Ladakh, Heaven on Earth

Day 2: 5th September 2005 (Manali – Keylong)

Woke up early thanks to multiple alarms set by us and soon we were ready to hit the road. But before that we had to wake up the hotel manager to pay the bill and get the main gate of hotel opened!

There are few things as soothing as riding in hills at 6:30 in the morning with fog and a rare 4 wheeler to accompany you. Although the fog was thick, it only added to the beauty of the Manali – Rohtang stretch.

me and my bike en route to rohtang pass

fog covered road

But before we could reach Rohtang it was time to fill our empty belies and I saw my self headed to the same restaurant “Sagu valley café” in Marhi just 16kms before Rohtang. After gorging on the delicious Paranths and tasty coffee it was time to take out cameras and shoot the mystical fog that surrounded Marhi.

resturant at marhi

marhi

Soon we were on road again making way to Rohtang, the first pass of a trip which was filled with different passes of varying difficulty and altitude.

The roads were in a bad condition as ever but thankfully there was no black ice. At 9:30 we were at Rohtang-La, for me it was just like visiting an old friend. While Shamik was disappointed because he thought a pass meant some kind of tunnel at the top of the mountain! As we posed in front of the sign board and tried to capture the surrounding landscape, a lonely Australian bicyclist appeared, he was going to Leh on his cycle! After a brief introduction and chit chat he paddled on as we stayed back to click more photos.

my bike at rohtang

rohtang pass rohtang pass rohtang pass

Now there was no sign of fog and it was time for me to ride into uncharted territory. Sign board just a few hundred meters from Rohtang-La said steep descent and a steep descent it was! Roads were a mixture of good and bad patches and we saw BRO workers trying to rebuild the rough patches. We had to stop after few kms because of the ongoing road work and here we were told by BRO personal that a bridge had gone down near Koksar, but they were not sure if it was on the Manali – Leh highway.

bro workers repairing the road

Soon the BRO workers gave us a green signal and I was in a mood to rip and soon found my self few minutes ahead of Shamik. Around 5kms before Koksar there were two roads going in different direction, one was leading to Koksar and then on to Leh and another one leading to Chandertal Lake and eventually to Kaza. I waited here for Shamik to arrive and I left with a promise to myself to do the road to Kaza soon.

hotel in manali

When we reached Koksar, we found the Koksar Bridge was out of order. That meant our trip was in serious jeopardy, since this was the only bridge to cross over to the other side and the current and depth of the river meant not even an army truck could cross it! BRO personals were allowing people to cross over so they could take the taxis/buses on the other side and reach their destination. While this was respite to the locals and other travelers, we could only look on helplessly.

me posing with my bike at kokhsar

damaged kokhsar bridge

traffic being held up at kokhsar

We had reached Koksar at 10:45am and it was around 2 o’clock in the afternoon and still there was no sign of bridge being opened for traffic and to make matters worse my tonsil pain started. We made our way back to a Dhaba and went inside for tea. Soon we saw two groups of three and two bikers reaching the same place. Shamik was interested in checking out the “situation” at the bridge while I wanted to rest so I waited at the Dhaba and here met two army soldiers who just couldn’t understand why some one would like to visit such an inhospitable terrain, a place where neither of them wanted to stay for long.

Shamik came back with three riders from Bangalore who were also heading to Leh. We started chatting about the current situation and we were soon joined by two more riders from Australia. All of us decided we had enough and approached BRO officials, who in turn assured us that bikes will be let through in the evening. That news brought relief to us, even though it meant waiting till 7 in the evening.

After a long wait it was time to start our steeds and cross the bent and now half ripped bridge. Luckily we all made it across without any problem, but now we had to ride in night.

en route to tandi

The nearest place we could hope to find accommodation was Keylong, 53kms from Koksar. We were riding though an area that we had only heard about and here we were covering it in total darkness.

Roads from Koksar to Keylong were in a bad shape and we were covering them under the cover of darkness, with only our bikes headlights to show us the way. It also had small craters filled with couple of feet of water. Some how we managed to stay planted on our steeds as we approached Tandi.

Tandi has the last petrol pump enroute to Leh and this was one place that we had to get petrol from. But when we approached Tandi the petrol pump was closed and we had to soldier on to Keylong and return in the morning to get petrol. Some thing we decided with reluctance.

The next 8kms from Tandi to Keylong were super smooth compared to what we had endured during the last couple of hours. After reaching Keylong we went to hotel Chandra Bhaga run by Himachal Tourism, there we had the choice of either getting a room or a luxury tent for Rs.400 and Rs.370 respectively. We choose the later and were soon escorted to our tent.

luxuary tent at keylong at hotel chandra bhaga

After settling in, I called up Salil who was suppose to leave for Ladakh in a day’s time, along with Manik, Sumit and Sunil. I had to warn them about the bridge in Koksar and after talking with Salil he decided that they will come through Srinagar side.

Preface, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7-1, Day 7-2, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day 11, Day 12, Day 13, Day 14, Day 15, Day 16-17