In my last post, I shared my journey from Delhi to Khardung La on the epic road trip I took recently with OYO and Scout My Trip. If you haven’t read that yet you are missing out on a great deal. Here’s the link again. The tale did not end there as we crossed over to the other side towards the sprawling Nubra Valley and to Manali making more picturesque pit stops en route.
Connecting the dots
The road trip took an adventurous turn from here on and things got really interesting. Here’s a run down on our pit stops en route Manali. Some bloggers returned back to Leh and flew back but a few more joined us and we pressed on.
Khardung La •→ Hunder •→ Spangmik •→ Korzok •→ Keylong •→ Manali
After 2 hours of discussing matters that affect the blogging realm, we set forth down the valley where the Karakoram and Himalayan mountain walls stand guard to this out-of-the-world place called the Nubra Valley. This is a place that baffles your mind where you can see sand dunes and river beds with rocky jagged peaks on either side. We took mini stops at Khalsar for some quick bites. Proceeding to Diskit to see the giant Buddha statue overlooking the valley and then to Hunder for some dune bashing and spotted the Double Humped Bactrian Camels here from the folklores of the Silk Route days. These still live to tell a tale. By evening we were again at a picture-perfect resort pit stop that was prepared by OYO for the bloggers.
Kilometers clocked: 88km
The plan was to reach the shores of the Pangong Lake through the Agam-Shyok route but that was dropped in the last-minute due to its conditions and for safety reasons. We proceeded back to Leh but did not stop there and moved towards the Chang La Pass. A little into the climb from Sakti, the Black Scorpio SUV that had problems in Jammu was struggling to take the low-pressure air. Two of the scouts readily took the SUV back to Leh to get it fixed. The rest of us continued the drive to Pangong Tso. We crossed over the dangerous Chang La which is a slightly harder climb than Khardung La and reached Pangong Tso a little after sundown. It was a long ride from Hunder and all of us just wanted to hit the sack at the end of the day.
Kilometers clocked: 235km
If getting to Spangmik proved hard, then getting to Korzok was an even harder task. That’s because there are no marked roads on this route and it closely skirts the Tibetian border guarded by Chinese snipers. Snipers!!! You heard that right. Scary but we had full faith in our military here. From the shores of the Pangong, the dirt road leads through the rough desert landscape of the Changthang plateau. A place with no life for miles and miles together except for migratory birds and wild asses. No stops for water, no food on the way, with some exceptions like the Chushul Valley pictured below.
Half way through this treacherous yet strangely mesmeric landscape, the Bolero hit a snag again and a tire got punctured. Clearly, we hadn’t learned our lessons from Zoji La. And I was in the same car. Talk about fate! We frantically waited in no man’s land until we found help to fix the punctured tire. A convoy of soldiers who were headed to a new base also joined us. But it was the timely intervention by a military commander that finally got us through. While we continued with renewed hopes of not getting stranded, the raw untouched beauty of the land bewitched our eyes. This has to be one of the last untarnished locations in Ladakh. Korzok was damp and wet when we reached but not our spirits even after these punctured dreams…errr…tires. We spent a cold peaceful night in the canvas tents at Korzok and in the morning the sun gleamed through the overcast sky amidst the fluttering prayer flags. The two scouts and the black Scorpio we left near Leh joined us back by surprise in the middle of the night.
Kilometers clocked: 206km
Like the previous day, there were miles to cover before we slept next. We saw the shepherd nomads of the Changthang tending to their flock while we whizzed past the roads towards the Manali to Leh highway.
We crossed vast lifeless terrains from lakes to high passes. The toughest of which I would say was the last bit of stretch to the Baralacha La. A pass that remains eerily cold on a shaded side of the mountain and remains dangerous throughout the year. Bidding goodbye to Ladakh for one last time, we entered the snowy mountain land of Himachal Pradesh making it to our next pit stop, Keylong.
Come morning and the view from Keylong proved that the grass is green on this side too.
Kilometers clocked: 327km
Manali was our last pit stop before ending the journey. We made a late morning start from Keylong and stopped at Tandi. Only to find out there was no fuel at the only station for miles. The ongoing tunnel and road work on this route took a lot of our time as well. After all of this, happiness was regained at Khoksar with the fabled “Mutton Chawal” or Rice with lamb, licking our plates clean. Sorry, non-vegetarians! The last of the high passes on this route feared for its name but now feared for the crowds that flock here, Rohtang (Field of corpses) was next. We successfully crossed the Rohtang Pass with little or no crowd at all and edged closer to Manali, the last pit stop en route. Thanks to OYO, our stay at Manali was sorted at this riverside retreat.
Kilometers clocked: 116km
Making memories per kilometer
“Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens on the way” – Emma Chase
I’m glad you made it here because we made it back to Delhi from Manali in one piece, all of us. Thanks to the efforts of the scouts and planners of this trip who helped us make these memories per kilometer. Road trips are really so much fun, and what makes it fun is, of course, the people who travel with you, the places you visit and the people you meet. I urge travelers and tourists reading this today to make a conscious effort towards protecting endangered places like Ladakh so that you could have a great time and in the future your children too with stories of awe and wonder.
This was one of those trips that I will always remember in my lifetime. If you have been on road trips like these, share your experiences below in the comments 🙂
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*All views expressed here are my own.
Travel Blogger from Kochi, India. An inspired traveler, a travel writer, a photographer, an aspiring mountaineer, a positive thinker and a minimalist.