Thursday, August 9, 2012

Adobe of Mountains - Ladakh

Complete Route Map:

Some journeys take you on paths so lifeless, its a challenge to keep going
Others show you sights so serene, its a struggle to turn away.
Some terrains are so unexplored, every turn is a new discovery
Others make you contemplate whether it's all a deja vu

Some experiences are so enchanting, that its a sin to keep it to one-self!

The Quest
The journey to the mighty Himalayan ranges has been the dream of many a young soul. Being a part of such a journey has been a amazing life experience!

The Travelers: Pramod and Abhishek (new folks will be introduced shortly)
The Machine: Pulsar 180 DTS-i
KMs covered: 1500 KM

The Preparation
Unlike all other trips, if anybody is planning to do a Ladakh trip, it takes lot of planning and preparation. So Abhishek and I started planning this trip in mid May, after our 2-week vacation got approved. We started inquiring with courier companies about shipping our bike to Srinagar or directly to Leh, on which our whole itinerary would get decided. We checked with Gati and Blue Dart. Blue Dart told they can ship our bike only till Ambala or Jammu, not till Srinagar. But with Gati couriers, we got to know that we can ship our bike all the way till Srinagar. Later we got to know from that Srinagar - Leh route is better for acclimatization compared to Manali - Leh route, so we made the flight bookings to and from B'lore and Srinagar.We were just not aware what we are going to miss in Leh - Manali route!

Journeying on a single bike, we bought Cramster tank and saddle bag along with riding gloves, sleeping bags, foot air pump, puncher kit, rain coats, gum boots, 5 liter cans to carry fuel etc.,

Then I started preparing the Itinerary. Many thanks to BCM touring forums for having all the information one needs for the preparation and planning. Go through to make your dream trip come true.

We sent our bike to Srinagar through Gati couriers on 20th June.

So we were all set to go to the " Adobe of Mountains" !!!

The Journey
July 7:
KMs Covered: 10
We had an early flight to Srinagar from Bangalore at 8:30 in the morning. We reached Srinagar (Via Delhi) without any hiccups at 1:40 in the afternoon. We collected our bike from Gati godown around 5 PM. It was a big relief after seeing my bike survive this journey unscathed, though the same cannot be said at the end of my trip. We stayed at Hotel Ahood's (near Mughal Darbaar), which is one of the oldest hotels in Srinagar. People in this valley city were very warm and helpful. In spite of all the preparations, the fact that pre-paid connections won't work in whole of J&K, slipped from our minds.
Luckily Abhishek had a Airtel postpaid connection, which is sufficient for two people just to make calls to our folks back home. So I thought, in a way its for the good of the trip, very less digital disturbance (if I can call it so)!

Its time to introduce our companions for the entire trip!
We met Ajay and Priya, while we were collecting our bikes. They were also from Bangalore.
Our itinerary was similar, except for the return journey from Leh. We had decided to come back to Srinagar, where as they had a plan of Manali.

So this should have been the initial details of trip -

The Travelers: Pramod, Abhishek, Ajay and Priya
The Machines: Pulsar 180 DTS-i, Royal Enfield Classic 500
KMs covered: 1500 KM

So we both planned to leave towards Kargil the next morning.

July 8:
KMs Covered: 237
Route (Place and KM as on map):
Srinagar(0 KM)->Wayul(25 KM)->Baltal(95 KM)->Zozila(106 KM)->Drass(141 KM)->Kargil(202 KM)
Srinagar - 5675 FT
Sonmarg - 9186 FT
Zozila - 11649 FT
Drass - 10826 FT
Kargil - 8780 FT

We started our journey from Dal Lake around 7 AM.
One has to ride by the Dal lake (Fore Shore Rd) with the early morning sun reflecting pleasantly on lake, whilst traveling towards Leh.
The ride was very good. We planned to cross Baltal without much stops, just to avoid any major traffic pile up due to Amarnath Yatra. Yet we couldn't avoid stopping to take pics of some beautiful mountains and roads.

