The last time I did Manali-Leh, it was some 4 years ago. Back then, the Manali-Leh route was among one of the top adventure trails for motorbikers (all the Royal Enfield Lovers you know) in India. And if someone wanted it a little more challenging, they would do the entire Srinagar-Kargil-Leh-Manali circuit.
But times have changed now. Indian government and the Border Road Organisation have made efforts to keep all border roads in good shape and Manali-Leh highway became an obvious victim. The entire highway now remains soo well looked after that F1-tracks around the world can take shame from it.
At every landslide-prone area, a dedicated JCB has been placed. Every few kilometres you can see construction workers either adding a layer of tar or sweeping the road with a broom to ensure a smoother drive.
It has been only a week that I have returned from Manali-Leh highway and looking at the current road condition, I can say, Leh to Manali route is now anything but adventurous.
Here’s a quick video to give you an idea of how the roads between Manali and Leh looked as of October 2019:
My Solo Riding Experience Leh To Manali
I did Leh to Manali solo just last month in September 2019, after doing Sach Pass and Keylong to Kargil via Shinkula Pass, in the same journey. I was with a couple of friends throughout the trip, but as I exited Zanskar into Kargil and made my way to Leh I decided to go solo to see how adventurous Leh to Manali feels if you’ve no one to watch your back.
I started from Leh (around 10 in the morning) and until about Sarchu, I can’t remember if I saw anything but the newly spread and evenly shining tar on the road, all the way to Sarchu. At some stretches (particularly at Morre Plains) I was doing well over 120 km.
Only 75km Of Offroading Left On The Entire Route
I remember I found only a little stretch of offroading (between Sarchu and Zing-Zing Bar) on the entire route, which was a 75km stretch taking you through Baralacha La Pass.
There was only one easy, but at least the real, water crossing near Baralacha La Pass that, with an upcoming overbridge will soon be bypassed. Having said that, by 2020 (if the overbridge I found under construction gets completed soon) there will be no water crossing whatsoever on the entire Manali to Leh highway.
So yea, between Leh and Sarchu, the road was no less than a racing track, giving a little offroading between Sarchu and Zing-Zing Bar, before getting better again all the way to Keylong.
From Keylong to Manali you will find Rohtang Pass (a nearly 4000m high mountain pass) that, anyway, stays in a perfect condition throughout the season. To make it even better, BRO is currently making a tunnel to avoid the mountains pass and make the route operational throughout the year. This means once you’ve Rohtang Pass Tunnel at its place, you will not only find the Manali-Leh journey throughout the year but also possible to do all the way from Manali to Leh in just a day. Currently, it, at least, takes two days to do the route.
You Don’t Need To Carry Extra Petrol Either
I did not carry any extra petrol on my Jawa 42 between Leh and Manali and never did I feel a need to do so. One full tank of my Jawa was enough between the two farthest petrol stations on the way – Leh and Tandi. In fact, I had enough petrol left in my tank at Tandi that I could do all the way from Leh to Manali with one full tank.
Earlier, motorbikers used to carry petrol jerkins (especially those who were riding a Bullet) because despite having the same distance to cover between two petrol stations (Tandi and Leh) they had ferocious river crossings and a serious deal of offroading to deal with. Now, offroading is a distant dream, giving a good overall mileage on the route.
Manali To Leh Highway Is No Adventure Anymore
Alright, you can call me a little more daring than most people, for I always plan reckless journeys. My first motorbiking journey in the Himalayas was a solo motorcycle ride to Spiti Valley. To make it more interesting, I coupled the entire idea of riding solo, on what is considered as the world’s most treacherous roads, with camping. Throughout my trip to Spiti Valley, I camped alone, sometimes in the wilderness only to ride solo the next morning. I moreover did the entire trip in just INR 5000, including 9 days of fuel, food, accommodation and taxes.
So yea, consider me a more adventurous, or perhaps a little crazy than an average rider out there, and there is no need to do Leh to Manali solo, just like I did. But even if you do so, don’t call it adventurous!
Want to know what’s adventurous in my definition? This…
Have you done Manali to Leh road trip recently? What do you think of it?