India has a lot of hidden beauty around. The roads have considerably developed. A long bike trip on some of the famous as well as offbeat places surely makes it worth. Just take your bike and get ready to hit the roads. Traveling to Leh-Ladakh is one of the most cherished dreams for many. Experiencing the sights of vast and desolate expanse of hills and valleys combined with the thrilling experience of enduring the harsh climate is one of its kind adventure.
Best Time To Visit Ladakh
Some people suggest summers to be the best time to visit the place when the weather is most exciting and amiable when the snow has melted and there is a buzz of activity with the colorful and vibrant Hemis Festival taking place.
On the other hand, according to some, winters have their own charm when only a handful of travelers visit the place and the site is all covered with snow and the views are most breathtaking.
Way To Ladakh
Covering a distance of 490km, be treated to an unforgettable experience on the Ladakh road trip. On the Manali to Leh road trip, you will traverse through high mountain passes, narrow passes, hairpin bends and scenic valleys where you can click panoramic photographs.
You will tour villages and witness the quiet and elegant lifestyle of people living in such divine settings. Fantastic scenic quotients, monasteries, resplendent villages, ancient trade routes and jaw-dropping views are the highlights of this trip.
The first obstacle to getting into Ladakh is the aptly-named Rohtang Pass. Located at a height of 3979 meters and at a distance of 51 km from Manali, Rohtang Pass is on the highway to Keylong/Leh. In winters, the pass remains closed but is open from June to October for motor vehicles. This pass is a gateway to Lahaul Spiti, Pangi and Leh valley. Rohtang Pass becomes quite tough with slippery road and narrow curves.
After passing Rohtang pass one away from civilization till next stop at Kaza, eight to ten hours away, On the way one may encounter construction crew working on road or power project and two small road side eating place. Be aware, already poor road will disappear on and off for kilometers but on this virgin landscape, even road is an eyesore. The tourists having disappeared into their budget accommodation from where they will drive back to Manali the next day. Peace reigns, the hot momos and thukpa soup will calm your nerves, and the silent giants to the north silhouetted against a starlit sky will remind you that your journey has only just begun.
Baralacha La, Sarchu Plains
The next day, as you cross the Baralacha La, Roads are mostly in bad shape and as the altitude increases, you might start noticing the first effects of Acute Mountain Sickness. It is advisable to take it easy and don’t over stress yourself, especially at the summit of Baralacha La, 16,500ft. From Baralacha La it is again a downhill but a rough ride till Bharatpur, after which the road condition starts improving gradually as you approach Sarchu.Sarchu, at an altitude of 14,000ft, is a collection of tents and a militarily base. Even though it is quite a windy place and high in altitude, it is the prefer night stop for most travelers. You will need to register at the check post in Sarchu before proceeding further.
This is the last and the highest pass on Manali – Leh Highway at a whopping height of 5328 Mtrs or 17582 feet. This pass is also the second highest motorable pass or road in the world, after Khardung La (5602 Mtrs or 18380 feet) which is the highest motorable pass or road in the world.
Final few km to the summit of the pass are in bad condition and the steepness coupled with a lack of air takes a toll on vehicles performance. But once you reach the top you will be greeted with spectacular views, in fact from Tanglang La you can clearly spot the road to the pass for miles on both directions.
Like the weather-ravaged traders of silk and spices, who came before you on a horse- or camel-back, even the hardiest of bikers will take a break in Leh. Today, it’s more Diesel jeans and North Face jackets, but it serves the same purpose: a place to rest your limbs, and as a launch pad for the other wonders around. Your biking agenda can take a break for a bit: recline in Leh’s cafes or stroll around window-shopping for trinkets and shawls.
To the northwest of Leh lies Nubra Valley, accessed by the snow-bound Khardung La, which at 18,380 feet, is considered the highest motorable road in the world. Like the passes you have already crossed and those yet to come, there simply isn’t much road up there. The Border Roads Organisation has given up battling the onslaught of melt water, and you have to contend with whatever remains of the road.
Watch the two-humped Bactrian camels and furry soft toy marmots scurrying around as you criss-cross over two gushing rivers, Nubra and Shyok. Here, precipitation is so sparse, you wonder how any life takes hold. But all around are lush poplar firs, and a few apple and apricot orchards. Well-appointed campsites are the new accommodation. You could also live in a Ladakhi home and guzzle their one-of-a-kind butter tea with momos and thukpa soup.
Hunder and Panamik
Two days in the Nubra are usually sufficient to probe all its wonders, biking up to its outer reaches of Hunder and Panamik, on either side of the Shyok River. Check out the hot-springs at Panamik before heading east, back the way you came. Unavoidably, you weave past the Internet cafes and carpet shops of Leh one more time, until your motorcycle sniffs out the highway again.
You have to contend with another arduous mountain pass as you ride to one of nature’s grandest wonders: the Changthang, a.k.a. The Great Tibetan Plateau, home to Mount Everest, and the source of the Yangtze and Mekong rivers. Your destination: Pangong Lake, whose salt water has been rendered brackish by 70 million years of precipitation. Geopolitically, it is a dead-end: a third of the lake is in India, the other two-thirds in Tibet.
After a two-hour ride on plateau roads, your first sight of the lake is heart-stopping. As you nose your motorcycle past the dun-coloured rocks, you catch a sudden gleam of cobalt-blue, which extends into the most magnificent water body. Here are colors borrowed from the Mediterranean and splashed onto these ridiculous heights creating a basin of calm. With the best of Ladakh now etched in memory, you can begin your journey home.
Also See: How To Plan The Perfect Road Trip With Friends
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