Manali to Jispa – Across the Mighty Rohtang La

by Vargis.Khan

This post is in continuation with Day 1 of travelogue of one of my Ladakh rides. We travelled from Delhi to Manali on Day 1; and then went from Manali to Jispa on Day 2. Please click the link below to read the first part of the travelogue.

Journey so Far – Day 1: Delhi to Manali

Even though we all slept late last night, I was still wide awake at 6 in the morning. Other three were still sound asleep and there were a few things needing to be taken care of; before we could be on our way to Rohtang. Top on the list was to get the flat wheel on my motorcycle fixed. Even though we had the necessary tools on us to fix it; I was still in no mood of doing the job myself. Leaving the trio in their respective dreamland; I stepped out of the hotel, hoping to find a mechanic shop open.

Luck favored and while on my way back to the hotel; after roaming around in Manali for an hour on foot, I finally found a mechanic shop just opening up. It was quite close to the hotel and I wanted the guy to come to the hotel but he insisted that I get the motorcycle to his shop. I was hesitant to drag a 350 CC Royal Enfield on a flat wheel; fearing that it might do some damage the Tyre itself but had no choice. I walked back to the hotel, woke everyone up; and brought the motorcycle to the repair shop.

A couple of hours later, the motorcycle was fixed and we were all up and ready to continue our journey to Rohtang. The clock showed slightly past 10 AM when we checked out of the hotel. Just like the day before, we were again late by 5 hours on our plan.

We had the passes arranged the previous night so that part was taken care of already. The only thing that was worrying me at the moment was the risk of getting stuck in Traffic Jam near Rohtang top.




I was riding ahead of the group and after a couple of kilometers, I noticed that I was not being followed by anyone. I slowed down a bit but the others still didn’t catch up so I came to a complete halt. After waiting for about 15 minutes, I decided to backtrack; fearing some trouble but couldn’t find either of them all the way back to Manali. I tried calling all three but none answered. After a moment’s thought, the best possible idea I could come up with was to go back to the hotel and find out if they are still there but they weren’t. So there I was, standing at the hotel again and continuously calling their cells with no idea about where they went.

After what seemed like forever, Rohit answered his phone and the mystery of their disappearance was resolved. The trio had noticed a gas station near the entrance of Manali last night and went back that way to fill up their tanks, in the exact opposite direction of the way we were supposed to be going. This sounded silly; there were other gas stations on our way towards Rohtang and there was absolutely no need to go back towards Manali entrance for it.

I waited and waited and finally they reappeared on the road. After giving all three of them an earful, we started again and this time I kept checking to ensure that they were still on my tail.

Manali to Jispa

Ride to Rohtang is pretty scenic. It really has some dramatic views consisting of lush green hills, several waterfalls, grazing horses and views of snow capped mountains. Even for people like me who had been here several times before, it is still awe-inspiring.

Para-gliding from Rohtang Top

We took our first break at Kothi, at a restaurant that we stop every-time we pass by here because of the delicious aaloo paranthas it offers.

Traffic at Rohtang

Ironically, I was waiting for a barrier to appear on the road with cops asking for Rohtang permits but it just wasn’t there anywhere. We kept riding up and there was no sign of any barrier or cops or anyone for that matter asking people to produce their permits. After a couple of hours of a relaxed ride, near Rohtang, my worst fears for the day came true, in form of a huge traffic Jam.

Road was narrow and muddy. There was no other choice but to stand in the line and wait for the traffic to clear, which could very well have taken more than an hour but Shoaib came to rescue. He noticed some space on the left where one could manage to squeeze a motorcycle through but because of the mud, no one was attempting it. Brave Sir Shoaib took on the task and successfully completed it. The rest of us followed and pretty soon every motorcyclist was using the same narrow space to overtake the traffic and avoid unnecessary wait.

Rohtang Top and to Kokhsar

Fortunately we did not encounter another traffic Jam. After a quick photo session at Rohtang top;our 1st high altitude pass of the trip, we were descending on our way to Gramphoo.

