How I got Leh’d

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference” Robert Forst

Now I have completed my solo trip to Leh Ladakh and Srinagar. This is time to write about my experience over there. Thinking to write about it from the last week but didn’t get time.

When I planned to travel these two places I had no clue what I will do there alone. My Idea was to travel one of the most dangerous but most beautiful roads of the world. The Manali – Leh route and then Leh – Kargil – Srinagar. These two roads are biker delight and photographer’s paradise. I don’t have any courage to ride a bike for more than 1000 km and that too in the mountain area but I decided to take a bus/shared taxi and enjoy the ride. It is open for only about four and a half months in a year in summer between May or June, when the snow is cleared by the Border Road Org of Indian army, and mid-October when snowfall again blocks the high passes.

11 days two different place, different culture, different language, foods. Its very difficult to write about these in one blog. So I will break it to 4 parts,
1. My road trip Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar
2. Leh – Leh Palace, Monastery, Shati Stupa,Pangong Lake & 24 KM long River rafting @ Zansker Valley
3. Life on Dal Lake
4. Small small conversation I had with people over there
Goshhhh..looks like I can write a complete book, may be some time later J
Lets start…

Day1 & 2 Morning flight from Bangalore and I reached Delhi at 11pm, spent some time with Vijender (my team mate in Delhi), Rastrapati Bhavan and India gate. I had already booked HPTDC (Himanchal Pradesh Tourist Development Corp) Volvo bus from Delhi to Manali. Exactly 6:30 PM it started, the bus was completely full. I got the window seat and started watching Delhi city.
Delhi – Manali (490 KM)

When all my co-passenger asked the driver and conductor about the stoppage for dinner, to my surprise they were clueless. They said its up to us, 9:30 PM or 11:30PM they will stop somewhere and see. Most of us said 9:30 PM. Near Ambala, bus stopped and we had dinner. I didn’t take much, one veg puf and café latte from CCD. Bus was supposed to reach Manali at 8 AM morning and from there at 11 AM I had another bus to Leh. But unfortunately before Bilaspur (Another city @ HP) there were some land slide and we stuck there for 3 hrs. It was late in the night, around 2 O’clock I guess..the bus driver took more times and by the time I reached Manali, it was 2 PM..I had already missed my bus to Leh L

I called the HPTDC office, they said I can take some local taxi and can catch the bus at Keylong, where we had night stay before moving further to Leh. Keylong was 160 KM from Manali. I heard group of 5 talking about the Leh and I asked if they are also going there. They were, so we all decided to hire one sumo which cost us 4000 Rs.

Manali – Rohtang La – Keylong (160 KM, 6-7 Hrs)
After taking lunch we started around 4 pm and reached Keylong around 10:30 pm. On the way crossed Rohtang La (40 km from Manali) which is 13000 ft above sea level and one of the scenic but dangerous pass considering narrow road, mud, and mist around it. The road to Rohtang La was spectacular “in the beginning”. Amazing hairpin bends and beautiful curves (the road that is).Then came the rollercoaster ride. From this pass I started feeling like different. Snowcapped Mountain, mist, clouds around you, waterfalls and heart in the mouth because of the roads. Leaving Manali behind and rushing towards Rohtang was like accelerating from gloom to paradise.

By the time I reached Keylong I was completely tired. Accommodation was arranged in tents which was not good enough considering the cold andmosquitos around it so we asked if we can get one room in the hotel. Luckily rooms were available and after paying some extra rs we got rooms. After taking Dinner, I retired to bed.

Day 3 Keylong – Baralacha La – Sarachu – Pang – Tanglang La – Upshi – Leh  (220 KM, 14 Hrs)
Early morning 5 AM we again started & this time in the HPTDC Bus. I was feeling very sleepy at that time and as soon as I settled down in the bus I slept again. After some time I started hearing people in bus screaming “Hey look there”, “see that mountain”, “snow” , “take that photo”,”see the sun” . I slowly opened my eyes to see around and wow. We were passing through Zing Zingbar (3954 m) and early morning sunrays made the road and mountain beautiful. I saw most of  the co-passenger taking pictures. I was too tired so thought I will get chance in Leh, Another hour and so, we were at Barlacha La (4893 m). Bus stopped for 10 minutes over there and then I got chance to take some pictures. The top of the world feeling that you get here is unlike any other and spending a few minutes over here is must.

After 36km we stopped in Sarachu that’s the end of Himanchal Pradesh and Jammu Kashmir started after that. From Baralacha La to Sarachu is extremely scenic and 36 km but actual journey will take 3-4 hours depending upon the road condition. Most of the roads to the top are slushy, dirt track.
I was keep taking photos and believe me it’s very difficult to be disciplined about this in such an enthralling environment.

Next stoppage was Pang (15000 ft), the first habitation and few dhabas. 80 km from Sarachu will take around 4-5 hrs again depending upon the road condition.Here we took stopped for lunch. I had only Maggi and lemon tea. Both were surprisingly good and I was feeling lot better after traveling in the bumpy rIde. When we left Pang it was almost 2 PM and I was thinking when we will reach Leh. I was told 5 more hours.

After Pang, the road was flat. The drive of 75 km (2 hrs) brought me to the highest pass on the Manali – Leh route, the Tanglang La (17500 ft, 5328 m). This is the 2nd highest moterable pass in the world. We stopped here again for 10 minutes break, I got down from the bus, took some pictures and then saw most of my co-passenger not feeling well there. Lack of oxygen I guess, people started vomiting, some people were unable to stand there and they went back in the bus. Then in the first time I realized that last 2 days I was at some of the world’s highest passes Rohtang, Baralacha and now here, I am not feeling any mountain sickness, no headache, no dizziness. I think I was mentally prepared for it after reading so many blogs, books, articles on Mountain sickness. I had exact idea what can be happen there and when I was here, it was nothing.

From here another 60 km at Upshi, Another round of tea and I was roaring to go. 6 pm and Leh was still 49 KM. Now from journey here was pleasant, good, flat road and reached Leh around 7:30  pm.

So that’s how I reached Leh. More about the Leh city exploration in the next blog…

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