Wishful Riding – A Partial Reality!

July 29, 2009 By:

Everyone who enjoyed the wishful Riding series would know what this means to me. This was an ever present dream, that itchy feeling which would not go away unless scratched. Well that itch has gone away (for now) coz I finally fulfilled my dream! partially as yet but still I can proudly say “I HAVE DONE IT!”

The Manali – Leh road trip has also been rated at No.4 in the top 5 road trips of the world. Wonder why? Then read on to get a glimpse of what makes it the Top 5.

June 27th 2009

After a week of postponing the ride plans due to technical and financial issues, and time issues and itinerary changes, we (three riders) finally hit the road for Mandi. made good time till Ropar where we stopped for lunch at 11:30 (who has lunch that early in the morning?????)

Break at Ropar for Lunch

Break at Ropar for Lunch

Once we wound up the hogging routine, it was nightmare. As the ascent started at Kiratpur, we realized that one of the bikes was lagging behind. Reached Swarghat, took a breather and decided to rectify the problem. The fuel mixture of the suffering bike was set too lean and as a result, it was just not getting enough petrol to give out the power it was supposed to. Tampered with the mixture screw and found that it was jammed and the only way to free it would be to drill out the jammed screw and put in a new one. Unfortunately, no workshop till Mandi was equipped to handle this task. Managed to hit Mandi by 7 in the evening, and asked around about who would be able to do the job. Located the dude with the drill, removed the carb and got the problem fixed or else we would not have been able to ride any further and checked into the hotel Spice Route on the NH 21. Simple, decent rooms with clean toilets and a more than decent pricing and some amazingly yummy food, which was served on the roof top with the gushing Sutlej giving us company in our drinking binge. The only drawback of the hotel was the absence of air conditioning which was very much required. However, even if it was present, it would have been worthless due to the low voltage supply. The reason for this is that the electricity supply was limited to Mandi town and this extension line was a temporary stopgap arrangement. In a month or two, the connection and supply would be regularized and then the AC’s would kick in and things would become rosy for the place and the travellers.

 

Sutlej as seen from the Hotel in Mandi

Sutlej as seen from the Hotel in Mandi

June 28th 2009

Decided to get up early (duh!) and be on our way to Keylong by 7. We had decided to give Manali a brush as it was filled with crazy tourists and the hotel rooms were hard to come by and even if we did manage to get one, we might just be paying through our nose there. Good thoughts but the implementation of the same is the difficult part.

Managed to get up by 8 and after a mandatory cup of tea, got our lazy bums moving to get ready for departure. Checked out of the hotel by 10 and we were well on our way to Keylong. a couple of kms ahead, we stopped to fill up our tummies with some bun-omelete…

Sushil, Yours Truly and Santosh

Sushil, Yours Truly and Santosh

The 110 kms were a dream as usual but this time around, the lack of rains was very visible. All things which should have been lush green were a depressing brown… dehydrated and parched and waiting for the Rain Gods to do their stuff… Even the Pandoh Dam was not looking its usual beautiful place. The water was gushing through the open gates but the surrounding areas were… well depressing.

Pandoh - Dry and arid landscape was depressing

Pandoh - Dry and arid landscape was depressing

Crossing the Pandoh, we hit a ascent and pretty soon we were zooming off. Reached the tunnel and it was the usual fare. Once you have done this route to death, like I have, you just dont see the spark which one gets on this route. Reached Kullu and decided to take a break.

Sipped on water and had chocolate and when we were about to leave, I twisted my foot. A real bad sprain as I could not even stand and had to take about 30 minutes just to be able to stand on it. Once I was confident that there was no fracture, we rode on but then realized that changing the gears was a really painful task. Had a strategic break and a huddle and decided not to go beyond Manali as it would mean unnecessary strain on the injured foot, we made arrangements for a hotel room in Vasisth. Reached the hotel, checked in and then started the recuperation procedure (not with the alcohol you ninny!) .

