A trip to the Himalayas, Manali to Shimla on bike

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What comes to our mind when someone says the Himalayas, a beautiful scenic land full of snow, water streams and snow clad mountains. We will get to know much more than these basic notions when we actually explore Himalaya. This is true not just for the Himalayas but to any other place. As you know the Himalayas stretch across multiple regions/countries (India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Bhutan, and Nepal), home to planet’s highest peak and the third largest deposit of ice and snow in the world after Arctic and Antarctica. When I say the Himalayas here, it’s our experience from the 5 days, ~800 KM bike trip Manali to Shimla through Himachal villages. I can say most of the Himalayan villages are not connected by road and trekking to those will be a different experience. The first thing comes to mind when thinking about the Himalayas is the scenic beauty of the area and life/culture of the people. Most people here follow Tibetan Buddhism and some of India’s oldest monasteries are located in Spiti Valley, some of them dating back 1,000 years. We were overwhelmed by the spectacular view of the snow clad mountains and rivers/water streams. The entire region looked like ‘wallpaper’ 🙂 If you try to photograph all scenes, you can’t move forward.
 
Bike renting
You can get Royal Enfield bullets for rent from Manali. The price range varies from 600 to 1300 per day depends on power, condition, and demand. The rate is always negotiable. If you have limited time like us, better to make a deal before the trip. You can get dealer details online. We have one contact, they are good but prices are bit higher, can share if interested. The most important thing to take care of is the condition of the bike. You have to double check the running condition, there might not be frequent work/puncture shops on the way. Also, the terrain to ride through is very tough. So there is a chance to get ‘puncture’ and the distance to the nearest puncture shop is a matter of luck. It’s better to take puncture kit and learn to change the tube. We met with two punctures, one in Kaza and the other one on the way to Nako. We had all the tools packed to change a tube. We couldn’t take the tube out of tire 🙁 So better get trained before the trip. Fortunately, there were puncture shops in 10 KM radius. Total time spent on fixing puncture was around 2 hours each.
 
 
Day 1 Monday – Manali to Batal, Spiti Valley
The first day of the trip, was an awesome experience not just in terms of exploring places, but really to ride through very rough terrain in harsh climate conditions. The road to Rohtang pass is very good. Rohtang pass is the major milestone on the route.
Rohtang pass
The scenic mountain pass is 13, 000 feet above the sea level. It will take around 2 hours to reach here from Manali (54 KMs). This is the gateway connects to Spiti valley and Leh Ladakh (State of Jammu & Kashmir) from Manali. You have to take permission to cross Rohtang pass as NGT (National Green Tribunal) has put some restrictions considering eco-sensitivity of the region. There is two type of permissions, one to visit Rohtang pass and the other one to cross Gulaba bridge to visit Spiti valley or Leh. We took the pass to cross Rohtang pass and visit Spiti valley. It will take one day to get the pass and its valid for one day only. There is an option to apply for a pass online from Himachal tourism website.
We passed Rohtang enjoying the landscape of Himalaya around 6 PM and headed to Batal. It was a great off-roading experience. The road was very narrow, steep mountains on one side and unguarded sheer drops on the other side. The road was slippery at many places and had to cross countless water streams across the route. It was really a dangerous drive. Truck drivers, who drive this route on a regular basis are the real heroes. It was around 9 PM when we reached a village junction called Losar. You can get tents to stay here. Batal is just 30 KM from here and we thought of not staying here, had Maggi dinner and headed to Batal by 10 PM. This is the one decision taught us the lessons of survival. We were driving at a maximum speed of 10 KM/hour and the terrain was very tough, slippery and dangerous. We were able to cover only 15 KMs in 2 hours. The temperature was coming down and everyone was shivering. Its 1 AM in the morning, someone told there is no road ahead 🙁 This was the most critical moment in the entire trip. We realized we are stuck in sub-zero temperature. We started checking for any path ahead and after some time could see a river flowing on one side. Actually, the road was through that water stream only. The courage, sacrifice by Kasi and Ahsel to step into the river, direct all bikers through the shallow area is impeccable. We reached Batal by around 2 AM. We could see a few tents and no one was around. We made some sounds, no luck, sub-zero temperature and noise of cold winds. Fortunately, an old man came after half an hour and offered us a tent. There was nothing to check, all jumped into the tent, someone didn’t even take bike keys 🙂 You can see Chandra dhaaba there, being run by this man and his wife. You can see a lot of honor badges and photos inside the dhaaba. This elderly couple from Manali have been running their dhaaba since long and have even been awarded for their bravery by the govt.
 
