Himalayan Saga

Ghanshyam Attavar
Monday, March 5, 2018

In a quest to witness the high snow covered mountains and encounter the natural beauty of India I set out to explore the Leh-Ladakh region in the Jammu and Kashmir state of India. My Himalayan expedition began from Manali to Leh on a motorcycle with a team of bikers scheduled for 9 days.

As the first phase to the journey we reached Delhi which was our pick-up point to Manali. The same evening, we started our overnight journey from Delhi to Manali in a Volvo. In spite of being scheduled to reach Manali in the morning, we managed to reach the bus stand only by 1:00 pm, due to the huge traffic caused by the festivities in the region. Since Interstate transport buses were not allowed to enter Manali city, we had to be transferred to jeep/pick-up vehicles to reach our hotel.

As we shifted the luggage from the bus to the jeep, something that we never expected happened to our friend. He just had small jump or I can recall it as a hop while placing our luggage on the top of the SUV. Alas….!!! His right ankle elbow got dislocated…... Our entire team was shocked and couldn’t believe that a small hop can cause such a major injury. We immediately rushed him to a nearby hospital where X-rays and medical aid was given. Thankfully the doctor, immediately responded, diagnosed and fixed the problem. He prescribed some medications & strongly recommended two days of complete rest while bike riding was not at all permitted for him.

This placed me in a nerve wrecking situation as my friend was a main rider and I was just a pillion. It was a real test for me to show my driving capabilities almost proving like a “do or die” situation. I had never driven a 500 cc heavy bullet bike in my lifetime and here I was being expected to go on a bike expedition with a team of other bikers.

I tried in vain to convince myself until I got the bike keys in my hand and performed a test drive. It was only after a satisfactory test drive that I began to relax and felt comfortable about the journey ahead.

We started our Himalayan Saga bike tour with optimism, good hope, enthusiasm and curiosity to explore new things.

Day 1: Manali-Rohtang Pass-Jispa (130 km/6hrs):
As per the plan we headed towards Rohtang Pass and reached the top of Rohtang Pass with difficulty as there was a lot of traffic due to the festival season. The pass is an absolute scenic beauty and attracts many tourists.

Next was a downhill ride i.e. Rohtang pass to Jispa. The road was very bad & bumpy. On the way to Jispa we stopped at Khoksar village to have lunch. There were a few dhabas which severed good food with reasonable prices. After lunch we headed towards Jispa beside the Chenab River. The river flow was very vibrant and it was treat for our eyes. In the evening we reached our destination point. Our night stay was in a Camp which was situated near to gushing stream which connects the river.

Day 2: Jispa to Sarchu:
Morning the day was very pleasant and photogenic. Jispa camp was surrounded with mountains, greenery, farm areas, and watercourse alongside. We captured the scenic beauty in our cameras as well as our hearts.

After breakfast we started our journey towards Sarchu which is 80 km. Road from Jispa to Sarchu included long and deep water crossing and it was a great thrill to cross it in bikes. Next we came across Suraj Tal Lake, third highest lake in India, which is located at a distance, few kilometers from the Baralacha- La. This pass is one of the highest mountain pass. The pass serves as a connecting point between Lahaul and Ladakh at a height of over 4,850 m (15,912 ft.).

Around 3.00 p.m. we reached Sarchu. The Camp was situated at a very high altitude and the place was very windy.

In Sarchu we faced Acute mountain sickness (AMS) which is caused by acute exposure to low partial pressure of oxygen at high altitude. Dizziness, nausea, headaches, and shortness of breath are some symptoms of this condition. However, there is no need to panic as it can be prevented by drinking plenty of water. Also it is better to carry doctor prescribed medicine (like Diamox) and a mini Oxygen cylinder in case of emergency which is easily available in medical shops in Manali.
Night was very windy and temperature was around 2 degree C.
Day 3, Sarchu to Leh:
After breakfast we started our journey towards Leh. As we reached state borders i.e. from H.P to Jammu & Kashmir, we had to enter our details at the check post. Leh was at a distance of 250 km/6hrs. Initially ride, we experienced rough terrain till Pang. We stopped at Pang for lunch. The dhabas nearby provide noodles, rice-dal, chapathi-sabjee, momos, etc. Later the road was straight and good till we reached Tanglang La, the second highest pass in the world at height of 5,328 m (17,582ft.).

The Pass offered us an exciting experience of snow fall with mild rain. In the evening around 4.30 p.m. we reached Upshi. Basically Upshi is the gateway to Leh, wherein the city limits start. We stopped for a cup of chai and snacks and further proceeded to Leh. On the way to Leh we had a glance of Thiksay monastery, Shey Palace and Rancho’s school (3 idiots movie). We made a point to visit these places during the city tour.

Day 4, Leh:
We woke up in the morning, but were disappointed with downpour of rain which was not expected at this time of year at Leh. Not wasting the time in the hotel we started exploring Leh, firstly we went to the Tibetan market and purchased the rain coats. The markets are run by refuges of Tibet.

