Bicycling Destinations

Spiti valley on a bicycle – Part2

Continuation from Part 1.
So far, we had got to Pin Valley and halted at Mud for the night having decided we spend an extra day here at as a break/non-cycling day and do some trekking of the place. This is 2nd part and conclusion, so read on…

Day07 – 11 July 2016

Morning, we headed out on a trek of roughly 3km (one-way) and a hill climb which my friend Guru and the Swiss couple managed to climb to the top, while I failed with just 10 feet left to the top. Sheepishly sought help from our guide (likely in his early 20’s and very familiar with the mountains there but naturally) to get back down the hill. Had lunch that was packed for us (Tibetan bread, vegetable curry, boiled egg, biscuits and juice) and walked back to our place of stay. This rest day/break was good to finish up with my laundry. Then bath, dinner and off to bed.

Day08 – 12 July 2016

Settled accounts at this home stay having had our breakfast and started our ride down towards Kaza. Reached back to the diversion point to Pin valley at 11am. From here it was all broken gravel road and rolling terrain. Reached Kaza by 12:40pm. At the Y junction, left leads to the local market. We took the right to look for place for stay. Was surprised and all too happy on seeing a Decathlon store here. We got to a hotel (familiar to most cyclists/bikers) for lunch and then continued onto ride up to reach Lanza at about 7pm. Got to a home stay owned by a lovely family with their lil’ daughter being the sweetheart. Total distance covered for the day is 62.5km.

Day09 – 13 July 2016

Got up late today. Had breakfast and started out by 10am. We passed by Hikkim rode further up to reach Komic at 11:45am. Met a couple from Delhi who were travelling in their 4 wheeler. Visited the monastery here, had tea while we chatted up for a while and set out to Hikkim by 12:45pm. Few more vehicles with tourists turned up here. One gentleman came up and being rather intrigued by us having cycled up to here, took our snap. Was a bit strange for me but was all smiles anyway. By about 1:15pm, we reached Hikkim where stood the highest post office in the world. We sent postcards to our dear ones from here. Rode down to Kaza by 3:10pm. Reached the same restaurant as the previous day for lunch. Having freshened up at the hotel of stay closeby, the Swiss couple and I decided to walk down to the local market. Stephane and I were excited to stop by the Decathlon store, like little kids at a toy store. Then headed down to the German bakery for a quick bite which wasn’t that good. A pleasant walk down to the market place and then got back to the hotel.

Day10 – 14 July 2016

Settled accounts at our place of stay and with breakfast done at German bakery, started to ride at 9:20am. On the way we met another cyclist from Spain (can’t remember him name) on his Kona touring bike loaded up with Ortlieb panniers and extra set of tyres, going the opposite direction. It sure is exciting to meet another cyclist on such trips. Chatted up and exchanged information regarding road conditions ahead and place to eat/stay. A gradual climb on good tarred roads till we reached the Key monastery by 11:50am. The Swiss couple and Guru decide to trek up the hill behind the monastery while I choose to wait in the van. Why? Well, the mid-day heat isn’t really a good time of day to be doing a climb. Chatted up with our driver/guide and a Llama of the monastery until they returned. Continued to ride up and with just about 5km to go, it started to rain good for a short stretch and then after a non-stop climb to reach Kibber by 2:50pm. Distance covered today was 21km.

After a quick freshen up, we had lunch at about 3:15pm. Having loaded up our bikes on top of the van, we bid bye to the lovely Swiss couple and headed on. Stopped by a tea stall in a village on route for tea. Bad roads all the way till we reached Losar by about 7pm. There, possibly the only luxury hotel (a non-local set-up that would attract tourists more than travelers) was fully occupied. Hunted around for an alternate, decided on one (nothing to complaint about here), freshened up, had dinner and slept.

Day11 – 15 July 2016

We were ready by 7am. Unloaded the bikes and started to ride by 8am. A good climb to Kumzum La (La = Pass). Reached the top to find the Kumzum Stupas with the snow capped mountains as a backdrop. Was chilled and peaceful out here. We met an Austrian lady who was waiting for her husband (to hitch a ride from their base camp), so they could start their trek up to Chandra Taal (Taal = Lake). Guru decided to not ride from here for his bike’s brakes had worn out and he was rather hungry. So I continued on riding downhill wherein the roads were laid with large stones through and through making for a difficult and slow descend. Further on, a km of climb then a good off-road ride to the camp site of Chandra Taal which was indeed fun. Reached camp site near the lake by 12:50pm. Total distance done today 42km.

