Every year the motorbike and Jeep adventure lovers wait for the Manali – Leh – Srinagar Highway to open, around the first week May from Srinagar side and end of May from Manali side , at may places the BRO ( Border Road Organisation ) had to clear the 60 ft . of snow from the highway through the high mountain passes which becomes the lifeline and Adventure lovers delight for the next five/six months .
To reach Leh by road there are two options first one is Srinagar-Kargil-Leh which opens early May. one has to cross Zoji La pass ( 13000 ft/4000 mtrs.) , Drass Valley ( 10990 ft/3230 mtrs.) one must visit and pay his / her respect to the martyrs at Kargil war Heroes memorial it is on the highway at the base of Tololing , one can have the best views of Rhino Knob , Tiger Hill .
Drass is the second highest coldest inhabited place on earth , Kargil , Mulbek , Namik – La ( 12198 ft/3827 mtrs.) Fotu – La pass (13478 ft./ 4104 mtr.) and then to Leh , total distance is 450 kms.
The Second route Manali – Leh opens end May , passes through the two mountain ranges Pir Panjal and Zanskar with some of the highest mountain passes in the world , there are many ice cold small streams originating from the Glaciers melts, where drivers skills are at test to negotiate through fast flowing streams . Starts from Manali , Rohtang – La ( 13054 ft./ 3979 mtrs.) Tandi ( 8430 ft/2570 mtrs.) , Keylong , Jispa ( 11020 ft./3360 mtrs.), Darcha , Baralacha – La Pass ( 16500 ft./5030 mtrs.) , Sarchu ( 15100 ft./4600 mtrs.) , Gata Loops ( 22 hairpin bends) , Nakee – La Pass , Lachulung – La Pass ( 16616 ft./ 5065 mtrs.) , Pang , Tanglang – La Pass ( 17480 ft./5328 mtrs.) , Karu , Leh ( 11483 ft./3500 mtrs.) total distance to be covered 490 km full of not even thought of surprises and scenery .
Since 1974 when restrictions were removed to visit Ladakh, every year thousands of people travel to experience this part of India which is also known as Little Tibet , there are vast barren lands golden yellow, black and grey mountains, green patches near crystal clear Lakes and rivers . All this is available from May to October / November only, rest of the year most of these roads and high passes are under the thick blanket of snow. Days are warm when there is sun light but there is cool breeze from the snow mountains around keeps the temperature around 10 degrees centigrade , weather changes are fast and unexpected , there are no rains as the entire area from Rohtang onward is Rain Shadow area , the Monsoon clouds hardly enters this area, it does not mean that there are no rains , occasional drizzles are there , the night temperature is at many places even drops to sub-zero and there are strong winds . weather is dry and ultra-violet rays which may have a bad effect on the skin , during the day the bright sun and rays reflecting from the snow effects the eyes. Most of the travels do not experience the Acute Mountain Sickness and there is no set rule who will be effected but if precautions are taken care of one can minimize its effect .
Driving on this terrain is an ultimate challenge for a human body and the machine, selecting a vehicle, importance of understanding of machine and body. People 17-70 years of age with normal health can travel on these roads, one must prepare well in advance before starting for this journey to enjoy the unspoiled beauty and well preserved rich history & Culture of Tibetan Buddhism of Himachal and Ladakh Himalayas .
Four wheel Jeep / SUV any vehicle with high ground clearance or a Motor Bike (350 cc) are best suited for this trip, these custom made vehicles are available on rent per day basis or one can purchase from Delhi, there are clubs and few selected travel agents all over India who organizes the logistics for this highly adventurous and beautiful journey in the months of June , July , August , September , October every year when the roads passing through the high passes are clear and with less snow.
To enjoy the beauty and adventure in this land one is to take few precautions and preparations , if one is taking his/her own vehicle then it should be of high ground clearance and preferably a 4 wheel drive , must have one extra tank for the fuel, extra Tyre , air pump, tool kit, Tyre puncture repair kit , strong ropes in case of emergency it can be towed , if driving a motor bike then extra pairs of clutch and brake wires , one must bear in mind that due to low oxygen the efficiency of machine reduces and one should not put extra burden on machine , the bags should be water proof or they must be warped with a water proof sheath .
Personal clothing should be comfortable , woolen shirts , trousers , gloves ,woolen cap , colored and plain eye protector glasses, comfortable ankle leather boots and woolen socks, wind proof jacket, raincoat are recommended . Helmet , knee and elbow guards are must, there are Glacial melt streams one is to avoid getting wet there , if got wet change the cloths and shoes with dry ones as soon as possible. Air is dry which takes away the moister from the skin very fast , one must cover the body with woolen and wind cheater clothing .
There are two levels of mountain driving at this route .
High Altitude 2500 mtrs./8000 ft. to 4000 mtrs./13000 ft. (one night stay is must at this altitude for acclimatization)
Very High Altitude 4000 mtr./13000 ft. to 5500 mtr./18000 ft. (avoid sleeping first night at this altitude )
Normal first aid kit and one must understand the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness ( AMS) to whom it can effect or not there is no thumb rule but any where when one feels heavy head / head ache , giddiness , Fatigue , Nausea , Nose Bleed, Pins and Needles , Swelling of hand, face and feet , High pulse rate ( 110). The best way is to drink adequate liquids, 3-4 liters a day – clean boiled and filtered or treated , tea/coffee/soup/juice etc. avoid smoking and taking alcohol , avoid greasy / oily food , take rich carbohydrates . 48 hrs. before the journey take DIMOX tablets , The usual dosage is 125 mg twice a day for a few days, must consult the doctor for the potency of medicine , people use camphor smelling , chew Mint or Polo while travelling , the Ladakhi local remedy is to chew one clove of garlic as soon as one feels the heaviness , usually occurs following a rapid ascent and can usually be prevented by ascending slowly, It commonly occurs above 2,400 mtrs. / 8,000 feet ,one should not ignore or take lightly these symptoms, at places there are army medical help available and oxygen is provided to bring the person to normal state. In the first 24 hours at high altitude reduces the symptoms of AMS. The air is dry cold and chilly , it takes away the moisture from the body , best way to protect is to cover properly , use a high neck , full sleeves woolen shirts , avoid T-shirts and have warm water to keep the body warm and maintain water and balance . Never travel alone .
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