We stopped at a tea shop at Gramphoo. while we were sipping down tea, an Israeli guy asked if we noticed a Bus coming down from Rohtang. I told him that we noticed none and that there was a huge traffic Jam at the top. Turned out that the guy had been waiting there for last couple of hours; for some sort of public transport to arrive. He was going to Keylong and since we were all traveling solo on 4 motorcycles, we offered him a ride which he readily accepted and hopped on with Sunny on his CBZ.

Breakdown

We registered ourselves at the check-post before Kokhsar and continued but not for long. I was riding ahead of the group and about a kilometer after crossing Kokhsar, my motorcycle’s rear tyre went flat again. It was the first one of the day and 3rd of the journey.

But it wasn’t just me. Few minutes later Sunny arrived and he too had a flat tyre. This was 2nd of the day and 4th overall.

We had just crossed a puncture repair shop in Kokhsar. So Sunny and I backtracked to the village while Rohit, Shoaib and the the Israeli guy decided to stay there and wait for us.

The Delay

We reached the puncture repair shop but annoyingly enough, the owner was busy repairing a Truck’s punctured tyre. We had no other option but to wait which dragged on for almost an hour. Rohit arrived after a while, wondering what was taking us so long and he too joined us in the wait.

Finally after what must had been at least an hour, the owner finished with the Truck and turned his attention towards us. It took the idiot another one hour to change the tubes on our motorcycles and by the time we were done there, it was already 6 PM.

We came back to the spot where Shoaib was waiting but the Israeli guy was gone. He was finally able to board a bus that he had been waiting for so long but forgot something of his behind, a colorful umbrella.

Final Lap to Jispa

Now the big confusion was where to halt for the night. Shoaib and I wanted to stay at a camping site in Jispa; but the way sun was setting down, it was going to be dark soon and we doubted if we will make it to Jispa while sunlight remains.

manali to jispa

Rohit was not too confident about riding in the dark and urged us to check into a hotel at Keylong; but then changed his mind and agreed to carry on towards Jispa.

Saw these guys. They were not too happy about posing for a couple of shots; were gone out of the sight in a matter of seconds but I still managed to click a few.

It was already pitch black when we crossed Keylong; so the last 30 kms to Jispa were ridden in total dark. I was hoping to find the same camping site that we last stayed in at Jispa but was surprised to see it replaced with wooden huts. There was another camping site at Jispa which Rohit found. Charges were almost the same but we chose to stay in the huts; primarily because we were the only guests there as opposed to the other camping site; which had quite a few people staying for the night.

Being the only guests means peace and sole attention of our hosts. Second reason was the the huts were right next to the river whereas the tenting accommodation site was on the other side of the road. I don’t know why the river even mattered at that time because it was dark already and we were going to be gone early in the morning; but for some reasonĀ  it did and we wanted to be as close to the river as we could.

Camping at Jispa

While Rohit and I were finalizing our stay at the huts; I wondered what was taking Shoaib and Sunny so long because there was still no sign of them. They arrived some time later and the reason of the delay was revealed. Sunny had a flat tyre again. 3rd of the day and 5th of the journey.

manali to jispa

We checked ourselves in and soon it was time to sit around a bonfire; enjoying the cold breeze and the silence of the valley which was only interrupted by sound of the wood cracking in the bonfire and of the water flowing in the river. It was a blackout at Jispa that night and there was no electricity anywhere. Back then it was a little annoying when we had to eat in candle-lights and had to carry a flash-light around every-time we moved away from the fire; but now when I think about it, it only added to the beauty of that night. Sitting near a bonfire, next to a river, under a clear sky filled with countless stars; sipping down hot tea while the entire village was covered with a thick sheet of pitch black; an amazing experience it was.

Journey Ahead – Day 3: Jispa to Pang

Planning a trip to Ladakh? Got questions or need any help? Feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.

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2 comments

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Surya June 22, 2019 - 8:18 pm

Hello, do you have any idea on how long it could take us to reach Spiti from Pangong via Jispa ?

We plan to use public transport and have 1 day and a night in hand to make it to Spiti, how feasible is this.

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Vargis.Khan June 23, 2019 - 3:33 pm

Not doable. You will need 3 days at the least.

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