Manali, nestled on the foot of the giant Rohtang Jot (Mound Of Skulls)and on the bank of the Beas river, is an evergreen area with Pine and Deodar Trees surrounding the town. We will start early and cross the Beas river over Manali town bridge in the middle of the market and proceed to Palchan the Army Check post. The Beas river flows on the left side of the road. Passing through a small Hamlet town we take the first set of hairpin bends on the Serpentine road on the road to Rohtang. Be prepared to a total contrast in weather from the partly sunny Manali. There will be fog and mild rain. O/Nt Marhhi in Camp.
The 17 Kms to Rohtang jot is all ascend. After a welcome cup of tea in one of the little Parachute cafes on the Pass ride downhill till Koksar bridge. If the weather is clear there are some scenic views of snow-covered peaks and Glaciers in the far horizon. As we descend there is change in vegetation, the tree line seems to be getting away from us making way for small bushes. We are in the foothills of the Pir Panjal range. After crossing the check post follow the river flow till Tandi. At certain points we will abandon the bank, climbing uphill but we will be moving more or less along the river. In case the sun is out weather can be warm and Humid, but the nights will be cold being on the riverbank and open area. We will encounter some unmetalled stretches of road today after Koksar till Gondla, and cross a few mountain streams flowing over the road. O/Nt Camp.
At the confluence point of River Chandra and Bhaga cross the bridge and proceed uphill to Keylong town. Enroute is Gemur as we ascend the serpentine road into a gorge. Ahead lies the Jispa hamlet town as we come out of the gorge and descend downhill. The Ibex hotel at Jispa is the last comfortable hotel till we reach Leh town. It's again a green belt for sometime where you will see many shepherds and their sheep scattered on the hillsides. We are almost in the Land of Lamas now. Infact Keylong does support a small Gompa. After crossing Jispa one is definitely in an isolated region and in far horizon you can distinctively see the bareness of the Higher Himalayan ranges. O/nt camping at Darcha.
Day 5 : Darcha - Patseo - Baralacha La - Bharatpur - 55 Kms.
Darcha can be considered the gateway to the Higher Himalayas as we cross the bridge and proceed on the hairpin bends uphill. Now it is going to be all ascend till we come to the cantonment area of military garrison of Himmatnagar, Appx - 20 Kms ahead. For next 10 Kms we are into the flat area and then down hairpin bends of Patseo and Zing Zing Bar as we move into the harsh terrain of the arid mountains. The sun suddenly seems hotter than before and the atmospheric pressure make the ride today a bit more challenging. But there are little signs painted in yellow on the rocks - When the going gets tough the Tough get going! - boosting our Spirits as we ascend the heights of the Baralacha Pass - 4892 M and Suraj Tal Lake . The Icy blue water and the origin of the river at the top of the bend that brings us closer to the Pass is a post for the road construction worker toiling hard everyday to maintain the roads as best as they can under the harsh conditions. It is time now for mountain river crossings. Twice we will be in the middle of water. We will descend down to the gorge area of Bharatpur, a small make shift Tentage accommodation area and night halt for the Truck drivers on their way with fresh supplies to the higher regions. O/Nt Camp.
Day 6 : Bharatpur - Sarchu - 4253 M - Brandy Nallah - 35 Kms.
The Day starts with an easy ride on a flat road, downhill and then entering a gorge descending to the bridge connecting to the Sarchu Plateau. Cross over the bridge and we move ahead ascending a small uphill road making us move to the plateau area and now ahead lies another vast stretch flat ground with shepherds and their mountain goats. There are a number of features of arid landscapes with some beautiful scenery, a delight for photographers who are looking for high rise mountain ranges, bearing water marks and erosion of soil clearly indicating that the area was under water a few million years ago. The area is sparsely green, the wind is chilly and fast blowing here. We are at the Traffic Check post, which is the entry point into Ladakh. Another 20 Kms ahead on the base of the Gata loops hair pin bends we will camp for the night at Brandy Nallah. The road though metalled is very bumpy with flat stretches of barren land on both sides.
Day 7 : Brandy Nallah - Gata loops - Naki la - Lachungla - Pang - 57 Kms.
After an easy day yesterday we now move to scale the Gata loops, 23 hairpin bends bringing us top of the mountain feature. We ride up hill, over an easy slope only to cross the Naki La pass, descend down into the gorge to an isolated military garrison area and then ascend again to the height of the Lachulung la - 5065 M. After Naki La we are almost on an unmetalled stretch of gravelly road all the way inside the gorge of Pang. O/Nt Camp.
Day 8 : Pang - More Plains - Tanglangla (Base Camp ) - 47 Kms.
Eight Kms uphill from the Bowl-like feature of Pang we come to the plateau area of the More plains. Changpas, the Nomadic people who tend their yaks here and a few wild asses are the only sign of life on this isolated and long road. This belt not only barren but is known for fast blowing winds, sandstorms and extreme temperatures in the early morning and evenings. Fresh stream water can be considered a scarcity in this area though you might find some isolated mountain streams flowing down from the Tanglangla. The ride is easy going being a flat plateau area, but the road, which stretches on ahead, is not as smooth as it looks. There are tiny bumps all along! O/Nt Camp at the base of Tanglang La.
We proceed early to scale the World's second highest pass, Tanglang la - 5,360 M. The ride for the next 17 Kms is a challenge for even the fittest of riders, weather being cold early in the morning, with gravelly stretches of the road consuming extra energy, riding over the altitude of 17,000 Ft will be an acid test for the mind and Body. Reaching the top is a very satisfying experience and then it's all down hill with smooth gradients till the base of the Pass. After crossing a small mountain river it is time to find civilisation again! The Chortens along the road in the villages announce our arrival in the heart of Buddhist culture. The greenery changes the landscape, and the red coloured mountains surrounding us and reflected in the river only add to the beauty as we hit Rumtse and Gya for O/Nt Camp.
For next 20 Kms we ride on some metalled and unmetalled stretches of roads and cross over the Upshi bridge across the river Indus. The river originates in China and crosses over into India somewhere in the higher regions of these great Himalayan ranges. The road condition improves considerably as we follow more traffic from the cantonment area and local villages going to Leh. Ahead lies the Thiksey Monastery and the Chortens Garden before we finally enter Leh Town . The ride is easy and we can expect to reach Leh by evening. O/Nt Hotel Leh
A much required day for relaxing and maintenance of the Bicycles. A comfortable bed, hot water and a relaxed day is the only way to be after the tough conditions we have ridden over in the last few days!
The weather on the pass is not always very reliable and an early start is called for. The journey from Leh till the North Pullu Check post, Appx 20 Kms, is fair enough to warm up, with some easy uphill ride. After North Pullu one has to gear up more. The roads are under maintenance and construction thus the ride is bumpy and as we proceed ahead it becomes a gravel track and the ride becomes more and more challenging. But reaching the top is worth every bit of the effort and sweat! Its the highest motorable pass in the world, and not many dare to bicycle their way up to 18,380 Ft. The Truck awaits on top of Khardung la for the cycles to be loaded and brought back to Leh town. We will ride back comfortably in 4 Wheel drive vehicles taking time for photography. O/Nt in Leh.
This day we normally keep as the back up day, in case, due to any unforeseen reason we have not made it up to Khardung La the day before. If we have been there we can visit the surrounding areas of Leh for a sight seeing trip. River Rafting in the Indus river can be arranged. Or just relax for another day in this quaint little town. O/Nt Hotel in Leh.