Monday, June 13, 2016


Date: 14th August 2014
Route: Pang - Lachung La - Neeka La – Sarchu - Barlach la – Darchu – Keylong – Thandi - Rothang La - Manali
Distance to be covered: 310 kms

At Pang
Today was the day when we decided to accomplish a difficult task of crossing 4 passes in a single day. Our tent did not provide enough warmth to sleep peacefully. It was an experience to sleep in such chilling place. We woke up early for an early start… One thing that we did not anticipate on however was how cold it was going to be that early in the morning. Our conditions were such that we were literally praying for the sun to come up. It was breathtaking to see the view around us – humongous mountains staring upon us. Having done with our breakfast, we headed to conquer all the four passes.  

The road from Pang to Lachung La reminded me of a moonscape. The road was way above the tree line, however the mountains displayed plenty of different shades of rocks and the wind had created bizarre shaped stones which looked like sand sculptures from a distance. It was fun riding through the curvaceous road winding its way up through the tall and handsome mountains. 

Lachung La
We headed to reach Lachung La (2nd highest pass situated at an altitude of 5079 mts; one of the two passes above 5000 mts on the Manali - Leh highway).  This pass is one of the places where you get to gaze at the ethereal beauty. A dusty, grainy and roxky track, surrounded by the mountains, is a sight to sore eyes. As soon as we started getting down, we saw an immediate climb to another pass. There were some freakily steep short cuts to cut down the distance.  Though we were tempted to take the short cuts, we decided to stay on the road. Only when we reached on to the top of the pass I realized that we had reached Nakee La.

The road from here was interesting with mountain walls on one side and a drop on the other. Going ahead we reached the start of the famous Gata Loops. Gata loops are a series of 21 hairpin bends which are simply awesome to ride on. An incredible 20 km of hairpin bends encases the precarious mountainside with one loop concealed from the next so you feel like to will drive off the mountainside as there’s nowhere in front to go. Me and Pranav decided to walk down the 1st two loops. It was a long long walk but it felt very good to stretch my legs. Gata Loops are a delight to the shutterbugs. The upper end of Gata loops is at 15302 ft and the lower end is at 1750 ft. The sheer and tricky descent with the bone-shaking but stunningly beautiful surroundings proves to be an off-roader’s paradise.
Gata Loops as seen from above
Famous Gata Loop

Finally we reached the bottom of the loops and started towards Sarchu. The roads from the bottom of the loops were relatively straighter with beautiful textures and colors of mountains surrounding and easier roads to ride on. Sarchu, at over 14,000 ft. above sea level, is a small camping spot on the Himanchal Pradesh - Kashmir border. Sarchu is zero population area with extreme climate. This untouched beauty of a place serves as a base camp for those attempting the tough Zanskar valley trek. Just before embarking our journey to conquer Baralacha ascent, we enjoyed having breakfast at this calm landscape of open fields with snowy peaks in the backdrop.
Last Loop towards Sarchu

View from Sarchu

After a heavy breakfast, we headed for Baralacha La. Situated at an altitude of 16040 feet; Baralacha La is a high mountain pass in Zanskar range in J&K. Baralacha La which means the pass where many roads meet, connects Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir to Lahaul in Himachal Pradesh. It is here where three different mountain ranges i.e. Pir Panjal, Zanskar and the Great Himalayas meet. It is also one of the highest passes in Ladakh and known for its dangerous and curvaceous roads. We started climbing Baralacha La, the roads 
Ascent to Baralacha La  
were newly laid and were super smooth. There were some off-road short cut route with steep climbs between the curves. However, in my opinion this pass was not as challenging as the passes we had conquered in the previous days. No matter how easy or how challenging the passes are, what takes your breath away is the pristine
Convoy of bikes
seamless beauty which you can see around. The barren landscape becomes lunar. Dusty plains dotted with scattered boulders stretch into the distance and the afternoon sun beats down mercilessly. After having breakfast cum lunch at
Padma Dhaba (Jumma) we headed towards Jispa which is the next big village you'll find on the road to Manali.

To Keylong
The roads were in relatively good conditions and we were hoping to cover some serious miles to reach Manali before nightfall. The happiness doesn’t last long on bike trips I guess. Soon after, the roads alternated between good roads and roads under work. After Keylong (a fair sized village amidst green fields is the headquarters of the Lahaul and Spiti district), we crossed villages like Tandi and Kokrar before we hit the climb to the most dreaded pass in whole Manali – Leh road, the Rohtang pass.