Had lunch by 2pm and had a short nap in one of the tents provided, while my friend trekked up to the lake along with two other cyclists who where there too. By 4:30pm, woke up and chose to be driven close to the lake. Took a walk around the lake in a clockwise direction (correct way/auspicious) as the lake is considered holy with its story linked to the Hindu epic Mahabharata. Later got back to camp site to have dinner after a chat around a bonfire. Slept early as we had to start early tomorrow by 5am definitively to avoid water logging on route ahead.

Day12 – 16 July 2016

Start early by 5am. Drove over cobbled uneven bad roads, all the while mesmerized at the sight of the mountains partly covered in clouds making it seem like they were floating in mid air. Later somewhere along the road, an Innova (4 wheeler) with a family of tourists, was stuck amidst a rocky area where water flowed across the cobbled pathway. It needed 4 locals and 3 motor bikers to get the vehicle out. Fortunately, our vehicle Tata Sumo got though with ease. Must add here that the Toyota Innova isn’t quite the right vehicle for this rough terrain. All along the river flowed by to the left of us. We got to Chatru for breakfast. Upon crossing the bridge here to continue on, the river now flowed onto the right. All along, my mouth was open with awe of the landscape that seemed from another world or as if taken from the Hollywood movie ‘Lord of the Rings’ or ‘Avatar’.

Soon we approached Rohtang Pass, the fog increased making visibility difficult ahead. As we descended from here, the traffic started to pile up making for a very journey as if in slow motion. Finally, we reached Manali by about 2pm. With 2 hours to spare, we had lunch at a small dhaba (suggested by OM, our driver/guide/friend), then settled accounts with Guru. Was dropped off to the bus station near the main market area. Boarded the bus for Delhi at 4pm. This part was a rather boring and arduous journey to bear with. Realized that I should have booked a return ticket from Chandigarh rather than Delhi which would have reduced travel time on a bus considerably.

Day13 – 17 July 2016

Reached Delhi in the morning at about 7:30am. There was still time, so met up with a good friend of mine at a landmark/hotel, very close to the airport. After catching up, she dropped me off to the airport on time.

Reached Bengaluru with my mind still playing a slide show of the sights I saw during the trip. How I wished I never came back to this city (like any other populated one) that bustled with vehicles in which people honked profusely. What is it with humans and horns? Damn it!

Do’s and Dont’s

  • There are several postings of the Indian army in the region. So do NOT take photographs of the army stations/base as a personal memento or to share on social media.
  • At Buddhist monasteries, do maintain silence. For jabber-mouths – kindly shut up.
  • Do ask permission before taking snap/s of people/monks.
  • Do take off your footwear and keep them aside before entering temples, monasteries and/or home stays even (if they say it’s ok). This is as a mark of respect to them.
  • Do NOT wash/clean your feet and/or your entire body (however clean or dirty you are or think you are) in lakes and clear flowing water streams. It is source of drinking water for the local people there.

For those looking forward/wanting to do a similar trip cost-effectively:-

  1. Plan and book flight tickets for the trip set 2-3 months ahead to reduce on costs on flights.
  2. Ideally 3-4 participants/friends can team up to split/reduce the cost (per person) of hiring a local backup vehicle (preferably a Sumo/Scorpio/Force/Xylo) for the trip.
  3. Each participant would need to be rather conservative with spending on food and accommodation that is simple yet functionally appropriate.
  4. Pack your check-in luggage wisely – concise and practical. Essentials/money/important-stuff as carry on.
  5. There are reasonable/cost-effective hotels/home-stays at every village/town along the way so camping in tents will not be required unless reducing costs is on priority and lugging extra weight is okay.
  6. When talking to foreigners, do not put on an accent. They are quite capable of understanding English in our native Indian accent.
  7. There is no need to carry along a DSLR (expensive cameras) with those bazooka lens. A decent point and shoot camera will do just fine. Make sure to carry along extra pair of batteries and memory cards.
  8. Bring along a power bank (fully charged) as there are places where in there might not be any power or place to charge your mobile phone/usb electronic devices.
  9. A BSNL post-paid connection works best in most if not all regions. So carry along a basic phone with a BSNL activated connection.

Hope this is of some help to those wanting to do this route or similar. Travel safe, live and prosper.

One comment

  • Raji
    February 24, 2020 - 3:00 am | Permalink

    Hi Thanks for this blog it is helping me a lot. Thank you so much writing. Right now I am planing this trip with 6 of my cycling buddies. But I’m sure the numbers will dwindle. I need your help. How can I contact you, if you don’t mind kindly share your email. Thank you.

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