Leh Ladakh Trip – Leh Ladakh Bike Trip | The Himalayan Highway Road in 900 km and 11 stages
Ladakh by bicycle
“First time in India? Have you done any good spiritual exercises? “
The distinguished but clever gentleman who flies next to me, in addition to the ritual recommendations, thus introduces me to the new world. “Yes, first time in India!” Getting directly to Srinagar, the starting point of our bike trip in Ladakh, without having put your nose outside Delhi airport, immediately proves to be an experience for strong palates. The eyes are not enough to observe the never seen before, the nose is not enough to catch all the acrid and pungent smells that come from the shops or the ears to receive the horde of sounds of the horns, the screams in the streets, in addition to the songs of the muezzin that at four megaphones chant from minarets. Do we want to talk about the no rules in double lane traffic? Crazy. You don’t know whether to laugh or be shocked. Together with the boy who with Tuc Tuc (two-seater taxi on Ape Piaggio) accompanies us to buy basic necessities, we take the lighter and more cheerful aspect with good humor …
Welcome to Kashmir! The first accommodation is scheduled in a typical and pleasant houseboat anchored in Dal lake, whose managers immediately reveal themselves to be skilled Booking score hunters. Too bad they try to sell you everything: even the gondola ride, vaguely resembling the Venetian one, along the floating city, an attempt is revealed to sell pashminas (textile products based on the finest cashmere wool), complete with the boy’s pantomime from sad eyes and a bowed head that gets to work with needle and thread, just a moment before our entrance, gets up indifferently and leaves when we explain to him that we are not interested.
Introduction Leh Ladakh Bike Trip
On the pier the bikes are reassembled and the new day is awaited with a little trepidation for the start. Warm night with the hum of the fan.
Stage 1 | Srinagar – Ganger, Gagangir
Length 75 km | Difference in altitude 977 m | Stage time 5h 42 min | Night at an altitude of 2300 m
In the morning we load the bikes on the gondola and move to the mainland. We start off among the incredulous eyes of the curious. A freeway runs alongside the lake and we can’t wait to end up on a common road. We get used to the presence of the military, a kind of human chain that will not stop until the border with Leh Ladakh Bike Trip. Under the helmets you can see boys with different ethnic features, some are beautiful. When we finally reach the crossroads for Sonamarg, instead of a quieter road, we find ourselves in congested traffic, in the midst of trucks and military jeeps, buses with the cooling grills open, crazy cars ready to jump into the only meter available for overtaking. No rules! Driving the speed of our bikes very low! And utmost attention not to be overwhelmed by these unleashed that it is not clear where they are headed. On the other hand, the curious people and soldiers along the way give us heartening smiles that we reciprocate with joy. We have lost the habit of the friendliness of the people who greet on the street! Leh Ladakh Bike Trip
Detailed itinerary of Leh Ladakh Bike Trip
Stage 1 | Sonamarg – Ladakh by bike
The road gradually starts to climb, the slopes are gentle, but the traffic does not stop and we proceed slowly, stopping often to leave room for cars or to overcome the numerous traffic jams. Unfortunately, the singular Himalayan welcome does not end here, showers are added that force us to find shelter under the canopies. So we do our first meetings with the people of the valley, with their eating habits and curiosities. It seems they have never seen bikes like ours, they ask, touch and Alfano. The selfie craze isn’t just ours! Now the rain has no intention of stopping, we put on waterproof clothes in search of the first hotel quickly. We will reach Sonamarg the next day, the planned stage is shorter than thirteen kilometres. Night in a lower category hotel in Ganger Gagangair; you don’t talk about the shower and you don’t even look at the pillow under the covers. How long had I not slept in my sleeping bag?
