A six days bicycle trip in Himachal Pradesh, Spiti

The incentive for writing this note comes from encouragement from a couple of friends and after reading a greater cycling epic written in poor taste(where the writer is so full of himself that he never sees the people, not understanding the present or the history of the places he goes through).  The six days that I spent cycling in Spiti was a good round trip of about 350Kms, entering from Kinnaur and exiting to Manali, provided an opportunity to observe nature and a brief interaction with local people. Finally at the end of the trip, you realise that the image of Spiti being the remote roof of the India border with China is in reality well inhabited with villages every 10 Kms or so and where you find the hard labouring work force from as far as Nepal and Bihar.

I never knew it would be such a difficult mental struggle to decide and be able to go for a cycling trip alone to the Spiti valley in 2009. The mental struggle was with convincing myself that I could do it, convincing my family that doing it alone was safe and reasonable thing to do and some existentialist worries of middle age. I left Delhi carrying my cycle on a four wheeler for Rampur, telling myself and my family and friends that I will put my cycle on a bus and come back if at any time I want to return.

The doubts linger on for a very long time and vanish only when I hit the road, saddling up at a place called Poari, loading my sleeping bag, some clothes and a mattress on the cycle. I will have to learn how to tie my stuff better during the day stopping many times to ensure that it is in place and does not hinder my pedal movement.

The mental preparation of all the fears and doubts really helps. The moment you are in the pristine landscape of higher Himalayas, away from the routine traffic, just the joy of being where you have so desperately wanted to be on a cycle and dreamt about, lifts your spirits as you move the pedals.  Its worth it you know and the small amount of physical training of doing 30 Km trips daily trips is sufficient.

Cycling on the roads of high Himalayas in Spiti with its inhabited territory and the spectacular landscape of bare mountains, the snow fed Satluj, Spiti and Chandra rivers is different from some other remote corners of India and perhaps Ladakh mountains. In Ladakh, the famous Manali‐Leh route over 3 high passes, I have heard is more or less a busy highway nowadays with traffic and few inhabited settlements on the way.

Cycling  on  the  mountain  roads  is like  trekking,  if  you  have  a  good cycle. I use a “Trek 3700″ cycle with a wide “Bontrager” rear tyre and a narrower  “City  Ride”  front  tyre.  A large  three  litre  Camelback    water bottle is an absolute must in the dry climate  and  was  completely  empty by  the  end  of  the  day.  I  carried  3map
extra tubes, a mini hand pump and a  few  wires.  On  an  average  I covered about 50 Kms a day in 4 to 5 hours with two to three hours of rest  added.  Fortunately  I  had  no puncture  on  the  entire  trip,  only some adjustment of the gear system and a drying chain that tends to curl up on the front chain sprocket, that I was able to fix on my own. A back of the envelope map by my friend Mohit served as a guide.

As in a trek in the mountains, the slow cycling pace allows you to observe and listen to the sounds of nature and the stories of the local people you meet on the way and take as many photographs as you want. You are not worried about parking, simply dismount the cycle and take a standing rest, a photograph and a sip of water. Much as we learn about others, this interaction allows us to, if we are honest, to question our own understanding of the world, our assumptions and judgements. Like any other adventure, on the first day of cycling I first explore my mental comfort and physical fitness.

Starting from Poari(on the main road head of Reckong Peo about 150Kms from Simla). The trip had begun with the  first  strapping  of  bags  on  the  cycle  and  a  few  stops  to  adjust  the  setting  of  the  bags  to  your  pedal movements. With the couple of people asking you where you are from and why going alone, one can only shrug ones shoulders as an explanation. I would have certainly liked to have a friend as company but then in middle age you do not have friends like in college days who can come along on short notice.

