Rohtang La – Ride of a lifetime

I love the name of this site as it defines my aspirations. I have been thinking of writing on this site for long but somehow could not and may be the culprit is yet again the same old “starting trouble” and its first cousin “will do it tomorrow”.
I own a Bullet, the legendary Royal Enfield Bike and it’s the first thing I bought once I started earning decently. I have seen a few places in and around the NCR on my bike. It started from Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary to Hardwar & Hrishikesh then Chandigarh & Shimla to Agra followed by Joshimath & Auli amongst others. However the one trip I have decided to write about, as my first contribution is my trip to Rohtang pass along with an Indo-Chinese colleague and friend Wilkim Lee.

Wilkim Lee and Kshitij at Rohtang

All trips are special, I know I need not mention it (at least here!!!), but our trip to Rohtang La stands out as it gave immense confidence apart from the joy of riding. To venture out as a student is far different than when one starts working. Finances become easier (at least to say so…!) but the age-old saying that Time is Gold proves to be a really golden statement. We planned to do almost 1300 kms in 3.5 days or say scale 13050 ft above sea level and back in about 80 hrs.
We got our bike serviced as we do before every trip and took a few spares like clutch cables, spark plug etc. and started at around 1:30pm on a Friday late last May (i.e. 2007) from our office in Gurgaon high on enthusiasm and a bit of apprehension with lots of luck and wishes from our dearest friends and colleagues in office (that’s the magic of working in a small team!)

We knew that the worst part of the Journey would be the start i.e. to get out of New Delhi to the Karnal highway and we did that in slightly more than expected time. As per our plans we stopped every 60-70 kms for refreshment and had a good meal in Karnal exactly halfway between Chandigarh and New Delhi.Wilkim has a flat in Chandigarh and that was the reason why we started post noon on a Friday. We reached there at 8pm and had a sumptuous meal and slept well.

Rohtang La on Bike

Next morning we started at 4:30AM for Manali where we planned to reach by noon and decide whether to head for Rohtang or not after seeking the opinion of the locals. We were completely enjoying the ride though it was all straight roads and sight was nothing unusual but the wind hitting us and the anticipation of what would be next kept us engrossed and Wilkim kept chatting as he went on capturing all he could with his cell phone…deleting and recapturing ( as our camera remained packed!!)Everything was going as per the plan and suddenly we were struggling with the gear panel and accelerator but the bike wasn’t picking up. We got down and before we could tax our brains a few people standing on the footboard of the bus we last overtook shouted in chorus with huge smiles on their faces:”Bhai Saheb chain gir gaya!”We looked at each other and ran. We could retrieve the chain and a disfigured chain lock.

Thankfully we were uphill and about 2 kms from a small town. We rolled down the serpentine hill road on our bike and the found a mechanic of the kind that is rare and elusive nowadays cause he was a JT champ and fixed our bike at least good enough to take us to Mandi,the next big town on our way.{…JT stands for Jugar Technology! The mechanics that we find these days at least in the Metropolis have one easy solution for all faults…change kar dijiye…the Art of being a real Mechanic is on the verge of Extinction for sure:o(}. I was carrying a few spares but I had missed the chain lock and we lost much time first in getting the broken chain lock fixed and then in Mandi where we got it replaced by another new and original chain lock. We had our Lunch in order to make up for some lost time.

Despite having tasty paranthas in a very organized market in Mandi (which has its parking at the top) we felt a bit sad and depressed. But the world is far too exciting and the nature has too many beautiful cards up its sleeve. We soon had the roaring Beas River flowing alongside us for company and the well maintained Himachal roads added all the more to the pleasure and we rode till Kullu passing through a thrilling 2.8 kms long tunnel (which was an experience in itself) until heavy traffic and need for refreshment stopped us. We finally reached Manali around 2:30pm and after a survey of about an hour found a hotel about 3 kms on the way to Rohtang la.

Rohtang is exactly 51 kms from Manali and we were advised against traveling anymore for the day as the roads are sometimes closed for traffic heading towards Rohtang by BRO(Border Roads Organization) as there is heavy flow of traffic coming down and riding with the setting sun is also not the best thing to do. so we changed, rested and then headed back to Manali to have food and see the local market. We returned around 5:30pm, washed our bike and spent the remaining time by the river Beas which now flowed about 200 mtrs behind our hotel’s backyard. We had dinner in the local Dhaba followed by a glass of extremely tasty Lassi and retired off to our beds. Thus started the end of Saturday and almost 30 eventful hours.

We woke up at about 4AM and as per our plans set off for Rohtang La while darkness was still changing shifts with daylight. This was going to be the ride we had traveled all this far for. The best ride of my life with the narrow roads with snow on one side and unfathomable depth on the other. The elevation and the turns and what a magnificent work does BRO do. Stretches were under construction and even broken but you got to be there to know how difficult it can be to maintain such a road. The best thing we did was to start so early as we found no other man made machine for company for most of the part until we got right behind an Indian Oil tanker and it took sometime for us to overtake it. There were pits and gravels on road at times and mud being leveled at some stretches but the beauty of it all is what you will have to see to understand the meaning of the word MESMERIZING (unless of course you chose to watch Sachin Tendulkar bat and that I agree may be arguable!!)

