Day 4/15 – Manali to Bharathpur – 198 kms – 4 AM to 7 PM
The early morning packing took us a while since we had never packed fuel on the saddle. We also had to ensure that Allen stayed away from the fumes. Our target was to cross the Rohtang Pass as early as possible as it generally attracted all the tourists at Manali. At around 9 or 10 AM during the day, it was most common to see traffic jams that took hours to clear. We were progressing well through the ascending roads. A Pass is generally a road that runs through a high altitude mountain, giving us scope to enjoy the beauty surrounding it.
The sun slowly started coming our giving us a better picture of what surrounded us. We saw more and more snow capped mountains, but the temperature was also dropping. We took time to enjoy the beauty and let trucks and other vehicles pass by. It was the first experience of riding through muddy terrain without safety rails exposing drops over few hundred feet deep. We also had the opportunity to talk to a few monks (informally known by us as Buddha-men) when we took a break by a breathtaking valley. I was constantly watching the GPS to see at what altitudes where were at.
We were warned about AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), which was common among people and affects the person due to lack of oxygen. To help fight it better, we took a tablet each that helped avoid dehydration. However, we had to remember to drink a lot of water though we never felt thirsty. The trick was to try and use the oxygen in the water during the lack of enough oxygen in the air around.
Apar and I were certainly traveling at a much slower pace than the other two, taking pictures and enjoying the beauty. Not realizing that we slowly starting to descend, we proceeded through the muddy terrain to meet with the rest of the gang waiting by a small shop that served Maggi noodles. Allen then told us that the small stone like marker that we had just passed marked the peak of the Rohtang pass. We then realized what to expect the next time we were ascending a Pass.
As we enjoyed the mildly spiced and garnished noodles, a couple of bulleteers joined us. They were on the way to Leh as well, and agreed to ride with us bringing our total strength to 6. We saw more bikers crossing us on the opposite side; we just waved to them and proceeded. Most of the places we say beyond Rohtang were breathtaking, but the fumes of the trucks that had gone past were still in the air. The mountains had no vegetation or trees to absorb the gases and cycle them. This was quite irritating, but didn’t have much of a choice.
We crossed on of the first Nalas (rivers) during mid-day. It wasn’t very rapid or deep, being quite gentle on us. These Nalas generally seep through the ice/snow as a result of them melting. Therefore, during the course of the day, the water level starts rising making it harder to cross them.
Allen joined the bulleteers leaving us far behind. Apar and I stuck to the end spending a lot of time on pictures. Kiran was the only unlucky guy stuck in the middle without company. I have mention that his bike was now running without an air filter. The altitude and reduction of air density took a toll on the bike and he had to do so to for his bike to try and cope up with the environment. At a place called Tandi, we found the last fuel station, after which Leh is a good 365 kms away. We ensured all our tanks and the fuel containers were filled up.
Sometime mid afternoon, we reached a place called Keylong on the way. We stopped by for some lunch. I tried out a Tibetan dish called the Thukpa. It was a mix of watery noodles and some meat. Man, it tasted real good.
I never forgot my sun block at any point; I was told that we were relatively closer to the sun when at higher altitudes and the sun continues to burn down the skin, though it felt very cold all the time. Back on the saddle, we realized we were falling behind schedule and were pushing it a little hard to make it to Sarchu. This was our planned destination for the day. We couldn’t speed up much through the terrain, so ended up reducing the number of breaks that we took. There was a tough Nala to cross, where I lost the silicone tips of my Bose headset, as I posed by the rocks. I gave it a quick search, but moved on after realizing it would be foolish to be too optimistic at that point.
The temperature was dropping quickly and we saw the other bikers waiting by a rapid Nala. Allen and Kiran were waiting on the other side, asking us to remove our shoes and cross it. Fingers crossed, I entered the stream with the bike and found it hard to balance. Obviously I had to place my feet in the water, and it was a pleasurable experience only for a couple of seconds. Immediately after that, it was like needles poking at the same time, so uncomfortable that it distracted me from balancing the bike and making it across. With a little bit of struggle, it managed to get out quickly. Apar followed me thorough the path, but wasn’t very successful in getting through. He was stuck in the middle, when Allen and Kiran had to step back in to get the bike out.
It was more of the evening time and we were ascending what was known as Baralachala. It was one of the windy passes we experiences through the trip and it forced us to wear the jackets with the thermal lining. The good thing was that we were riding through more snow and beautiful water mass. The sight of the blue water body with the reflections of the snow-capped peaks was a breathtaking sight. The time was close to sunset and we had close to 40 kms to Sarchu. In such a terrain it would take more than an hour to reach the place. We found a small place called Bharathpur very close to Barlachala. It had a few tents in the middle of a beautiful valley surrounded by snow capped peaks and a lake in between. We checked out the tents and found excellent beds and quilts to make us feel warm. Who would decide to continue to ride on such cases? We obviously decided to take shelter there for the night.
We had a French couple giving us some company through the evening. Dinner was served inside the tents itself. They also sold woolen socks, mufflers and other items that we needed at the moment. They provided quilts that were about 2 inches thick. I used a couple of them as I tried hard to go to sleep in the cold.