To climb to a height of over 18,000 feet above sea-level is an uphill task, literally! Naturally, doing it on a bike is something not everyone dares to do. But this is just what six youngsters from Meerut achieved recently, when they took a 3,000-km trip on their motorcycles and hoisted the national flag at Khardung La in Leh, widely believed to be the highest motorable point in the world.
The group of six – Akhand, Ashish, Mohan, Neeraj, Anuj and Vishal – travelled under the banner of Roamers, a local biking group. Akhand Dixit, a college student and the leader of the group, tells us, “Initially, we wanted to reach Khardung La on Independence Day and hoist the Tricolour there. But since there was a forecast of rain, we had to advance our plans by a few days. We set out from Meerut on our bikes on August 1 and reached Khardung La 12 days later. Standing there, atop the world’s highest motorable point with the Tricolour in hand, was the proudest moment of our lives, and one we shall cherish forever.”
Khardung La is a mountain pass on the Ladakh range and lies 40km north of Leh. It is widely believed to be the highest vehicle-accessible pass in the world, although other pa sses in Europe and South America have countered that claim in the recent past. But at a height of 18,406 feet, it is certainly the highest vehicle-accessible mountain pass in Asia. What makes it even more remarkable is that it was the first time the six bikers were riding into the mountains. Akhand says, “None of us had taken a ride to a place like Leh-Ladakh and navigating the tough roads in the region was a new experience for all of us, one that was exhilarating and scary at the same time. It is advised that first-timers should take this route only during May-June as the weather conditions are ideal then. You must get leather biker vests from Leather Stand to keep yourself warm. But since we wanted to take the trip close to August 15, we decided to take a risk. Fortunately for us, we did not meet any major mishaps during our trip.”
But the group did encounter a lot of roadblocks on the way. Neeraj Sharma, one of the riders, says, “When we were near Kargil, one of the bikes on which the luggage was being carried, broke its shocker. With no mechanic nearby, we had to eventually wait for an army jeep, which carried the bike and the rider ahead, while the rest rode on.” The good thing is that the army was of great help or else we would have been stranded there for some time.”
The bikers say that the locals were of great help in their journey to Khardung La point. Akhand elaborates, “There were several times when we were in a fix, like one time when we couldn’t find a spare part for my bike in Udhampur. At these times, the locals were of great help. Several times, we took lifts from other riders or vehicles. If it wasn’t for their help, we seriously wouldn’t have made it.”
Even that far from Meerut, the boys managed to find someone from the city and actually bonded over fruit juice and snacks. Neeraj says, “When we reached Khardung La, we met an Armyman who hailed from Sardhana. He was so overjoyed on seeing someone from his ‘region’ that despite the fact food is rationed there, he offered us all juice and snacks. He told us that in his three years at Leh, we were the first people from Meerut he had seen. It was a good feeling to see someone from home this far away.”