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We reached the snow clad Rohtang Pass by 7AM and we took 2 hrs cause we enjoyed every turn on our way up i.e. we were riding slow for most of the part except at times when adrenaline got the better off me and Wilkim had to pat my back. When we arrived the first of the Maggi vendors were setting shop and it was all dazzling white with the rising sun.
We ordered a coffee and plate of Maggi and eating Maggi at 0 degree centigrade I felt Nostalgic as I remembered the reassuring voice of my mother calling out of kitchen that she will get something in 2 mins when my siblings and I shouted and sang the magi jingle out of hunger in the evenings.Maggi was a constant companion through out the college days and at times the only thing that came to our rescue when the caterer, cook and the pocket money failed us. The joy of having a plate of Maggi outside BPO’s past midnight has its own charm and it has created a niche for itself even there. I have eaten magi cooked in various ways, its something always up for experimentation but the way I relished it at 13050 ft above sea level, surrounded with nothing but snow is absolutely inexplicable. You need to have it there to believe the romance of it all.

As time passed, a sudden realization that its a country of a billion people hits us hard. We visited the Ved Vyas temple which houses the small kund from where originates the River Beas. To our surprise we suddenly noticed that there was a crowd equivalent in magnitude to the final days of DurgaPuja fair in Bengal, Bihar or New Delhi’s C R Park!
No wonder it took us 2hours to travel 2kms out of the Rohtang pass area with all the parking full and the familiar irritating Taxi and Bus drivers having done their best to clog the thin arterial road approaching the Rohtang la and I had all the sympathy for the few uniformed men trying to bring order. And here standing in the unending queue of vehicles I felt something moving in my pocket and wow I had received a call from my father. My Idea connection was working at such a height and although I could hardly believe it I felt very happy nonetheless…Idea had changed my life for once!!

We tried our hands at skiing and actually felt fooled into spending around 150 bucks each and that too after much negotiation and assurance that the guy would teach us how to do it.

Rohtang on the snow

With no prior experience I ended up hitting a couple of people who were deaf enough to not hear my shouts warning them or may be they were plain awestruck by the beauty of the place and I apologized with a generous smile which they accepted with a hmmm…slightly reluctant smile but then a smile is a smile and I had actually hurt my knee a bit. Sliding on inflated truck tubes from hilltop is an amazing idea put to very good use by the locals and I really enjoyed that.

Rohtang La

The way back was equally good r getting out of Rohtang at around 11:30AM except that I felt a bit uneasy soon after leaving Rohtang Pass…it was exactly the kind of feeling we get sitting in a giant wheel when it is on its way down. I told Wilkim about it and he asked me to ride cautiously and it was about same time that we found a BRO board saying “Sinking Area Ahead. Drive Cautiously”. We reached Chandigarh the same day by 2200hrs.We then enjoyed Barbeque chicken from Birdy’s behind Sector-17 post office in Chandigarh.There is so much demand for it that one has place an order for it in advance but we were fortunate enough to get at least one plate.

We woke up late next morning i.e. Sunday and started around 12: 30pm for New Delhi. Stopping again at every 60-70 kms we reached home by around 10pm at night and joined office the next day. It was because we had to be in office on Tuesday that we rode in a relaxed manner on our way to New Delhi from Chandigarh.

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While brain is the storehouse for most of our memories, I feel that I somehow get connected to somewhere below my neck a bit towards the left every time I think of Rohtang La. I am looking forward to reliving it again this June end on my way to Khardung La (Leh).

75 Comments

  • Kshitija says:

    Thanks Somali,Bhaujee(Mini) and Viru for taking the pain to read the article through and even more for you liked it.
    Sarita, Everything that u wrote is brilliant except about the two of us making an excellent pair…i hope there’s nothing fishy!!!
    Nevertheless, u r always welcome [just got to ve the spirit…remember -Travelling is Good:o) ]

  • bikerdude says:

    Kshitija,

    I’m planning a ride to Leh in August… lemme know if you would be interested in joining in.

  • Kshitija Shandilya says:

    I’d ve definitely liked to but as of now I plan to go sometime by the end of this month.

  • Amit Garg says:

    It was to good man keep up the gr8 work Cheers!!!

  • Deepak says:

    Nice Himalaya Darshan ,long live the theme Raid -de-himalaya….
    simply gr8….

  • Patrick Jasper says:

    Hi man
    Wonderful write up. Was wondering ….everyone i know seems to have made the trip only on a two wheeler. Has anyone done it on a 4 wheeler? i mean what are the conditions like? are the roads narrow or are they sufficient for cars? whens the best season up there by the way, for driving, i mean?

