I was one fortunate being who is among those ‘Few’. I got to live my dream after 2 years from when the dream was born. Dream of a trip to an amazing Place…. LADAKH!
Day 1: (23rd June Hisar to Manali)
Our journey started on 23rd June before the birds woke up. It was around 04:15 AM when our Driver Anil Bhaiya picked all of us from our locations. Nine crazy living fiascos joined me in my weirdness ready to sail the roads of Himachal and Ladakh.
Hisar a city in Haryana to where all of us belonged was the starting point of our journey. Before we reached Manali- our first stop, we had to cross different towns and cities of Haryana and Punjab.
After a Slow and steady start we reached Patiala (Punjab) at 08:15 AM. If you need an essence of Punjab, Aalu Paratha with Lassi will do the job.
After having a delicious breakfast we moved further taking the road to bhakranangaldam and reached there at 12:00 PM. It was truly refreshing having a sight of the second largest dam of India. And then we proceeded with our journey by 02:50 PM after having lunch there.
It took us 7 hours from Nangal to Manali and finally we reached our hotel Rockland Inn in Simsa Village of Manali. All of us were tired as hell since the journey lasted for more than 15 hours.
Hotel staff was very cooperative and managed to serve us even after the prescribed time. Without wasting much time we took our bed to sleep as the whole second day was supposed to be spent on wheels.
Day 2: (24th June Manali to Keylong)
Mornings in Himachal are very refreshing and life giving as you are surrounded by greens and snow covered mountains. In order to reach Ladakh from Manali one has to take permit managed by the district administration of Kullu (HP). This permit can now be obtained online.
After obtaining the permit we started with our journey on second day at 11 AM. Crossing the roads to Rohtang at this time means facing never ending traffic jams. I would recommend to cross the roads of Rohtang earliest in the morning say as early as 5 or 6 AM.
Rohtang Pass is a high mountain pass having an elevation of 3,978 meters above sea level at a distance of 50 km from Manali. It is generally covered with snow in May and June when most of the tourists come here. It took us 5 hours to reach this place with some of the breathtaking views but unwanted and frustrating traffic halts.
Without wasting much of the time we proceeded further on Manali-Leh Highway. It was 7:00 PM and we decided not to go any further as it was getting darker with Terrain getting tough.
After travelling around 65 km from Rohtang we settled in Keylong. Keylong, the district headquarters of Lahaul and Spiti District, is situated at a height of 3,000 meters from sea level giving us some of the options to spend our night.
Day 3 ( 25th June Keylong to Rumtse)
Our morning started as early as 5 AM as we had to travel miles on the third day with some of the toughest and highest terrains. The sun was smiling at us and after having light breakfast we started our journey at 6 in the morning.
Sailing the high mountain roads could bring some of the disorders in our body like Acute mountain sickness leading to headache, nausea etc. Due to lack of oxygen in the air one has to get acclimatized with the environment which may even prevent acute mountain sickness.
It took us 45 minutes of drive to reach Jispa which is 25 km from Keylong. Jispa is a village in Lahaul and Spiti with Bhaga river flowing along the side of road. Nallahs are some of the common obstacles one has to cross. Zing Zing bar is one such nallah where water flows with great pressure. Crossing this nallah on the bike needs an expert rider.
We then reached Sarchu by 12:30. Sarchu is a major halt point with tented accommodation on Leh-Manali Highway. An Indian Army camp can be spotted nearby. We moved further without stopping there.
Reaching Pang was a little tiring as one has to cross Baralacha la which is at a height of 4,980 meters from sea level and an even higher Lachung La at a height of 5,059 meters from sea level.
The air gets thinner with less oxygen content and the poor condition of roads made it more difficult to proceed but scenic view and the Quotes by Border Road Organsation kept our enthusiasm level on the ‘peaks.’
We decided to take a halt in Pang for an hour to get our medical checkup done. Basic tented accommodations and food is available at this place.
