That quintessential trip in the Himalayas: Manali to Leh in September

Tripoto
21st Sep 2017

At Sarchu - Day 2

Photo of That quintessential trip in the Himalayas: Manali to Leh in September by Raj Abhishek

I'd like to keep my words at a minimum in this article, coz that's how our journey was for the most part. We kept mum and enjoyed the bounty that nature threw at us throughout the trip ! A new turn, and a new view to cherish and to behold. Landscapes that we had never seen before; Landscapes that would change with each passing season; so that every journey is a journey afresh.

About the weather (which is critical info in these realms), it was clear sunny skies for the most part, except when we were near Sarchu and thereafter when we were just about to enter Leh. That being said, first part of the day is generally the best to cover most of your ground especially if you're on a two-wheeler. You never know how the weather turns up in the second half in the mountains.

Now sit back, relax and enjoy the views even as we start on our drive!

Day 1: Manali to Keylong. A half day drive at most, with views opening up even as you leave the environs of Manali and soon find yourself traversing treacherous turns on your way ! The landscape starts turning desolate soon but you still have beautiful towns springing up on the route. A pretty comfortable ride, with no apprehensions of running out of fuel. Just before Keylong though, you do encounter the last petrol pump on this route; the next one being only a little before Leh. Make sure you fill up all you can !

You can as well rest at Jispa which is a little further ahead, and if you plan to complete the ride in 2 days ( pretty hectic according to my standards ). Keylong, however, is a much more convenient town to put up.

Let's start !

Day 1

Just after we left Manali and just before reaching Rohtang Pass did we encounter para-gliders take off ... here !

Photo of Rohtang Pass, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India by Raj Abhishek

Them para-gliders ! Bir, a good 7 hours away, is supposed to be safer if you wanna indulge in this sport.

Photo of Rohtang Pass, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India by Raj Abhishek

Exactly at the pass !

Photo of Rohtang Pass, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India by Raj Abhishek

After the Rohtang pass … lovely views even as the roads got a bit worse !

Photo of That quintessential trip in the Himalayas: Manali to Leh in September by Raj Abhishek

Even as the sun started going down !

Photo of That quintessential trip in the Himalayas: Manali to Leh in September by Raj Abhishek

Strain your necks, coz you will love it when you see more and more of these !

Photo of That quintessential trip in the Himalayas: Manali to Leh in September by Raj Abhishek

That waterfall at Sissu ! You can decide to stay here for the night as well if you can manage it. It’s a lovely view to sit by and enjoy, and to walk to perhaps ! We saw few home stays here even as we passed by.

Photo of That quintessential trip in the Himalayas: Manali to Leh in September by Raj Abhishek

And finally, some more beautiful sights had to be savored before we settled at Keylong for the night. Hotel Dupchen-Inn it was ( 9418154759 ); a nice and cozy place with it’s own restaurant and some decent views of course ( early next morning was to be a treat trying to picture in those ! ).

Those beautiful colors !

Photo of That quintessential trip in the Himalayas: Manali to Leh in September by Raj Abhishek

That peak aglow in the beautiful sunset light just before we reached Keylong. A more crisper pic could be had, had we been successful in getting our driver to stop, which was not to be ! Light was really low and hence, the ISO was quite high for this nice view which could have been much better !

Photo of That quintessential trip in the Himalayas: Manali to Leh in September by Raj Abhishek

Once at the hotel, we settled in and then wandered around for some exploration and some food. A decent meal later, we came back satisfied from the day and gave in to that cozy temptation called sleep. Our beds were very inviting and very comfortable as well.

Day 2: Keylong to Sarchu. I was determined to sleep late this morning, what with the cold finally catching up on us. However, I was out of my bed as soon as morning crept in; inspired by my fellow travelers to check out and capture the morning views. Mornings are in general one of the best times for photography, so we geared up in no time. We were not to be disappointed !

Day 2

A cloudy early morning for sure !

Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Raj Abhishek

meanwhile, on the other side of the hotel terrace !

Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Raj Abhishek

and then when the sun started to show up finally !

Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Raj Abhishek

and when it did on that village yonder !

Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Raj Abhishek

One last shot before we hurried down below to get ready for the day … Keylong town basking in the morning light !

Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Raj Abhishek

It was a little after 10 a.m. that we left Keylong; the sun was high up in the sky and it was a clear day at least to start with. Our driver was not too happy about the timing coz he was not very sure about us getting accommodation in Sarchu in the first place. It was end-of-season, and hence most of the camps in Sarchu had shut shop. The next possible stopover could only be Pang, which as was another 2 hrs drive from Sarchu. This may be a difficult drive in the afternoon if weather turns bad, so we were told by our ‘instructor’ driver. I’m sure we didn’t take that information very seriously as we were in a relaxed-holiday-photography mood. Sarchu did not disappoint us anyway !

For now, the drive begins again.

The village … the sky … the mountains … that river .. everything was just so nicely placed !

Photo of That quintessential trip in the Himalayas: Manali to Leh in September by Raj Abhishek

The sun was bright indeed !

Photo of That quintessential trip in the Himalayas: Manali to Leh in September by Raj Abhishek
Photo of Jispa, Himachal Pradesh, India by Raj Abhishek
Photo of That quintessential trip in the Himalayas: Manali to Leh in September by Raj Abhishek
Photo of Deepak Tal, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

Loved the view of those mountains yonder !

Photo of Deepak Tal, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

Looked like the road ahead was leading us to it !

Photo of Deepak Tal, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

Close to Baralacha La pass !

Photo of Baralacha La Pass, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

The U-Turn that I’d like to take again and again !

Photo of Baralacha La, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

It was now time to cross the Baralacha La pass, which deserves a special mention here. It’s supposedly one of the notorious passes on the route which closes up fast at every advent of snow. Then, people must wait on both sides for the army to clear the same. Our journey in September end also coincided with the start of the snow season, and we did experience snow as soon as we were at the pass. Our driver, being one of a particularly good drama school I’m sure, started mimicking panic yet again and it was not long before we sped ahead. The views are awesome even as you get close to the pass and then cross it.

At the pass ! I was clicking from inside our vehicle I remember, our driver giving us no quarters there !

Photo of Baralacha La, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

One final shot before we sped on our way yet again. Getting close to those snow covered peaks was a treat, particularly during this stretch.

Photo of Baralacha La, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

No doubt ‘Lord of the rings’ could be shot in these desolate parts as well. Sarchu was close now.

Photo of That quintessential trip in the Himalayas: Manali to Leh in September by Raj Abhishek

I remember it was around 3 or 3-30 P.M. when we were at Sarchu. It was cloudy, cold and desolate, what with most of the camps having shut shop for the season. Fortunately for us, one last one was still open and had tents available as well. We were relieved, and so was our driver.

Shooting followed as soon as we had dumped our luggage. Our driver had retired to the warmth of his tent, and would not be seen hereafter except when food would be served. We, on the other hand, made the most of our wait for some food to get ready. Anything on the plate would do !

Our camp amidst all the rest that had closed off for the season !

Photo of Sarchu, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

A closer look. Pretty comfortable tents and delicious food. We vouch for the owners who are from Nepal and are very affable. http://redrocksarchu.com/.

Photo of Sarchu, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

Reminded me of this ‘Patakha Guddi’ song from the ‘Highway’ movie !

Photo of Sarchu, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

It started off like this ….

Photo of Sarchu, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

then, a bit cloudy ….

Photo of Sarchu, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

and then when clouds were all over us !

Photo of Sarchu, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

After about an hour of shooting and wandering around, we were back within the warm confines of the dining tent where we were served basic but delicious fare. My friend’s GoPro was still on shoot mode inside the tent, and we captured some awesome time lapses for our memory.

Enjoying each and every morsel that was served on our plates !

Photo of Sarchu, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

There was nothing much to do after having our ‘evening snack’, except wait for the dinner to be served and then retire to our beds. Some of us retreated to the warmth of our excellent tents, while some still preferred to wander outside and explore for a little bit more. Surprisingly, there was an option to watch TV as well in the dining tent, even in these desolate realms.

