Monday, October 5, 2009

My First Travelogue (Day 3)

(September 28)-> A very uncomfortable overnight bus journey dropped us in Manali via Kullu. Kullu and Manali are great hill stations in their own and given a choice we would have spent at least a day there. But limited office leaves made sure we dint rest till we reach Leh. So we took couple of rooms in Manali, just for freshening up. We set out for fixing up a taxi to Leh and eventually settled for a Tata Sumo (not that we had many choices; 8 of us and the tough terrain till Leh).
We were introduced to our driver “Sanju”. One look at him and I got a feeling that this is going to be an interesting journey ;-) Dressed in a rugged jeans and t-shirt with an ear-piercing and a thin plait amongst the otherwise short hair, Sanju promised to make us reach Leh by 29 evening despite of starting a little late. So around 11.30 in morning we started from Manali to Leh. Manali-Leh is a distance of 475 KM. Though not much, the journey is completed in 2 days, with an overnight halt. From our research we knew that the road was in bad condition at most places but the scenic beauty along the route is what makes it worth the pain. Still nothing could prepare us for the Manali-Leh highway with Sanju on the driving seat.
Our first obscure was when we were blocked for about an hour due to road-cutting before Rohtang; our first pass of the journey. The Manali-Leh-Shrinagar highway is maintained by Border Road Organization, which is an Indian army undertaking. It was around 3 in the afternoon when we reached Rohtang Pass and experienced the first chill. At most times the road was non-existing and we found ourselves travelling trough highest mountains, with our car being on the edge every now and then. Sanju knew many shortcuts through the road and that made our journey more adventures and bumpier at the same time. It’s not allowed to travel on the highway in night so we made our halt at the last village in Himachal Pradesh called Jespa. Jespa was beautiful like a dream, surrounded with mountains on the bank of Bhaga river. The temperature was chilling cold and we had to fight for a couple of rooms in the only guest house in the village. Anyway, after a hot-water bath and some comforting food, falling asleep was not very tough.
P.S -> Night halt on Manai-Leh highway is usually done at Sarchu or Pang. Since we started late, we had to halt before Sarchu at Jespa. If you are likely to hit similar situation, make sure to get the rooms booked in advance as there are only 2 guest houses at Jespa.

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