Solo Bike Ride to Zanskar Valley

I got to know about the Zanskar region only after I joined BCMT. Several beautiful logs from many other seasoned travelers inspired me to plan a Zanskar Valley bike trip myself. It was a great experience and turned out to be one of my best rides ever. The post below is a detailed log of the journey.

This remote region is 1100 km away from my home. The problem was that all the friends I made through BCMT had already visited the region. Some people had been there twice even. I had no experienced company to join me. My regular friends are into the luxury kind of vacations; if you know what I mean. Roaming on broken roads in far off lands doesn't catch their fancy one bit.

So it was a no go from their side. My wife and sons wanted to join in but with school, tuitions, music classes, and home responsibilities, that couldn't transpire either.

That left Blor Betty - my trusted Duke390 daily ride and me alone to make the trip.

So after much cajoling, convincing, and finally getting the blessings of my parents, approval of the high stepper wifey, blessings from the Lord above, finally on a cool Sep29 Blor Betty and me rolled towards Zanskar Valley.










Preparations for the trip began immediately after approval from parents. Saddlebags were brought out from storage and packed by wifey. The bike was serviced and got a new clutch, chain sprockets and chain, aluminum 22mm self-made handlebar risers, and a new rear tire.

I also packed in a puncture repair kit and a USB driven air compressor keeping in mind the bad roads from Panikhar onward.

I left home (Ludhiana) at 6.15 am after a light breakfast and cruised at 110-120kmph to cross Udhampur at 11 am. I finished my lunch at Peerah at 12 pm and straight away ran into a traffic jam due to the ongoing four-lane construction work on the highway.

I crossed Banihal only at 6.30 pm and traveled onward to my homestay at Srinagar.

Srinagar is a big city. With a massive traffic jam on Baramulla road, it took me almost 50 minutes to reach my destination.

Road jam



Took a break at a tea stall opposite this temple


The first look of the Kashmir valley is always enticing


"The Homestay" is a place owned and run by S. Jagjit Singh (9419015555,7006535443). It is a beautiful clean cozy place to stay for the night. After a bath to wash off all the road grime, a sumptuous dinner, and a long conversation with Jagjit Ji, it was time to call it a day.

I slept well and was up at 6.30 am the next morning. I was fully fresh and ready to roll on the road to Kargil. Delicious Parathas were served and savored as breakfast from Jagjit Ji's kitchen. His hospitality was exemplary. It is no wonder that he is the official publicity secretary for the Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Federation.

After a delicious breakfast, I was on the road at 8.15 am.

With my gracious host S. Jagjit Singh

Day 2 - Srinagar to Panikhar

The city of Srinagar was not fully active when I left at 8.15 am. I made good progress to quickly cross the main areas, skirt the Dal lake, and onwards Sonmarg via Ganderbal. Zozi La was totally dry and was quickly covered. Soon I was in the Ladakh valley.

While at the top it is always a pleasure to see the birth streams of the river Sindh that flows towards Kashmir and another river that flows towards Ladakh. The charms of nature.

The weather was overcast with spells of sunshine in between. The roads were relatively empty. I was enjoying having them to myself. I spent a lot of time stopping and soaking up nature; to feast my eyes on the beautiful surrounding. But I guess that was the purpose of the trip.





I caught this chopper high above when it emerged from the clouds. I managed to capture a couple of pictures. It was so high that there was no noise of it over and above that of the cascading river beside me.





At the Gumri Shiv mandir, I paid my respect to the deity while on the move and stopped at the Pandrass check post to enter my details. From there until Dras was a speeding whir.

Dras was fully filled with festivities with lots of people leaving for their pilgrimage-Umrah. There was a lot of hustle and bustle on the road here. I decided to stop for lunch here while enjoying all the liveliness in the town.







I spent the next full 2 hours and multiple cups of coffee talking to the local people and taxi drivers at the Drass dhaba. I was really fascinated to hear their tales of going on the Umrah.

Then at about 1.30 pm, I noticed the sky was even more overcast. This was a sign to move on and resume my journey to Kargil.




It is always such a pleasure to view this half of Kargil city across the river Sindhu. Here, while parking my bike on the road shoulder, the side stand sank into the sand and the bike fell on me. I had a difficult time extracting myself from under it all by myself.

At Kargil, I stopped at the gas station to refuel my bike. I was carrying a couple of coke bottles and got those filled as well with extra fuel.

At the petrol pump, the attendant was helpful and gave me info about the Suru valley and the villages on the way. I decided I will halt for the night at the Panikhar JKTDC guest house. As per the attendance, the road until Panikhar was all tarred and smooth (and it indeed was as I was to find out later).

The Suru valley was bewitchingly beautiful with autumn in full bloom. I rode the scenic road with multiple stops on the way to savor the views and to talk to the warm people of Suru.










At Panikhar, I went straight to the JKTDC guest house but the caretaker was not there. While waiting, the lady from the house just opposite the guest house offered me a stay in her house. She quoted Rs. 500 with dinner and breakfast and I accepted readily.

The house belonged to a retired govt teacher and had a clean and airy ambiance. I was ushered into their best room and served salty tea, also known as 'Kashmiri Chaai'.

Day 3 - Panikhar to Rangdum

I got cleaned up and sat with the family for an early dinner. We had lots of small talk with all the members of the family and I finally retired to my room at 8.30 pm.

I had a very sound and refreshing sleep and was woken by the house owner Mr. Aslam at 7 am with a hot cup of tea by my bedside. I got dressed and went outside.

It was cold and the sun was still to rise from behind the mountains. But this naughty magpie and a little lamb kept me company. The magpie was super energetic and the lamb was the epitome of docile.