Stage 2 | Ganger, Gagangir – Drass
Length76 km | Difference in altitude 1,402 m | Stage time 6h 33 min | Night at an altitude of 3086 m
The cloudy weather does not seem to promise rain, we plunge into traffic in the direction of Sonamarg. Affordable slopes and a good road, albeit with several interruptions for works: they are building a tunnel that will facilitate the achievement of Ladakh. You ride in the company of the usual soldiers, standing by the roadside or posted on a lookout among the rocks. How strange these Kashmiris: in an increasingly globalized world, they seek the independence of a state with a population already so poor! But perhaps it is better for a Westerner not to express assessments on the basis of such different history and culture. Sonamarg is a very crowded tourist city with more varied entertainment proposals. We come to understand where the buses were full of tourists. And we had not yet seen Baltal: a whole and a spacious valley covered with hotels and especially with tented camps. 2 Jiojila Ladakh pass by bike Fortunately the rain forced us to a forced stop the previous day, otherwise we would have struggled to find a place in the hotel. Near Baltal we begin to glimpse the road that we will have to face to get to the Zojila pass which is 3529 meters, for us the first test on the high ground with two thousand meters of altitude compared to the start. We don’t like easy things. No, not really. Why for the first test do we not propose a path that vaguely recalls a Leh Ladakh Bike Trip that with the rain turns into a mud bed? But yes, let’s also take some landslides to reduce the roadway and an interminable theory of military trucks and picturesque Tata (heavy goods vehicles of Indian production) blocked or going at walking pace. Now try to start panting for the lack of habit and the effort to spin the wheels stuck to the mud, take a deep breath while a Tata (cat. Euro below zero) overtakes and envelops you in a cloud of black smoke. Did I make the idea? On a sunny day, the sensations would have been more pleasant, after all, we chose to face this path. Who knows if, on the other hand, being in the place where it is is a free choice for the little girl who has just left the tent of a camp of “nomadic” shepherds? Along the valley that descends after the pass, there are numerous multicoloured tents, supported by curbs built with stones: the idea of living in those conditions and at those altitudes leaves me a little perplexed. I try to smile at that little girl, but she remains wrapped in the same absent gaze. I have written nomads in quotes in doubt that rather than nomads they are seasonal shepherds who bring their flocks to the high pastures. Many of them have smartphones and some solar panels appear from some tents. Descending from the pass, the road, despite being in very poor conditions, allows itself to be travelled thanks to the gentler slopes and shortly before the border with Leh Ladakh Bike Trip it becomes asphalted. The border police call on travellers to stop and fill in two forms with a myriad of information. The oddity is that the forms are almost identical. The road continues to descend and the first village useful for overnight stays in Drass. The same type of hotel, with attached Dhaba (a sort of hot table with direct access to the road, typical of these areas) for excellent basmati rice accompanied by bean and chickpea soups, and identical rest mode: in your sleeping bag. Wi-Fi is not available, we use ľhot-spots of a kind patron to send news home. Ah, the shower? As for the previous night, there is no mention of it and I do not really want to ask how the two containers of different sizes are used, attached to each other and hygienically not very reassuring, in charge of ablutions.
Stage 3 | Drass – Mulbekh
Length96 km | Change in altitude 1258 m | Stage time 6h 00 min | Night at an altitude of 3300 m
Today’s stage is not difficult on paper and in fact, evolves during the day. Kargil, the most important town in the area, is about sixty kilometres away, at an altitude of m. 2700 s.l.m., so the road ideally descends, except in the frequent promontories that can be overcome with difficulty. Travel speed remains low. The Leh Ladakh Bike Trip begins to climb instead in the direction of Mulbekh, the location chosen for the overnight stop, which will take us back to m. 3300 s.l.m .. The scenarios in this last part of the route become magnificent: green valleys and imposing mountains with stranger shapes. The sun, as we know, makes everything more pleasant, and it has finally arrived. We begin to realize that