“Four-wheeler moves the Body; Two wheeler moves the Soul”. This phrase is complete and you’ll sense this feeling when you plan a bike trip to Leh because you are going to enjoy every moment of your Journey. The journey is what to be enjoyed rather be in a hurry to reach the destination. I enjoyed every bit and every moment of my journey and I’ll tell you how my 10-day bike trip to Leh went.
The trip planning:
A bike ride to Leh is what everyone’s dream especially if you are more enthusiast about rides, mountains, photography and to get some peace away from the crowded cities. I started planning for the Ladakh trip well in two-month advance. Surfed many websites for the itineraries. Research and preparations are what required if one is planning a bike trip in this no man’s land.
As this trip requires 10 to 15 days, many of my friends dropped their plan. In the end, only me and my friend Hitesh made it. And due to the scarcity of days, we made this trip for 10 day. Although I realized 10 days are much shorter for a bike trip if you have planned to cover Nubra or Tso Moriri or Tso Kar.
Day 1: Overnight journey from Delhi to Manali ( 550 km )
Finally, the day arrived me and my friend reached Majnu Ka Tilla by 10 p.m and boarded a Volvo bus to Manali. The ticket cost us 1100 per head for a 14-hour journey and by 12 in the noon we reached Manali. We are already in a contact with one of our mutual friend Naveen, who is a local travel guide and he made arrangements for a guest house for us. The guest house was adjacent to the Mall Road. The 14-hour journey on the bus was weary and we took rest that day.
Day 2: In Manali, Renting the motorcycle and local sight seeing.
Naveen got a friend who owns a bike rental shop. So we went there and He provided as the bikes in cheaper rates. Normally the costs range from 1500 to 1800 per day for a 500cc Royal Enfield and 1300 to 1500 for 350cc. We chose 500cc bullet standard. Since Only 500cc will withstand the steady ascent and the rugged paths for a hassle free journey. We finally made a deal of 1100 per day for a bike for 500cc Bullet Standard. Additionally, we deposited refundable security money of 15k and one of our ID proof. He also provided us spare parts that include two spare spark plugs, clutch wire, accelerator cable, spare tube, spanners, and screwdrivers.
To check the endurance of our bike and to test its mileage we made a small ride to a nearby place Naggar, which is 20 km from Manali City, where we visited Naggar castle and Nicholas Roerich Art Gallery. So we made a 40 kilometer up down, Doing this, it helps us to calculated the mileage. And it came us to know that it’s 20 km pl for one bike and the other one is giving 25 km pl.
In the evening we hopped the Mall road for necessary gears: Boots, fuel can, bungee cords, energy bars, poly covers, Oxygen kit and Diamox to overcome AMS, sunscreen lotion, muffler, gloves, etc.
Applying for Permit:
It is always advisable to start your journey early as possible i.e. before 7 A.M. Because crossing the Marhi and Rohtang is no less than a nightmare due to heavy traffic. To fight against these, the DC officials issue permit to tourists for Rohtang. And this permit is issued on daily basis as per the daily quota, which is 400 for diesel vehicle and 800 for petrol vehicle. The DC office was closed the day we hired the motorcycles so we had to apply for the permit on the next day, the day of our journey. And that leads us late and we departed around 10 A.M.
Day 3: Began our ride- Manali to Jispa (145 km)
Finally, after receiving permit we tied our luggage to the carrier and covered it with plastic sheets to avoid expose to dust and rain and waved a goodbye. Just after a distance of 300 m, we found a petrol pump and fueled our tank and the spare fuel jar (5ltr each). We crossed Pachan a nearby village then ascended to Marhi and took a short break there and we continued and ascended till Rohtang. The mesmerizing view of paragliding in Solang valley elated us.
On my way to Rohtang
As I was approaching Rohtang my bike was missing thump while throttling. This happens due to the high altitude, the lack of oxygen leads to malfunction the spark plug. And initially, we have no idea about the cause. Finally, we reached the first pass of our journey, Rohtang La. Surrounded by snow-clad mountains, the view was spectacular.
