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Trip Preparations and Thoughts






Important Notice: While on the trip out of goodwill I had shared my pics with some of fellow travelers. It might well be possible that you might see my pictures that are shown here, posted somewhere else on the web too. It was not very wise of me to share my pics without proper attribution (watermarks) done, but if you do see such pictures please report it to me.



Before going to the day-wise logs I would like to post something about my preparations and thoughts that went in to this trip.

My last trip to Leh in 2008 was just fabulous; we visited some of the remotest places in Ladakh (HanleChumur), saw the one of the two world's highest observatories situated in Hanle and not to forget visiting the world's unofficial highest not so motorable :) road by the Name marsimik la
All thanks to Sunil Sir for organizing it and a wonderful team.

But as there were problems in Kashmir due to some amarnath land issue we couldn't visit Srinagar and we had to come back via Manali route. I was really looking forward to see the beautiful srinagar but couldn't and from then on I decided that I will plan another trip and visit it.

2009 was a silent year for me with just a couple of trips here and there. But then I saw the travelogues to leh on various forums I got worked up and started thinking of when to plan another trip. I spoke to my brother, Mohit, about it and he was also pretty interested.
Next big part was deciding the time of the trip. Last time it was in the third week of July till August. We didn't see any ice/snow on our way or at any high passes. Hence this time I thought we should go a little earlier so that we get to see the ice/snow and also the greener side and also I didn't want my brother who will be going the first time to be riding on the ice covered roads. So July first week was the best time.
I spoke to my manager in my office in December 2009 only that I'll be taking a long leave in July and he agreed. Next was let our parents know that we are doing this trip. I waited till May for this since they were planning to visit Bangalore at that time and it is good to have such conversations face to face rather than on the phone. Finally I got the permission, they said you have already done it once so just take care and enjoy :)
Now time to plan the itinerary. Plan was like this:

Delhi - Chandigarh - Amritsar - Wagah Border - Golden Temple - Patnitop - Srinagar - Sonmarg - Drass - Kargil - Lamayuru - Leh - pangong tso - Khardungla (then probably go ahead for Nubra) Leh - Upshi - Tanglang la - Sarchu - Rohtang la - Manali - Chandigarh - Delhi

So we would have covered the famous glamorized, by the movie 3 Idiots, Pangong Tso and also completed a full circle.
This time we also decided after consulting with 2009 riders, Ashwin, Vinal that we'll send the bikes through train along with us. This was safest way to transport the bikes unlike that last time when we sent the bikes through movers and packers, the bikes were damaged badly and it almost ended our trip before getting started even.
Tentatively we came up with the dates i.e. 2 July to 18 July including Bangalore to Delhi and coming back to Bangalore.
Hence slowly we started buying things required for the trip. First thing was the saddlebags which we ordered through mumbai based outlet from their website: 
http://www.outdoortravelgear.com
The bags brand name was an usual one "getoffurass", www.getoffurass.com. The cost of the bag was 3200/-, slightly expensive than the usual cramster saddle bags (2200/-) but I liked this one mainly because the bags were easy to carry when they aren't on the bike.
http://www.getoffurass.com/store_sdb.htm


I also ordered a new thing, a camel back water bottle, which is a 1 litre water bottle you can wear on your back. Not very heavy, easy to use and can save a lot of space in your bags. We also bought riding gloves, balacalavas, etc. So slowly were ready for the trip.
http://www.outdoortravelgear.com/productdetail/motor-biking/motorcycle-luggage/saddle-bags/48/camelbak-hydrobak-50oz-1-5l/193.aspx

But then bad news started coming in the form of curfew in Srinagar, bad weather on Manali Leh highway and travelers getting stuck for days on the route. We decided to continue our preparations as planned and we'll see at the time of travel to Delhi what to do. I also had planned a back up trip to Lahaul, Spiti in case both the routes to Leh are closed.

Our row of surprises were not ending. The biggest surprise came when my brother called me up and informed me that he might have to travel to US urgently in coming weeks which will coinciding with the trip schedule. He asked me what do we do now. I just said you go ahead with your US travel and probably I'll go ahead with the trip. As I said earlier too, it was really disheartening to cancel the trip and anyways I would get bored to death staying at home alone when my brother flies to US. I asked my dad what to do about the trip and he just said "Son! go ahead with the trip. You have planned it long enough and it isn't worth canceling the trip. You have been there once and know how it is, just take care and go". Mum was a little worried for the solo ride but eventually said ok. This gave me a lot of confidence and I was all charged up to start my journey.

Yet another surprise came along my way through a good friend of mine, Suriya, just one week i.e. Saturday 26June, before I was supposed start the trip. And the news was that my mechanic's mother has passed away which obviously meant that he wouldn't be opening his workshop in the coming days. 
Hence I decided not to disturb him in such sad times and called up Sunil Sir and asked if he could help me out with my preparation of the bike. He readily agreed and asked me to come to his place next day i.e. Sunday. I asked him if he had engine oil so that we can change it. Also I didn't have a center stand on my bike and it would be hard to park my bike without it in the trip and also on the train for transport. Sunil sir had spare engine oil (Motul 300v) just enough required for my bike and also readily (who also owns a comet) suggested that I should take his bike's center stand as he hardly uses it in the city. He also asked me to get new Iridium spark plugs from the shop and gave me the specification that fits on the Comet, IR9EIX/IR8EIX. I got them from a spare parts shop near by for 550/- each. Other than that my bike was pretty much ready to take the challenge as I had recently got the overhaul done.
So Sunday I went to Sunil Sir's place and installed the center stand, changed the engine oil, spark plugs.
We cleaned the air filter, removed the restrictor that I usually I have in the city.
Sunil sir also gave loads of tools so that I can open at least the common things like tank, air filter, etc.

So now my bike was more or less ready for the trip but not that satisfied as it hasn't gone to a professional hand for the checkup before the long trip.
The last week before the trip I was just completing my office work and then I see a call from my mechanic. I spoke to him and he was worried about my trip that how am I going without much of the bike prepared. He said he'll be opening his workshop and I can leave the bike with him for a day and he'll fix whatever he can. I did the same, left the bike and he cleaned the carburettors, serviced the forks, and a general checkup of the bike. Everything was good and the bike was ready to be shipped on train.

While packing the things there was this nervousness in me and a lot of questions; whether I am packing correct things, whether I am packing more, whether I am packing less? But then packing more never hurts apart from you or your bike carrying it around; that too I am riding solo through the mountains on a bike which if unfortunately goes bad, nobody locally would be willing to put his hands on. Eventually I indeed ended up over packing :)

So this is how the trip preparations went on till the last day. I was still not sure of the weather on the Manali route and the crisis going on in the Kashmir valley. A lot of different reviews were coming along in the news and the forums about the same. Some said it is ok, some said it is so bad that you can't even go. I kept on visiting forums and the other places on the web for the updates. One such link which was helpful was this one:
http://vistet.wordpress.com/
I don't know who is the owner but it helped a lot to keep myself updated with the road conditions of Manali - Leh Highway.

But then I thought I'll see circumstances and do accordingly and hence there was no turning back.

Apologies for the lack of pictures in the post. I didn't start clicking pictures until the last of day in Bangalore as I was too busy finishing my office work and trip preparations.


Visit my flickr album for better quality pics (selected ones) : http://www.flickr.com/photos/sumitplall/

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