The ride begins in Manali and, almost at once, you dive into a rugged adventure following the mingled waters of the Chandra and Bhaga rivers at Tandi, henceforth called the Chenab river. Along the way, the route offers access to remote valleys like Mayad, Sach Khas and Sural Bhatori on hard-packed dirt trails usually along the tributary streams that feed the Chenab. The distances between destinations are tiny, but a 100 km may take an entire day’s ride on challenging roads, sections of which are gouged out of rock with stomach-swooping drops to the river below.
At the end of the day, magnificent camping spots, from sun-dappled meadows to high detours among the birch forest and even sometimes a seldom-used helipad, offer a cyclorama of peaks that glow softly, pink in the gloaming, surrendering slowly to the startling sight of the Milky Way wheeling across an inky sky. Just remember: misty-eyed reverence goes best with a slug of fine whiskey.
The toughest section to ride is the wickedly steep and rocky ascent to 14,500-ft-high Sach Pass that begins once you cross the Chenab at Killar. A little beyond the pass the tarmac reappears and it’s a swift ride to Chamba, Khajjiar or Dalhousie before the inevitable decent to the plains