One whole year passed since me and my brother planned for motor biking through the highest motorable mountain range in the world. The dream came true when we finally departed Udaipur on July 17, adventurously without any preparation.
We left Udaipur for Ajmer and caught a train to Chandigarh. From Chandigarh we went to Manali by bus, where we hired a 350 cc Royal Enfield.
We were late everyday, but it’s better to start at 0800 Hrs and stop riding by 1800 Hrs.
Rohtang acquires its beauty from green tall trees, waterfalls and snow.
Riding on a 350 cc Royal Enfield with luggage was not a good idea, but where there is a will there is a way. We stayed in Keylong, 120 km ahead of Manali, that night. I found this town more beautiful and calm as compared to Manali.
Next day, we struck the awesome, the never seen nature’s creations began after Sarchu, which lies on the border of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. We felt like being in heaven.
Driving through the mountain range, higher than 10,000 feet above the sea level, the route takes on a zigzag course through the snaky roads of the Himalayas.
As we reached Tanglang La which is the world’s second highest motorable pass, we felt like standing in the sky and then we drove down towards Leh, a very beautiful town surrounded by mountains and full of Buddhist Gompas and monasteries.
Fortunately, His Highness Dalai Lama was in Leh on the day we visited.
I personally liked the meditation hall of Shanti Stupa and the Hall of fame where we could see the glory of Indian Army. There was a framed letter in Hall of fame, written by an army man to his parents during Kargil war. The writing was so emotional that I couldn’t complete reading it.
Next day, we reached the mysterious magnetic hill!
Me and my brother, both tried driving 5 to 6 times on the same road, but unbelievably, that road defies gravity. The bike automatically rolls towards an elevated road even with the engine switched off.
The presence of Army increased as we moved forward to Khardung La, which is the highest motorable mountain pass in the world. Then, as we came down towards Nubra Valley, we found ourselves standing on sand dunes. Imagine, riding a camel on sand dunes of Hunder surrounded by snow clad Himalayas.
The monastery of Diskit is also very beautiful. This route where we were driving is a part of the ancient silk route that was used by traders of India and China. People are friendly here, I remember a restaurant owner cooked noodles only for us at 2230 Hrs. The road is not that good, especially after Pong which is the world’s highest transit camp of army.
It’s difficult to believe how Indian Army maintains roads at such places. Every year the road gets blocked of snow and every year it has to be cleared.
Now, it was time to return, we moved towards Manali with a heavy heart, a wish to come back to Leh again, soon.
That night we stayed in a small town named Lato. We got a room in the house a local family and had a chat with this family till 1AM in night. The family knew Udaipur. They were very much welcoming and the room was like one in the fairy tales, wooden floor, walls made of mud, red carpet on floor and old fashioned beds. No electricity, we had had our dinner in candle light.
In the morning, we discovered that we were in another heaven. River Indus flowing next to us and the sound of air passing by made the whole environment heavenly. It was difficult to say good bye to such a beautiful place.
In the way back, the bike broke at Pong and it was a deadly decision to drive towards Sarchu which was 80 kms ahead after passing through Gata Loops, Nakee La Pass and Lachung La Pass. The next morning, the bike completely broke down with its tyre flattened and broken shock absorber.
Fortunately, we met a truck driver from Rajasthan and he helped us in taking the bike from there on till Manali. The lesson we learnt was that, we should have checked the bike tyres in advance and even better, if we would have driven the bike in Manali for a day.
We slept for a night in truck and to be honest, that experience was also good. The next day, we were blocked in traffic jam on top of Rohtang from 6am to 6pm. The good thing is that we got some very beautiful photos there. Finally, reached Manali and took a bus to Chandigarh. Then a train to New Delhi and Jaipur from there and finally we reached Udaipur.
After this trip, I can conclude that, Manali and Leh are worth a visit for adventure, but if you want to go as a tourist seeking relaxation and fun, then no place stands in front of Rajasthan and specifically Udaipur for its natural beauty as well as its connectedness through good roads and medical facilities.
On the way from Manali to Leh, I did not see a single good hospital and altitude sickness can be fatal in some cases. Localites there are good, but it was really annoying to find them charging more than maximum retail price for almost everything.
It feels good to drive on the world’s highest motorable passes, however I will recommend a big NO to those who want to go there as a tourist and a very big YES to the adventure lovers. Also please do take care of yourself because the way is really dangerous. A single silly mistake can be fatal as there aint any good medical facility in cases of emergency and one might find himself helpless.
In a nutshell, I can say that for the adventure lovers, this route is a must go route. The best to do is to join any motorcycle group which will make the journey safe and memorable.
You can find more about the trip on Ankesh Sharma’s Blog.
Content Provided By: Ankesh Sharma and Natwar Singh Rajawat