a lot of stuff goes into planning a trip, especially to a place like leh. unlike last year, there was so much planning involved, that i actually had a checklist of checklists. the entire process took over three months, but the pace picked up towards the end, until finally i was so exhausted that the start of the trip was actually a relief from the planning!
i do realize that it could have been done very differently, but i guess my systematic approach was because i realized the number of variables involved last time, and also i wanted to avoid the pitfalls of the previous trip.
here's a rather long-winded summary of what went into it:
- duration: two weeks is best. any less makes the trip pointless, and any more becomes problematic to get leaves for. we did two weeks and a extra day (17 days). we planned to leave on friday morning and be back home on sunday night.
- the direction and start/end points of the trip: we decided to do jammu - leh - chandigarh. the other seriously considered option was chandigarh - leh - jammu. last year, we did jammu - leh - jammu, and in 2009, we did delhi (and chandigarh en route) - leh - delhi.
- places to cover: we had to cover all the regular spots as it was everyone's (other than my) first time in leh
- amount of possible travel that could be done in a day: i estimated 200-250 km per day. in reality, we barely managed 200 km in a day, and only exceeded that toward the end of the trip, and that too on days we pushed ourselves.
- stay at cheap places that also allow some sort of diversions post sunset, since we always had our evenings free. rule of thumb, anywhere in ladakh is cheap, if you're not picky and are ready to scout around. this is the main reason we didn't pre-book anything other than our stay at leh (and we finally didn't even go with the place we pre-booked, much to their chagrin). finally, we never actually ended up sticking to our planned itinerary, and yet we weren't disappointed - so in retrospect, this point may have been irrelevant.
- ask around: there are a lot of names of places people will throw around when you ask. make sure you find out how to get there, and check a road map, as well as ask people about their experiences. biker forums are useful, but trusted friends are the best.
train tickets, transportation
the packing list
mental and physical preparation
- everyone was advised to get a check up done, speak to their family doctor, etc. parents had to be taken into confidence about the risks involved (although i have a feeling most of us skipped the details ;))
- i attended a bike repair workshop, specially geared for people who are planning leh. quite a useful one, and came handy when we had to fix a puncture ourselves and later when we had to replace a blown fuse. mechanics are generally clueless about what you'd need in an emergency, so it's best to check with a friend. i learned how to:
- take off and reattach the wheel
- clean/replace brake pads
- adjust chain tension
- inspect/clean spark plugs, air filters
- replace fuses
- replace clutch and accelerator cables
- assemble a toolkit for my bike (ie what sort of tools i would need on the trip)
- one dry run with the pillions to ensure they could handle such long rides. we rode around 1100 km in a weekend, to devgad and back from mumbai.
- a weekend before our trip began, we packed, assembled all the luggage at a common location (since the pillion and rider had to pack into the same set of saddle bags), loaded up the bikes, and then did a dry run (about 300 km) in full gear, and all luggage. after the dry run, we stowed our baggage as is, ready for the trip.