CYCLING “GREATER HIMALAYA” DEHRADUN TO LEH LADAKH (1220KM, 18 DAYS)
Cycling could be the best means of travel; it gives one a freedom to explore each and every corner of world. Unlike motor bikes and cars you don’t have to be worried about the gas. With your foot just few inches off the ground, free to stop wherever and whenever you want. It give 360* panoramic view of nature; just pick it up on shoulder, if the part of road is blocked or stuck in some traffic jam; just put your tent, if found some good grassy pitch above or below the road. It is cheapest men’s of travelling and most importantly its eco-friendly make no harm to Mother Nature.
All this positive views changed my view on traveling and encourage me to go for cycling tour in Himalaya. So far I cycled in Bhutan, with my two companion Padma and Phuntsog we three cyclist explored every corner of Bhutan in just 18 days with little expenditure. But this time I’m lone traveller.
Following are the stuff I carried along with me during the tour
1. Scot aspect 600 mountain bike aluminium frame 24 gears cost 31000 Rs
2. Two men tent 2.2 kg, cost 3200 rs
3. Crops speedometer
4. Canon eos600d camera with 300mm lens
5. Beanchi pinner pairs and Yonho pinner pair
6. Extra tube 2
7. Camping stove kerosene
8. Ultralight camping mat
9. North face sleeping bag feather
10. Un Aluminium utensil, cup and plates
11. Two Water bottles 1litre each
12. Firefox mini pump.
13. A headlamp
Day IST Dehradun to Nawgaon(648 meters) (8june2014) 119km Avg. 14.2 km/h
It was still dark outside that morning, loud noises of mouths buzzing around my room, Phuntsog help me brought down my heavy duty and fully loaded Scott aspect mountain bike from first floor room to the ground and wish me happy ride. I switch on my light and switch on my long cycling tour throughout the eastern Himalaya, which is going to be tough ride!
On this very first day of my tour, road was continuous uphill till Mussori, road condition was good traffic was few. I had some brunch and ride downhill till Yamuna Bridge, it was about 13km downhill. After Yamuna bridge road goes medium uphill along the Yamuna River towards north. It was bright sunny day, I had to stop many time to refill my water bottles.
After riding more then 8 1/2 hours I reached my first stop, the Nawgaon village situated on hill slope and bank of Yamuna river, there I stayed in hotel JP because, pitching tent was not safe, water was not good and it was dame hot outside, for those 3 to 4 days I stayed in hotel.
Day IInd Nawgaon to Tuni (9june2014)84.49KM average 14.2km/hours
It was chilly morning, I start riding at 5:30 am and took left turn toward Purola and leave NH123, and it was nice ride upto Purola along the pine forest. I had gained pretty good height, there was apricot and apple trees in the valley. It also seem like agriculture is the major source of income of this people. After Purola market end, road took sharp U turn and start climbing upto Rama which is the pass of that mountain range ,after that it drops till I reached town called Mori, situated on the bank Toon river. Toon is famous for its white water rafting, along the river there was lots of River rafting camps. After Mori town I took left turn and ride down Stream of Toon River. Although it was mostly sloop but rood was totally damaged, it brought down my average speed to 9km/h, that’s why I couldn’t make it to Rodhu, my actual destination of the day, I manage to reach only Tuni town, situated on the bank Toon River. There was plenty of hotel and shops around Tuni.
Nawgaon and Satluj River in the background.
Day IIIrd Tuni to Sungri(2556m) (10june) 60km Avg.11km/h
I start up late in the morning had my breakfast at Tuni only .my intention was to reach and stay at Rodhu, which was just 35km from Tuni. From Tuni road continuously climbed up till Sungri. It was not so hard uphill till Rodhu, after Rodhu it was quite difficult climb and road condition was also not good. There was lots of huge unchained angry domestic dog, one of the huge shabby dog grabbed my pinner and try to drag me. On that day I enter Himachal Pradesh leaving behind uttrakhand.Road condition was still poor and uphill all the way till Sungri top. There I check in at a hotel having beautiful view point.
Sungri to Jeori(634m) (11june) 85km Avg.14.5km/h
From Sungri top road goes down all the way till I hit Hindustan Tibet highway, which run along the Satluj River. The first 25km part of the road was totally unpaved and dangerous, most of my times are took in those 25km unpaved road, after that road was good all way to Jeori. I stayed that night at Jeori, at Jeori there was only one motel and they got two class of rooms Deluxe 1500Rs per day and Economy 350 per day, I took economy one.
