Words and images by Vir Nakai
Over the last few years the road to Ladakh has become the holy grail of motorcycling for the motorcycle brethren world over. Sadly as the Indian Army and BRO improves the road conditions and motorcycles become more advanced and adventure-oriented, the riding time has gotten shorter and shorter. What we used to do in four days you can now do in two if you really stretch yourself, and as a result we tend to miss out the details that made this ride one of the most spectacular in the world. One of these stretches is from Patsio to Baralacha La.
As you ride over a small bridge at Patsio towards Zingzingbar, you leave behind the last bits of greenery and human habitation. You find yourself at the base of a very rocky and grey valley with no sign of vegetation at all. The freshly laid and well maintained tarmac road cuts a path up the right side of the valley, snaking its way up towards the mighty Baralacha La (16,000 feet). At Zingzingbar (14,000 feet), the road starts to switchback up the last 40km to the top. Here onwards the road is unbelievable with the views and vistas changing at every turn and you need to stop to appreciate it every now and then. Just under the pass you come to Suraj Tal, a very blue lake just off the road – a must-stop for every traveller. The road is mostly new and has some stretches that are broken or under road works but there is a crew that is constantly maintaining the blacktop during the season.
With the popularity of this road in the summer months you can find small groups of motorcycles all over the place. The best time to go is just as the passes open up. Why? Because very few venture into the mountains at that point as it’s still cold. The beauty is the passes and some lower lying areas are still covered in snow and you have the whole place mostly to your self. This image was taken in May, shortly after the passes had opened up that year.