we are in the Himalaya. Along the way, and further afield in the valleys, we begin to observe the presence of the Gompa, the sacred constructions of Buddhism, which integrate with the presence of mosques. The traffic has now become regular, the picturesque Tata and the columns of the army have thinned. Bikers have become very numerous: it seems they have met from all over India! They greet us and as they pass us they raise their hand with their thumbs up. Someone joins us and asks us questions. When we are taking pictures, they stop and keep us company. They are amazed to see cycle travellers in those desolate lands and recognize the effort that, although different, is also theirs. The Indian from Delhi blocks his motorbike and demands a selfie with his helmet in his hand showing the 46 and “I’m with Vale”. Adding details on the geographical proximity of our town of residence with the city of Valentino Rossi literally goes crazy. Night in a guesthouse at the entrance to Mulbekh, of the same type as the previous ones, the room overlooks a rocky wall on which the figure of a large Buddha is carved. Each passerby spins the prayer wheel below and the adjoining bell keeps us company during well-deserved relaxation
Stage 4 | Mulbekh – Lamayuru
Length66 km | Difference in altitude 1261 m | Stage time 5h 15 min | Night at an altitude of 3560 m
We leave early, two Hors Catégorie passes await us: the Namikala at 3700 m and the Fatula at 4100 m. Sunny morning: who knows that the sun always coveted won’t turn into a problem today! We travel the first kilometres of Leh Ladakh Bike Trip in the valley, receiving greetings from the children who go to school, dressed in the same uniform. Here the schools open in March and close in November. Then I think they all hibernate until the thaw. There are numerous prayer wheels, as well as the Gompa, which meet along the road and join the sight of the minarets of the mosques. It can happen, and it is also a pleasure for the feeling of great respect that they communicate, to hear the contemporary sound of the bell and the song of the muezzin. The road starts to climb, but does not scare: the slopes remain around 5/7% and the increase in altitude, starting from 3300, is not prohibitive. He gasps a little at first, then it seems that the breath settles and goes up with relative ease, After all, it is unknown about the high altitude path together with the uncertainty of places to sleep has forced us to different types of clothing and to carry with us, also for emergencies related to storms, tent and sleeping bag. In short, we are beautiful loads. At the top of the Namikala pass a shortstop for the ritual photo and downhill ready for the slight slope connecting to the next ascent. With the alternation of descents and steep climbs, the legs suffer and you can’t wait for the real and continuous ascent to arrive. Near a curve, while pedalling calmly, I see a group of people a few dozen meters away. They are children who are having breakfast with their mothers in the shade of the trees. I am intrigued, I stop and reach them when the interest becomes mutual and they call me. Still, I am smiling because of the embarrassment of finding myself among them exchanging greetings and satisfying their curiosity; amid courtesy smiles, I can only accept biscuits: the vegetable soup they offer me in a metal bowl generates big mouth water, but I prefer not to venture into the tasting. We return to pedalling for the second effort, with the satisfaction of checking the approach altitude on our cycle computer every meter up to 13479 feet, or at an altitude of m. 4100.
The descent is on a slightly rough road, but Lamayuru is now close. We decide to stay overnight rather than reach the valley floor. The monastery, nestled in the rocky outcrop, is worth a visit. In its internal rooms, so richly decorated with rugs and coloured walls, we witness the chanting of the mantras by the monks. The melodic sequence, so dense with low frequencies, transports into an almost unreal dimension. Some children in tunic serve tea, some novices, perhaps unable to read the text of the prayer on the small rectangular booklets, takes the smartphone out of their pocket and starts tinkering: the power of modernity! The hotel attached to the monastery, run by the monks, has a shower and scented sheets (!) And is equipped with Wi-Fi. Usually deserved relaxation accompanied by the ringing of the bell of the prayer wheel, which will be repeated as if by magic even during the night, and by the view of the yellow and imposing mountains that stand out in front of our room.