Petrol Pump at Tandi
Tandi is the only village on Leh-Manali highway which has a petrol pump which is about 365 kms from Leh. For those who travel from Manali to Leh, this is the only petrol pump till Karu so it is advisable to carry spare petrol. After filling our bike tanks we headed for Rohtang pass. Another adventure was awaiting us though we weren’t aware of it.  

The climb to the Rohtang top was comparatively easier due to the good conditioned roads. I was mesmerised by the green luscious mountains with clouds kissing the peaks and huge waterfalls trickling down mountain slopes. Around 6-7 km of uphill ride brought us to the worst road which was full of slush. At places the slush was around 2ft deep. The speed of our ascent dropped considerably when a thick cover of fog slowly started making its movement bringing along the rain with it… Had to be extra careful during the ascent. Looking around I was completely amazed and disappointed at the same time. Amazed because I had never seen something so monochromatic yet beautiful and disappointed because none of us had a proper camera to capture this monochromatic surrounding. On reaching the top we were surrounded by fog and the visibility was less than few meters. We halted at the top and had garma garam chai and Maggie… During the descent, light was fading fast and in a matter of minutes, it was all dark except the yellow glow of the headlights. We slowly started the downhill ride with headlights and indicators on. It was impossible to see the road and it was scary downhill ride. Thanks to our car driver (Rinku Bhaiyya) who carefully and skillfully drove the downhill and brought us to the civilization.
Ascent to Rohtang

Entering the fog

Thick cover of fog slowly making its way to the R-Top

Maggie at Rohtang Top

Around 9 p.m. we reached Manali and headed straight towards our hotel ‘Apple Heritage’.

One more day ended with lots of adventure and fun in the high mountains. Three passes, Gata Loops, inter-state boundaries and the tattered streaming roads were surpassed, all on the same day. It was the biggest deal of the journey.

DAY 13
Date: 15th August 2014
Rest at Manali

We decided to take a day off, just lazing around. Sanujit left for Delhi in the morning as he had to catch train. The rest of us decided to walk and explore Manali. Though none of us were in any mood to go sightseeing, we decided to walk around stretching our legs after days of riding bikes. Surrounded by high peaks in the beautiful green valley of the Beas River, Manali offers lofty snow peaks, deep ravines, lush green valleys, fast flowing rivers and enthralling mountain lakes. We went to the market, enquired about a taxi to take us to Kalka and did some chillipilli shopping. Post lunch we headed back to our hotel to retire for the day.

Date: 16th August 2014
Route: Manali - Mandi – Ner Chowk – Sundernagar – Bilaspur – Dharampur - Kalka
Distance to be covered: 290 kms

Sanujit had informed us about heavy rainfall causing loads of landslides on the way. Luckily the routes were cleared by the time we started our journey. However the roads were covered with muddy water causing the bikers to get wet. However, the lush green landscapes made the travelling easier. At Dharampur, there was a lot of traffic jam causing us to get delayed to reach Kalka. Not much adventure on this route. We reached Kalka by evening and checked in at Wind Cross Hotel. Finally we celebrated completion of the bike ride and then went for a walk late in the night. Tomorrow we will be boarding the train to Mumbai, finally completing our trip safely.

DAY 15 & DAY 16
Date: 17th and 18th August 2014

We boarded the 10:20 a.m. train (Paschim Express) from Kalka. Being tired we spent the entire train journey sleeping. We completed our Jammu – Leh – Manali road trip successfully at 14:45 a.m. the next day on reaching Bandra station.

On reaching back home, while lying down on bed I was thinking about the past few days. Our entire journey was accompanied by great views and surreal landscape. On completing this treacherous task, I am immensely satisfied and this precious experience will be treasured for life. This 16 day journey (10 days of riding bikes) have been the most exhilarating and rejuvenating days of my life. I would like to thank my husband for initiating the planning phase of this trip and my brothers and friends for making this trip successful. None the less thanks to Col. Deshmukh and Col. Dr. Deshpande for their support in the most hostile of places. Thanks to all those people who helped us throughout the trip and making it memorable for all of us. 

Finishing off one of the toughest of roads, climate and terrains the world has to offer; while taming the mighty passes and soaking in all the breathtaking views and memorable persons I met in the trip, with a promise to never say goodbye to this rider’s Mecca. (This last paragraph is not written by me but it emotes how i feel about this trip)


Thanks guys for these wonderful memories