I’ve been wanting to visit Ladakh for quite some time. I came to know that Youth Hostel organized a mountain bike tour through ladakh and jumped at the chance.
Initially I was hoping to fly into Srinagar and then go to Leh, however with the ongoing problems in Kashmir, I decided to fly directly to Leh. I landed to a splitting headache and spent most of my first day resting and trying to overcome Altitude Sickness.
Felt slightly better today. The day starts at 6 am with the youth hostel staff blasting loud music. Tea is served at 7am followed by breakfast at 7.30am. By 8-8.30 we are done with food and have the full day in front of us. We did a group walk through Leh market, Polo grounds and Leh palace in a bid to acclimatize ourselves to the altitude.
This was our first bike ride. We decided to ride past the airport, stop at Army’s Hall of Fame and take lunch at Spituk Monastery. Getting there was a breeze as it was all downhill. Coming back was a completely different experience. My breathing wasn’t yet normal and the constant uphill battle was extremely laboring. I started having my first doubts on whether bicycling in Ladakh was such a great idea. The stretch from the new bus stand to Leh gate was the most brutal and I walked the entire route (The walking technique was well employed on future rides)
After finishing tea and breakfast, we started for Basco Camp. We were promised that the ride would be on a flat path. Of course no one mentioned the wind. The head wind was so strong that the bike would stop whenever we stopped pedalling. We stopped at the Patthar Sahib Gurudwara for lunch at their langar. Post lunch ride was downhill and we reached Basco fairly quickly. What we did not know was that Basco town was fairly long and the camp was a further 5km uphill.
Basco Camp gave our first reality check. We had left most things back at Leh, assuming other camps would be adequately stocked. The bathroom was a ladakhi style dry toilet. Drinking water, washing, bathing had to be done by the stream and obviously no hot water available.
Compared to the last couple of days, the ride from Basco to Nurla was fairly easy. We travelled along the Indus river for the most part. Nurla camp was beautifully situated on the Indus River. There was a scenic rope bride behind the camp as well.
We left Nurla for Lamayuru. The road from Nurla to Khalsi was pretty straightforward with few uphill climbs. A little past Khalsi once you reach a monastery on the stream, the road took a steep upward climb to Lamayuru. I walked most of the uphill route. We all stopped at Moon land for a scenic packed lunch. Lamayuru was a beautiful place, almost like one of the forbidden places in Tibet. The Lamayuru gompa overlooks the town and we even had a bit of sleet snow at Lamayuru.
We headed back down towards Khalsi. While the trek/bike up to Lamayuru, from the base, took 2-3 hours, we reached down in 15 minutes. Once we reached Khalsi, youth hostel had a bus ready and we put the bikes on the roof of the bus and drove back down.
Day VIII & IX:
Once we were done with our bicycle ride, we rented a couple of Enfields to head into Nubra Valley. The ride to Hundar was beautiful, while the views from Dikshit Monastery were amazing.
All in all, it was a pretty enjoyable trip. I met some funny people from Pune and Mumbai and while I’m enjoying the down time, it might be fun to start dreaming of the next adventure.