S: THE ROAD MANALI-LEH-SRINAGAR
1: MANALI -– LEH- – SRINAGAR | THIS HAS BEEN OUR SINCERE EFFORT TO BE HONEST IN WRITING AND SHOWING THE CONTENTS OF THIS ALBUM DURING AND AFTER THE TRIP. | This album contains the places that we have visited. This album contains the photos that we have taken. This album contains the memories that we have cherished. This album contains the lessons that we have learnt. This album contains the friendship that we have earned. More importantly this album contains the feelings that we have felt. *Nishit *Mahesh | As I write and highlight the photographs in this album, none of this would have been possible without the support of my family who believed in me and my capabilities. I dedicate my trip and this album to my loving family who understands me more than me and hope to make them proud as always. mahesh
2: Date: 18.07.2012 We started our journey in the evening at around 4pm, by 6pm we were at near Rohtang, Marhi. Having taken 2 men tent with us we decided to spend the night at Rohtang. By 6.30pm we had erected the tent and were ready to call it a day by slipping into our sleeping bags. To our surprise the wind started blowing heavily and in no time we had a heavy down pour of rain. The drops were so big that we feared the tent to collapse on us. It was 10pm, waiting for the rain to stop and to catch on with sleep we were hopeful that the rain would stop but the Rain Gods had something else in their mind. Hours passed by and no sign of relief, so we decided to take shelter under the roof of a dhaba nearby. Because we were in each other's good company, we did not realize how the time flew. By 4am we folded the otherwise unused tent and started our journey to KOKSAR via Rohtang for morning breakfast.
3: 19.07.2012 ROHTANG LA (LA IN THE TIBETAN LANGUAGE MEANS A "PASS"): Situated at an altitude of 3987 meters above sea level, this pass separates Manali on one side and Lahaul region on the other side. Unarguably the smallest of all the passes to Leh. ROHTANG is the most spoilt of all. The pass is not so tall but the road is worst, as there are numerous waterfalls and nallahs running through the road. At a point tires stick half into the slush and mud. Rohtang is 53 kilometers away from Manali. Half the fun is in reaching the pass. The road from Marhi to Rohtang (15 km) is always cloud covered, and the view is excitement generating at every nook and turn. All along the road, the snow peaks are seen; there are pines and deodars around. As the pass approaches, a glimpse of the massive peaks of Lahaul becomes more and more visible. The scene around is awesome. , Rohtang is the last place on Manali-Leh highway where you are going to feel clouds. After Rohtang, the clouds are out and the geography on other side is entirely different.
7: As we moved from KOKSAR after the breakfast, we saw a picturistic site on our left. The nature had carved a heart shape in the mountain and a waterfall to highlight it. It was a perfectly carved heart, symbolizing the local people who are warm to welcome guest.
14: 20.07.2012 SARCHU: This stretch has some good view of plains on both the sides. Sarchu is the last Himachal village before entering the region of Ladakh. After Baralachha La, the scene changes within 30 km or so. The densely clad peaks are no longer seen, and only slightly snow clad peaks may be seen. The terrain now becomes rocky and there is a lot of sand as well, but not like the desert. Sarchu is the commonest place for an overnight halt on Manali Leh Highway as it comes almost midway in the 484 km route. The road looks easy but it can be really bad on a rider as you may lose concentration and over speed. The road is straight but you cannot judge and anticipate the bumps until you come close to them. We had a rider from another group who did not notice the bumps and had a fatal accident (his handle bar got loose and could not balance the bike, ultimately falling on the face) There are dhabas and tents for accommodation. We stayed in one of the tents for a night. This place will cause you high altitude sickness, in case of MJS one of our rider. You will get headaches and not know what is going on, having elusions and even nausea. Drink lots of water and breathe heavy. Sleeping for a while helps control the temper and your body. After a night stay here we left the next morning for Kangla Jal.