The moment we descended from Rohtang, the road gets deteriorated. But the spirit of stoicism remained with us till we reach Gramphu. A break is what we need so we halted here for a lunch. We had rajma chawal in lunch as mutton curry got finished but the dhaba owner assured as that he will serve us the non-veg while returning. After having lunch we kickstarted our bike and we rode through the beautiful curvy road on the valley of Chenab river. And there is a diversion in Gramphu for those who are traveling to Spiti.
Just after covering a short distance, it started sprinkling and we are not able to find any shelter at that moment. So we had to continue to the next stoppage at Khoksar which is 5 km away. By the time we reached Khoksar we soaked completely and stopped at the very first hotel we found. We used one of the bathrooms to change our soaked clothes. The manager served us yak butter tea, also known as po cha or cha süma. Traditionally it is made from tea leaves, yak butter, water, and salt. The tea also benefits from the altitude sickness on this high altitude place. Just after having our tea, the rain stopped and we resumed our journey. After 14 km we reached Sissu, where we saw a landslide hit village.
River Chenab in Tandi
Proceeding further we encountered a heavy traffic near Tandi. The highway was filled with sand dunes in which a car got stuck and was helped by a crane to remove it out the dunes. After a huge struggle we relieved ourselves out of that spot and reached the petrol filling station with a board at its entrance stating that “The last filling station in this highway, next petrol pump is 365 km away.” We top up our tank and fuel cans and riding further we reached Keylong. By the time we reached Keylong the sun settled down and it is about to get dark.
We planned our night stay at Jispa which is still 20km from Keylong. To waste no time we quickly purchased a spare tube, engine oil, and gloves and hurried to reach Jispa. On our way, we encountered stones falling off the cliffs and we turned ON the head lights and twisted the throttle to reach as soon as possible. And by dawn, we reached Jispa where we found few guest house and camps here. We decided to stay in a riverside camp, they charged 500 Rs for the camp and 300 Rs for food. It was a peaceful night staying in a camp house at the bank of Bagha river in Jispa. Watching the milky way from my naked eyes is an amazing experience.
Morning at Jispa
Day 4: Jispa to Pang (161 km)
The next morning when we are out of our tents, we were welcomed by frozen dew drops everywhere. There was a layer of ice covering our bikes. We left the camp after having breakfast. Journey to this day is challenging as we will be crossing two water pass and three mountain pass which will be Baralacha la, Nakee La, and Lachung La.
On our way to Darcha
We decided for a stay in Pang instead of Sarchu as we will be saving 81 km for our next day journey. Just after few kilometers towards Darcha, we crossed a water pass. Crossing this water pass is a challenge. And with a huge struggle, we finally crossed it one by one by helping each other. The only technique to cross a water pass is to maintain the speed and not to stop. After reaching Darcha we stopped at the checkpoint to registered our name and vehicle no. and had some refreshment from the nearby food stall. Beyond Darcha it is a steep ascent. At first, we had to cross a dry river bed as the bridge over it is under construction. Crossing this river bed is a bit challenge, as diving into the riverbed with your bike, then climbing out of it is not less than an adventure.
After ascending from a destructive road we reached Deepak Tal, a mesmerizing lake with peace and serenity. We stopped here for a while and took photographs then left. We crossed Patseo then Zingzingbar then reached to Suraj Tal another lake at this height is no less than a wonder. Further to ascending 8 km, we reached Baralacha la, the second pass of our journey. Here we felt a bit of AMS issue. The sensational adjacent peak covered with snow is much closer to this pass, which makes it more majestic.
After descended from Baralacha La we reached Killing Sarai by driving through the rugged and washed out road. We witness many fallen vehicle on the valley which is bit shocking and scared the shit out of us. After reaching Bharatpur we found few tented dhabas, but we continued till we reached Sarchu. We had to stop at Sarchu for a medical checkup arranged by the Indian army. They checked our BP level and the result for me was fit, whereas, for my friend they detected a slight change in his blood pressure. Since living at high altitude predispose you to high blood pressure. They gave us the required pills and we left from there.
The road from Bharatpur to the bed of Gata loop is plain and straight which is around 30-35 km adjacent to the Tsarap Chu river subsided below the normal level of the plain. We crossed a water pass which was normal that day, but we did felt challenging while returning due to a rise in water level.
