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The much anticipated journey of our trip – Manali to leh drive – started with the entry of Bittu bai. Annavru’s relative and since he was very small built we named him sannavru !. We started our journey by 5AM with a bad coffee treat from annavru. We bid goodbye to him and promised to meet him the next time we visit Manali. He asked us to call him and inform soon we reach our destiny.

Manali-Leh

Manali-Leh


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The way from manali to leh is one of the most fascinating routes and travelers’ paradise. This route is called Biker’s mecca. Every adventure biker’s biggest dream. The journey is divided into 3 parts. Manali – Rothaang pass, Rothang pass- sarchu, sarchu – leh. Only the first part is accessible through out the year. If there is heavy snowfall it is not possible to go up till rothang. The later two parts are accessible only between mid july-mid September when the snow melts. The route till rothang pass is full of snow and cloud clad mountains, water falls and streams. The road is very narrow with a thousand feet drop on one side and steep hill on another side. We found many streams crossing the roads. We stopped at a place called “Maddi” for breakfast. It is a small village with a few dhabas located at almost a no man’s land on top of a mountain. The density of air had already reduced and one of my friends fell sick and developed severe headache.

Maddi

Maddi

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Rothang top

Rothang top

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Dare not refill here!

Dare not refill here!

We then reached Rothang pass. It is located at about 16000 ft above sea level and one of the most beautiful places of himachal Pradesh. “Rothang” means “pile of dead bodies” and “pass” means “valley”. In the past this was the only route that connected a part of china to India and its terrible weather used to kill many travelers and hence the name “Valley of the dead”. This place is covered with snow most of the year and is accessible for only 3 months an year. This is one of the most photogenic places of Himachal. After a brief photo session we continued via Keylong and stopped at a place called “Darcha”(28 km from keylong) for lunch. The menu had noodles and bread-jam. Do REMEMBER to refuel your vehicle here. There are no fuel stations for the next 380 kms!

 

 

Keylong to Sarchu route:

Sarchu

 

Killing Sarai

20km

Baralachala

13km

Surajtal

3km

Zingzingbar

19km

Patsio

6km

Darcha

19km

Jispa

5km

Stingri

18km

Keylong

7km

 

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Sissu falls

Sissu falls

Darcha-Sarchu (84 km):
After Darcha, we were greeted by a small yet posh village called “Sissu”. The entire village of sissu was buried due to a land slide during 1960s which killed everyone except a few who has rebuilt this village to its past glory. The view from this village is very pleasing as it is entirely surrounded by mammoth mountains, a huge waterfall, a lake and garden like fields.
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Suraj taal

Suraj taal

Then comes a small lake called Suraj Tal – The birth place of the river Bhaga. The water in the lake is very pure and the reflection of blue skies and snow clad mountains is mesmerizing. A couple of kilometers ahead is the famous Bara-lacha-la (also known as Bara-lacha Pass, el. 4890 m./16,040 ft.) – one of the highest motorable passes in the world. We took a few photos of this place and headed to a small village of 20 people called Bharathpur where we had evening tea. Finally we came to Sarchu at around 6PM. Once can find many tents put up for visitors on one side of the highway. We got down at the very first one, negotiated the price(800 per tent) and dumped our bags inside. The evening walk at Sarchu was made memorable by panoramic view of a vast plain land walled by mammoth mountains painted with million colors by the setting Sun. A few fell prey to AMS and hence slept in the tents while rest of us walked till the trench where we could see the river Indus. Mercury drops below zero once night sets in and we were forced to stay inside the tent. It even rained chickens and piglets during night  Even though one won’t feel very cold inside; acclimatization is difficult due to low oxygen levels.
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Baralacha La

Baralacha La

Sarchu – Pang: (Next day )
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Jammu and Kashmir border is just 2KM from Sarchu. The drive from here is exiting as well as horrible (because of bad road). We pass through Nakula(15500 ft) and Lachungla(16500 ft) passes. One get to see a few army camps on the way. This route goes alongside river Indus till Pang. We stopped at Pang for lunch. Pang is again a small village with a few(5-6) tents. Every tent is hotel which serves tea, noodles, bread, chips and a few other things. The grocery for this village is supplied by the army vehicles which pass by.

Pang-Tanglang la – Leh:
Half an hour after we left Pang, we were almost asleep and suddenly our bittu bhai accelerated the vehicle like an F1 car. We woke up by this sudden change of pace and to our astonishment there lay a long stretch of straight muddy road that bisected a huge plain land that seemed like the biggest playground on Earth. We stopped the car in the middle of the stretch and got down to take photos. The deserted snow capped mountains looked like jam packed audience cheering us with their silence.

F1 track at 17000ft

F1 track at 17000ft


Tanglang La

Tanglang La


Pepped up by the view, we raced ahead to the other end of the track leaving behind a long trail of dusty cloud. We passed through the Tanglang La pass, the second highest motorable road in the world(approx.17800 ft). After a car wash at a small village Upshi we slept throughout the drive and woke up only when we were on the outskirts of Leh. We drove to “Leh 422-Army camp” where Our stay arrangements had been made by the Army at one of their guest house. The guest house was named “Nubra” and had a beautiful view of Leh and airport. We were greeted by subeidar Ranbir Singh who arranged for our medical check up. Evening tea and dinner was taken care of by our appointed sahayak Tarun. We spend rest of the time watching TV or roaming around within the Army camp.

