We got Leh’d!

Leh

Feel like getting out of here? I am game- let me grab the bike keys and a map of Himalayas. Why Himalayas? Well, because Himalayas has always fascinated me. I have read countless books on Himalayan travel and nerve cracking experiences people had.

This July (26th Jun 2017 to 5th July 2017), Anju and I took the courage and went for a Himalayan trip on a motorcycle. The trip was adventurous and fun filled. We were also anxious because we were leaving our son back at home for the first time. 12 days, without him!

We started the journey by taking a flight to Chandigarh from Bangalore and then a taxi from there to Manali. We stayed at Manali for the night and collected our bike next day. A 500CC standard bullet, forest green color was ready to take us for the exciting journey.

Leh

Rohtang pass

Rohtang pass

Unfortunately, we started riding on a national holiday, Ramzan. Manali was crowded. We felt as though the whole world was at Manali. Small roads here in Manali were blocked by heavy traffic. It took us quite a bit of struggle to get out of Manali and start riding towards the mountains. The mountains were calling, but the city traffic is holding us back.

Our first stop was at Rohtang pass.

Rohtang pass was filled with tourists. If you hate the crowd, avoid this area.

We were in a hurry to get out of traffic as early as possible. Right after Rohtang, we were greeted by a thick yellow board. It said - Welcome to Lahaul & Spiti.

Welcome to Lahaul & Spiti

By now, the crowd had cleared up and we were the only ones in the road. Prisctine Himalayas!

We were driving on the Leh - Manali highway. Even though it is a highway, only a small stretch of the roads were good. Rest all are mostly off road. It was my first experience with mountain roads like this.

Leh - Manali highway

We were enjoying the blue sky, bumpy roads and the dhabas decorated with Tibetan prayer flags.

Tibetan prayer flags

We are usually wary of organized tours. But in this case, even though it was an organized tour, we had full freedom to take as many stops as we need and capture the himalayan beauty.

The valley was beautiful, weather was nice. We felt like we were in a wonderland.

Wonderland

By evening, we reached our first camp site, Jispa.

Jispa

Jispa camp site is located on the shores of Chenab River.

We spent a pleasant morning looking at the timeless Chenab river. The serene landscape offered us a lot of photographic opportunities.

Shores of chenab river

Jispa was the best camp site we stayed during our journey. Terrain was full of flowers and small streams.

Most of us do farming by choice. For them, it is a necessity. Farming helps them to sustain the heavy winter isolation and keep them busy all the time. We saw potatoes, cauliflower etc in the farms.

It was time to bid adieu to the beautiful Jispa. Ride from Jispa to Sarchu was short. We left Jispa by morning 10AM.

In this stretch, bikes had to cross several small/medium water streams. It was my first time experience in riding through the streams. Riding through streams looks very easy, but pretty hard to do.

We rode through Bara-lacha-la pass.

Saw Suraj Tal, the sacred body of water. It is one of the highest lakes in India.

Suraj Tal

Sarchu

Our ride was beautiful and intense as usual. We had to cross few water streams and it was a challenging task to push the bikes through the flowing stream.

Water crossing

Sarchu is a major camp location for the travellers to Leh. There are temporary tents installed for camping.

Sarchu is at 14,000ft and it is too windy and too cold there. We faced altitude sickness for the first time. Heavy headache, nausea, vomiting etc. Taking a pain-killer tablet fixed it for us.

Sarchu

Leh

Today the route was: Sarchu -> Gata loops -> Lachalung la -> Pang -> Moore plains -> Taglang La -> Upshi -> Leh.

Ride from Sarchu to Leh was mixed terrains. We passed through high altitude passes (Nakeela, Lachalung la and Taglang La). Taglang La offered us an exciting experience of heavy snow fall along with rain.

The drive till Gata loops is straight road and comparatively easy to ride.

