Bicycling Destinations

Spiti valley on a bicycle – Part1

Delhi – Shimla – Spiti – Manali – Delhi (04 – 17 July 2016)

Prior planning
Plan for a recce of the route from Shimla to Manali via the Spiti valley was put down by my friend Guru. Five friends came forward to join this trip but three of them dropped out due to unforeseen reasons leaving with just Guru and me. This change significantly increased the cost per person which I wasn’t too happy about but a trip I wanted to do nevertheless. Booked our flight tickets to Delhi and back. Started out packing my new 50 ltr backpack from Decathlon (that I wanted to try out) with required clothing/gear but realized it wouldn’t be sufficient and so switched to my 60 ltr (tried and tested) backpack that had more room with a separate zipped partition at the bottom for footwear and such.

Backpack consisted of the following:

  • Clothes (2 quick dry towel, 7 inner wears, 6 half sleeve cycling jerseys + arm covers, full sleeve cycling jersey, 3 cycling shorts, track pant + t-shirt for the night, 2 pairs of thermal innerwear, inner fleece jacket)
  • Medical kit (tablets, band-aids, cotton roll, gauze pads, powder for small cuts/wounds, sprain relief spray)
  • Electrical kit (cables, batteries, chargers, miners lamp, bicycle light)
  • Toiletries kit (brush, paste, shaving kit, shampoo sachets, soap, sun block, wet wipes, tissue roll, deodorant)
  • Bicycle tool kit (spare tube, spanner, pliers, puncture fix, hand pump, zip ties, cleaning cloth)
  • Washing kit (washing soap/powder, small brush, laundry bag)
  • Footwear (Walking shoes, floaters/flip-flops, 5 pairs of socks)
  • Rain coat+pant, pant cuffs, cycling gloves, cycling helmet, glasses with interchangeable lenses, 2 neck buffs, beanie, 12 ltr. waterproof sling bag, UV trekking hat.

During travel –
Trouser, shirt, inner wear, outer warm jacket, socks, water-resistant shoes.

Waist pouch/Bum bag –
Android phone, basic phone, power bank, usb charging cable, wallet, pen, compass, chapstick, ear-plugs, torch, point and shoot camera + pouch.

All set followed by the wait up to the start date. Route planned below:


Day00 – 04 July 2016

Mine was a 1pm flight and so landed at Delhi airport by about 3:30pm and then got a pre-paid taxi to Mandi House where from the volvo bus leaves at 8:30pm for Shimla. Met my friends Guru (who had reached earlier) and Tej (who was already there having done another Manali-Leh trip). Tej had to leave back for Bengaluru, while Guru and I boarded the bus for Shimla. On route, somewhere near Sonipat, the bus stopped for a dinner break. Then after it was just a night journey, with varied thoughts of what lay ahead.


Day01 – 05 July 2016

Reached Shimla by 5am in the morning and we get off close to Mall road and walk up the zig zag road till we got to the Heritage Walk area. All shops were closed and some people were doing their routine morning walks, while we kept ourselves occupied taking pictures and walking about with our luggage till the nearby cafe opened up at 7:30am. We had our breakfast here and waited until our support vehicle (along with two bicycles that belonged to Guru) came over to pick us up. Drove on to stop at Lathi for lunch. Continued on as we passed through the hot, dusty and crowded town of Rampur, fueled up at Duttnagar, then we get off the highway as the road leads up to the quiet town of Sarahan (pronounced Sah – run). Decide on a place of stay there for the night, freshen up and we walk down to Shree Bhima Kali Ji Temple. No cameras, mobile phones, metal objects allowed inside the premises here. An orange coloured head-gear (mandatory for anyone visiting the temple) is to be worn before entering the shrine here. Much after, we had dinner at a dhaba nearby and retired for the night.


Day02 – 06 July 2016

Got packing and unloaded the bikes down. Guru had his bike – KHS Alite fitted with comfort grip handlebar ends, mechanical disk brakes and Schwalbe marathon tyres while I got a Giant Revel fitted with V-Brakes and Kenda block tyres. Sigh! this is where I really missed my bike – Rockrider 5.3 fitted with mechanical disk brakes, bar-end grips and Schwalbe Marathon tyres.

Started out by riding downhill from Saharan to stop a few kms before Suru for breakfast. Rode upto Jeori and then continued onto Wangtoo, then Tapri with crappy road all way. Stopped at Karchham by the bridge for a short snack break. From here, a climb all the way to Sangla and then onto Chitkul. Here foreigner on his bicycle caught up with us and introduced himself as Dan – a strong Brit cyclist who has been on a 2 year tour on his Thorne touring bike with Vaude panniers fully loaded. Guru and Dan rode ahead while I chugged along falling behind with passing of minutes. 8km short of Sangla, I couldn’t ride as my legs started to cramp up and hurt. Another km ahead, they too stopped and decided that it would get late by the time we got to Chitkul. So the three of us loaded up our bikes onto our vehicle and drove up. Stopped at Sangla for lunch and continued on to reach Chitkul by about 7pm or so. With no electricity in this little settlement at that time, we managed to find a place to stay for the night, freshened up and had dinner. Total distance covered for today was 74km.