Stage 5 | Lamayuru – Leh
Length117 km | Change in altitude1720 m | Stage time 7h 13 min | Night at an altitude of 3580 m
To describe this stage I will start from the end. We knew it was going to be pretty tough given the planned kilometres, but we didn’t expect it to prove so exhausting. In addition to the high altitudes, the combination of desert, sun and absence of wind joins in today’s stage. The arrival in Leh, with the last few kilometres uphill, almost an ordeal. Yet it started, from the 3600 of Lamayuru, with a beautiful descent, almost twenty kilometres long up to the 3000 of the valley floor. The breathtaking scenery and the continuously different and strange rock formations thrilled our morning walk. Then the valley floor slowly begins to rise with the usual leg breakers until the ascent becomes true. The slopes, generally not high, allow you to find a good pedalling rhythm, in the end it is a real mountain that is climbed up to 3600 meters of this nameless step and, with the passing of the hours, the sun without any contrast of clouds or wind begins to be felt. T5 in Ladakh by bike An Indian boy, known on the street and the only cyclist met so far, with an overly charged MTB and a poor cycling experience holds our pace until we wait for him, then on the increasingly steep slopes of the last stretch he decides to cling to a old Tata who, puffing more than he for the big load he carries, proceeds so slowly as to allow him to grab a piece of protruding sheet metal. But shortly thereafter he will give in and abandon us, preferring an obligatory stop. We then descend briefly and then find ourselves again climbing, with its 3,500 meters, the mountain that connects us to the valley of the Indus river, where Leh, the capital of Ladakh, is located. It reveals a real and long climb, with the last few kilometres increasingly steep and the afternoon sun even more relentless. Fortunately, the magnetic hills tear us a few smiles, whose invention of the phenomenon we decided to attribute to the manager of a bar. The restaurant faces the space where cars, attracted by the presumed magnetic ground, should move alone (even if on a hypothetical plain) if left unbridled. The funny thing is that even our aluminium bikes, thanks to the wind in favour and the slope of the ground that we detect, move in the same direction as the cars! Once on the top, you start to see, like a real oasis in the desert, the green valley in which Leh extends. And after the descent, now exhausted, we face the last climb that brings us to the 3500 of the city. Night in a cosy guesthouse, far from the noise and car horns, but also from the company of the bells of the prayer wheels that we had become accustomed to.
Stage 5 | Leh – Khardun La – Leh | Leh Ladakh Bike Trip
Length74 km | Difference in altitude 1720 m | Stage time 6h 41 min | Night at an altitude of 3580 m
To the travel agency: “See you tomorrow here at 9 am. At 10.30 you will get your permission to go to Kardun La “. This was the agreement last night with the manager of the agency. In the morning at 9, we are already there with passports to obtain permits without which the military at the checkpoint, located at kilometre 24, will not allow you to continue the climb. It is therefore our concern to be punctual to start the procedures and leave as soon as possible. The owner arrives at 9.45 and seeing me restless reminds me that “we are in India”, and as a good Italian I understand well and do not protest. He makes an appointment at 10.45 am to collect the permits, but we wait until noon to have them in hand. Meanwhile, the sky is an intense blue, clear and cloudless! The Khardun La, the pass that connects Val Nubra to the Leh valley, is located at 5600 meters above sea level, is proudly indicated by locals as the highest road pass in the world, it can be reached from the capital of Ladakh after 38 kilometers of ascent. Leaving at midday makes us not a little uneasy but relies on the wind at altitude which should at least mitigate the isolation of the central hours. In fact, the heat suffers for the first ten kilometers, then we proceed with cooler temperatures. Today’s walk is a fundamental test to understand if physical preparation and acclimatization are adequate to face the second part of the journey, when once you have passed the Taglang pass at m. 5358 it will not be possible to descend below 4600 of the plateau which will take us to another pass, the Lachung, located at m. 5064.
So you pedal paying particular attention to the balance between breathing control and pedalling frequency, trying to understand when and if hypoxia problems will arrive. With great surprise and a little pride, I have to say that, except for the first few kilometres of settling, to the top not to we had no manifestation of fatigue. , 38 kilometres represent an enormous distance if travelled uphill, but thanks to the rather gentle slopes (5/7%) you can climb without great difficulties with the bike without bags, left at the guesthouse in Leh.
The problems instead arrive a few kilometers after checking the permits, exactly at 28 °, where the road is no longer asphalted and, as you go up, it narrows, it becomes bumpy, it has streams of water that ľ pass through until it becomes similar to the bed of a stream, so maintaining balance is the most difficult exercise. Finally, the actual duration of our ascent is 4 hours and 50 minutes, but between a few technical stops, permit checks and the infinite descent, there are eight hours spent in the saddle. We are back in Leh, in short, already after sunset. But what satisfaction!
PS: if going up you see many cyclists who go down to MTB with badly adjusted saddles, slippers or running shoes and strange clothing, you need not fear that your company will be diminished: most of them have been transported by car to the top and you enjoys descending.