Camping in Sarchu
In a few minutes, we reached Gata loops. The series of 21 hair pin bends elevated us further and we reached Nakee la, the third pass in our journey. Proceeding to further the fourth pass and the second highest in Manali-Leh highway, Lachung La. It is obvious that we stop by these passes and took photographs, especially at the posts covering with Tibetian flags and depicting the altitude of these passes.
Now only a 22 km ride is left to reach Pang. But I must say Lachung La to Pang is the most pathetic and rugged terrain in our entire journey. This rough patch was completely filled with rocks and sand dunes. And at the same time, we are also astonished by watching the soil formation and some natural cave on the way.
Finally, we reached Pang, many Tibetian ladies hurried towards us and other bikers convincing us to stay or eat at their place. We found only one lodge with a concrete roof and the rest all are tented accommodation. Since it was already tiring and we passed through all these chilling passes so we chose that. This stretch was the tiring one and we all exposed to the AMS. Every fellow riders except me got ill that day and we got medical aid from the nearest army camp.
Day 5: Pang to Leh (117 km)
The next morning we recovered a bit from the AMS. And set our saddle and continued our journey. Just after ascending few kilometer of rough patches we reached the widespread plain amidst of highest of the hills with an elevation of 4700m with mountains on the both side. Its a wonder in itself and We felt like riding on a highway of the plains and forgot that we are 4700m above sea level. We covered this 35 km stretch in 30-40 min and reached Debring. Where we stopped for tea and maggie and then continued. In a couple of minutes, we started ascending and we reached to our fifth pass in our journey – Tanglang La, which is the highest in Manali-Leh highway at an elevation of 5238m above sea level. The mighty force of chilling wind and the low oxygen level made us leave this pass quickly.
After descending from Tanglang La to something around 1000m we reached Rumste riding amidst of fine pastures and multi-color barren mountains, valleys, rivers. Riding to further we crossed a bridge built above the Indus River and reached Upshi and stopped to register our name and vehicle no. in the police check post. As we found few shops and restaurants, we decided to have lunch and ordered a Nonveg Thukpa, a Tibetan noodle mixing lamb soup.
After finishing it, we continued our journey and after few kilometer, my bike broke off and with struggle, we reached our next point- Karu, where we found a mechanic. He cleaned the carburetor and changed the spark plug and fixed the machine. The reason for the breakdown is at high altitude the ignition misses due to low oxygen level, and the spark plug malfunction causing enough smoke and dust from the smoke particles which choke the carburetor. We killed our two hours in the mechanic shop and by dawn, we reached Leh city.
We have no idea where to hunt for the hotel in Leh, but luckily we entered Changspa road. Where we got the cheapest accommodation and an awesome atmosphere there with hippie culture and many other multi-cuisine restaurants and German bakeries. We hopped the Leh market and took rest that evening.
Day 6: Leh to Pangong Tso (160 km)
Next morning we planned for Pangong Tso. Since we are offloaded with our luggage we decided to go on a single bike. In an hour we reached Karu where the other group of our friends who planned separately for this Ladakh tour met us. We left Karu after having breakfast there. Initially, the road was smooth and as we ascended after Shakti, the road deteriorated drastically. After some struggling move, we reached Chang La- The second highest motorable road in Ladakh. Descending to few kilometers on rough patches, then starts beautiful superbly laid tarmac and we reached Durbuk. There is also an Army base camp here and driving just a few km from Durbuk we reached Tangste, where we are stopped for a vehicle no. registration.
The journey beyond Tangste is fascinating as we were riding on a valley road with beautiful surroundings. The glimpse of Himalayan marmots hopping on the pastures captivated us. Then we reached Lukung, where we got the first glimpse of the Pangong Tso. The spectacular blue water can be noticeable even at this distance. Both of us lost by gazing in its beauty. And finally, we reached Spangmik.
Our friends in the other group had a pre-booking in wonderland camp situated on the bank of Pangong lake. So we planned to stay at the same camp but the caretaker refused to give a stay and told only pre-booked are allowed. After wrangling with him and convincing him, he finally agreed. It costs 2000 Rs for a tent of double sharing including dinner and breakfast.
