Wild Wonderful Karnataka dreamroutes.org


On the road again....

    you think of the long road ahead
in the cold wind that you want to tread.
You are alone out there and thinking
somehow I should get there without any loss.
Then you start think of someone
who can do the magic for you,
who has the power to see
that you have crossed the river safely.
That's the nature of the psyche about God.
Probably its human.
  Started the journey towards the highest motorable pass in the world on 15th of August 2002. The homework took almost three months. With the same hope arrived at New Delhi on a hot August afternoon on the 17th. And started the ride on my bike towards Manali. By evening found a hotel in Ambala for the first day's rest.
  Plan sketched out is somewhat like this. Start from Delhi take two days to reach Manali, which is 534kms away. Stay in Manali for day or two. Start for Leh(477kms from Manali)-Khardung La (41kms from Leh, the highest motorable pass in the World). The round trip Manali-Leh-Khardung La- Leh - Manali should take 5 days plus 2 extra days in case of bad weather and be back in Delhi by the 30th of August. Only the execution is left now.
  Till Roop Nagar which is few kilometers from Chandigarh the weather is dry and hot. Once you enter the Himachal you will start feeling the cold breeze, that tells you that you are in "Himachal". The ride which is so far monotonous with the almost straight road gets a touch of climbing hills and curves and bends. The next days stay is in Babeli (8kms from Kullu) in a Guest house. The kind owner who used to run guest house early now gives rooms for only selected people as he is not in running it as business. And it sure is wonderful to meet some gentleman who had visited my native sometime back. You never know to whom you are talking to.
  The next two days are resting and shopping days in Manali. And ofcourse not to forget the food tasting days also. Met a guy by name Sohan Lal, friend of a friend, now a friend, a busy person harvesting the apple in his orchards. Yes, the time is just right to eat a ripe garden fresh apple. The side bags for my bike are also looking good, heavy and ready with spares of the vehicle and some petrol.
  The next day 21st is the first day towards Leh. Observation was the weather becomes quite unpredictable and may get worse after 1600hrs. Later I found that I was wrong it's 1400h. From Manali itself the climb begins to Rohtang La. The top is 51kms away from Manali and took around 2hours in the clouds. Might take less in clear weather. Just few kilometers after the Pass the road diverts one leading to Batal, ChandraTaal Lake and other towards Leh. 16kms from the top is place called Khoksar with a Police check post where all the vehicle movements are to be registered.

  Early yesterday while chatting with Sohan Lal we talked about people, how peoples response depends on how your approach is. To be friends with anyone I say one should have sympathy for the local custom, language and tradition. And I say these himachali's you find in villages and small places are very friendly.

