Biking through the himalayas: Manali-leh-srinagar

Tripoto
Photo of Biking through the himalayas: Manali-leh-srinagar 1/1 by shishir gowda
hunder

Finally we built up the courage to ride to Leh, but chose the safer(and way better) option of going with a guided tour. RideOfMyLife came highly recommended not just for their service, but also their knowledge of the terrain and the affordable cost also helped. Amar, Sreedharana, Anil and his wife Sowmya decided to join me and my wife on this trip, so we had company.

Rideofmylife is run by Gaurav Jani (riding solo to the top of the world) and his team of Abhishek (road captain), Sachin(road captain), Rahul, Sunny and Dorje were amazing guys to hang around, and travel with. Kudos to the team, and I will definitely be riding with them again in the near future.

The trip highlights/routes are something like this:

Day1: Practise ride around Manali on bikes

Day2: Manali to Sissu via Rotang la(13,051ft) and Keylong

Stay: golden drop campsite - overlooks a amazing water falls

Start very early around 4AM, else traffic will backup near checkposts, and make the climb a pain. After Rotang pass, you can stop over for food, entertainment like sledging, horse riding.. Roads around Rohtang are decent, so progress was good and we reached out camp site by lunch time.

Climbing rohtang

Photo of Rohtang La, Himachal Pradesh, India by shishir gowda

On top of rohtang

Photo of Rohtang La, Himachal Pradesh, India by shishir gowda

Maggi point ontop of rohtang

Photo of Rohtang La, Himachal Pradesh, India by shishir gowda

camp site @ sissu

Photo of Sissu, Himachal Pradesh, India by shishir gowda

Day 3: Manali to Sarchu via Baralacha la (16,500ft)

Stay: golden drop campsite - sarchu plains

Roads are pretty bad, and be prepared to pass some unexpected water streams. Sarchu has low oxygen levels, along with severe cold temperatures (-7.. -10c), we saw water streams freezing overnight. Riding through the Snow walls on both sides of the road in Baralacha is something else. In the night once the camp lights are put out, sometimes you can see the milkyway in the clear skies above.

crossing streams

Photo of Zing Zing Bar, Himachal Pradesh, India by shishir gowda

Baralacha la pass

Photo of Baralacha La Pass, Lahaul And Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India by shishir gowda

Sarchu

Photo of Sarchu, Lahaul And Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India by shishir gowda

Day 4: Sarchu to Leh via Lachlung la (16,616ft), Nakee la (15,547ft), Taglang la (17,480ft)

Stay: Ri-Rab hotel leh

Mixed bag today, some amazing roads where you can really attack the corners, to some really bad roads. Be prepared for lot of union checkposts(see tips). Tanglang la is the 2nd highest pass in the world. You ride through "more plains", flat land with amazing roads. Be prepared for some undulations in the road which catch you out at high speeds. Varied landscape with some scenes which look right of mad-max road of fury..desert/sand mountains.. You also pass through the famous haunted gata loops.

Thanglang la pass

Photo of Tanglang La by shishir gowda

More plains

Photo of More Plains by shishir gowda

Gata loops

Photo of Gata Loops, Leh by shishir gowda

scene right out of mad max

Photo of Gata Loops, Leh by shishir gowda

Day 5: Leh sigh seeing - palace, shopping, monasteries, amazing cafe's

Group pic @ Leh stupa

Photo of Leh by shishir gowda

City of leh

Photo of Leh Palace, Leh by shishir gowda

Day 6: Leh to Pangong Tso lake via ChangLa pass at 17,586ft

Ride is through narrow roads, with avalanche prone areas, and its a day long journey with lot of traffic. Some stretches blend into the cliffs, with the roads hugging the contours of the hills. So what might look like a straight road from far, might actually have a gorge in between. The water is very cold, so jump in only if you can handle it.

