Ladakh Journey – Crawling Drive from Delhi to Manali

8

The Journey so far-

Day 1 | Delhi to Manali

The day had arrived and we were all set to kickoff the journey of our lives. The dZire was set to run on the roads of Ladakh and everything seemed set for an adventure that would span 10 days. It was 11.00 PM, Neeraj and Deepak, my old time travel mates were waiting on the Metro station, when my ever supporting and loving Dad brought me the towing rope, petrol pipe, jump start cable, Jerry Can and M-seal + Elfy (Fixes anything) ;). A quick cleaning of my car and we went to pick both my friends. We reached there in 5 minutes and brought them home. There we had a nice cup of tea and lots of advice this time. This time because this time it was LADAKH, the name says it all topped with we young birds driving on our own, it was enough to shake any elder member of family and easily any of the in-laws.

Queues of Traffic Jam…

Queues of Traffic Jam near Bilaspur on the way to Manali

But, the saddest part was, this time I won’t be with my beautiful and lovely wife. It was tough to leave her for such number of days for the first time and it’s tough for her to stop crying. I was not feeling good too and it was getting very hard for me as well but we have to leave giving false hopes to each other for not worrying much about each other ;), that could never happen. I knew, it was the first and last time I would be traveling without her and taking her would be much more pleasing than leaving her at home. For the first time going on any trip I wasn’t feeling well and deep inside I was regretting the decision not to take her along. The signs of omen were there but we were unaware of that fact.

Finally at 11.35 PM we left for Gurgaon to pick my cousin, who was about to finish his shift in office. Out of all I was the one with a heavy heart and feeling really sad. No one spoke for next 20 minutes when eventually the shackles were broken by the music. Finally in half an hour we reached my cousin’s place, had a quick glass of apple juice and clicked the ignition for the start of the trip.

Time was 12.30 AM and place was Gurgaon, Sector-14. Odometer was set to zero and it had to run more than 3000 KMs in next 10 days to get us back home. The first target was to reach our favorite ZhilMil Dhabha at Karnal. Monsoon was officially announced but there was no sign of rain till now. We had planned our stay in Solang Valley for the night to get properly acclimatize. Manali being at lower altitude does not help in acclimatization but Solang Valley does help in acclimatization. So, it was in our mind that we would reach Manali by 2.00 PM as it takes around 13-14 hours to reach Manali from Delhi, will have lunch at Manali and leave for Solang Valley which takes around 30 minutes from Manali, to sleep for the night.

It was 3.30 AM in the morning and we reached ZhilMil Dhabha, Karnal NH-1. We ordered our usual mix paranthas and all famous tea. Enjoyed it a lot and off we were for the journey ahead. The traffic was slow as we reached Ambala and suddenly it was raining heavily. Immediate effect was on progress which went down slowly as rain increased the tempo and decreased the visibility. Finally, we reached Chandigarh at 5.20 AM and the part was devoid of Rain but as we entered the city, wow, it was raining like hell. Roads were flooded with water and deep pot holes were taking us with surprise. We managed to cross Chandigarh at 6.00 AM.

Clouds has followed us since we left Ambala and as we approached Ropar they were in dark glory. At Ropar the clogged water on roads were as deep as 2 feet and no one was ready to test the depth intially, when I believe a locale guided the path for all tourists vehicles waiting to get on the cross over turn to Manali. We had to wait at least more than 3 places for some vehicle to cross the clogged water on the roads. Roads were seriously in miserable shape after Ropar.

