The journey

It is rightly said that it is the journey rather than just the destination that one should enjoy. This dream trip was all about journeying into and exploring the "Roof of the World" as Ladakh is called. Indeed a very long journey of two weeks it was from my home in Baroda in the NW Indian state of Gujarat via the capital city of New Delhi and thence to Manali in the hilly State of Himachal Pradesh popularly known as Devbhoomi (the abode of the gods). Ladakh has lots to offer - breathtaking landscapes, charming animals & bird species (many of them endemic), cultural diversity as the population is both Muslim & Buddhist, beautiful variety of Monasteries (Gompas). And for the adventurer you can hike, trek, bike, cycle your way and test your mettle. This is definitely not a place for leisure travel unless you intend to spend all your days in your hotel room & miss out on the lifetime experience that is Ladakh!
 The highway crosses some of the highest mountain passes in the world, including Rohtang Pass in Pir Panjal range and three passes in Zanskar range that separate Zanskar valley from Leh valley, namely, Bara-lacha-la, Lachulung  la and Tanglang La. The Rohtang La pass and Baralacha La receive more snowfall than the Tanglang La, but all three passes are blocked during the winter months. The road crosses the More plains between Lachlung La and Tanglang La. Be aware that this is a demanding journey that entails being on the road for long hours with patches of extremly bad roads. The 480 km route map which my Tempo Traveler traversed in 17 hours is shown below  

Manali - Rohtang Pass - Keylong

after a 15 hour drive from the Delhi through traffic jams and pouring rain along with news of the earthquake, I finally reach my 1st destination Manali. I am re-visiting Manali after few decades - my childhood memories of the area was one of enjoyable walks amongst apple orchards & what do I see? A bustling market place replete with all goodies for shoppers! Not a great feeling. My Hotel Beas is a 2 mins walk from the central area and is right on the banks of the River Beas. aahh some reprieve!My first task is to visit the tourist office for my onward journey to Keylong & Leh. that done, I check out the area around including near my hotel - it is far too crowded for my liking.

altitude of various places : Manali 2050 msl; Rohtang la 3960 msl;  Keylong 3349msl

The next morning I leave for the next destination i.e Keylong. It is a good drive via the famous Rohtang Pass and comparatively easier than what awaits me the following day. some views of the area
Blue Whistling Thrush at my hotel in Manali

above & below - the winding road taken from above

above & below - Rohtang Pass

HPTDC's Hotel Chandrabhaga - Keylong. Travellers are allotted tents for the overnight halt

the peak referred to as "the lady of Keylong" - Keylong is a small town in the Lahul & Spiti region of Himachal Pradesh and is a convenient stopover for those travelling on the Manali - Leh route

view of Keylong town

silhoutte of Oriental Turtle Dove taken at dusk

Keylong Sarchu & entering Ladakh

This is my fourth day of travel & I am excited about viewing some of the most exotic looking landscapes on earth. I leave Keylong at 4.30 am in the morning & this is the first glint of dawn. It is a rigorous and challenging but that much more exciting 12 hour drive to reach my destination Leh via some of the most amazing landscape you can imagine. Altitude of the 3  passes that I cross today are  Baralacha La 4892 msl; Lachulung La 5065 msl  and the 2nd highest Motorable pass in the world - Tanglang La 5360 msl ( multiply by 3.3 to get the equivalent in feet)

some views of the drive

As the van reaches Sarchu (4253msl) the last post on the Himachal border, there is a drastic change in the landscape. After Sarchu, I cross the border into the state of Jammu & Kashmir & this is the Ladakh region

The campsite at Sarchu

Red-billed Choughs in plenty in the area

Instead of Keylong, you may also opt to stay at this campsite at Sarchu - will make your second day journey that much shorter

A much needed halt!


And finally i am just a few kms from Leh & the signs of a bustling city are visible; the BNHS tour leader, Sudhir Sapre arranges for my pic-up & I have reached my destination Hotel Bijoo for the day with a warm welcome from the group leaders and my fellow travelers almost all of whom had already arrived by flight the same morning and were getting acclimatised perhaps in a rough way! Leh is at an altitude of 3505 msl. may not seem very high, but since it is a cold desert with sparse vegetation, the oxygen level in the atmosphere is low and hence the need for acclimatisation. The next day is a comparatively lighter day as we explore Leh, Sindhu Ghat,  etc.,. Still some need for further acclimatisation before taking off to higher altitude
Citrine Wagtail at Sindhu Ghat

Another view of the Citrine Wagtail - possibly juvenile

confluence of the Indus & Zanskar Rivers

above & below views of Magnetic Hill

Hall of Fame - a moving account of the trials & outstanding efforts of the Indian Army & Indian air force in protecting our borders
Leh Palace  - an imposing 9 storied structure built in the 17th century

Views of the interior and from the palace

A view of Leh town taken from the Palace

Tesemo Gompa situated just next to the Leh Palace

One of the exotic gates outside leh city, taken from the vehicle

View of the Leh Palace from the city

Shanti Stupa

View of the Leh palace, Tesemo Gompa taken from Leh Market

 busy market - for the shopoholics, there is plenty to buy in Leh from beautiful artifacts to herbal items, good quality camping gear et al

Jama Masjid

Cultural evening at Hotel Bijoo

My last day in Ladakh - an unexpected cancellation of all return flights due to bad weather entailed an extra day - so here is the view from my hotel window & the rainbow (photo below) is truly a bonus!

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