The best season to visit Ladakh (July to September) is here and news just came in that the Delhi to Manali bus service have reopened. So now, in addition to Manali and Srinagar you have Delhi too as the starting point of your journey which wasn’t available to me last year when I went to Ladakh.
Ladakh is one of those exotic, mystical, out of bounds destination which challenges the traveler and explorer in you. It is not your weekend destination. People usually plan a lot, wait for that long vacation and make ample savings to be able to make a trip to Ladakh. Finally, when they do, their journey starts with a direct flight from Delhi to Leh.
I am sorry to say but half of the plot is already lost on them. The moment you decide to fly to Ladakh, you have missed the point. For my solo budget trip to Ladakh I decided to take the Himachal Pradesh State Transport bus from Manali to Leh. I didn’t know then that it was the best decision I have taken in this journey.
The road journey from Manali or Srinagar to Leh is not easy, it is a back breaking journey for two days through very rough terrains and unpredictable climate. It is not meant for the feeble hearted. But the breathtaking view and the experience it offers is unmatched. Also, if you take the road, it helps in acclimatizing so when you reach Leh the altitude difference doesn’t hit you that bad. But if you fly, you are quite Effed.
Is the Manali to Leh bus journey safe for solo women?
Yes, absolutely safe in my opinion. The bus I took started at 9 am on Day 1, drove through the day and took a night halt at Keylong. Tented accommodation and dinner was provided to us at the Himachal Pradesh state guest house, Chandrabhaga. There were two families with me in the journey all nice people but no other solo woman. Having families around usually makes you feel comfortable but I really think even if I would have been the only woman in the bus I would have been safe. The driver and conductor was well behaved and rather caring towards me.
I have written about the journey at length on this blog before so today I am sharing some of the images I captured during my journey to inspire you to take the bus.
1…As you start the journey from Manali the snow-capped Himalaya is at a great distance. They are about to get close.
2. The bus goes through several mountain passes and Rohtang Pass is one of the most popular. You would spot these rubber boots and jackets available at Rs.50 per day to wear at Rhotang to play in the ice.
3…River Beas gives you company from Manali to Rohtang Pass, the point of its origin, so you can see the full beauty of Beas, and particularly post monsoon it is even more gorgeous.
4…The higher the road goes the clouds become softer and sky bluer
5…Besides that various other water bodies and streams can be seen.
6…During peak season Rohtang Pass is very crowded, many local / weekend tourists travel from Manali to Rohtang Pass just for the day causing traffic jam sometimes.
7…Higher up you can meet the shepherd, a priceless scene, a priceless photo
8…And his lovely herd
9…A sudden water fall
10. Streams and glaciers too
11. River Beas no longer gives you company after Rohtang Pass, but now there’s River Chandra flowing along the highway
12. A beautiful lake and a waterfall
13. The hills suddenly turn dark
14. And dramatic
15. The rain previous night might have made the roads risky, landslide might cause traffic jam. And you may be stuck for 4 to 6 hours.
16. But don’t worry the Army would be there to clear the road
17. As your bus drives by, don’t forget to wave at the hundreds of Army men who work tirelessly to maintain these roads
18. And then once again the mountain changes colours as you enter the Zanskar region in Ladakh after crossing Sarchu
19. More breathtaking scene emerge
20. Look at that pristine river, don’t you want to camp by its side and make love to your soul mate under a star studded sky. Well I do. Someday I will.
21. And look here now you are at Bara-lacha la Pass at a height of 16,043 ft. Pretty much at the top of those snow capped mountains you could see from Manali
22. The altitude sickness would begin to get really bad here. You’d need a tea break at Lachunglungla
23. And then you reach Tanglang La, the highest point in this journey, at 17,582 ft. After this the night falls, after two days of journey you feel really tired and begin to fall asleep, while the bus crosses through Rumtse, Upshi and finally reaches Leh sometime past midnight. This last stretch of haunted valley with rows of camps was the last thing my camera captured before I feel asleep
24. I found a cab at around 1 am and reached my hotel at Upper Tukcha Road. Next morning when I stepped out and had my first eye on the city of Leh, I couldn’t believe myself. I couldn’t believe a landscape in real life could be exactly as beautiful as things appear in a painting.
25. Sky so blue, trees so green, never before have I seen
Now, be a brave heart look at the eye of the motion sickness and bumpy roads and go book your tickets today.
Don’t forget to share these photos with your friends, inspire everybody you know to ditch the plane, take the roads to Ladakh.