Saturday, 20 September 2014

Enroute to Leh... (Manali to Keylong)

The Manali to Leh Highway is  one of the most difficult as well as most beautiful terrain in India and I consider myself lucky enough to have traveled this by bike. This is a journey to cherish for the rest of our lives. Atleast on this we all agreed!!! 

At around 1:30 on Wednesday, we left Manali for Leh and as per desired itenary, our first stoppage was Keylong, 118 Km ahead.

But as I told, we don't chose this journey, this journey chooses us and decides our path..
We started off through the beautiful roads of Manali and took small break at around 20 km for first entry at check post. 
Way to Rohtang

After that we stopped at Rohtang pass that is around 50 kms from Manali. 4-5 Km before Rohtang pass, we got difficult slippery road and it continued till the peak.
It seemed as if someone has intentionally named it Rohtang (literary meaning of Rohtang: Pile of Corpse). May be in old days it was so difficult to reach there that they named it Rohtang. Eeeeee..... Scary....

Compared to 20 Deg C in Manali, it was around 1 Deg C at Rohtang Pass.Experience of first pass of our journey left us frozen. We had some Maggi there, heated up ourselves with burning coal of a Bhutta vendor and left.

Further the road was in terrible condition. We were lucky that we did not encounter any rainfall otherwise it could be fatal to ride through these roads (Why am I calling it a road????). 

Army and BRO work hard to maintain these roads

This can be a hell if it rains
 The road is terrible and Government has nothing to do with it. In fact, BRO works hard to maintain these roads. But the nature does not allow . Heavy snowfall round the year and rocky mountains, frequent landslides make it almost impossible to maintain roads near passes. But the zeal of bikers conquers all the challenges.

Any tar there?
Where is the road???

Whenever we felt disheartened, we use to see a biker group either crossing us or coming from other side and everyone used to greet and if required they used to help in all the ways possible. This was a great mental support that we are not alone on these rugged terrains. However, once we cross Khoksar (first settlement in Lahaul valley), the roads are great to ride till Tandi transit camp.

We had our first halt for the evening at Khokhsar at around 4 p.m. We had our lunch at a Dhaba. Here we found clean toilets (A real luxury on this route), we got freshen up and moved forward.

This route is real beauty. I enjoyed every moment. We crossed small villages. Each turn unfolded new aspects of how beautiful nature can be.

We were spellbound to be surrounded by such an immense magic. We wanted to capture every moment in our eyes and our camera helped a lot. :-)

View of Himalaya from the valley

The road worth the pain

Incredible India!

We crossed Sissu village. Sissu or Khagling is a small town situated at the right bank of Chandra River in the Lahaul valley of Himachal Pradesh.

There is a waterfall on the opposite side of town which, looks spectacular. But we could  not stay at this place as our first stay was at Keylong.

Aashish and Vikram trailing behind

Just behind my camera

We were moving ahead at a pace so that we can absorb as much as possible before reaching Keylong. It was around 6:30 in the evening when we crossed Army transit camp, Tandi. Just a few kms ahead, we got stuck. It was a landslide which BRO was trying to clear. We were hungry and tired. But we had no option but to wait. After about an hour, another rock fell from top and we had to turn back. 
It was getting darker and we had planned not to drive after 7. But as I said, we were just following nature's orders, it was driving us, pushing us to go through what it wanted us to live and we did not have any choice.
BRO clearing landslide

From there, last village was Sissu, around 25 km back. We drove like anything. In the daylight, the mountains, the river and the roads which were looking awsome, all were scaring us like hell in the dark. We finally reached Sissu at around 9 p.m.
Our Hotel at Sissu

We found a real good hotel. The manager was awsome and food was delicious. The view of waterfall from our room was spectacular.
I was glad I didn't achieve my target the day before. It was an amazing place.

In the morning, when we observed vehicles coming from other side, we left our hotel, not to mention late again.
The beautiful view of waterfall from our room    

Petrol Pump at Tandi

We reached Tandi, the only petrol pump before Upshi/ Karu or Leh. There is no Petrol pump for next 375 km. So, we fueled our bikes and filled our cans.

First stream of the route. Inspection going on ;-)
Entering Keylong

And yes, there is no mobile signal after Manali. We got mobile signals 2 days after leaving Manali. 

At Keylong, we got our bike serviced for 2 hours, had some food and clicked some beautiful pictures. It was already mid noon at Keylong and we had to travel 106 km. Keylong, the headquarters of Lahaul region, is the last major settlement you will find before you head to the remoteness of the Great Himalaya.  

The only bike service center on the way

Lahaul and Spiti- from Keylong

Sadak Chhaap : True to the nature of journey
Till here, it was a nice journey , may be easy, we did not know what lay ahead. Completely unaware of the raw terrain and difficulties ahead, we left Keylong as per the plan...

View of valley from Keylong