Road Trips The Leh-Manali Highway and the Highest Road Passes in the World
This is the Kardung La which, at 5602m, is the highest road pass in the world. It's about 50km north of Leh
continuing into the Nubra Valley. There's not much at the top apart from an army checkpost and a good view
(if you're lucky).
This is the Leh-Manali highway and the first oncoming vehicle we met once onto the narrower roads out of
the Indus valley. Like this lorry, most of the vehicles on the road were from the monopolising manufacturer
Tata. This lorry driver claimed that his reverse gear wasn't working which caused a short delay. I'd be
very surprised if he'd managed to get all 400km of the journey so far without reversing though.
The first pass we climbed to rose from the settlement of Purang Sumdo via a long series of zigzags.
There were several work parties on the road which is controlled and maintained by the Indian military as a
strategic route into Kashmir. It's only open for about five months each year during the summer, the rest of
the time its closed due to snow. Here we wait while a landslide is cleared.
This is another work party. The majority come from the poverty stricken areas of Bihar in eastern India.
They work for about $1 a day together with food and lodgings. Most of the men appeared to sit around not
The top of the Taglang La, second highest road pass in the world at 5260m.
Here's the view from the top of the Taglang La looking north. I've only included it because you can see the
Karokorum range in the distance. If anyone knows what's what then let me know!
After dropping down from the Taglang La we crossed these plains at about 4000m altitude. There were a few
nomadic communities to be seen in the distance and several yak herds.
After crossing the plains, we dropped into this dramatic gorge near Pang. We stopped there for lunch at the
'restaurant' (a large tent) of Namgyal's (the cook on our trek) mother.
Soon after Pang, the road climbed out of the gorge along this precipitous section of road.
We crossed another pass, the Paralacha La (5060m). Descending from the pass into the Tsarab Chu gorge were
a series of 23 hairpins. Our jeep driver suggested that we jumped out and walked down to stretch our legs -
it would also be quicker than driving down!
We stopped for the night in the tented village at Sarchu. Here it is seen at dawn. We stayed in the small
ridge tent just left of centre. The owners and their 'restaurant' were housed in the tent to it's left.
We had breakfast the next day at Bharatpur, another tented village beside the road.
Us lads wait eagerly for our breakfast ...
... Andy tucks in to a noodle delight!
Shortly after Bharatpur, on the Paralacha La, we were forced off the road onto a detour track by this convoy
of 53 army trucks. They were stopped because the first truck had tumbled off the road into a ravine. This
is a common occurrence on the highway - more often than not caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel -
and there are several wrecks off the road bearing testimony to this. When we left here, there were two
casualties and still one man unaccounted for.
Another amazing view on the highway near Zingzingbar.
Here we pose with our driver, again near Zingzingbar. We had just filled up with diesel from the tanker in
the background giving the driver a bit of extra 'pocket money'.
As we continued on the second day towards Manali through Himachal Pradesh, the scenery became greener but
no less dramatic. Here we are delayed once more by another landslide whilst descending towards Darcha.