Biking on the world's highest motorable highway was anything but a management exercise for these 10 techies!
When one has a boss who looks to Siddhartha (Hermann Hesse) and The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho) to develop more holistic management mantras, work is anything but run-of-the-mill. In a constant bid to push our limits, get us to think out-of-the-box and encourage an adventurous spirit, our management recently suggested a biking expedition to Leh.
Yes, Leh! So, 10 software testers from Maveric Systems, including me, enthusiastically signed up for this 10-day biking trip from Delhi to Leh, a route known to be the world's highest motorable highway. Here's more on the road less travelled by…
We reached Delhi by train (from Chennai) and began the trip through the congested roads of Karol Bagh. We soon hit NH1 and reached Chandigarh by 11.00 p.m.
On the second day, we reached the banks of the Beas, about 18 km away from Manali town. It started to pour heavily as we approached Manali, impeding our journey and causing some bike-related issues. The 250 km of uphill riding that followed was one of the most fascinating parts of the trip; lush green mountains, lovely road, awesome blind curves… we experienced just about everything one would think of when planning such a ride.
The Rohtang Pass story
Rohtang Pass is about 55 km from Manali town. It was just 3:30 p.m. and we had covered almost 40 percent of our day's journey (third day). We thought we could've planned a little more but soon reality struck. The next 16 km was the toughest experience of the entire trip. It took us almost three hours to complete that stretch: full of rocks, steep climb, almost zero visibility and knee-deep slush. The bikes literally sunk in the mud and we had to help each other push the bikes out.
Reeling with shock and exhaustion, we reached Rohtang Pass around 6.00 p.m. delighted to see a shop that served steaming hot tea, Maggi noodles, omelettes and biscuits. Re-energised, we headed towards Keylong. The Rohtang Pass stretch had severely tested our patience and perseverance, but it felt great to have pulled through.
To drive through complete darkness on an unknown road was quite an intimidating experience. Unfavourable weather conditions, bike snags and fuel shortage led us to halt at Tandi for a day. When we resumed our journey towards Leh, everything went as per plan for a while. Then, to our dismay, we found one bike slowing down. A mechanic gave us the bad news: it would take quite a while to fix the problem. We couldn't afford to waste time so we went back to the hotel, dropped off that bike and continued towards Sarchu.
Around noon, just as things seemed to get better, another bike gave up! This time it was a clutch plate and it couldn't be repaired. It was a new bike, so we hadn't carried spares. Mercifully, there was still enough daylight and Pang was just 70 km away. If we could reach Pang that day, we would still be on track with our plan.
The group came together; two guys went to drop the bike off at an army camp and others helped in tying the luggage onto another bike and, voila! — we were ready to leave for Pang.
Across the stream
More than 60 per cent of the road to Pang was good; so we covered it in about an hour and a half. The remaining 40 per cent took nearly three hours. It was around 9.00 p.m. and we were just a few km away from Pang when I realised that something was wrong. I stopped and what I saw was really scary. I looked around; everyone looked worried. We had reached a 30-foot wide stream. The gushing water was freezing cold and we could barely see anything.
At first sight it looked impossible to cross. Then I heard someone say, “Don't worry, we have found a way to cross the stream.” One of my colleagues took the lead. We followed his instructions and soon all of us were on the other side of the stream. We wiped our frozen feet, changed our socks and continued; half an hour later we were in Pang.
Pang had a few temporary camps and an army camp. We settled in one camp, had dinner and went to bed. Two of our bikes were broken but we were happy to have reached Pang as planned.
To Leh and back
We started early the next day. We had to ride approximately 180 km to reach Leh. We'd have to endure unknown road conditions and cross the second highest motorable pass in the world. After 15 km of incredible road, we hit typical Leh road condition for the next 50 km. The wind and the dust made things difficult but we reached Tanglang La by 1.00 p.m. and after following the tradition of sitting at the temple there for 10 minutes we proceeded to Upshi. The road after Upshi was a sheer pleasure to ride on. We celebrated our arrival in Leh soon after. After a breathtaking tour and day-long stay, we were all charged up to ride back to Delhi. The journey back to Pang, and then Sarchu and Keylong was rather quiet by our “newly-acquired” standards. Daylight and experience do make things easier.
The journey continues
We reached Delhi with a sense of accomplishment and loads of passion for biking. Riding in a team through some of the toughest and highest roads in the world has changed my/our outlook towards life. Now, whenever we are faced with a challenge at work, we bikers laughingly say, “Rohtang Pass”, and soldier on!
The author is a 29-year-old Manager at Maveric Systems.
Delhi – Chandigarh – Manali – Rohtang Jot – Kokhsar – Tandi – Keylong – Jispa – Darcha – Baralacha La – Bharatpur – Sarchu – Gata Loops – Nakee La – Lachulung La – Pang – More Plains – Tanglang La – Upshi – Karu – Leh
Distance: 1100 km
Ratanesh Kumar Singh
Babu Philip Kuriakose