The Enchanting Trails- Final Journey

Written byAditya Bajaj
Read Part I Here                   Read Part II Here               Read Part III Here


Day 11, Wednesday 16th June 2015
Route Intended-Leh- Karu(36 KMs) - Upshi (13 KMs)- Lato(23 KMs)-Rumtse(7 KMs)- Debring(46 KMs)- Pang(52 KMs)- Sarchu(77 KMs)= 254KMs

The Adieu

It started with sumptuous breakfast at the Lamayuru and we all made some good use of Wi-Fi provided there. Bunty had booked a return flight Leh-Delhi -Mumbai for next morning so it was goodbye for him and we went to petrol station for the same routine: filled up bikes, the car and the jerry cans in order to reach Tandi some 360 KM until next petrol station.

Postcards from Leh
Meanwhile I just slipped them for a while and went to Leh post office nearby to send back the Post cards I purchased from Hemis. I sent many cards some in Delhi and Mumbai. The cards which were sent to Delhi reached on 13th day while the ones sent to Mumbai are still there somewhere. Two years back Sud and Shekar also sent Post cards from here (Key Monastery to be precise) to Mumbai. Shekar's cards were received well, while Sud's still travelling. I then came back to the petrol station.

The Lost Time
Today the morning ritual was that the diesel was leaking from the car and it took some time for the mechanic to fix it. Again this ate up much of our time we knew there were very slight chances of us reaching Sarchu. It was me, Sud and Shekar on bikes now and we were riding quickly so as to cover much. We left Leh- Lato-Gya Rumste and we didn’t stop anywhere not even for tea which was strange. We reached Tanglang La elevation 5,328 meters (17,480 ft), and apparently the Second highest motorable road in the world. The weather and road was good since we reached after noon time. The sun was shining bright and there was no snowfall at the top.


We came down quickly as the road was fine and then the road turned bad to worse. I totally forgot this part. I told Sud I don’t remember this and he said how you can forget this bad road as it was such a long stretch.

The Off Road Detour
It was difficult to ride quickly on that road then my head turned to the valley down. I saw there an off beaten track at a distance. After that I was just looking for opportunity to enter the valley down. On finding one I quickly went down. The track was good for off roading and I was standing on foot pegs to cover the stretch quickly. When I was back on road, I was feeling happy again as it was the starting of More plains (long 40 km beautiful straight road at 15000ft).

The Happiness Short Lived
We all three were standing at the more plains starting point, clicking some pictures while suddenly I noticed my bike's coolant leaking  and I said NOT AGAIN MAN, just small detour only I took but it was looking bad. I didn’t have any more Araldite adhesive left with me as I gave it to the car mechanic earlier. Nor I had the coolant to fill up as it was kept in the car.

I told other guys the situation and we looking at each other and then all around for any help. We were standing in the middle of nowhere. We looked back and could not see anyone, no fellow riders or any car.

As they say where there is a will there is a way, I say in Leh you can find help even in the middle of nowhere”. We saw at a distance some local guys waving at us. We looked at each other and wondered if that’s for real. We just needed to get to them. There were three guys and two women waving at us. I asked Sud is there a Dhaba you see? He said no there are nothing just these people. I said okay let’s check out.

They looked the peculiar tribal people, greeted us warmly and speaking in Hindi was difficult for them. One of them was a young chap who studies in Delhi (I was surprised) and speaking in English (more surprised). I showed them the leaking radiator.


They were all looking at it and they said no problem we can fix it. And I was wondering really, they went to their small tent and came back with M Seal packet and I was like what, this can’t be true!


They quickly applied M Seal, there were around 3 guys and 1 women working on my bike and I was just standing still in amazement. While Sud was back to clicking pictures and taunting again to say how embarrassing it was as I was standing and locals were helping me. Last time also some locals voluntarily came forward and helped me to tie my luggage.        

As the M Seal had to be kept to dry so they said why not come inside and have tea with us. We immediately said yes. We all went inside in their tent and were seated. There were total 8 people in their family all present inside the tent. We chatted for a while and the lady prepared tea for us.


While we were there having the regular tea. They were drinking locally made tea from butter and honey. We tasted it; was too strong. Later we gave them some medicines which we had with us.  Shekar tried to offer some money for their kind gesture but they refused. When we insisted they kept the money and bid us goodbye.

