We were told that the first day of riding to Ladakh would be the toughest, as the road to the pass over Manali (Rotangh - 4100mt) was in a very bad state due to mud and land slides caused by road works undertaken by the military.
We decided to do our final testing of the bike by going up to the pass to see if it was at all doable.
We went up without luggage and got a lot of rain. By this point I got more accustomed to the controls on the bike but it was still evident that these bullet 500's are not modern bike by any means! The feedback you get from the bike is not of a whole, solid machine, but of multiple pieces bodged together, each of which moves at it's own pace. This is especially the case with the gear box...what a mess!! None of this had anything to do with the particular bike I got or was the garage's fault, it was pretty clear that this was the result of 1930's engineering and Indian manufacturing.
The road up to Rotangh was very narrow but in decent shape until the tent settlement of Mari. It was still vey busy with many trucks, taxis and 4x4s taking Indian tourists to the mountain top. Every small coffee shop along the way was also selling/renting skiing suits from the 1980's. Indian tourists from the big cities would buy/rent these to go up to the mountain. Although temperature was definitely not the issue, and it seemed almost as if it was more a matter of having something fitting to wear for all the pictures they were taking!
From Mari up the road was a mess! It was quite wide but the mud was deep and there were plenty water crossings and rocky sections. In other words this would be a dream trail to do on my offroad bike, but seemed a bit of a nightmare on a classic bike with 2 people and luggage.
We decided it was doable as long as I rode the bike alone on the toughest parts, after all the stretch of road which was really bad was only 10km long.
With that thought in mind we returned to Manali where we rested for one more day before finally setting off to Leh.