  • bikerdude says:

    Patrick the roads till Manali are good with some bad patches on the plains post Chandigarh till kiratpur. Once you hit the mountains, the roads are wide and a dream to drive on. Have done this route on two as well as four wheels… but the fun was on a motorcycle.

    Post Manali, the road to Rohtang is decent but narrow with two way traffic and no traffic sense in the local drivers. All they care about is how many trips can they squeeze in the day to make as much money as they can.

  • nandanjha says:

    I have been to Manali as well, on wheels. Very good roads overall except some patches as rightly pointed by dude. Never been post-manali but would want to some day.

  • Kshitija says:

    Hi Patrick,
    The roads post Manali are ok with good and bad patches.But the real worry no doubt are the commercial vehicles.Small buses, Qualis,Innova, Indica etc keep the route busy and so would advise you to start early to avoid the traffic and also enjoy the drive atleast one way!!! Take Care and Enjoy

  • Celine says:

    Guys,

    I can’t help commenting, go beyond Rohtang La.

    There’s Spiti and there’s Lahaul valley too. I can speak for Lahaul, and Keylong Valley, and Sarchu, to reach Leh on this route.

    In fact the Tibetan word Lho-yul from which Lahaul is derived means ‘country of Gods’. It’s absolutely gorgeous, all those areas. I am highly recommending it.

  • anna says:

    Hi Kshitija,

    B-e-a-utiful discription kshitija!!…It is so vivid that I could almost feel the thrill and joy of the trip!!and wish…I was there to experience it all..
    the pictures are really gud and the big smile on your and wilkim’s face makes me “J”….
    would love to visit Rohtang sumtime…

    Best of luck for ur next trip to leh…:-)

  • Wilkim Lee says:

    Thanks Anna
    Finally you got some words and time to write about our inexplicable trip tp Rohtang. Kshitija was eagerly waiting for your comment and he was really interested to know what you have to say about it.
    Now, he is all smiles and prise for you.
    :)

  • manish khamesra says:

    Hi Kshitija,

    I was very keen on reading a story that came to “Recent most viewed” even when it was just posted, and I must say that it did not disappoint me even with such a high expectation I had for it. It was a gripping story and nicely told.
    We would be looking more from you.

  • Rakesh says:

    THe trip was a treat for all”ghumakkar”.Such experince are always had some landmarks on the brain of readers and the riders.Spending such times with ur friends is like recharging of ur life.The first experince really total that how u should u plan ur other adeventerous trips.

  • Roshan says:

    Your writings of your adventures are absolutely fascinating and the photographs of Rohtang trip are wonderful. I look forward to your updates and knowing that you are safe and continuing your quest.

  • Pushpendra says:

    Great article man…
    pheeww you are a talent..
    wish instead of virtual it wud have been a real ride for me…
    if somehow I manage to shift to Delhi, I think I will be able to be part of your adventures..
    Sheer loss for me to be 1.5k miles away from you!!!!!

    Keep writing yaar….

  • Amarnatha Mishra says:

    It read fresh,I liked it even today.Your ghumakkari must be followed by a write up.If you don’t do it,you deprive so many readers of the joy of relishing the excitement of being there with you.Think for them and write nay think for us and write. Thank you..

  • Amarnatha Mishra says:

    I still want you to write after your return from Dubai on 26th of this month.I regretted your reluctance to pen down more so after your trip of London where you stayed for more than two months I believe, but the outcome in respect writing prose was nil.

  • Nandan says:

    Kshitija – The joy of reliving a great experience one had is a great reward. Trust me, sometimes I go back and try to read what I wrote 4 years back and not only it bring those memories back, it is a great joyful experience just by going through the act of reading.

    A bike ride from Delhi to Kathmandu needs to be celebrated with fellow Ghumakkars. :-)

  • RB says:

    Lots of Snow! Photos and description are amazing. Keep Posting!

  • Seema Thakur says:

    Hii Kshitija,
    Since the day i met u after school days, hv been repeatedly listening to ur experiences of ur bike trip to Rohtang la..but finally got d chance to read about such a vivid nd beautiful journey description..although virtually, was able to see the beauty of the nature and feel the cold..am also very fond of travelling nd adventures, after reading it, more desperatley want to visit dis place..wish i could ever go on a bike ride, obviously on d pillion seat ;)..anyways u are a big time inspiration for me..keep it up..nd ofcourse very nice pictures nd u too were looking awesome :) next tym dont forget to invite me whenever u go for such a happening and adventurous trip :) hope to see more of interesting blogs..all the best for future

  • Aarti says:

    It was fun to read about your road trip experiences… May you have more such memorable trips in future and write for them tooo……

  • Nandan Jha says:

    And I read it again. Brilliant.

  • Muskan says:

    beauty of such a place is difficult to be expressed but definitely calls for once a visit…

  • Kshitija,
    I read your post and regret for not reading it earlier!
    Very well written! Memories of some trips are wonderful not for the destination we chose but for the journey we experienced and for the people who we traveled with. I am sure if you visit the same place now with someone different, the story will see a different perspective!

    Keep writing, we loved this one!

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