We started on the More plains; everyone loves this part of the route. It’s simply amazing, straight road and we all were testing how far our KTM can go while the 390 was as usual leading us. We reached Pang and spotted the car it was around 6 PM. Sarchu was still 77 Km more and the road I remember how bad it was from here. So we decided to spend a night at Pang while it took me some time to make some people understand that it is best option we have right now as they wanted to go further.
  
The Guest Room at Pang
I first tried the Army base camp at Pang for the guest room. They denied while I told them at Sarchu the army guys do provide, still they said no. Then we took accommodation at the first guest room which we spotted on reaching Pang from More plains. There was this lady who showed us tents (the usual) and one big cemented room which could accommodate 11 people, cost Rs100 per person and Rs 50 for the meals. We all settled in the big room. The lady then prepared hot food for us meanwhile few of us went to same army base camp to use the satellite phone as no mobile network works in Pang (or even at Sarchu).






 There was a big queue at the phone room since it was the only phone in entire area. They charged Rs 6 per min. After this I went to sleep straight away must be 7:30 PM while others were ready to play cards again. At 3 Am I was done with the sleep and was awake wondering what to do. I saw our driver also in same condition so I told him to let’s go out .We went out and returned within a minute. It was dark, windy and cold. They sky looked amazing will all the starts one can galore. We came back running and tried to sleep the night away.

Day 11 ended we were at Pang came from Leh coved 177 Km

Day 12, Tuesday 16th June 2015
Route Intended-Pang- Sarchu (77 KMs) – Jispa (85 KMs) –Keylong (23 KMs) –Tandi (10 KMs)- Manali(115 KMs) = 310 KM

The Hangover from the night
Sleeping at 15000 ft was not easy, the night was cold and the outside midnight walk did badly. I was feeling it since morning a strong headache but we had to start riding as we have to reach Manali today some 310 KM. So I checked my bike for the M Seal fix it was good and took some coolant along and started riding.


Just outside of Pang, I opened up the Bluetooth port and said to Sud:

Me: Hey Sud, you there
Sud: Yeah pretty much
Me: Look at the hills on your left, it’s so close and the river flowing down with so much of force.
Sud: Yeah man it’s amazing so peaceful.
ME: Utmost serenity man. Btw what is the time?
Sud: It’s 7 AM
ME: And we have been riding since morning, wish we could do this all day
Sud: Yeah man if we could!

And we were both silent for that moment, pondering into the thought.

Reached Sarchu and we stopped at the same Dhaba as last time. Shekar and Sud started chatting with the owner while I asked him if I could rest there, he said no problem and I went inside a tent. I was there on bed for quite some time until Shekar asked me to take a pill and get started. I agreed but the irony was we kept all the medicines in car since we haven’t used till now. We asked the Dhaba owner he gave me a painkiller and we all started again.

The Mighty Baralacha La


The mighty Baralacha at 4,890 m or 16,040 ft didn’t disappoint at all. Shekar was travelling ahead, there was water and ice on road suddenly he fell down. We looked for damages on the rented KTM 200 again; the gear liver was struck at first gear it seemed. Sud said he will ride this bike. It was hard to shift gears but he was managing somehow. We also covered two big water crossing; the KTM was quick while we had to get down and help the fellow RE to cross who were stuck. By lunch time we reached Keylong and found the car people having lunch.
 

Then we moved towards Tandi fuel station. I saw the road coming from Udaipur and was thinking about it as it leads to the Sach Pass, which was also on the list. We stopped at the Tandi fuel station but we all didn’t fill fuel to the top. We already had some fuel left in tank and even the Jerry cans kept in car. We continued to Khoksar.

Towards Khoksar Bridge
Khoksar was a small place with one important bridge in between. I was discussing with Sud last time we had to wait for long for the bridge to be repaired. I again asked the riders to stop here. We went inside a Dhaba ordered some tea and asked the owner if I can lie down for sometime inside. Shekar arranged for another painkiller from the Dhaba owner for me and then we started our final leg to reach Manali.

The Rohtang Pass
The Khoksar Bridge was fine this time. We started ascending towards the Rohtang the pile of corpses, due to people dying in bad weather trying to cross the pass at 3,978 m (13,050 ft). This place I expected to but easy at least but was not. The road was icy, watery and muddy. There was water flowing on the road up to the top.




The Sun was going down as we reached the top. Suddenly the day light was gone and dense fog engulfed us and dropping the visibility to minimum. This was again something new; we haven’t seen fog at the top. With headlights on we stared to descent slowly.