19: THE PLACE OF OFFERING: Hearing about accidents is common when you are on the road to Leh. Because of the terrain, weather and the attitude of travelers anything can happen in an otherwise perfect weather condition. So is true in case of this place during crossing Tanglangla Pass. It so happened years ago, that a vehicle met with an accident and the driver died because of thirst. The body of the driver was cremated but the skull was kept in the exact place where it was found. Since then, it is a belief with the locals that if you offer water to the skull, your journey would be blessed by the guarding spirit of the dead man who lost his life due to thirst. Having heard this and being at that spot we too offered our water for the safe passage and completion of our journey
26: THE PLAINS: Wondering what this is, right? Well, first, 'the plains' is the best feature of the Manali Leh Highway. The most exciting and captivating and something out of the world. There is a stretch of some 43 km from Pang to a place called Debring. In this stretch, the terrain is plain and extremely wide, and the mountains equidistant on both sides of the road. After you climb a mountain, you expect to climb it down in normal circumstances. But here, after Pang, when you ascend through a series of hair pin bends, at the top, you see ahead not a valley, but a never ending plain, which is itself at a height of more than 3500 to 4000 meters. And so massively wide with mountains at both sides. And the road traverses midway through the plains. The air being thin, the distant appears near yet so far. You can imagine. Now see ahead. The plain appears never ending. And all those peaks seem so away. The road here is also good, and your vehicle can easily reach good speeds. The mountains on both sides, do not appear very high, the main fact being you yourself are at a height of 4000 meters, so there is very little left of most mountains above this height, as they themselves are 6000 to 7000 meters in height. The terrain is completely barren, except some stray grass and shrubs that may grow here and there. This area does not receive rainfall. This experience of the plains, that too for a full 43 km, is thrilling. After Debring, ascent again starts to climb towards Tanglang La, the second highest motor able road on earth, at 5360 meters above sea level.
30: TANGLANGLA PASS: the second last of all the passes from Manali to Leh, it is a sign of relief and an achievement to have cross it. Tanglang La Pass, regarded as the second highest mountain pass in Ladakh, is located in between the snow-clad mountains of the Great Himalayas. Perched at a height of about 5,359 m, it lies in Leh District of Jammu and Kashmir. Tanglang La pass cuts through the Zanskar Range. Icicles hanging from the cliff face in the shade create a mesmerizing sight while crossing the pass. It is sometimes incorrectly claimed to be the world’s second highest motor able pass at an altitude of 5,325 m. (17,469 feet). It is, however, the second highest motor able mountain pass in India after Khardung La and is reached via 21 Ghat loops. The whole terrain was a test of our riding skills and as we reached at 0 point on this pass, we felt elevated as we were on the 2nd highest motor able road in the India. It took us 2 nights and a day to reach here. The road through which we reached here was a puzzle as we were busy looking for a road in open sandy road. The stretch was long and we had to negotiate sand storms as the vehicles ahead us would cause them. After much balancing and taking in about a tone of sand we managed to clear this pass too. After descending from Tanglang La, 29km from Tanglang La, comes Rumtse, which is the first inhabitation on the Ladakh side of MLH. The last village on the Himachal side was Dharcha, 5 km from Jispa. So from Dharcha to Rumtse, i.e. for a stretch of almost 254 km, there is no sign of any habitation and the area is completely deserted, except of course, for the brave and dedicated Indian Army Personnel, who have setup camps along the route at some places. But they are temporary. No one can stay here in winter. It's humanly impossible because of the most hostile climate.
32: LEH Mostly, you will be travelling on the last several km of manali-leh highway in the late evening and there is fairly good light even up to 7 o’clock, so we get a glimpse of the desert environs, with the river Indus. Leh is so green and a big town, with electricity, and all modern amenities, we was surprised, and happy. Anyways, when you reach Leh, you will be accompanied by the Flowing Indus. A typical city, with the backdrop of clay like mountains and snow clad peaks, and dense brown everywhere, with green around Leh. Your first glance of the place will have a lasting impression on your mind. On tar roads riding 200 kms in one day is understood, but in this terrain even 150 kms in a day is laudable. We did the entire stretch from Sarchu to Leh guest house in one day touching the gates of the city at 20.30 hrs and that by 22.00 hrs settle ling comfortably into our rooms. After shredding a tone of Mori Plains sand from our body we slept peacefully to embrace next morning.
33: L E H
34: 21.07.2012 Next morning, the city of Leh was a refreshing experience and full of excitement like a new born. The people, the landscape, the weather and our entire ride was the reason of our state of excitement.
37: GOMPA Gompa overlooks the city of LEH. The route to this Gompa is very steep and slippery. Since it is a part of the old palace, and very near to the city, one can visit it during early morning or early evening. It has a big statue of the lord Buddha, with its grand paintings and elaborate artifacts. One thing we enjoyed the most here was, again taking the pics of Leh city.
