gata loops manali leh highway Ladakh

After spending some quality time on the banks of Tso Moriri lake we packed up and headed onto the road. We retraced our way back till Sumdo on the lumpy bumpy road. The road condition from Sumdo to Debring on the Manali-Leh highway was not known. Even locals at the village were not completely aware of the condition. One of the locals said that the first 20 km was tarred and for the remaining 35 km, there was no road till Tso Kar. Hoping for the best, we took the road towards Debring. The early part of the drive was along the green valley. We crossed the Puga hotsprings and moved ahead enjoying the beauty of the nature. But within the next 10 km, the road conditions deteriorated. Our offline Google aid was demonstrating thin white line with steep incline. The inclined sandy stretches made life tough. After a two hour struggle, we crossed Polokong La. To our surprise, we met with an Indian army battalion who were taking a break on the way to Debring.

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Lunch with Indian Army at Polokong La:

After crossing the pass, we were stopped by a battalion of Indian army. They had halted for lunch and invited us to join. My bottle was empty and so I was overjoyed to get tea and water. We had an interesting chat with the commander and his associates. Puri and sabji was served for lunch. The lunch was made even more tastier with the best garlic pickle I had in  my life. I did not hesitate to ask for more as it was delicious and we were starving in the arid terrain. We finished with a cup of milk tea and refilled our bottles.

We bid good bye and moved ahead. The road was better, we made short cuts through the steep declines to avoid swirling roads. In one of those, Ram’s Enfield got stuck. I saw him waving at me from a distance, half stuck on the sand. He had got stuck on a dead end stretch of road which lead to a vertical fall. I ran to rescue and both of us had a tough time to pull up the 500 cc machine. In an hour we reached Debring after crossing the lake Tso Kar which was mostly dry as it was in the end of June.

Korzok Debring Pang Sarchu Manali Leh highway Ladakh India
At Polokong La, Ladakh

Leh Manali Highway:

After 12 days in the mountains, we were excited to get four lane highway on the mountains. That stretch of road was a 30 km perfect road on the valley known as the Moore Plains. The cars were racing at a speed of 100-120 km per hour. I was so used to slow speed, I took some time to adjust to the pace. The next 30 minutes of pleasure turned into pain as the flat valley abruptly ended in the steep rocky descend to the check post of Pang. This area of the highway was renowned for its steep bends and bad roads. We had tea and soup at a dhaba after crossing Pang and decided to head towards Sarchu, 75 km ahead. The road condition deteriorated after Pang. The landscape drastically changed. It had a dramatic similarity to the “Moonland” on Srinagar Leh highway with exposed rock faced towering over the road. There were occasional muddy water crossings.

Korzok Debring Pang Sarchu Manali Leh highway Ladakh India
Tea break at Pang

In an hour and a half, we crossed the Gata Loops which are a series of 21 hair pin bends at an altitude of 4500 meters. The road was recently repaired and was a pleasure to drive. I experienced a spectacular splay of colors on the mountains over Tsarap river. After a few photo stops we reached Sarchu at around 6.30 pm in the evening. A local army camp had telephone facility at a nominal cost. I was more than happy to call back home and talk to family after a long time. We had dinner and slept in  small restrooms along the highway.

Korzok Debring Pang Sarchu Manali Leh highway Ladakh India
After crossing the infamous Gata Loops
Korzok Debring Pang Sarchu Manali Leh highway Ladakh India
A sunset- Manali Leh Highway
Korzok Debring Pang Sarchu Manali Leh highway Ladakh India
Rock formations along the bank of Tsarap river on M-L highway

PS- The first picture of this blog was taken from the Gata Loops. The Tsarap river was looking spectacular late in the afternoon

The route:

Korzok–52km–Sumdo–58km (via Tsokar)–Debring–45km—Pang–75km–Sarchu

Sightseeing on the way :

  1. Tso moriri Lake (read full blog)
  2. Puga hotsprings (on the outskirts of Sumdo village)
  3. Tso Kar lake (50 km from Sumdo village)
  4. Moore Plains (on the Manali Leh highway)
  5. Gata Loops (on the Manali Leh highway)
Korzok Debring Pang Sarchu Manali Leh highway Ladakh India
Dusk on the Manali Leh highway
Tso moriri- Sumdo-Debring- Sarchu, lunch with Indian army !!
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