themselves to the atmosphere at such extreme heights. Though Urmez did not experience this on his first trip to Ladakh, there was one other time when he had to stop, catch his breath, and get used to the thin air. “I happened to be driving at around 60 km/h, which is considered fast up there. So I had to stop for a couple of hours and then I was good to go,” he shared.
In a place filled with towering natural wonders, yet another factor about Ladakh that appealed to Urmez was its people. “The locals were some of the best people that I have ever met in my life,” he reminisced. Describing them as friendly and sweet, Urmez recollected how inviting and accommodating his hosts were. “No matter where we went, the locals were always ready to welcome us with a hot cup of tea. It was also lovely to see how friendly and helpful they were; be it with their neighbours or tourists,” he added.
As for the cuisine available on this trip, though these dishes might come across as simple, they were also the ones that were on demand at all times. There isn’t much that can replace treating oneself with a steaming bowl of Maggi noodles or a plate of parathas, especially in such cold climates. “Sometimes we’d get lucky and get to have daal chawal as well!” stated Urmez.
At the end of his sixth trip to Ladakh, the young explorer could confidently say that there wasn’t much that he missed out on. An avid traveller, he is nevertheless always on the lookout for places to explore – old or new. Moreover, Urmez has already begun checking out places to visit by cycling or even walking. While he might not make another trip to Ladakh anytime soon, he’s eager to give other destinations a fair chance to impress and marvel him. As for anyone contemplating this journey of exquisite planes, rocky terrains, marvellous structures, loving people, and natural beauty, the one thing Urmez has to say to them is “don’t think twice and just go for it!” – as told to Roshni