Cycling The Himalayas

About the trip

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Location: Himalayas, Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh province, India.

Eventhough we stayed in India for the duration of the trip it was really hard to call an India trip. Why is that, I hear you ask?… Well, because India and the northern parts of India, that lie at the feets of the mighty Himalayas are like day and night. There are no masses of people or stench in the streets, no smog. The air here is pure, in stead of people you find beautiful, huge mountains and in stead of cities you get mountain passes.

This was as it becomes traditional to us, a one month long trip (between the July 29th and August 26th). We cycled about 1000km on the route which led us from Shimla across the valleyes of Kinnaur and Spiti near the Tibetian borders to the Leh-Manali highway, which has an average altitude of 4km. We have also crossed one of the highest motorable mountain passes in the world with 5,330m of height.



The last day in Lithuania we talk to a couple of fellow travellers about what is cycling to them, what kind of feelings are they going through before the trip and how do you prepare for a trip like this.


Our route


Warning! All of the recommendations below are only relevant travelling on the same route as us, during the same time period. You should always seek for a more detailed information about the situation from locals and other people who travel there constantly.

  • It is forbidden to transport Indian rupies in and out of the country. Remember to exchange the left over money before you leave.
  • A lot of people are going to come and help you with your luggage at the airport: they are pushy and persistent. If you give in and let them help you, you are gonna have to pay up. We were asked to pay 20$ each, but since we didn’t ask for their help and were in no mood to argue we ended up giving them 2$.
  • The locals are gonna try to profit from you. There are hidden fees all around. If you have an overnight transport – you’re gonna pay for the food, for the accomodations. We were even asked to pay for air conditioning in the mini-bus 4$ for 10km. We had 400km left, so we declined.
  • Only the SIM cards sold in Ladakh region work there. You are not gonna be able to use other SIM cards even if you bought them in India. There is also a lot of beaurocracy in attaining the SIM card – filling out the forms, you have to have passport photos. The card is activated (or not) within 48 hours.
  • There are certain places in India where you have to have permits to travel in. A couple of examples: Tibetian border (permits are available at Shimla, Rckong Peo, Kaza). There are also places in Ladakh – Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri, Nubra valley (all of the permits can be obtained ONLY in Leh).
  • There are lots of places to get the food, water and accomodations within the route we did. Almost all of the small settlements have at least a small inn(Dhaba). You can get drinkable water quite cheap (mostly a fixed price of 20 rupees). You can also take a water filter to be on a safe side, however, we only used ours a couple of times. Even though it is not recommended drinking water from the nearby streams, having watched locals do it, we did it ourselves.
  • Carrying a tent is almost pointless. There are very few possible camping sites from Shimla to Kaza and even though it is possible to camp in Leh-Manali highway, it is usually a lot simpler to just stay at the roadside tents, where you can also have a meal.
  • Most of the places we travelled in Himachal Pradesh province had cell phone coverage, as well as electricity (even though very unstable) with a notable exception being a town called Tabo, where they didn’t have electricity for the past 2 months.
  • Be ready for the unexpected to happen. The roads in Himachal Pradesh are in a very poor state – most of them getting landslides dayly, which can be really dangerous if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We had to wait one day for the locals to clear the road. We tried to cross it by carrying our stuff over but after one very close call, we decided that it’s better to just wait. Another time, we had to wait for 3 days for the locals to clear the mudslide…
  • Contrary to the most information sources, it DOES rain in Ladakh :) There can even be some severe showers. One of which sneaked upon us, while descending from 5km mountain pass. Being in an altitude like that completely soken wet, it can potentially get life threatening, so be careful.
  • Finally, it goes without saying, the roads in India are very dangerous! Always be on a look-out!