The advantage of starting from Poari and not from Simla or Narkanda is that one is able to leave behind the high traffic as well as the 3 huge hydroelectricity generation tunnel dams that have been built on Satluj river at Karcham, Naptha‐Jhakri and Sangla. The dams have added about 5000MW of electricity by taming the Satluj river at three points within a 50Kms flow, in the process made a mess of the 50Kms of road. There is dust and debris all over and even driving is not fun. Whether any environmental review was done for 3 dams to be sited so close and the disposal of huge amounts of debris from the tunnels – is questionable. The impact this is having on the ecology and livelihoods of the villages(with sinking land due to tunnelling and depleting water tables) is another concern. The first day of cycling took me 60Kms from Poari to Puh. The road tracking the Satluj river from the left to the right and then again to the left bank. Cut out from the rocks like a cave in some places, the valleys are more open and vegetation still thick and green. An afternoon stop at Jangi for lunch and a nap makes you realise that the sun is very hot in July. The local people tell you that beyond Poari/Sangla you have a more arid cold desert conditions, however they tell that this year has been a very bad monsoon and even the winter snow was  very  poor  in  many  parts  of  Himachal  Pradesh  leading  to  severe  water  crisis  and  apple  and  otherpooh horticulture crop failure.

Cycling up to Puh is pleasant and as I gain confidence  that  it  is  possible  to  start cycling  at  6,000ft  and  not  have  to  push the  bike  at  this  altitude.  A  police  check post ahead of Jangi on way to Puh, does not bother about registering a cycle and let me go. Further on, a black luxury car suddenly stops and a young couple kindly stop  and  ask  me  if  I  need  any  help  as  I have dismounted and am taking a picture. When  you  are  alone  people  are  more helpful.  With evening/night  setting  in  I realise  that  the  last  5  Kms  to  Puh  is  a steep ascent that I had not factored in my plans.  Having  started  late  from  Poari  in the morning(I had ferried my cycle from Rampur  to  Poari  by  local  bus  hence starting at 11am), and having had a meal and afternoon rest at Jangi, I have to push hard for the last 5 Kms to reach Puh. On the way I see three labourers from Bihar cutting stones and a “no plastics drive” by local officials to enforce the shopkeepers not to stock plastic bags and to burn any plastic wastes. At Puh I am able to buy a cheap pair of gloves that I badly needed and had forgotten to carry in my state of heightened anxiety, and use it throughout the trip gratefully. The hotel I stayed in cost me Rs.300 for a night and was run by Nepalese people on rent.

The names Karcham, Recong Peo, Poari, Jangi, Puh, Nako, Tabo, Kaza, Losser and Kunzum La – remind you that you this territory does not share the traditional Indian names of Simla, Rampur and Narkanda that you have left behind. The culture of this region therefore tells you that the history Kinnaur and Spiti is a region that was part of the Tibetan culture. That this territory is now in India is because India and China have both claimed
parts of Tibet as their own, while blaming each other for being the aggressors.
I begin early on the second day from Puh as the “back of envelope iternary”(that my friend had given me), tells me that today will be a 30Km steep climb. The climb is steep and it is 30 out of the 45Kms long. The vegetationkhab is all gone and the first views of the great  bare  multicoloured  mountains
of massive proportions all around you, greet  you  as  you  turn  left  from  the point where Satluj river leaves India to enter China at a place called “Khab”( Satluj  is  called  Khabab  on  the  other side of the border in China). At Khab the  Spiti  river  meets  with  Satluj  and you  leave  Satluj  to  follow  the  Spiti  river. The climb is long and sustained but the gradient is not too steep. By the time you reach Nako village, you have  climbed  atleast  2,500  ft.  The road  is  good  and  there  is  also  a  tea shop mid way at a small village. The 3 litre camelback water bottle runs out at the mid way point, the cycle starts giving some trouble with the gear shifting.

Just before Nako, taking a rest after the second hair pin climbs, I meet a man waiting for a bus. Rajaalam is a civil contractor from Bihar who builds houses. From him and from several other workers and contractors in Kinnaur and Spiti valleys, I come to know that there is a major construction boom taking place. First it was the Nepali labour that had come in a few decades ago to cut the roads – something that the local labour was scared to do. Now that the connectivity is there and with it has come in the orchards and lucrative summer peas farming in Kinnaur and Spiti valleys ‐ more housing construction is taking place. Rajalam starts telling me the story of his life, how he has worked all his life in difficult terrains, first in Sikkim for 10 years till he fought with another contractor and had to leave, not getting decent work in the plains of UP and finally coming here.

