It's 2017 and I've been true to my will of setting on an adventure on my bicycle to the remotest villages, sharing happiness and building bonds. This time I'd take you through a visual treat of the legendary Sach Pass.
While working on a film project I had my mind subconsciously going around finding the perfect place for a bike-packing tour and disconnecting from the monotonous routine that had been feeding on me was getting more like a necessity. That's when a random chat to one of my traveller friends introduced me to Sach pass - I had never heard of it before and now I couldn't wait to head on to the world's most dangerous roads.
I had an image of myself riding off-roads with snow on both sides, having to cross a few deadly water streams but I could only have thought of less than half of what I conquered.
Sach pass is at a height of 4420m which connects Chamba to the secluded Pangi valley. The route sure is breathe-taking in all ways. The pass serves as a gateway to people of both the valleys to connect and is accessible from the end of June till October.
Hold on your horses as we begin the Journey to the unknown from Jaipur to Manali leading to Sach pass.
Day -1 Jaipur to Manali
Figuring out what goes where while packing for a trip is a pain. The ones who are well organised would surely have an upper hand in this, unlike me. Thanks to Chinmay for being a helping hand to pack my bike just in time before I left from Jaipur. I wanted to avoid re-shuffling once I reached Manali and start straight away for Sach pass on the next day; so to avoid extra fatigue and inconvenience of carrying my bicycle I chose to reach Manali by a Volvo. I always try to minimise the cost of my travel but this time I didn't even think about it. In summers Manali and Rohtang seem to have turned to the hubs for couples and families - where else could you find snow without the hard work of trekking?
As I crossed Bhuntar there was a long traffic jam towards Manali - Leh highway which was an indication for serious distraction and delays on the way. I had planned to spare a day for acclimatisation and bike assembly, staying in Manali at 4play's house. Although reaching there from the bus stand was not easy too with rickshaw drivers being least interested in wanting to give rides crossing the long jam until one agreed at a sky high price of Rs250 for 3.5km!
What better could I expect than having a bunch of crazy creative heads welcoming me at their place!
Day- 2 Acclimatize
As per geographic aspects, Low landers take time to get accustomed to a new climate especially at an altitude their bodies have never experienced. I studied about this during the basic mountaineering camp back in 2016. Hence a day's break in Manali not only helped me feel adapted, retain energy but also boosted my moral.
I met Mr. Naga Raj who determined going from Manali to Leh by foot with a 20 kg backpack. We exchanged the ideas our journeys and agreed upon the fact that an endearing journey could be the best medium to share cultures and being one with nature. I got to meet some serious Mountain bikers in Manali at the Bike Bar store and at 4play's house, their hard work reaches a different level! Thanks to Naveen at Bike Bar for taking care of my bike and being generous enough to listen to all my chatter. That was enough motivation to pep me up for getting started the other day!
Manali's got a good number of serious mountain bikers, among whom I met Devendra, Naveen, Shiven and Yogi. If you are into mountain biking then Manali is the place for you.
Day -3 Manali to Marhi
I chose to have a bike-packing setup but had heavy gears.
I had my sleeping system and few essentials tucked well with the rack and frame, the rest was in the seat post bag by Via terra.
It took me more than 2 hours to load everything onto the bike.
Starting with a steep descend towards the Manali - Leh highway I was finally moving. I never climbed in my entire life, not this much! It was going to be the same till I crossed Rohtang pass.
Manali - Kothi - Gulaba and then to Marhi
I wanted to push till Marhi to avoid delays. As I crossed Gulaba it was already 4pm and the weather changed drastically, within a few minutes it started raining. Gulaba is the last point before Marhi where you would get some snacks and Kothi for lodge and restaurants. I kept myself going till I made it to Marhi pwd rest-house.
It was a great help from the ITBP camp and care takers of the rest house to allow me camp for the night. Not just that they fed me diner too. I knew I pushed my self too hard the very first day and was facing symptoms of AMS, so Diamox was at it's rescue to avoid further health issues.
"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!"That day summarised to the Katy Perry song -
Day - 4 Marhi - Rohtang - Sissu
Rohtang is 12 km from Marhi and is a steep climb but, what makes crossing it more difficult is the traffic! There were several jams on the way which is seems like the biggest task when you have to paddle with a heavy-loaded bike.
With lots of breaks in between I managed to reach at the top and again the weather was not on my side. 3km before Rohtang I faced the rain yet again accompanied with a heavy hailstorm which is definitely the last thing you'd want to go through at this altitude. On the top of Rohtang pass I was quite surprised to see a jam. Could you have imagined a jam on a pass ? The reason being people carelessly leaving their vehicles on the highway, enjoying snow!
I stopped many times in between to get a hold of my self and keep a check on weather. I was continuously being chased by horrid weather condition till Khoksar. I only had one motivation for crossing the pass - the upcoming downhill towards Khoksar and Sissu which turned out to be a myth because of horrible road conditions. For the first time in my life I feared losing my hands because of frost bites.
The road from Khoksar was the best till now, it's mostly down hill which goes along a river till Sissu. I was overjoyed to see some amazing green landscapes on the way to Sissu.