Day 9 Leh to Sarchu (250 kms)
We prepared ourselves for most difficult part of the trip to cross the most dreaded passes of the Himalayas having an average height of 13000 ft, the Tang la (17480 ft), Lachung la (16600 ft), Naki la (15547 ft), the Baralacha la (16040 ft) and the Rohtang la (13051) before entering the honeymooners paradise Manali. This part of the journey requires one to stay at Pang, Sarchu or Jispa, depending on the progress one could make.
The roads leading to these passes are mere dirt tracks, full of gravel, mud, boulders due to constant landslides, and deep water crossings. It required exceptional control on ones vehicle, emotions and concentration, whether you were in control of a truck, car or a motorcycle. A mere loss of concentration would lead to a quick descend down the mountain roads. At 5:00 pm in the evening, we reached Sarchu and decided to call it the day. Sarchu has very basic tent accommodations. If you are traveling alone, you may have to share these dormitory style tents at 150 per bed.
However we were lucky to negotiate a full dormitory of 10 beds for a price of 800 rupees for the night at Hotel Khardungla Tents. This was a perfect place to stay, as it was exceptionally well managed by a local family. Its kitchen was beautifully stocked with standard bradnded items which were not available elsewhere, including rare stuff like Amul cheese, butter, bread, Nilon’s pickles, Tetley tea, Maggie Hot & Sweet sauce and what not. The owner was a very talented cook.
The next day was started with a hearty breakfast of omelets, baked beans with breads, paranthas and tea with our hosts in Sarchu. We had conversation with truckers to know the road conditions ahead. The news was not encouraging. We were supposed to cross more than 12 knee deep water crossings on our way to Manali. This psyched up all the riders for what lay ahead.
Day 10 Sarchu to Manali (230 kms)
Hour later we passed the Gatta loops which is a combination of 21 hairpin bends which elevates you by almost 450 meters, the More Plains, leading to Pang. The dreaded Lachung la and Baralacha la pass awaits you on the other side of the road. Baralacha la can easily be termed as a Snow dessert. This is perhaps the coldest and the most difficult of all passes to cross your way to Manali.
After passing Darcha and Jispa, we stopped over in Keylong for lunch, in a restaurant frequented by bikers from all over India, which we presumed from the number of stickers put up on their entranceway. It had wonderful scenery to be enjoyed from all three sides of the restaurant. Packed with energy, we made our way to Tandi. This small village enroute to Manali has been made famous because of the only petrol station between the Leh Manali highway. It was time to tank up the bikes for the penultimate destination, Manali.
Next on our list was to cross the last of the high altitude passes on the Leh Manali highway, the Rohtang la, which literally means a pile of corpses. The road conditions were made worse by the high mountain winds, which many a times affected the balance of the motorcycles. The higher we went, the worse the weather was. Finally it started drizzling at the highest point. We wanted stop for a tea and some photos, but the weather had the better of us, and we had no choice but to descend down to Manali, which was still a good 50 kms away from the top.
Manali, which used to be frequented by trekkers, weed smokers and hippies at one point in time, is perhaps today India’s most crowded hill resort. So much that one may be caught up in traffic jams up to 5 kms long. Today being a weekend the situation was even worse. This meant we had to put up in a shabbiest of hotels of this trip, but the most expensive none the less.
We were extremely tired due to the difficult ride of the day and hence after a session of drinks and dinner, everybody went to bed in quick succession. Initially it was planned to stay in Manali for 2 days, however the mad rush and expensive accommodations made us change our plan. We checked out at 12 noon to descend to Chandigarh the same day.