2. August 2015 – 12:49
By motorcycle in two days from Leh to Manali
I have already overcome the 470 km between Manali and Leh in many different ways: in eight days by bike, in 18 hours in a minibus, comfortably in the car and also on the motorcycle.
For bikers from all over the world, the Manali Leh Highway is a must and true adventure over a total of 5 high passes (the highest is 5327 m). Countless agencies (including us) offer multi-day guided tours of the world’s second highest road.
While these tours offer deluxe accommodation, back-up vehicle, mechanics and spare parts, my partner Jogi and I are on our own on our two-day tour through the high mountain desert.
Due to our activity in trekking and adventure business, we are always in Leh in the summer months. In order to return to Manali, our home, we are happy to accept the offer of friendly bike tour operators to bring their motorcycles from Leh back to Manali.
A win-win situation: The organizers get their bikes back to the starting point of their tours for free and we have a motorcycle and do not have to spend hours in a rocking and crowded vehicle.
Again and again we are happy about the possibility of a small trip. While others save a long time on this tour, we just drive them through between!
Of course, this is only possible for us, because Jogi is a native mountain boy who knows this mountain and has been riding it on two wheels all his life. I am also Indian enough to sit awkwardly for a long time, to be satisfied with simple sleeping situations and to be happy with rice and lentils as a meal.
Last year we even covered the route within a day. But the 17-hour drive was a bit long. This time we wanted a little more rest, although 2 days is not a lot amount of time.
Off course Jogi drives, I sit in the back and carry our backpacks.
The route is unique and enchants me again and again: the long Indus Valley, the Red Rocks around Rumtse, the wide view from the Tanglang Pass, the green plains of the Morray Plains, the camps of the nomads, wild donkeys, colorful trucks, narrow curves at the Gata Loops, green villages in the Lahoul valley, the cloud-covered Rothang Pass and finally trees again!
Not a minute is boring, For hours I can enjoy the rock formations, the sand desert and raging rivers.
Of course, it’s also painful. Those who sit in the back, know what I am writing about: aching butt, tense shoulders, cold knees. But the route compensates for the suffering. A tea in between in the small tent stands and with more energy and a little warmed up we continue to the next pass.
The road conditions are varied: everything is represented, from freshly tarred, to loose stones to sand paths. Here good riding skills are required: not infrequently there are always small streams that make their way over the highway tracks, every now and then the road is just one lane, so be careful.
In addition to the mileage notices to the next place, there are also funny signs with slogans like: “Drinking Whiskey is Riskey”, or “The enemies of the road are Liqiour, Speed and Load”.
But these sayings are actually serious: more often than we like, we see crashed trucks or smashed cars on the track.
But Jogi drives us safely to “Whiskey Nallah”, our first section. Nallah means river, i.e. Whiskey River. But there is no river or whiskey here: only three small managed tents can be found here. Our hostel is run by three Ladak women. With delicious Dhal (lentils) and homemade yogurt we are well catered for. Also several truckers sit with us in the cozy tent and are covered like us with thick blankets. After all, we are here at an altitude of 4700 m.. The air up here is not only thin, but also quite cold.
Jogi and I sleep in our own tent. I have to laugh when I see our accommodation. Because Jogi is still talking about this as a holidays. As I slowly warm up under the three blankets, I dream of a hammock on the beach.
But we sleep well and long. After a delicious parantha (filled bread flats) we continue in the first morning sun. With new energy we climb pass number three. Many kilometres to Manali are still ahead of us. Again and again other bikers come up with raised thumbs. We also meet one or the other cyclist.
Every now and then I change my sitting position: my butt hurts a bit. Getting of the bike only happens for the passport control, toilet breaks or a meal.
It is all the more beautiful to finally cross the last pass, the Rothang Pass (3890 m). Now we are in moist air, forest and flowers: how wonderful, I’m back home.
Three days for this route are much more pleasant: you can see more and also have some rest in between and you can adjust to the height. Both the height and the road conditions should not be underestimated and a mechanic in the accompanying vehicle has already saved some drivers from an involuntary stop in the middle of nowhere. Because one thing you should know: on this route there is nothing for several hundred kilometers: no village, no gas station, no mechanical service. You are on your own.
A tyre breakdown happens quickly. Jogi and I also had problems with the bike on the road many times and were dependent on Jogi’s mechanical talents!
Today, the day after our arrival, my body hurts like after a hard fitness workout and for a few days I will probably avoid the motorized two-wheeler. But I already know that I will not knock out the next motorcycle tour on the legendary highway!!!