Rohtang – Sissu – Tandi (55 Km)
The descent towards Keylong took us via the Koksar village, the first village of Lahaul. Then to our first major water crossing at Sissu.
Now that I look back, I feel water crossing are unique, they are kind of the highlights of the day. Mainly for two reasons
A: It’s a great team activity, everyone around gets together and strategises the best way to conquer the obstacle.
B: This is one place where the pillion gets a piece of the action, because they are actually off the bike. Taking off the shoes and walking across the cold water or hitching a ride on a 4+ wheeler, there is so much to do. Everyone is excited about the adventure that gets heightened here.
This particular crossing was more of crossing a small stream feeding into the river Chandra Bhaga. A little dam was broken by the strong current of the water. This is where I lost my cell phone (another story for another time).
Sissu lies on the bank of Chandra, 15 km after Koksar. I’ve heard that every spring and autumn wild geese and ducks halt here on their way to and from Siberia. (Just a little trivia) Our next stop was Tandi, known to be the last point to tank up if travelling north of Keylong.
Tandi to Keylong (8 Km)
Tandi is supposedly, the only village on Manali-Leh highway which has a petrol pump. The next petrol pump is 365 kms away in Leh, although we did see one near Upshi, I think?!
I’ve read that the petrol pump is owned by Lahul Potato Growers Co-operative Society. The region is part of the ancient trade route; potatoes from the Lahaul Valley played an important part in the barter and trade with locals at that time. The important thing is to get a tank full at this Potato Petrol Pump and advisable to carry extra fuel since most of the time one is riding in lower gears and taking frequent stops, esp. if one is riding with a pillion.
Last stop for the day – Keylong
We didn’t make it at 6pm and all the rooms and tents were full. We did however; manage to get a dorm for the 6 of us to stay in. The hotel was a good bet, a little away from the main market, but that made it easier for us to start the next morning. We realized that we should have made an online booking for the place Hotel Chandra Bhaga – Keylong, Lahaul District, Himachal (HPTDC) . The best part is at additional cost you can hire room heaters etc. There is hot running water and a restaurant, which is all you need after a full day of travel and just a night to rest.
It is vital to have a night to acclimatize before venturing to higher altitudes. This means not going for the tent camps at Sarchu or Pang directly from Manali. Making the first stop in Keylong drastically reduces the risk of altitude sickness.
A special note here, this is the last stop for making all the phone calls, after this the network becomes unpredictable even if you do have an IDEA Sirji.
(c) Photographs by Sharninder Khera and Nitin Joshi