After a few weeks of gompa visits on a rented motorcycle, I decide I have had enough nose bleeding and am ready to head to lower pastures. This means a full day sorting through contradicting and misleading information on just what forms of transportation are available to go from Leh to Manali. Eventually it will become clear that a shared Maruti jeep is the only motorized vehicle going down that way.
2 AM start for a planned 16 hours drive. We reach the 2nd highest pass in the world (5,300 m) just before sunrise. It is snowing; it is really cold, especially since our driver insists on keeping his window open all the time! We drive all morning up and down passes, always at about 4,500/5,000 m. In the early afternoon we finally descend to the little village of Darcha, some ¾ of the way. Here, the bridge over the enraged river swollen with over a meter depth of silver/gray water has collapsed.
There are about 50 jeeps and an equal number of trucks on either side of the river. All the drivers sit together, drink chai, smoke, and chat about alternatives. The chatting unfortunately goes on until sunset, so we have to spend the night in the kitchen of the local Tibetan restaurant. At 5 AM next morning I decide to take matters in my own hands, cross the river on the back of a tractor, and catch the local bus on the other side.
Considering that everybody else is stuck, it makes for a very pleasant ride in an empty bus until Keylong. The next bus is a different story, cramped beyond human limits. I am very happy when I reach Manali under pouring rain, some 40 hours after I started my journey.