22 August 2018 The Challenge Of Rohtang La
Start of the day
Today was the last day of our 10-day motorcycle ride with the ride ending in Manali. The weather was cold, and cloudy. Bags were packed yesterday night.
We woke up around 7:00 AM, and had our breakfast at 8:00 AM. Today at the breakfast everyone was quiet, and emotional with the idea that after ~ 3 PM, the band of riders which were together for the last 10 days, would go in different directions. However, to separate and to long to meet again is the way of life. Sometimes, we never meet people again, but the experiences that we have and the camaraderie matter the most in life. We were also going through the same process. Finally, we once again, saw the breathtaking views of the confluence and mountains around the Drilbu Cottages.
Bags were loaded on to the backup van. Final ride briefing happened around 8:15 AM and we left for Manali at 8:30 AM.
Tandi to Koksar
From the cottages, we hit the Leh – Manali highway. The road condition was quite good. At one or two places we stopped to click photos. On the way we passed by several fields of cauliflower and apple orchards. You will hardly find a home in this area that does not have an apple tree. August – September months are the season of apples. At many places heaps of apples were kept for shipment. Up to a few kilometres from Tandi, river Chandra flows by the side of the road. Mountains were green and many of them still had snow on the peaks.
Around 9:45 AM we reached Koksar, and stopped by a small canteen for a cup of tea. Pankaj got a call on his mobile phone and caller informed him that the lost phone of Lalit was found and the caller will ship the phone via courier. Lalit was very happy to know this. By this time, we had covered 40 km.
Koksar to Rohtang La
The ascent to Rohtang La started from Koksar around 10 AM. From here along the road altitude increases rapidly up to Rohtang La. The road from here was broken, and the rains had made it worse. On the road from both the sides there was heavy traffic. The drivers in Himachal are used to the conditions but we had to take every precaution. At one place land slide had happened and the BRO team was working to clear the road. So, the traffic was stopped for some time.
Later we continued the ride. Now the clouds were almost at the road level, and we had the feeling of cutting through layers of clouds. The views that we saw along the road were breathtaking. Rohtang La by Himalayan standards is not a very high-altitude pass, but it is dangerous due to unpredictable conditions of weather, road and the traffic, which we were experiencing today. The road had patches of mud, and dust at several places.
Just before the pass, Manish stopped us and took a group photo – a mesmerizing moment was captured for ever. Spontaneously we sang the national anthem and experienced pride and joy in our hearts.
We reached Rohtang La at 11:15 AM. When you reach the pass, you see a huge gathering of tourists and the atmosphere is like a carnival, with people clicking pictures in traditional Himachali dresses, tea and coffee vendors, photographers and vehicles parked along the road. The altitude of Rohtang La is 3978 m.
Rohtang La to Manali
From Rohtang La (3978 m) we had to descend about 2 km vertical height in 50 km of travel. We spent only 10 minutes at the Rohtang La and moved on towards Manali. Visibility had started decreasing with thickening of the cloud cover, and a light drizzle started. Due to drizzle the road had become slippery and the descend was steep. Traffic of tourist taxis coming towards Rohtang La was also heavy. After about 5 km, visibility decreased drastically, and we could see less than 10 m ahead of us. We had thought that today’s 120 km would be completed easily and had not imagined these conditions. Driving under poor visibility, heavy traffic, broken and slippery road, and continuous downhill slope proved to be a nightmare for us. At one place we lost about 20 minutes due to a traffic jam. Imran bhai turned on all the four indicators of the bike to make it visible.
At 1:30 PM, i.e. 2 Hours after leaving Rohtang La, we reached Gulaba, covering 25 km. However, by this time, the visibility had started improving again, and we could increase the speed. Today, Michal had a fall while riding down to Rohtang La and had injured his elbow. I had seen that the side stand of his motorcycle was not removed properly, I tried to warn him from behind but it seemed that he could not hear it. Later near the entrance of Manali from Gulaba a car rammed into Manish’s bike, with a little exchange of arguments we moved on and finally reached Manali around 2 PM. Here the ROML team had booked a hotel for us to freshen up, have lunch and then move on with our return journey. Just at the hotel, on a steep decline, while turning the bike, I had second fall of the journey. I had a jerk on my right hand in an attempt to stop the bike from falling. Imran bhai lifted the bike and parked it. Today’s day was full of all the stories finally 😊.
