I’ve been wanting to add some spice to my life for a long time and I needed some adventure in my boring routine life. That’s when I came across a post on CouchSurfing, about a motorcycle trip to Ladakh. This caught my attention, but the price turned out to be a little steep for my pockets – 28k for the 15-day trip + additional 25-30k for bike, petrol and other expenses. But I got caught up in the idea, and I had made up my mind that I wanted to visit Ladakh at any cost.
After a little thought, I decided why not plan a trip on the same route as the motorcycle ride all by myself. So, using their itinerary, I planned a hitch-hiking trip – Hyderabad – Delhi – Chandigarh – Shimla – Dharamsala – Manali – Leh and back. But then I did a little more research, added more locations, took routes to avoid altitude sickness, and finally came up with the following. My planned itinerary can be found here.
Hyderabad – Delhi – Amritsar – Jammu – Srinagar – Kargil – Leh – Keylong – Manali – Dharamshala – Shimla – Kalka – Delhi – Hyderabad – a total of 6000+ kilometres!!
I decided to take a train till Jammu, and hitchhike thereafter. I planned the trip initially for about 20 days, but later increased it to 24. Even with 24, I wasn’t able to do justice to places like Dharamshala and Shimla, and the plan of hitchhiking had to be dropped. I still planned to keep the budget to a maximum of 20k.
My parents suggested I take someone along to keep me company. The thought was tempting for more than anything, it would help keep my budget down; but the fact that I would have to depend on someone else throughout the trip made me reluctant. However, I hesitatingly asked a couple of my friends and cousins if they’d like to join me. Thankfully (evil grin), no one could make it!!
I booked a train directly from Hyderabad to Jammu on three different trains, with halts at Delhi and Amritsar. Since I booked all 3 trains together, it cost me 1500 bucks, saving 500. I also booked my return trip, and the toy train from Simla to Kalka.
Tip: When on long journeys, book trains from starting location to final location. As long as the distance between the first two points is 500 kms, you can break your journey as many times as possible. This gets you a better deal on ticket prices. You will have to go to the booking counter to avail this option.
Apart from the train reservations, I made no further plans. I decided to drop in at every place and take it further from there. I started from Hyderabad on 23 August and returned on 15 September.
I packed my backpack with a sleeping bag, a shawl, three sweaters, a sweat-shirt, rain coat, gloves, couple of jeans, one shorts, one kurta, two shirts, five t-shirts, and undergarments. Trust me when I say I was over-packed (I’ve learnt my lesson!!).
Tip: When on such long trips, pack as less as possible. The lighter your bag is, the better it is. A friend on the trip suggested a best way to do this: pack your bag two days before the journey, unpack it the next day and repack, this time only with the things you need.
Here, I shall try to give you a detailed day-to-day travelogue of my 24-day trip.
Day 4: Amritsar – Jammu – Srinagar
Day 19: Dharamshala (McLeodGanj)
Day 20: Shimla – Kalka – Delhi
On the whole it turned out to be a great trip and the best experience of my life thus far!! Once back, I so missed the journey that I felt weird sleeping in my bed. The trip did burn a big hole in my pocket (it cost me Rs. 30995/-), but was totally worth it!!
Places to stay in Leh:
Fort Road, Adj. Rafica Guest House, Leh
Rent’s start from Rs. 400/- per day (If they quote higher, bargain!!)
Ask for Room No. 105 for it comes with a TV (This is the room I stayed in).
Indus Guest House,
Rent’s start from Rs. 400 and go upto 1200 per day.
Very neat place, has free Wi-fi!! I’d recommend making a prior reservation.
Oriental Guest House,
Fort Road, Leh
Rent’s start from Rs. 300, but with shared bathroom.
Quite a few people recommended this place.