Until now, we drove about 40.000km in Europa and Asia, stucked in Mongolia, were bitten by million of mosquitos in Russia, spent nearly a night between rolling stones and landslides in Laos and and and… However now we are facing our next adventure. We want to drive one of the most dangerous, highest and adventurous roads in the world: The Leh-Manali-Highway in India. I am really looking forward to drive the Leh-Manali-Highway starting from Manali. Can Loki and we manage to drive there?
The Leh-Manali-Highway connects Manali and Leh Ladakh. The highway is 475km long and goes through the mountains. If you want to drive there, you have to climb four passes: Rohtang La (3.980m), Baralacha La (4.892m), Lachulung La ( 5.065m) and Tanglang La (5.360m). There is always a risk of landslides and when you start from Manali, there is a high risk of attitude sickness.
1st July arrive in Manali, get permit for the 3rd
2nd July last check of the cars
3rd July crossing Rohtang La (3.980m)
4th July rest day at 3.100m
5th July refill diesel tank in Tandi, crossing Keylong, stop at Jispa Camp (3.200m)
6th July rest day, because of a landslide 25 km ahead of us
7th July short trip to Zingzing Bar (3.900m)
8th July Crossing Baralacha La (4.892m), stop at 4.000m
9th July crossing Lachulung La (5.100m), stop at 4.500m
10Th July crossing the second highest road Tanglang La (5.340m)
11th July arriving in Leh (3.500m)
Manali – We need a permit.
Unfortunately, there are some new rules in place to cross the Rohtang La from Manali. We need a permission to go there. The pass is very famous for Indian tourists and there is a big traffic jam every day. The government try to limit the number of cars every day.
So we have to get a permission to drive further north. Unfortunately, there is one rule in place that you need a pollution certificate and diesel cars older than ten years are not allowed behind the Rohtang La. Loki is 39 years old. Is it possible to go north with our Steyr 680?
Let’s make the story short. It was no problem to get a permit. The officials ask sometimes for a pollution certificate. However nobody could tell us where we get it and so we could pass after some discussions.
I am really excited to drive the Rohtang La. Redbull call it to the eight adventurous roads in the world. I want to see, if it is true. Around five o’clock in the morning we start the engine. We want to leave early to avoid the mess of Indian tourists blocking the Rohtang La.
The Manali side of Rohtang La is an incredible good road. There are just some narrow parts, where just one car can pass. The driving there is not really special, but the countryside is amazing. 2.000 metres the road goes up from Manali to the top of the Rohtang La. You pass small villages; forests and then you drive into the snow-covered mountains. It is really amazing.
Around 9 am we reach the top. The top is somewhat crowded. Cars are parking everywhere and it is a bit tricky to circle Loki around the parking cars. I do not want to know, how it looks around lunchtime. I guess, it would not be possible to pass the Rohtang La because of the parking cars.
The North side of Rohtang La is more what I expected. It is not crowded anymore and the road is getting worse. The road goes like a snake down the mountain into the valley.
At several one-lane parts we have to stop that the traffic can pass. However even this part is not scary. It is just a bad road. When I reach the valley (around 3.000m), I am somewhat disappointed. Is it really one of the most dangerous and adventurous roads of the world?
The next four days
As we pass the Rohtang La and arrive in the valley we find ourselves on a good road going further. Nevertheless because of the risk of altitude sickness we are looking for place to spend two or the nights on a level of roughly 3.000m.
The place is close to a river in middle of the mountains.
The next kilometres are more adventurous then the Rohtang La. Long passage of one-lane driving makes it difficult to go further. Several times Loki has to drive backwards, when we face a truck in front of us. The road is sometimes really bad. It takes time to drive further. The next night we spend in a camp in Jispa, It is one day more for our acclimatisation. We want to climb slowly up.
“Good Morning, Sir. There was a landslide 25km from here. The road has been blocked since yesterday. Maybe the road will be open this afternoon.” It is just a short way we want to go today. However we decide to spend one night more in the camp. The traffic has been stopped now for 18hours, even if the road is open. It will take some time that the traffic is running.
Finally, the road is open and the traffic jam is gone. So we start for our next adventure.
There are several water crossings, somebody told us. And so it is. The melting water is running down the road and so bulldozers are trying to make the road drivable. The water is quite deep at some points. It takes again a while to cross. After 50km we decide to stop. We went up 800metres so far. That’s enough for today. We do not want to take the risk of altitude sickness.
Luckily, we do not face any problems at this sea level. So we drive up to next pass the next morning. It is raining and quite cold. Close to the top there are constructions going on. It is the next traffic jam. About an hour we can go further and reach the snow-covered top of the Barachula La.
The next night we spend on plateau on a level of 4.200metres.
The weather is getting better, when we start to drive up the next pass.
The road is bad, narrow and unsecured. The wall goes down several hundred metres into a valley. Unfortunately we face a lot of traffic, so we have to drive back several times. Sometimes it is quite scary.
The top of the Lachulung La comes closer. We can feel the heights of about 5.100metres. It is exhausting to move out of the car, to take pictures and make movies. However the landscape is incredible. I do not think we made a lot of friends, when we jump out of the car to position the camera for outside movies of Loki. At this sea level it will take time and block the road several times.
Behind the Lachulung La is no point to stay deeper as 4.500m. However, our slow travelling and the acclimatization are good for us. So we can manage our overnight stay at this level.
We want to pass the second highest drivable mountain pass in the world today.
In the beginning the road is incredible bad. Nevertheless we reach a plateau on a level of 4.800metres we face a kind of highway. The road is unbelievable. We cross the plateau with a speed of 60-70km/h.
So we reach the Tanglang La very fast. The road is still good. There are just some small constructions. Our acclimatisation on a level over 3.000m is good. We face no problems on the top of the Tanglang La.
Behind the Tanglang La we are in Ladakh. Gompas (Tibetan Monastries) are everywhere. We need one additional day more to reach Leh.