Near Wayul
View from Sonmarg

Inevitably, we hit the first major traffic jam just before the Zozila ascent. Many people were curious about our journey (but it was obvious, seeing our attire and luggage). What surprised me though, was that many people were unaware of Srinagar-Leh bike trips. Anyways, we were struck there for 20-30 mins. From there we started ascending Zozila. The road was not that bad (very much do-able on bike), though bumpy at some places. We reached Zozila top (Alt-11649 FT) without any hiccups. Luckily none of us felt any acute mountain sickness (AMS). We were finally in Ladakh region.We took couple of pics and headed towards Drass, where we had planned to have our mid-day meal.

Me, Abhi, Ajay & Priya

Road starts to deteriorate some KMs before Drass.We had our lunch at Hotel Basara and started towards Kargil. We got to know from the restaurant owner that road till Kargil is not that good.

Next we visited the pride of India, Kargil War Memorial.

Tololing, First triumph of Kargil war

        Tiger Hill & Point 4875

Around 4 PM we started from war memorial towards Kargil. Road is being remade all the way till Kargil. So we ran out of good roads from Drass till Kargil.

We reached Kargil around 6:30 PM and refueled our bikes (Tank-full, because you never know when will you find the next petrol bunk). Ajay & Priya had some contacts in Indian Airforce. They had made calls, while we had stopped for breakfast near Wayul. So we got a nice accommodation for that night at one of the Airforce guest houses. The view from our balcony was just amazing. And not to forget, by this time we got to know about a major landslide which had happened that very day, in Ladakh region ( Nobody knew where exactly in Ladakh), which made it to regional news channels as well. This made us worry a little, since the landslide had happened on a big scale. According to some news channels, army had to rescue 300 people/travelers who were stuck right in the middle of it.  We decided no matter what, we will continue as far as we can go and leave the rest to luck. Ajay and I went to Kargil town to make phone calls to our families just to assure them that we were safe. We met a couple of bikers from Pune in the town. These guys were riding all the way from Pune and they had reached Kargil in just 7 days (started their journey on 1st July) ! We chatted with them for a while and informed them about the landslide.
We all were dead-tired and bit worried by now, so we called it a day and decided to leave early next morning towards to Leh.

July 9:
KMs Covered: 225
Route (Place and KM as on map):
Kargil(0 KM)->Mulbek(40 KM)->Namika La(55 KM)->Fotu La(90 KM)->Lamayuru(110 KM)->Magnetic Hills(198 KM)->Leh(220 KM)
NamikaLa - 12198 FT
FotuLa - 13479 FT
Lamayuru - 11482 FT
Khalatse - 11296 FT
Leh - 11562 FT

We started at 7 AM from our guest house. Bad roads continued till Mulbek. We had our breakfast in this beautiful village, at Karzoo restaurant. Got a hint from the restaurant owner that overall road is good all the way till Leh. So we were optimistic about the road ahead of us and resumed our journey after taking some pics.

Road was indeed good 20KMs from Mulbek. We started the NamikaLa ascent. I could feel my bike's throughput reducing at each curve due to either lack of oxygen or opposing wind, I couldn't figure out which one.
Anyways the ride was superb, so was the view en-route to NamikaLa top. We took some pics and decided not stay at that high Altitude (12198 FT) for too long. We all had one Diamox pill each, just to help ourselves get acclimatized.

Then we started descending from NamikaLa top. As soon as we passed by a village, we checked wheel air pressure of our bikes and started ascending FotuLa. We reached FotuLa top and clicked some snaps. We all were feeling the lack of oxygen, though luckily none of us felt any AMS symptoms.

We decided to have our lunch in Lamayuru. As planned, we reached Lamayuru around 2 PM without any troubles. We had our (heavy) lunch at Hotel Niranjan, which is situated next to the Lamayuru gompa.
After lunch we visited this beautiful gompa. The Vibe inside the monastery was spiritually moving. We relaxed a bit for a while and started towards our destination for the day - Leh, around 3:30 PM.

From Lamayuru NH1D passes right next to a vista of colorful  Mountains. Journey was pleasant on NH1D even under the scorching sun. We used to run into rough patches when ever we used to enter villages, not that I'm complaining about village roads, but that was the fact about NH1D until we reach Nimmu. We had a cup of tea and some much needed break at a tea shop in Nimmu. We had some 40 odd Kms to cover to reach our destination Leh.

But we had one more stop to make, the mysterious Magnetic Hill. The road leading up to magnetic hills is as straight as one can expect it to be. We were savoring the beauty of mountains at the same time enjoying the ride as well.

