Travel Travel and Wellness

Ladakh Diaries: A Drive Like No Other

Part 1- Manali Leh Highway: A visual feast from the riskiest road in the world.
Opening up my wings to Leh ladakh- ‘the most majestic cold desert on earth’ was one of the most unforgettable, visually stunning, exciting and an adventurous epic journey of my lifetime.
Hop on with me to take you across from one of the riskiest road in the world- The Manali Leh Highway.
The experience was breathtakingly unbelievable as we drove across beautiful historical trade routes through enchanting valleys, rugged terrains, picturesque mountains and scenic landscapes full of thrill and excitement.
Almost touching the skies, the high altitude of thisepic highway will test you, scare you, shock you and leave you spellbound.
Traversing through winding roadways, the road clings and wriggles through some of the most spectacular terrain in the world- crossing high passes, fords, streams and tumbling mountain surfaces!
Best Time to Visit:
The roads open up for only a few months a year.
June to September is the best time to travel down this route. If travelling by road, you will take at least minimum 2 days with adequate overnight stay stops at places such as Keylong, Sarchu or Pang to name a few.
Route Map
Manali-Solang-Rothang La– Keylong – Jispa – Darcha – Zingzing Bar- Baralach La– Sarchu –Gata Loops– Lachulung La – Pang – Morey Plains – Tanglang La – Upshi – Karu – Leh
So my dearest friend’s bday was coming close- it was a big day and has to be extraordinarily special and unforgettable life long.And what could be more special than a driving experience over the Great Himalayan range through some of the highest mountain passes in the world. 
Leh had been on my “travel wishlist” for ages and so the spirits excelled quite high.
We took a night Volvo from Delhi to Manali. It was a bit chilled on a cold drizzy morning, as we reached Manali in the wee hours; and without wasting a single second we were set off for Leh.
Leave early and Reach early’ is the golden mantra that prevails the valley as you cannot depend on the fickle mountain weather.
The road drive takes you to a stunning array of Himalayan range from the lush greens of Kullu-Manali to the scrubby slopes of the Lahaul region, the snow capped peaks of the Great Himalayas, the ochre mountains of Kiling sarai, the grasslands of the Sarchu plains, the sand blasted anthill slopes leading to Pang, vast rolling Morey plains fringed by low mountains, and finally the comforting descent to barren mountain desert of Ladakh taking you over high passes starting with Rohtang, Baralacha, Nakee La, Lachung La and Tanglang La. The road trip takes 2-3 days to help acclimatize to the high altitude conditions.
Here is a brief snapshot of the route and its myriad offerings right from spectacularly scenic dramatic landscapes, high passes and the adventurous winding historical routes traversing through the Pir Panjal, Great Himalayas and the Zanskar ranges.
Manali-Solang-Rothang La
The ascent upwards to Rohtang(13,497 ft); a pass no driver dares to cross in the night due to frequent mudslidesunfolded before us a lot of surprises. The streams gently flow down the mountains amidst the greens clinging onto the slopes creating numerous waterfalls, the clouds gently seem to caress the snow capped peaks, glaciers melting down into the Beas river.
Covered in fog the valley climbs up the Pir Panjal range- a visual treat to extremes.
The only sound that prevails is the air rushing against the mountains, tip-tap of the melting snow, screech of the tyres on the road and ‘Thumping Sound’ of the ‘Bullet ride’.
Rothang La – Keylong – Jispa – Darcha – Zingzing Bar- BaralachLa
As we move up, the landscape gradually starts changing. Being in the presence of such raw nature, the sight is simply spectacular changing from scenic greeneries to boulder strewn slopes and snowcapped peaks looming all around the great Himalayan range. 
Laid back villages of Keylongoffer an oasis of greenery for the tourists or trekkers for an overnight stay. 
Moving beyond, we arrived to a scenic and picturesque stretch of Jispa in the vicinity of Chandra River. It is a perfect setting for an overnight stay with natural streams, riches of scenic peaks, picturesque valleys and lush greeneries.
Making our way to BaralachLa we crossed Darcha and Zingzing Bar.
Darcha is the last permanent settlement on this route, Once here you may have enthralling treks in this region, amongst all the Darcha-Padum trekis the most popular.
Zingzing Barisone of the highest roadside bars in the world- a resting ground of the army and the tourists.
BaralachLa – Sarchu –Gata Loops– LachulungLa:
At the BaralachLa pass (16,040 ft) we cross the Great Himalaya range. It crosses the greatest and the highest mountain range in the world.
As we descent from BaralachLa towards Sarchu Plains; the Great Himalaya and Zanskar ranges brings forth spectacular ochre mountains powdered with a little snow on top, sights of glaciers melting in full flow.
We crossed through rivers to arrive at this place which is a starting point for the popular Suraj Tal trek. We had to skip the challenging and delightful trekking to the beautiful and pristine Suraj tal lake as we haven’t started with much time in our hands.
By now it was dark, we camped in for the day in the plains of Sarchu (14500 feet) amidst a treasure trove of picture-perfect scenic majestic mountains.
Early next morning, we woke up to the noise of the winds and the gentle noise of the soft drizzles on the tent.  We resumed the journey. Passing sarchu we arrived at a series of 21 hairpin bends looping down called Gata loopsa stunning region nestled in the Western Himalayas which then climbs up towards Nakeeela pass 15547ft.
As we travelled along the hairpin bends and curves, we had this rush of wandering and wondering the crispiness of the thrill and adventure the terrain offers.
If you are lucky you may spot Bharal- Blue mountain sheep grazing. 
The climb up the Lachulung La is nothing spectacular but it opens up to a whole new world on the other side.
Lachulung La – Pang – Morey Plains – Tanglang La : Across the Zanskar Plateau, the Lachung la (16616ft) boasts of undulating views of the entire Ladakh plateau in some sweeping glance of your eyes.
After crossing Lachulung La, the landscape changes where the road meanders through a canyon snaking down to a tented settlement Pangwhere the highest army transit camp exists and is perfect for a resting break amidst beautiful surrounding scenery.
Further the landscape opens up into the dramatic flat stretch of Morey plains where one may occasionally spot Tibetan wild asses-Kiang  grazing the plains here and maybe even a red tailed fox or two.
At the end of the Morey plains, the road climbs up towards the Tanglang La(17500ft)- highest mountain pass in the Ladakh region. Claimed to be the second highest motorable mountain pass in the world; this is where we had our heart in mouth! We were at level with the snow clad peaks surrounding us. Colorful prayer flags were strung around.
With a spectacular 360 degree vision, we felt on top of the world!
Tanglang La –Upshi – Karu – Leh
From Tanglang La the road descends steeply towards the the heart of Ladakh. The highway meets the Indus valley at
a picturesque village called Upshi. Towards the east of this region is an ancient trading route that is connected to Tibet.
Crossing Karu, another paradisiacal village flanked by lofty mountain peaks, its a smooth ride along the Indus to Leh.
We finally rested ourselves on our arrival to Leh. The journey was an exquisite delight with sparkling streams, resplendent valleys and majestic mountains throughout. We could not just take our eyes off the road.
In this secluded bliss, the experience was so inexplicable and surreal that we were left charmed by the manifestations of nature to its very best.
Check out photo album Incredible India- Ladakh Diaries

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1 Comment

  • pushpèndrà_Rènàto November 29, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Woow . Heaven on earth . Nicely written.

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