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View from our cottage

View from our cottage


As usual I got up earlier than others and as I opened the window screens the view of the snow capped mountains gave me a pleasant surprise. We had not noticed any snow covered mountain the previous day as it was late in the evening by the time we reached Manali. Below, in the garden of the holiday home there were numerous apple trees with lovely apples. Amazed with the view I woke up all my friends in no time.
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It was 9’0 clock before we got ready and Annavru was in time to pick us up. We went to the same hotel Natraj for breakfast and had decent grilled sandwiches before leaving to the river rafting camp. We reached the rafting camp by 10:30( it is on the banks of river Beas,35 kms from Manali on way to kullu). There were two kinds of rafting rides – short and long( 300 and 500 per head respectively). We decided to take the short ride. We then realized that we have left all the money in the car which was parked quite far. Annavru was back in action drawing out numerous 1000 rupee notes and offered us 2 of them to pay for our ride!! We accepted the generous offer and decided to pay him later. We got in to the safety jackets and gave our cameras to Annavru to take some pics. It was a 3km ride in the violent Beas and we had a real good fun. By the time we reached our destination rocketing in the river we were surprised to see annavru waiting at the other bank with the camera! We dried ourselves at the banks and got in to the car.
Rafting at Beas

Rafting at Beas


We then stopped at a hotel River View for lunch. We ordered a few things and while waiting we learned that Annavru was inside the kitchen taking personal care for the food being prepared! Amazing guy.. We then went to the famous Namdhari’s for shopping. Known by its brand, it is one of the most famous shopping destinations at kullu-manali.

After shopping for more than an hour( well yes we did buy so many clothing – for ourselves and family back at home) when we were about to leave in our car a disaster struck. When our car was taking a reverse turn it was hit sideways by a lorry. The impact was so strong that the entire door and sides of the car were ripped off. We were still in a shock when the lorry went on to hit another lorry right in front of it and all 3 vehicles came to a stop. Annavru was hurt and lost to see his dear car in such a state. The traffic came to a halt on both sides and police were summoned. There was a fierce fight between the two lorry drivers but annavru interestingly maintained his calm. Police came and summoned the lorry owners and annavru’s boss and everyone decided to discuss and settle the matter. By that time the traffic was jammed for miles on both sides and police had tough time clearing it. Finally after being slapped(the best live slap I’ve ever seen J ) by annavru’s boss the offending lorry driver agreed his mistake and confessed that his lorry had no breaks. His owner agreed to pay some ransom. By then Annavru went and arranged for some cold drinks for us! His boss apologized to us for the trouble and gave a false invite to his house for a lunch the next day. We finally left the place by 7:30 stopped at Hotel Natraj on the way for dinner and reached the holiday home by 9PM. Annavru promised to come back the next morning with another car and take us around.

The next morning we got up very late as annavru had told he’ll be coming a little late. We noticed that the previous day’s incident were in all the news papers with our mention as the tourists from Bangalore! Annavru came in his friend’s Tata Sumo at 10:30 and we went to hotel Natraj(Again :-() for a brunch( breakfast cum lunch). We then went to the famous Hadimba temple. The temple looks like an antic artifact placed at the centre of a beautiful park. The temple’s door is very small and the interior is like a gufa(cave).Here we got to see the locals in their traditional costume. The place looked as if there was a multi cultural/lingual/national gathering as we could see people from various places of India/world. Very nearby there is a huge Gatotkach tree to which people pray. At this place one can find numerous local people trying to sell herbal medicines to improve fertility and also kesar.. I don’t think it’s a wise idea to fall prey to them.

Hadimba Temple

Hadimba Temple


From the Hadimba temple we went to a place called vasist which is famous for its hot springs. There is a temple at this place which multiple pools which are filled by the hot springs. Even the wash taps provided there supply hot water from these springs.

From vasist we went to a place called Buddha Gufa which is located at the centre of the town. It is a small yet beautiful monestry. Here Annavru treated us with a manali special tasty dish called MOMO( veg momo).

The next place to visit is the Central park. It is a small part located at the centre of the town and in winter season it is very famous for its snow capped trees and views. There is even a small pool with a few peddling boats. The park edges with the banks of the river Beas and its an ideal place for newly wed 😉

We then had dinner at a hotel called Aashiana. Pretty decent one with weird food combos. Their menu had “plane dosa”, “chile bear”, “chinnes”, “edli” etc..! Spelling mistakes are very common. (I don’t know if their dictionary itself is different). Manali is very famous for its apple juice. There are a few factories on the way from simla to manali where we can drop by and have apple juice. We did buy a few bottles of concentrated apple juice mix at a shop to take back home. We came back to Holiday home and packed all our stuff, had bath as we had to leav very early the next day.

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