Stage 6 | Leh – Rumtse
Length80 km | Difference in altitude 1113 m | Stage time 5h 13 min | Night at 4200 m altitude
The second part of the bike journey begins the stretch that will take us to Manali, a stretch that goes into desolate and lonely lands, where the support for the night will be in tented fields with the unlikely possibility of communicating through the web. To date, an Indian sim card cannot be sold to foreigners (which would allow you to take advantage of 2 Gb of data per day), in addition, Italian operators offer to roam at prohibitive rates. The areas are not covered by signal and only for emergencies can the satellite connections of the military be used. The use of the private satellite telephone, as several street signs remind you, is prohibited, under penalty of imprisonment. The route is challenging from a physical point of view, given the presence of high altitude passes, but we are now well-in and it does not scare us. We leave Leh around noon after the visits to the places that aroused our curiosity and, extricating ourselves in the traffic, we begin to descend gradually up to the 3200 meters of the valley floor. The feeling of being in an oasis in the desert is even more clear by observing the absence of any type of vegetation in the surrounding sandy landscape. It is curious that Leh, despite the altitude in which it is located, is rarely covered with snow in winter, thanks to the mountain barriers that surround it, although it remains isolated due to the imperceptibility of the Srinagar – Manali “Highway Road”. The airport of the military base guarantees its supplies.
Like all deserts, the temperature variations between night and day are remarkable and even today there is no exception: our cycle computer detects heat peaks close to 40 degrees. In the usual ups and downs, where the speed decreases considerably, you suffer. We pass the Thiksey monastery which stands very high on top of a mountain, almost dominating the valley, and a little further on in the distance we see the Stakna monastery. A few dozen kilometers later, the valley also welcomes Hemis, the largest of the monasteries in Ladakh, but we cannot see it. And today is not the ideal day to go up to see it.
We are happy to have visited and stayed in Lamayuru. Near Hemis and, further ahead in Upshi, there are detours to Lake Pangong which we know is magnificent, but to reach it by bike would take three days of travel. We decide to stay in the original project in the direction of the Tanglang pass, entering a gorge that will accompany us up to Lato for about 30 kilometres. The scenarios have now changed, the mountains with an intense brown coloured rock, although without vegetation, give the feeling of having abandoned the desert. The road climbs with the usual slopes and, thanks to the cooler temperatures, we find ourselves at 4200 in Rumtse, the last village where we know how to find a covered shelter for the night before the tented camps. No Wi-Fi obviously in the “Homestay” that offers “room with attached bathroom” (with shower!) Because the area is not covered by signal and even tonight, although the room is nice, with coloured curtains, mattresses on the floor covered with soft carpets and with the availability of heavy blankets, in the absence of clean sheets and pillowcases, we prefer our dear sleeping bag.
Stage 7 | Rumtse – Pangong | Leh Ladakh Bike Trip
Length97 km | Difference in altitude 1320 m | Stage time 7h 14 min | Night at an altitude of 4544 m
The Homestay girl who served us dinner last night has very graceful features, long brown hair and is taller than the average local woman. This morning she is wearing a green and burgundy red uniform, ready to go to school, High School. Last night he told us that from October to March the area, covered by a meter of snow, does not allow much more than waiting for the thaw. I wondered how it will change her life when she will go to university in Leh and discover the internet and social networks. we come to us. Today’s stage involves passing the Tanglang pass atm. 5358. Although Rumtse’s choice was made to be closer to the pass, the summit is 31 kilometres away of Leh Ladakh Bike Trip. The sky is partially cloudy and the landscapes do not shine in beauty. You just have to pedal by dosing your strength, given the load we carry. The sight of the majestic wings of an eagle flying over us mitigates the effort for a moment. Four hours of concentration to control the breath and a lot of tenacity: this is the secret to reach the top. It must be said that the physical preparation began several months ago, I personally trained in the home mountains almost at every exit. Throughout the Himalayan crossing, we take Diamox daily, the diuretic recommended in the preventive form to mitigate the effects of altitude sickness which, in the acute phase, can prove to be very dangerous. To find out more, I refer you to a web page by Sergio Borroni, cycle traveller and doctor, who scientifically explains the process. Kiang Leh Ladakh Bike Trip.
