Jullay from Leh

Welcome to Prue and Ian's blog of their cycle tour of India

"Soaring thousands of metres above the rush, heat and chaos of India's plains, the Indian himalayaare a world apart. prayer flags snap in the wind on high mountain passes, immense yaks thresk barley at harvest time and the colourfultata trucks crawl up the hairpins like ants. The people, especially in Buddhist Ladakh, are cheerful, honest and gentle. The landscape is a reflection of their religion - white chortens line the roads and approaches to villages like pawns from a giant game of chess, burgundy-clad monks hitch lifts at the side of road, gompas perch on spectacular crags and everywhere the air is alive with the flutter of prayer flags Here is some of the most starkly spectacular mountain scenery you will find anywhere in the world"

Laura Stone Adventure Cycling

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Blog 1 The Journey to Leh

We arrived in Dehli late on the 29th of June and slept in the new Domestic Airport awaiting our 6:30am flight to Kullu. The clouds withheld the views until we were ten minutes out of Kullu. The excitment grew as we could see the foothills of the Indian Himalaya and the amazing landuse. A quick trek up from the airport to the main road and we were lifting our bike bags onto the top of a local bus heading for Manali - an hour and a half away. The traffic was hectic to say the least and I wished our bikes were fitted with massive air horns for when we were to join the throng the next day.
Manali is the Bright (NE Victoria) of the Himachal x 100. Thousands of Indian tourists and a few westerners. A $12.50 a night hotel was comfortable and had plenty of balcony space for putting the bikes together. We had already sent extra clothing over to Leh with Barb and John Griffiths from Wang and now realised we still had too much gear to to cycle over the second highest road in the world with. A trip to the P.O. was required. How long did it take? Post your guesses and the nearest answer will receive a year's supply of Dahl and Rice.
1 Find the P.O.
2. Be there at the right time
3. Follow all the rules
4. Box the goods (We were ahead here as we brought over an Aust. P.O. 5 Kg box as padding for the bikes and in anticipation of the Manali job.
5. Take your box to a Tailor.
6. Find a Tailor. The tailor sews a tight fitting cover of cheese cloth, hand sews the last edge and then drips wax over the sewing at 5 cm intervals.
7. Back to the P.O. (No  they weren't closed for lunch)
8. Stand in Queue. Get annoyed as locals push in.
9. Finally - label check and pay the rupees.

A quick lunch and then on to the bikes.
The ride up to our first pass (Rotang 3978 metres) was a quick reality check. Why didn't all the proposed training eventuate? 
The early stages of the highway were lined with ski hire and ski clothing outlets. Shacks, sheds, tents - all displaying their Shop Number. I have a couple of photos to sent up to Ray's Ski Hire at Myrtleford. Pete and Kylie - the closest tele gear I could make out was an old set of alpine skis with only the front binding screwed in! Cars were flying past with skis hanging out the windows,
The next concern which would be a problem for the next 12 days was the diesel bletching trucks and buses. The Manali - Leh Highway is only open for 3 -4 months and was late to open this year. It is a strategic route for the Indian Arny to restock their offensive against the Pakistanis and the Chinese ( $1,000,000 US/ day since 1988 - that's a lot of rupees!) It is also the restocking route for diesel for industry in Leh and for the Air Flights in and out. Consequently the road can be very congested and not a good place for two cyclists in their 50's needing  clean functioning sets of lungs.
Those who have ridden with me on long rides will know I'm a dreadful cramper - its in the genes as my sisters will attest to. I have now had international cramps!
We finally pulled into a road workers' camp half way up at Gulaba. Initially the workers didn't want us to stay but we charmed our way in.  Within minutes we had an audience watch as we unpacked, put up the tent and generally got organised. The brave on-lookers had a ride on the bikes and I was quickly challenged to play volleyball. Two hot black teas appeared for and gradually the crowd thinned and went about cooking their own dinner. We walked back down the hill 200 metres to a food stall for an omlette and chai.
We woke to the audience again! We packed up and headed back up the hill.
The day traffic of tourists heading up to the snow was incredible.  Every so often a car would stop for a photo shoot with the cyclists. Lots of  " Do you know Ricky Ponting?"  "Have you ridden all the the way from Australia?" and of course " Do you know my brother. He lives in Canberra?"  Everyone was very very friendly. Plenty of young bucks who wanted to sit on our bikes and have their snap taken - we should have charged 20 rupees a pop. Finally reached the top late in the afternoon. The resort area everyone was heading to was not a pretty sight. Late spring snow, big carparks, stalls selling everything an Indian tourist wants. The most interesting thing for me was the equivalent of a "Towies" cricket match happening in a carpark. Very passionate and very skillful.
Over the top of the pass. Warmer clothes put on and we headed down 30 or so switchbacks. Road conditions were mixed. Full on streams, boulders, mud - all in poor light. Finally we camped on a sloping meadow between switchbacks. A herd of wild horses kept us company. Chocolate and sweet biscuits for dinner and a few cramps before sleep!
Day Three we cruised down to Koksan for brekkie and a passport check.
Our destination for the night was Keylong. A very hot day and again, challenging road conditions. You name it and we had it today. Rocks, stones, dust and big creek crossings. Prue is getting very confident at powering through the water, although one required a shoes and socks off and a bike carry. Everyone we pass greets us with a "Jullay" 
First flat tyre on Prue's bike. It took so long to pump up the new tube at altitude. Later on when we were crawling up the highest pass all I could think about was how we would inflate a tube if we had to.
Keylong came into view and we booked into a hotel for the night. The wash in a bucket was so good. Two Indians motor-cycling the route were great company. One had completed his Masters at Monash several years ago. We strolled down to the lower town to an up-market guest house for dinner and FIFA match on the big screen. What a day of contrasts.

Photo album can be found at       http://picasaweb.google.com/106588479237837990839


  1. Surprised? First one to comment!! Loved reading all of your news. This is a great idea having a blog and our family will look forward to keeping in touch.
    Safe travelling...... Liz & Co

  2. I wish I was there, it sounds awesome...Michael...

  3. Hi Prue, Hi Ian
    Wow!What a multitude of experiences and life long memories you're both having. Thanks for keeping us posted with your blog. look forward to reading updates. saty safe

  4. Hi Ian and Prue,

    Great to read your experience so far, it sounds fantastic. Hope you are relaxing now that you are finally there Prue.
    We are all well back here and I'll show this to Jacqui tomorrow so she can see what you have been up to.
    Pino was nice, hope we weren't supposed to lay it down for a while!
    Love to you both.
    Anne, Steve and Jacqui xxx

  5. WOW.Just think where u would be Prue with out all those monday Ryans rides and pushing on over the top to the gully . And Never Ever again will u dare to complain when a Taminick ride is suggested - u now both have official bikie legend status . You guys are amazing. I will think of u heading over a pass as I puff my way up the next very small hill I attempt
    Love Jen

  6. Hi Ian & Prue,
    Thanks for the blog and the photos.
    Am looking forward to the next chapters.
    Can I put the link in to the next BK??
    Keep Safe