We spent some time in exploring the City, but couldn’t spend much time outside due to the heavy rains.

Day 5, Leh to Khardung La:
Today we started riding to Khardung La which is highest motorable peak in the world. Road trip was a real adventure; we bathed in snow and drove through the clouds at an altitude of 5,486 m (18,000ft.) It was heaven on earth.

When the destination was just 3 to 4 km away from the peak, the weather deteriorated, forcing us to take U-turn.

However, the remaining day we visited Thiksay monastery and Shey Palace. Both places were located in the same line i.e. the Leh-Upshi road.

Thiksay monastery is located on the top of a hill in Thiksay village, approximately 19 kms from Leh City. It houses many items of Buddhist art such as stupas, statues, wall paintings, etc. The surrounding place is very calm, neat and peaceful.

It was slightly getting dark and we were running out of time. After exist from monarchy we headed towards Shey Palace.

Shey Palace is one of the oldest Monasteries in the Ladakh region situated on the hillock. The palace is built in sixteenth century. Inside there is huge statue of Lord Buddha with copper gilded rising to a height of 3-storeyed building.

We were at elevation of 3,352 m (11,000 ft.) and enjoyed the mesmerizing natural beauty from the palace. Later we arrived at the city and enjoyed the locally prepared fried momos which is consumed as snack item in the evening. We did some local street shopping too.

Day 6, Leh to Pangong Lake:
Today’s trip was to visit Pangong Lake, world’s highest saltwater lake shared by India & China. We went in a Tempo traveler which was 5 to 6-hour /150 km drive from Leh. On the way we stopped at Chang La 5,391 m (17688 ft.), the third highest pass. It was very cold and best choice to have a cup of hot coffee.

We continued our journey towards the lake witnessing beautiful hills and valleys. We encountered Himalayan marmot, the local animal. We reached around 3.00 p.m. with a hungry stomach. Had a moderate lunch and started roaming around the lake.

The very popular 3-idiots movie climax scene was picturized at this serene location.

The lake considered as a sacred lake is very calm and quiet. It is said that during winter the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water. Boating is not allowed in the lake for safety reasons. There were many restaurants/dhabas and also Camps/Tents available for night stay. We enjoyed the place and clicked loads of photos which will be for memories.

Day 7 & 8 Leh to Sarchu & Manali:
After enjoying the whole of Leh, we started our return journey to Manali via Sarchu, again experiencing the mountains, hills and valleys, peaks, passes.

On Day 7 we stayed at same Sarchu Camp and this time we didn’t feel much problem, as we adapted to those climatic condition.

Next day we started riding towards Manali via Rohtang and there was no traffic jam as we faced on the first day. We reached Manali late afternoon around 3 p.m. and checked in the same hotel and rested for the remaining day.

Day 9 Manali City tour:
Today, the last day of the trip was dedicated to explore Manali city. We went to the Hidimbi Devi Temple, also known largely as the Hadimba Temple. It is an ancient cave temple about 400 years old dedicated to Hidimbi Devi, wife of Bhima. The temple is surrounded by a cedar forest at the foot of the Himalayas.

Later we had lunch and took rest waiting for our departure bus. In the evening we packed our luggage got into the bus for an overnight journey to Delhi.

Travel Tips:

•Manali-Leh highway remains open only during summer season (May to September). Hence Plan accordingly.
•Prior Permit is required in some areas like Rohtang pass & Khardung pass. Do carry driving license and any ID proof.
•You will experience all types of weather. Things to carry:
?Day time it may be very sunny, so do carry Sunglasses with UV protection, Sunscreen lotion/face moisturizer & lip cream.
?While going to highest peaks, if you’re lucky enough you can bath in the snow or rain. However, for protection, do carry Rain proof/wind proof jackets & pants, Ankle high shoes / gum boot, woolen socks & gloves.
?Generally, nights will be very cold therefore carry woolen clothes / Thermal inner wear.
•Take light meals. Avoid alcohol and smoking.
•Drink plenty of water to avoid altitude sickness and de-hydration. Better to carry doctor prescribed medicine (like Diamox) and a mini Oxygen cylinder in case of emergency.
•Since there will be continuous travel in bikes, padded cycling shorts helps you to sit for longer hours in the bike saddle.
•Remember that you have come to enjoy the valleys and not for rallies. You can enjoy the scenery while riding slow or moderate speed.
•Helmet is mandatory for both Rider & pillion. Also knee guard is recommended.

Thus Himalayan Saga ended up in a very good & safe manner with lot of experience to treasure.
Learn to Travel….. Travel to Learn…..

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Express your comment on this article

Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Hi Chander,
No problem in traveling with kids to Ladakh, in summer season.
However Motor bike tour can''t be done.
Avoid Sarachu & khardung la.
City Tour, monarchy & pangong lake can be visited without any difficulty.

Friday, June 1, 2018
I am planning to visit Leh Ladakh this summer vacation with family. my children aged 12 and 5 years. is there any problem to travel Leh and Ladakh region with children.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018
very well narrated.and appreciated for the tips given,......!!!!!

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