Getting to the top of the pass is a satisfaction, thanks to the warm welcome from the “Giro d’Italia” of those present who rejoice at our passage with clapping hands, photos and “Bravo!”. A pleasant surprise awaits us for the descent: instead of the dirt road, we find the newly paved road. A great joy! After the descent, the plateau begins and will accompany us for the rest of the route. At every ride, a marvel: the valley which is located at 4700 m puts a strain on our physical abilities, but its beauty illuminated by the sun is extraordinary. The valley is almost desert, sandy in the centre, dotted with tufts of grass on the sides and surrounded by towering mountains. Thus we proceed for about forty kilometres between camps of shepherds busy with their flocks and wild animals in the distance. Extraordinary is the encounter with a Kiang, a kind of small wild horse that lives in herds in this valley: by crossing the road right in front of us, it allows us to photograph it. The last kilometres become tiring, in addition to the distance travelled entirely at high altitude, the fatigue for the step adds a strong contrary wind that slows us down. We are now in sight of the descent that will take us to Pang, in whose tented camp we will spend the night. Not before being amazed once again at the sight of a canyon that stands in front and below us, whose high and steep walls give rise to spectacular formations.
Stage 8 | Pangong – Sarchu
Length76 km | Difference in altitude 1082 m | Stage time 6h 23 min | Night at 4346 m
Pang is an agglomeration of tents and masonry structures with tin roofs that house dormitories and restaurants. Obviously, to define them as such, a non-European rating scale must be used and if you are unable to adapt, it is better to avoid visiting such areas. Pang and all the other villages in the area are seasonal, they bloom in March and are abandoned in September, they follow the flow of tourists and businesses. Leh Ladakh Bike Trip In October the first snow forces everyone to return to the cities, including shepherds. The Highway Road which starts from Sarchu in the direction of Manali, although being the only way of connection, vaguely resembles a road and was probably paved until a few years ago, but now we are forced to pedal for 32 kilometres on the stony bottom at the limit of the impracticable, requiring a lot of patience and balance. For the first seven kilometres, you move in a particular scenario, with steep sandy walls, from which vertical rocks appear that resemble the chimneys of fairy tales. Then the climb begins which winds for a short distance between hairpin bends and blind curves on the cliff below. The road enters the valley which widens following the course of the Tsarap river for 14 kilometres. Today it seems that bikers, military trucks and the usual “nannies” have met to pour so much dust on us as to reduce two self-propelled white spots. The Lachung pass is located at m. 5064, the overcoming of which is no longer news, considering the good adaptation of our body. The 6km descent ends with a regenerating milk tea drunk during a shortstop in the small tent camp. Go up immediately for another 4 kilometres of Leh Ladakh Bike Trip until the next step, the Nakeela at m. 4738, where the asphalt finally begins and descends for 22 kilometres. Throughout this area there are no shepherds nor have we seen wild animals. Even the photos are thinned, we seem almost addicted to the view of rocks and mountains. Or perhaps our concern is more directed towards black clouds that seem to threaten us ever closer. Ladakh by bike I don’t have time to observe that the damp and earthy scent of the impending rain turns out to be identical to that of our parts. In no time, we are in the middle of the storm and under the hail. We are now in the plain of the Tsarap river, about twenty kilometres from Sarchu, the place chosen for the night, but the rain always makes those who move by bicycle uncomfortable, the temperatures drop very quickly (suddenly at 6 °) and in a hurry to protect ourselves from the rain with appropriate clothes, we cannot wear warmer undergarments. If a downpour like the one described fell on top of a 5000-meter pass, the descent would be nothing short of … freezing. 8 Ladakh by bike The forecasts promised good weather a few days ago, for this reason, and almost to prevent bad encounters weather at high altitudes, we set off early, almost running away from Leh. In Sarchu all buildings are made of sheet metal, walls, roof and external toilet. I prefer not to describe the details, I leave you with the culinary curiosity if the rice we will eat tonight will be accompanied by beans, chickpeas or lentils. Seriously, I must admit that I have always willingly eaten these dishes, as well as momos (ravioli of Tibetan origin) and chapati (similar to our wraps). I only refuse off-white vegetable soups: Knorr!