This time around, it was hot water soaks with all the desi jugaads we ever knew. Mustard Oil, Phitkari, Salt, and then someone suggested roasted crushed onions with haldi as a fomotation pack… That was surely something I had never heard of but was desparate to try even that… anything and everything to get back on my feet and to start riding.

Thankfully, just the hot water soak worked wonders and the next day, I was able to walk (limp around) and stand on my feet. The gear changing was still a bit of a pain but managed to figure out a way to reduce the strain on the ankle. Checked out of the hotel and were on our way to cross Rohtang on our way to Sarchu when all hell broke loose.

Ready for departure from Manali

Ready for departure from Manali

There was a huge pile up of vehicles on their way to Rohtang. We had managed to reach Palchan when we encountered the jam and decided to have a breakfast halt. This is where we also fixed the issue of gear slippage I was facing on BB. The jam cleared up in about 45 minutes and we started riding again. Then the road surface started acting up. Potholes the size of the entire road, no roads, rocky terrain, mud, slush, traffic and people… in enough numbers to drive anyone crazy resulted in us taking 3 hours to reach Marhi.

Horsing around in Marhi

Horsing around in Marhi

Rohtang Pass was another 10 Kms further up. Limped in at Rohtang and took a cursory halt for Maggi.

Manali - Rohtang Road

Manali - Rohtang Road

Rohtang Jot - A veritable ecological disaster with traffic jams, tourists and the pollution which

Rohtang Jot - A veritable ecological disaster with traffic jams, tourists and the pollution

Tibetan Girl at the Maggi stall

Tibetan Girl at the Maggi stall

30 minutes of wasting time later, we were on our way to Keylong. The other side of Rohtang was equally bad with the snow melt covering a patch of 3 kms and us having to ride in a river which was covering the road. Once he bad patch was over, we decided to take a breather and figure out our progress, which had been really slow due to our inexperience with this kind of riding surface. Every meter we had covered was done cautiously as we were aware of the remoteness of the location.

Lahaul Valley

Lahaul Valley

Hydration Break post Rohtang Pass

Hydration Break post Rohtang Pass

Hydration Break post Rohtang Pass

Hydration Break post Rohtang Pass

Decided to give the Sarchu stay a toss and decided to wing it the old fashioned way: Ride till sunset and then look for a place to crash for the night. Post this decision, we started a bit of relaxed riding and managed to reach Koksar, registered ourselves at the police Checkpost and moved on.

Waterfall near Koksar Check post

Waterfall near Koksar Check post

Butt Break ahead of Koksar

Butt Break ahead of Koksar

Got some welding work done in a small village called Gondhla and bumped into some riders from Delhi who were also riding to Leh. Unprepared with no spares, no spare fuel, tanks running on empty and not suitable attired… wearing slippers for riding on this terrain and no protective gear… well to each his own… I prefer safety over dashing swash buckling daring looks and was covered from head to toe (Helmet, Armoured Riding Jacket, Knee Guards and Calf Length paratrooper boots) to take on a batallion of Riot Police with Lathis :-)

Fixed a small problem on one of the bikes of the other group and we headed towards the town of Keylong and hopefully hit a place called Darcha for overnight stay. Hit Keylong by about 5:30 and asked for the way and were advised not to go as it would be 3-4 hours before we reached Darcha, which was only 35 kms away. Paid heed to what the locals had to say and we decided to stay over in keylong. Unsurprisingly, there are only two hotels in Keylong. One is the HPTDC Chandra Bhaga, with some amazing scenery.

View from the Chandra Bhaga Parking Lot

View from the Chandra Bhaga Parking Lot

View from Chandra Bhaga

View from Chandra Bhaga

The other one is hotel Dekyid. We stayed at the Chandra Bhaga and crashed for the night. Bumped into some bikers from down south, who were taking it real easy… they had planned to spend a couple of days in Keylong and then move on to Sarchu and the Pang and then Upshi and then hit Leh. Well some people just dont have to do much to realize their dreams… and some have to struggle to make it happen. Such is life and well what the heck? While we were preparing for the night of rest, we decided to try and gun for Leh on the same day. Well if the HPTDC buses could do it, we could also be in Leh by evening. Decided to have a wake-up call at 0400 Hrs and departure by 0500 Hrs. Spent the night tossing and turning as the acclimatization process kicked in…

