How we got Leh’d- Journey of a lifetime (Manali to Leh)

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, 'Wow! What a Ride!' “

With irrefutable beliefs, obstinate desires and inexperienced souls, seven riders started their journey through one of the toughest routes of the world.

The trip started as we reached Manali on a rainy night. The weather in Manali ranges from cool to cold, making it ideal for escaping the summer heat of India. During monsoon season (late June to September), weather in Manali enjoys life-giving rain that can interrupt regional travel and that is where our journey became tougher. 


Manali Bridge
Some of the beautiful places for visit in Manali are the Hadimba Temple, Manu Temple, Vashisth and Solang Valley.Unfortunately, we could not afford to visit these places as our schedule did not permit them. 

How to reach from Manali to Leh in Motorbike?

Day 1:

Availability of motorbikes on hire is a privilege for tourists (particularly riders) in Manali. There are several places in Manali where one can easily find a Motorbike for travel. All sorts of Motorbikes ranging from RE Thunderbird, RE Classic, Hero Honda Splendor, Hunk, Passion are available. We took four Royal Enfields and one Hero Honda Hunk for the group of seven people and a mechanic and began our journey. The journey started from Manali to our next stop, Rohtang Pass.

 The journey from Manali to Rohtang Pass is a blend of varying routes displaying unflappable charm on one side and uncompromising way on the other. At times, the nature questioned the tenacity of our spirits-Motorbike problems, tough terrains, unskilled bodies and heavy luggage. But, a bike on the road is worth two in the shed.

“With great abilities come great responsibilities; great power comes with great assignments.With great age comes great reasoning; great actions come with great experience.With great battles come great victories; great trees come with great tap roots.However, if a little faith can move great mountains, what then will a great faith do? Mysterious things... ”

DAY 2:

A Sunrise is God's way of saying, "Let's start again.”  We had our breakfast in Camp Jispa Journeys where we had spent the night after a grueling ride of the previous day.

After the morning ablution and breakfast, we started our journey to Sarchu.

National Highway 21 (NH 21), the road through the Kullu Valley, past Manali and over the Rohtang Pass to Keylong and Lahaul and en route to Leh in Ladakh, has become very busy during the summer months as an alternate military route, following the Kargil Conflict in 1999 in addition to tensions in Kashmir. 

Traffic jams are common as military vehicles, trucks, and goods carriers try to navigate the tight roads and rough terrain, compounded by snow and ice at certain points and the large number of tourists vehicles. The road is littered with deep and slushy potholes and boulders that make this journey backbreaking, even hazardous. We reached Rohtang Pass in the evening because of various problems throughout the journey. But, the picturesque location helped us forget the agony of the first five hours of our journey that witnessed multiple motorbike faults and hours of traffic jam.

Rohtang Pass (13,051 ft) is a high mountain Pass on the eastern Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas around 51 km from Manali. It connects the Kullu Valley with the Lahaul and SpitiValleys of Himachal Pradesh. The pass is open from May to November. It is not particularly high or difficult to cross on foot by Himalayan standards, but it has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards. It is the highest point on the Manali- Keylong Road. It is also one of the most beautiful spots in the vicinity of Manali and promises an exquisite view of the surrounding mountains. 
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. However, the mountain peaks are covered in snow.
The journey from Rohtang Pass started getting tougher as the post sunset phase started getting darker with every passing minute. “Life is like a 10-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.” It was time to stay calm and keep moving as we had another 89 kilometers to travel through the night to reach Jispa. Sometimes it takes a whole tank of fuel before you can think straight. The steady decent from Rohtang Pass to Gramphu(19 kms from Rohtang Pass) finally led us to Kokhsar(another 6 km) where we had our dinner at 9 pm. From Kokhsar, we started our final journey for the day towards Jispa via Sissu, Tandi and Keylong. After another tiresome 4 hours of journey through continuous drizzle, we finally reached Jispa at 1 am with rain drenched bodies and exhausted spirits. It was tough. But, waking up early in the next morning and pushing hard for the next day was tougher.

Rohtang Pass

Jispa Tents

The road from Jispa to Darcha (6 kms) and Darcha to Zinzingbar(26 kms) is an absolute joyride. Darcha (11,020 ft) is a village in Lahaul region in Lahaul and Spiti district in the Himachal Pradesh. It is the northernmost permanent settlement in Himachal Pradesh along the Manali-Leh highway. The Rough Guide to India describes it as "a lonely cluster of dry-stone huts and dingy tent camps.". Zingzingbar is a road building camp and tea house 18kms away from Bar-lacha-la. The journey from Jispa to Zinzingbar displayed some of the best landscapes of Himachal Pradesh.

A good long ride can clear your mind,restore your faith and motivate you.

After having our lunch in Zinzingbar, we proceeded towards Baralachala Pass (18 kms).
Baralachala Pass (16,040 ft) is a high Mountain pass in Zanskar Range, connecting Lahaul district in Himachal Pradesh to Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir, situated along the Leh-Manali highway.

