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Day 27 of The Candid Odyssey

One more full-day bus trip through the Himalayan mountains. Yes, we are leaving Leh, Ladakh to Manali, Himachal Pradesh. Catching that bus will require us to wake up at 4am in the morning! As we walked towards the bus station in that early morning, the weather wasn't challenging anymore, instead street dogs were. Tens of street dogs barking in groups ready to attack us. We would have been in big trouble, but luckily it didn't happen, thanks to a stranger who offered a ride in his car. Regarding the bus trip, this time, the bus is different. It's not like that touristy bus that we got to come to Leh. Instead, we have an ordinary, affordable bus with open windows and public commuters. The bus was filled with passengers and luggage, with no space to walk in between. We don't even have enough space to sit properly. And remember, this will be the same for all day. Ohh! Everything comes with a compromise, right? Even our entire life journey depends on the compromises we make, in the form of decision-making. Because each decision is nothing but a compromise. A compromise on either time, money, health, relationships, peace, or happiness. There are no decisions in our life that don't compromise on at least one of these. Prove me wrong :) Also, a tip - figuring out what to compromise can speed up the decision-making process.

16 hours. That's how long it will take us to reach Manali. Around 14 hours to Keylong, and then 2 hours to Manali. Normally, this journey takes two days with an overnight stay. But we are just lucky that we got a service that will get this done in one day! The Leh-Keylong highway is extremely beautiful. Twisted mountain passes, mighty mountains, and snow-filled regions. No houses, vehicles, or people. Also, no network! All makes the trip so fascinating. The advantage of open window bus is that we get to feel the real environment. The real air, smell, and weather. But that comes with a heavy downside, breathing issues. As the bus climbs up the altitude, the oxygen level decreases, and it gets very difficult to breathe. We feel that well when we reach areas like the Taglang La, which is at an elevation of more than 17,000 Ft and was the world's second highest motorable pass once. Again lucky that the bus stopped there. Even though this isn't a winter season, the place is covered with a small layer of snow. And we get to touch it! That's the first and only time I touched snow. Being from a tropical climate, snow is so magical to me :)

So far so good. We are still breathing! But as we keep traveling in these high altitudes, things are getting more blurred. This means it's getting dizzier. The mind, body, and stomach is very unstable. All we see are mountains, and now we can't even comprehend the beauty of it. Surviving on apples and biscuits are also creating issues. Even when the bus stopped at a food stall, all I could do was to throw up. Throwing up in the mountains is a different experience though. The constant heavy winds take away the vomit to a long distance before it touches the land, too much shortness of breath, and not even enough water to get cleaned well. Overall, we feel like dying. What a fascinating journey it is, huh? The snow is no longer magical and the mountains are no longer beautiful, we just want to end this journey at the earliest. But, we can't drop off in between, there is nowhere to rest, and no one to give any support. All we can do is stay calm and hope for the best. It's good to get through such situations alone, because the more we train ourselves to endure those, the better we mold ourselves as a person. Words can't teach it, only experiences can. Embrace hardships, build up resilience!

Reaching Keylong alive is a relief. Keylong to Manali is going to be fast, thanks to the Atal tunnel. A 9 km modern tunnel which is the highest highway single-tube tunnel above 10,000 feet in the world. It reduces the travel time by around 5 hours. Very efficient! It helps us reach Manali city in the night before everything shuts down. The market is still active, with lots of vendors and tourists. We can have a bird's eye view of the market and the city center from the balcony of Hotel Pawan, our accommodation for today. The bustle of the city has raised our spirit for tomorrow's exploration. But, for now, it's time to recharge :)

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