We then proceeded further towards the highest mountain pass of Manali-Leh Highway Tanglang La at a height of 5,328 meters. The pass provides for scenic view as it sways away from the main highway.
Ample vegetation on both sides further cools the already chilled air. We rang the bells of the temple in Tanglang La at around 7:30 in the evening. It was getting darker and the declining road with melting ice on sides along with sharp turns was becoming dangerous.
After one and half hour of travelling we finally found a village named Rumtse where we got a place to stay at very reasonable rates. The only landline phone in the village was in function which we used to inform our parents of our well being. After having dinner everyone rushed to their beds.
Third day was a real test of persons’ ability to survive in one of the toughest terrains with very less oxygen, the altitudes rising from 3,000 meters in Keylong to 5,328 in Tanglang La and then back to 4,200 in Rumtse. 7 among the 10 of us had a headache as survival in those conditions was tough.
Day 4 ( 26th June Rumtse to Leh)
4th day started a little late as we knew it was just 80 km to Leh which means a drive of 2 hours. People in Rumtse are very friendly and this is the reason I want to visit this place again. We started our journey of 4th day at 9 in the morning.
The roads from Rumtse to Leh was in very good condition and Indus river flowing along the road enhances the beauty of this place. The rivers were as long as eternity and as young as this moment.
We finally reached our destination- Leh by 11:30 AM. Leh is one of the largest districts of India in terms of area being roughly around 45000 sq km. The whole of the district is mountains with 3 parallel mountain ranges of the Himalayas, the Zanskar and the Karakoram.
After booking the rooms in the hotel we moved out in search of lunch and we were pleased to see many Punjabi Dhabas in the town as our appetites doubled up.
It was then when we moved out to visit Shanti Stupa. Shanti Stupa is a Buddhist white-domed stupa (chorten) on a hilltop in Chanspa. The stupa has become a tourist attraction not only due to its religious significance but also due to its location which provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
Pardon my exaggeration but the divine feels were to be felt all over the place. And then we made a visit to Leh Mall Road.
The coming day was supposed to be an amazing one as we hired 5 bikes on rent to visit the Pangong lake. Pangong lake is one of the most beautiful lakes with a bike ride of 160 km on either side. The excitement level was skyrocketing as biking in Himalayas was always a dream which was about to come true.
Day 5 ( 27th June Leh to Pangong and Back)
Visiting Pangong means a 160km drive through the toughest roads and high mountain passes. In order to reach Pangong on time we started our journey early in the morning. The temperature was as low as 2-3 degree so one had to pack himself in woolen cloths.
It was 6 AM and we were waiting for the Petrol Pump in Leh to open up. After getting the tanks full and some extra bottles we started the best part of our journey. The birds chirping, fragrance of the dew, the rising sun and the eye soothing view were the second best part of that morning. The first one being me riding a Royal Enfield (dug-dug).
This route provides the best road conditions among all other routes. We stopped for the first time at Chang La, the highest point on the entire route being 5,360 meters from the sea level. Apart from being the highest spot, it was the coldest too with freezing cold wind blowing.
The scenic beauty soothed our souls and no cell moved in the body while we were admiring its beauty. Then the mouthwatering hot noodles soup was just the fuel our bodies needed and we were ready to resume our journey.
The road started declining and we geared up the speed considering safety being our first priority. It was around 12:30 when we got the first sight of Pangong Lake which was 3-4 km before we could reach there.
And finally we were here in front of Pangong Lake. That was a magical view of blue water lake complimenting its natural shimmers with mountains in its background and blue sky adding to the beauty of the view. Never have I wanted to return from that place but unfortunately had to.
After spending 3 hours at Pangong Lake we started our return journey as we had to reach Leh before it got too dark. Drive from Leh to Pangong made us familiar with the roads and we could comfortably speed up in order to be there on time.
The first stop again had to be Chang La where the Hot Noodles soup was eagerly waiting for us. Without wasting much of the time we proceeded on our way to leh. It was 7:30 in the evening when we reached Leh. We had dinner there and returned to our hotel.
