I touched down at Leh international airport at 0630 hrs for my YHAI cycling expedition. From airport, me along with my friends left for Leh base camp. It was advised that we rest for the entire day to get used to the weather at 11000 ft. By evening all our group members arrived, a total of 31 eclectic people.
Next day was acclimatization where we had to walk a few km and then climb the Shanti Stupa, some 800 stairs. Shanti Stupa is one of the oldest monasteries in Leh. Reaching at the top, we were greeted by serene and peaceful view of Leh. Rest of the day we spent exploring the city and its many attractions.
Day 3 we were transferred to Lamayuru base camp by Bus. It was 3–4 hrs journey. At Lamayuru we got our bikes, the Trek MTBs. Evening we went for a trial run, 3kms downhill then back up. During this trial run we were supposed to check the gears, brakes etc.
Next morning we left for Skur Buchan. It was a downhill ride for 5km then a flat road along the Indus river. We stopped for lunch around 1pm near a water stream. After lunch we rested for few moments and continued our ride. We reached Skur Buchan camp around 4pm. Welcome drink was served, followed by tea and snacks. Skur Buchan is a small village surrounded by mountains with the Indus river flowing alongside. The night sky was vibrant with stars.
We commenced our journey back to Lamayuru camp the next morning. It was mostly a smooth ride. We met our next batch on the way who were going for Skur Buchan. Just before the 5km uphill ride, there was a monastery where we had our lunch and rested for few minutes. We completed the arduous uphill ride in around 2 hours and reached the Lamayuru camp. We had our usual welcome drink, snacks and dinner and went to bed. Tomorrow was a crucial day as we had to climb Fotu La top, the highest point on Leh-Srinagar route.
Next day we prepared our-self for our assault of Fotu La to reach our next camp at Heniskot. The route was challenging with lot of hair pin bends. It was a climb of 3500ft over a course of 6kms. We had been advised to reach Fotu La top before 2pm, as after that the weather gets too harsh with strong head-winds. Me along with few other riders reached the top around 12.30pm. It was a great sense of achievement. From Fotu La, Heniskot is around 12 km of downhill course. We started our downhill ride to Heniskot after clicking few pictures. The downhill was one of the most amazing downhill I have ridden till date. It was a well earned one which we covered in mere 15mins, cruising at 60–70 kmph.
The Heniskot camp was also located near the banks of river Indus, with big mountains surrounding it. Next day we were supposed to go back to Lamayuru camp and end out trip.
Last day of our expedition, we started from Heniskot and reached our destination Lamayuru by Lunch time. Bus was waiting to transfer us back to Leh camp. We reached Leh camp by evening, got our certificates and said good bye to other group members.
After the expedition I still had three days to explore Leh. Few of the group members had also stayed back to explore Leh. First day we went to Pangong Tso Lake on Royal Enfield Bullets. The ride was exhilarating. On the way to Pangong we crossed Chang La, the third highest motorable road. Upon reaching the lake, we were awestruck at the beauty of the lake. It was calm and beautiful. We stayed there at night in a home stay. The hospitality was good. Next morning we traced our path back to Leh.
For the last day, I along with five other group members rented MTB’s to climb the mighty Khardung La, located at 18,000 ft. The ride was going to be tough since we were already tired from the Pangong journey. We started at six in the morning. It was 45kms of gradual uphill from Leh. We were not prepared for this. Of the six of us, two managed to reach till South Pullu. They have to head back from there as they were feeling dizzy and nauseous due to low oxygen. Me, along with two of my friends reached till 14000 ft, 6 km before South Pullu. We were too feeling dizzy. Unable to continue further; we too decided to head back. The Last person could manage to reach till 12000 ft only and he has to return from there itself.
Though we failed in our attempt to climb Khardung La on human powered bikes, we were happy that we attempted it. We will one day come back and do this again.
Each one of us learned something or the other from this unforgettable experience. We are mesmerized by the beauty of the mountains and would want to come back again and again; till then we have a memory of a lifetime to relive.