Joy of Solo Bike Ride to Ladakh 2014…Day (5) Keylong-Sarchu!!!

15th September 2014, Monday.

Got up fresh and very late at Hotel Nalwa, Keylong. Had very strenuous ride the last two days. Ride from Bairagarh to Killar through Saach Pass and then from Killar to Udaipur has to rank amongst the toughest rides in India. It took me around 8 hours to cover 72 kilometers from Bairagarh to Killar and 9 hours to cover 80 kilometers from Killar to Udaipur. I thought I have already covered the most difficult part of the ride in the early part and felt the remaining part to be very easy and enjoyable.

I have always had trouble crossing Rohtang Pass. I have not crossed this pass ever without trouble. So I was happy to bypass it this time. It is a gateway to Ladakh, Lahaul and Spiti Valleys. So by bypassing Rohtang Pass (13050 ft, ASL), meaning pile of corpses in Bhoti language, without entering the gate and instead crossing more dreadful Saach Pass (14500 ft, ASL) over the same mountain range Pir Panjal….I was on the main Manali-Leh highway now.

4th night’s stay of the trip, at Hotel Nalwa, Keylong was simple and peaceful….Checked out of the hotel at around 9am.

Keylong (10100 feet, ASL), situated on the banks of River Bhaga, is 126 kilometers from Manali and is the administrative centre of the Lahaul and Spiti districts of Himachal Pradesh. Its the last major town before Leh and has almost all basic facilities. It has number of hotels, guest houses, eateries, provision stores, medical stores, auto repair shops etc.

It is advisable to stay here for a night to avoid acute mountain sickness (AMS).

The first thing I did was to get the bike checked from a local auto repair shop. This gentlemen checked the bike and gave it a thumbs up without any charge.

The Leh-Manali Highway, 490 km long, connects Manali (Himachal Pradesh) with Leh (Jammu and Kashmir) and is open for only about four and a half months in a year in summer between May or June, when the snow is cleared, and mid-October when snowfall again blocks the high passes. Out of which, Manali-Sarchu (230 km) is in HP and Sarchu-Leh (260 km) is in J&K..

Leh–Manali Highway is designed, built and maintained by the (BRO) of Indian army. It is capable of supporting the heaviest of army vehicles. It is flanked by mountain ranges on both sides featuring some stunning sand and rock natural formations. The highway crosses many small streams of ice-cold water from snow-capped mountains and glacial melts without a bridge and it requires driving skill to negotiate fast-flowing streams.

Went back to Tandi to get the bike fueled at Tandi filling station.
Beautiful Chandra River at Tandi.
Normally bikers carry fuel cans which hang around both sides of their bikes….the same are missing with my bike as it runs around 500 kilometers with full tank.
Tandi filling station, the last filling station before karu (Ladakh) 365 km away,  closes down at 7pm every day.
Tandi, the meeting point of two beautiful rivers Chandra and Bhaga. Both originate from the same source Baralacha Pass…move to opposite directions and reunite here again and become Chandrabhaga (Chenab)
Met this wonderful gentleman, David Koelle MD, Professor, Department of Medicine, Seattle (USA)…….He was partly trekking and cycling from Leh to Manali.
Famous Tandi Bridge over Bhaga River.
My destination for the day Sarchu (116 km)…began from Tandi at around 12pm afternoon.
Tandi Turn…..The left turn leads to Pangi Valley, Saach Pass and Chamba from where I came the previous night and the right towards Keylong/Leh.
Beautiful Leh-Manali Highway and Landscape near Jispa.

Jispa (10800 feet, ASL), 20 km north of Keylong, has a helipad, a post office, and a monastery. Travellers often stop here the night. It has a hotel, a mountaineer’s’ hut, and a camping ground. It is advisable to stay here to avoid acute mountain sickness (AMS).       

Road to Heaven….Leh-Manali Highway near Jispa.
Beautiful Bhaga River near Jispa…Leh-Manali Highway.
Beautiful Leh-Manali Highway near Darcha.
Amazing gentleman George. He had been walking/trekking from Zanskar to Darcha for the last 21 days solo with the help of one guide.
Darcha Bridge…..a popular pit stop, night halt and Police check post.

Darcha (11,020 ft, ASL) is a settlement on the banks of River Bhaga. It has power and telephone connections. Some buses stop here for the night and the travelers sleep in tents. The settlement is the end-point of a popular trek beginning in Padum. It has quite a number of roadside food stalls and dhabas.