The Long Descent from Rohtang
There was nobody present at the top, no shops just nothing due to bad weather. The descent from the top was long (51KM) and tough as it was now dark and foggy. Shekar was riding the 390 and he told that his bike was showing low fuel. I knew there was no fuel station till Manali which was 51 km to cover .I just asked him to continue and forget about the low fuel warning.

By the time we reached Manali his bike was already showing 0 Km which the bike can travel and he was just continuing. We met car people who were struck in traffic before entering Manali and we took out the jerry can from the car to fuel up his bike.

The Traffic Snarl
Everyone was caught in the traffic snarl to enter the city. We on bikes were overtaking all the cars that were stuck up. It was long and I was thinking how much time the car will take. We were going towards the Manali main market first to check in into the same hotel which we stayed as last time.

On reaching we found out that no rooms were available. We checked on nearby hotels, they were all again full. Meanwhile the car people had called up few hotels including all time famous The Ride Inn who told them the same story. It was 9 Pm and we still couldn’t find a hotel room for check in. The entire city was flooded with people. Then Prateek called up his cousin in Delhi who in turn helped us to get room in Old Manali. We checked in “Hotel Yes Please” in Old Manali (tariff Rs 1500) after some grueling 2 hrs roaming in the city. Old Manali, I haven’t been earlier and this was the place to be with lot of cafes. For the people the night looked young but I had no energy left so went straight to the room.

Day 12 came to an end travelled from Pang to Manali covering 310 km

Day 13, Wednesday 17th June 2015
Route Intended- Manali- Chandigarh ( 250 KMs)
This morning we were expecting Sud and Shekar’s uncle who were coming from Mumbai to visit Manali. We met them and arranged rooms for them in the same hotel. Then we went to Sunshine café at old Manali road to have a sumptuous global breakfast namely American, Italian and Israeli. We checked out from the Hotel and started towards reaching Chandigarh today. But when you get up late and then eat like a King; you know you are not reaching your destination.


Pit Stop at Kullu
We covered Manali- Kullu 40 Km stretch in no time while maintaining our average speed. We reached the spot where river rafting starts and we waited for same uncle of theirs meanwhile talking to rafting guys. There were many tourists who come from Manali to Kullu for river rafting, long and short formats.

Apricots from Roadside Tree
As I looked around I could see all apricots tree, then the rafting guys asked us if we want those apricots and I said why not. So Sud and me followed him down the road. He took us on a hill and then he climbed upon a tree and asked me whether I was ready before I could say for what? He started shaking the branches and all the apricots came down the hill. I was trying to get hold of as many as I could but it was quick while Sud didn’t even try and was just watching me while clicking pictures. In a minute or so I was tired; I asked the guy to stop and called up Shekar to join me to collect all the apricots.
  



The Stop at KTM Service
There are KTM service stations at Bhuntar and Mandi. Last time  we searched Buntar town for the KTM service but could not find it so  this time we straight moved to  Mandi service station which is easy to spot as its is on the main highway which goes to Chandigarh. Bhuntar and Mandi are the only two places where KTM service stations are available closet to Leh; while there is one in Srinagar also on the other route.

At the station I got my bike cleaned up, checked for the brake pads and got the chain adjusted. While Shekar got the engine oil and the engine chamber seal changed and some small work on the rented KTM 200.

We asked the car people where they were and again they were behind struck in traffic so we waited for them to come and later we had lunch there nearby. By the time we finished lunch it was around 5:00- 5:30 Pm and options we had in front of us were :
  •      Sundarnagar 30 Km
  •          Bilaspur 70 km
  •      Chandigarh 185 Km


We spend some time brain storming, calling up hotel in Bilaspur as we were coming to a consensus the at least Bilaspur we have to cover today. As we left the restaurant to go out, there was rains starting up and it turned into heavy. The car people were on the road to Bilaspur while we on the bikes decided to wait for the rains to stop.

The Right Call
It was already past 6:30 Pm and we were still waiting. I asked Sud to make the right call by telling the car people to stop at Sundarnagar (30 Km) for the day as it would be difficult for us to reach Bilaspur (70 km) considering rains and it was about to get dark. Sud somewhat obliged but while talking to the car people they all persuaded him and instead he said okay let’s try for Bilaspur as the car people were in no mood to stop at Sundarnagar. Sud then looked at me and I said okay let’s do it.

