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Ladakh

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Ever since i was bitten by the travel bug, Ladakh was one place that i always wanted to go. The pictures i've been seeing from friends on Flickr were all stunning and it looked as if it was almost impossible to take a bad picture in Ladakh. So with all these high hopes i finally got a chance to travel to Ladakh for a couple of weeks during October 2008. And it didn't disappoint.
Traveling along the Manali - Leh highway, one is witness to numerous interesting sights. While most of them are of the stunning, take your breath away variety, there are few quirky man made sights that are equally interesting. The strangest of them all for me was sight of truck drivers squatting underneath their trucks every morning and lighting its fuel tank on fire !!
A journey along the Manali - Leh highway is bound to be one of the most exciting, adventurous and visually stunning journeys anywhere in the world. The route traverses through some of the highest mountain passes in the world, crossing the Pir Panjal, Great Himalaya and the Zanskar ranges. The road, traversing through these mountain ranges, takes the traveler to a stunning array of landscapes. The lush alpine forests and grasslands of the upper Kullu valley, the scrubby slopes of the Lahaul region, the snow capped peaks of the Great Himalaya, the ochre mountains of Kiling sarai, the grasslands of the Sarchu plans, the sand blasted anthill slopes leading to Pang, vast rolling Morey plains bowl-like and fringed by low mountains, and finally the comforting descent to the Indus valley towards
Ladakh's landscape is not just about its majestic mountains and brilliant blue skies, it also reflects the (majorly) Buddhist heritage of the land. The landscape is dotted with numerous Chortens, Mani walls, fluttering flags and majestic monasteries overlooking entire villages and towns. Religion forms an important part of people's lives here and no where it is better exemplified than in the monastic festivals that happen all around Ladakh at different times of the year.
Ladakh is a cycling paradise. There is no question about it. The quiet roads, the friendly locals, the serene landscape and high altitude all combine together to provide you a safe, fun, at times challenging and at all times visually stimulating experience that few other locations in India and indeed in the world could hope to match. I believe that Ladakh offers something for everyone. From the causal holiday cyclist to the hard core enthusiast who'd like to pit themselves against the mountains and see if they can come out on top. I've compiled this list below which summarizes the major cycling routes in the area.
Ladakh, the 'Land of the High Passes' lies among some of the most magnificent mountain ranges of the world. Ladakh is located near the western extremity of the Great Himalaya where the mountain system proliferates into an astonishing complex of ranges and sub-ranges. Whenever you are traveling, either to or inside Ladakh, by road or by air, you will be witness to the awe inspiring spectacle of these ranges and the river valleys that divide them. Read on to learn more about these ranges.
Tsomoriri is, in my opinion the most beautiful of all the 3 big lakes in Ladakh. So a trip there well worth the effort, especially if you make it a circular route and come back via the TsoKar lake and Taglang La.
This is probably the most funnest, the easiest (after ChangLa), friendliest and the most visually breathtaking ride experience available in Ladakh. And definitely my top favorite among all the cycling routes in Ladakh.  The reason why i loved this circuit is because of the 30 odd km flat stretch of dirt road along the shores of the Pangong lake. You get to ride right up along the edge of the lake and the scenery on both sides of the road is just spectacular. There are 3 different villages, Spangmik, Maan & Merak, each spaced about 10km apart along this route and you can easily find homestay accomodation in any of these villages. 
Based on my experience while cycling the Manali - Leh route (in Oct 2010) i've compiled a list of Food and Accommodation stops on the route. I hope this information would be useful to other cyclists who are planning to do this trip. I have also tried to include the approximate dates till which these establishments would remain open, but these days might change depending on the weather conditions. So be a little careful and stock up on extra food when you do this trip in October.
If you love the mountains and love the freedom & the pure wind-in-your-face exhilaration of biking then Ladakh provides the perfect opportunity for you to combine the two and go motor biking in Ladakh. There is no better way to experience this wonderful place, free from the constraints of packaged trips and the safety of civilization, biking in Ladakh puts you in touch with the raw unforgiving side of nature. As you drive through the winding mountain roads and traverse high passes, you can help but be in awe and  humbled by the magnificence of the mountain landscape all around you. This article, will provide you some useful tips about hiring a bike in Ladakh and some do's and dont's with regard to biking there.
The early part of my flight back from Leh, was spent staring out of the window, mesmerized by the snow clad mountain peaks and the valleys beneath them. The best part of it all was that i could take in the mountain landscape as a whole, everything.. all at once. As my sight wandered down from the lofty peaks, I could the beginning of a glacier and at its end the birth of a stream gentle at first and then turning into a raging torrent which cut a valley down the mountain slopes, which inturn gave life and space for a whole village. I could see valleys meet and the rivers merge.. mountains giving way to hills (Manali, i think...) and the hills finally meeting the plains where then i could see the birth of the mighty Ganges. The mother of all Indian rivers...
My general policy with people is to trust until that trust is broken. But as i was sitting in the van, i started wondering what his game could be. "nobody's that nice", i thought. Especially since he was tout for a hotel and has nothing to gain by giving me this free ride. With my suspicions gradually growing, i suddenly jumped out of the van, grabbed my backpack and went back to the pre-paid taxi counter.    I got a taxi and as i was entering it i realized that i did not have my camera bag with me!!. Calmly, I thought i must've dropped it at the taxi counter but it wasn't there. Then the realization dawned on me that i must've left it in the hotel van that i abruptly jumped out of. PANIC !!, the prospect of losing my camera and lens collection was a little too much for me to d
Ladakh was the reason why i decided to take my bicycle with me to the Himalayas. The lure of cycling in the mountains with its crisp blue skies and snow capped peaks was too enticing to ignore. I had traveled Ladakh by motorcycle back in 2008, but this time i decided that a bicycle would be a better option. Going by cycle meant going slowly.. a 200km trip from, say, Leh to Pangong lake which can be done in a single day on a motor cycle would take 3 to 4 days on a bicycle. Which means stops in the smaller villages, seeing more sunrises & sunsets, more photo opportunities and more interaction with the local people. I had the one thing which i did not have in my other trips, the luxury of time.   Then i thought that if i was going to be cycling in Ladakh then i might as well cycle
Things did not start smoothly for my Manali Leh ride. After traveling around Himachal by bus it was finally time for me to start cycling. I went to Palampur to collect my bike (I had left it at the home of a railway employee who had generously offered to store my bike at his place when i was away). My plan was to start riding from Palampur to Manali, spend a few days in Manali and then kick onwards towards Leh. But a sudden burst of laziness prompted me to take a bus from Palampur to Mandi with my bike stashed on the roof. I'am not sure if this qualifies as bad karma but i arrived at Mandi to find out that a couple of chain ring nuts had fallen off my bike. I had already damaged one of my chain rings in Uttarakand and now the loss of the nuts meant that the remaining chain rings we
It was a late October day. Cold cloudy and overcast. A dramatic change from the pleasent sunny weather just a day before.  I was cycling back from the Pangong lake to the Tangste village. It is normally a pleasent ride, mostly flat and downhill (from 4400m to 3950m over the course of 25 odd kms). In the mountains, downhill rides such as these are to be savoured but today i was'nt enjoying the ride all that much. When its cold and nippy i'd rather be riding uphill than down. Anyway, as i was entering Tangtse i see before me the most incredible sight. A motorcycle stacked with all kinds of camping gear imaginable was pulling in. It was as if one of the nomads of the high altitude plains was breaking camp and moving to a new location on his Enflied. We introduced ourselves and his nam