Ladakh has always fascinated me when I was bachelor, at that time I knew nothing about this place but wanted to go once on bike with friends. I was living in Bangalore, due to far distance it never materialized. Luckily I shifted to Haridwar in 2012 and started planning to fulfill my dream, but by the time I got married and year 2013 also passed. One day I told my wife that we will go to Ladakh by Car, she said, “Ok”. Then she asked, “For how many days”? I told 12-14 days. She shouted what??..but!!…how?? I told we will take your brother and bhabi too and we four will enjoy on the way…bla..bla…and many such things to convince her. She relaxed a bit and after showing her some pictures of Ladakh and its route she got excited and finally agreed. I asked my brother-in-laws, and they also agreed. I had planned for July end because as I read and searched on net, it was the safest time to visit Ladakh via Manali – Leh route. I had fixed my dates three months before. Therefore I got enough time to read about every bits of information available on net about Ladakh and its route. As the dates came closer I started sharing some information with my in-laws and wife like, high altitude sickness, the weather and road conditions and fuel shortage etc etc. I just wanted to make them prepare for the journey. I use to call my brother- in-laws as bhaiya and will be using same in my story.
It was a sunny day of the monsoon season, first good omen for the not so good route. My Manza (TATA MANZA Quadrajet) was looking more sexy and prepared after the servicing. The luggage was kept categorically in different sacks to be used conveniently while needed in trip. We also kept two plastic cans of 20 liters capacity brought by bhaiya. I also had purchased three portable oxygen cylinders and some Daimox tablets, which were kept with other medicines in our small first-aid kit.
We started at 11:30 am, Bhaiya took control of steering and I was guiding the route. Very fast we reached Chandigarh, we halted on the way for an hour to meet my Sister and her family as they come to greet us and say us good luck. With all best wishes and light refreshment we sat in the car, now it was my turn to take control of steering. It was dark, when we started climbing hills near Swarghat, trucks and Lorries were passing like a mad elephants. We even saw a dead body lying on the road, he must had accident by trucks. Without wasting time we moved towards our destination. By 10.30 in the night we stopped for dinner. All were tired and do not want to go further. But as par plan, we had to reach Sundarnagar, where I had pre-inquired a Hotel for night halt. I called the hotel over phone and requested to keep our beds ready. It is always better to stick to your plan while travelling as it will keep you motivated and give more time to explore places. Within one hour we reached Sundarnagar. We checked in Hotel at mid-n night and without taking our luggage from car we directly went to our rooms and fell on bed. It took seconds to go in deep sleep. It was our first night in the mighty journey.
Journey covered: Haridwar to Sundarnagar, Distance 400 km time taken 12.30 hours.
We woke up by the tip-tip sound of the rain. We had a first glance of foggy Mountain view from our room’s balcony. By 10 o’clock the weather improves and we also got ready after having stomach full breakfast in hotel. We paid the bills and moved ahead. My wife was taking care of all expenses and maintaining the records, so we need to tell her every penny that we spend.
It was drizzling occasionally. I was speeding on the smooth but curvy road built along the mountain edges and parallel to the furiously flowing Beas River. At some places the River water was so close to road that its gurgle sound catches our attention. It attracted so much that we stopped at one place and enjoyed its beauty.
We crossed Kullu by 1 O’clock. Kullu has natural beauty, shallow flowing Beas River add thrill to this place. We reached Manali by 3 pm, we stopped in a petrol pump and filled the tank, also filled our empty plastic cans. There is only one petrol pump in 500 km Manali-Leh route. After spending some time in mall road we moved ahead to Solang Valley where I had planned our stay. Night stay at Solang Valley is advisable because of its higher altitude then Manali which helps our body to acclimatizing fast.
Journey covered: Sundarnagar to Solang Valley, Distance 160 km time taken 6 hrs
Solang Valey is 15 km after Manali and it is the most beautiful place. There are few houses and shops, and everywhere greenery with some patches of snow, though during winter this place is covered with snow, which is ideal for ice sports.
We started at 10 in the morning the weather was clear. It was Tuesday and Rohtang usually close on Tuesday for maintenance, I had arranged a special pass from one of my friend working in BRO. The day was deliberately planned to get rid of traffic logjam in Rohtang, and believe me it benefited us not only in climbing the Rohtang pass comfortably but also watching the beauty and freshness of Rohtang freely and cozily. We were able to stop anywhere and take photographs. The Zig-zag route of Rohtang was never felt annoying rather it was more happening.
Some places would have been definitely a challenge had there be traffic from both sides.
It was not too late when we climbed the Rohtang Pass 14000 ft above sea level. Morning dense fog downside hill resembled the beauty of heaven. We stopped for a while and then moved.
I captured several scenes in my DSLR which attracted me most. My bhaiya posing in beautiful background(shown below).
After descending from Rohtang we reached Khoksar, here is a small police check point where we could see some human faces. After Khoksar we reached Tandi, which is a small cantonment area. It is an important place in the journey because of having a only Petrol pump in the whole Manali-Leh route that provide pure Petrol/Diesel.
