On the 73rd day we rode from Keylong to Manali over Rohtang Pass on the Leh-Manali highway. This was part of our 90 day ride in the Himalayas covering Spiti, Zanskar, Batalik, Ladakh, Nubra, Shyok, Pangong, Hanle, Tso Moriri, Garhwal and Kumaon!
Day 73: Keylong to Manali
Overjoyed at having found such cheap accommodation the previous evening in Keylong my miser brain stopped working and I ended up ordering three parathas for breakfast.
Each paratha the size of a plate and there was no way in the world that I could finish it. Fortunately there was help at hand, my spare food Ziplock bag was put to good use and I stuffed two down my throat and the third in the bag.
The first few kilometres from Keylong were downhill and I had to brave the morning nip in the air. That much cold was pleasant in comparison to the passes from the previous days.
After bottoming out, there was a small climb to Sissu, a perfect warm-up for the big one for the day.
I wasn’t sure if Rohtang, the big one would even be possible on that day. Many kilometres lay ahead of me and the clock was ticking faster than usual.
The ride to Koksar was so uninteresting, that it actuality stood out as something different! The highlight of that section was entering my name in the tourist register maintained by the Himachal Police.
After having ridden through Ladakh, this section is green and hill like; unlike the rugged mountains I had left behind. The only traffic on the road was jeeps filled to the brim with cauliflowers and cabbage. Vegetables grown in Lahaul which make their way to Manali and beyond.
A few kilometres past Koksar I stopped at the dhaba at Gramphoo. A second attempt planned at saying ‘I’m back’! The first was at the dhaba in Darcha.
This attempt turned out to be even worse. The owner was fast asleep, enjoying his afternoon siesta. A horseman present at the dhaba and who had taken on cooking duties there chatted to me about his trek back to Manali via the Parang La route.
It is interesting that they prefer this route over the highway, even though trekkers and cyclists consider it super adventurous and even the military consider it tough!
Just before Rohtang Pass I bumped into a group of cyclists from Pune. Their bikes were overloaded and timing was horribly wrong. I warned them in vain about the weather and told them to get out of there as quickly as possible. They were young and my warning probably fell on deaf ears.
The top of Rohtang Pass was filled with tourists. Even before the top, I could hear the yelling and screaming that tourists manage to muster, coupled with the gaudy, bright rented jumpsuits they wear. It is reminder enough that you are at the world’s shittiest pass!
As is required in terrible conditions such as that I waited for a grand total of 0.02 seconds before racing towards Manali. A couple of motorcycle riders got serious and tried their darnedest to overtake me. Tough luck for those poor souls!
There is very little that is nice about the Manali side of Rohtang. If a space isn’t occupied by a tourist, then it is with someone trying to sell something to a tourist! The positive being lush green mountains which envelope you. A welcome sight after two months in the barren Ladakhi mountains.
The mountains were not the only green thing around. It was cauliflower harvesting season and pickup after pickup passed me, laden with the vegetable. It looked so good and fresh that I actuality contemplated eating vegetables for a change. Luckily, that thought was banished instantaneously!
As is my habit, I rode straight to the bus stand in Manali. The city is terrible and I didn’t want to spend a moment more than necessary there. As I was checking bus timings, my stomach protested loudly. The decision was made right then. I needed to find a hotel room with a clean toilet, bus journeys could wait!
I not only found a clean room for cheap thanks to Mithun, but I also got to keep my cycle in the room, right next to my bed. A cyclist’s ultimate fantasy of luxury!
I was so exhausted that I passed out within 15 minutes of entering the room. Climbing Rohtang had taken its toll. As I slept off, I didn’t know how lucky I had gotten…
Route Profile: Keylong to Manali
There is one small climb before Koksar. The big climb for the day is from Koksar to Rohtang Pass. There is a checkpost at Koksar Village where the Himachal state police will enter your name in their register.
There is food available along the way from Keylong to Koksar.
Koksar has food and accommodation in case you reach too late in the day to climb Rohtang. If you aren’t at Koksar by noon, then it is a good idea to stay the night there.
Once past Rohtang Pass, it is downhill all the way to Manali. You will not need to pedal even once in the entire duration.
Manali has a lot of options available for food and accommodation. The hill town also has a couple of bike shops.
Hostels and cheaper accommodation can be found in Old Manali, which is where you should head if you are on a budget, or want to get away from the maddening crowd!
Expenses: Keylong to Manali
Food and Stay: Rs 426
Food: Rs 60