Friday, 15 July 2011

The Drive to Ladakh

If you are going to Ladakh, the best part may well be the drive to get there. The Manali - Leh route is certainly one of the most spectacular routes on the planet - even if a tad bit challenging. Self drive ideally, or get chauffeured - the 3-4 days on this road will remain etched in your memories and hearts lifelong.

Start from Manali early morning - beautiful sights await as you start ascending. Snow-capped peaks with clouds floating around, streams and waterfalls and rich green forestry will stay with you all along the drive. You will gain altitude fast to Rohtang Pass, with the landscape getting more and more barren as you go up. The road has been in a bad shape for a while now, with traffic jams common during tourist season. But enjoy the drive.

Don’t be rushed - stop at dhabas or roadside eateries for tea, Maggi noodles or full meals - and enjoy the views when you do.

The 13,050 feet high Rohtang Pass looks like a popular picnic spot during the summer holiday season - with tourists playing in the ice, bobsleighing, riding ponies, hiking around and eating at the many shacks. This is the last spot where you can expect to see crowds - you will often find yourself all alone in stark landscapes after this all the way to Leh. The adventure really picks up after this.

Jispa: An oasis across the ridge

This is it. The edge of heaven. As far as oases go, Jispa's tough to beat. You take a night halt here. This is where the mood kicks in. It's the last green spot - with trees, flowers and wheat fields - till you hit Leh. Jispa lies at 3,319 metres (10,890 feet) on the bank of the Bhaga, whose waters lull you to sleep at night. Mudhouses and chortens complement the serenescape. What do you do here? Nothing. Just admire the views around you, soak in the silence, walk along the river bed, and listen to the water.

A little after Jispa, you come to a small lake called the Deepak Tal. Hozer and his wife run a shack here - you will see more like these run by entrepreneurs who set up shop during summers to cater to travellers. They also offer a small yellow boat for a ride should you want one. You can even sleep in any of these for the night for a nominal amount.

The Baralachla (La means Pass) is the first very high altitude pass you will cross on this route - it is 16500 feet high. Like all high passes, be careful lest you be hit by altitude sickness - stop for a few minutes and move on. Traffic jams are not uncommon here. Again, this pass can be clear or snow bound even in the summers.

The road to Baralachla in June

Sarchu is an option for a night halt between Jispa and Leh. It has a beautiful landscape, but it is at a high altitude, and it’s always very cold and windy here - many a traveller is known to be hit by altitude sickness at this point. Recommended one starts early from Jispa to reach Leh in good time on the same day. This is also where you cross into Ladakh from Himachal Pradesh.

They are popularly called the Jalebi bends, but officially called the Gata Loops. They take you for a spin, curving sharply 21 times taking you up from 13,780 feet to 15,308 feet over 10 kms. Enjoy the joyride.

When Jack climbed his beanstalk, did he meet the giant in Pang? Pang's landscape is dotted with these gigantic needles, things the giant's wife would stitch with¬. These conical rock structures could well be colossal anthills, if only ants could survive the harsh climate. Geologists are not quite sure of the origins of these odd obelisks.

No comments:

Post a Comment