After what can truly be called as an agonizing wait, Manali Leh Highway was declared open today for the year 2019. The opening of the pass comes a good 3 weeks late this year in comparison to its opening in previous years. The heavy snowfall that came along with the winter season delayed the opening of almost every road and pass across the Himalayas and Manali Leh route was no exception either. Both the locals and people planning a trip to Ladakh have been patiently waiting for BRO to give a green signal and it finally happened today.
As per the Border Road Task Force (BRTF) Commander Colonel Uma Shankar, BRO has completed snow-clearing operation of the road which remains block due to the accumulation of snow during winter at various passes en route. The route was freed of snow a few days ago actually but the local authorities were assessing the situation and determining whether or not the road was safe for civilian traffic to be allowed.
Tourist season in Ladakh is actually already on and a lot of people have already traveled there from the Srinagar side. But it is usually the Manali route that brings the full flow of tourists in the region each year. With the road now being open, thousands of people will be traveling to Ladakh by either their motorcycles, cars or public transport. It is not just the tourists actually. This road also serves as a lifeline for the people of Ladakh region ensuring essential supplies as well as a stocking for winters when the region remains cut off from the rest of the country.
With that being said, the situation at Rohtang is a bit out of hands right now. There is a daily and massive traffic jam at the pass which results in a wait time of 3 to 4 hours for vehicles. With the opening of Manali Leh route, things are bound to get a lot worse. Manali Kaza road will be opening this week as well which will result in even more traffic. Getting a permit to visit and cross Rohtang Pass too is a task in itself right now.
In the end, however, if a trip to Ladakh was on your plans for this year and Manali route was a part of your itinerary then now is the time for you to make the dream come true. My advice would be to give it at least 2 to 3 weeks more before you travel on the road though. BRO is still working on stabilizing the road which means that temporary closures can still happen. Condition of the road too remains to be a bit bad in the first few weeks. Hopefully, if you waited, things with Rohtang permit too will get better.