The Journey: Delhi – Badrinath – Mana Pass – Delhi – The most scenic trail that I have chosen so far.
Ideal Time to Visit: The best time to go down this route is from May to November, but May and June are the most crowded months with pilgrims visiting the place. So we chose to ride in the month of September to be able to enjoy our journey.
Entourage Strength: 8 Riders.
Preps: Since Mana Pass is one of the deadliest terrains in the world. It is a restricted area and has been declared an ‘extreme danger zone’ by the Indian Army. We had to be fit enough to undertake this journey as the saying ‘survival of the fittest’ holds true on this terrain. A few friends who had already been on this terrain advised us to start exercising and hit the gym a month before to toughen up our lungs, since we had to enter low oxygen areas and do steep climbs at high altitudes of more than 18,400 feet above the sea level. We also arranged for special permits that are required to go beyond Mana Village.
We carried with us rain gears, medical kit, and safety gears. The must-have safety gear for the trips includes riding jackets, riding gloves, knee guards or riding pants, riding shoes and a rider never moves out without a helmet! All of these have to be heavily guarded wear to not just protect you from rain but also from wounds in case of a mishap.
Assistive Gizmos: Don’t forget to carry your Go-Pro Cam to capture memories of this amazing trail and a GPS system can always come in handy on the way. An altimeter and temperature gadget can also be helpful.
Road & Traffic Conditions: Riding on these terrains is challenging as well as fun, since you don’t encounter much traffic unless you have to cross an area hit by a landslide. The maximum speed that you can hit on the highway in the plains is 80-120 kmph while the lowest is 40 kmph as soon as you hit the steep mountains. You really need to be focused while riding on the hills, since it is a steep and narrow terrain. The scenery as you drive is undoubtedly beautiful. Beautiful, I must say is an understatement for the view that you get. But then beauty is hazardous at times, so be cautious as you ride and enjoy the beauty of nature.
Best & Worst Stretches: The way from Delhi to Badrinath is very enticing. The most scenic spot that we encountered on this trail was Auli. It is a snow and skiing resort en route Badrinath. The place won my heart with its sheer beauty and mesmerising valleys. You can take a halt at Auli, if you are riding to Badrinath via Joshimath. Besides Auli, the valley of flowers, another must-stop by place is Hemkud Sahib. This holy place gives you peace of mind and helps you get rid of all the fatigue. And yes, the langar is awesome!
Weather Encountered: Weather in such areas is dramatic and unexpected. But we were lucky enough to encounter good weather with no rains.
Food Joints & Stopovers: We started early in the morning and our first stoppage was at the McDonalds outlet in Muzzafarnagar for breakfast. The breakfast menu at McDonalds is quite interesting and tasty. Food during such trips is important. Some of the interesting eateries we found along the way were Cheetal Grand at Khatauli, Ganga Café in Rishikesh, Haldiram’s at Muzzafarnagar, and some very nice dhabas and restaurants in Srinagar and Uttarakhand. And needless to mention, langar at Hemkud Sahib is amazing!
Bike Care: To attempt Mana Pass, one has to prepare the machine as well. It is one of the most difficult terrains in the world. So, a complete bike overhaul is required. We also carried tools and spare parts, and new tyres.
Locals: Local people en route are friendly. I have had this personal experience that not just made me feel humble but it also was delightful to see that people are so friendly and concerned. The route till Joshimath was easy and fun. The route becomes more of a challenge beyond Joshimath. Also, the last fuel station is right at the end of Joshimath as you start riding uphill towards Badrinath. When we reached, they were out of stock, which meant our expedition couldn’t be continued due to insufficient fuel. But we were blessed and the trip was saved by a shopkeeper near the fuel station, who promised to deliver petrol in Badrinath the next day. And that’s how I discovered my humble moment on the trip. We headed for Badrinath where we had to stay for 2 days to acclimatize ourselves. The road from Joshimath to Badrinath is the best stretch with beautiful Himalayan villages and valleys en route. The next day, 75 litres of fuel was delivered to us from Joshimath by the man who had given us his word and kept his promise.
Going Ahead: From Mana to Badrinath, it is a 2 kilometre stretch, which is a heaven for trekkers. Mana is the last Indian village and believe you me, it is the most amazing trek that you can ever have. This trek starts from Mana Village and ends at Swargarohini glacier. I indulged the trekker in me. The next day’s trekking attempt was restricted till Vasundhara falls, but I made a promise to myself to go back and complete the trek very soon. Words fall short to describe the experience. The trek leaves you spellbound in the arms of nature – beautiful and calm. It makes you feel close to yourself and reminds you how lucky you are to be there and experience the most scenic creation of God. Those memories are safe in my heart!
That, and the pride I felt in being a part of Free Souls Rider Motorcycle Club – the first biking group to reach Mana Pass and earn a place for it in the Limca Book of Records.