Some other Nepali workers I later on meet close to Kaza also tell me that they have worked in far away projects in Indian Himalayas for the past two decades. There is therefore a professional category of people who work on tough construction and infrastructure jobs(dam building, road cutting). Majority of the early migrants  doing  the  toughest  jobs  were  Nepalis  and  their  contribution  is  hardly  recognised.  Besides  these professional labourers, there are many now new migrants from Bihar, Jharkhand and UP, coming up seasonal odd jobs to Spiti. It is these workers that now make the economy of Spiti run, as is also the case of Punjab. I estimate that each village in the Spiti valley(there could be as many as 500 villages in Spiti district alone) having atleast 10 to 20 migrant workers who work for atleast 3 months a year. Many more work for the Army or the Border roads organisation and on the tunnel dams that are coming up.mtn
Cycling the final 5 Kms toNako once again turns  out  to  be  as  difficult  as  the  last stretch to Puh. In all it takes me 5 hours to cycle the 45 Kms and about 3 hours to rest in between. Having started at 7.30am from Puh,  I  reach  Nako  at  4pm.  The  village  is small with a lake that is touted as a tourist attraction along with a monastery. The lake turns out to be a small village pond inside the  village  and  an  overpowering  smell  of dung  and  urine.  I  prefer  to  stay  outside where a cheaper hotel is available, again at Rs.300 a night. The hotel I stay in is run by a Nepali worker on rent, like in Puh.

Having  reached  Nako  and  eating  Thupka( Chinese  food  is  the  local  food  here)  and Momos, I convince myself that I need a rest day  to  gather  my  strength.  However  the next day by 11am I am restless and wanting to go. I decide that I will stay at the next village(Sumdo or Chango) and leave at 11am. There is a climb from Nako to the Maliag Nala(named after the village Maliang that is next to Nako but does not have any hotels), infamous for being the worst landslide on the whole route and where many a holiday makers have had to turn back.  The  tallest  peak  in  Kinnaur  called  Reo  Purguil,  lies  in  the  direction  from  where  this  mighty  rivulet emerges. Fortunately for me, this year the road to the snout of the Maliang Nala is small with no landslides and I am able to cycle through about half feet of water. What follows is a 2000ft descent towards Chango village. However all along the way and the 20Km descent,river the big mountains turn into different colours with  the  changing  sunlight  as  it  happens  in Ladakh. Besides the violet and orange colours of rock, there are white/cream coloured sand dunes  that  emerge  as  you  descend  to Chango. There is little traffic and as a cyclist you are held in awe, in the silent wind swept environment. Chango village with its fancy name turns out to  be  a  peas  growing  commercial  hub  of Kinnaur. The village is a couple of kilometres

away from the main road and I am told does roaring  business(it  sold  green  peas  at Rs30/Kg at farmgate price last year). I decide to cycle on. The Dalai Lama has come to Kaza and therefore entire villages that fall on  my  way  are  empty.  There  are  families packed  in  jeeps  going  to  Kaza.  The  Indian border with China at Sumdo/Kaurik holds the other  police  check  point  where  the  Station House Officer turns out to be from Punjab and shares his hardship of life at this remote place and offers a welcome cup of tea. He tells me that he is able to visit his home in Kangra valley every month on the pretext of following up on some old police case.frns
The  road  from  Chango  to  Tabo  moves  along  the roaring Spiti river and you can hear the sounds of rockfall  from  the  high  mountains  around  you  as well  as  hear  the  mighty  river.  On  this  relatively traffic‐less road, the sounds and sights make for a great  feeling  and  as  a  cyclist  friend  told  me  on return – “very meditative”. I was only conscious of the  gradient  that  I  found  was  within  my  comfort zone and I pressed ahead of Hurling towards Tabo. On the way I meet a school teacher who is waiting for a bus in front of a small village on the other side of Spiti river. He tells me that this is a punishment posting  for  him  because  of  his  political  leanings. The high mountains remain the last refuge of the people who are either pushed out from the plains because of grinding poverty like the labourers or like this teacher for their political differences.

