The first day of what was going to be an adventurous trip had us riding from Delhi to Manali by Bike. This was supposed to be an easier part except for the long riding hours. But even this day turned out to be much different than how we planned it to be. In the days that followed, the adventure continued in many different ways that we never anticipated.
Like everything else in the world, it all began with an idea. An idea to return to a place known as a biker’s paradise. An idea that had been lingering on in my mind ever since our last trip to Ladakh. The last time we sat on the banks of Pangong Tso, a decision was made. The decision to make it an annual thing, to come to visit Ladakh every year.
Little did we know how difficult it was going to be. Two years had passed since our last trip but the memories did not fade. Everything remained fresh in my mind like it all happened yesterday. We were mesmerized by the beauty of Ladakh and the feeling only fueled our efforts to return.
For 2 years, a plan was made every year, only to be postponed for next year. So a plan was again made in the 3rd year and so began the preparations.
Bike Trip to Leh Ladakh
Of course, there had to be preparations. Ladakh is not a place where you can just pack your bags and go. A trip to Ladakh requires a plan and preparations. First, a plan had to be made, carefully.
The first aspect of the plan was “when”. After much thought, the first week of July was decided, and when was dealt with.
The second aspect was “who”. From past experiences I had to learn that this part can not really be decided and finalized until D-Day. So this was left out for the last couple of days. For now, a group of 4 was decided upon.
- Shoaib – On Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350CC
- Rohit – On his Pulsar 150CC
- Sunny – On his CBZ 150CC
- Myself – On my Trusted RE Electra 350CC
The next part of the plan was “Where”. Of course, it was going to be Ladakh. But where in Ladakh? What do you see in Ladakh when you had already been there and seen it all?
The answer was simple, see all of it all over again. Get mesmerized all over again. Fall in love with the virgin beauty of Ladakh all over again. Re-visit the already visited places and add some new destinations.
Then came “How long”. After much addition and deletion, 10 to 11 days is all that we could manage to be away from work.
Hence, the preparations began. The first and the most important part of preparations was to get the motorcycles ready and so began the process of repairing and replacing.
With careful instructions to the other three, I got my own Royal Enfield carefully inspected and services. Whatever seemed doubtful was replaced. And the other three motorcycles were treated the same way.
I knew that passes for the Chushul route were not being given out in the year before. But whether or not that still was the case, I couldn’t find out after spending hours on the web.
Finally, I called a contact in Leh and asked him to arrange for the passes for Chushul, Hanle, and other places as well. Similarly, I called a contact in Manali and he agreed to arrange passes to cross Rohtang. The sole idea behind getting passes arranged beforehand was to avoid spending time at DM’s offices in Manali and Ladakh, since we were already short on time.
With that, planning and preparations were completed. All that was required to do now was to count days, and wait for the journey to begin.
Day 1 – Delhi to Manali by Bike
It is strange how slowly time passes when you are waiting for something or someone. Every hour, every day seems like ages. And when the moment arrives, time flies by so quickly. Everything gets over before you even realize it.
With all preparations done, We too waited for the moment to arrive. The moment when we will be able to start the journey that we were all so eagerly waiting for. We counted weeks and then days, we were anxious and we were restless. We kept our fingers crossed. The waiting period also consisted of a day when this plan almost got canceled, yet again.
And finally, the day arrived, the moment arrived. Against all odds, the plan still remained as planned.
Once again we wanted to start as early as we could, possibly by midnight so we can comfortably make it to Manali the next day, without any rush.
Rohit had told us well in advance that he was apprehensive about riding after dark in the hills. So that was another reason for us wanting to start early. We wanted to reach our destination while there was still sun in the sky.
But a plan is a plan, just a theory. There is no guarantee that it will stick. A plan cannot predict the future.
And so it happened that we were all still sitting at work, well past midnight. I was fumbling around on my Laptop’s keyboard, trying to wrap things up, while others waited for me patiently.