All passing vehicles must stop at Darcha police checkpoint for checking.

Darcha, situated on the banks of Bhaga River…..endpoint of a popular trek from Zanskar.
Deepak Taal ( 12330 feet, ASL ) is about 50 kms from Keylong near Patseo.
Deepak Taal near Patseo 50 kilometers from Keylong on Leh-Manali Highway
Patseo (12330 feet, ASL)….a resting place and army transit point.
Zingzingbar (14000 feet, ASL) is a road building camp and tea house.  The steep ascent to Baralacha Pass, 18 km, begins from here.
Zingzingbar (14000 feet, ASL)….a tea stop and resting point on Leh-Manali Highway.
Suraj Taal (16000 feet, ASL) is just few kilometer below Baralacha Pass and source of Bhaga River. It is the third highest lake in India.
Suraj Taal is renamed as Vishal Taal in memory of Capt Vishal who lost his life in a helicopter crash at this location while on service with Border Roads Organisation.
Baralacha Pass (16040 feet, ASL) on Zanskar mountain range is the first of many high mountain passes on Leh-Manali Highway.
View of Baralacha Range which separate Ladakh, Lahaul and Spiti Valleys.
Descending down from Baralacha Pass.
Bharatpur tent colony….Leh-Manali Highway, in between Baralacha Pass and Sarchu.
Colorful landscape after crossing Baralacha Pass.
I saw this van parked just before Sarchu. I came to know later from my friend S Ali Zander Mehndi that this vehicle, 1972 volkswagen van belong to leo, from Sweden, who is traveling since 1996 on Home on wheels……..MY NEXT DREAM.
Beautiful landscape after crossing Baralacha pass
Golden Mountains……तू जहाँ जहाँ चलेगा, मेरा साया साथ होगा,मेरा साया…
Killing Sarai……….Army transit point just before Sarchu.

Sarchu (14070 feet, ASL) is a major halt point with tented accommodation on the Leh-Manali Highway. Himachal ends and Jammu and Kashmir begins here. It lies in between Baralacha Pass and Lachulung La Pass.The journey along this highway, at high altitude and variable road conditions, normally takes two days, so travellers and tourists use this spot as an overnight stop. Army camp is sited nearby on the banks of the Tsarap chu river. This spot can also be used as a start point for the difficult trek into the  Zanskar region of  Ladakh.

Beware of acute mountain sickness (AMS). Many people who do not stop at Jispa or Keylong face some difficulty here due to high altitude, excessive cold and low oxygen level.

Tsarap River and natural rock and sand formation just before Sarchu.
Google map of the route followed for the day…Keylong to Sarchu.

I enjoyed riding throughout beginning 12 noon from Keylong. Stopped at few places for eating and clicking pictures. Did not face any difficulty whatsoever. In comparison to Pangi road this road was an absolute heaven. The landscape throughout was amazing. Beautiful green meandering Bhaga river is a treat. Standing at beautiful Baralacha La was a feat and would remain in my memory lane forever. There was one big water crossing in between Bharatpur and Sarchu, even that did not pose any challenge.

On reaching Sarchu I found a nice place to stay in a tent run by a very nice couple from Zanskar. Other than me, a couple, which was traveling in their own maruti zen car from Solan, also stayed in the tent. The Zanskar couple had a cute little kid which kept us in good humour throughout. The couple served us nice dinner which we enjoyed like anything. We all sang songs and went to sleep early as it got very cold and chilly.

End of the 5th day of my solo bike ride to Ladakh 2014!!!

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2 thoughts on “Joy of Solo Bike Ride to Ladakh 2014…Day (5) Keylong-Sarchu!!!

  1. What a wonderful post!!! So impressive what you have done. I enjoyed the descriptions and photographs and would love to go to Ladakh one day. We were a while back living in Pushkar during the time of the camel fair and have explored that region of India a little as well as Southern India, primarily Kerala and Cochi which we loved.

    Peta

    • Thank you so much for your appreciation. The atmosphere at Pushkar fair is amazing and so are the beautiful backwaters of Kerala, hope you must have had great time. Ladakh is a different area altogether, its bare, rugged and mighty land of lamas, hope you will make it someday. Good Luck.

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