Welcome to all my fellow adventure seekers and cyclists from around the globe, let me take you on a breathtaking Himalayan journey from Manali to Leh on my bicycle. So, better strap on your helmets, grab your water bottles, and get ready for an unforgettable cycling expedition that will test your endurance, captivate your senses, and leave you with memories to cherish for a lifetime. Along the way I passed 5 high altitude passes that truly tested the limits of my endurance and stamina while giving the most breathtaking views this route has to offer. In my blog, I’ll take you through the exhilarating journey from Manali to Leh, highlighting the pre-expedition training and the awe-inspiring experiences that await you along the way.
Embarking on a Manali to Leh cycling expedition requires both physical and mental preparation. It is essential to condition your body and mind for the challenging terrains and high altitudes you will encounter during the journey. In the months leading up to the expedition, I engaged in a comprehensive training regimen. Let me brush you up on some of the important factors that one has to train in order to complete the Manali to Leh cycling expedition while enjoying the dynamic change in landscape and vivid terrains that one has to conquer.
- Cardiovascular Fitness: Cycling is an endurance sport, demanding a strong cardiovascular system. I focused on building my endurance by incorporating long rides into my training routine. Gradually increasing the distance and intensity, I prepared my body for the arduous journey ahead by simulating the conditions I would face during the actual expedition.
- Strength and Core Training: To tackle the demanding uphill sections, I incorporated strength training exercises into my routine. Squats, lunges, and planks helped strengthen my leg muscles, while core exercises improved stability and balance on the bike.
- Altitude Acclimatization: One of the biggest challenges of this expedition is acclimatizing to the high altitudes. To prepare for this, I engaged in altitude training, gradually exposing myself to higher elevations to allow my body to adjust. This included hiking in nearby mountainous areas and spending time at high-altitude destinations.
- Mental Conditioning: Long-distance cycling requires mental fortitude and resilience. To prepare myself mentally, I practiced meditation, visualization, and positive affirmations. I also studied and familiarized myself with the route, gaining a deeper understanding of the challenges and rewards that lay ahead.
After weeks of training, I was finally ready to embark on the much-anticipated Manali to Leh cycling expedition. Even after leading multiple high altitude treks and mountaineering expeditions, this test was something which was extremely new to me and I was sure that it would stretch all my limitations to new heights. And oh boy! It sure did, here is a day-by-day account of the thrilling journey:
Day 1: Manali to Marhi (36 km)
We made our way from Naggar, a quaint but lively village in Kullu district to the vibrant town of Manali by car and then we mounted our cycles and began our journey. Leaving the bustling town of Manali behind, I pedaled through the lush green valleys and charming villages, passing through Nehru kund, Palchan and Kothi. The first day of any expedition was particularly hard, but it was especially harder as I had to peddle on the upwards slopes. The scenic beauty of the Kullu Valley accompanied me as I gradually ascended towards the first overnight stop at Marhi.
Day 2: Marhi to Sissu (50 km)
Leaving Marhi, the journey took me above the tree line and into rocky and grass filled terrains. The initial route started off with an upward climb in the high altitude region near Rohtang pass, but the magnificent waterfalls provided a refreshing backdrop and the cold splashes from the same fueled me to take the journey ahead. After finally reaching Rohtang pass, I felt a sense of relief as the difficult part of today’s journey was over. As I was taking pictures at Rohtang pass many tourists came up to me with great admiration as they were facing difficulties breathing in that altitude and I had just cycled there. These small gestures from the people around gave me even more inspiration and I mounted my cycle once again and started pedaling. From Rohtang pass it was an easy downward trail where I could go full speed without putting in any effort. Within moments I had covered a large amount of distance and reached Koksar. As I made my way towards Sissu, a small village nestled amidst the mountains I found many tourists and defense officials who waved towards me to give me more support. At Sissu, I along with my team rested in a cute homestay.
Day 3: Sissu to Jispa (53 km)
The next morning I was ready to start once again in the rugged terrain of the picturesque Lahaul Valley. The towering mountains and the gushing Bhaga River accompanied me along the route, and on the high mountains I could see immense glaciers fueling the river. Before reaching Tandi, the place where the Chandra and Bhaga river meet to form the Chandrabhaga river the road goes downhill and I could again speed up my bicycle and zip though. At Tandi, I decided to take in a breather and witness the meeting of the Chandra and Bhaga river. From there the route was a mix of uphill and downhill crossing villages like Keylong and Istingiri and then finally leading to Jispa, a serene Himalayan village known for its stunning landscapes. There we halted at the ABVIMAS Institute’s Jispa branch for the night.
Day 4: Jispa to Zingzingbar (60 km)
Leaving Jispa, I knew I was going to encounter one of the most challenging sections of the expedition. The steep climb tested my endurance, but the panoramic views of snow-capped peaks and azure lakes were worth every drop of sweat. The amazing Deepak Taal brightened the view even more as I saw an innumerable number of tourists who had flocked to see the crystal clear water of this high altitude lake. From Deepak Taal, we continued our journey towards Patseo, an army settlement to protect the border roads.I reached Zingzingbar, where I camped for the night, surrounded by majestic Himalayan peaks.
Day 5: Zingzingbar to Brandy Nallah (68 km)
Continuing the ascent, this day was by far the most adventurous day I had encountered on the journey. On this particular day I was not feeling at my best and even thought of skipping the day’s ride as I felt daunted by the colossal challenge that lay in front me- Baralacha La. The weather conditions at that kind of altitude change dramatically in a matter of minutes. Starting from an overcast sky to scorching sun rays and then to light showers. A complete drama which could beat any hindi TV series made by Ekta Kapoor. I put all my might I reached Baralacha La, I could stay there for as long as I had wished as the light showers at that altitude made me shiver, forcing me to start my descent. After a thrilling bout of cycling, I reached Sarchu, a high-altitude plateau that served as the gateway to Ladakh. From Sarchu, it was more or less a comfortable ride through plain lands leading to Brandy Nallah. An obviously funny name kept by the Border Road Organisation amusing the tourists who cross that area.