Dinner was an early fare, and was just as tasty as the food that we had had in the evening. We relished every bit of it. Meanwhile, a vehicle or two more had found their way to the camp somehow, the last vehicle coming in as last as after our dinner. Kudos to the grit of it’s occupants, and more so to that of the driver I’d say. Fortunately, tents were available for them, and so was the food.

It had started raining by now, although only in bits. The temperature would dip further we were sure, so we tucked into our beds as soon as dinner was over. There’s nothing much you could do in these parts, except get inside your blankets and wait for the night to end comfortably. Few chit chats later, we did the same and I could hear snores from the neighboring tent not long after. Let the night pass !

Day 3: Sarchu to Leh

Next morning was such a pleasant surprise; and an absolutely unexpected one at that !

“Raj, Come out quick !” were the first words that I heard that lovely morning. I knew something beautiful was in store, but had no idea until I came out of my tent. Lo and behold ! The mountains all around us had snow on them; mountains that were all barren during the previous day. We had never experienced anything like this before; being ‘thrilled’ was a feeling understated.

Needless to say, out came our cameras as well !

Day 3

The same landscape, just a bit more ‘snowy’ and rainy !

Photo of Sarchu, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

Behind our camp now; much more snowy for sure !

Photo of Sarchu, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

The same camp now .. It was so much fun trying to fathom in all the beauty around us !

Photo of Sarchu, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

Our not-so-little furry neighbor near the camp .. actually, there were lots of them !

Photo of Sarchu, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

That snowy-misty feeling !

Photo of Sarchu, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

Just before leaving the camp, when my mates were busy trying to click a decent portraiture. Not really sure what all that smoke was all about !

Photo of Sarchu, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

Breakfast served and our tummies full, we started off on our journey once again. Bidding our good-byes to the camp staff, we rode off for what was to be the longest drive-day for us. Leh was another 6 hours and a good 250 kms away, which meant we had come only half way yet.

Needless to say, we were ready for all the views that were to be savored on the way, our cameras in tow yet again !

A closer view of the mountains yonder, what with all the patterns and colors !

Photo of Sarchu, Himachal Pradesh by Raj Abhishek

Not long after we left Sarchu, this ! The Tsarap river. Clear water; beautiful colors.

Photo of That quintessential trip in the Himalayas: Manali to Leh in September by Raj Abhishek

A little further ahead; same river but a different view !

Photo of That quintessential trip in the Himalayas: Manali to Leh in September by Raj Abhishek

Some more wildlife that had come down from the higher reaches, thanks to the snow that had fallen last night probably !

Photo of That quintessential trip in the Himalayas: Manali to Leh in September by Raj Abhishek
Photo of That quintessential trip in the Himalayas: Manali to Leh in September by Raj Abhishek

and now .. that ‘desert’ feel as well !

Photo of That quintessential trip in the Himalayas: Manali to Leh in September by Raj Abhishek

We rode on flat surface for quite some time before we started climbing again towards Taglang La pass; it would be our highest so far !

Photo of Taglang La by Raj Abhishek

At Taglang La .. 17500+ ft.

Photo of Taglang La by Raj Abhishek

On the other side !

Photo of Taglang La by Raj Abhishek

It was another 2+ hours before we reached near Leh and had our lunch. We crossed picturesque towns/villages on the way. I had never seen mountains of such varied colors up so close. Alas ! A pic could not be taken, courtesy our non-cooperative driver who doesn’t deserve to be recommended anymore. None the less, we enjoyed the ride to our fullest, as also the wind on our faces !

Indus river joined us now and we rode close to it throughout the rest of our journey to the capital city of Ladakh. Soon enough, Leh welcomed us into it’s fold and we settled down for the night. There was going to be no dearth of sights that we were to savor during the next week, but those are for my next write-up !

So Long !

Driving into Leh !

Photo of Leh by Raj Abhishek
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