  After ride through few villages one sign board stops you saying "next filling station is 364kms away". Place is Tandi with last petrol bunk after Manali. The biggest place around is Keylong. On the banks of a river with few Monasteries. Jispa and Darcha are the next places. Darcha is the starting point for quite a few expeditions in the Ladakh range. Has quite a number of dhabas. And 143kms away from Manali.
  The dhabas are places where you can stay overnight. They provide bed for a nominal charge. (20-30 rupees a bed).And food so good and native! The Garja Dhaba is the place for the night and choti KusumLata who is spending the holidays away from her school in Manali is all enthu about this stranger in dirty clothes and loads of luggage on a two wheeler. It is nice talking to kids. It is so much relaxing.
  The next days destination is fixed. It is going to be Pang at a distance of about 145kms. The "eat well sleep well" diet is on. Got up at 0630h and was riding away from Darcha at 0700h. The next place you find humans on the way is Patseo, a military base. Few kilometers ahead is Zing Zing Bar and the climb again begins for the Baralacha La. Then you get Bharathpur with a stream which has broken down a small bridge and the vehicles are crossing in the water. Good thing about these Himalayan streams is that in the early hours of morning water is less because of less melting of ice upstream. Bad thing is one can't judge the force of the current just by looking at them. They are always more powerful than one thinks. And the news is we reached there at 1100h and everything is at moderate level.
  After crossing the stream the next place on the way is Sarchu. The last place in the Himachal Pradesh. After Sarchu one enters the Jammu and Kashmir state. The Sarchu is a plain land miles and miles in dimension. Next part of the road is the Gata Loops. 21 Loops, start at about 4200m and takes you to height of about 4600m. And The destination is near Pang . The cold deserts starts to show its beauty. A herd of Thars are really a wonderful sight crossing the road before you and vanishing in the vastness of the mountains.
  When in Pang, stay at Sonam's Dhaba. Quite remarkable woman. Here people have setup tents for serving food and providing night's accommodation. Food is really good. I seemed to have developed AMS (ACute Mountain Sickness). Whenever I see tent I feel like going in and drinking a cup of hot tea. :) Just Kidding. But in reality at such altitude sickness is a common fact.
  Next days pitch report says everything is bright and sunny. The More Plains start after 8kms from Pang. This is 40kms just plain flat road at about height of 4600m amidst high mountains. Amazing. Then the climb for the World's second Highest Pass The TangLang La starts. The road builders here are one hell of a guys. As they say "It is really a Matter of Pride". Most of the traffic one finds is of trucks, and Army vehicles and some tourist four wheelers. And ofcourse few riders on Bicycles and Motorcycles.
  After some hot black tea and sharing fire with the Army people the descent starts for Rumtse, in the coldest wind so far. As one goes down the whole vegetation (whatever little bit one finds) changes. You are entering Ladakh now.
  Me is thinking why I am not taking many pictures. Probably me is confused which one to photograph and which one to leave, 'cos everywhere almost every angle poses a wonderful view. heck! Let me enjoy riding first. :)
  After Rumtse the Major place is Upshi around 50kms from Leh. From here one road takes you to Pangong Lake and other places and the other to Leh,Kargil Srinagar etc. Upshi is at quite low altitude around 11000ft and from here it is a nice ride to Leh through many small villages. The major place enroute is Karu with a huge Military Base.

  That night stay is at Leh. And plan is to leave all the Luggage in hotel and Leave for Khardung La next morning. And by 1200h next day the Khardung La ride is also over. The Leh is the biggest town in the surrounding with a airport along with other necessary things for a tourist, especially a tourist from abroad.

  The Police at check post in South Pullu is asking for a Permission letter from the Certain Govt. official in Leh to visit Khardung La. Who knew this? "Ok" He says "Go on! Now that you have come till here I am letting you go on my risk. But Do leave a Identification card". With my DL on his table the climb for the Pass begins. Nice one. After another 40 minutes ride we are on the top. Its quite a busy place unlike other passes. Many tourists and Army people.
  Done. The first Half of ride is finished successfully. Now shall start for Manali. the next day early morning.

  The day starts at 0815h. Now I have also learnt how side bags should be for a long ride. Where the buckles should be stitched, where the loop goes etc. I have been working out with the bags I have, with plastic ropes so far, well and good. Now I have purchased some cotton strips, still better or probably the best. Rides on the gradual ascent from Leh to Upshi is just brilliant in the early morning hours. When I reach Rumtse it started raining. First experience of the ride in the Himalayan rain. Yep, it is only drizzling but still the ride is just fine

