By the time we crossed Rohtang, we were tired, exhausted, cold and hungry. It was around 3 in the afternoon and we had not had any lunch. Our originial plan was to reach Sarchu by evening. But covering round about 200 kms on hill in 3-4 hours looked difficult. Another option was a good government resort - The Chandra Bagha at Keylong (around 115 kms from manali) and Hotel IBEX at jispa (140 kms from manali).
As soon as we got down from the pass, we stopped by a very small village Kokhsar for some tea/coffee. The air was ice cold.
J : Lets stop for a Tea break and nature calls.
R : OK
(everyone gets down and sits on benches. There is just one small dhaba with a few benches. There are 4-5 houses and a guest house. A police check post and a theka.)
R : Kuch lena hai kya ?
J : For a theka in such remote location - they have a good collection. Fuel, RC, BP, Teachers. Lets take an Old Monk. We might require it because of the cold.
L (knocks on the theka) : Bhaiya, ek old monk dena.
[A hand comes out and hands over an bottle wrapped in newspaper. We pay him]
R : Lets order tea.
J : I will take coffee.
J(to dhaba wala) : Bhaiya coffee hai.
(the dhaba wala nodds his head)
J : Ek banana.
J gets coffee customised according to his needs. Lots of coffee and low sugar. Pure milk coffee - without water. The coffee tastes quite good. Better than barista coffee at that moment.
We all pack into the innova and continue our journey.
We are driving along the side of the river. We could see small streams of water coming from the mountains on both sides and merging with the stream.
N : Now i know how rivers are formed. Ice melts into water and flows into streams which form river.
J : For the first time, we have seen the creation of a river.
N : As a child i used to think that mountains are full of water and there are holes in the mountain from where water comes out and form rivers by merging.
We enjoy the beauty & the cold air. The roads are ok at some places and are bad at some places. We are driving along with the river and it is feels very nice.
After driving for an hour or so we come to Tandi (the last petrol pump on this route).
Guddu (driving ahead) : sir agle petrol pump mein bharwa lengay.
L : Kaha hai next petrol pump
Guddu : hoga aage sir
R : Yeah last pump hai. Aage 380 kms tak kuch nahi hai. (no more petrol pumps for the next 380 kms).
Guddu : Accha.
J : Mod lo aur tanki full karwa lo (turn around and get your tank full).
We fill petrol at Tandi - the last petrol pump. They only have premium petrol & diesel. They dont stock normal. In this condition, you cannot be a chooser. I even doubt whether their pump meters would be ok or not.
We reach Keylong around 6 pm. It is still light. We get into the town and ask for "The Chandra Bagha". We are told that it is on the highway. We move ahead on the highway and find the hotel. We get down and enquire about rooms and get them.
Luggage is shifted and we relax - have tea/coffee. R, L & J were looking at having non-veg but the options look bleak. No one has the energy to go to the city for diner. We eat whatever we are served. The food is simple and non-spicy. We see lots of bikes parked in the parking. It seems that lots of bikers travel on this route.
We sleep early with the thought that we will get up and leave at 6:30 - 7 am max for leh.
I get up at 5 am and watch the sun color the snow orange. By 5:30 i am ready and out taking photographs. We get parathas packed for breakfast and decide to leave as early as possible. But eventually we have breakfast and leave by 9 am - too late i think - we will reach leh late in night.