I also gave a try at magnetic hill's "Magnetic" effects. I placed my bike in Neutral and we all felt the "magnetic" effect of Magnetic Hill, though the authenticity of these effects are debatable!

We reached Leh around 6:30 PM. We both had carried a list of guest house names and phone numbers along with us. But we couldn't get response on any of the numbers. So we thought of searching the guest houses ourselves. We visited one of the ATM near Fort road to get some money. There we inquired a shop owner about the guest houses. He suggested Druk guest house which is near his house. We went in search of this guest house. We didn't have any difficulty in finding the Druk, which is situated opposite to Air India office, Fort road. Owner of Druk guest house is Dawa, he is from a village near by Nimmu. He started speaking in Kannada (Its up to you to believe!) as soon as he got to know that we are from Bangalore. Almost everybody in that guest house were from Bangalore, most of them were HAL employees. Dawa promised that he will make arrangements for our Inner Line Permits (ILP) next day.
Reaching Leh gave us a sense of achievement, even though we were tired we all went to restaurant Barbe-Que in Fort road and had a nice dinner. We also got a chance to have a chat with a group of bikers from Bangalore who had started their journey previous week from Manali. We inquired them about the Manlai-Leh route. We got to know that one of the person had become a victim of AMS near Pang and he had to be admitted to a hospital to get treated in Leh. We thanked ourselves for having decided to start our journey from Srinagar instead of Manali.

We all decided to do sight-seeing in Leh, visit some of the well known monasteries, palaces in and around Leh the next day.

July 10:
KMs Covered: 113
Route (Place and KM as on map):
Leh(0 KM)->Thiksey(18 KM)->Karu(34 KM)->Hemis Gompa(41 KM)->Back to Leh
Karu - 11784 FT
Shey Palace - 11204 FT
Hemis - 12000 FT

It was a lazy morning. We got up leisurely at 8:30 AM and got ready to roam around Leh.
While we were having tea at Nimmu the previous day, me and Abhishek had decided not to travel back  Srinagar, instead join Ajay and Priya all the way till Manali-Delhi. Yes, we had already made our reservations for our return flight from Srinagar. So we called up MakeMyTrip customer care and cancelled our return flight. We have to book our return flight from Delhi, so we headed out in search of Internet center. We found one in Fort road itself. We booked our return flight from Delhi for 22nd July.
We had a very late (around 11:30 AM) and heavy (tandoori aloo paratha) breakfast at a Punjabi dhaba opposite to Leh bus stand. We headed towards Karu where we had a plan to visit Hemis, Thiksey, Stok, Shey Palace.

First we went to the Hemis Monastery. Hemis is one of the richest , oldest and biggest monasteries in India. I started to feel a mild head-ache and dizziness due to lack of oxygen while we were exploring this beautiful monastery.
I couldn't stay for long in the basement museum, came out of the basement and started drinking as much water as possible. There is a medical room near the main entrance of the monastery, I thought I could manage without it.

We started from Hemis around 2:30 PM towards Shey palace. We skipped Stok  and Thiksey monastery.

View from Shey palace is very beautiful. We can see Thiksey, Stok and Hemis, all from Shey palace top. I chose not go inside the palace, since I had  not recovered completely

We headed back towards Leh around 4 PM. We reached our guesthouse where our permits were waiting. We collected them from Dawa, and decided to have our late lunch at 5 PM.
After lunch we thought of getting our bikes checked once, since we had to climb KhardungLa the next day. Ajay suggested I buy a clutch cable just in case it breaks due to wear and tear. I bought the cables. We also bought the engine oil. Ajay refilled his bike's engine oil, since the oil level had gone down. My bike still had a good amount of engine oil left, so I thought of carrying the engine oil unopened for next day.
We also bought much needed thermal wears in some near by shop. We came back to Druk, lubricated bike chains and sprockets and headed for our dinner. I was feeling okay after the dinner. We took Diamox pills before we went to bed, since we had to climb KhardungLa, world's highest motorable road, the very next day.