Sarchu

After taking a short break at Pang, we headed towards Moore plains. Straight stretch of roads untill the climb begins to Taglang La. We had a temptation to speed up but we didn’t. This stretch of straight roads were full of small bumps and surprises. Many people in our team fell down and got injured.

Riding motorcycle is very liberating. We felt closer to the nature and the people around us. We had lots of random conversations with people in the villages. They were all nice and friendly.

Riding motorcycle

Taglang La:

Taglang La

On the way, you will see many cyclists. They were cycling from Manali to Leh.

Taglang La wins it’s share of crowds by being absolutely beautiful.

You can find lots of Stupas on the side of the road. Indus river flowing on the other side of the road compliments the scene.

Stupa

Leh is a small city. Beautiful, but crowded. We stayed at a small hotel, enjoying the rain and hot coffee.

Fantastic evening lights around Shanti Stupa

Shanti stupa

We woke up the next day hearing the bad news. It was raining everywhere. Roads to Khardungla was closed. Rain was not expected at this time of year at Leh. But there we had heavy rain and flooded roads. We had to cancel Khardungla and spent a day exploring Leh.

Leh city

Leh has planted many trees around during a tree plantation drive. So it looks green everywhere.

Leh city

We visited, Shey palace, Thikse monastry, local residential school and ended our day visiting the mall road. Leh city gave us no blue sky, only the color-less one.

Shey palace

Next day morning, we went to Khardungla. Thick snow and fog covered the roads. Visibility was absolutely minimum. We were advised not to go up because the climate was bad.

We were bathed in snow. Clouds was so close to us. We were at 18,000ft!

![Khardungla][khardungla1]

I went out to see evening lights lighting up the mountains. But I was disappointed because of the weather.

Distant view of Leh

Pangong lake

The famous tourist spot from the Hindi movie, 3 Idiots. This lake is around 150Km from Leh, very close to India-China border. It is a beautiful lake and drive to there was as usual, stunning!

During this journey, we passed through Chang La (17590ft), the second highest motorable road in the world. Whole pass was covered in snow and offered us a stunning view.

Changla

Pangong is situated in a beautiful valley. Surrounded by mountains. The whole terrain was rough & beatiful.

Roads to pangong

Yak at Pangong:

Yak at Pangong

Flying high with joy

Floating above Pangong

We started our return journey the next day. We passed through the same route back to Manali. We saw everything once again on the way back. It is hard to take eyes off from the beautiful valleys and mountains.

Himalayas is an experience. Like my colleague said, “you can’t ride pass Himalayas. You have to be there. Experience it”. No words or pictures can express that feeling of being there. For us, it was a lifetime experience. We felt the need to do more road trips and was already charged up for the next one.

Planning tips

Manali - Leh trip is not too tough. But not too easy too. Planning it properly makes the experience much better.

  1. Never trust the weather forecast / reports. Weather there is very unpredictable
  2. Always carry enough woolen cloths
  3. Be sure to carry rain coats, water proof boots etc
  4. Drink more water and keep yourself hydrated. Altitude sickness is very common and keeping hydrated helps. Hydration pack helped us a lot
  5. Carry enough medicines. Diamox tablets help reduce altitude sickness
  6. Drive carefully, roads are very slippery
  7. Get padded cycling shorts. This helps you to sit for longer in the saddle
  8. Sunglasses
  9. Sunscreen lotion. Get a good one. You will need lots of this
  10. Pack lightly. Don’t pack too much stuff
  11. Get a good camera gear. GoPro etc helps you to create great videos and can be mounted on to the helmet
  12. Good quality weather proof gloves
  13. Take lots of breaks and photos. Freezing time through pictures is the best way to remember the brief moments

Travelling is liberating. Don’t restrict yourself to your own comfort zones. Have conversations with strangers, make new friends, laugh like crazy and enjoy the trip to the maximum.

Navaneeth & Anju

Keep travelling…

[khardungla1]: /imgs/2017/07/khardungla1.jpg

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