Nestled in the Trans-Himalayan region in Northern India, Leh – Ladakh has slowly but surely become a popular destination among bike riders. A motorcycle ride through Manali Leh highway is one of the best adventure for bikers. A tour to Ladakh via Spiti is a great adventure in the Himalayas. Ladakh and Spiti valley are having the toughest roads and the best views at the same time. The roads in Spiti is one of the toughest mountain roads in the entire world. This is the most extremely challenging path for any rider. So we combined our Spiti valley bike trip with Ladakh for riding world’s one of the toughest roads with the charming views of the Himalaya. It was very much challenging for me, and I decided to go for it and so did I.
Day 1: New Delhi to Manali
As we reached to New Delhi international airport from Melbourne, Our cabs were ready outside the Airport to pickup and take us to the Manali. So on first day we reached Manali. It was an amazing journey to see the India through the window of a car. It was fortunate that our flight to Manali got cancelled due to bad weather but our tour leader had the plan B ready. My personal suggestion is to avoid flight and take a road trip from New Delhi to Manali.
Day 2: Manali to Banjar
We started our journey from the lovely hill station Manali. From here we went downwards all the way to Banjar. The 92 km road is in the lap of green Mountains of Kullu valley and Beas river flows beside the road. In this part, the only danger is the crossing of the Aut tunnel. This 2.8km long tunnel was completely dark. There were very few bulbs and the traffic was coming from both directions. I had to be too careful while going through the tunnel. After passing it, it was again smooth ride to Banjar. It took almost 3 hours to reach Banjar. Banjar was a lovely small town. It felt like the city was in the woods. Actually our stay was at the Tirthan Valley. It was such a nice and relaxing place. Tirthan valley is very near to the great Himalayan national park. A few fellow riders went for a short trek, but I decided to just relax in the hotel. It was a nice hotel at the bank of Tirthan river.
Day 2: Banjar to Kalpa
The next day we started our journey very early in the morning. It was a long way to Kalpa, around 200 kms. The road condition would not be good as we would be approaching the Kinnaur valley. As we started our journey, the height too was increasing. The river along the road and the trees in both sides of the road made the journey so pleasant. As we were getting closer to the Jalori pass, the both sides were astonishingly beautiful, having the green trees with some snows. Reaching the Jalori pass, we took a refreshment break here and also took some amazing photographs. It was a mountain pass with a spectacular view. This pass joins the Kullu valley with the Kinnaur Valley in Shimla district. Though the route was very narrow it was a single lane road but it was such an amazing experience.
Now we again started riding. From then on, there was only altitude losing upto Narkanda. And there was a landslide zone too. After having lunch on the way, we started riding on the world’s one of the most dangerous roads. The road condition was not bad. But the turns were so dangerous and so frequent, and the rocks were hanging above the road. It was too scary. In some places the road was built by drilling the rocks, but not long as a tunnel, as the mountain is very steep, and almost straight, and no slope at all. The greenery in both sides were decreasing.
On the way we also visited the Bheemkali temple in Sarahan. It was an unique half-wooden temple with an unique tower like architecture. The atmosphere inside the temple calmed down my mind. Having some snacks, again set off. Reaching Karcham Dam, we got the best thrill of these path. Here, the Baspa river meets with the Sutlej river. And the road to kalpa was along the Sutlej river. Sometimes the road continues high in the mountain, again it just comes to the shore. After crossing the river it was a narrow, full of dangerous turns, but comparatively smoother journey to Kalpa. From Reckong Peo , the snowy peaks of the holy Kinnaur Kailash range were welcoming us. Luckily we reached Kalpa before sunset and experienced the spectacular view of changing colors of the snowy peaks from silver to golden and then to reddish pink. Just only for that view we had to reach Kalpa before sunset.
Day 3 : Kalpa
Our stay was in a star rated hotel. Next day was a free day as our tour guide have to get some inner permissions for us to continue our journey towards Spiti valley. Next day in the morning after getting the permits we were free, so we go for trek to nearest peaks. We also visited to a suicide point and then to a monastery. Overall it was a great relaxing day in the lap of nature.
Day 4: Kalpa to Tabo
The next day again our journey started from Kalpa, after having breakfast. Just after sometimes, the road became almost green-less, moraine path, full of dust. Our destination was for the day was to Tabo village in the Spiti valley, which was around 150 kms from Kalpa. This section was almost deserted, no locality around. After few hours, we reached Nako village. Exploring the small village, Nako Lake, having a short break, again started our riding through the same moraine path.
Shortly reached Giu village. There was a temple, where a mummy of a Buddhist monk is kept. Visiting the site, resting a bit, finally reached Tabo. It took us around 4 hours to reach Tabo. Reaching there, had some rest, then went to venture the place. We visited the Tabo monastery, Tabo caves. Long long ago people used to live in these caves. The Tabo monastery is the oldest monastery in India, built in the 996 CE. Being a historical gem, this monastery is now protected by the Archeological Survey of India. The monastery was a wonderful combination of both old and modern architecture.