July 11:
KMs Covered: 148
Route (Place and KM as on map):
Leh(0 KM)->South Pullu(27 KM)->KhardungLa(41 KM)->North Pullu(56 KM)->Khardung(73 KM)->Khalsar(96 KM)->Diskit(115 KM)->Hundar(130 KM)
South Pullu - 15748 FT
KhardungLa - 18380 FT
North Pullu - 15300 FT
Diskit - 10310 FT
Hundar - 10000 FT

Unlike the previous day, we started our journey early in the morning.
Leh is at an altitude of 11,562 FT and KhardungLa is at an altitude of 18,380 FT. So the fact that we will be gaining altitude of ~7000 FT in a space of just 40KMs, was always lurking in some corner of my mind. I was just wishing,  none of us should fall sick due to lack of oxygen.
Road till South Pullu (15748 FT)is great. We submitted a copy of our permit in the army check post. We had run out of water by the time we reached South Pullu, so we stopped to have tea and biscuits in "Wet Canteen" and bought much needed water as well. From South Pullu, we could see a tower on KhardungLa top and the road which leads there. We had a small discussion about gaining 2,500 FT in just 12KMs.
Road from South Pullu till KhardungLa top is challenging at some places. We reached KhardungLa, unscathed!

This world's  highest motorable road is present in Karakoram Himalayan ranges. We took couple of pics on K-top. We bought memento in the world's highest souvenir shop! When we were just about to leave towards Nubra, we got an opportunity to meet Dr.Gourav, who is pursuing his MD from Meerut university. Being a biker himself, he was doing a research on AMS. So we had our heart rate and oxygen level in our blood checked by him. Oxygen saturation in my blood turned out be normal at the cost of increased heart rate. But Gourav assured it is normal in people who are having Diamox to counter AMS, though he was reluctant about our plan of halting at Pangong.
We started descending from K-top towards North Pullu. The road was even tougher till North Pullu. I felt every ounce of my muscle in action to maneuver the bike off ditches and boulders. We continued till Khardung with one stop in North Pullu. We had maggi in one of the restaurant at Khardung.

Road turned out to be very good all the way till Diskit. We had stopped at a check point near Khalsar to submit our permits. We reached Diskit at 4 PM. While we were having lunch at hotel "Grand Canyon", we decided to stay at Hundar. After lunch, we visited Diskit monastery.

The Buddha statue was enigmatic.Diskit monastery is very big, beautiful and at the same time pretty steep as well, so we couldn't go till top.

We headed straight to Hundar. Between Hundar and Diskit lie several kilometres of sand dunes. We waited on road for some time hoping for the sun to come out and shine the sand dunes. But we didn't have any luck this time. Since it was already getting late, we decided to reach Hundar first. We were welcomed by double hump bactrian camels at Hundar. Abhishek rode on them. We three were happy to capture the camels in our cameras. There we bumped into Gourav, whom we had met at K-top. Since we didn't have any guest house in our minds, he suggested us to check the availability in "Snow Leopard". Rooms were available and the place was very calm and pleasant, so we decided to stay there. We had a nice dinner and rested for the day.

July 12:
KMs Covered: 130
After breakfast at Snow Leopard, we set off for Leh at 8 AM. Without making many stops we reached North Pullu, where we stopped for permit check. Just after North Pullu, Indian Army was clearing boulders off the road, we waited there for about 30 mins. We reached KhardungLa top in no time. Since we had spent good amount of time yesterday on K-top, we didn't stop there for too long this time. Next, we stopped at South Pullu's "Wet Canteen" just like the previous day, for much needed tea-break. As I have already mentioned road from South Pullu till Leh is very good. We reached Leh (at 1:30 PM) in the blink of an eye. We went staright to our guest house to drop off all the luggage and had lunch at hotel "Lamayuru". We decided to have our bike checked in the evening.
We placed an order for 4 custom made T-Shirts. We decided to get an image of Che-Guevara printed on the front, and all the places we have covered so far and yet to cover, along with our bike registration numbers on the back! And we were promised to get these shirts on Sunday.
I went to one of the bike repair shops opposite to Leh bus stand while Ajay was searching for famous Mohan Sharma's bike repair shop. After-all, KhardungLa had taken its toll on my bike. My bike's clutch plates were worn out, not completely though. But given the fact that we had close to 700 Kms to cover in order to reach Manali-Mandi, where we had planned to ship our bikes back to Bangalore, I didn't want to take much risk. So decided to get it fixed there itself. While we were waiting for my bike to get repaired, Ajay returned from Mohan Sharma's repair shop. He was also forced to change his bike's air filter. After my bike was fixed, we went back to our guest house.
We got to know that all the rooms of Druk were booked from 13th July onwards for some Telugu movie crew members. Anyways, me and Abhishek had decided to book a taxi instead of my bike, for Pangong Tso ride. So we had the privilege of carrying all our luggage in the taxi. I decided to park my bike in Druk itself, Dawa took care of booking a taxi for our next day. Ajay and Priya decided to ride their bike next day as well.

