The road so far and the road ahead (to Ladakh)...

By @Saravana |

Ladakh was the reason why i decided to take my bicycle with me to the Himalayas. The lure of cycling in the mountains with its crisp blue skies and snow capped peaks was too enticing to ignore. I had traveled Ladakh by motorcycle back in 2008, but this time i decided that a bicycle would be a better option. Going by cycle meant going slowly.. a 200km trip from, say, Leh to Pangong lake which can be done in a single day on a motor cycle would take 3 to 4 days on a bicycle. Which means stops in the smaller villages, seeing more sunrises & sunsets, more photo opportunities and more interaction with the local people. I had the one thing which i did not have in my other trips, the luxury of time.

 

Then i thought that if i was going to be cycling in Ladakh then i might as well cycle TO Ladakh. I knew that i was in no shape to tackle the road but i had a get fit plan. It was brilliant, so i thought. First spend a month in Rishikesh learning yoga, then spend the next month slowly making my way to Manali on my bicycle visiting all the interesting places in Himachal Pradesh. Then by september 1'st i'll be in Manali fit and ready to tackle the road to Leh.

 

Initially everything went as per plan. I did my yoga course in Uttarkashi, did a short trek to Gangotri afterwards and then rode from Uttarkasi to Rishikesh. So far so good.. but then the rains started getting heavy and i met a friend and we decided to travel together. My cycle was left behind with a kind gentleman in Palampur (Himachal Pradesh) and we went traveling through the state. It was raining most of the time and every day we heard stories about floods and landslides happening all over the country. The rains even blocked us from going to Spiti valley by jeep.. leaving my bicycle behind was a good decision. I knew that after september the skies would be clear and i'll have no trouble tackling the Manali-Leh route.. albeit a little less fit than what i hoped to be.

 

Which bring us to today. Its September 22nd and im in Manali. I was all set to start cycling today (the excitement of the trip kept me up for most of the night) but i woke up to an overcast sky. It started raining around 7am and 8 hours later, at 3pm, it still hasn't stopped. I could very well imagine what the state of the roads to Rothang pass would be.. knee deep in mud & slush and probably blocked by landslides.

 

Time, which was a luxury i had on my side is slowly slipping away. Its almost October now and getting cold. The road to Leh stays open till late october but its subject to the weather conditions. Heavy rains down here in Manali would mean that its snowing in Rothang and probably even in the other high passes. Apart from the issue of the passes being blocked by snow, there is the other issue of the availability of food. After Daracha (some 150km from Manali) there is no permanent settlement for about 250km till Rumtse in Ladakh. Food and accommodation is by way of the various parachute tent dhabas set up along the way by the local people. Some say that these dhabas shutdown by the end of september.. but i believe that they would stay open as along as there is some traffic on the road. But its one heck of a gamble to take.

 

Considering all this, i've now decided to play it safe. When the weather clears (the forecast for tomorrow, 23'rd Sep, is good). I will cycle to Keylong.. see how the weather is on the other side of the Rothang pass, check the state of the road and then decide whether to continue marching on or call it quits and hop on a jeep to ladakh. In any case i owe it to myself to atleast cycle up to Rothang pass and see how i cope with the steep roads and the altitude. Hopefully the next 2-3 days would provide me a clearer picture.

 

Guess we'll have to wait and watch how it all pans out..

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