Jeori to Saki Charang (12june) 40Km 13.9Avg
That day I woke up early in morning to reach next place in minimum time. While I was packing my stuffs, I found that there was some problem in the chain; it took me 1 hour to fix the chain. Thereafter I paddle down the highway; it was smooth road and landscape was fabulous, rods was build curved out of granite rock it was really a beautiful highway. But somehow after riding for 30Km there was lots of cars and trucks line up along the road, I enquired a driver he Sayed “road is block because of some landslide, I ask him it it’s possible to cross with cycle, he Sayed not even man are allow to cross “.so I also lined up between them.
I reached that block point at 9AM, but they manage to clear it at 4pm only, which make stay at an unknown place (Saki Charong) along the highway. Good thing was that, I put my tent and cook for the first time.
Saki chirang to Spillow (13june) 78.50km Avg.11.6Km/h
In the morning two Nepali road worker visit my camp and told me that I have put my camp in a rock fall area, I thanks to god that I was safe and didn’t face any rock fall at night.
I quickly pack my stuffs and start riding toward recongpeo town. After 30Km I face yet another road block,but this time I don’t have to wait for the road to be cleared, because they have created a detour,but that detoured road climb so high that I almost touch snowline,(2260m) after that I role down like redbull bikers,those decent was muddy darty and very narrow road.
After riding for 74KM I start loking for proper spot to camp for a night but town was very darty. I keep on riding north to make camp, after riding 6KM from the Spillow town, I reached at a Mandir and pujari allow me to put my tent in his apple orchard.
My tent near the Nako lake
Spillow to Nako(3662m) (14june) 63.4oKm Avg.10.8Km/h
That day I start early in the morning, valley was deep narrow and dark. It was continuous uphill road, running along upstream of rumbling river Satluj. Road condition was good but it was totally up hill. I took rest after every three loops of zigzag road. Now I was gaining more height, landscape also changed dramatically, from lofty green cover to barren land feature like Ladakh. People hear speak language similar to Ladakhi. After a tough ride day I reached Lake Town of Nako, Nako is a small town with Buddhist community, situated at the altitude of 12408 ft. A group of old monastery centred in a compact settlement. I spend two night at Nako, put my tent near the lake and enjoy my couple of night around the town.
Nako to Tabo3280m) (15june) 47Km Avg.12Km/h
It took me a lots of time to pack up my stuff because of two day rest at Nako, everything was scattered and unpacked. After riding five kilometre uphill from Nako, road goes downhill till I reached Chuzomsa. There was a road divergent, one goes toward Tibet and another to the left side goes toward Spiti valley, I took the left one. Road was unpaved and treacherous. Road goes uphill along the Spiti River. On the way I encounter group of mountain goats, crossed many small and big bridges. There was number of small villages on other side of river. Road was mostly up down with some plain, overall it was not a difficult ride day. I reached Nako at 3pm, visit few monastery, after that I put my tent near a stream.
Very old looking monastery at Tabo.
Tabo to Kaza(3650m) (16june) 47KM Avg.13.5Km/h
It was an easy ride to Kaza, road was quite plain, I covered those distance in just four hours. The landscape between two town was fabulous, with lots of small and big monastery along the road and up on the hill. I came through many small villages with prayer flags fluttering on their roof tops. Road was mostly unpaved but dart surface was good.
After four hour I reached Kaza city, the district centre of Spiti valley. There was lots of bag packers, both foreigner and Indian. Hotels was cheap, so I stayed that night in a hotel. At Kaza I got some bad news about Kunzumla pass, local people who work for BRO, who daily go to Kunzumla road maintenance, they told me that pass is still closed for traffic and there is no chance of opening till end of June. That means I have to wait for 14 days at Kaza, so i left behind all my stuff along with cycle at Kaza and oath to come back, once Kunzumla pass will open for traffic.
Kaza to Losar(4914m) (25 July) 83.3Km Avg. 11.3Km/h
After 20 days break, I resumed my cycling tour. this time it was quite warm at Kaza and tourist wear also few. I had to stop their because of previously mentioned problems. I reached Kaza on 24th of July by bus.
Next day I woke up early in the morning and setup my bicycle, put everything on it place and move for Losar. road to Losar was mostly plain and paved metaled; it was nice ride, on the way I passed many small villages, landscape was beautiful. I reached Losar at 3:00 pm. Losar is the last village of Spiti valley and it is a small lovely village. I had my lunch their and ride further 2Km to camp for the night. It was a beautiful open camp site with spring and green lawn. there was not a single person around the camp site.
Small plateau village on the way to Losar. Losar to Chhattru (26 July) 63.7Km Avg.8.8Km/h
Today I crossed my first challenging mountain pass Kunzumla. Crossing the pass means total up hill, and it was up hill, and unpaved. On the top of pass, there was a monastery and fluttering colourful prayer flags. After the pass road drop till Batal, there is a tea stall at Batal, I had my lunch and continue. Road behind Batal was a hell, there was no regular road trace. I have never been through such a road. There was no bridge on stream, I crossed more than seven stream some time I had crossed it bare footed, and water was dame cold. My speedometer read average speed 8.8Km/h that day, which was lowest of all, although it was not so uphill. Finally after a hard ride day, I reached Chhattru and put my tent for the night.
