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Leh to Manali, India 2000

Leh to Manali, India 2000

This trip started like most things do over a couple of pints; a few weeks later Jack and I were booked on a plane to India

The mountain  Kingdom of Ladakh lies in Northern Indian high in the Himalaya, the Leh to Manali traverse is a three week trip incorporating pretty much what can be described as the highest road in the world, with a number of passes over 15,00ft. the highest en route is the Taglang La at 17,582ft .

We flew into Delhi and spent the first day absorbing the atmosphere, the next day we were up early taking the flight to Leh.The flight over the mountains is breathtaking as you watch the land disappear below crossing the watershed from the monsoon area to high altitude desert..all too soon the plane is making the steep descent into the airport, flights are restricted to early morning due to the rarefied atmosphere.

The Indus river flows along the valley floor providing water for irrigation, the narrow strips of green farmed land clashing starkly with the barren rock moonscape that surrounds it..Stepping off the plane your head begins to swim and the headache follows almost immediately, you have just landed at about 11,500ft and your body soon begins to let you know all about it.A short taxi ride to our hotelis followed by sweet tea and bike building, dehydration can cause problems in this atmosphere and you have to ensure you take on enough liquid particularly in the first few days.

The first ride of the trip is a gentle ride back from one of the many monasteries in the region plenty of interest for you culture vultures and a roof high enough to spot the next bit of singletrack to take us to the valley floor.The rest of this first week is spent on acclimatisation rides with the support jeeps taking us progressively higher before kicking us out for the next huge downhill.This week also allows the trip guide to assess everyone's riding ability or lack of in some cases.

The first week culminates in a jeep ride to 16,500ft and a ensuing 3 hour ride uphill to over 18,000 ft and the highest motorable pass in the world the Khardung La.   The effort even after a week of getting used to the altitude is immense, even the smallest of obstacles becomes a major challenge, standing up after a few moments rest makes the head spin, after a cup of chai its back don to the valley floor at 11,500ft.

We take the jeeps to Hemis the following day and to one of the largest monasteries in the region, from here we start our road trip to Manali.

There is only one road so route finding isn't that difficult everyone rides at their own pace meeting up for food and camp at the end of the day.The Jeeps are always an option if the effort becomes too great..Our first nights camp is at the base of the Taglang La the second highest road pass.After and early breakfast we hit the long ascent before the sun gets high and the temperatures increase.

Over the next few days we take in the Lacha La, Baracha La Pang, Whisky Bridge, the Mori Plains, the Gata Loops a series of 21 hairpin bends spread over a huge descent, blocked by army trucks the day we rode, leaving us no alternative but to take the many short cut footpaths between the loops, its possible to shave in the region of 40 miles of the overall trip by taking these shortcuts and the final pass of the Rhotang La.

The Rhotang la marks the water shed from dry valleys to lush alpine style trrain and the edge of the monsoon zone.We arrived on a cloud shrouded peak, ate our diner in the cab ofone of the trucks and set off on the 30 mile 6,000ft descent.

Visisbility was terible and soon only Jamie Jack Nigel and myself were hurtling down the tarmac together leaving the others and the trucks to descend at their own slower pace.We cleared the cloud but visibility improved little due to the driving rain, we dodged cows sat in the road and took the odd shortcut between bends, but conditions dictated we stay on the tarmac mostly, Jamie had a near miss on an off the edge of the road excursion slamming his front wheel into the tarmac as he fought to get back up onto the road he buckled his wheel, only bale to continue by disconnecting the front brake.

We arrived at the hotel in Manali, wet and cold, our clothes were still heading down the mountain and we drank T in our rooms waiting for some dry ghia.

Nigel Jack and I hired a jeep the following rest day to take us back to the top of the Rhotang La for another descent on what was booked as a rest day, the weather cleared and allowed us to see the route we had taken the day before, disappearing into the distance.