"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware." – Martin Buber
We all are aware of the scenic destinies – Manali and Leh … but few have explored the roadways between the two hilly destinies which is a breath-taking experience in itself. Off late, this road trip has been capturing the imagination of many bikers and a biking trip on this road is a must do in an adventurous person's list.
The distance between Manali and Leh is 490kms but the journey takes far longer than normal due to the hilly terrain and bad stretches of road because of snow crossings, water crossings due to glacial melts and occasional landslides. The travel time is unpredictable due to all these factors and also the swift changing weather conditions. The minimum time for this journey is two days and it can extend due to undesirable factors. This road trip has many pit stops to unwind and relax for the night. Some of the popular ones are at Jispa, Sarchu and Keylong.
The summer months – May and June are ideal and are the peak season for this one of a kind road trip. The road to Leh from Manali remains open only for six months in a year. Buses and taxis ply on this route but the best way to enjoy this journey is on a private vehicle behind the wheels. This journey is not for the weak-heart and you do need a good level of physical fitness to face the extreme weather conditions, the fatigue and also the altitude and motion sickness.
One must stay a night at the starting point, at Manali to acclimatize to the cold weather and less atmospheric pressure. Do take a pit stop for overnight stay at Keylong, Jispa or Darcha to let your body cope to the high altitudes and less atmospheric pressures. It is strongly advised not to sleep in Sarchu or Pang on the upward journey (towards Leh) as it can cause acute mountain sickness: headache, nausea, dizziness and vomiting. It is also advisable to carry high energy foods like chocolates, glucose etc on the journey and spend only a little time at the high mountain passes.
The spectacular views have captured the imagination of many professional photographers as well as the amateur ones on this route. Every click is a perfect postcard like image. The mountain ranges on both sides feature some of the most stunning sand and rock natural formations. Many small streams from snow-capped mountains and glacial melts look amazing. The landscape changes immediately after getting past Rohtang Pass and entering into Chandra river valley in Lahaul region that lies in rain-shadow. The greenery on the southern side of the mountain pass disappears and the mountain slopes on the leeward side become brown and arid. The scenery is remarkable on this journey and some scenic views are beautiful beyond imagination!