We Parked our bike threw the bag to the bed, then walked down towards the lake. The water was pristine and so chilling that we refused to dive. So we just stood by its shore and watched the tiny waves. The changing color of the Pangong Lake is breathtaking and by dawn, we returned to our camp.
Towards Pangong Tso
Day 7: Pangong to Leh (160 km)
Next morning we missed the sunrise due to the incomplete sleep we had last night due to the chilling weather. The Sunrise in Pangong is said to be amazing. We took few photographs then had our breakfast and decided to return. By 4 to 5 hour we reached Leh. We did our lunch in Leh. The restaurant was amazing so as the food. And then took rest in the hotel and by evening got out for a walk to the market. The market is good and they renovating the main market area at that time. And luckily we found the other group in the market and after some chit chat, we returned.
Day 8: Leh Local sightseeing (38 km)
Next day we decided for a local sightseeing in Leh. We decided to go to Thiksey Gompa which is approx 19 km from the city. The Monastery is a twelve story complex and houses many items of Buddhist art such as stupas, statues, thangkas (Buddist painting on cotton or silk applique), wall paintings and swords. The main point of interest is a 49 ft high statue of Maitreya inside the monastery. The view of the valley from the monastery is amazing. We also visited Mahabodhi International Meditation center and returned to our Hotel.
Day 9: Leh to Zingzingbar (313 km)
Now it’s the day of our returning from Leh and we decided to cover as much distance as possible. Returning was easy as we are totally acclimatized and now we are very much aware of the road and the places. Initially, we planned our first-day journey up to Sarchu which is 260 km from Leh. Since plenty of tented accommodations available there.
It was tough for us when we had to cross the water pass near Sarchu. Since by evening the water level rises up by far. Luckily I came out of it, But its a bad luck for Hitesh. As his bike disbalanced and he falls off. The water is so chilling that we had to change the shoe. We had a tea in a nearby tented stall to warm ourselves and we decided to cover up to Zingzingbar which is 53 km from Sarchu. As this will save 53 km for our next day journey and we could reach Manali at earliest. There are only two dhabas at that time in Zingzingbar where they also provisioned for a stay. So we took no time and started our bike.
Waterpass in Sarchu
This decision was a total risk to our life which we realized later. We are at 4.30 in Sarchu and thought we can reach Zingzingbar by 6 or 6.30 by calculating the same pace we reached Sarchu. But we completely forgot that there is a pass in our way, which is Baralacha La. The route up to Baralacha la is a terrain and complete rough and devastated that it took one hour to cover the 10 km stretch to reach Baralacha La. And before we could reach Baralacha La the sun settled down.
In a normal day time or at noon when the sun gazes the whole, the temperature in these passes is so minimum, and the high chilling wind will scare the shit out of you. And we the dull-witted reached Baralacha La by 7 pm. We almost forgot that the sunset in mountains occurs early. And Zingzingbar is still 18 km. We descended into the darkness with shivering hands, the temperature is below zero and after some back-breaking ride, we reached Zingzingbar.
Camping in Zingzingbar
Day 10: Zingzingbar to Manali (177 km) and Overnight Journey from Manali to Delhi via Chandigarh.
Now it’s the last stretch of our bike ride which is just 177 km. After having a breakfast in the dhaba we are back on the track. It was all descending and we took our first halt at Tandi. We felt no need for fuel so we continued till Gramphu where we had our lunch at the same dhaba but this time as promised the dhaba owner served us mutton curry. We filled our stomach then the last ascent of our return journey to the Rohtang La of 15 km. Stood at Rohtang La for some photographs and we descended. We were in a turbo mode when we are descending from Rohtang and we reached Manali quickly than usual.
We hand over the bike to the owner after all settlements and rushed to the bus stand to catch a bus for Delhi. Unfortunately, we got no bus, as after 6 PM the availability of Volvo to Delhi is rare. So we had to catch the Volvo up to Chandigarh. And reached Chandigarh by 4 AM and from there we took another bus to Delhi.
On our return to Rohtang La