We have often showcased the hobbies and activities of our staff in our “Beyond the Office Desk” series. Sheetal Neelawar Dharwad, a Manager in Corporate Finance, fulfills her duties at work at Marathon Futurex in Mumbai, diligently and efficiently, but when work is done the free spirit in her longs for the outdoors. She revels in the joy of Nature, the unpolluted air, and the adrenaline rush she gets when she and her husband go on bike rides. She went on a wonderful adventure recently. Let her tell you about it herself!
The journey from Manali to Leh is along a thrilling and magnificent road with the most picturesque skies, mighty mountains, enchanting glaciers and lush meadows. No wonder the stretch is known as “The Road to Heaven”!
This scenic, adventurous road trip from Manali to Leh is an absolutely favourite on every explorer’s list. In fact, my husband and I had it on our bucket list ever since we met! We found a group called ‘Dream Riders’ who organize trips such as these, and wanting to realise our dream, we joined them.
After an orientation in Manali, we started our journey to Leh. Our mission was to successfully complete the ride up to the World’s Highest Motorable road-the Khardungla Pass at a height of 18,380 ft, covering a total distance of 1200 kms, halting at Manali> Keylong> Pang> Leh> Kargil War Memorial Dras > Leh> Pangong Lake through Changala pass > Nubra Valley > Turtuk > Khardungla Pass > Leh.
The entire Manali to Leh distance tested our mettle, shocked us, inspired us and left us absolutely spellbound, The 1,200 Km bike ride at that height was thrilling but dangerous. We experienced constant weather changes throughout our journey. Ranging from an extremely chilly experience at Rohtang to a complex 30 km journey to Pang – riding through heavy rains, low temperature and minimum visibility. From riding through light snowfall at Tahlang La to pushing through extremely heavy snowfall on the way to Pangong lake – our journey was filled with excitement, adventure and we were exhilarated by the experience. One of the most terrifying sections for us was our journey from Leh to Pangong Lake – a distance of 180 Kms crossing the Mighty Changla pass. At one point , we could only see a layer of white snow ahead of us for around 3-4 kms. The view of mountains and road was a blur, but we had no option but to continue. We ploughed through extremely heavy snowfall and just kept going. Fortunately, we managed to get help from an extremely supportive army post in that area.
While we had many challenges when it came to the weather and visibility during our journey, we also enjoyed beautiful, breathtaking views. The river streams, surrounded by spectacular snow clad peaks and mountains was an unforgettable sight. We passed by the beautiful Suraj Tal Lake nestled in the mountains, Baralacha pass, Nakee La and Lachung La and visited the Kargil War Memorial at Drass. As we approached Nubra Valley, we were astounded by the beauty of the deep cut Shayok and Nubra River Valley with green oasis villages surrounded by thrillingly stark steep slopes, boulder fields and harsh arid mountains. We also had an interesting stop over at Turtuk – the last Indian outpost before Pakistan in Ladakh, and the northernmost villages in India. It is a very secluded, military-dominated, and sensitive area as the border or line of control between India and Pakistan is a mere 10 kms away.
The final lap of our journey was a steep uphill climb to Khardungla Top. One of the deadliest roads to ride on, but worth it just to see a sign stating we were at the highest point of the Leh – Manali Highway. What a phenomenal experience that 10-day journey was – scaling the highest motorable road in the world, and enjoying one of the toughest and best motorcycle rides in the world!
–Sheetal Nilawar Dharwad-
Manager- Corporate Finance