 
Day 2 Tuesday – Batal to Kaza
The road to Kaza was better compared to the last 100 KMs we covered. The terrain turned bit milder, we drove to the next viewpoint, Chandra Taal lake.
Chandra Taal Lake
The lake is located 12 KM away from Batal and we have to climb the last one KM. Walking to the mountaintop will surely be a fitness test. We walked slowly due to AMS (Acute mountain sickness), a medical condition due to low supply of oxygen at high altitude places. The beauty of the lake, located 14,100 feet above sea level can’t be expressed in words. Have shared pics in Instagram:) Thi is the origin of Chandra river. The lake will be frozen during the winter season. The waters of this lake are deep blue, extremely clean and are surrounded by lush green grass. Spent around one hour here, took photos and headed to Kaza.
Day 3 Wednesday – Kaza to Nako
We stayed at one homestay near Kaza, a delightful place after a long off-roading experience. This is the only village after Manali where there is a petrol pump. This is the place we got a non-Maggi breakfast:) and continued our journey through Spiti valley, with the Spiti River running alongside for the most part. We were driving for most of the time as we want to reach Shimla at least by Friday evening. The main attraction for the day was the world’s highest post office
Hikkim, The world’s highest post office – 14,567 feet
It’s exciting to go to places taught in primary school. The spot is just 23 KM from Kaza and you can imagine the intensity of excitement climbing/riding to the world’s highest post office. You have to pass multiple hairpin bends to reach here from Kaza anyhow it won’t take more than two hours. We went ahead further one KM to reach another attraction, world’s highest restaurant connected by road. What will you have from here if everyone is shivering at near zero temperature? Had a tasty tea and came back to post office to send cards. It connects a cluster of small villages in this isolated region to the rest of the world. Villagers come here to post letters or deposit money in their savings accounts, and travelers like us who make it this far take pride in mailing their letters from the highest post office on Earth. Postmaster Rinchen Chhering has been running the operations since its inception in 1983. It’s difficult to work: few motorable roads mean the mail must be carried on foot, and the post office is often forced to shut during winter months due to heavy snowfall. The post office is built like a traditional Tibetan house and there is no power supply inside. I have taken a video inside though not much clear.
 
Day 4 Thursday – Nako to Rampur
We were driving for most of the time. The terrain is of the same but roads are getting better as we move towards Shimla side. Riding through Himalayan roads is a great experience. High altitude, extreme cold and no civilization for miles. I would love to appreciate Indian army’s BRO (Border Roads Organization) for building roads across the region in harsh climatic conditions. They are the real heroes. The construction looked like never-ending process due to frequent landslides and snowfall.
Having spent so many days in sparsely populated high-altitude regions, we felt hot and a bit relaxed in Rampur.
Day 5 Friday – Rampur to Shimla
The final day of the journey from Rampur to Shimla was uneventful. We would see the terrain changing towards Shimla, pleasant climate and snow-covered hilly areas. We reached here by evening at 5 o’clock, the traffic on roads had started by that time. We were not able to see each other due to heavy fog, followed by hectic traffic. Shimla is the capital of Himachal Pradesh and popularly known as the queen of hill stations. There are many attractions in Shimla like mall road, heritage narrow gauge train. We couldn’t explore much here due to the tight time schedule to catch Bus to Delhi. We caught a bus from Shimla to Delhi and reached there by Saturday early morning. There are some journeys you would remember for a lifetime; this Himalayan drive definitely is one of them


 

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