About Kunzumla pas: this pas is probably the centre of Himalaya range, because this mountain rang completely divide two important drainage system, Indus and Ganges. whereas Indus drain into Arabian Sea and Ganga into Bay of Bengal.
Chhatru to Keylong(3080m) (27july) 71.63Km Avg.12.6km/h
Road was much better then yesterday. After Chhatru, some portion of road was paved but there was no bridge on the stream. I crossed two small and one big stream in morning time barefoot, water was dame cold. Road was mostly unpaved and uphill, till I reached Leh Manali highway. After that it was paved plane and mostly downhill, but now there was lots of traffic. My plan was to get Jispa and stay there. Because of some reason, I couldn’t withdraw cash from ATM at Kelong, and there will be no ATM beyond Kelong till Leh. And I don’t had enough cash with me so stayed at Keylong in a hotel.
Kelong to Patso (28july) 45.24Km Avg.12.8Km/h
In the morning I withdrawal some cash and headed for Patso. Road surface was good but total uphill, except for some plain portion. At Darcha, while I was having my lunch I meat a Ladakh taxi driver, I request him to carry some stuff of mine along with him and to keep it at Upshi Bridge, police check post. Now my cycle got much lighter, he put my two pinner bag contain kerosene stove, all cooking stuff and Tent in his car deck and ensure me that he will keep it at Upshi. I was no longer going to use those stuff, I stayed in parachute tent dhabas, one can find this type of night stay tent facility’s after every 50 to 60km on leh manali highway. Patso is a small lake there is many tents for night stay, around the lake.
Patso to Sarchu(4290m) (29july) 66.38Km Avg.12.5Km/h
Road condition was very good, but it was total uphill till I reached Baralachala pass. Distance from Patso to Baralachala top was 32km.beyond that it was continuous downhill till Sarchu. It was nice ride, on the way I meat some cyclist, two Indian and one foreigner, they started from Manali and, they also stayed at Sarchu. At Sarchu I enter a hotel, there was a women and she fetch me some tea and rice dal, I stayed there for night.
Sarchu to Pang(4600m) (30july) 79.23Km Avg.12.7Km/h
I start early in the morning. (7am) on that day i enter (J&K) LADAKH, leaving behind himachal Pradesh. Road condition was good and it was downhill till the base of BAYAS MOOD (22 lops). Landscape was stunning colourful, with morning sunrays just striking on hill around the valley. Bayes mode was total uphill, after 22 lops it was 10 more km to the top of Naakela pass; after that road goes down till place called Sumdo, with its two parachutes tent dhabas, there I had my lunch. The cyclist I meet yesterday was far behind me, I sew them climbing 22 loops portion, while I was finishing it. I took some 20 minute rest after lunch and start climbing another pass called Lachung-la, so I crossed two pass in one day, road was unpaved but surface was good. From Lachungla road dropped till Pang. I ride through deep George with colourful mountain, and took many photographs on the way.
Pang to Upshi (31july) 130.66Km Avg.16.3Km
On that day I crossed the great plain of Skyang-chu-thang. After 3km and 3 loops uphill from Pang, road was good and paved, it was totally plain till Tsokar road diversion, there is tea stall at diversion. After that it’s uphill and unpaved till Taglangla pass, the second highest motor able road in the world after Khardongla (18380ft). On the way I meet three foreigner cyclist, they were coming from leh, they enquired me about road beyond Pang, and also told me about the condition of road they came through. After Taglangla road drop till Upshi Bridge, that is River Indus valley. It was long and pleasant ride, road was all paved after Taglangla. After reaching Upshi I collect all my stuff which I send earlier with Ladakhi driver and stay in a hotel.
Upshi to Leh (1st august2014) 47.60Km Avg.16.5Km/h
It was an easy ride to leh along the Indus River, a little uphill for first few kilometre, after that it was mostly downhill. There is many Indian army camp along the road. At kharu I had some cold drink and snack and recharged my cell phone. After kharu road become busy with heavy vehicle. It was just 16 km to leh I encounter strong wind, coming from the opposite direcction hindered my progress, so I push my cycle while walking, after 4 km I reached Choglamsar. Wind slow down probably because of large housing and Poplar trees along the road. And then in another one and half hour I reach leh, and come to the end of my long happy tour.
Thiksay monastery Leh…
For me it was a great experience it was like a dream comes true. I suggest other enthusiastic cyclist to go for this rout, if you want total freedom and real adventure.