29th June 2009

Got up in the morning all fresh and raring to go. The only difference was that it was 7 when we woke up. All plans for hitting Leh today were dashed and we decided to head out till Sarchu or Pang, whereever we could be before sundown. That taken care of, we ordered the tea and also asked for the packed breakfast to be sent up. Got ready and were about to leave after packing up that we realized, today Diamox would be a necessity as we were heading out to one of the toughest locations to spend the night. Popped a Diamox and started riding. The roads were really in a bad shape with the road making gangs making sure to get the roads as good as possible. But theirs is an uphill task and they were bending over backwards to ensure the roads were made, but tis a time consuming process and all we got was gravel strewn road, which could cause accidents if you rode recklessly. The going was really slow but definite as we kept passing road markers pointing that the next place Darcha was coming closer and closer. Enroute, we passed a small Gompa which was about 6 kms from Darcha.

Gompa, 6 kms before Darcha

Gompa, 6 kms before Darcha

the remainder of the road to Darcha was a veritable mess. Pebbles, rocks, gravel, broken water lines flooding the road. Darcha beckoned and we answered. we were in Darcha in about 15 minutes and were treated to a beautiful sight

Landscape @ Darcha

Landscape @ Darcha

Took a halt for breakfast and got talking to a BRO official who was dropping off one of those behemoth road construction equipments in Sarchu. He advised us of the road conditions and said that we should be in Pang by 4 or 5 in the evening. and that this would be the best option for us, rather than wasting about 3-4 hours of good time by staying in Sarchu. Post breakfast, we bid adieu to the Dhaba owner and saddled up for riding to Pang. and about 15 odd kms ahead, we came across our first dreadful pie… a crossing with gushing and raging waters.

Santosh, after negotiating the first water crossing of the day

Santosh, after negotiating the first water crossing of the day

This was followed by a couple of water crossings which were kiddos in front of this…

Yours Truly at a baby water crossing

Yours Truly at a baby water crossing

Post this wetting of the trouser legs, we must have ridden for about 45 minutes that we saw this body of water… it was being fed by a stream of snow melt, so it must have been a fresh water lake… this goes by the name Deepak Tal

Deepak Tal

Deepak Tal

 

A brief halt for photos later, we started riding and ascending towards Baralacha La… our first high altitude pass to be crossed for the day. Took ample amount of breaks as we were well on time for the day. schedule wise we were running late by a complete day, but sights like this leave you breathless and wanting for more… so we indulged ourselves.

Landscape on our way to Baralacha La

Landscape on our way to Baralacha La

since we were going up, we started encountering Snow and ice at regular intervals. Halted again to rectify the fule mixture as we felt the bike lagging in power on steeper climbs, and indulged in some play with the snow…

Yours truly and santosh 30 kms short of Baralacha La

Yours truly and santosh 30 kms short of Baralacha La

As we started ascending, it became cold and the riding became tough with dirt tracks strewn with pebbles and rocks

Road and landscape nearing Baralacha La

Road and landscape nearing Baralacha La

 

Ascent to baralacha La

Ascent to baralacha La

Snow before Baralacha La

Snow before Baralacha La

As we were nearing the Baralacha La summit, we had to ride through a corridor of snow… piled about 10 feet high on both the sides.

Riding through a corridor of snow near Baralacha La

Riding through a corridor of snow near Baralacha La

The corridor opened up to one of the most breath taking scenes ever… the Suraj Tal.

Suraj Tal - The most beautiful lake I ever lay my eyes on

Suraj Tal - The most beautiful lake I ever lay my eyes on

More on this in a later post…

About bikerdude

Manish Chachra has written 21 posts at Ghumakkar.

An adventure tourism & hospitality professional, an avid motorcycle tourer, with a dream of visiting the entire country on two wheels... Writes from the heart and quotes from the hip...