Five kilometres before Tabo a PWD Guest House, on a quiet road head of Lari village, with a board, “Tourists are welcome to stay” is difficult to resist. Its getting late in the evening and I decide to halt here, completing 55Kms of cycling in less than 4 hours. To be pleasantly surprised to find at the rest house three people on two motorbikes. Vivek, an ex colleague in CARE and Sam and Lincy are very kind and generous. Vivek and I quickly share an update on our lives and I certainly feel very good to have company. Going alone was out was not myvalley preferred  choice.  They  are  heading for Tabo to see the monastery while I rest.  The  guest  house  is  very comfortable. Even at 8.30pm the sky still has some light and we sit on the terrace  to  watch  a  beautiful  moon rise  taking  pace  from  the  north eastern horizon. This is a good quiet place  to  be  with  friends  or  family. One  of  the  most  beautiful  and comfortable stops I will have on this trip.

The  next  morning  offers  stunning views of the mountains behind Tabo with  the  morning  light  grazing  the mountain  tops  and  whisps  of  clouds sticking to the snow clad peaks like a painting.  With  a  good  rest,  I  start again at  7am  on  the  hird  day  and head  toward Kaza I  have  my breakfast  at  Tabo  because  the chowkidar has left for Kaza. The valley opens up and so does the Spiti river from its roaring  rush to its open meandering quietness. The view is spectacular. Tabo is resting in front of brown and golden mountains with snow icing. As you move ahead of Tabo, the backdrop is replaced by another set of faraway high peaks that form the grand backdrop to Kaza. The valley keeps turning and the each time there is a grand mountain behind a great wide valley with yellow and greens.

My  motorbike  friends  are  visiting  the monasteries  along  the  way  as  theyvalley2 are making  the  circuit  of  Simla‐Manali.  We will play the catch up game all the way till Manali and it is a good feeling to hail each other nearly every day. At a tea shop in a village half way to Kaza from Tabo, I have Thupka at the only tea shop that is open. The migrant wage workers only are left in the  villages  while  the  residents  have  all flocked to Kaza. Three Nepali workers get talking  to  me  in  the  tea  shop  and  their eyes  light  up  when  I  tell  then  that  the Nepali people have done a great thing by getting rid of their monarchy. The sense of pride and achievement is truly significant given that till a decade ago the monarchy was  held  in  great  respect.  Not  even  in India have our people a sense of hope and The tea shop is run on behalf of a local resident by a Nepali worker who has a deformed leg and shows me a big scar on his stomach(an ulcer operation). The labour they tell me here comes from Recong Peo that flowershas emerged as the contracting hub for all casual  worker requirements in Spiti and  Kinnaur. Here any farmer or resident goes to get workers  on   contract,  usually  for agriculture  work  on  making  water channels  from  the  snow  fed  streams and house construction work. They tell me that work lasts 4 to 5 months a year and it is job work. Another group of 5 young  men  on  the  road  are  all  from Bihar. Coming all the way to find work in this remote and difficult area, with little medical,  working  in  what  is  called  the “inner  line  permit  area”  close  to  the border  that  is  under  complete  army control  –  these  migrant  workers  have little comfort of any workers rights and dispute resolution with civil authorities.