July 13:
KMs Covered: ~ 170
Route (Place and KM as on map):
Leh(0 KM)->Karu(34 KM)->Shakti(44 KM)->Zingral(65 KM)->Chang La(77 KM)->Durbuk(108 KM)->Tangtse(116 KM)->Spangmik(154 KM)
ChangLa - 17586 FT
Durbuk - 13500 FT
Pangong Tso-  14270FT
We checked out of Druk early in the morning. We dumped as much luggage as possible in Dorjee's Xylo, which we had hired for two days. Still we had to leave behind some of our luggage with Dawa, who promised to take care of making arrangements for another guest house, when we returned.
Dorjee is an ex-army man, who has served our country for 25 years. Now retired, he is into taxi business.

We stopped at a dhaba in Karu for our breakfast. Since it was already getting late, we headed towards the "Mighty" ChangLa. The road is not good both sides of ChangLa top for about 15Kms, with the added factor of cold it doesn't make the journey any easier. Just to give an idea how bad and tough the road was, Priya was standing the whole ride near the ChangLa top. Way to go guys, you people did it.

ChangLa top is more chillier and the road leading up to it is more tougher than KhardungLa. No wonder everybody calls it the "Mighty" ChangLa, Mighty indeed.

As soon as we started descending ChangLa, we were welcomed by not so welcoming Landslide debris. Indian Army was busy making way for the travelers. This was the landslide which made us worry when we were in Kargil. Dorjee started explaining how the Indian Army helped all the people who got right in the middle of this scary landslide. Hats-off to Indian Army. As part of the rescue operation, they provided special permits to all those people to reach Leh via Chushul along with food, Medical help and fuel.
We stopped at Durbuk check point to submit our permits. We crossed Spangmik to reach Pangong Tso lake at 1:30 PM. This lake is at an altitude of 14270 FT. India shares 1/3 (approximately 45Kms) of this serene high altitude salt water lake with China. 
Dorjee helped us finding a nice tent not very far from the lake. A quick arrangement was made for our lunch.
After lunch we headed straight towards the lake. This tranquil water is very salty and cold. We spent some quality time whilst walking on the shores of the lake, taking pictures, capturing videos etc.

When the bright sun is out, the lake water reflects up to 7 variants of blue and green color. Though it was bright till 4 PM, clouds started covering the blue sky then onwards. As it gets darker the air becomes chillier. During our dinner, we inquired with the chef on the temperature outside. He guessed it would be very close to Zero Degrees (on the positive side of Zero, thank god!).
We all came out of our tents around 10 PM. The sky was surreal, filled with stars everywhere. One cannot even imagine to see all these stars from any of our cities/towns. There were so many stars, we had a hard time in identifying some of the famous constellations like Ursa Major, Canis Major, Orion etc. We even noticed one or two "Shooting" stars. Though beautiful, that night air was also mercilessly cold. It was like a competition between beauty and cold. Finally we all gave away to the numbing cold and decided to go back to our tents.  

July 14:
KMs Covered: ~ 170

Next morning we all woke up to a beautiful Sunrise.
We decided to leave this beautiful lake around 7 AM. Another person from Bangalore had requested us to join us in our taxi till Leh. He had travelled to Nubra and now Pangong on his Bike( not the one with the motor!).
After breakfast (Poori) at the camp, we all decided to visit the place where the famous 3-Idiots was shot. We took couple of pictures (which turned out to be of very bad quality, all thanks to our failed attempt to capture Milky way the previous night! And we forgot to change the camera shutter speed, ISO, aperture, back to its normal numbers).
Then we headed straight towards "Chilly" ChangLa. There was a heavy snow fall the previous night and there was no escape for us from that morning cold. Ajay and Priya would be the better people to describe it as they were literally out in the cold. Even we felt the cold when we had stopped at the ChangLa top and Durbuk for tea.

