Earlier we discussed about the Day 1 & 2 of your lifetime journey to Ladakh, drive from Delhi to Manali and places to visit in and around Manali. Today we will be heading towards Keylong/Jispa, the next halt of our journey. We will cover the major places and distances en route the drive from Manali to Keylong.
The next day, make an early morning start (around 6 a.m.)- or else prepare to be stuck in a long serpentine convoy of vehicles snaking their way up to the Rohtang Pass & Solang valley, which lies only 51 km away from Manali. What under normal circumstances is a great drive to the pass at 13,050ft/3978m, can be much soothing and adventurous than driving in any city with traffic jams and pollution at their worst.
Shortly after Manali you cross Kothi, which has a rest house to stop at if necessary, before climbing up to the seasonal settlement of Marhi (35km and just over 11,500ft/3500m) with an abundance of dhabas and a few tea stalls. Look out for the 70m high Rohalla waterfalls, which can be seen 9km before Marhi. The tree line is marked at Marhi and the stately conifers give way to granite rocks, topped with snow, for the rest 0f the 17km climb up to the pass. Peace and serenity rule after crossing the touristy top of Rohtang Pass. Drive to Keylong is a beautiful one along the River Chandra. There is a checkpoint at Khoksar, 20km ahead, and a lovely waterfall just after you cross the bridge at Sissue. This is the possibly the best spot for a tea and snack break.
Gandia village is approximately 8km ahead and the seven – storey, seventeenth century house of the local Thakur is worth a look. Here you can see the sword of wisdom, believed to be a gift from the Dalai Lama. It has a blade made by thin steel wires hammered together – a technique that originated from the Moorish town of Toledo in distant Spain!
Manali to Keylong Petrol Pump
Your next stop is Tandi, where the Chandra and Bhaga rivers meet – of more significance for the traveler, located here is the past petrol pump till Leh, 380km away! Tank up and carry an extra thirty/forty liters in plastic jerry cans, which you have been advised to pick up at Manali.
Keylong is just 8km ahead and is the administrative center of the vast district of Lahul and Spiti, stretching from Sarchu, further up the road you are travelling, right up to Tabo in the East. Keylong at 11,000ft/3350m is the last township before Leh.
Keylong is lacking any specific tourist spots but offers some great views. Since a day or two, halt is suggested for acclimatization at this altitude, this is a possible halt but not greatly recommended. You could spend one night here and the next at Jispa or preferably, both at Jispa. Jispa is picturesquely located by the riverside, much quieter and with none of the urban atmosphere of Keylong hemming you in.
The main attraction at Keylong is the Khardong Monastery perched on a hill overlooking the town. Reaching this involves a 3.5km uphill trek across the Chandra River. Founded some 900 years ago, and renovated in 1912, it is the most important monastery in the area. This is one of the few monasteries where nuns and monks are treated at par and married lamas spend summers at home tending their fields and returns only in the winters. The monastery, surrounded by smaller temples, has a huge barrel prayer drum and a collection of Thangka paintings, ancient texts, weapons and musical instruments. However, attempt this climb only if you are feeling fit as walking in the sun at 11,000ft/3350m on the first day is not easy.
What is eminently do-able is walking on the road to Jispa and circling around the town on the way back – this involves very little, if any, climbing and is a good way to stretch your legs and begin your acclimatization process.
One oddity in this town is the statue of the freedom fighter, Rashbihari Bose (born 1886). The memorial tablet explains its presence: in December 1912, he threw a bomb at Lord Harding the Viceroy of India, in Calcutta. He was arrested and brought from the warm climes of Bengal and incarcerated in freezing Keylong. He later went to Japan and founded the Pan-Asian League. In 1941 he declared war on the British from his home in Tokyo, thus building a base for the formation of the Indian National Army by his better-known compatriot, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.
Our recommended halt is Jispa, which lies only 21 km ahead, at the same altitude, but in a beautiful wide valley with the river rushing past. The location of the hotel is ideal and you can actually visit the monasteries around Keylong just as easily from here. En route, just out of Keylong, look for a mountain opposite the township, called the ‘Lady of Keylong’ – the rocky, bare part of this completely snow covered mountain resembles a lady with her hand stretched out and locals will tell you snow never shrouds her!
Keynote: Availability of Petrol Pumps from Manali to Leh
The most important thing to take note of is fuel and availability of Petrol Pumps from Manali to Leh, as we have limited petrol pumps and there is only one en route, located in Tandi 113 kms from Manali and 367 kms before reaching Leh.
Driving Road Distances: Manali to Keylong / Jispa
|Manali to Marhi|
|Marhi to Rohtang|
|Rohtang to Khoksar|
|Khoksar to Tandi (Last Petrol Pump on Manali – Leh route)|
|Tandi to Keylong|
|Keylong to Jispa|
|Keylong to Triloknath Temple|