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#24 – Manali and back

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Center map

the local story – what happened

Manali was calling – from Korzok it has been a 2-day trip crossing 5 high passes to get there. We left at 5:30 am, because we wanted to ride as far as possible this day. The first breathtaking landscape was Tso Kar, a salt lake on the way to Leh-Manali-Highway.

After reaching the Highway, we had excellent paved roads for the next 50 km heading south – till we came back in mountain area again. Return travellers on the way from Leh to Manali appeared gradually – the Indian summer holidays are drawing to a close at this season. The high passes along the highway guarantee a magnificent view.

We’d almost made this 450 km from Korzok to Manali at the same day, but a break-down of Nigel’s bike had cost us 2 hours. It would have been too risky, to ride down the last high-pass in the darkness. Therefore we stopped for an additional night at the foot of Rothang-pass. This allowed us to cross Rothang and its winding roads next morning in day-light. On the highway, we’d met a young German biker the day before – he has been on the same way on his African Twin like us. He came the whole long way from Europe to Ladakh on his motorbike and he wants to get to Australia within the next months. We decided to stay this night together – it wasn’t so easy to find a proper room for 3 persons. But we’ve been lucky – we found one shabby room with „shared bath-room and hot shower“. This shower was nothing else than a big bucket with a self-constructed immersion heater. My two companions tried to take a shower – but both of them got an electric shock. It was an easy decision for me to forego this fun.

In the early morning you can observe road-worker on their way to work. They are living in grubby barracks covered with plastic sheets on the river-banks. Most of them are coming from South-India with their families and are doing their work for board, lodging and a small allowance.

Riding up to Rothang-pass and subsequently coasting down to Manali was a worthy ending after a two month motorbike-tour through the northern states of India with my Kiwi-companion and friend Nigel. A last glance at the high mountain-ranges of the Himalayas – after taking this pictures, he’d just ride downhill.

The last evening in Manali was very humid and painful – humid on due to lots of beer and painful, because we’ve been watching Austria vs. Hungary at the European Championship finals in France. Such a defeat shakes you to the core. Nigel had to go back to Delhi, because he wanted to catch his flight two days later back home. Because of his experiences during the last weeks, it was no problem for him now, to ride this couple of hundreds kilometers down to Delhi alone. I’d to go back in the mountains, to Leh. I was very lucky having Nigel as travel companion at my first time guiding a Tour. He’s a great guy – our shared experiences made us to real mates. It is intended, to hit the road again together.

The way back to Leh took longer than expected. I was really amazed by this huge motorcade rolling up the serpentines to Rothang. On the motorbike it is possible to overtake continuously – even so, it has in fact lasted longer for about 2 hours to reach the mountain pass.

The reason for this were lots of Indian day tourists driving up the Rothang-pass road. The most of them wanted to come in contact with snow once in their lifetime. Thousands of people tramped through tiny snow-fields at the top of the pass. The descent to north, to Leh, was thankfully free of any traffic.

The next obstacles had more far-reaching implications than required – during the ride down from Baralacha La pass broke my carrier. Not just at one position – but totally. Both of my spare cans leaked – before it was possible to decant it, I’d lost the half of my petrol. I could fix the carrier scantily with a rope and some wires in this way, that it was possible to get to Leh on a very slow rate. In the mountain areas between the passes is no chance, to get anything welded.

The last high mountain pass before Leh is also the 2nd highest motor-able pass on Earth. The last kilometers to Leh were intended to be ridden in a relaxed and calm way – I thought at least. Out of the mountains there was a red, fully occupied pick-up driving in front of me. I wanted to overtake this car several times, but the driver didn’t recognize me or he didn’t want to free the road. I’d to stay behind him and to follow very slowly. When we got through a small village, I felt suddenly like in an action scene of an Hollywood Action-movie. The car hit almost unbroken a stone wall on the left, soared straight up and remained lying at the side. Even I stepped into the brakes immediately, it was not possible to avoid the collision. After skidding for 20 m, the impact was hard enough to crush the tail light.

I’d really a bad feeling, because I was the first at the accident site and the people in the car started to scream. But little by little other bikers and cars arrived and joined the situation. With joint efforts we could free them out of their car. The shock was visible at the passenger-faces, but fortunately nobody suffered serious injuries. According to the drivers statement, he was fallen asleep behind the wheel.

With joint efforts it would be attempted to bring the car right back up. It was possible to tilt it sideways, but it fell so bad, that it got stuck on the wall.

Actually the reason to go back to Leh was the upcoming rain season in the lower planes of India. Because of the daily rain showers during the monsoon relaxed rides are not possible. I wanted to stay in Leh for a couple of weeks to complete my photo blog in a calm and decent way. Unfortunately the internet connection was so slow – no way to upload photos or work continuously.

I’d to modify my plan again. It was easy to leave my motorbike with an Indian friend and book a flight back home to Austria. Till the end of monsoon I’ll spend my time at home in Graz. In September/October I’ve to come back to Leh to get my motorbike out of the mountains before winter and snow fall starts again. Monsoon should be over, the rain should not affect my next motorbike-adventures.

Cu Henry

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