We reached Leh around 2PM. We went straight to Druk guest house. We collected our luggage which we had left with Dawa previous day. Dawa made some calls and arranged for our stay in Hotel Mayflower in no time. We moved to this new place, dumped our luggage and headed out to have our lunch.
In the evening, we went out for some shopping. We bought "Singing Bowl"s in some Tibetan shop near main market.
We planned to visit Leh palace and Shanti Stupa next day.

July 15:
KMs Covered: 50

Shanti Stupa was not very far from where we were staying. So we decided to go there first.

Leh Palace as seen from Shanti Stupa

We collected our T-Shirts, which we had ordered two days back.


Abhishek had decided to reach Manali by Bus. He had already made reservations with Himachal Pradesh tourism a couple of days back. Me, Ajay & Priya planned to join him after reaching Manali.

In the evening we both took our bikes for one last check up since we were starting towards Manali the next day. We refueled our bikes and stored 20 litres of petrol in three cans since we won't get any fuel till Tandi (~370 Km from Leh).

July 16:
KMs Covered: 270
Route (Place and KM as on map):
Leh(0 KM)->Upshi(47 KM)->TaglangLa(108 KM)->Moorey Plains(130 KM)->Pang(174 KM)->NakeeLa(214 KM)->Sarchu(260 KM)
TaglangLa- 17857 FT
Moorey Plains - Avg 13123 FT
Pang - 15200 FT
LachlungLa -  16620 FT
NakeeLa-  15547 FT
Sarchu - 13780 FT

Ajay and I dropped Abhishek near  Himachal Pradesh tourism office, Fort road, at 4:30 AM.
We three started from Leh towards Sarchu at 7:30 AM. We had a three day plan to reach Manali by making halts at Sarchu and Keylong.
We had not noticed Enfield's half broken custom made carrier till that morning. It made us worry a little since we had to carry 10 litres of petrol on each bike. We guessed it would hold at least till Sarchu (and we guessed right!).
We stopped at Upshi for breakfast and to make mandatory entry in J&K check post. We had roughly 270 KMs to cover to reach Sarchu, so we decided to ride all the way till TaglangLa top without making many stops.
We reached TaglangLa without any difficulties, thanks to BRO
 for making such smooth roads in such rough terrains.

As soon as we descended from TaglangLa, we entered Moorey plains. Ajay was telling about this particular stretch of road which lasts about 40 KMs, where there are no actual roads, what ever the path you choose will become your road. But at that time, I had no idea it would be this tough and challenging (since I had not planned our return trip via Manali. Except RohtangLa, I had no idea what I'm going to face en route to Manali). This high altitude plain is very beautiful at the same time very ruthless with its "sand traps"! Even though there was no proper road, it was not that tough for about 10 KMs at the start. But whenever we were forced to leave this hard road and jump into the sand, it was very very tough. My bike got struck in deep sand twice, road construction folks helped me in getting my bike out of the sand both the times. Overall, it was a wobbly ride. We thought, we will fall over count less times, nevertheless we managed to make it across Moorey plains without a fall, though we were covered in layers and layers of sand (literally)!
 Last 10 KMs of Moorey plains, the road leading up to Pang is very smooth, though the strong breeze was working against us.
We reached Pang at 2:30 PM and decided to have our lunch. We had our lunch in one of the  "Parachute" hotel and emptied our 10 Litre petrol can, which was killing Enfield's already half dead carrier. We both refueled our bikes and started from Pang at 3 PM. We had roughly 70 KM to cover.
We crossed LachlungLa (Alt 16620 FT) and NakeeLa (Alt 15547 FT) without any difficulties, though the road was not particularly good at some places.
We reached "Jalebi" ghat around 5:30 PM. Its our bad that we didn't stop to capture any pics of this beautiful ghat. We entered Himachal Pradesh and reached Sarchu somewhere between 6:30 and 7 PM.
We stopped at a check post to share our whereabouts and headed in search of tents. We found a reasonable tent around 11 KMs after Sarchu.
Tents at Sarchu
After covering 270 KMs in a single day (maximum number of KMs covered in a day, in the whole of our journey), we were confident to reach Manali the very next day. So we decided not stay at Keylong (according to our initial plan), instead to go all the way till Manali.
Sarchu air was much colder than Pangong, to add on top of that, the tents which we hired were not even half as good as the ones we hired at Pangong.