But I could feel their keen eyes on my back. I could feel that question that was lingering in all their heads, that how long it was going to take me to finish work? They kept wondering and I kept trying.
And by the time I did shut down my computer, it was 4 in the morning.
We all rushed to my place, wrapped our bags in poly-covers, tied them up on motorcycles and the clock showed 6 am when our journey finally began.
The Key Episode
Rohit and Sunny were the first ones to leave. While I was doing a final check to ensure that we did not miss anything, I noticed the confused look on Shoaib’s face. By his actions of checking his pockets and looking underneath several things lying on my table and bed, I figured he was trying to find something.
- “I can’t find my key,” He said.
- “Motorcycle key?” I asked.
- “Yes,” He replied and continued searching.
After 15 minutes of looking everywhere in my room, I noticed that Shoaib was wearing Blue Jeans.
- “Did you wear that to work last night?” I asked.
- “No” He replied, “I wore formal trousers. I just changed into these Jeans”
- “And where is that trouser?”
- “In the bag” And he pointed towards his bag that was already well packed and roped on the motorcycle.
Thus the mystery of the missing key was solved. So another 15 minutes were spent unpacking the bag, taking the key out of the trouser and packing it again.
We were almost 6 hours behind schedule. That didn’t sound like a good start but it wasn’t all that bad either. We were all just glad that the trip had finally begun.
Delhi to Chandigarh
Soon our motorcycles were cruising on NH1, also known as Grand Trunk Road, or Shershah Suri Road.
But it is just a road. It is a long monotonous ride. There is no ‘sher’ here, and no elephants with big trunks. It isn’t even grand anymore. Maybe once upon a time, it was when for more than two millennia it remained a lifeline for traders, running from Chittagong till Kabul. But now it’s just a road. There are other roads that are far better and grand than this one.
Now it is just NH1.
Our first break came after Moorthal and after feasting on Aaloo Paranthas, we were on our way again.
The road was long, the journey was tiring and the destination far away. Hence we tried to keep our breaks as few as possible. After a long ride in the sun and what seemed like ages, we finally neared Chandigarh.
I knew there was a diversion near Roopnagar that serves as Chandigarh bypass. It goes through Berut and merges in the highway again after Chandigarh.
I did see a few diversions but wasn’t sure which one to take and didn’t want to risk taking a wrong turn and waste a couple of hours finding our way back. So we continued on NH1 and crossed Chandigarh by noon.
The road was still smooth. The road was still inviting. Grand Trunk road may not be so grand anymore but one good thing about it is that it remains in good condition throughout the year. We took a quick refreshment break after Chandigarh, had a few glasses of sugarcane juice, and hit the road again towards Kiratpur Sahib.
Chandigarh to Mandi
I had traveled on this road just a few months ago, while on our way back from Tirthan Valley. So I knew that the road was going to be bad around Kiratpur. But boy were we surprised.
It was worse than the last time we encountered it. Potholes that we saw as small babies a few months ago have now grown into full-size monstrous adults. They were in fact so large that even truckers were avoiding them. Our cruising speed now turned into a crawling speed of merely 15 km per hour.
The road did get a little better after a few kilometers but our average speed could not get past 20 to 25 km an hour. It made me wonder how long it was going to be before we reach Manali.
The only comfort we found was in the thought that the road will be much better after Bilaspur / Mandi.
Also Read: When is the Best time to visit Manali
The First Breakdown
Somewhere along the way here came our first breakdown when the rear Tire on my Enfield went flat. We were carrying a puncture repair kit but none of us was in the mood of doing the job ourselves.
A passerby told us that there was a puncture repair shop just a few meters ahead. Rohit and Sunny went ahead, came back with the mechanic. After more than an hour wasted, we were on our way again.
While the wheel was getting fixed, I decided to click some shots.
5 torturous hours of avoiding potholes, overtaking trucks, smoke finding its way from exhaust pipes of trucks to our faces, dust eager to get into our eyes, finally saw us reaching Mandi.