Day 6: Brandy Nallah to Pang (46 km)
Pedaling further into the heart of Ladakh, I traversed the awe-inspiring Gata Loops—an impressive series of hairpin bends. This is probably the most demanding section of the whole route, because personally I thought it was never going to end. The never ending loops finally end just below Nakee La. From there onwards we have another descent journey to Whiskey Nallah, by this time I was thinking these BRO people really know how to party, by the amusing names they have kept. To my amusement, after Brandy Nallah, the road climbs towards Lachung La which is another high altitude pass. The altitude was tangible, but the sense of accomplishment pushed me forward. I set up camp in Pang, a small settlement surrounded by dramatic mountains.
Day 7: Pang to Debring (52 km)
Leaving Pang, I cycled across the breathtaking More Plains—a vast expanse of flatlands at an altitude of over 4,500 meters. The sheer vastness of the landscape was humbling, as the snow-capped peaks seemed to touch the sky. I reached Debring, another small settlement on the Manali-Leh highway where we spent the night.
Day 8: Debring to Rumtse (46 km)
Another day and another high pass which needs to be passed, that is what I have started to feel throughout the journey. By now I had crossed 4 high altitude passes and now it was time for the last one before we descend down to Leh. On reaching the top of Tanglang La, I felt exuberated and complete. From Tanglang I descended down to Rumtse a quaint village, and we were welcomed by warm smiles of the area.
Day 9: Rumtse to Leh (76 kms)
The final stretch of the expedition took me through the picturesque villages of Upshi and Karu. As I approached Leh, the capital city of Ladakh, a mixture of exhaustion and exhilaration surged through me. The prayer flags fluttering in the wind and the welcoming smiles of the locals marked the end of an extraordinary journey.
The Manali to Leh cycling expedition is a truly transformative experience, pushing you beyond your limits while immersing you in the unparalleled beauty of the Himalayas. From the pre-expedition training to the awe-inspiring landscapes and the warm hospitality of the locals, every moment of this journey is etched in my memory. So, fellow adventurers, pack your bags, pump up those tires, and let the Manali to Leh cycling expedition be your ultimate adventure of a lifetime.
What I felt on this journey can never be describes but here are some of the things which I could put down in words describing the feelings and emotions I felt from start to the end.
- Anticipation: As I stood at the starting point in Manali, anticipation coursed through my veins like an electric current. The anticipation of the unknown, of the challenges and triumphs that lay ahead, filled me with a mix of nervousness and excitement. The sense of embarking on a grand adventure, surrounded by like-minded individuals, heightened the anticipation and set the stage for an unforgettable experience.
- Awe and Wonder: As I pedaled away from the bustling town of Manali, the majesty of the Himalayas unfolded before me. The towering peaks, adorned with snow-capped crowns, seemed to reach the heavens. I was awestruck by the grandeur and magnificence of nature’s masterpiece. The vastness of the valleys, the serenity of the lakes, and the ruggedness of the terrain left me humbled and filled with a profound sense of wonder.
- Determination: With each pedal stroke, determination became my constant companion. The journey was not without its challenges—steep ascents, treacherous descents, and unpredictable weather tested my physical and mental strength. But with unwavering determination, I pushed forward, conquering every obstacle that stood in my way. The satisfaction of overcoming each challenge fueled my resolve to keep going, no matter what lay ahead.
- Exhaustion and Resilience: Cycling through the high-altitude regions of the Himalayas demanded every ounce of energy within me. There were moments when fatigue threatened to overpower my spirit. But it was in those moments that I discovered the depth of my resilience. I pushed through the exhaustion, drawing strength from the breathtaking landscapes around me, and embracing the support of my fellow cyclists. The sense of accomplishment that followed each day’s ride eclipsed the weariness, fueling me with renewed vigor.
- Connection with Nature: The unparalleled beauty of the Himalayas fostered a profound connection with nature. Pedaling through pristine valleys, surrounded by majestic mountains and crystal-clear rivers, I felt a deep sense of belonging. The symphony of nature—birdsong, rustling leaves, and rushing water—served as a constant reminder of the intricate interconnectedness of all living beings. It was in these moments that I truly understood the healing power of nature and the importance of preserving its sanctity.
Solitude and Self-Reflection: The vast expanses and solitude of the Himalayas provided ample space for introspection. As I pedaled in solitude, my thoughts turned inward. The rhythm of my breath, the cadence of my pedals, and the solitude of the mountains allowed me to delve into the depths of my being. I contemplated life, its purpose, and my place in this vast universe. It was a time of self-discovery and self-reflection, creating a harmony between my mind, body, and soul.
- Joy and Triumph: The culmination of each day’s ride brought immense joy and a sense of triumph. Reaching the day’s destination—a quaint village or a picturesque campsite—was a testament to my perseverance and determination. The camaraderie of fellow cyclists, sharing stories of the day’s ride, further magnified the joy and sense of achievement. Each evening, as the sun dipped below the mountains, I basked in the glow of accomplishment and reveled in the triumph of the human spirit.
- Gratitude and Humility: Above all, the Manali to Leh cycling expedition instilled within me a deep sense of gratitude and humility. Gratitude for the opportunity to witness the raw beauty of the Himalayas, to immerse myself in its untamed wilderness, and to connect with its resilient people. Humility in the face of nature’s grandeur, realizing my place as a mere speck in the vast tapestry of life. The journey reminded me to cherish every moment, to embrace the unknown, and to be grateful for the wonders that exist within and around us.