23 Responses to “Wishful Riding – A Partial Reality!”


  1. rajan arora says:

    Beautiful. I was waiting for so long to read this.. ever since i read wishful riding all parts at 1 go.. thats a really wonderful account of ur fabulous road trip. its my dream t oo to take this road trip either on my bullet or my car. eagerly waiting for the rest of this story. please bring it up soon..

  2. bikerdude says:

    Thanks Rajan… feels nice that this was long overdue and long awaited. will try not to disappoint you or the rest of the Ghumakkar gang in posting the remainder of the triplog.

  3. bikerdude says:

    Oh and all the best for your trip for getting Leh’d :-)

  4. Sonal says:

    Suraj Tal looks straight out of heaven !

    I don’t think i will be able to make it here till my kids grow up (4,2) :-) but i now have it on my list of gotta go someday !!!

  5. Joseph says:

    It is great feeling to read a wonderful article, photos that are included are also awesome.

  6. Ur a good photographer, nice work.

  7. rajan arora says:

    Thanks for your good wishes dude.. i need them ;-)

  8. Nandan Jha says:

    Let the rest of it come sooner Dude.

    Manali – Rohtang is at no 1 these days in the top 5. Actually they should change the stretch from ‘road’ to ‘off roate’. There is no road.

    I did Kaza-Manali on June 6th this year (it opened on June 5th) and when we thought that we are done , came Rohtang and I am sure I didn’t tell you that we were caught in a blizzard, I have never seen that kind of snow in my life (Yeah and I have been to Minnesota , if not Canada) , you could hardly see anything. This last for about an hour. Scorpio did very well. We gave a ride to two city kids whose bike has given away, any.way long story.

    Super Pics. Your stories always have this domain-knowledge around bikes/driving :-), its like reading a Robin Cook and knowing all about medicine.

    It seems to me that you have ensured to take pics at all relevant points, probably keeping readers like me in mind. Thank you for taking me to Baralacha La.

    On to next.

  9. Karthik says:

    Wow!! Amazing pics. I liked the Suraj Tal the best. I guess this is a dream place for everyone.

  10. nayan says:

    it was an excellent story, eagerly waiting for the next. whos the guy/gal standing in corridor of snow..!!! crazy…

  11. bikerdude says:

    @Sonal, the trip is not suitable for kids that young… Let the brats grow up and then show them around… this is one super trip with a mix of everything… adventure, fun, thrills, exotica and natural beauty and wonders… a must do itinerary on every traveler’s charts. The Suraj tal was nothing like I have ever seen before… imagine riding through all that snow and ice and then coming onto this semi lake all of a sudden… the ice/snow corridor just opens up on it… fabulous views warranting another visit for sure :-)

    @ joseph & Tour to kerala, Thanks for the words… they mean a lot.

    @ Kartik, although beautiful, Suraj Tal is a killer with some not so good stories around it. High altitude with the cold climate makes it so.

    @ nayan, thanks man. plan to post the remainder tonight… the lady was a brit who was riding to leh with the guy in the back. They were led by another brit who had been in India for the last 5 years or so…. We all hooked up with each other to form a bigger group around and ride and also to help each other out when required. You would read about that in the continuing post.

    @Nandan… dude thanks for your assistance in recovering what I thought was lost. Guys if it would not have been for him, I probably would have been mulling over the thought “Whether to write the whole thing again or not.”

    nandan, I am still waiting for your post on the Spiti manali trip… Organizing a guided bike tour on that side + Leh in august and would appreciate getting all latest info before we leave on august 17th… You did not mention the blizzard wala experience in our chats… but what we talked about was just road conditions… so weather did not creep in… hmmm… food for thought.

  12. Nandan Jha says:

    the post needed all the effort for recovery. Once I found a good enough backup, it was more like hunting through the ton-heavy log file. By the way, I used to think that my 4 GB RAM laptop would survive most of my deeds but it gave in, finally i was counting each byte and killing processes to get the log editor up and running.

