On Tuesday, we got-up early (as the consequence otherwise would be to get stuck in Manali for one mroe day) and were ready to ride by 0430 hrs. But it took us more than half hour to tie our bags to the bike carriage. By that time we learned that the couple which was reached earlier & was staying at a different place had some issue taking the bike out because of haphazard parking. By the time we forced that bike out by denting few cars, it was already 0545. We thought that we had a very slim chance of making past Rohtang, but we still decided to take the ride as it would help us test the bikes in any case. And what a ride it was !
The 'road' to Rohtang after Madhi was horrible, and thats understatement... The correct description of the 'road' will be - a route made by passing vehicles on a mountain by choosing pits which will not topple the vehicles upside down. It has everything required to test the driver skills - mud, water logging, water crossings, sharp beds and on top - no Road. We're thankful that only by luck we were there on Tuesday morning when its closed. We latter at Zojila pass found out what its to drive among the trucks at the blocked pass, but thats for latter.. We can now confirm, if you start early on Tuesday morning, you can arrive at Rohtang in 11/2 - 2 hours.
Rohtang pass - which means pile of corpses or ground of corpses was so named because of people dying in bad weather to in trying cross the pass. It connects the Kullu valley to the Lahaul & Spiti valley on the other side and is one of the ancient trade routes. Once at the pass we had some food and celebration.
|Celebration (at 3,978 m ~ 13,054 ft*)|
The road after the pass was equally challenging and there then we passed one of the first guys who went about this journey/route on bicycle ...
Since the pass is opened only during May - November, Govt of India is building a tunnel under Rohtang which will be longest road tunnel in India and will reduce the distance between Manali & Keylong by almost 60 KMs. Lying on the Manali-Leh axis, this (Rohtang) is/ will be one of the two routes to Ladakh. The other route through the Zoji La pass on the Srinagar-Drass-Kargil-Leh highway also gets blocked by snow for nearly four months in a year. These two routes are vital to feed military supplies into the sub-sector west (facing Aksai Chin) and the Siachen Glacier. We were to take other route while returning.
By the time we decended in Koksar we had realised the importance of heavy-steady bike that we had hired. Nitesh, who was used to only gear-less scooter, rode with his wife and fell thrice but all (bike & both of them) reached unscathed to Keylong. Thanks to the BIG carriage we had in the back for loading the bags. That used to make first contact with the ground rather than the front leg gaurd or so and there by giving some time to take body parts out.
The view from the valley was beautiful and we stopped for another round of snacks. Everyone, including Kishore who had got one size 4 & another size 9, was grateful for the last minute purchase of the gub-boots.
|Crow with yellow beak... Little we knew at the time that we will see many in coming days|
We made a second stop near one small waterfall. The sun was burning & still water was chilled and we could hardly dip our feet in it. It was here we first appreciated the importance of warnings on several on-line forums about 'sun burn' and 'frost bite'.
The ride after the descend was pleasant as the road moved along the river - which we believed was a
Chandra River, a source stream of the river Chenab. We reached fuel station at Tandi by the late afternoon. This was advertised as the last fuel station till Leh. We wanted to get the tank full, but thanks to the adamant attendant, we could get only two litre per bike as he has to serve LOT of customers (?) and he had limited stock. However, latter we found that many tent owners and small shops on the way also sell petrol in small cans at marginal premium. So its better to get the tank full and fill fuel cans in Manali itself. If the bike average is good (our bike gave over 30-33 km/l), you don't have to fight with the Indian Oil-Tandi.
By the time we reached Keylong, everyone was tired and did not feel like riding one (or two) more hour to Jispa. We decided to stay in Keylong itself and booked a hotel (Hotel Gespa Inn) on the market street. It rained in the evening and view from the hotel balcony was excellent.
Some pictures from the first day's ride
* Significance of 13k ft for Puru was realised much latter but now looking back to these pictures, we know that celebration was quite apt.