As we exited Ropar around 7.15 AM and joined the highway, the rain stopped. In Punjab, it was time to enjoy the most pleasant weather of the drive so far. The enjoyment didn’t last longer as soon as we took the right turn towards Manali and hills started , the rain was waiting for us in full glory. Everyone was driving painfully slow as visibility was very poor due to heavy rain. The road was full of fallen rocks all around and it was pretty scary to see such big boulders or rocks right on the highway you are driving 🙁

Driving in such visibility was difficult…

Poor visibility in hills due to rain near Bilaspur on the way to Manali

Big and Small but Fresh Leaves…

Fresh green leaves after rain near Bilaspur on the way to Manali

We reached Bilaspur around 8.00 AM and a traffic jam was waiting for us. One hour past and we didn’t move a single meter :shock:, we enquired and got to know that Jam is there since night… Since night 😯 😯 😯 😯 … DAMN!!! The signs of pain and difficulties were flowered from the sky, the road to Ladakh won’t be easy was the message inside. The traffic started to crawl slowly and slowly, inch by inch, meter by meter…It was 10.45 AM, we reached Swarghat and JAM is not over yet. More than 3 hours have past and we are still crawling… Lots of broken side mirrors were shattered on the roads… Police were braking the side mirrors of these vehicles braking the queues… The Jam was for no reason, just a boulder or rock on the road here & there topped by idiots braking the traffic queues, flooding the other lane to create a traffic deadlock. Everyone suffers!!!

Queues of Traffic Jam…

Queues of Traffic Jam near Bilaspur on the way to Manali
Queues of Traffic Jam near Bilaspur on the way to Manali

Irritation of Jam Written all over ;)…

Irritated Faces of Traffic Jam near Bilaspur on the way to Manali

The traffic Jam irritated us completely that we didn’t even wanted to click any photograph anymore :(… We need to make up for the time lost. Finally, after almost 4 Hours stuck in that traffic jam queues, we made up a little for the time lost by skipping the breakfast and deciding to have brunch at Mandi. Some time also got wasted in searching for a Petrol Pump which can accept Credit Card. After starting enquiring a lot right from Sunder Nagar, we finally got one Petrol Pump that accepts credit card at Mandi, just after crossing the Mandi Bus Stand.

Rain Followed us Everywhere… Roads were all drenched…

Rain in Hills on the way to Manali

Aftermaths of Rain in Hills…

Rain in Hills on the way to Manali
Rain in Hills on the way to Manali

Finally, we reached Mandi around 3.00 PM and stopped at the Roti Restaurant which offers a side view of Beas River. We had already eaten once at this place on our trip to Chandertal. The restaurant offers good food and being on the highway itself just on the brinks of Mandi exit, it even help saving time. It has a parking for 4-5 cars in front only. As we had tanked up our tummies, we were ready to go. It was around 4.00 PM and expected time of reaching Manali was 3 Hours from here which was fine for us.

Brunch at Roti Restaurant…

Lunch at Roti Restaurant near Mandi on the way to Manali
Lunch at Roti Restaurant near Mandi on the way to Manali
Lunch at Roti Restaurant near Mandi on the way to Manali

Four souls on the way to Ladakh…

Lunch at Roti Restaurant near Mandi on the way to Manali

Our Car Parked at Roti Restaurant…

Our Car Parked at Roti Restaurant near Mandi on the way to Manali

It was not over yet and more misery waited us as we ventured ahead. Just after driving 3 KMs or so there was again a big traffic JAM. News was, there is a landslide and expected time of clearance is more than an hour. But, tragically 2 people have died as one Scorpio has been caught in the action of that landslide. The Scorpio kept rolling and falling at least two curves to enter into all time violent Beas River. Luckily it got stuck in some rock or boulder and was not washed away. There were five passenger of which two died on the spot and one was seriously injured. God’s grace two of them were saved!!! It’s heart of a Himachal guys and salute to them for their valiant effort, who were there before anybody else and rescued the three souls even before Police came with ambulance. Meanwhile landslide was cleared after more than an hour and it was 5.35 PM there only.

