Wishful Riding… Part 4 (Kaza to Keylong)

Feeling the effects of the high altitude, and having restlessly dozed off on an empty stomach last night, I woke up in the morning to furious activity at the campsite.

Surprisingly & thankfully, the throbbing headaches were gone and I was as hungry as a famished pitbull terrier… Had the morning tea, a couple of biscuits and smokes and soaked in the sun a bit. Kinda reminded me of the song by Sheryl Crow… “Soak up the Sun”.

During breakfast, I get talking with the staff members and get a crash course in geography… Kaza is the sub divisional HQ for the Spiti region, which by the way means Middle country in their dialect, and once I cross the Kunzum Pass, 75 Kms ahead, I would be in the Lahaul region… So much for my knowledge… I always considered them to be like Siamese twins… inseparable.

This self deprecation comes to a screeching halt when I hear about the road condition. The destination for the day, Keylong, 200 kms away, is the HQ for the Lahaul region, and from what I heard, I was sceptical if I would be able to cross the Kunzum Pass coz The road had been closed for renovation till further notice. Damn the officials!!! could they have not have picked a different day for repairing the road? It wasn’t as if life would come to a stand still if the road was not repaired that day? I mean life was going on just fine till they stopped all traffic movement… Decided to brave the wrath of the official babus and got ready to leave.

Notifying the staff that I might be back if I was not able to venture forward, I get ready to leave and kickstart the B.B. just then, the caretaker of the campsite came in… and broke the good news… The road TO Kaza was the one which was being re-paved… not the one I was supposed to take. I take this as a good sign and bid adieu to the simple and hardworking people and roll towards the Lahaul Valley. since the riding distance was less, I decide to take it easy and make it a point to do some sight seeing as well. 5 Kms out of Kaza on the Kaza-Kunzum road, there is a right turn which takes you to Kibber village, the highest permanent settlement in the world at 4200 Mtrs ASL.

Taking this road is like stepping into a different world altogether. Awesome snowclad peaks, the bluest of the blue skies and the ochre coloured surface create the most visually stunning sight anyone can come across as you ascend to 4200 Mtrs ASL. Enroute, there is the Kye Monastery, which I decide to give a wide berth to and ride on till I reach the post which says I am in Kibber. Peace, bliss and beautiful views… Again, the wanderer in me wants to hang up my shoes to stay put for sometime but reality jolts me back and after a while… Low oxygen, breathlessness… I dont think I would be able to survive too long in this rarified atmosphere… With these thoughts I kickstart BB and start riding back. Reach the main road and take a left and about 3 kms later, I am in Rangrik. Having crossed the Spiti river once again, I’m riding on the left bank now. The next settlement which is worth mentioning is a place called Losar, about 50 Kms away.

B.B eats away the Kms like a hungry steed and about 2 hours later, I am in Losar, a big village, located at the confluence point of two streams, the Losar & Peeno. Nothing much to do here except the touristy activities of Horse & Yak rides… I am happy on the iron steed I ride, so this is given a pass and I ride on for Kunzum Pass, 19 Kms away. Losar happens, passes me by and I keep riding. Ahead of me is the Kunzum Pass, the gateway to Lahaul Valley.

The road starts ascending and pretty soon it becomes cold and windy… the headaches return with a vengeance as we rise higher. soon we are the highest point @ 4550 Mtrs and pretty soon, the summit is crossed and the descent starts into the Lahaul Valley to a place called Batal, the entry point into Lahaul Valley.

While riding, the going is slow due to the road conditions and the cold… never could imagine a place so cold in the month of June… but you gotta take what is dished out… and I do. Batal conquered, I keep on riding for the destination of the day, Keylong. Happenstance results in me glancing on the right side of the road and I stop dead in my tracks… I have the most magnificent view of the Bara Shigri Glacier… That huge hunk of ice and snow looked magnificent, stately and regal in its slow march towards the rivers it feeds. Another glacier which can be glimpsed is the Sara Umga Glacier, which feeds the Samsi river, which passes through Manikaran. I decide to take a much needed break from riding and eat some of the packed lunch which the campsite had so painstakingly packed for me. Lunch over, its time for the smoky dessert… Light one up and decide I dont think i can do much with it.

Decide to chuck the cigg and kick start the BB to start riding. The views have enthralled and energized me and I start riding with renewed vigor. Pretty soon, I cross the Chattru area and reach Gramphoo in about 2 hours. The road conditions change for the better as this stretch of road connects manali with Leh and is of huge strategic importance to the Indian army. The BRO road workers can be seen bending their backs and working at break neck pace to get the road repavement finished as soon as possible.

