Tuesday, October 29, 2013

National Himalayan Mountain Biking Expedition - Leh

“A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile
than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.” ~ Edward Abbey

This post is about the Cycling Expedition I did in last month, Sept 13.
Click on images to have full screen view.
This is my second expedition with YHAI, first is National Goa Biking Expedition, read blog post here.

About YHAI: [ from yhaindia.org ]

MISSION:
Our mission is to enable and promote travel, tourism, adventure spirit, national integration and
Education & Health by providing hostels of good standards to millions of youth of limited means during
their travel at affordable rates on a sustainable basis and by organizing adventure and educational
events and to develop understanding among youth about social & development issues.

VISION:
To become a centre of safe, affordable and clean accommodation for young people during their travel,
to encourage youth travelling in India and education & understanding through personal experience.

Leh Mountain Biking (LMB):
YHAI started LMB in 2007, for some reasons they couldn't continue.
In 2013, LMB was resumed and I was able to make it, hope continues.

Route Plan:
The routes and camps are very well planned, planned in such a way that any person can easily do.
Even if someone wish to walk (cycle intermittently) entire course of route, still he/she will be able to reach destination camp before dusk.

Assistance:
Not all times, but available whenever required.

Day wise schedule:
Day 1 : Reporting in Base Camp, Leh
Day 2 : City Walk [Acclimatization]
Day 3 : City Ride, Visiting local monasteries [Acclimatization]
Day 4 : Leh to Basgo
Day 5 : Basgo to Nurla
Day 6 : Nurla to Lamayuru
Day 7 : Lamayuru to Khaltse
Day 8 : Breakfast, depart.

Daily Schedule:
Tea and Snacks.
Breakfast and Pack Lunch for afternoon.
Welcome drink and snacks at destination.
Dinner
Milk + Bournvita

Day 1 : Report and Rest
Took a flight to Leh from Delhi, arrived early in Leh.
Leh Airport is actually a military facility, very few flight fly to and from Leh.
Went straight to Base Camp, located in Uppar Tukcha, Leh.

View of Leh from flight.

A view from Base Camp


YHAI, Base Camp

Cycles lined up for the ride.

As one has gained a altitude of 11000 ft above sea level, it is highly recommended to take proper rest on first day.

Saw few people leaving from base camp itself, as they couldn't cope up with the altitude.
After seeing them, I became very cautious, had a good breakfast and rested.

Came out to have a look leh city, its a small city with very good and modest people.
Made new friends, as I started found a small hill just back of Base Camp with "Shanti Stoopa".

Me along with new friend started to climb the hill, after a few steps we started panting, taking deep breaths, cause of lack of oxygen.

Day 2 : City Walk to get Acclimatize

A city walk to get acclimatized with altitude and introduction with new friends.
The walk to about 4Kms, started from base camp, goes though shanti stoopa, leh city, ends in market.
You can buy things you forgot to carry or do some shopping.

Shanti Stoopa, Leh


Mane - Buddhist prayer wheel, you find these in most places.
Chants are written on the mane, on rotating its believed to spread positive energy and peace.
Mithun Das, camp leader briefing team about the program, route, etc.
Mitun is a great cyclist, awesome personality, ready to help and go-to person for whole of my stay in Leh.
He has traveled length and breadth of country on cycle, deep respect.
Awesome landscape of Leh.
Day 3 : City Ride to get Acclimatize
Another day to get acclimatized, a city ride.
The ride goes through leh market, Airport, Hall of Fame till Spituk Monastery and back(~16Kms).
Hall of Fame, museum which show cases local culture, Flora fauna and military ammunition.
View of leh from Spituk Monastery can't be explained in words, see pics below.



Another visual treat, watching Globe Master C17 landing (IAF Cargo).
Any flight landing in Leh, comes from between of two mountains.

Incredible view from Spituk Monastry, Leh
Day 4 : Leh to Basgo
Here starts the actual Mountain biking, a 32Km ride to Basgo.
Rides goes through beautiful landscapes, every sight appears to be a wallpaper.
Gurudwara, Magnetic Hill, Basgo Monastery are the places to watch on the way.



Lovely Leh - Snow capped mountains, shining clouds, blue skies.

Blue skies, bright clouds - beautiful from every angle.

Friends posing at the Magnetic Hill, Leh


Exercise extreme caution, as the road has steep climbs, down hills, deep valley on one side.
A girl from our team lost balance and fell, broke her wrist.

Cute kid, when i say pose...she keeps her hands like this as if she is ready to fight.

Basgo Monastery

Pathar Sahib Gurudwara:
Gurdwara Pathar Sahib, is a beautiful Gurudwara constructed in the memory of Guru Nanak.
Tea and Snacks are served all the times, Lunch is served from 11:30AM.
Don't take pack lunch, if you wish eat here.

Magnetic Hill:
Magnet Hill is a gravity hill located near Leh in Ladakh.
The hill is alleged to have magnetic properties strong enough to pull cars uphill and force passing aircraft
to increase their altitude in order to escape magnetic interference, while in fact, this is a purely optical
effect caused by layout of the surroundings

Basgo Monastery:
Basgo Monastery, also known as Basgo or Bazgo Gompa, is a Buddhist monastery located in Basgo or Bazgo in Leh.You can have a nice view of surroundings from Basgo Monastery.

