Who doesn’t like going on a holiday! Whether it is a day off from your usual work, chilling at a nearby shopping mall, or whether it is a week off spending with your dear ones at some hill station. Holidays are not just about having quality time with loved ones, its also about that sense of freedom, one experiences himself/herself; freedom from the fear of getting up early, freedom from going to bed at time and other usual routine. A plan of going on a holiday for a period of 10-12 days has to be a proper one. The most fun and memorable time has to be spent in this restricted time frame. As elders say, you can’t have all the fun sitting at one place; going to a hill station, being there for 7 days won’t actually be all that fun you would expect from a good trip. Hence a road trip is what can serve the purpose, and if you love biking, a biking trip with friends will probably be the best one.
Whenever we talk of a biking road trip, the world famous Manali-Leh road trip pops up immediately in the mind. Folks say, it is a must to have trip, at least once in a lifetime. The thrill, adventure, knowledge, and overall fun it offers is unparallel. The main reason behind the fun is the many awesome stopover destinations in between. You stop, eat, drink, click, take a nap, shout, laugh, and set off again. Here, we will discuss food, stay, sightseeing, budget, and everything else which matters en-route.
Leave from Manali as early as possible in the morning to avoid traffic jam on the way. Try spending a night at Solang valley, 14 kms from Manali, prior to the trip. Solang valley helps acclimatize the body for the further high altitude trip, its not much far away from Manali as well, hence in the morning, one can come back to Palchan, the diversion point at Manali, and start the journey from there. After crossing Palchan, Kothi, Gulaba, three small villages, one reaches Marhi, which is at an altitude of 3300 mtrs, the highest snow-fall in winters. Though it doesn’t facilitate a stay, it has few good eating joints and a liquor shop. CAUTION: Do Not Drink & Ride
Just next to Marhi is Rani Nala, which is a glacier point, and is covered with ice throughout the year, sometimes the fall is as high as 20 feet. You will not find anything to eat here though, just click pictures and continue the ride.
Next is Rohtang pass, at an altitude of around 4k mtrs. It’s around 50 kms from Manali and an extremely flooded place in the month of May-June. Keep in mind, it’s closed for around six months in winters due to heavy rains and snow fall. Altitude sickness starts showing its effect from here onwards and one might feel like puking, hence keep yourself hydrated.
Next important stop over after a few small ones is Tandi which has the only petrol pump on Manali-Leh Highway. After Manali the next pump is 360 kms from here, hence get your tanks filled up here. Tandi is also a must stopover because of the amazing confluence of rivers Chandra and Bhaga, which happens here. This is the same river which known as Chenab in J&K. Hence needless to say, click pictures/selfies here, but don’t rush on posting them, you don’t have a network connection that brilliant here.
Immediately after Tandi is Keylong, which is the biggest town located in the highway, you can opt for a night halt here, most of the buses stop here for a night and set off again early the next morning. There are many hotels, guest houses here, and an ATM as well. You may need to use this ATM as it’s difficult finding one ahead en-route.
Then comes Jispa, which is a small village located on the banks of Bhaga river. It has a small monastery, a small museum and a beautiful riverside to spend time at. Fixed phone connections can also be found here, which are rare henceforth. Next is a little place called Darcha, beyond which vegetation starts reducing and mountains will change their colors, oxygen level reduces a bit. Keep yourself hydrated and awake.
After a few more stops comes Baralacha La, second major hurdle to cross after Rohtang. Often one encounters heavy traffic jam and vehicles stuck here and there. Bad roads and deep water hurdles make journey tiresome for some and exciting for others. After a while comes Bharatpur, offering food and tented accommodation, one can chose to stay here overnight if you chose not to put up in Keylong. The accommodation is cheaper than Sarchu (about to come). The road from Bharatpur onwards is way better than what you rode through from Baralacha La.
Then comes Sarachu, at an altitude of 4300 mtrs, the state changes here from Himachal to J&K. Altitude sickness prevails here, hence its suggested to stay overnight @Keylong/Jispa than Sarchu. Though while coming back from Leh, there’s no such problem in staying here.
Lachalung La follows after a couple of small stop-overs, and this is when a little breathlessness is felt. The altitude is 5k mtrs, No vegetation, people, drinks, food, stay options here. Then comes Pang, a stop-over for food and clean toilets. Have your morning/evening tea, get energized and then continue further.
After a couple of more small villages in between, comes Taglang La, the last and highest pass on Manali-Leh Highway at an altitude of 5.3k mtrs. Don’t bother to stop here, the oxygen level is low, and no food can be found. Keep riding until you reach Upshi, a small town, which has fuel, food and toilets. Freshen up if you want or else keep riding to reach the ultimate destination-Leh. No need to mention, once you reach Leh, there is so much to do, the beauty of the place will let go all the discomfort you experienced in the last two days. Two day bike ride is worth the variety of food/people/places one encounter en-route Manali-Leh Highway. Go, live your life in Leh for as long as you want.