Home > Get Ahead > Leisure > Travel
How to bike to Ladakh
Prerna Raturi |
July 19, 2005
If you are reading this because the idea of going biking all the way to Ladakh feels exciting -- and little else -- you might as well stop here. At the same time, I have to tell you no amount of preparation can really prepare you for the experience.
Nevertheless, here's an attempt. First of all, it's not just about a fit body. It's about a fitter mind. There have been perfectly healthy people -- non-smokers too -- who have succumbed to mountain sickness, fatigue from biking on a tough terrain and depression from seeing the stark landscape day after day.
Then, you need to make sure your motorbike is road-worthy. Which means you need to tune the engine, change the tyres (unless you are driving a bike right out of the showroom), accelerator and clutch cables, and clutch plate. Carry along a tool repair kit, puncture repair kit (don't forget the good old puncture stickers) and a foot pump.
You may also need to add carriers for the extra baggage. The other option is to have a tank bag that fits snugly on your tank, and saddlebags.
Other musts include a helmet that fits well and preferably has a visor, a cotton balaclava to save your face from smoke-belching trucks and the extreme cold, and leather and cotton gloves.
Apart from other things you will pack, don't forget a raincoat, down jacket and long johns, a first aid kit, and energy bars, dry fruits and nuts. And if you think you don't want that extra pair of socks -- everyone's feet smell the same after being on the road for a week and not being able to bathe properly -- it will come in handy as you manoeuvre your way through ice-cold streams and get your feet wet.
Be patient. After you hit the rugged road you are at the mercy of the landscape, the climate and God, if you believe in one. So don't push it. When you have a headache or nausea, don't ignore it. It just might be the high altitude at work. Make sure to get enough rest, drink enough water and, whatever you do, try not to break into a jig singing a Bollywood number -- the air is rarefied and you need to conserve your energy.
If you are riding pillion, practise sitting in alignment with the rider's body. Also, don't clutch on to the rider like you're his lover -- even if you are -- because he needs to keep his shoulders, legs and torso ready to suddenly step on the brakes anytime.
A personal word of advice: learn to lie about how beautiful that brown hill looks and how you just have to photograph it. How else do you straighten your back that is numb from sitting on the bike for three hours non-stop without being told, "You are not fit enough for a trip like this."
This might sound clichéd, but don't litter the landscape, respect the wishes of a local old man who does not want to be photographed, and smile back when people smile at you. Last but not least, learn to like Maggi.