Tour de Ladakh [Day 2] : Conquering Rohtang

Everyone has their own weird relationships with Alarm Clocks. Some can’t do without it and some hate them from their bottom of their heart. But for me, Alarm Clocks never work. For some reason or the other, the alarm sound always blends seamlessly in my dreams. Somehow, the sound integrates itself in the storyline of my dreamworld. Someday it becomes the background of a quiz show and someday it becomes the time of the bomb I’m trying to defuse in my dreams. I tried connecting a guitar amplifier with my clock with Rammstein songs as the alarm tone; I ended up moshing in a dream concert. Bottomline: Alarm Clocks are useless for me. Never bothered me much, Until today.

My Duke admiring the Landscape at Rohtang La Zero Point. Dream or Reality? Who Cares.

THE DELAY

The previous night we slept, aiming to wake up at 2 am and  make a run for Manali. As expected I slept through multiple alarms. Rahul is one heavy sleeper. Once he slept through an incident when three drunk people were fighting ON him. Not Kidding. And Sukesh of course is one lazy ass fellow. He woke up and snoozed off all alarms. Finally we were woken up by the room service of Hotel ‘Assdeep’ (Again, Not Kidding) at 8:00 am. After one lazy glance to our cell phone’s time , reality stuck us and everybody was scampering around packing stuff, brushing teeth and changing clothes all at the same time. At am amazing pace, everything was done and we set off for Manali!

THE CRUISE

Now, I can go on and on and on about the roads that went up till Kullu. It was absolutely Godly, Creamy, Like a tender block of ice-cream sliced by a titanium blade. The roads had improved a great deal from the last time I visited. Nevertheless, we didn’t rip it out much and enjoyed the subtle twisties with lush green mountains on one side and a crackling Beas river on the other side. Traffic was also pretty thin at that point of the day. Throughout the way were ‘Cable Car’ sorts of trolleys meant only for cargo to transfer vegetables and stuff from one mountain to the other. Slick! We stopped at a dhaba after Kullu for breakfast. Had a heavy Punjabi breakfast for Rs. 350. We chatted up with a family who were returning from Rohtang Pass and enquired the road conditions. They were pretty amused with our riding gear and us travelling by bikes way upto Leh! Their driver also gave us a few useless pointers on how the roads might be closed and how dangerous it is at this time of the year and how we are foolish not to take a medic and a mechanic with us. We listened everything politely and ignored.

We heard the all powerful thumping of a bullet passing the Dhaba. We saw A guy and a girl with a loaded up Enfield with a Ladhaki Carrier ( A customized carrier for Enfields to carry extra luggage and Fuel) riding up to Manali. “Seems that we are not the first ones to attempt this trip this season,” we said to each other and resumed our trip to Manali. And we came across the Aut Tunnel on the way. This is one amazing 3 km long tunnel. Riding through it always has been an enjoyable experience for me. You have to see it to believe it. Cold, Dark and Damp, the echoes of powerful bikes and trucks zooming through it, the sudden transition form bright sunlight to pitch black, everything is an experience in itself.

The roads went kind of bad after Kullu and we finally reached Manali. We were greeted by heavy traffic jams and made our way to the DC office. Rahul and me went to get our permits done to cross Rohtang Pass while Sukesh went to the Mall road to get Oxygen Cans and Diamox Pills (Preventive Pills for Acute Mountain Sickness). Getting the Permits was a smooth and straightforward process. Then we went to Vashisht (A locality in Manali), to get our bikes checked one last time before ascending Rohtang. There I ran into Abhinav Sood, a jolly good local guy whose bike I used the last time I was here. After chatting for a few minutes we bought a puncture repair kit and a Foot Pump. These will save our lives later in the trip! And yes, I lost one of my riding glove. Good that I had backups. Phew!

Taking a break from the amazing ride from Mandi to Kullu. The roads were so awesome that it felt like committing blasphemy to interrupt the ride and take photo breaks!

With our bikes refueled and our wallets refilled we started off for Rohtang. Manali was the last proper civilization. We will be all by ourselves in the wilderness for the next three four days to come! I was kinda sad that we couldn’t stop by Solang Valley as we were already running behind schedule. Lots of exciting memories of Paragliding, horse-riding, Falling of a Horse and My horse trying to mount another horse while I was still riding it! More on that later. This time the roads up-to Rohtang was a cakewalk as compared to last time and as the season hasn’t started yet, the traffic was at its minimal.

Finally the impending cold waves made us put up our full winter riding gear. Taken right after Manali.
A photo break at one of those small glaciers en route to Marhi. The first patch of Ice we saw on the road!
Almost there! Right before Marhi.

THE ROHTANG EXPERIENCE

Finally we reached Marhi , The temporary settlement right before the ascend for Rohtang Pass starts. It was nearing evening. And we were shocked to see an empty Marhi. Some government directive to prevent private business from running stalls there was the reason behind it. Lame move. Marhi served as the rescue point for people who got stranded at Rohtang Pass or failed to cross Rohtang and needed a place to rest. Now, after this they would either have to ride their way back to Manali or just die there in the cold.

Rohtang literally means, A pile of corpses. Such are the treacherous conditions out there. The roads are made each year, but they don’t last due to landslides and cloud bursts. It remains closed for eight months in a year. Several deaths occur every year. During our last attempt, three people from my group were stuck overnight at Rohtang Pass and we had to abandon our trip as a result of that. Without doubt, crossing Rohtang was the toughest challenge for every motorcyclist in the world. The keyword is ‘was’. Coz, what we saw this time was unbelievable. The roads were superb going by Rohtang La standards. We happily zoomed through it! A stretch which took us 8 hours for us to complete last time, took barely 30 minutes this time!