Also Read: Places to visit in Manali & Things to Do
Mandi to Sunder Nagar
But the ordeal was far from finished. After Mandi, the road did get better but by now we were completely exhausted. None of us had slept the night before and fatigue was starting to settle in both our minds and bodies.
By now the idea of breaking the journey at someplace in between rather than continuing to Manali had occurred to all of us. But we couldn’t afford to reach Manali the next day because we were short on time. We had to complete our ride from Manali to Delhi by Bike on Day 1 itself.
With our minds set on Manali, we started from Mandi. Until now were traveling at a modest pace, enjoying the natural beauty around us but after Mandi, we had to accelerate.
For the last 150 km to Manali, as the sun was starting to settle down, our average speed remained over 40 km per hour. Rohit and I were riding ahead with Sunny and Shoaib a little behind us. Rohit was the most eager one to reach Manali as he was nervous about riding in the dark.
We took a quick breather at Sunder Nagar, enjoying the setting sun over the lake, and were on the road again.
Sunder Nagar to Manali
After Sunder Nagar, Sun went down faster than I imagined as if someone just turned off a light bulb. It was dark all around and the only things that remained visible were the ones that our headlight shined upon. Following each other’s tail lights, we kept pushing on and the clock showed almost 11 pm by the time we entered Manali. A long ride from Manali to Delhi by bike finally ended.
The original plan was to contact the guy I had asked to arrange for our Rohtang passes. While I was paying for the entry fee at the barricade just before Manali, the guy at the counter suggested that I can still get the passes arranged.
It surprised me because it was nearly midnight and there was no way that DM’s office was going to remain open that late. As it turned out, there was someone who could arrange the permit at the same place where you pay the entry fee rather than DM’s office.
I knew how it was going to be. Getting passes at midnight would mean paying a little extra. But I didn’t mind it because it meant we could start early again and don’t have to go finding my contact at Manali in the dead of the night.
Also Read: Best Time to Travel from Manali to Leh
Rohtang Permits & The Second Breakdown
I was right. I did end up paying more than usual but within half an hour, we had the passes in our hands. Once this was done, the next task was but only one. Find a hotel, check-in, eat till our bellies refuse to take any more, and crash for the night.
But this was not going to be easy as well. Finding a hotel wasn’t a problem but finding a hotel that can still serve us dinner was definitely doubtful.
While searching for a hotel, we noticed a dhaba that was still open. It looked like the guy was just cleaning up before closing. Much to our relief, his answer when we asked, “Kuchh khaane ka intezaam ho jaayega?” was yes.
It was nearly 1 am when we finished up eating. We paid the guy and just when we thought to go look for a hotel, disaster struck once more. My Enfield’s rear Tire was flat again.
This is the last thing any of us wanted at this hour but couldn’t do anything about it. Finding a puncture repair shop at that moment was out of the question. We did the only thing we could, found a hotel at a reasonable price, rode my Enfield to the hotel on a Flat Tire, and crashed under the blankets.
- Journey Ahead: Day 2 – Manali to Rohtang Pass to Jispa
And thus ended a long and monotonous day. So far, we had traveled slightly over 500 km and have had 2 breakdowns already. Please click on the link above to continue reading the next part of the travelogue.
Delhi to Manali Distance by Bike
Depending on where you started from in Delhi, the total distance is about 530 kilometers. It will remain the same even if you were traveling from Delhi to Manali by Bike. You can take a few shortcuts in between, go via Chandigarh bypass but it will not save you much. The entire journey will easily take you anywhere between 14-16 hours.
Delhi to Manali by Bike – Conclusion
I hope you enjoyed reading the travelogue of our ride from Delhi to Manali by bike. The next, we crossed Rohtang Pass and reached Jispa but even there, a surprise awaited us. You can follow the link above to continue reading ahead. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below, or at our Community Forum, and I will be happy to answer.