Day 1: Manali (2,050 m) to Koksar (3,500 m)

Day 1: Manali (2,050 m) to Koksar (3,500 m)

When we are walking home, this time we pass by a bike shop and see “THE Bike”, a Royal Enfield, ten years old, 500 cc, turquoise. You can can feel that it has “a soul”, that it has been through something and it feels almost like it is speaking to us. Some kind of force attracts us to it and immediately we go there to check it out. While having a test round, it seems even more perfect than we initially thought: the sound it makes is amazing – like a purring cat. We name it Angelo, which in Italian means “angel”.

To celebrate this, we go to eat at the Italian restaurant and prepare ourselves mentally to head off tomorrow early in the morning…

I can’t wait!

(from What is Fear Really About)

In the middle of the night I wake up and feel really bad. After some time, I have to admit to myself that I must have eaten something bad and I now have food poisoning. I am up all night and unfortunately I have to accept the fact that I am not going anywhere today and that I will have to stay in bed. I try to recover as fast as possible – rehydrating myself so that I am ready to leave the very next morning.

Towards late afternoon I start feeling a little bit better and we start preparing our bags. The packing has to be done very carefully as it is extremely important to take as little as possible, since any additional weight would have an impact on the stability of the bike. It is a little difficult to pack only the essentials since, after all, we are going on a three-week trip, where we will also be facing sub-zero temperature. Besides carrying a tent, sleeping bags, medicine, repairing tools, winter clothes, waterproof covers, food and water, we also need to carry extra petrol for about 200 km since there is no petrol station en route.

We basically have to think about every little thing, since one mistake would mean getting stuck on the road.

We wake up to a beautiful sunny day, with not a single cloud in the sky, I feel confident that today nothing will go wrong, no food poisoning or whatsoever and I am very excited about finally starting our adventure. After making the final preparations and equally distributing the weight on the bike, we go to the registration centre in Manali, where they register our names and bike number, as we have to buy a permit which allows us to cross over the Rohtang pass.

Everything took much longer than expected and it is now already past noon, quite late as we have to cover a long distance (approx. 70 km, but, due to the bad roads, we can only drive at 20 km/h) and driving at night wouldn’t be the best idea considering the mountain roads and cold temperatures.

We make one more stop at the petrol station to fill the tank and the extra two bottles and are now good to go. Not even five minutes after we leave, we hear loud honking behind us and when I turn around I realize that we have already lost one whole bag because it was not properly fixed. I hop off and start collecting all the things, food, shoes etc. which are spread all over different parts of the road. We fix the bag again and now leave towards Rohtang pass (52km).

Protective suite

We leave the city behind us and we pass through many small villages and farmers are coming towards us with their herds of sheep, goats and cows. We can now look over the city of Manali and the atmosphere is simply beautiful. The road continues uphill, passes through a wonderful forest and as we go higher it gradually becomes less and less dense.

At one point we face our first police control where we have to show our passport sand the permit; they are very friendly and wish us a good journey.

There are many other jeeps and bikers heading in the same direction as we are and many more coming from the opposite direction. Every time they pass they give us a friendly hand sign, either waving, or a thumbs up sign to say “Hello”. I really enjoy it since it makes me feel like we are all part of a big group.

As we continue our trip, the landscape has now changed completely, no more trees are visible, just stones and bushes, and the road still climbs up.

Landscape changing

Suddenly we get to a tricky part since there are different places along the road which are extremely narrow – making it a one-way street. For the motorbike it is okay, but big trucks and cars have to pass as well.

The scary part is not only that it is extremely narrow but moreover that there is a big canyon on one side and the road doesn’t have any safety measures.

As is the case in India, cars drive on the “opposite” side of the road (left hand traffic), we are mostly driving on the side of the road protected by the mountain. But still I don’t dare to look down and just try to summon all my strength and positive thinking together – making this a good experience and enjoying the beautiful landscape, rather than freaking out about the height.

At one point we get stuck for a longer time since two trucks try to pass at the same time and they have to do very difficult manoeuvres. Finally after some time they manage, and I am really impressed by their precise driving skills – this is definitively not something for weak nerves, a few inches in the wrong direction and the outcome could be fatal.

After this thrill we continue our drive and reach a rest stop area with many restaurants, a temple and people paragliding since there is a really good view over the whole of the valley.

Resting area

Thankfully the road is wider now, but there are many parts which are simply dirt roads, creating a lot of dust and making it difficult to drive. It is not raining but it is quite windy and getting colder; so time to put my gloves on because I can’t really feel my fingers anymore.

On the road towards Rohtang pass

After about an hour of road, we finally see the sign: “Rohtang Pass (Rohtangla)” and many people taking pictures. We know that from this point the road will just go downhill and our stop is no longer far away, about 20km. When we stop to take some pictures, we decide to put our skiing clothes on since it is suddenly freezing cold – no wonder, we are now at an altitude of 3,978 meters.

When we leave the Pass, we have an amazing view over the snow covered Himalayan range in front of us, the light is just perfect. These are exactly the same mountains which I have always seen previously from my bedroom window. In this moment I realize “I am here, I did it and I am doing it – I overcame my fear”.

On the road towards Koksar

Now the road starts to gradually worsen, there are big holes and it is very bumpy but by driving slowly and carefully we manage. After a while we again hear a lot of honking behind us – once again we have lost a whole bag! No wonder with these roads!! The biker who makes us aware of our bag falling off asks us if we are missing a sleeping bag, since he saw one on the road about 20 km back; indeed it is ours. Unfortunately, due to the load noise of the engine, we didn’t hear it and since it is about to get dark we don’t have time to drive back.

Finally, at around 7 pm, we reach Koksar, a small village where we will be staying for the night. Before entering the village, there is another police check post where we have to register. While doing so I read the warning written on the wall: “You are about to drive over dangerous and steep mountain roads, be careful and take all the precautions which are needed.

We take a small room nearby, eat some local dish and have a well-deserved rest.

Today has been such a great day, with amazing landscape all around and even though I haven’t drive the bike yet, I am doing the bike tour – something I feared as much as I wanted it for a long time. I am feeling so grateful and fall asleep watching the biggest and brightest full moon I have ever seen.

Day 1: Manalit (2050 m) to Koksar (3500m)

Beautiful!
Good night

Credits

Image Title Author License
Day 1: Manali to Koksar Day 1: Manali to Koksar Sourabh Sharma CC BY-SA 4.0
Day 1: Manali (2,050 m) to Koksar (3,500 m) Day 1: Manali (2,050 m) to Koksar (3,500 m) Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Protective suite Protective suite Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Landscape changing Landscape changing Isbael Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Resting area Resting area Isbael Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
On the road towards Rohtang pass On the road towards Rohtang pass Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Rohtang pass 1 Rohtang pass 1 Isbael Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Rohtang pass 2 Rohtang pass 2 Isbael Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
On the road towards Koksar On the road towards Koksar Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0

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