Work  permits  for  Nepali  workers  are made in Recong peo. Kaza is the district headquarter of Spiti but I am not aware of  any  attempt  made  by  the  district administration of Kaza and for that matter any other district administration of India – to provide for some social  security,  health  and  other  facilities  for  the  migrant  workers.  Similarly  there  is  no  migrant  labour registration or support office in Recong Peo that the migrant workers can go to. Buddhists have come from Ladakh, Dharamsala, Nepal and also some foreigners, have come to Kaza to attend the Kal Chakra and seek blessings from the Dalai Lama. The 50Kms distance from Tabo to Kaza meanders along the Spiti river and has a distinct climb, moving away from the river and then crossing it at Kaza/Ranrik. A  beautiful  grassy  campsite  about  5  kms  before  Kaza  has  tents  and  perhaps  portends  a  warning  of  the crowded town ahead. I make a call home from Kaza to my family and decide to cycle on to the next village of Ranrik. The road crosses Spiti river and climbs up a bit to a small village where school boys with cricket bats look just like kids in any other town. It does not feel that you are at 11,000ft and separated from the rest of the country by a 15,000ft high Kunzum La pass two days ahead. The one guest house at Ranrik is packed with tourists  and  Buddhists  attending  the  Kal  Chakra.  The  very  generous  manager  Shamsher  of  Spiti  Sarai resort/hotel has accommodated as many people as he can and asks me to wait till a family that has a spare tent to return. The Tibetan family kindly lends me their 2 man tent and I finally pitch the tent at 7pm for the night and am not charged anything for this help. Being a cyclist and alone is something that everyone admires and they go out of their way to help you. The hotel has a good kitchen offering good meals and tea.

The  adventure  and  emotion  of  not  knowing  what  comes  next  day,  on  a  new  trail,  is  something  that  you experience on a trek and a cycling trip like this. The road from Ranrik to Losser(my destination) on the fifth day passes through green fields with peas and villages scattered all along. The road kept meandering, heading away from the Spiti river, towards the higher reaches of Kunzum La. The extensive scale of cultivation, of bringing water from melting snows by constructing water channels sometimes tens of kilometres long, has transformed  the  area.  The  views  are  dramatic,  wide  green  valleys  with  big  snow  clad  mountains  in  the backdrop.  A  great  unspoilt  trekking  and  climbing  area  with  enchanting  valleys  inviting  you  to  step  in  and explore. The road keeps you guessing where the Kunzum La pass lies, as you keep moving leftwards from one valley to another, from one inhabited village to another.

road2Finally  climbing  towards  some  of the highest inhabited villages, you reach  the  villages  of  Hansa  and Losser. Not having had anything to eat  since  the  morning,  at  Hansa village,  I  find  a  man  crossing  the road and ask him if a tea shop in the  village  is  open.  Mohan  Singh Bodh  tells  me  that  everyone  has gone to Kaza and offers to take me to his hope for a cup of tea that I gratefully  accept.  His  home  is  a typical  Spiti  home  with  space  for animals  on  the  ground  floor  and residence  on  the  first  and  second floors. The 20ft by 30 ft room has carpets  on  the  floor  to  sit  down and eat from small tables. My host tells  me  that  he  has  pea  farming that provides him with as much as Rs.1 to Rs.2 lakh net cash income a year. His son studies in Solan and he stays with his wife and daughter. Very kindly he first makes tea and then also offers me food. As a farmer he is aware of the changes taking place, the movement of apple orchards from Kinnaur into Spiti valley he says is a result of warming of temperature in the past 2 decades. The snowfall is less than what it used to be. He is grateful of the services and welfare programmes of the government including an emergency health evacuation by helicopter. Besides subsidies for fuelwood(that is a lifeblood need for winter) and other schemes for repairing of houses.

Thanking my host for a great lunch, I head off to Losser village and am confronted with a frontal wind in the afternoon coming down from the high mountain pass. Losser is the last village before the Kunzum La pass, situated at the height of 13,500 feet. It is difficult to have both wind and the mild ascent to cycle against. The rest and calories that the lunch secured are soon lost. Finally it is comforting to find another beautifully located comfortable PWD guest house at Losser. The young chowkidar warns me that I would have to vacate if anyone with  a  permit  came  in.  However  none  arrive  except  two  PWD  officers  who  discuss  with  me  in  detail  the ongoing development works in Himachal Pradesh and how they have to cope with political pressure on one hand to employ more and more local people on the public works and the demands of the difficult labour works that  require  able  bodied  and  younger  people  to  work  on  to  keep  the  roads  and  bridges  functional.  As Engineers they are happy with the thrust of the Himachal Pradesh government for more tunnel dams for power generation and private contractors like JP Associates being employed.