I also had my Car’s Tank full from here, and poses for an iconic photo (shown below).
We reached Keylong by 2.00 in the afternoon, all were hungry and tired. There were considerable number of houses and shops here, we stopped near one beautifully crafted shop and ordered biryani+paneer+chana masala+roti….yes all these were available here and this was the best part. We ate up to our brim and then without wasting time moved for Jispa. Though Keylong is better populated and have more hotels for accommodation but again Jispa is advisable to spend night because of its lower altitude than Keylong. Jispa has two Hotels and fewer tented accommodation all are very costly but luckily we got the accommodation in a PWD guest house, which was cheaper and better.
It was dark at 6 O’clock in the evening, the dark mountains all around below the cloudy sky with the saaayaansss…saayaannnss ..sound of chilly wind and horrendous sound of gargling river was giving a feeling of landing in a lonely planet where nature is the almighty. We shut the door of guest house from all front as the guest house owner had left after taking the rent. All were tired so much that we felt asleep as soon as we lied on bed. At 9 Rocky knocked our door and brought the food we had ordered from his Dhaba ( there was only one in that area), which was not so good but filled our stomach, we slept again.
Journey covered: Solang Valley to Jispa, distance 140 km, time taken 6 hours.
We woke up at 4 in the morning, outside weather was same as seen last night. We started at 5, my car headlight were showing the road. We saw two trucks accompanying each other while climbing the hills, (every body need company in the lonely route). We smiled and wave hands while overtaking them. We had crossed Darcha and moving towards Patseo hill when we noticed the crack of dawn from the east. It was lovely and never seen before, we took some photographs before the twin trucks crosses rattling and leaving behind the dark diesel smoke. This tortoise and rabbit run race with trucks had happened several times till we reached Leh.
We were about to reach Zing-Zing Bar. There was a dangerously damaged road at a narrow junction caused by a cold stream of water flowing heavily from the mountain. Bhaiya stepped out from the car to guide me steer the wheel carefully, I crossed the channel safely but Bhaiya had a wet shoe while crossing on foot. The water was terrible cold to bite his feet, for next few hours he spent time in drying the shoe in the car blower.
We were wandering in the hills, meeting long roads….curvy roads…. high roads…sloppy roads..and no roads……and every road leads to a new mountain….Rocky…. snowy…browny…blacky…and many more vivid. We reached Deepak tal and than Suraj Tal. It was new entry in the herd of mountains we observed. It seems like a pious pot kept specially for Angles to come and enjoy water sports in the heavenly atmosphere. It was marvelous sight.
We crossed Baralacha La 16000 ft above sea level, a sense of low oxygen was obvious, but we were not feeling anything other then tiredness. by 10 o’clock we reached Bharatpur, where stopped for breakfast. We had Maggi, Alooparatha and tea for the breakfast.
After Killing sarai we reached Sarchu, there is police check point and several tented accommodation. Many tourist loose temperament at Sarchu and return back due to high altitude sickness. The Police at Check point also asked us about our health and body condition, we with our high zeal replied affirmatively and moved ahead.
From sarchu barren land and dry mountains started, landacape color changes from dark brown to light yellow. we reached Nakeela La 15547 ft
Lalchungla La was more sandy and the road conditions was worsens.
The mountains rocks were withering into sands particle, there were nice mountain arts seen on the way.
NICE MOUNTAIN ART
It was 2 o’clock when we reached Pang, another barren land full of dust and mountains sand. There were tented Dhaba, one of which we choosen to satisfy our hunger. High mountain sickness had exhausted our body, there were bed inside the tents where we reclined and took rest for few minutes after the lunch.
We saw a guy sending his bike after having breakdown (photo above). I was also suspecting my car for low power, we then went to a nearby mechanic shop with a temporary setup mainly for cargo trucks. He took the test drive of my car and then what he told us was an eye opener for us. He told that due to low oxygen the car was behaving like that otherwise it was working fine. We thanked him for his engineering judgement and moved ahead happily for Moore plans.
We were smiling by thinking that a machine also got affected by high altitude sickness. Moore plans is flat plateau at the height of 15515 ft above sea level, where the road is flat and straight, for the first time in this route my odometer touched 80 km/hr.We reached highest altitude of Manali-Leh route i.e TaglangLa, from here onward we had to only descend till Leh.
We observed greenery after Rumste, there were small paddy fields and trees with scanty leaves, our dream to reach Leh was going to realize, very fast we reached Karu. We paid the administration charges in Karu (any outsider has to pay). First sight of Buddhist temple with the holy Chakra filled us with joy and confirmed our feeling of Landing in Moonland of Earth i.e Ladakh.
We reached Leh by 7 Pm, signals towers started pinging on our mobiles and sounds of messages and notifications started buzzing inside the car. We called our parents and informed about our well beings. Our journey from Haridwar to Leh was complete, it was a thrilling journey. We searched a nice Hotel in Leh and booked it for another five days as the thrill had just began…………..
Journey covered: Jispa to Leh, distance 350 km, time taken 14 hours.