Friday, August 27, 2010

Manali-Leh; The Story (Part 2)

The bikes are ready

This is it! For months, I have been dreaming about this ride and on the 28 July, we started our journey to Leh.

It was drizzling and we started quite late because we thought that to ride 38km to Marrhi is not difficult. We were wrong! To climb 4,700ft over 38km on mud-packed road, countless switchbacks, traffic jams, unpredictable weather and at altitude more than 10,000ft is not easy at all. It's true as it is mentioned in Laura Stone's book, we did arrived shattered. In fact, we arrived at night about 8.00pm. The first thing to do is to find a place to sleep so we searched for dhaba with rooms to rent. So depending to who we talk to the rate of room can vary from Rs.500 to Rs.1,000. We knew that Rs.500 is actually still high but what the heck! It's just RM35 per room when convert to our currency and to be shared by two. So instead of pitching tent, we rent a room and that night we had a big meal for recovery. And I had a cold shower despite the cold weather.

Marrhi

The highest traffic jam in the world

The next morning, we had a photo session with the guys at the dhaba who were very enthusiastic with our bike. And we set for Rohtang La and Sissu as per original plan. The climb to Rohtang La is only 2,200ft and 16km. Sounds easy. But this is the hardest climb we have had because from Rahalla Falls to Rohtang, we had to ride in the rain. The fact is rain at 13,000ft is very cold. We were struggling on the mud-packed road and my health was deteriorating. When we reached dhaba at Rohtang, I was visibly shivering and first thing on my mind was 'Please God, no hypothermia' And luckily, I didn't get it. Still I was feeling very cold and my hand was shivering to the extend that I had to go to the kitchen for some heat from the stove. And we were forced to pitch our tent with the help of the local (Tibetan) kids because there were no rooms to rent in Rohtang.

Bad roads from Marrhi to Rohtang

The switchbacks to Rohtang

The reason that we decided to sleep in Rohtang although it was too high for us to sleep is because we don't want to gamble by riding at night when descending to Sissu. And it was proven the right decision because the next day, we found out that the road to Sissu is quite bad with mud, countless switchbacks and hairpins corner. We might get lost by taking the wrong junction at Gramphoo that is going to Spitti instead of Khoksar which we almost did even in day time. But after Rohtang, I felt my body became weaker. That's the reason I fell 4 times including one very nasty fall from shimmey while descending fast because I was trying to avoid the military trucks from overtaking me. Due to that fall, I hurt my left ribs badly which really hurts throughout the trip.

Crossing the stream along this road is very common

The switchbacks descending to Sissu

The ever presence military trucks in the Himalaya roads

The next day, to cover back the losses in distance, we rode from Rohtang to Keylong via Gramphoo, Khoksar where we went throught Police Checkpoint Sissu, Gondla & Tandi. And descending to Tandi, I managed to clocked the fastest speed of 53km/h because the road is very smooth and the slope is quite steep. However, from Tandi, we had to climb back to Keylong. And the problem was, we had to do it at night and with my poor health. Therefore, we rode very slow in the dark on really bad roads. Nevertheless, we gained 67km and it was too much for me as I was breathless when we reached our hotel in Keylong at 10.00pm. The funny thing was the hotel is owned by the father of the motorcyclist that we 'rescued' when he had a puncture in Rohtang who also happened to be the owner of the hotel that we stayed in Manali; The Valley View Hotel.

Hillside of Keylong

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