My hubby A, who was not much into adventure became an adventure junkie after our rafting experience. and after watching a Perilous Journey series on Discovery channel he suggested that we take a trip to Leh. Though he is asthmatic, though the journey promised to be very tough & though i was not too keen on this adventure (i wanted a leisure holiday at Goa with some water sports thrown in), he couldn’t give up the thought of Leh road trip and got me on board by including another rafting experience :).
He searched a lot on the internet (Thank God for Google!!) about the road ways to Leh and realized that there are two ways to reach Leh: One via Manali & another via Srinagar. He chose the Manali way as this one was more exciting. Also, he found out a travel agent who arranged all our travels from Manali onwards, made our hotel bookings at Manali & Leh.
The challenging part about the journey is the narrow winding roads, very high altitude (can lead to breathing trouble, nausea and dizziness) and harsh weather. Some of the highest motorable passes are on these roads. And you spend 2-3 days on road and spending nights in cloth tents in less than 0 degree temperature!!!Also this is not one of the run of the mill hill stations. You don’t see many people on the road from Manali to Leh, it’s kind of out of the world experience. Small Kids, elderly and people with fragile health are advised not to travel to Leh by road!!!
In June, 2009 we started from Hyderabad armed with lots of woolens and hubby’s inhaler (for his asthma). First, we reached Delhi and from there to Chandigarh by train. Here, A’s friend came to pick us up and we stayed at his place in Baddi (a place near Chandigarh, but in the state HP). This way we managed to be in 4 different cities in the same day!!!
Next day, in the morning after the breakfast of Parathas and a stock of 10 parathas (Thanks to Aunti) we started from Baddi to Chandigarh to catch the bus to Manali. From here we started getting the feel of the journey. In the long way we saw small villages, apple orchards & hardworking pahadi people.
Next day we had a full day in Manali. We started the day with river rafting in Beas, though the river looked more playful than Ganga, the rafting in Beas felt more like a boat ride compared to the one we had at Shivpuri. Nevertheless, even boat rides in such beautiful places can be enjoyable.
From here, we went to Manikaran, did the Darshan at the temple & Gurudwara, but couldn’t muster the courage to go the place where the hot water spring is situated. Though it is supposed to be pious, it looked completely the opposite with stale smell, stray dogs & algae. In the evening we strolled up to the Mal road, Day 1 over.
The hotel room at Manali was normal but had a striking feature about it that I loved. There was a big glass window, which oversaw green fields nearby & faraway mountains. And at the night sleeping in this room made me feel as if i was sleeping in the open under starry sky (but on a comfortable bed!!). Next day, we started from Manali for Leh and our first stop was Rohtang pass. On the way we had deliciously hot kulcha chole.
There was heavy traffic jam on the way & we realized that in this matter this place is no different than Big cities!! Once at Rohatang, we took the rubber tube ride down the snowy slope, wandered around for some time. But Digvijay- our driver suggested we better start early, he also promised that there are better spectacles than Rohtang on the way & he was damn right.
So finally, we were on the road to Leh. After crossing Rohtang, there wasn’t much traffic & initially the roads were good. The place felt like something out of the world. The first stop was picturesque Keylong, where we had our lunch. Then came a petrol pump, which had a threatening sign board: “Next filling station 365 Km Ahead”!!! And it must have been true, as Digvijay not only filled the tank but also stocked up the petrol in a can.
Meanwhile we were enjoying the beauty of the place & eating the chips & chocolates that we bought from Manali. (And being the good citizens that we are, we didn’t throw the empty packets on the road; we collected them in a box, later to be discarded at the hotel :)). After this, we went on & on. Now the traffic was very sparse. And suddenly we were on the snowy mountains. There was snowfall at Baralacha la & beyond!! Here the road was made by cutting the snow, as a result the road was between two walls of snow and yes you guessed it right, it is the same place where Shahid drives on and Kareena sings “Yeh Ishq hayee..”.
We stayed overnight at Sarachu, the place had swiss style tents. The evening was comfortable followed by a piping hot delicious dinner. The tent manager suggested that we have some alcohol, but we don’t drink and didn’t feel the need then. But at the night when the temperature dipped and snowy wind started blowing, we couldn’t sleep at all & kept checking on each other to ensure that the other is all right. I had kept our wet cloths (from rafting) outside the tent and in the morning i realized that the water in the cloths had turned to ice!!!
The morning was a relief, followed by the breakfast. We started our second day on the road with packed lunch & soon we were in the planes of Sarchu. Here we saw some scattered tents, where people used solar panels for electricity. These are basically gypsies. I wondered how they were managing to stay here!! The planes of Sarchu are just planes; you don’t see anything but big flat land, surrounded by high mountains. It feels like a place out of the “Need for Speed” game and Digvijay must have felt the same as he was driving pretty fast by now!!
I had a bout of nausea due to high altitude & lack of sleep. After some time we were back on the curvy dangerous roads. On the way there were small hut like tents which offered a place to sleep and hot thukpa (Noodle like delicacy), Maggie & tea/coffee, which we had ;). We saw people working on the road and were told that these are not locals but come from U.P. & Bihar. It must have been very difficult for them to work in such harsh weather and high altitude coming from the warm planes. These roads are maintained by Himank (an arm of Indian Army).
By around 4 pm we were on a breathtaking road, here on one side there was a high mountain looming on us like a wall & on the other side river flowing almost at the level of the road. After crossing this we could see some villages. There were Shanti Stupas & Ladakhi style homes, which was a refreshing site after mountains. Once we entered Leh region, the roads were nice and there were bare mountains as opposed to the ones at Manali or even at Keylong. The place looked so strange. Finally we reached the hotel, a nice small place with umbrellas in the Garden & terrace. I immediately decided that one of the days we should have our meal outside under the umbrella. We were welcomed by traditional Ladakhi ceremony & a Zule (greeting in Ladakhi). At last, we were in Leh and I was sure that this part of the adventure will be as exciting as the one we had.
More about the trip in next part till then enjoy the slideshow 🙂