Day 5: Tabo to Kaza via Dhankar
The next morning after breakfast, we left Tabo for Kaza. Reaching Dhankar, we had a small hike to the lake. It was not too long, but too tiring . The moraines just made it worst. Then we visited the spectacular Dhankar monastery. This monastery is on the cliff of the mountain, and an amazing spot from where the meeting place of Spiti river and Pin river can be seen clearly. It took us around 2 hrs to reach Kaza from Tabo.
Day 6: Kaza to Hikim to Kaza
From kaza, We started ride to the highest inhabit village in the world, Hikim. It was just 15 km from Kaza, the subdivisional headquarters of the Spiti Valley. The road was dusty, full of moraine. This part too was almost deserted. Most part of the road was landslide prone. Just before approaching to Hikim, there was a long stretch with landslide prone hanging cliffs. After visiting the highest post office, and Hikim monastery, carefully got back to Kaza. Before leaving Hikim, I dropped a postcard written to my parents, in the postbox.
Day 7: Kaza to Jispa
The road from Kaza was looking smoother, but it was such a bumpy ride. It’s around 210 Kms all the way to Jispa, so we started our journey very early in the morning. Another reason to start early was because water streams on the way are easier to cross in the morning otherwise in the evening it becomes almost impossible to cross them. The road condition to Keylong again became to poor, full of dust, moraines and landslide zones. Infact, the road condition was worsening. After a while, the holes , filled with water were appearing on the way. Finally after sometime the snow capped mountains of Kunzum pass came into sight.
After spending some moments at the beautiful pass, headed for Chanderataal. After spending some time at chanderataal we headed towards keylong. The moraine path converted into pebble paths of loose rocks and the size of the holes were also getting bigger and deeper. there were lots of water crossing on the way. I never had such a bumpy ride before. Reaching Keylong, started riding the Manali Leh Highway. After 22 kms, we reached Jispa.
Day 8: Jispa to Sarchu
The next morning, we started early for Sarchu. Upto Baralacha La, the road was continue altitude gaining. The landscape changed into full of rocks and snow from here. And in some places, the road is submerged in the water. Every time keeping balancing, finally approached the Baralacha la, at the altitude of 4890m. Crossing this part was pretty tough for all riders. Every single time I was too much careful so that my bike should not slip. After successfully crossing the part, the road was completely downwards. It was really a tough ride upto Sarchu. We hangout around bonfire before going to the bed.
Day 9: Sarchu to Leh
The next day was more difficult as we had to cross 3 mountain passes of altitude around 5000m and total of 21 hairpin bends of the haunted Gata loops. Leaving Himachal Pradesh, We entered in the Union Territory of Ladakh. The Gata Loop, Nakee La (4769m), and Lachalung La (5065m) arrived back to back.
Crossing these three sections back to back almost took my breath away, and I could do nothing but be very careful each time. We stopped for a refreshment break at Pang. Now the road was through more plane areas. Before reaching Leh, the final and highest mountain pass, Tanglang La (5328m) arrived. Then finally reached Leh in the afternoon. It was really a very tough ride.
Day 10: Leh
As we were riding through the tough roads for last few days, and we needed some rest. So this day was our rest day. After finishing our task of getting inner line permits we visited to near by places and did some shopping.
Day 11: Leh to Pangong
Pangong Tso is a landmark of Ladakh. We fill our bike’s fuel tanks and started our journey Changla Pass. The road condition was good and we had a smooth ride. Mighty changla was amazing, this was our 6th pass of the journey.
We reached Pangong in the evening. The azure water was so relaxing. I just sat at the bank of the lake the entire evening. The sparkling stars in the sky and the white waves, were just incredible. As we had a long journey the next day, we could do nothing but to go to sleep for refueling ourselves for the upcoming challenge.
Day 12: Pangong to Nubra
Our tour leader had made a fantastic itinerary as today we were going to Nubra valley via Shyok. Which is the shortest route to go to Nubra from Pangong. Otherwise either we would have to go via Wori La or via Leh. It was total of 220 km journey from Pangong Tso to Nubra. We started riding along the shore of the beautiful Pangong Tso. Few moments later the lake was behind us, and we headed for the cold desert, Nubra valley. The road was smooth at first, and after sometime became rough again. In here, the road goes through the Shyok river. So we did the amazing river crossing on our motorcycles. From then on the greenery was decreasing again and the same rough moraine paths, and water holes started to appear on the way. Again after a while the road had vanished. As I was getting closer to the valley, the scorching heat was becoming intolerable. Reaching Hunder, the journey for the day was over.
Day 13: Nubra to Leh
We got out in the morning to visit the cold desert and sand dunes of Hunder. After taking our breakfast we leave the Hunder. In the way we went to visit the Diskit Monastery. From there the road condition was good upto Khardung La pass (5359m). After spending sometime at the highest motorable mountain pass, resumed our journey to Leh. From then, there was only getting down, no height gaining at all. We reached Leh and again enjoyed the city life.
Day 14: Leh to New Delhi
Our flight to New Delhi was in the early morning. So we got up early and said Good bye to the Ladakh. Our return flight from New Delhi was of the same day in the evening.
So this two week journey was one of our unforgettable journey which was full of adventure, Joy, riding and much more..