500 Kilometers long self supported walk on Himalayan Highway: Arpita Roy, an Adventure filmmaker and Anasuya Dey a Mountaineer went on a walking journey from Manali in Himachal Pradesh to Leh in Ladakh covering approximately 500 kilometres by foot in 25 days.
The team covered about 25-30 kilometers everyday and stayed at roadside dhabas (Motels) and tents pitched where needed along the route.
Most people travel along this highway by car or bike. Being filmmakers, the two wanted to immerse into the diverse culture of the Himalayas in depth with an open heart.
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“Walking gives us an opportunity to be grounded and feel more connected with the landscape and the local culture. It gives us ample time to feel the texture of the mountains and appreciate the richness of culture”.
The team wanted to listen to raw and grounded stories from the mountain highway people, which can become a part of their future films and documentaries.
They wanted to stay at as many places and dhabas as they wished and enjoy more of the beautiful mountain landscape. “The journey is more important than the destination”.
The planning itself was very exhilarating and lasted for several months: reading many travelogs, blogs and looking through maps to calculate the distances.
“By then, we felt that we were already on the journey. We were also excited about unknown experiences we were going to face”.
We started our journey with a lot of doubts in our mind, whether common people like you & me can really do it?
Will it be safe for women to walk alone on this highway?
Will this journey bring good memories or be a nightmare?
Then we decided to keep all the negative thoughts aside and experience it to find out the unknown experiences.
“While we had our last lavish meal from Manali, we had no idea that we would be surviving only on dal rice, maggi noodles and egg toast for the next twenty to twenty five days.
Since we were unassisted, we could carry only emergency food and lightweight granola bars with us. Staying in dhabas was a great experience.
Sometimes we meet fellow travelers and the most common question was
“How did you get here?
There is no vehicle parked outside”.
During the night rats tickle inside the blanket and run over our face. Being mountaineers helped us in many ways to do this expedition from rationing supplies and dealing with emergency conditions.
But the most important thing was that we could easily carry our backpack and walk without fail.
The first day was tough but slowly we became more and more comfortable and fell into the rhythm of the mountains: everything was tolerable except the heat.”
“We face a lot of challenges up in the mountains while scaling the high peaks and glaciers. But we thought that the risk we take for this expedition is extremely less when compared to the mountaineering expeditions.
But the probability of getting hit by a car is high as some drivers are rash on these mountain roads.
We witnessed a car negotiating a sharp turn at high speed and hit a dog who was just ahead of us. Sometimes people take their own life and others life very casually”:
The team has also covered a mountain peak on the highway, Yunam peak which stands at 6111 meters,it was a sudden decision.
“Mountaineering teaches a certain discipline in life which is very useful for this venture. We were so happy that the mountaineering experience helped our body to deal with the altitude change easily.
Thanks to the mountaineering & climbing community and our mentors, who helped us develop these skills”
“We were mesmerized by the many experiences during the trip and that has touched our hearts.
The local people were very homecoming.
Many local people, AVIMAS (Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports) instructors, army personnel and truck drivers helped us in many ways by contributing both food and blessings.
The Border Roads Organization, government of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh has made this place a safe haven during the journey.
The motivational sign boards installed by the Border Roads Organisation pushed us further to cover the next mile”.
The highway had a handful of adventurers but most of them were on bikes and cars, cyclists and very few like us. One of the interesting characters we met was Achchu who came all the way from Kerala with no plans at all. For him walking is just complete freedom.
The moment we finished our walk, we told each other “Look, we have done this”. Now many of our friends are also planning to come to India and do this trip.
We want more people, especially women travelers to come to India: explore and feel home. This was an expedition which is purely for adventure to feed our mind, body and soul.
This year we are working hard and saving money for a longer adventure at a higher altitude. We are also planning to make a film about the people we meet and experiences we gain during the trip.