9 days, 480 kms and 5300 mts : A Surreally Challenging Expedition !!
Like many ladies, my first adult bike (Merida Matts 20-MD) was gifted to me by my husband. I had all intentions of taking it to places but over a period of two years it was relegated from the Lift Lobby to Balcony to the store room.
One fine day, the day I was dreading arrived, when my husband said,
“You NEVER ride the Cycle, OLX par bech dein ?” (Shall we sell it on OLX?)
Hearing this, I wanted to dive into hubby dear’s tool box and show him stuff that has NEVER EVER been used!! However, it soon dawned on me that even if you want to sell, nobody really wants to buy the bamboo sticks that were yet to be turned into book shelves or the home made solar cooker yet to cook anything in it !!
So cycle it was !
And if I wanted to save it from the clutches of OLX, I had to act fast.
HOW THE CYCLE GOT ROLLING:
One thing led to another and soon I was cycling with a group of Lady cyclists I could identify with.
It no more felt silly that a group of women in their late 30s were going to bed early on friday nights so they could ride their bikes around in circles early Saturday mornings. It was my first taste of riding in a group at speed, long distance and I loved it.
Within a month of cycling, I realised that it was getting addictive and I needed a bigger and more challenging goal. The idea of Cycling from Manali to Leh, traversing through some of the highest passes in the world,cutting across beautiful trails made it a hard thing to beat!!
It's a different high when you realise that you are at the highest pass or the highest city or the highest post office of the world. I think the Superlative 'Highest' makes it very tempting.
I hired the services of Cycleit, who took care of our cycling and support arrangements. Our team comprised of 3 riders, 4 Support Staff , Nitin our Tour Leader from Cycleit and Professional Photographer Varun!
All the photos were taken by Cycleit and shared with the participating cyclists (part of the package).
Manali to Leh cycling is very surreal. This is that once in a lifetime event that cyclists around the world dream of.
The Manali Leh cycling expedition takes you from dirt tracks to some tough climbs along with gut-wrenching descents. Everyday the distance covered ranges from 40 to 80 km traversing altitudes over 4000 m. It takes on an average (depending upon the distance covered everyday of course) 9 days to cover this distance.
What Does It Take to Cycle from Manali to Leh ?’ !!
There is obviously a lot more to it than a six-bullet-point list ! The preparation would be different for each rider depending upon the rider’s previous Riding Experience.
I AM NO SPRING CHICKEN TO GO ON SUCH EXPEDITIONS UNPREPARED! Having Been There and Done That I am a more mature person and I would list out the following as a Non-inclusive list of what it takes to do the Manali Leh Expedition !!
Family Support : I would rate this as THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR! If you are Married! With Kids !! There is no escaping this very important factor : FAMILY SUPPORT!! You might be physically or mentally strong, you might have the best of the MTBs, you might have all the money and time for the expedition but if you don’t have Family Support it is going to be a steep climb (literally and figuratively).
Mental Strength : Coming to think of it, I can’t think of anything in life which is not dominated by mental strength! No matter how physically strong you are, you need to be mentally strong for this expedition : You would come across passes where you can see your destination and yet it takes hours to reach, the mental strength will pull you through!
Physical Strength : The long days and not so friendly terrain demands high physical fitness. To prepare you body, start jogging regularly. You must be able to do 10 km in 60 minutes twice a week for 4 weeks (Well I definitely wasn’t this fit but this is a good benchmark).
I worked on my core muscles and general Strengthening for a month. I also went on Ketosis and was able to shed few kilos before the expedition.
Respect for your body : Do not ignore the signs of altitude sickness but respect it. Do not push yourself too much at higher altitudes and respect your body. Given my trekking experience, I was very conscious that my heart and my legs were in sync with each other! This helped me conserve energy!!
The Kung Fu Nuns!
On our way we met 170 Buddhist nuns of the Drukpa order who are also known as the Kung Fu Nuns.
They were cycling all the way from Nepal to Leh!
What we observed was that their Rinpoche (spiritual teacher) made them take periodic rests and so the brave nuns could cycle their way with ease even uphill .
HAPPY TO BE BACK : Three of us badly tanned happy to finally reach the Delhi Airport!
WHAT DOES IT COST ?
Personally, it cost me close to Rs 70k. This cost includes accessories like cycling gear, cycle spare parts, Expedition operator charges (includes food & accommodation), transportation charges and few other miscellaneous charges.
Hope this blog post helps you in preparing for this surreal expedition !!
This is an abridged version of the original post which I had authored on https://bhataktimaa.wordpress.com/2016/09/28/manali-to-leh-cycling-part-2-what-does-it-take/#more-823. Since then I have started blogging on https://lighttravelaction.com/