Day 5 - Manali to Khoksar
16th June, 2013
After two days of constant drizzle we saw sunny morning today. Even though I enjoyed rains in Manali in the beginning, I wished the rain stops and I get to see the clear view of the mountains. Today when we woke up, the sky was crystal clear and we saw snowcapped mountains for the first time. It was a wonderful view. We all were overwhelmed to see these mountains from our room window.
We had to spend extra day in Manali as the road to Rohtang pass was closed due to landslide. I took an early morning walk to the main market area. First I went to the traffic police office to make an enquiry about the status of the Rohtang road. Police officer told me that the road is clear enough for motorcycles to pass. I just wanted to be sure about this therefore I made the same enquiry at the nearest bus station and taxi stand and they all sounded affirmative. I jumped with joy and ran back to our hotel room and told everyone that we can make a move. Everyone was waiting for this news.
We all got ready and left Manali by 11 o’clock. As soon as we were out of Manali, we got a beautiful view of the mighty Himalayas. The sight was so beautiful that I wanted to stand there all day long just looking at the mountain and brightly shining snow on top of it. The journey further just went on getting better and better and more scenic with every twist and turn of the road. After few hours of journey we were half way on top of a mountain road. Sky was cloudy but it didn’t seem like it would rain. The visibility was much clearer than what we witnessed for two days in Manali. We could see a village down in the valley and behind them huge mountains standing tall and obstructing the passing by clouds. We stopped at a small stall to have our brunch. We had noodles and omelets and enjoyed our time looking at people doing paragliding.
The so far beautiful journey suddenly changed into a tough challenge as we went higher and higher on the mountain road. The tar road turned into a thick blanket of slush and the road also became narrower. For the safety purpose, Indian Army was only letting the traffic move in one direction at a time. To pass this road, our bikes’ strength and our physical as well as mental strength were all going to be challenged. Riding on this muddy road was very difficult and the view of a deep valley down was making it look even scary. One wrong move and one would end up in the village which looked so far from up there.
Even though the ride was tough, reaching Rohtang was worth it. This place was covered with snow all over. We even got to experience snowfall. This was the very first snowfall experience of my life. We were shivering even with our riding gears on. Other people present on the Rohtang pass had indulged themselves in skiing, snow fight and snow-biking sports. We did our photography and moved from there. We were strictly following the safety advice of not spending more that 5-10 minutes at any of the high altitude passes.
After 5-6 hours of tough ride we managed to cross the mountain and reached a small village named “Khoksar”. As it was evening we decided not to ride further and found ourselves a nice comfortable homestay. The owner and his wife along with their small kid named “Aarush” welcomed us in their home. They served us noodles and omelets after which we decided to take a small nap as the tough ride had taken its toll on us.
The owner of the place where we stayed, were actually from Nepal. From them we got to know that they stay in Khoksar for six months for running their shop which is the business that earns them their bread and butter, and for six months of winter they head back to their native place in Nepal and do farming. They said in Winter Khoksar stays covered under snow and surviving in such harsh condition is extremely difficult. Also, during winters, the number of tourists visiting this part of India drops down by huge margin which means no business for shop owners. Therefore farming in Nepal is better option during winter months.
The place where we were staying was located right next to the Chandra River. The sound of the turbulent water of the river could be heard in our sleeping area and this place was amongst mountains. Horizon was nowhere to be seen. Right on the mountain opposite our place was a small Buddhist Gompa. I wanted to visit it but suppressed my desire due to lack of time and the temperature was dropping down faster.
We finished our dinner. Spent some time talking to each other, discussing the situations we rode through during the day and then slid under a warm and cozy blanket for a well-deserved sleep.
Day 6 - The Last Petrol Pump Of Tandi
17th June, 2013
Extreme cold temperature of Khoksar kept us glued to our beds in the morning. We had planned to reach Sarchu today. We woke up by 6, finished all our morning businesses and had our breakfast. I don’t know why but we all agreed to the same point that in these northern parts of India it takes very minimum time for our body to refresh, that’s why we could wake up early in the morning feeling all fresh. I concluded that it’s because of the purity of the air in these regions.
We left Khoksar by 9:30 am. Luckily the roads were good. After a few kilometers of riding we came across a water stream flowing on the road. Crossing these water streams while keeping your bike balanced is a tricky business as these water streams always have big uneven rocks at their bottom. While crossing this stream I had to put my left foot down at one point to regain my balance and the cold water of the stream went in my shoe. I instantly felt the chill going through my spine. The water was freezing cold. After all, this stream was made with the melted water of the glaciers. I continued the ride with a drenched left sock. Further ahead the roads were in very good condition and dared to hit 60 Kmph for the first time since our adventure began. We reached Keylong after some time. We found a local mechanic in a garage named “Chunni Auto Center” by whom we got some minor fixes done on our bikes.
From there we continued riding ahead. We were stopped by a bunch of policemen before a place called Tandi. They asked us to display our registration papers. They looked at the flute case hung on my back curiously. One of them asked what it is. When they learnt it was a flute, they requested me to play it for them. I played a small tune of “Pahadi Dhun” composed by Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. They liked it and clapped for me. We spent a long time chatting with these policemen as they also became friendly with us. While leaving they asked us to visit them again while coming back. They said we’ll have tea together next time we meet.
We had read that at Tandi we’ll find the last petrol pump before Leh. Therefore we had to stop at the petrol pump to fill up. Policemen had told us that the petrol pump was just half a kilometer ahead. When we reached the petrol pump the petrol pump was already full with vehicles waiting in line to fill up. We also joined the queue. The petrol pump was much smaller than what I had expected and the staff was much slower. All the time we had saved by hitting 60 kmph on the good road while coming there was lost there waiting in the queue. On top of that with less pumping pressure available at the pump, the petrol pump workers were either filling diesel or petrol at a time as it was impossible for them to keep both the pumps pressurized.
I could now make out the reason behind such a long queue. We had to wait in the queue till all the diesel vehicles had gotten their tanks filled up. After a long… sorry…. after a very long time our turn came. Avinash and Rajesh filled up their tanks as well as extra jerry cans. I filled only my tank as I knew my bike can easily make it to Leh even with half tank.
During our conversation with the Policemen at Tandi they had advised us not to attempt Barlach-la today as the roads were closed due to heavy snowfall. We decided to take their advice seriously and found a small place to halt in a small village called “Darcha”. We stayed in a small tent-like shop right opposite the police check post. The next day we decided to take advice from the Police before attempting Baralach-la.