Day03 – 07 July 2016

Morning came and we were up and ready to ride. We had breakfast, took pictures and started riding by 9:40am. Rode back down the same route to reach Karchham by noon. Dan lead us to an eatery located in a narrow lane closeby (where he had had his lunch the previous day). At a shop next door, I was perplexed to know that Rupee One still held value – for a tiny little packet of crispy noddles meant or kids. Continued on from here and then started the climb to reach the town of Reckong Peo. Here, Non-Indians would get their visas/permits for their visit. It was however late today and so Dan would have to get his visa the next day. Guru decided to not ride from here and drive ahead to Kalpa to figure out place of stay. Meanwhile, Dan and I had an ice-cream at a shop nearby and continued on the climb up to Kalpa. Distance between the two of us gradually increased very soon till he was out of sight. Good roads on this stretch but strong headwinds made the last couple of kms an intense climb. I was on the verge of giving up, but something about the place encouraged me on and finally reached Kalpa after having covered 72km in total for today. Got to the place of stay, from where Guru and Dan cheered me as I rode up. The view of the mountains from here was a sight to relax the nerves. Freshened up, did my laundry, bath and then followed by a relaxed dinner with beer to end the day.


Day04 – 08 July 2016

Up by 7am. Settled accounts at the hotel. Dan had to head out to get his permit. So Guru and I bid him farewell and continued on our way. Bad gravel roads all the way till we reached a small settlement named Spillo by 1:15pm having covered 50km. We had lunch here. After confirming with the locals about the road conditions ahead, I decided not to ride any further and this was a good decision. From here, we loaded up our bikes and headed to Pooh. The roads ahead were infact terrible and to add to it was the boring sights around. If you were to close your eyes and after a distance open your eyes, the landscape would look no different. Further on the way, there was rock blasting/clearing going on that had us stuck for nearly an hour. Only a couple of kms till Pooh had clean tarred roads. Finally reached Nako at about 5:30pm and settled into a hotel facing a small lake. This little village was quaint, clean, quiet and serene. We spotted tented accomodation from afar that looked inviting. Got there to enquire and realised it was expensive and didn’t give an authentic feel to the place. Looked for other options and found a local/simple yet functional place to stay.

Here we met a French couple and their 3 kids who were on their bicycle tour. They had one cycle with a carriage attached to the back, 2nd was a tandem bike with a recumbent attached in the front, 3rd was a Btwin Rockrider bike for their eldest son and another tiny bike for their younger kids, apart from their luggage and camping gear. Kudos to this family!


Day05 – 09 July 2016

Started at 8:45am after breakfast consisting of porridge and locally made apple juice. Initial 5km climb followed by a descent. We noticed a few cyclists below and much ahead. We got to the base of the hill to catch up with these cyclists only to realise they were from the Indian Army who were on a training/outing exercise. After having spoken to them, we continued on riding on further broken roads. Reached Sumdo at 12:15pm having covered 36km so far. There was nothing available to eat here. Till Geu all climb and bad roads. Last few kilometers was seemingly never ending with only quick whiffs of cool breeze patting the back as though encouraging to ride on. Finally reached at 2:30pm with a distance of 49km covered. Found a nice homestay here to halt for the night. Had tasty Maggi and then after refreshening up we drove to the temple that was not too far away. Note that the temple closes by 5pm. The new shrine is being constructed with the local folk of the village putting in their time and effort each day in turns to build this structure, with the help of monetary offerings given by the visitors coming here. Back at the home-stay, a bunch of bikers with bikes (having MH registration) turned up and ended up camping here for the night.


Day06 – 10 July 2016

Start from Geu at 8am after breakfast and settling accounts with the person incharge of the homestay. Rode on for 34km to reach Tabo by 11am. Visited the Monastery and then packed some lunch at the hotel next door. From here we continued on to Mud (pronounced as Moodh). Stopped at some tree shade to the right of the road at about 2pm and had our lunch consisting of sandwiches. Road conditions has been not good. Reached the road diversion leading to Pin Valley. From this bridge onwards tarred roads but broken all the way. Got to Mud and to our chosen place of stay. Total distance ridden today was a good 67.5km.

Here we met a lovely Swiss couple – Stefane and Christine who both were doing a tour on their bicycles loaded up with Ortlieb panniers and a backpack (luggage weighing a total of roughly 70kgs per person).

Freshened up and later we chatted up with the Swiss couple about their travels over dinner.

3 Comments

  • Chethan
    July 22, 2016 - 6:35 am | Permalink

    It was like I was there, nice blog, u having the time of your life.

  • Gavin
    July 22, 2016 - 8:16 pm | Permalink

    67.5kmmmmm

  • Jai
    July 22, 2016 - 11:05 pm | Permalink

    Enjoyed reading the first part. Looking forward to the second part. 🙂

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