  Met RamPravesh, as I had promised and took his message for his friends in BLR. He is one of the persons I met the other day a TangLang La. Rumste is their base. Ate the apples he offered. He was generous enough to offer lunch. If only I had time I could have had the taste of army lunch in Himalayas.
  As I ascend to TangLang La the weather still holding the same position, probably it is snowing on the side of the Pass. I see none except a Lorry driver. The More Plains are still the same part sunny, part cloudy. And Now at end part is snowing and raining heavily with all the flash and thunder. Thought is Pang is nearby If could get there I'll be home. But what lies ahead is descent, i.e. curves,bends etc as usual. It is raining and I have only one brake in my bike. Oh! Yes, the other brake...
  I parked my bike on a side in the Leh main bazaar and went for a chowmein. By the time I was out I see my bikes front brake is broken, can't use it at all. And the head lamp is broken partly. Darn some guy must be having some fancy parking style. Believe me these unreligious accidents hurt you most. If it was on the road or somewhere it would have been like a warrior in the battlefield.
  After I descent to Pang fully drenched the treatment I get is just wonderful. The lady at the dhaba was cooking something on the kerosene stove. When I enter the dhaba she takes away all the wet jackets and bags away for drying and brings the kerosene stove near me shivering like a feather. And I get loads of hot milk tea and 'namkeen tea'. Just wonderful people.
  The news in the evening is there is a small landslide on the way, I am to cover next day. It is on a slope, only small vehicles can come from the top. From the other side the it is difficult as it will be like climbing a muddy hill in the rain. With a 150ft valley on one side. The truck guys are just waiting for the army bulldozers to clear the road. A gypsy guy and me have a plan. "If the army guys go, they start late and we'll be late for our next things. Let's start early in the morning and getaway from this as soon as possible". So the plan and works out very fine. Now all my luggage is in the gypsy and we are light and flying.
  This morning one of the most beautiful morning in the whole event. Clear blue sky, with those typical misty white clouds at the peaks of every snow covered mountain shining with the morning sunlight. Words fail me. Eyeful is not enough. Sigh! I have to go. Probably it is also one of the coldest mornings also.
  And a thought runs in my mind. What draws one near the beliefs. There are streams here sometime uncrossable. There are landslides here cutting you away from the world, there are storms here with freezing cold winds and there is road itself long and winding. All one could pray for is his or her safety, something which could bring him or her near to his or her people again. Then the gods are born in the minds. In the minds of the unknown and the known, the minds which have seen the forces of the nature. How different a life in BLR from a life in Pang in this matter?
  Then at the Bharatpur tents the Gypsy guys and we separate. As they have to rush. These tourist agency guys are always in a hurry. They say they start at 0200h from Leh and reach Manali by 1900h. Goodness gracious. From Here it is smooth sailing till Darcha. As soon as we reach the rain gods are happy again and start.
  There is a long bridge at Darcha over Bhaga river. As the rain pours the water level in the river is also rising flowing a little over the bridge. My worry is if something happens to the bridge I could well be struck there for good 3 to 4 days. The lady at the dhaba noticed my worry and assures me that nothing is going to happen and I should be away from worries. And she indeed was right.
  Next days ride brings me near my starting point. The only major place in between is the Rohtang La. When we reach the top we are all in the clouds with probably 30ft of visibility. I say to myself "wow this is going to be great!" and as I carry further on for another good 15to20 minutes it is real fun riding down a hairpin bends,loops inside the cloud. But after 30 more minutes it gets kind of boring. You see nothing, you honk, you flash lights, look for pits, manage vehicle with one break etc etc. When I reach Manali I say to myself "well, Never before I was there in the clouds with my bike for an hour time. Hmmm.. things happen!".

  Back in Manali me and Sohan Lal are eating delicious momoes and talking about what we observed. We agree that the colour may change, the food habbits might be different but basically anywhere you see in India the family and the family system is same. The people are the same with different languages and adoptions but their beliefs are the same. We also talked about how good south Indians are at sweet dishes (both making and eating) and how little sweets Himachal has, etc. it goes on...

The rest of the story is not much interesting. Ride away from Manali in rain to the hot dusty Delhi and be back to BLR by train. But what's interesting is the things that are not done. Riding in the deviations to the main road, Taking photos of the main interesting stuff, and visiting all the places that are reachable. I must go back again.

Now I am back in BLR, visions are running in my head. I knew head is far away from the heart and unreachable at times and I am learning now that it is true all the times.

  I must go back again. As they say Himalayas will call you back, be prepared. True, I am an atheist, still I would say if there is a something like god the it must be Sun and the Mountains.
May the light be with me, with everyone of us.


"Guri beku baaLinge guri hiridu beku
guri matta keeLaage aduve paapa,
Geluvirali, solirali Horaatave guri
ida tiLidu munde nuggo Timma".

      -- BeeChi.
    (I have written the above lines as I remember them. My sincere apologies if the above words are not exact replica of BeeChi's writing. -- ravee)