Gramphoo is the major turnpoint from where you can decide which way to go. if you have had too much of high altitudes and low oxygen levels, take the left and you would be on the road to Manali, full and bursting to its seams with the tourists who have come to beat the heat of the plains. If you go straight, you would end up in Keylong via Sissu and Tandi.

Since I am no mood to enter into crowded areas, I decide to hang onto the road and pretty soon, I cross Gramphoo, heading out to Sissu, 18 Kms away. Sissu comes and goes and you barely notice it. Then comes Tandi and bells start ringing in the head… Tandi is the last place with a petrol pump for the next 375 Kms. I reach tandi, reach the pump and wait for the operator to materialize and start pumping gas.

while waiting, I gather some information from the locals… Tandi is the only village on Manali-Leh highway which has a petrol pump. Interestingly the petrol pump is owned by Lahul Potato Growers Co-operative Society (since the region is part of the ancient trade route; potatoes from the Lahaul Valley played an important part in the barter and trade with locals of Zanskar and Changthang). A perfect example of History affecting the present… Anyways the operator comes and I tank up on the Potato Fuel and fill up the empty jerry cans as well. Better to carry extra fuel load rather than having to wait for some saving soul to lend you petrol :-)

Crossing Tandi, I am on my way to Keylong, the HQ for the Lahaul area, 8 kms away. The thought of a warm cozy tent and a warm sleeping bag spurn me to put in that little effort to make it to Keylong. On the outskirts< I see the board for the camp which I am supposed to stay at and I check in… crash and burn on the bed in slumber… The staff wakes me up for dinner, which comprises of Rice and Dal and some salad… eat, pop a Diamox and I’m off to Fairyland for the much needed sleep and more importantly rest, as the next day’s ride is going to be difficult with high altitude passes and non existent roads…


  • nandanjha says:

    I am starting to get AMS. When I read this (and I read this twice already) I sort of feel like dehydrated, short of oxygen.

    I think in Part5, you should try to briefly re-cap the journey so far, so that we dont get lost in Himalayas. Keep going, there are more people who are following you on this incredible journey.

  • Arun says:

    okay, let the expert add helpful hints before he stops being an expert on the Rotang-Ladakh road :)

    Kaze has a petrol pump which would be a useful thing to know. What is even more useful thing to know is really queer – this pump could be closed on Sundays and public holidays! If you are desperate for fuel in Kaze on a holiday, you would have to grease the attendant! How queer can it get? It is, I think, owned and operated by Gov of HP.

  • bikerdude says:

    Nandan, Will do the recap in the next post…. dont want anyone to get lost up there :-)

    Arun, since this is a route which I have to yet to travel on, I don’t know the nitty gritties like fuel pump locations. But thanks for the heads up… Will come in handy in a fuel crisis.

  • Manish khamesra says:


    With the start point and end point added, I think your series would be easier to follow now. Keep going and remember that post June you have to come back on ghumakkar with the real experiences and photographs in similarly detailed posts :)

    Great going till now :)

  • Celine says:

    I’ve travelled on the Manali – Leh highway and it has been what I keep repeating everywhere and to everybody as the ‘best road journey’ of my life time in terms of scenic beauty of the majestic mountains – a journey that I wish to repeat, with two stopovers at least in Keylong and Sarchu, if not at more spots.

    So, dream on, you won’t be one bit disappointed. :)

  • bikerdude says:

    If you have the time, then by all means they are the best spots for a halt. But in today’s world, where everyone is rich in terms of cash and materialistic stuff, time is the one thing no one has… Dreaming is how people survive… and i used to do that as well… DREAM.

    Now my dreams are turning into reality…

  • Celine says:

    Time, richness, cash, dreams, travels…etc
    Here’s an excerpt to show you a window of my feelings on the matter:

    “Some of the happiest people I’ve met in my life are Indians, who actually live by the day. Sometimes I feel shaken up by the overwhelming poverty seen around. Yet the needy peoples blank refusal to see a bleak future or a life not worth living is a lesson to be learned by the pessimists of this world. Poverty is not necessarily a question of lacking money and I find many of them rich in almost all other aspects. They refuse to be bogged down by the harshness of the realities of their lives and continue smiling.”


    In case you wish to go to the post, I’d suggest you to get a cup of tea first (I know you like tea!) since it’s a long read. :)

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