Manali to Leh : Highway to Heaven
"JULY 27 , 2014 , Ladakh.
It has been two days since I've reached manali. My body has got the needed rest and acclimatized to the mountains. After two months I am back here on the Himalayas , hence , I can't push myself and have to take things slow. There are buses to Leh but it takes 2 days to reach , whereas , the tempo travelers and other small vehicles, need a continuous run of 18 hours to reach Leh.
I have opted for the latter. My car is scheduled to start over at 7pm in the evening , which will enable me to reach Leh next day by 11 a.m. I am looking forward to this journey , for they say it is one of the most adventurous and thrilling ways to travel upon.
Only God knows what beauty , wonder and awe , He has kept in store for me. "
No words can describe more than this photos WILL do , what I witnessed next on my journey to Leh ...........
Considered the most dangerous highway by some , the route to Leh from MANALI is extravagantly beautiful. A stretch of 473 kms that goes through god forsaken landscapes yet , with a touch of paradise to say the least. The highway remains open only from mid june to mid october and is under surveillance and maintenance of Border Road Organisation. During the monsoon the highway goes through clouds and mists , enveloped in rugged terrains of ladakh and greens of himachal. Such features are for sure very less to be found in India.
The highway goes through many of high altitude passes having some jaw dropping beauty. Among them three are highest and most prominent. First of the lot is Rohtang pass , which enables one to cross over to Lahaul valley from manali. The village seen above in picture is Marhi , a police checkpost and last human settlement before Rohtang. Meadows adorn the top of the pass and generally covered in clouds , this rather was a very sunny day compared to usual, fortunately. The Rohtang stands at a 3950 meters or 13,000 feet.
Crossing over Rohtang , next human settlement is Khoksar , a beautiful village. The route goes through blooming yellow wild poppies and due to more rains in the recent years , the meadows are much more greener. The drive from Khoksar to Keylong, the last big town of Himachal is of endless twists and curves. The changing scenery makes up for the bumpy ride to Keylong. Image down below.
Keylong the last big town of the himachal. The town houses a good population of people, with a market and abundant food shops. If you are taking a bus from manali , keylong is a point where the bus might take a night rest or halt. Few of hotels and homestays , can be found should you decide to stop for a rest night.
A little from keylong is the village of Jispa , which is my favorite to halt for the night if you have to. Otherwise keep on going for the next big pass, THE BARALACHA.
The Baralacha pass at 4890m is not only daunting but one of the most dangerous pass in the world considering its too prone to snowfall and unexpected weather changes. There is a high probability to experience snowfall here. Many a tourist have breathing problem over here. Camphor could some in handy. However , personally this is the most beautiful pass enroute. Stopping over here you can visit the Suraj Tal lake on the pass , but high chances it will be covered in snow till middle of July.
Baralacha pass cross over, takes you down to Sarchu , the border of Himachal and Ladakh. The change in landscape is inevitable and astonishing to notice , to say the least.
As one leaves behind baralacha and enters the ladakh region , for the first time it seems unbelievable. Such landscapes that form this cold deserts can only be found here. Different pellets of colours can be found forming the mountain screens. The colours are evidence of high amount of minerals that can be found here, However , due to harsh enviorment life exists very less, let alone any kind of industry. In a good way, that ensures the survival of this region from the human and its greed.
Time stood still, as for the first time I touched the barren rock and soil mixed mountains of Ladakh to realize, I have finally reached the region.
Experience as such can never be put to words or captured in artificial camera , yet I try my level best.
When you arrive at Pang ( Picture above ) , You are well inside ladakh. Pang means " meadows" in local language here. High altitude meadows are found here hence . The beauty is breathtaking and enormous. Pang is the start of the huge More desert amd plains that stretches over the next 50 kilometers. No single source of water is found there. The last water source is this Nalla which seems to vanish as one starts to climb over the meadows leaving behind Pang.
The more plains that stretches long and wide is home to some of the rarest wildlife on earth including wild asses and Tibetan horses. Snow leopards and exotic birds also make their presence felt, with herds of ibex and mountain goats can be tracked roaming freely far on the mountain slopes.
Here in this picture above, are yaks native to Ladakh.
The beauty of More plains is unarguably the best patch of this route!! Bikers paradise and travelers delight such is the wonderful surroundings all over. The cloud formation is as beautiful and adds to the integrity of the landscape and its exclusiveness.
The more you see , the more you wander in awe ... God what an artist you are!!
The shadows of the cloud loom large over the mountains at a distance. And there hidden in its curves awaits the highest of all passes that fall on this route. The Tanglang la Pass !! The road to there is long and hard, loads of cars starts malfunctioning here. My car had faced such a fate once, and it was a experience I would remember for long.
The " More " Plains is sun scorched and lies wide and end to end with the horizon. This region makes up for one of the most beautiful and breathtaking views as you drive. Truly making this road a highway to heaven.
The top of Tanglang la is at a height of 5307 m ( picture above ). The second highest motorable road in the world. Many are likely to face breathing problem, and chilly winds make it hard to bear the surroundings. It is advisable not to be at such height for more than 10 minutes to tourists and travelers alike. The snowclad peaks in every view announces the proximity to Leh region , the destination that awaits.
The village of Rumtse ( pic above ) , situated by the Indus river , is among the many in the valley. Beautiful by its surrounding , blessed with rich farm lands of gold and green hue , it is a photographers delight. It also marks the beginning of the Indus valley. Even the city of Leh is situated by the river Indus and It felt great witnessing the famed river , which I have read in history books for so long. Its a wonder no doubt how a river brings life to such hard and bare environment. The purple and red scree over the mountains forms a different hue over the landscape. The huge ferrous content can be reasoned for such diversifying colours. It adds to the beauty of it.
And with in no time , you will arrive in Leh, the capital of Ladakh. The word inscribed here " JULLEY " is to be heard upon a lot now that you have entered the land of Gompas and lamas. People use " Julley to mean Hello , Thank you , okay or Good bye in the region of Ladakh. The journey through the manali - leh highway is a must for every traveler out there , and better than keeping it a dream , one must transform it into a memory. For more times , I have embarked upon this road but yet the first times are always special and will remain so.
Important Informations :
Manali leh highway can be taken upon on bus , shared taxis.
Buses run from Delhi to leh via manali from june end to september end. HPTDC conducts its own luxury coaches from manali to leh over a span of 2days to reach leh. Its ticket are expensive but includes stay and food for the night in transit. The staying is in tent which is an added advantage and attraction.
To catch ordinary bus enquire at manali bus stop. generally all long distances buses starts early morning from manali.
Shared taxis ply between manali leh all the time in the tourist season of mid june to mid october. Per seat cost vary from rs 1500 - 2500 depending upon the seat and comfort. This is faster way to reach leh in a day from manali. I took this mode and would recommend hence.
For more queries , feel free to connect with me.
The Photos are accumulation of a fellow photographer called mayank susnagi and me myself.
Note from the Author,
" Travel made me rich and free. Magic and miracles are true , once you wander on the roads to places different and divine. I have collected so many thoughts and stories while being a Tour & Trek guide for last seven years. Sharing with you all, those memories and stories , and wishing you all , that someday you guys travel far and wide too. I am not a great writer , so ignore my grammar and spellings, read it with feelings, and you might just be affected with the wanderlust to hit the road"