July 17:
KMs Covered: 228
Route (Place and KM as on map):
Sarchu(0 KM)->BarchalaLa(45 KM)->Darcha(70 KM)->Keylong(105 KM)->Khoksar(146 KM)->RohtangLa(170KM)->Manali(220 KM)
BarchalaLa - 15748 FT
Darcha - 11020 FT
Keylong - 10105 FT
Khoksar -  10367 FT
RohtangLa - 13054 FT
Manali - 6398 FT 

We somehow "survived" through that chilly night. We had our breakfast and headed towards BarchalaLa. We were warned by the taxi drivers at Sarchu campsite to be careful about the water crossings before Darcha which is approximately 70 KMs from Sarchu. So we planned to cross Darcha as early as possible. Road turned out to be very good as we were getting closer to barchalaLa.

 Next we were welcomed by beautiful Sooraj Taal. This lake is quite small compared to Pangong Tso. Nevertheless this lake has its own beauty surrounded by not so big mountains with scattered ice coverings. Unlike Pangong Tso, water here is not multicolored but clear green. If closely observed, one can see the reflections of ice coverings in the water.

We reached Darcha around 11:30 AM. Luckily, none of the water crossings we came across didn't trouble us. At Darcha, we stopped at a Himachal check post before we stopped at one of the bike repair shop in Keylong. A big nail had gone through the edge of rear tyre of Enfeild without making any damage to the tube! This is the not the first time we had luck on our side in this journey. Just after Keylong, we noticed Tandi petrol bunk on our way. Since we were still left with 10 liters of carried petrol, we decided to continue and stop at Sissu to have our lunch.

We couldn't find any good restaurant/dhaba at Sissu. So we rode till Khoksar (foothills of RohtangLa) and had our lunch at 2:30 PM.
We inquired with the locals on the condition of the road till Manali and the time it takes to reach Manali. We were assured that it would take 2 and half hours provided there are no traffic jams! At sharp 3 PM we started climbing RohtangLa. Road was better than we had expected. En route to the top we noticed a deviation which leads to Spiti valley.
RohtangLa was very green and beautiful. We reached the top around 4:15 PM. We refueled our bikes at RohtangLa top itself. We couldn't notice any traffic coming from Manali side. Soon we realised the reason for no traffic coming from opposite side.
Just after we started descending from RohtangLa top all the vehicles had piled up on both sides of a collapsed road. The wall underneath the road had completely collapsed for a distance of about 20 Mitres. It was already 4:30 PM and we were roughly 50 KMs away from Manali. It made us worry a little, as the road makers were not sure how long its going to take in order to fix the road and make way to the vehicles. We were retrospect on our initial plan. Did we make a mistake by changing our plan? By cutting it short to two days, that too when we could have afforded couple of more days for this last stretch of journey. Luckily we were wrong! After waiting for about 1 and half hour, the road was temporarily fixed. Thanks to the Indian Army for their swift action.
There were very small patches of slush while descending. Had it rained that day, going through these patches of slush would not be an easy task. The road leading towards Manali is very well maintained and the ride in the dusk was one of the best of our journey. We reached Manali around 6:45 PM. We got very reasonable rooms at Hotel Lake View which is on the left bank of the river Beas. We called Abhishek, who had reached Manali at 10 in the morning. He checked-out of his hotel to join us.
We were all tired, but who cares. We were all very happy to reach Manali which marks the end of this mammoth of a road trip, though our final destination was Delhi. We all celebrated the success of our journey over a nice meal.

July 18:
KMs Covered: 18
As we had planned earlier, we called Mandi Gati office and inquired about the cost and time lines for our bike shipment.
We visited Hadimba temple (unfortunately it is now known as ROJA temple) and Vashishta temple, well known for its hot springs.

We were planning to hire some taxi from Manali till Delhi to dump our luggage till Mandi, but we couldn't find one for a reasonable price. So we decided to ride till Mandi and hire a taxi from there.

