As the name suggests, the Leh Manali highway starts from Leh and goes upto Manali. Since we took a detour to go to Tso Moriri from Leh, we caught up with the highway somewhere in the middle. The roads from Tso Moriri to the Leh-Manali Highway cannot be really called roads. That was one of the worst patches of roads we encountered throughout our journey. There are no popular destinations between Leh and Manali and people who drive down usually take up a shelter in home-stays/lodges on the way in Pang, Sarchu or Jispa.
Our Leh-Manali highway drive was one of the most adventurous drives in our journey. The road from Leh to Pang is very well built and maintained and it does not feel like you are driving in the mountains at all. The views around are beyond imagination and driving on this patch of road explains why it is called the Biker’s paradise. However, once you cross Pang, the highway cannot really be called a highway. In fact, we checked on Google Maps at least 5 times to confirm that we are on the highway and have not taken a detour by mistake.
Driving for close to 7 hours, we finally we reached Sarchu at almost 5 PM in the evening. We could not find decent accommodation in Sarchu and hence thought of driving a little ahead to the town of Jispa which was another 85 kms. What we did not realise was what lies ahead was one of the most difficult parts of our journey. We were about to cross the Baralacha Pass, a pass which is 4900 mt above sea level and one of the most steep passes known.
A local told us that if we cross the pass before sun down, we are good to go and will reach Jispa in time. Sadly, the roads were not very favourable. We had expected to cross Baralacha La by 6 PM, but it was already 6:15 PM and we were still 10 kms before Baralacha. The temperature outside was reducing every passing minute due to sun down and the altitude we were gaining. There was a point of time when I saw -8 C on my car dashboard. Not too far from the car, we saw two shiny small balls which turned out to be foxes. A road trip across the mountains was turning into a tour across the wildlife sanctuary when we finally saw a snow bear in the wild.
The only thing on our mind at that time was to cross the pass without our car breaking down. A flat tire, discharged battery, black ice on road or anything similar could have got us in trouble. I wish we had some pictures capturing those moments, but getting ourselves out of that situation was the only thing on our minds at that time.
Darcha is a small village a few kilometres before Jispa. It was almost after two hours we saw some settlement and we felt that it is safest to call it a night here and not go any further. The adventurous day ended with us sleeping off in a local homestay, literally by knocking on someone’s door to provide us with shelter for the night.
1. Make sure that you cross the Baralacha La in absolute day light. It is one of the toughest roads to drive on in India.
2. When on Leh Manali highway, do not wait to get a better accommodation at the next pitstop. If you are tired, just stay wherever you can find a shelter for yourself.
3. Even though the roads are bad, the surroundings are quite picturesque. Stop and click on as many spots are you want. You will not find such beautiful mountains anywhere else in India or abroad.