They also admit that the dams are depleting ground water in villages and that this year was the first one in their living memory when schools had to be shut down in June for no drinking water availability in many districts in Himachal. My friends that I met on the way at Lari however told me that highly technical work like tunnel dams in the sensitive Himalyan landscape need scientific assessments as is done in Europe where they are harvesting tidal energy from high seas. However in India civil contractors like JP Associates who have been government contractors and have worked on Tehri dam – are given the sole charge of making 10 to 20 kms long tunnel dams without any form of public  disclosure  of  environmental  assessment  and  local  consultations,  to  inform  local  people  as  well  as citizens at large on the risks and damage that tunnel dam technology may bring.

snowMore and more tunnel dams are being sanctioned at great speed by the Himacahal Pradesh government to private contractors. In the years to come the fragile ecology as well as the pristine beauty of the Spiti valley is likely  to  be  spoilt  forever.  The  hills mined and the rivers tamed, with ugly and unplanned mining and disposal of tunnel  debris  all  along  with  way,  as has happened at Karcham and Sangla. The  chowkidar  shares  with  me  the evening  meal  he  has  made  and  the culture and current practises of Spiti.

He has been on a few mountaineering expeditions to the inviting mountains all around. He tells me that the elder son  continues  to  inherit  all  family property  in  Spiti.  This  needs  to  be verified. It is true that the under thelong  years  of  medieval  era,  with limited land and agriculture produce, the monasteries set the cultural and economic order of the Buddhist Spiti valley. It is another matter that the monasteries themselves were institutions of extraction of surplus wealth as well as labour form the villages with each family having to give one child or more to the monastery and the institution of polyandry too seemed to have prevailed. When I asked him how the other brothers then get married be tells me that things have become better and they find wage labour and do get married.

The night while I rest with a good sleep and discussions at Losser, it rains. In the morning I get up feeling uncomfortable seeing fresh snow on the big mountains and large black clouds in the sky. Wondering if it is worth taking the risk of cycling up to 15,000ft Kunzum La pass in this weather with a potential threat of snow and blizzards.

The Kal chakra has ended in Kaza and the morning busses are coming jam packed. Even if I want to pack up my trip and take a bus, there is no seat. I ask a tuck driver to take me across the pass and he agrees.

Coming all the way and not doing the pass, however haunts me and with the weather clearing up a bit, I decide to cycle on. In a beautiful meadow ahead of Losser where yaks and goats are grazing, I find a group of young men with their horses. They are having their morning meal and invite me. Not having eaten anything, I agree. These men are working for a trekking company and are on their way to Kibber, for a trek to Ladakh(Tso Miriri lake) with foreigners. Their kind offering of a hot meal of chapati and sabzi and talking to them is energising. I cycle on towards the pass. The first set of hairpin bends give way to longer longitudinal climbs that I keep telling myself – this will be the last climb of my trip. The climbs are not tough but the altitude and the cold makes them tough. The pass is very moderate in its climb from Losser side and as you reach the crest, you are in company of many beautiful snow clad peaks all around. Yet for me it is half walking and half cycling in the last 10 Kms to reach the top of the pass.

Two chortens and a temple greet you on one side of the pass. Some of the returning Buddhists(from Kaza) take photos. A path from the pass goes to the Chandratal lake that is 8Kms away. Like the monasteries on the way, this could have been a good detour if I had company of a fellow cyclist. Just the feeling that you reached this altitude on a cycle and without support, is a good feeling. I look forward to the decent for the day to Batal 11Kms down the pass. It’s a steep descent and it does not take me more than 40 minutes. The mountain range on the other side is saddled with huge snow clad Chandra Bhaga range that has given birth to the Chandra river(that later becomes Chenab river and flows into Pakistan from Kashmir).

valley3My  cycling  trip  ends  when  I  reach Batal, a desolate and windy place with 3 dhabas offering food and shelter to tourists  and  trekking  groups.  I  am undecided on what to do next, having spent a tierd day cycling over the pass. My head is numb, there is a headache to add to the confusion. I do not know what  to  do.  Eating  lunch,  seeing  a foreign  cycling  party  come  up  with  a back up support van, I decide that I will not  cycle  the  next  50Kms  that  would take  me  to  Gramphu,  at  the  base  of Rohtang  Pass.  I  feel  I  have  had  my share  of  adventure  and  would  rather take  a  bus  and  return  home,  than cyclong  for  one  more  day.