Pangong lake

Photo of Pangong Tso by shishir gowda

Pangong lake start

Photo of Pangong Tso by shishir gowda

Day 7: Back to leh

Changlangla

Photo of Chang La Pass by shishir gowda

Day 8: Hunder via KhardungLa - at 18,380 ft

Stay: Snow leopard hotel

Be prepared for snow storms, and bad roads, and under powered bikes (low oxygen). Altitude sickness can set in due to low oxygen at the khardung la top(worlds highest motorable pass). Not advised to stay beyond 30min at top, so grab your tea/maggi/photos quickly and descend. Road passes between north and south pulu, with the khardungla at the midst. Roads either side of Pulu is fine. Hunder valley is breath taking and beautiful, with valleys, deserts, rivers, snow clad mountains and sand dues with double hump back camels. We got the first taste of "godfather" beer :P, chilled in the streams.

Nubra valley

Photo of Hunder, Leh by shishir gowda

hunder

Photo of Hunder, Leh by shishir gowda

Diskit

Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by shishir gowda

Day 9: Return to Leh via Khardungla

You can stop over at Diskit Monastery on the way back.

Nothing can prepare you for the ride to Khardung la. Just when you thought you had seen the worst climbing it 1 day back, it got worse. We got stuck in a snow blizzard, and riding was very tough. This was the first time I was genuinely shaking to my bones, so asked my wife to take the van, and I rode solo. Lot of 4 wheelers were stuck, and it didn't help being stopped on bikes in the blizzard.

Photo of Khardung La by shishir gowda
Photo of Khardung La by shishir gowda
Photo of Khardung La by shishir gowda
Photo of Khardung La by shishir gowda
Photo of Khardung La by shishir gowda

Day 10: Leh to Kargil via NamikaLa (12,139 ft) and FotuLa (13,478 ft)

Very good roads, so you can make amazing time. You also pass by the confluence of Indus river, and pass near the magnetic hill. We stayed in a camp site outside Kargil town. Make it a point to spend some time at the Kargil war memorial @ Tiger hill near Dras on the highway. Huge respect to the soldiers who braved and risked(and many lost) their lives in some of the most inhospitable terrains in the world. Winding roads which flows along the river.

Kargil war memorial @ tiger hill

Photo of Kargil War Memorial, Kargil by shishir gowda

campsite with kargil in the far background

Photo of Kargil by shishir gowda

Day 11: Srinagar via Zojila pass(1,575 ft)

Zoji la pass is hard, for the sheer amount of traffic, and muddy and narrow roads. If lucky, you will spot some huge vultures, so keep an eye out for them. Lunch was at Sonmarg after we crossed zojila, and entry to Srinagar is through chaotic traffic. We stayed in one of the house boats in the Srinagar

zoji la aka godzila pass

Photo of Zoji La by shishir gowda

Dal lake

Photo of Dal Lake by shishir gowda

As Gaurav put it " You can never come back from the mountains ", not a single week goes by where we do not recollect memories from the trip, and hope to get back asap. The scale of the himalayas is not something words or pictures can justify, you have to be there to really feel it. The terrain, and the people change drastically from himachal, to ladakh, to Kashmir.

TIPS:

1. Ride with a group like rideofmylife. They provide backup rider/vehicle, road captain, mechanic, carry luggage, arrange accommodation.. basically you just go report on time..

or with friends as the roads are very isolated, and far from civilisation(but solo trip would be epic :) ).

2. Long water proof boots are a must to wade through ice cold water. Carry lot of spare socks too

3. Riding gear, and water proof gears are a must.

4. Carry lots of energy bars/chocolates/biscuits. Food options are very few, and eat up when you find one on the road.

5. Carry thermals/warmers for the night, as temp drop in the nights.

6. Smile - the locals are very friendly.

7. Union checkpost create issues if the bikes/car are not in your own name(owner has to be with you). Rented bikes from other states will only be allowed till Leh, then they insist on you renting locally(they wont allow you to go to pangong or hunder..). You can ride across to srinagar, but not for local sight seeings

8. Get used to altitude by reaching manali a day or 2 earlier, and use high altitude acclimatisation medicines recommended from a Doctor if needed(recommended). If Altitude sickness hits you, do not take risks, plan to consult a doc, and end your journey if advised.

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