45: SHANTI STUPA: This monument lies in the city of Leh, famous for various meditation programs. The monument gets a life of its own during sunset. The dome is lit with warm red colored lights. Since we did not have to ride a lot to reach this monument as it was near our guest house, so we chose to visit it at dusk. Equipped with our camera and lenses we spent about 2 hours taking pics from all possible angles and different camera settings. With light breeze and a distant view of sandy mountains it was a picture perfect set for any form of cinema. Having taken the pics from 2 different cameras, quickly we turned out this setting into a photography workshop. Debating and discussing the performance to these cameras. At last boys will always be boys, so we put the cameras into the bags and headed for a nearest restaurant for dinner.
46: 22.07.2012 changla Pass, Ladakh- We could barely breathe at this altitude! Rode 100 kms from Leh towards Pangong Tso to cross this pass. Upon reaching 0 point on this pass one feels the need to breathe heavily as the oxygen level is less. These are second highest motorable road in the world at 17, 800 feet. The experience is amazing, most of the time you are gasping for breath. Breathtaking views all around We stopped for about 5 mins to take the pics and refresh ourselves with the tea made by army jawans. There is an Army post for medical and refreshment purpose. By far one of the difficult terrains to ride on. Here we encountered many small waterfalls cutting into the road. Some waterfalls had our bikes submerged half into like the one below. The water looks calm from far but has current underneath, easily it can skid the bike. Also, what you cannot judge are the boulders that come along the waterfall. Crossing this was a challenge to our riding skills and we did it.
55: Pan gong Tso is an endorheic lake in the Himalayas situated at a height of about 4,350 m (14,270 ft). It is 134 km (83 mi) long and extends from India to Tibet. 60% of the length of the lake lies in China. The lake is 5 km (3.1 mi) wide at its broadest point. All together it covers 604 km2. During winter the lake freezes completely. Pan gong Tso is in disputed territory. The Line of Actual Control passes through the lake. A section of the lake approximately 20 km east from the Line of Actual Control is controlled by India but claimed by China. The eastern end of the lake is in Tibet and is not claimed by India. The western end of the lake is not in dispute. PANGONG TSO: The most picturesque part of the whole journey, PANGONG Lake is about 130 kms from Leh but when you reach this place all your problems, all that fatigue, and all that skidding and braking is long forgotten. The sky has never been so blue and the mountains never seem to lose their color. Here, light reflects the water and hits straight into the sky, giving us a sense of delusions of the world upside down. There is a mystery about this place, something no words can speak of. The sun is brightest of all and the shades of the color blue will mesmerize you and compel you to think “how on earth is this place”. Since we had left early in the morning from Leh and hardly stopped anywhere, finding a room was on our priority. We happily confirmed an accommodation for a small room made up of mud and untied our luggage from the bikes and settled in our comfort zone. Because we rode about 130 kms on 2 bikes, we bought some petrol from the local dhabas on a premium rate and rode further for about 10 – 15 kms. This spot was as close as we could get of Pangong. We spent about an hour sitting on the banks and taking every bit of the air that could fit into our lungs, every bit of the light that reflected into our eyes. Time stood for us and we were lost into Pangong timeline.
72: 24.07.2012 Khardung La is widely, but incorrectly, believed to be the world's highest motor able pass. Khardung La in Ladakh, India’s northernmost part is one of the highest motor able mountain passes in the world. I used to think it was the highest, but apparently, although the sign at the top “18 380 ft, HIGHEST MOTORABLE ROAD IN THE WORLD”, it’s actually not 18 380 ft high but quite a bit less (17 582 or so) and it’s not the highest motor able road in the world. It’s maybe the second highest, or possibly third. Although Khardungla Pass is just 50 kms from Leh city, but the terrain is most treacherous with round and sharp boulders in the way. Riders have difficulties in negotiating them and not cause a tyre problem. The stretch from South Pullu to Khardungla top is just 14 kms, but being at 18000 + feet snow is found 10 months out of 12. Reaching the top from South pullu takes 2 – 3 hrs in normal weather conditions (July – aug) which for us was not an exception. Reaching this point gives a feeling of becoming eternal and you start to look down upon people who have not experienced it. Suddenly you become strong in your thoughts and actions (not to forget that one cheers with your fellow riders).Originally when the trip was planned, going to Khardungla was an option. But when you ride on a bullet to Leh it is disrespectful and foolish to not include Khardungla into your itinerary. This road is famous the world over for being what it is, and one must visit it if you are in this part of the globe. With many dhaja’s (the flags with chants inscribed on them) tied on the road and the Road signs claiming such a feat, reaching this point gives goose bumps.