July 19:
KMs Covered: 545

We started towards Mandi, which is 110 KMs from Manali. Road is pretty smooth all the way till Mandi. We stopped at Kullu to have our breakfast. Only highlights of this journey were some beautiful mountains; highway which goes next to the fast flowing Beas; 2.8KM long tunnel and Traffic! We didn't have any problem locating the Mandi Gati office, which is on Manali-Mandi highway near the forest checkpost. We thanked our bikes for making this trip a success, in spite of all the challenging terrains and weather it had to tolerate. We were assured of delivery of our shipment on or before 28th July.
We hired an Innova from Mandi till Gurgaon. A friend of Ajay reserved a room in Ahuja Residency since it would be late by the time we reach Gurgaon.
We reached Gurgaon around 12:30 AM. We bid adieu to our companions, Ajay & Priya. Thanks guys, for such a wonderful company through out this awesome trip!

July 20, 21 & 22:
We visited Qutub Minar and India Gate on 20th July. We had taken an instant liking towards Delhi Metro (who wouldn't?).
We visited Akshardham on 21st July. Akshardham was magnificent. After returning to hotel we packed our bags and booked a taxi for next day to reach Airport.
We had an early flight to Bangalore on 22nd July. We reached Bangalore around 12:40 PM.
We both received our bikes on 26th July.

Contact details:
Cramster Outlet,110A, Westminister, Cunningham Road, Bangalore- 560052:
Landmark:  Near Sigma Mall
Ph: 9880089225

Gati office, Near HAL Market, Bangalore:
Khan, Ph:9880337726

Ahood's Hotel, Residency road, Srinagar - 190001:
Ph: 2472593, 2471984, 2477507, 2477505

Gati office, F-24 Paripura fruit mandi, Truck terminal, Srinagar:
Ph: 9622889321 / 9906029300 8894704132

Niranjana Hotel, Lamayuru:
Ph: 01982-224555, Mob: 9419810534, 9419870872

Druk Guest House, Fort road, Leh:
S. Dawa, Ph:07298604160, 09797497888

Dorjee, Leh:
Ph: 9622951404

Hotel River View, Left bank of Beas, Manali:
Ph: 09816032595, 09816031595, 03218532595

Gati office, near forest check post brindavani, MandiManali highway, Mandi:
Ph: 8894704138 

By climbing these mountains either on foot, or on wheels, human beings feel that somehow they have conquered them. But the fact is, we can only be visitors!


  1. Nice Blog, I feel catching on some trip like this...

    1. Thanks Ruchi :)
      You should definitely visit Ladakh once.

  2. Awesome dude... Me envious.. Too good a trip :)

  3. This is Great! I'm planning one soon :)
    A well put travelogue indeed..!

    1. Thanks Avinash :)

      Visit BCMTouring forum... You will get all the information ... Do visit Ladakh, its worth it!

  4. what a crazy trip Pramod! well done :-)

  5. Tibet is without doubt one of the most remarkable places to visit in Asia. It offers fabulous monastery sights, breathtaking high-altitude treks, stunning views of the world’s highest mountains and one of the most likeable peoples you will ever meet.

    Tibet mountaineering

  6. Very Nice and informative blog post. In India, there are several tourists destinations to explore. Himachal Pradesh in north India is one of them. Himachal is a wonderful place known for its natural and breathtaking views.Himachal Tourism is the best place for tourism in India.

  7. Thanks for providing a good information about manali. Manali is a very beautiful place to visit in north india. one should visit there once in their lifetime.
    Manali Hotels

  8. Very informative information for the people who are interested in traveling and tour. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Excellent bike trip and blog. Me and my hubbie are planning to hire a bike at leh and visit surrounding places. Was wondering if the ride is safe there. Did you guys used to switch off engine downhill there? Need some tips, Kusum

    1. Thanks Kusum!!!

      There are lot mechanics in Leh city from whom you can hire a bike. They may not be in a very good shape, so you have to choose wisely.
      Whole Ladakh is very safe. Both People and Indian Army are very helpful. You don't have to worry about safety issues. You will get army's medical help on all the high altitude pass just in case.
      Always ride you bike in lower gears whenever going downhills as it gives the rider more control. Don't ever try riding in neutral especially on both ends of KhardungLa as it is very dangerous.
      And have half daimox tablet twice a day which will help you acclimatize better.

      And one more word of advise. Don't fly directly to Leh as it might kick in AMS(Acute mountain sickness)and may spoil your initial couple of days in hospital