No  tyre puncture and no accident on the way, this was a relatively good trip. I had no intention to cross the Rohtang Pass to Manali  anyway.  The  bus  journey  to Manali is uneventful. With rainfall starting as we cross Rohtang, I see my friends that I made in Lari waiting at Marhi with sudden rain interrupting their descent. Its back to where we left. Breaks like this are great and we cycling trips like treks offer the pleasure of movement and time to soak in the place, culture and interaction with people. With age you understand your body better, take more rests and are mentally at peace with the challenging terrain. In youth you are impatient and wanting to test your physical strength against the mountains. The only risk that I could identify at the end of this solo trip was of falling off the bike and breaking a few bones and then having to come back with a cast or a sling! All other risks of fatal stone fall or landslide could happen to anyone and remain objective risks of any adventure.

The feeling that you are out on a holiday(even when cycling is no luxury cruise, while so many migrant people are perhaps more brave than you to come so far and so ill equipped to make a hard living), remains the saddest part of the adventure. Ladakh and Spiti were opened to foreigners in the early 1980s. Till then these were  remote  areas  where  only  mountaineers  and  trekkers  used  to  go.  Now  with  roads  and  tourism,  the average middle class families are venturing to these remote areas or a holiday. The local culture and economy in the meantime has been transformed from the traditional peasant to the commercial and petty trading one. The kids play cricket and the local farmers are sending their children to college in the plains. Whether the tourists of tomorrow will see Spiti and Ladakh as consumable tourism locations to be visited and pictured or will the tourists be able to see in the changing landscape the change in their own history and culture – and a desire to preserve the good and resist the bad(tunnel dams and feel empathy for the migrant labour), remains to be seen. It is likely that the middle class tourists will identify with issues like global warming and protecting the  rivers  if  there  is  some  awareness,  but  not  the  people  who  reside  here  and  who  migrate  here.  Our dominant  culture  tells  us  to  consume  and  not  think,  seek  personal  atonement  and  not  expect  any  larger change. Global warming will not be solved with this mentality, nor will we be able to save our selves from delusion into believing that nothing can change.awe

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  1. says: Around Delhi

    A beautiful trip well written, really feels like I am travelling with you through those valleys and roads. You hit the nail on the head when you say nature is best observed when on foot or bicycles. All the best for your next rip.
    Dr. R. Anand

  2. says: Amrit


    This was an awesome post. I have a trek 3700 which I bought few days back. I don’t have a rack installed nor do I have any pinion bag. Is it possible to attach any rack on Trek 3700? From where did you get your rack and those bags? Anyplace in Delhi from where I can pick these accessories? Do let me know. I shall be doing a Manali – Leh trip in two weeks. Please leave me an email. Thanks in advance.

  3. says: Ash

    Thanks a lot for such post. Please advice me on [email protected]. I am preparing tour such as yours, however with simple cycles you see on Indian Road. I will travel with my 14 yr. son is it ok ?. I am cycling 20 km daily since 6 months. My son is fit also and can travel 25-30 km easily. I planning to go their in 2 week of October 2010. Please advice me for my overall trip

  4. says: Amit

    Great n inspirational story! Congrats to u for having done that and also recording it for others benefit. I’m truly motivated to do some cycling in Himachal Pradesh this summer. However packing up stuff on a cycle is a big challenge as it appears to me ! Thanks for a lovely post . Happy riding

  5. says: Varun

    Very nice and brave. Why did u miss chandertaal lake. I went last year on cycle. I have rockrider 6.5. I started from kalka. I m going this year as well alone. Would u like to join. As u must have learnt sleeping bag and mat are not required. So not much stuff will be required.

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