76: 25.07.2012 People like to see new things every time, so was the case here. Riding from Manali to Leh was amazing but the idea of going back the same route was not so challenging and enticing. So what was as a casual idea, it turned out to be promising to make a round trip to Srinagar and then to Delhi. LEH to SRINAGAR: We left Leh with many memories and heavy luggage on our bike to reach Srinagar via the FOTULA Top, one of the passes to Srinagar. Crossing which we reached Kargil for a night halt. Being the month of RAMZAN, Kargil town was deserted after dusk for the prayers. We felt as if the whole town was at our disposable. As we were in a town which was so close to Pakistan border, we preferred to stay inside of our comfort room and relax for the next day ride.
80: 26.07.2012 Having done all the packing early in the morning at 3am we left for Drass and ZOZILA. What would we know that what we will face in the next 18 kms would change our perspective towards life.Trouble comes uninvited and help comes to deaf ears. This seems to be the norm these days, but what we experienced at Kargil has to be applauded and talked about. After getting stuck at Kargil with a puncture, it left us frustrated. All the efforts bore no fruits. Stranded alone with no civilization around discourages you and leaves you dejected. One of the riders went to fix the tyre and the other one was stranded and guarding the bikes and luggage, this was the time when this third rider(RAJESH DESMUKH) out of no where stayed every second of the minute of the hour encouraging and calming the situation. His friendly and helping nature made us into a team and made our group one man stronger. Those 12 hours spent together made us learn one of the best kept secrets of mental toughness. Applying the state of mind in these situations to other facet of life makes decision making more mature and reliable. We left Kargil early in the morning 3am before sunrise hoping to cross Drass and Zozila before the heavy army convoy. But as we rode 15 kms one of the bike’s tyres punctured and we started to repair with the tools and spare tube. Not knowing about the technique and method we even punctured the new tubes as we put it inside the tyre. The sun rose and we knew that we were wasting precious time. Knowing about a tyre shop not very far one of us took a lift and went to the mechanic to repair the faulty tyre. To add to our misery the mechanic did not have a proper machine to fill air. Somewhat we repaired the tyre, fixed it and rode ahead. Just as we reached another km or so, again the tyre punctured and this time it was for good. Having faced the difficulty at the mechanic with his machine we decided to attend to the tyre by ourselves. Sometimes being stubborn helps, but this day the bike had something else in her mind. It must have been at least 12 hours before we finally got the tyre ready and left for Sonemarg passing ZOZILA.
82: TIGER HILL
87: 27.07.2012 Riding our last leg of the trip was piece of cake. Now that our pack was 3 men strong we felt the kings on chariots. Our riding was more confident, more comfortable and easier than before. After riding through the passes and mountains, the ride on the plains seemed a joke. In no time did we leave sonmarg, Dal Lake and its houseboats were at stone's throw.
89: DAL LAKE: The moment we reached SRINAGAR city we started looking for the famous Dal Lake and the house boats. After trespassing and negotiating through the traffic we finally managed to locate Dal Lake. Looked for a decent house boat and managed to secure one. Since we were riding we did not have the liberty to bathe, so like how a fish takes to water we had king's shower after almost a week. The lake looked magnificent with house boats floating on them. One starts to think how man can adapt to nature and the way it lives, there are people whose entire life depends on this lake. There are shops selling daily needs, shops selling, furniture, shops selling handicraft etc, all on house boats. Though at times we had weird sensation when the house boat moved every time there was a ripple in the lake. We took this opportunity to click pictures and do some sightseeing on the shikara. The evening looked fantastic with sun setting down behind the Srinagar fort, What a nice moment to end our ride. Dal Lake is a lake in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. The urban lake, which is the second largest in the state, is integral to tourism and recreation in Kashmir and is nicknamed the "Jewel in the crown of Kashmir". The lake is also an important source for commercial operations in fishing and water plant harvesting. The shore line of the lake, about 15.5 km , is encompassed by a boulevard lined with Mughal era gardens, parks, houseboats and hotels. Scenic views of the lake can be witnessed from the shore line Mughal gardens, such as Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh built during the reign of Mughal Emperor Jahangir) and from houseboats cruising along the lake in the colorful shikaras. During the winter season, the temperature sometimes reaches 11 C (12 F), freezing the lake.
91: There is something of the marvelous in all things of nature. -Aristotle