What swept us away during the Manali-Leh-Khardung La cycling expedition was the ever changing landscape. The beauty that the cold desert region holds is simply unparalleled. The massive mountains around us change in terms of their colour, composition and even texture, offering views that are bound to leave an impression. And what’s even better? Cycling through these views. The expedition is an absolute delight for cycling enthusiasts who want to test their limits and also experience the adventure that is the Manali-Leh highway.
While the grandeur of this landscape can only be fully experienced in person, here is our attempt at showing you what it holds, hoping to give you a glimpse into our cycling expedition.
1) Marhi and Rohtang Pass
The route from Manali to Rohtang Pass via Marhi retains its greenery. Lush green forests and trickling waterfalls in the distance are visible throughout, offering refreshing views to please the eye. The green from the trees and the bright blue from the sky make for the perfect combination of colours that create a striking scenery. The treeline begins to decline gradually as we reach Rohtang top, given the altitude at which it is located. Mountain lovers, brace yourselves, for this is just a teaser of what is to come!
2) Into Lahaul and Spiti
Beyond Rohtang Pass lies the region of Lahaul and Spiti. The landscape changes to become more arid than what we saw on our way to Marhi. Call us strange but we love the landscape even more as it becomes more dry and arid! The mountains through Sissu and Jispa offer different patterns through their texture and tower over us as we ride through them. We know that we are heading deeper into the mountains as we see the treeline come and go in patches along the way.
3) Deepak Tal and Beyond
No expedition in the mountains is complete without a spellbinding lake. The pristine blue water of Deepak Tal is a sight to behold. As we leave from Jispa to reach Zingzingbar, we encounter Deepak Tal, calmly nestled amongst the tall dusty mountains that surround it. The lake offers picture perfect views with a blend of blue and shades of brown, making it an interesting colour palette. We can see that the treeline has now completely declined and the desert-like terrain has started to set in. With not a cloud in sight, the deep blue sky looks magnificent and the mountains appear almost as though they have touched the sky!
4) Baralacha La and on to Sarchu
Just when we start to think we have probably seen all there is to the dry region, the landscape changes again! The views from Baralacha La and from the route to Sarchu offer mountain ranges starkly different from the ones we saw the previous day. Almost as if we have landed on a planet far away from ours!
5) Gata Loops and Nakeela Pass
We ride on flat stretches that cut through mountains on either side to reach the infamous Gata Loops. The ride up these 21 hair pin bends to reach Nakeela Pass is full of adventure and excitement! Needless to say, the views continue to mesmerise us throughout. We are now in Ladakh, the land of high mountain passes.
6) Whiskey Nala and Lachung La
As we look around us, there are massive mountains in different shades of brown as far as the eye can see. Sometimes the mountain next to us is so big that we cannot look past it! We can see the dust road zigzagging through Whiskey Nala in the distance. The climb up this road takes us to Lachung La, the next high mountain pass on our expedition!
7) More Plains
More Plains is a 42 km flat stretch that we are rewarded with after a short climb past Pang. Apart from the fact that it is one of the easiest and also the most fun parts of the expedition, More Plains offers spectacular panoramic views of arid mountains. With the clouds above adding to the drama of the landscape, More Plains probably holds the key to the most surreal landscape!
8) Taglang La and Lato
We are finally at the third highest motorable mountain pass in the world! At a staggering height of 5328M, Taglang offers 360 degree views of Zanskar ranges. As we stand at Taglang La, we are reminded of how far into the mountains we have come and how very visually pleasing the journey has been. We descend into Lato only to be reminded that the landscape never stays the same on this expedition. Colourful mountains with streaks of brick red and olive green greet us as we make our way into Lato through Rumtse.
9) The City of Leh and Khardung La
We finally arrive in Leh cycling along the Indus river but this is not the end of the expedition. The second highest motorable mountain pass awaits us! The route to Khardung La and the views from the top are nothing like anything we have seen before. We also get a glimpse into the ranges which lie in Nubra Valley and beyond. Take a moment to soak the views in and also the fact that we made it to Khardung La!
While we have put out pictures of some of the best landscapes from the expedition, the Manali-Leh highway has so many more jaw-dropping views. And the best way to see and experience them would be on a cycle!