Baralacha La

We reached there at 3PM only to find out that the route ahead was blocked due to heavy snowfall and the Indian Army would clear it the next morning. So, we had to return from Baralachala Pass to Zinzingbar. Our return journey was accompanied by heavy snowfall and sunset that led to further lowering of the temperature. We were running short of time as the temperature went sub-zero soon. Finally, we reached Zinzingbar after a lot of struggle with the weather Gods gone berserk.

“Art may imitate wild nature; less often does it dare to place itself in the midst of it, and when it does, it may come out second best.”

 We decided to spend the night at Zinzingbar in a tea stall (temporary settlement).The night was the most cruel night that we encountered. Subzero temperature, sleeping on a bed made of boulders ,continuous snowfall outside, exhausted bodies, lack of oxygen, a couple of people suffering from Altitude sickness, shortage of water, hurt confidence, extreme cold and the list goes endless. Each hour was a test of our patience and determination.

DAY 3:

The snowfall continued as the morning came. It was a tough night- a very tough one.


When the snowfall stopped, it was 11AM. The place was covered with 3 feet of snow. The Indian Army told us that there was snow upto 6 feet at Baralachala Pass and the route was still blocked until the army would clear it off. So, we had two options : either wait there in the extreme condition for the route to get cleared so that we could move to Sarchu (another 58 kms towards Leh via Baralachala Pass) or return back to Keylong (63 kms towards Manali)for some rest and motivation. We decided to go for the latter. We came back to  Keylong, had some leisure time and badly needed rest ,and decided to travel to Leh the next morning. Giving up was not an option.

“Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion.” 
And as they say, ” Be an inspiration to others by refusing to give up. Who knows what someone else can achieve because you never gave up and in turn inspired them not to give up.”

DAY 4:

We started early and decided to reach Baralachala Pass by 10AM. We stuck to our plan and reached there in time. But, there was a Traffic Jam due to which our pace got slow again. We were stuck up for a couple of hours. Finally, we crossed it at 12 noon. 
It is at Baralach la where both Chandra and Bhaga originates and becomes Chandra Bhaga at Tandi and gets renamed as Chenab in Jammu and Kashmir. We decided to stop at Sarchu (another 40kms) for lunch. We reached Sarchu . Sarchu is a major halt point with tented accommodation in the Himalaya on the Leh-Manali Highway, on the boundary between Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir) in India. It is situated between Baralacha La to the south and Lachulung La to the north.
Sarchu to Pang (15,100 ft) is a distance of 80 kms through the Ghata loops (22 hairpin bends) and traversing through Nakee La pass (15,547 ft) and Lachulung La pass (16,616 ft) elevations.

We reached Pang at 4PM and had our evening tea there.

Pang to Tanglang La pass (17,480 ft), 69 km through a 4,700 m (15,400 ft) plateau called Moore plains or Morey plains is one of the picturesque locations of Ladakh.

Baralacha La


Moore plains
Moore plains

“The Land is so barren and the passes so high that only our fiercest enemies or our best friends would want to visit us” -Ladakhi Saying.
We reached at Tanglangla Pass at 6:30PM.

Descent from Tanglang La for first few kilometers is in bad condition, however after that we were greeted with spectacular roads and with the altitude decreasing gradually, our spirits started picking up and we felt rejuvenated by the time we reached Upshi(129 Kilometers from Pang) for dinner at 11PM after a mid-point where we had haulted for some tea and relaxation. Upshi is a village and road junction on the Manali-Leh highway in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir .Upshi has a Customs and Excise taxation check post before crossing the river. An ancient trading road (right turn while coming from Manali and going to Leh) heads to the east from Upshi towards Tibet.

After having dinner, we started our journey towards Leh at 11:30PM. After crossing Indus river, the highway is on the right bank (north) of the river from Upshi to Leh. There is a left turn at Upshi for Karu. The right turn leads to the east towards Tibet. Finally, we reached Leh at 1:30 AM after travelling 356 kilometers in a single day. It was time for rest as we had to travel to Pangong Tso the next morning.

DAY 5:

Leh was the capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh, now the Leh district in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. The town is still dominated by the now ruined Leh Palace, former mansion of the royal family of Ladakh, built in the same style and about the same time as the Potala Palace. Leh is at an altitude of 11,562 ft and connects via National Highway 1D to Srinagar in the southwest and to Manali in the south via Manali-Leh highway.

We started for Pangong Tso after breakfast. Leh to Karu is a 45 kilometers road that is in very good condition. The journey was fast paced, due to which we reached Karu in less than an hour. From Karu ,roads are mostly straight till a village, Shakti and the real ascent for Chang La starts a few kilometer thereafter. For most part, ascent is steep and initially roads are in good condition. As we approached the final few kilometers of the ascent to Chang La, road conditions started to deteriorate and steepness increased, making the affair of reaching the summit of Chang La more challenging and memorable. There is a temple on top of Chang La pass, called Chang La Baba ka Mandir, as well as a cabin built by the army where one can warm up while chatting with the soldiers. 
Chang La

                                                                                                                                                                                After a few minutes rest, we began the descent from Chang La, the road was in bad condition for a few kilometers, beyond which superbly laid tarmac coupled with beautiful scenery awaited.After another 32 Kilometers, we reached Pangong Tso at 5:30 PM.