Stage 9 | Sarchu – Jispa
The basmati rice of the dinner, in addition to scrambled eggs with vegetables and chapati, is accompanied by lentils and the inevitable black tea. If the storm on our arrival in Sarchu made us difficult, the spectacular starry, without any source of polluting light, proves satisfying. The owner of the restaurant, a twenty-two-year-old named Chamba, keeps us company. He lives in Chumikgyalsa, a town beyond the Bhaga river, a few kilometres from Sarchu. During the summer he rents the rooms and prepares food for customers. He complains that Indian tourists are dwindling because they start travelling abroad. He hopes that the connection will arrive in a couple of years to be able to use the smartphone he already has. There is no electricity, a solar system is active in his village. There is also a doctor who cures with natural medicine. His family raises a herd of 300 yaks and horses, produces milk, cheese and hand-woven rugs. He studied up to 13 years in Leh, where he stayed in the hostel all the school time. He is talkative and witty.
The following morning, before leaving, he gives us some dry yak cheese that his mother brought from home. Sarchu is the last village in Leh Ladakh Trip and, after passport control, we enter Himachal Pradesh. We start pedalling in a welcoming valley, surrounded by the usual and imposing mountains, the road is paved except for frequent interruptions due to work. Everything changes as soon as the ascent begins, when it becomes disastrous, as has already happened in other passages. Along the ascent, we don’t have time to contemplate the panorama so much is the concentration to remain in balance. After about ten kilometres of Leh Ladakh Bike Trip, we find the refreshment tents and shortly afterwards the asphalt finally begins which will take us to the Baralachala pass, at 4850 m. Sometimes we do not proceed to the left as per traffic rules, but we keep cautiously to the right, on the safest part of the mountain. The cliffs are impressive and several trucks rolled a few hundred meters below. After all, everyone always runs like crazy and I think they prefer to stick to the horn in order not to slow down, even if they are travelling on a single-lane mountain road. It is the first time since the start of the Leh Ladakh Bike Trip that we are in the middle of mountains with glaciers and snow-capped peaks, a sign that they are higher and that the area is probably affected by greater snowfall. In short, we definitely left the desert. Arrived at the pass, we begin an endless descent, apart from some small promontory to overcome, which will take us to Jispa, where we will spend the night. It is not a relaxing descent. The sun disappears and gives way to a strong headwind that forces us to pedal often. There are also numerous interruptions for the rivers that flow onto the asphalt, forcing us to go down and find the best place not to get our shoes wet. One of these looks like a real ford that we overcome by wearing slippers to protect ourselves from stones. Also in the last part of the descent we find an interruption for a gigantic boulder collapsed on the road, the circulation is blocked for at least two hours and a mechanical shovel works to restore it. Landslides are frequent in this area, where huge boulders hovering, wrapped in a sandy and crumbly soil, detach themselves causing fatal accidents. The two small bicycles, after a small contract with the Policemen, are allowed to overcome the restoration works. We continue doubling our attention, no longer only on the cliff, but also in the direction of the mountain, hoping that nothing will roll towards us. We are almost at the end of our journey, a few stops from Manali. The vegetation reveals it to us, we have descended so much that the grass has returned to protect the mountains, together with evergreen shrubs similar to Thuja, which are getting higher and higher as we descend. Deciduous trees have reappeared and terraced cultivation has begun. Electricity poles herald the return to civilization. Night in Jispa, a seasonal village dedicated to tourism, which offers numerous solutions including hotels, guesthouses and camping sites. Leh Ladakh Bike Trip.