Day 5 : Basgo to Nurla
The ride to Nurla too gives great view, ~42Kms from Basgo.
This route too has steep climbs and down hills, caution caution..

Sunny start from Nurla 

Climate changes very frequently, better do cloth in layers.
It was sunny when we started from Basgo, as we moved forward all of a sudden it became cloudy,temperature dropped and cold winds started to blow.

"The" route.

Leh is all yours, rest whenever needed.

A rough patch on the way to Nurla.

This is place we stayed in Nurla, just on banks of Indus.
Fall short of words to explain the beauty of this place.
De-tour:
Alchi Monastery falls on the way, you can take a de-tour to visit them.
The artistic and spiritual details of both Buddhism and the Hindu kings
of that time in Kashmir are reflected in the wall paintings in the monastery.

Nurla Camp:
Our camp at Nurla is located just on the banks of Indus River.
Great location, gives nice view of plains around.
Even the stay was awesome, nice food

Day 6 : Nurla to Lamayuru
The ride to Lamayuru is no less than any other, ~32Kms from Nurla.
Village Khalsi falls in between, place where you can buy dry fruits have nice lunch.
Almost all the way you can see Indus and Zanskar river tributaries on one side and mountains on the other.
Be cautious as loose stone falling from mountains can be dangerous, don't stay too close.

Small bridges across River Indus

Be alert all the times, at few places roads got washed away.

Mighty Lamayuru Climb.


Another endurance stalwart , Sumit Patil.
Sumit is the third Indian to get qualified for RAAM, he's participating in RAAM-2014.
An inspiration to many athletes, do check sumitpatil.com, wishing him all the best.
Only water source on the Lamayuru Climb.

Be ready for break-downs, myself fixing a flat Tyre.


At moonlands, Lamayuru.

Lamayuru Monastery


Last 7Kms to Lamayuru appears to be difficult, but not exactly, its all mind game.
There is a water point on way, known as Oasis, you can have chilled water here.
On a sunny day this is the only place which gives shade.

Moonlands:
As you cross Oasis and approach towards you will be greeted by series mountains which appears unlike earth and people call "Moonlands" and Lamayuru Monastery on the other side.

Day 7 : Lamayuru to Khaltse(Khalsi).
This is the easiest ride, all you need to do is 12Kms downhill till Khaltse and load cycles onto bus for Leh.
In khaltse dry fruits are available at cheap prices,do take few home.

Here is a video of Lamayuru downhill.


Moonlands, Lamayuru



Unloading cycles, Leh


On the way back you can visualize each a every rock/turning/uphill you were through in last 3 days.
Like "this uphill was a killer; ran out of breath here; almost died; what a landscape;etc"

Day 8 : Breakfast and Depart.

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” ~ Tim Cahill

Other:

People in Leh are self sustained, you can see wide farming,people doing some thing or the other.
I saw a couple building their home brick by brick, which is rare sight now a days.

Leh is known for its handi crafts, you can get nice embroidery t-shirts.
T-shirts can be customized.

Plucking and eating farm fresh apples, no wax, no pesticides....tasty.

Animals (dogs/donkeys/yak..) here adapted themselves to cold with growing fur.

Tips / Observations :
- Keep a day or two to get acclimatized.
- Leh and around places are dry cold deserts, keep well hydrated.
- Eat before you are hungry, drink before you are thirsty.
- You may see blood stains in sputum, this is because of dry atmosphere, nothing to worry.
- At higher altitudes, one doesn't feel hungry, but skipping meals may make you fall sick.
- Better to keep alcohol at bay.
- Non-veg is not served on full moon days in Leh.
- Leh is known for handi crafts, you can get some shawls, carpets at cheap prices.
- Do explore the local markets, many things in store for you.
- Dry fruits are lot cheaper.
- Respect local culture, don't use camera inside monasteries and temples.
- Carry Gatorade/energy bars.
- Carry a tool kit for minor repairs.
- Use Bungee Cord to tie luggage to cycle.
- Carry minimal and required luggage only.
- Inform others if taking a de-tour.
- Carry a whistle to call fellow team members on ride.
- Don't throw garbage, do carry them to base camp.

Check List:
Two pair Track suits  Enameled or Steel Mug / tumbler  Documents  
Woolen gloves  Plate  Membership Card 
Woolen socks  Spoon  Medicines  
Warmers  Water purifying tablets  Dusting   powder 
Sweatshirts  Pen knife  Multi purpose head wrap
Two Jackets  Needle, Thread  Padded Cycling shorts
T Shirts  Rain sheet  Sun screen lotion
Cotton Shirts  Spare buttons  Energy bars 
Slacks  Goggles  Gatorade powder
Cotton Pants  Cold cream / Vaseline  Water Hydrator bag.
Sun Cap  Soap  Camera + Batteries
Shoes  Toilet Paper  Memory cards 
Socks  Towel 


Pardon me for such a long post, Leh / Ladakh deserves this.

NOTE : The camps, locations, distances mentioned are from LMB-2013, please refer YHAI website for latest details.