    Shimla – Kaza is done, and should be up soon. Kaza-Manali is yet to be start. By the way we met someone at Kaza who were doing the recci for having a bike-run (Manali – Kaza), not sure whether I kept the card well but if I could find it, I would pass on.

    My Leh is pending. Inshallah in couple of years, I may get to do it.

  13. bikerdude says:

    @Nandan, thanks once again for recovering the file… I had almost given up on it. would not have imagined a 4GB RAM finding stuff difficult to handle… but such is life… Technology always seems to let you down when you least want or expect it.

    Eagerly waiting for your post… and dont worry… Leh will happen… sooner than later. Who kows we might be doing it together… you in your 2.6Ltr Scorpio and me on my trusty 350cc “Black Beauty” or the standard 500cc “La Poderosa” :-)

  14. Manish,

    Excellent write up with very nice pictures. Looking forward to read more on follow up. It’s my desire to go to Leh, either will work Nandan’s 2.6 Ltr or on my 350 CC black beauty as well.

    -Upanshu

  15. Mini Sarin says:

    the pictures are amazing!! very nice trip indeed.

  16. bikerdude says:

    Upanshu, shout out whe you do intend to ride to Leh. The fun is doing it on two wheels.

    Mini, thanks for the encouragement.

  17. Rajeev Tivari says:

    Manish, I am awestruck at the amazing pics. So much so, I can’t wait finishing reading the article before expressing my instant appreciation of those matchless pics, and you made every stop count.

    Worth every effort. You rock!

    Rajeev

  18. bikerdude says:

    Rajeev, the entire place is so much more scenic than what the snaps portray…

    Thanks for the comments!

  19. Patrick Jones says:

    Wishful ride wasn’t my favourite; sorry to say, never went beyond the initial part. But the actual event changed all that. Replete with interesting bits, it’s a pleasure to read on. Of late, there was a dearth of drive/ride stories and you made up for that. Wonderful pics (I can fathom your feelings toward her but wish there were less of BB), especially that of irresistibly inviting Suraj Tal.

  20. Celine says:

    Manish,
    I could relate to your Wishful Riding series simply because I had undertaken the same road journey. But now reading what you actually went through is equally interesting.Thank you.

    If you were to set out on this journey in August the landscape would have been more green, especially around Marhi area that I can recall, but then you would have had to compromise on sights of less snow on the mountain peaks.

    I can see plenty of snow around in these beautiful pictures. Deepak Tal and Suraj Tal are fabulous here…this is after the Zingzing Bar area, isn’t it? The scenes of these awesome lakes with blue waters are still fresh in my mind!

    I have a question…
    Was the level of enthusiasm in planning this journey the same as while actually undertaking this journey? Or was it different?

  21. bikerdude says:

    @Pat… hmm… well not everyone is as crazy as i am… some are saner and some crazier… so I would categorize you into the Sane Category :-)

    Celine, the level of enthusiasm… well the planning stage made sure that I was sure I would not want to do this… loads of change of plans and people dropping off the list… finally, I got so sick and tired, I cancelled the commercial tour and decided to ride on my own….

    Yup the snaps are somewhere close to Zingzingbar… my memory seems to be fading already. I am going on the 17th to Spiti and Lahaul and then onwards to Leh again…. so I should be able to see the best of both the worlds :-)

  22. pretty says:

    Great pictures & adventurous trip. Too good!
    I should add this to my checklist.
    I am one of the crazy traveller (though new) but love it when it comes to adventure in trips:)

    Now, I am dreaming to go for this trip by car. :)

    Thanks very much for sharing this awesome experience.

    Rgds,

  23. Manish Khamesra says:

    Such a long post and such a smooth drive. Your post are just opposite to the roads you drove on :-)

    I wish that you have posted even bigger photographs, all of them of the same size as that of Suraj Tal (Or may be a few more equally big), travelling with you and passing through the scenic route is an ultimate pleasure.

    Suraj tal reminded me of the photograph of the cement factory at night (in your earlier post), both of them being marvelous.

    Its always a pleasure to read a piece of yours.



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