Stage 10 | Jispa – Khoksar
Relaxing departure, today’s stage is short Leh Ladakh Bike Trip and must take us below the Rohtang pass, the last effort before the long descent to Manali. The cloudy day and with little light does not do justice to the beauty of the mountains, now greener. Slowly we descend the valley of the Bhaga river, although often the road, following the profile of the mountain, climbs in short rather steep sections, offering us the dizzying view of the overhangs. Of course, parapets are not talked about, as indeed throughout the path taken so far; instead of the normal road signs that warn of interruptions due to works or landslides on the roadway, piles of stones are simply placed to signal the danger. After about thirty kilometres, in Tandi, when the valley ends, we turn up the course of the Chandra river. The first kilometres of Leh Ladakh Bike Trip is a bit disturbing due to the presence of numerous areas of the road covered with rocks that have fallen from the mountain. We do not see any safety measures with nets or other protections and we proceed cautiously, despite the presence of huge unstable boulders, hovering along the rocky wall, hardly supported by other smaller ones. One eye to the cliff and one to the mountain. As you go up the river you get the impression of pedalling along an alpine valley, surrounded by grassy mountains with higher rock formations, waterfalls and glaciers on the peaks. A few kilometres from Khoksar, across the river, we observe the entrance of the tunnel under construction for Manali. With the tunnel, the Rohtang pass will lose the romantic charm of the “hard route” to reach Ladakh, so loved by bikers, but the life of the innermost valleys will be enriched during the winter isolation. Who knows if the locals will be all enthusiastic about the advent of modernity! We are now in Khoksar. Nothing interesting to report except the presence of some homestays before the bridge, which will allow us to spend the night before the last stop.Leh Ladakh Bike Trip.
Stage 11 | Khoksar – Manali | Leh Ladakh Bike Trip
Length70 km | Elevation difference852 m | Stage time 5h 07 min
Last stop, end of the journey. There is the last step to climb, the Rohtang. We have breakfast at Dolma, the lady who runs the Dhaba where we had dinner last night. She is curious and wants to communicate. She tells us, in broken English, her vicissitudes to reach the village with her husband: three days by bus from Kathmandu. There is no job in Nepal and she came to India in the good season, leaving her ten-year-old son at home. Nostalgia for his land emerges in his tales: Kathmandu is beautiful and large, has rich shops, supermarkets and a delightful climate. 11 Ladakh by bike accustomed to the idea that the Indians moved to look for work in Europe, I take note of the existence of this internal migratory movement. There is some sun and it is a pleasure to pedal. We are in the company, as well as three stray dogs who have adopted us as their new family, the usual Tata, tourist buses and minibuses. We certainly have the legs proven by countless hardships consumed on the high ground, but this climb, of all those covered, seems to be the hardest, with slopes that often touch 9%. After about 6 kilometres of Leh Ladakh Bike Trip, the road becomes impassable and for 5 we fight between mud, sandy soil mixed with stones, in an unusual “jerk over the stone and then sink into the sand”. Everything is now overcome with the usual obstinate tenacity. Going up, it is impossible not to notice the fast motion of the clouds that come from the valley of Manali: they are low, at ground level and, driven by an important wind, they pick up speed and rise vertically. At the top of the pass, at an altitude of m. 3978, we plunge into the fog. The three big dogs have been following us uphill for twenty kilometres now and the most gifted among them could easily be following a cycling traveler. We can not help but greet them before taking the descent. We need the light to increase our visibility and until we get out of the clouds we don’t realize the beauty of the new valley. The overhangs are always the usual, but the scenarios change and offer us new emotions.
The greenery dominates and as we descend the vegetation is more and more luxuriant and offers the view of innumerable arboreal essences. It seems to cross a lush botanical garden.
The Himalayan chain begins to decline and opens to the effect of monsoons, bringing frequent rains. We meet eagles: never seen so many fly together! They do not seem disturbed and even glide very low allowing us to film them. One settles on a boulder a few meters from us and it is a pleasure to watch it perched and then as it hovers in flight. It goes down for about 2000 meters of altitude and for fifty kilometers: it is the first time that I have traveled such a long descent. It will take a brake check once it’s done,but I think it will happen more easily upon returning to Italy. We are in Manali and our task, in addition to waiting for the transfer to Delhi, will be to relax by visiting the town, pack the bikes and enjoy the satisfaction of having completed a trip that has the flavor of a daring undertaking.