Group photographs were taken for the last time. At the hotel, there is a wall dedicated to ROML, where the riders write their thoughts after completing their journey. We also wrote down our thoughts and thanked Manish, Imran bhai and our support staff and our fellow riders.
Our bags were unloaded from the backup van and kept ready for collection. After getting ready, we ordered lunch for us. Everyone had network connectivity now, and was busy speaking with their near and dear ones. I also called Shilpa and informed her that we have safely reached Manali and the tour has ended.
After the lunch we hugged our fellow riders, Manish and Imran Bhai and bid a final farewell. Michal, Wayne, Rodney, Sebastian and Teja were going to leave the same day, while Baskar, Pankaj, Lalit, Chandrakant and I were going to stay in Manali for a night. Manish was going to remain in Manali for 4 to 5 days and then go on another tour to Pangi Valley. We invited Manish for dinner with us at our hotel. The hotel staff had booked a taxi to take us to Hotel Treebo Celebriti in Old Manali
|#||Rider Name||My thoughts at the end of journey|
|1||Manish||Our tour leader, always taking care of us, and knowledgeable. Culmination of the tour with all riders enjoying the tour, would be a great feeling for Manish.|
|2||Rodney||Accomplished his dream of riding in Ladakh, 17 years after his first visit to India|
|3||Teja||A great experience for him this time, given that last year he had fallen sick, and more awareness and love for his home away from home|
|4||Baskar||Accomplished the ride as part of his mid life goal. I thought Baskar must be looking forward to come to this part of India with his family soon.|
|5||Sebastian||A good break from writing his PhD thesis for the last 6 months. He will return to US after spending some days in India|
|6||Michal||He was accustomed to cold very much, but was mesmerized to see the Himalayas, the Pangong Tso and the high altitude passes. He will carry lot of good memories with him and may be return for another ride.|
|7||Pankaj||Had accomplished his dream despite all challenges. He will cherish the memories of this ride forever.|
|8||Lalit||Had accomplished his dream and was very happy on the last day, to know that his lost phone was found.|
|9||Chandrakant||Had thought of Ladakh ride several years back. The dream was accomplished, and we three brothers did it together.|
|10||Vishal (myself)||Enriched with my experiences of ride – before, during and after 😊.|
Second visit to Manali
Manali is the crowning glory of beautiful Himachal Pradesh. This town is divided in two parts by the river Beas. Beas river, small winding roads bustling with tourists, tall pine trees and a cover of clouds and rains add to the beauty of this hamlet in the monsoon season. The Manali is derivative of “Manu-alaya” which literally means ‘abode of Manu”. It is believed that sage Manu stepped off his ark in Manali to recreate human life after a great flood had deluged the world. This story relates to the first avatar of Lord Vishnu, as “matsya”, the fish.
Around 3:30 PM we reached Treebo Celebriti. This hotel is located in area of Old Manali, away from the highly tourist centric area of Manali. We could see river Beas in front of the hotel and there was an apple orchard in the backyard. The theme of the hotel was based on various Bollywood and Hollywood Celebrities.
This was my second visit to Manali, first being in 2016, when we had stayed here for 4 nights. Memories of those good times were refreshed in the mind. I, Pankaj, Lalit and Chandrakant decided to go to Mall Road to eat something and then to the Hidimba Temple.
End of the day
After visiting the Hidimba temple we returned to the hotel. Manish joined us for a dinner at 7:30 PM. We five, Manish, I, Pankaj, Lalit and Chandrakant had a long discussion about our experiences of the trip, and today’s ride, plan after returning home and possible future rides. We also asked Manish to convey our gratitude to ROML team and thanked him especially for taking a very good care of us. Around 11 PM, we finished the dinner and Manish went back. In the meanwhile, I got a call from Baskar conveying that he will join me for sightseeing in Manali tomorrow. Finally, some time after mid night we went to sleep.