The entire day’s flashback was continuously running into my mind as I had never seen such beautiful place. And finally I knew what people meant when they said if Heavens fall here.
Day 6 ( 28th June Leh to Khardung La and Back)
The itinerary we had in our minds was planned to go for river rafting but we could not go for it as it was closed down for several days due to overcast weather conditions and and thus we decided to travel the highest motorable road of Khardung La. Yes- the highest in the whole world!
Khardung La is one of the highest mountain passes at a height of 5,602 meters as per the sign boards there. It is 40km towards north from Leh and acts as a gateway to Nubra Valley.
The climate conditions here change any time in fraction of seconds from sunny day to heavy rains or even snowfall, so one must bear in mind the climatic changes before travelling to this place.
It was 10 AM when we kick started our Dug-Dug and headed towards Khardung La. It was around 25 km run where we were stopped by a checkpost named south Pullu, where our registration was done and we proceeded further. The road further was not good and it took one and half hour to travel the remaining 12-14 km.
Khardung la being highest motorble road is one of the major tourist attractions for the people visiting Leh. The air here has very less oxygen content and it is not advisable to stay there for long, maybe not more than half an hour.
As we were supposed to unfold our journey we could not make it to Nubra Valley and had to return from Khardung La.
It was 5 PM when we returned back from Khardung La to Leh and went for local sightseeing. We returned to our hotel after having dinner. This was supposed to be our last night in Leh and we had to checkout early in the morning from hotel. We decided to take the route of Srinagar via NH1.
Day 7 ( 29th June Leh to Srinagar)
We checked out early in the morning as we had to travel more than 400 km to reach Srinagar. We had travelled 30 km from our hotel when we stopped at the place called Magnetic Hills.
The hill was one of a kind as it is alleged to have magnetic properties strong enough to pull cars uphill but in reality, the effect is explained to be an optical illusion created by the gravity hill.
We then proceeded further as we were still 390 km away from Srinagar. The road from Leh to Srinagar was the best of all the roads we have been travelling so far. Lamayuru, being one of the biggest towns enroute, was where we stopped to have breakfast. It took us 3 hours to travel 120 km from Leh.
The view of mountains now started changing from the barren rock solid mountains to lush green with deodars standing tall. We went on further crossing Kargil and Drass sectors. Drass sector is considered one of the coldest sectors in winters with temperature falling as low as -30 to -40 degree Celsius.
After travelling for 4 long hours we were stopped by a person who seemed like a common folk residing there. We were little scared before he said to us- “Sahab Snow bike Ride Karogey… Sahi laga dunga” and the scared face converted into excited face as the day was little boring without any adventure but then this ride turned out to be an amazing one. Bargaining was something I was expert at and paid 200 per head where I saw an uncle paying 500 for same stuff.
As we moved further we witnessed a never ending traffic jam, it took one and half hour to travel next 5 km. We then stopped at a place named Zoji La War Memorial. When asked an army Jawan informed us that the temperature in winters falls to -25 degree Celsius and the strong winds are making the place hell.
Finally after travelling for 3 more hours we reached our desired destination Srinagar. This place was not safe as there had been some clashes therefore we decided to leave this place early morning. The night at Srinagar was one of the scariest and also the funniest nights ever. I will write about it in my upcoming article.
Day 8 ( 30th June Srinagar to Jammu)
We could not believe one of the most memorable and amazing tour was about to get over. This was the worst feeling, we had to depart from this heavenly and dreamy place, again had to start our daily routine working 6 days a week.
After this roller coasting ride our daily life schedule was going to get mundane for us. Diverting my mind from those thoughts I tried to live the lasting moments of this heart engulfing trip by admiring the beautiful bounties of nature around.
We checked out from Srinagar towards Jammu. The temperature started rising with each rotating wheel. It took us 9 hours from Srinagar to reach Jammu. And on the final day we reverted from Jammu Back to Hisar. The trip was truly my coming of age.
All hail the Himalayas!