We started riding and by the time we reached Sundarnagar it was dark. I told Sud to stop he just said Ok and nothing else as he also understood. This time I called up the car people, they said they still haven’t reached Bilaspur. I said well we have decided to stay here, they were quiet for a moment and then started with why, I said we are staying here you guys go and reach Bilaspur and tomorrow we will meet on road and then concluded the call.
  
Eat Sleep Rev Repeat
We started looking for hotels but all of them were booked. Sundarnagar was a small town on the national highway 21 (Chandigarh – Manali) and the Lake Reservoir of the Beas Sutlej Link Project as a main attraction which lies at the heart of the town and is blessed with cool breeze with a panoramic view overlooking the mighty Himalayas. We somehow managed to check in Hotel Lake View at Sundarnagar cost for the night Rs 1100. It was 9: 30 Pm by the time we checked in. Next we didn’t have any of our stuff; all was in the car (our bags). So we had to literally eat and sleep in the riding gears which we were wearing all day, every day.

Suddenly Sud realized that he left his backpack at Mandi restaurant where we had lunch. It was good that he clicked a picture of hotel’s bill which had the contact number. He called up the hotel guy. They said no problem they will send it through the next bus which will be going towards Sundarnagar. After some calls, Sud managed to get his bag from a bus driver who was travelling to Bilaspur.

A major lesson we leant was that we should always click pictures of Restaurant/Hotels where we stop during the trip. Who knows where we could require any help from them. 

Day 13 ended we reached Sundarnagar from Manali covered just 130 Km, tomorrow Delhi 400 Km to go.

Day 14, Wednesday 17th June 2015

The Final Leg of Journey
We started early today by around 7 Am as we needed to cover Bilaspur to be at par with the Car People. We settled the hotel bill quickly and were on road to Bilaspur in no time. The road from Sundarnagar to Bilaspur was in bad shape; muddy and full of bad patches. We quickly reached Bilaspur and moved further without wasting time. As soon as we left Bilaspur it was long traffic jam with all cars and truck stranded but since we needed to cover it quickly we were managing our way left and right through traffic. We were discussing later that we must have over taken 150-200 vehicles there. From Bilaspur we quickly reached Ropar highway and Chandigarh was straight beautiful road for next 60 KM.

We stopped at the highway for refreshment as we haven’t stopped in between for last 140 km. While we stopped I remember suddenly that I had left my Driving License at the Hotel in Sundarnagar which was submitted as proof but was Okay as I said to myself it was just a copy of License not original. I have made 4 copies 10 years ago and finally all of them are lost now just wondering what if I haven’t made those copies! We entered Chandigarh to look out for a place to lunch. We then decided to stop by The McDonald outside the city on our way to Delhi. We reached the place called up Car people they said the traffic jam at Bilaspur took a lot of time and they were on the Highway but they did not enter Chandigarh and were straight going to Delhi. We finished quickly and were on road to Delhi.

The NH1
I always like riding here the road between Delhi to Chandigarh is quite good. I and Sud were discussing our average speed it was 85+ Km/ Hr that means we were coving good amount of distance. We met the car people, they said Bilaspur traffic was pathetic and they didn’t even have lunch as they will stop by the Amrik Sukdev at Murthal only. I told them it’s already 4 30 PM and it will take time to reach Murthal, but they were firm. I said ok we on bike of course will reach before them so will go to return the rented bike at Karol bagh and Sud will try to load his bike on train to send it to Mumbai.

It was around 6:30 PM, Me and Shekar reached Karol Bagh while Sud went to New Delhi railway Station to send his bike. Later in the night we all went out for dinner and were laughing and discussing about this trip; settled our dues and bid goodbye

The Withdrawal Symptoms
I could still feel the effects of night at Pang as it was now difficult for me to speak because of dry cold. It took me two weeks to recover from the cold. While physically I was recovering but the mind was still out there wondering. It took some time to settle down in the usual schedule. I guess this was the case with everyone such a trip happened to us that we can sure rate is to the trip of a lifetime.



As the great traveler Ibn Battuta had said “Travelling- It leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller”. Our most adventurous story of this journey is not one but quite a few; starting from that fruitful day when we crossed the mightiest Zorji La or the snowy & Icy Khardungla where vehicles were skidding edge to edge, the deadliest effects of AMS or the unforgettable Rohtang and Baralacha. It was far above what we expected and pushed us to our limits. I did not cover Turtuk or Tso Moriri but it will always motivate me to go back to the mountains again…very soon. 
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1 comments :

  1. Cool trip as well as the descriptions. Enjoyed every bit

    ReplyDelete