Finally ice walls were starting to show we reached The ‘Rani Nala’ Glacier. This glacier has the notorious reputation to play the spoilsport for adventures, truckers and motorists. This constantly blocks the road and is the biggest reason for Rohtang Pass to remain closed almost throughout the year. Anyway, this time apart from a 20 feet stream, it didn’t pose much of a threat. Or so we thought. I made through the water crossing at ease but Rahul got stuck in the middle. Sukesh went to nudge his bike out of the stream. After a struggle for a couple of minutes, Rahul’s Pulsar was out and both of them were panting and breathless. apparently their feet had went numb due to the constant lashing of Icy Cold water. I couldn’t quite empathise with them at that point. But later in the trip, I would realise that how painful and unendurable it gets when you are standing in freezing cold water for even a few seconds.

A sad and deserted Marhi
Except for Horsey. One bad Horsey chased me on my last trip!
Yes! This is the Road to Rohtang Top. Unbelievable? Believe it.
Cheesy Pose time!
Ice Walls Ice Walls everywhere. And Sukesh doing the Creep Face.
That’s the Deadly Rani Nala Glacier. There’s a road somewhere in there.
Rahul and his Pulsar were stuck here. Funny? Even I thought so, in the beginning.  But this icy cold water will make you think otherwise.
All exhausted and drained out after getting stuck in that water crossing at Rani Nala.
Encountering Black Ice while en route to Rohtang Pass Zero Point.
More Cheesy Pose Time!
On an Ice wall! Sure our bikes enjoyed a cool ride after yesterday’s hot ripping.
Abandoned houses on the way to Rohtang Top.

After clicking some pictures of the Ice walls we made our way to Rohtang Pass Zero Point or Rohtang Top. I was absolutely amazed and disappointed at the same time. Amazed because I had never seen something so beautiful in my life and disappointed because none up had a proper camera with us to capture it. We had to make do with the cell phone cams. (Divya Singh, If you are reading this ; Thanks for ditching the team in the Last moment. Grrrrh.) We parked our bikes and walked up to the snowy fields and mountains. For a couple of hours we forgot that, we were running behind schedule and just enjoyed the magnificent views of the sun setting down behind the icy mountains and its rays reflecting on the white landscapes. Whatever. I’m no poet, I’m no writer, I’m no photographer. This has to be seen to be believed.

Finally after a mini-snow-storm we started off our descent to the other side of Rohtang. It was getting dark. somewhere down the back of mine and Sukesh’s mind there was this mild disappointment that the road till Rohtang is not what it used to be and as a result of which the exhilaration of conquering Rohtang has been mellowed down. We thought, poor Rahul will never know, how tough it was to do Rohtang, what kinds of mental and physical strength it used to require. Our disappointment was short lived. The descent till Grampoo (The other side of Rohtang) was hell. It was nowhere as close to Rohtang at its worst, but still was bad enough. Finally a challenge! Sadly, no photos as it was already pitch black then.

This! Shut down your Laptops and go to Rohtang. Experience it to believe it.
On the icy landscape. Can you spot my Duke in this picture?!
Mesmerizing.
There’s Rahul and Rohtang!
No DSLR. No Justice.
Mad Explorer Sukesh Dash walking off too far.
Could have stayed here forever if not for the snow storm that arrived minutes later.
One for FB!
It was so cold, that we didn’t even remove our helmets for the pictures.
More Landscapes.
Even More Landscapes.
Yes, he loved it that much!

It took a couple of hours for the decent and all drenched up and shivering, we reached Khoksar. It is a small Idyllic village on the other side of Rohtang Pass. We had hot tea and dinner there. Dinner for three cost us like 170 bucks.  We had planned to go up till Jispa. But there was another local party returning from that side and they warned us that a bridge is broken and there is water all over the place. Rahul and me still wanted to give it a try as we were still running behind schedule but Sukesh was all exhausted and weary. So we decided to call it a day. We went to the famous ‘Lama Dhaba’, the same place where I was holed up with Sukesh and a couple of other friends the last time I was here. The hostess seemed to recognize us even after two years! A bare minimum 3 bedded room cost us 300 bucks and we tucked ourselves in within the layers and layers of quilt and blankets promising each other to get up early next morning and make up for the lost time.

Taking a moment to admire the beauty of Rohtang one last time before beginning our descent.
Believe it or not, That’s what we call excellent roads when it comes to Rohtang.
Snow gradually covering up the roads.
Hot cup of tea at Khoksar.
Praying? Rubbing hands due to the cold? Your guess is as good as mine.

 TRIP LOG. DAY 2

Origin Major Stops Destination
Mandi Kullu, Manali, Rohtang La Khoksar
Bike Start End Distance
Duke 200 5795 5979 184 KMs
Pulsar 150 35783 35960 177 KMs
Start Stop Total Time Ride Time
9:00 21:00 12 Hours 9 Hours

2 thoughts on “Tour de Ladakh [Day 2] : Conquering Rohtang

  1. Pingback: Tour de Ladakh : Prologue | Tour de Ladakh

  2. Pingback: Tour de Ladakh [Day 1] : A Sunny Start ! | Tour de Ladakh

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s