Day 1 & 2: Manali
Manali is an extremely popular hill station so it’s best to avoid the packed streets and head straight to the Old Manali road or the quieter Vashisht. True to the cliché of Indian towns that have a heavy influx of western travellers, you will find a German Bakery, temptingly lethargic cafes to chill and a row of shops with a promise to tap onto your Bohemian side (harem pants, colourful caps, gloves and kitschybric a bracs will be in plenty). We dig into some steaming momos (quite a modern Tibetan staple food) to kick off the trip! Overnight stay will be at a guesthouse.
Day 3: Marhi
The first stretch of the ride takes us through thick green copses of towering Pine and Deodar trees, representative of the verdant lower Himalayas. These forests patches are broken up by a large expanse of the Solang Valley, which during the winters turns into a perfect ski haven. The few obstacles to look out on this day are some hairpin bends and switchbacks. Today, we have the comfort of metal roads, but this won’t last too long. We end the day short of Rohtang pass in Marhi and pitch tents for the night.
Distance cycled: ~ 40km/25miles
Day 4: Keylong
On the second day of cycling, we keep to the same altitude making our way 16 km ahead to the tourist clad Rohtang Pass. Over the last few years, heavy traffic has turned the last length to Rohtang into a slushy mess of mud. You are likely to see heavier vehicles stuck or long queues being managed by the Indian army. Luckily for us, getting past the crawling traffic would be much easier; be prepared to lift the cycle and wade through ankle deep sludge. After a short break at Rohtang, we descend towards Gramphu leaving the luxury of metal roads.
After crossing the gurgling river at Khoksar, its time to turn towards Sissu and the Pir Panjal Range overlooks the entire area. From Sissu, the ride to the last stop for the day is 28 km. You can see potato fields add that splash of green to the comparatively barren hillside in the Chandra Valley below. You can also stop at a small Kulu castle as Gondhla village, built in typical hill style using wood and stone. This was built in the 1700s but the tall tower of the castle still looms above the village.Before you hit Keylong, you will see all motorable company veer left towards a petrol station at Tandi, the last one before 380 kms to Leh. A small guesthouse at Keylong becomes the pit stop for the night.
Distance cycled: ~ 80km/50miles
Day 5: Patseo
Today’s drill is fairly easy! First an easy descend into the wide valley of Jispa and then a short uphill to the lonely village of Patseo.From this point onwards, the enormity of the mountains strike you. The jarring isolation is absolutely gripping. There are few other vehicles or habitation and the topography rapidly turns harsher. In the far distance, the snow topped Himalayan Range starts appearing. We spend a night in the fluttering tents as the nights get windier. The gushing sound of the Chandra river keeps us company for the night.
Distance cycled: ~ 50km/31miles
Day 6: Sarchu
Look forward to your first big pass today – Baralacha La. But before that, a serene large pool of water, Suraj Taal (Lake of the Sun God) warrants a quick stop take in the solitude and beauty of the place. This will be no easy feat as you ascend slowly to a wide expanse of nothingness and probably some snow. The pass stands at 16040 feet and connects the Lahaul district of Himachal Pradesh to Ladakh in J&K. Stunning mass of nothing more than lose rubble, decree and small mounds of stones piled on top of each other manage to make a breathtaking scene. It is advised to stay here no longer than 10-15 minutes. After the short stop, we descend to the flat but extremely windy camps at Sarchu.
Distance cycled: ~ 60km/37miles
Day 7: Sarchu
Also, known as Sir Bhum Chum, Sarchu has developed as a necessary stop for most travellers. Rows of tented enclosures have propped up on one side of the road. This is a good place to relax and acclimatize your body further to the altitude now. Spend a day resting and catching up on stories from the road with other travellers or walk across to the drooping chasms between the mountains to stretch down and see the Yunam River below.
Day 8: Whisky Nullah
An intriguing name to a destination always adds an extra thrill to reaching there. The 21 asphalt loops of Gata spice up the ride even more till you climb up the reddish cliff to reach Nakeela pass and then spiral down to Whisky Nullah. This is where you stat seeing massive rocky conical outcrops along the way – these look like huge anthills and are a favourite with photographers. On reaching Whiskey Nullah, we pitch tents to rest for the night.
Distance cycled: ~ 56km/35miles
Day 9: Debring
We stretch ourselves a little with the distance as the Morey plains allow us a smooth, though dusty, ride across. But first, it’s up to the second highest pass of the route, Lachalang La and then the comforting descent to Pang. A short switchback climb and you are on the Morey plains plateau. Only two things can make you slow down here: the gusty sandstorms or a lone Changpa Shepherd with his yak herd.A ‘middle of nowhere’ feeling is thrilling in the Morey plains. Stop for a quick snap of this vast expanse before you hit the pedal to reach Debring. Camp 20km below the second highest pass of the world; Tanglang La at 5360m! Surviving the hard-hitting wind here is reason enough to feel a sense of achievement. And to share your thrill, you might have herds of Kiang (Tibetan wild ass) by the road.
Distance cycled: ~ 82km/50miles
Day 10: Rumptse
Cross the quivering Tibetan flags at the Tanglang La monument, the next stop is Rumpste. Cycling today is quite demanding, with the massive peculiar rock formations the only respite to keep you distracted. After the pass, the switchbacks swivel you down by 1200m into the village of Rumpste. This is the first permanent settlement of Ladakh on the road from Manali. Take a break at Rumpste to reminisce over the purplish-brown hefty stalwarts you have overcome till now. We stay overnight in tents.
Distance cycled: ~ 50km/31miles
Day 11: Leh
The barren topography soon acquires colour as you start seeing fertile land near Upshi. A fresh scenic countryside replete with villages, bright green patches of green farmlands, large furry dogs lazing around and children making their way to school infuse some interest in the vicinity. We cross the Indus River, towards Thiksey monastery and finally reach Leh by evening. With ten days on the road, it’s time for a warm bed and a hot shower in a guesthouse.
Distance cycled: ~ 90km/56miles
Day 12: Leh
It’s a much needed rest day as you get time to unwind and explore the town. The hectic market selling jewelry, masks and artifacts makes for an interesting walk. The meandering narrow lanes of the old residential area are also good to see the typical Ladakh architecture with low roofs, bright windows on white washed walls with a large kitchen in each house. Ladakhis are shy but generous: if you are lucky, you may be invited in for a cup of tea.
Day 13: Leh
The highest motorable road – Khardung La Pass in the world will be a piece of cake, having done the journey so far. Today, we head out early to cross the most formidable challenge of the last 12 days. You cycle through the rugged mountains, scree and tricky stretches. No doubt that this is a sharp ascend, cycling up is worth your effort for a hot cup of black tea and some maggi noodles at the pass. Even if it bright and sunny on the day, you are bound to find more snow than any of the passes before. The descent from here will be the final one of the trip!
Distance cycled: ~ 40km/50miles
Day 14: Shuttle to Leh Airport
The trip closes as we provide transfers for you to reach Leh airport.