Pangong Tso (Tibetan for "long, narrow, enchanted lake") is an endorheic lake in the Himalayas situated at a height of about 14,270 ft. It is 134 km long and extends from India to Tibet. 60% of the length of the lake lies in Tibet. The lake is 5 km wide at its broadest point. All together it covers 604 square kilometers. During winter the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water. The lake is in the process of being identified under the Ramsar convention as a wetland of international importance. This will be the first trans-boundary wetland in South Asia under the convention.The sunset puts life into the lake with shadows and plays of light.
Pangong Tso

DAY 6:

“There can never be a night that can defeat sunrise or hope.” With sunrise, we watched the beautiful lake while sipping tea in our tents.

3-Idiots point, Pangong Tso

After breakfast, we returned to Leh. We reached Leh at 1:30PM via Shey, a town in Ladakh that has the old summer Palace of the kings of Ladakh. It is located 15 km from Leh towards Hemis. The palace was built more than 555 years ago by Lhachen Palgyigon, the king of Ladakh. The palace has the largest golden Buddha statue in Ladakh. It is also popular for Rancho’s school (the protagonist of The Hindi Movie, 3 idiots). 

DAY 7:

We had our breakfast early and started our journey for Khardungla Pass.
Khardung La (Khardung Pass) is a high mountain pass located in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. The local pronunciation is "Khardong La" or "Khardzong La," but, as with most names in Ladakh, the romanised spelling varies.The pass on the Ladakh Range lies north of Leh and is the gateway to the Shyok and Nubra valleys. The Siachen Glacier lies partway up the latter valley. Built in 1976, it was opened to motor vehicles in 1988 and has since seen many automobile, motorbike and mountain biking expeditions. Maintained by the Border Road Organization, the pass is strategically important to India as it is used to carry supplies to the Siachen Glacier.
Khardung La is widely, but incorrectly, believed to be the highest vehicle-accessible pass in the world. The pass is at an altitude of 18,379 ft above the sea level. It is also popular for the highest cafeteria in the world. 

Highest Cafetaria in the world
Khardung La, World's Highest Motorable Pass

Altitude sickness is a serious health concern for travellers not previously acclimatized to high altitudes. Prophylactic altitude-sickness medication like acetazolamide may be necessary for some travellers as there are no emergency medical facilities to treat altitude sickness along the route. The road is closed annually from October to May due to snow and one should anticipate potential long travel delays due to traffic congestion on narrow one-lane sections, washouts, landslides and road accidents.
Khardung La was one of the most memorable experiences of our lives.
 “We advance on our journey only when we face our goal, when we are confident and believe we are going to win out.” -Orison Swett Marden
We returned back to Leh by evening and went to explore the local market there.

DAY 8:

We started early in the morning towards Jispa with the aim of reaching there by midnight. The journey was even more beautiful this time.

Tanglang La

We reached Jispa at 9PM.

DAY 9:

We woke up early as this was the last day of our trip. We can only appreciate the miracle of a sunrise if we have waited in the darkness. We had to reach Manali by the evening and catch the last Bus available for New Delhi. We had a sumptuous breakfast and prepared ourselves mentally for the last part of the journey.

“There's a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they're absolutely free. Don't miss so many of them.” ― Jo Walton

The journey started from Jispa and we enjoyed the nature at its best on our way. We faced Motorbike faults, deferred scheduled, tough terrains but this time we were more prepared and enjoyed the journey thoroughly.

“Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul.”- Only a true motorcyclist knows this.


Finally, we reached Manali at 6PM.
“It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.”


  1. I'm overwhelmed. this is what a journey should be.... where the mind is without fear. don't know whether I shall ever be so lucky to experience a journey like this...but this article took me to that altitudes.

  2. Awesm read, planning to go myself next summer, any tips? ;)

    1. Just go and have fun. Try to plan, book and work out the details in advance.
      And, go in the month of June-July.

  3. marvelous .... awesome trip from a group of daredevils ... hats off !!!! enjoy to the fullest always :)

  4. I am wondering if the reading is so good then how awesome the journey would be!! for last 15 min or so its like I was with you guys in the trip, thanks to your blog.

  5. Amazing ..... I hope u guys had an amazing experience which u cherish life long ..... absolutely great .... simply superb :):)

  6. Awesome fabulous....!!!, and I have just one word to say to all of u , 'SALUTE' .

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    Huma Qureshi, Jazzy B, DJ-Vishal (SKOOTER) are performing live on 30 December 2013 - 31 December 2013.For Bookings on Discounted Rates

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  8. I am moved.. A great piece of writing.. :) Can u share the dates of ur journey

    1. Sorry for replying this Late...Our journey was 14th June 2013 to 25th June 2013

  9. Absolutely loved it :) Can't even start to imagine the excitement and the rush of feelings that you experienced.
    And the view at Pangong Tso lake is breathtaking!

  10. lovely post, very informative and good picturzation. Similar scene can be viewed in kashmir. So in order to visit kashmir book from kashmir tour packages travel agents


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