Trying Different Angles… :lol:.. Views of Beas River enroute Manali…

Views of Beas River on the way to Manali
Views of Beas River Mandi on the way to Manali
Views of Beas River on the way to Manali
Views of Beas River on the way to Manali
Views of Beas River on the way to Manali
Views of Beas River on the way to Manali

Ooops.. What’s Butterfly doing on Rocks… No Flowers Here…

Views of Beas River on the way to Manali

Now out of four I was really taken aback from this incident of people dying there. On all my previous trips I saw landslides, even being the first one to be on the landslide but never heard of / saw someone dying. This scared my soul or you can say I was scared because I wanted to reach back home this time as my lovable wife was waiting :)… This time feeling was different and I was different too… Don’t know but it was different me.

As we approached Kullu, we missed the bypass again on this trip and entered the city :). Another misery but this time it was self made and as expected it took pain to get out from those narrow roads with everyone on them in a herd. It was tough passing through the market but finally we did pass it. As soon as we exited Kullu, the road towards Manali was really in bad shape at least till Raison. It was no going fast on the road and we knew the rest of 40 KMs to Manali from Kullu will take more than two hours, if it continues like this i.e. we will reach only by 8.30 PM. But, after reaching Raison the road finally improved with only few bad stretches and we reached Manali at 8.20 PM and paid Rs 300 for green tax. The first question I asked, Bhaiya: “Is the road to Rohtang Pass towards Leh Open?” He replied: Yes, sir…. 🙂 and that’s it. We were happy and forgot what all happened at the back throughout the day. We are going to Ladakh was the feeling inside the car… 😀

Now, we wanted to reach Solang and since it was dark we decided to have dinner at Solang only. We didn’t even book the Hotel, so wanted to search the Hotel as well. Without wasting much time we head for Solang Valley, we said goodbye to Manali Mall road, feeling in our minds that it would be explored on the way back from Ladakh. We crossed the Beas bridge and were on the Manali Leh highway Now. The feeling was getting more and more fresh as we saw traffic coming from the other side and the buses of Udaipur as well, which confirmed that road to heaven is open for us.

Again as we approached Palchan, a good 6-7 KMs before there were big boulders right on the road and visibility was poor due to rain, so we were having difficulty negotiating them. The traffic from the other side was too much including so many buses, trucks hurling down like evils on our little car. There was a point where the road was very narrow on the turn, seems there was a fresh landslide. We stuck on the spot for more than 15 minutes giving the pass for so many vehicles and we were standing on the edge. Rain and darkness were making it more tough, one driver said Road is not in good shape ahead 😥 After giving a thought and eliminating the risk factor we decided let’s go back to Manali and stay there only. It was 9.10 PM as well and we were afraid of the fact that we don;’t have hotel, we are late fi we don;t get hotel like our previous trip to Kinnaur and Tirthan Valley, due to reaching late in the night then surely in rain we will again struggle to reach Manali back. Hence, the decision was on and we took a U-turn and headed back to Manali.

Huhhh…It was 9.30 PM and we reached Manali to sleep for the night. Plans of acclimitization are over 🙁 as we have to stay at Manali. It is the most treacherous drive out of five times I have visited Manali. The drive to Manali alone took more than 20 odd hours which earlier never took more than 14 hours. This was a very very tiring and big day and it defined that path to heaven won’t be easy enough. The first day turmoil on road was over for us and we got check in at hotel near Beas Bridge, Left Bank, Naggar Road. The Hotel name was The River View and was very near to the Beas Bridge. We parked our car and ordered food which took more than 90 minutes to come :cry:… At last, the cry for food was over, tired to the core we headed for a night sleep. Morning plans was to leave at 5 AM for Ladakh.

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About Author

You can call me an Avid Traveler, a Day - Night Dreamer and a Passionate Lover of Himalayas who has a high zest for driving whilst exploring new places in Himalayas & sharing back those Himalayan Travel experiences with the other fellow Travelers... I am in love with Spreading Smiles in Himalayas through DoW Causes & currently enjoying life as Happy Traveling Soul at DoW Community. You can read more about me in detail at the link here ...

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