Manali-Leh-KhardungLa Cycling- Day 1 (Aug 24th 2009) : Manali to Marhi – “Meet the Gang”

I have never been a fan of waking up early and would laze on my bed as much as I can. But, the cycling business had taught me to get up early all these days. So, no problems in showing up at the meeting point with all stuff packed up at 8 am.

I had contacted Raju guide (http://www.magicmountains.com) for the trip and he was arranging all of the equipments, tents, food, vehicles etc. As I walked up the iron staircase to the office room I saw two familiar faces; Ian and Russell. We had had a practice ride the previous day till Palchan and knew them for last 24 hours.

DSC05158

From Left: Russell, I and Ian

Ian is a Brit with an accent that screams of Lancashire (those who pronounce every U as U, so “luck” is pronounced as “look” and so on). He and his wife Jean, are in India for decades together and they love India. He had been a sales executive and now he and Jean were starting their own venture (http://www.cyclemanali.com) . He was cycling with us to Leh whilst his wife Jean would join us at Leh directly. Ian was the favorite of all when it came to pinning jokes and he was some sport.

Russell was a colorful character. His bearings were complicated but I mostly figured out that he was an Australian with a dual citizenship of Israel. He was a marketing associate but had done everything from being a chef to an archaeological restorer and was now touring the world till he spends every dime he had once saved. He was a live wire and kept the mood upbeat with his constant pranks and jokes.

Sarrah

Sarrah

Sarrah was a city designer and another Brit. She had done a lot of international work in many African and Asian countries and was now planning to go hiking in Nepal post this cycling expedition.

from left: I and Tom

from left: I and Tom

Tom was by far the most inspiring characters of all. He was, hold your breath, 70 years old. Yes, you read it right, 70 (as in 7 multiplied by 10). He is an American and an English teacher who knew many languages including Spanish, French etc. He has had a highly decorated career as a professional English teacher and had done a huge number of international duties in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Masusmi and I at Manali Mall before the ride began- could not have imagined doing this trip without her anyway...........

Masusmi and I at Manali Mall before the ride began- could not have imagined doing this trip without her anyway...........

I bade goodbye to Mausmi who remained in Manali with the support group and we set off from Manali finally at 9:30 am. Our luggage and belongings were packed up in a support vehicle which would pick up the rations from Manali and join us en-route for lunch. It was a great day with clear sky and we went through the old Manali road, a detour of 6 km, just to treat us with some scenic routes.

Bautiful route from Old Manali to Palchan- See different colored vegetation at different heights on the mountains

Bautiful route from Old Manali to Palchan- See different colored vegetation at different heights on the mountains

And scenic it was. There was beautiful greenery everywhere with the river Beas all along with us. The tree shades were chilly whereas out in the sun it was warm. You could see the different shades of trees at different altitudes clearly on every mountainside.

Russell's attempt at getting high on marijuana

Russell's attempt at getting high on marijuana

Then we found a place abundant with marijuana plants. These grow naturally here and Manali therefore has the dubious distinction of being one of the hot spots for addicts. In fact Malana, a little hamlet near Manali is famous for its potent “Charas” or purified hash. Russell could not resist the temptation and chewed on a few leaves but to no avail.

We kept on climbing and as we soared up the valley, the temperature soared too. Soon we were past Palchan, a small settlement at the bifurcation point of main highway to Rohtang and Solang valley. We could see many shops selling almost everything to tourists but predominantly warm clothing which looked fit for wearing on an expedition to Mount Everest. Not sure why the tourists rent them where all of us were sweating as the temperature was nearing 30 degree Celsius mark.

After Palchan the roads became very beautiful with green valleys and tall mountains. We could see an occasional para-glider too.

Junta resting in shade-just past Kothi on way to Gulaba

Junta resting in shade-just past Kothi on way to Gulaba

Finally the backup vehicle caught us up near Gulaba, some 25 km from Manali and we stopped for our first day lunch stop. Since it was our first day and the kitchen was not fully functional, we lunched on omelets, maggi noodles and paranthas.

Post lunch the climb seemed hot and more tiring. The temperature had soared to 35 degrees Celsius and it was very warm. The surface quality dropped hugely and all incoming trucks would smear us with powdery dust and thick black diesel fumes. Shortly we passed the 10,000 feet mark and I knew next time I see any altitude reading below 10,000 feet would be when I am back to Delhi a fortnight ahead.

Russell was having troubles with his bike. His rented bike has developed some snag and the last minute substitute was living up to its dubious distinction of being a Hobson’s choice. It made his troubles with heat and climb much more magnified.

On the road, a series of switchbacks took us quickly up around 600 feet in almost no time. I ran out of water here and had to flag down a vehicle from other side to beg for water.

Look closely- you should see 6 layers of roads below. Each layer climbs on the previous one through a switchback loop

Look closely- you should see 6 layers of roads below. Each layer climbs on the previous one through a switchback loop

Finally, I came through the Marhi Nullah to the first pit stop for the tour. The tents were pitched and our luggage neatly arranged inside the tents. Warm beverage at arrival felt like elixir.

The Tents: Our mobile homes for 10 days

The Tents: Our mobile homes for 10 days

The night sky was brilliant and you could see numerous stars and the entire Milky Way.

The day’s stats were not so bad either:

day's progress highlighted in red

day's progress highlighted in red

day’s progress highlighted in red
day’s progress highlighted in red
Total Distance

46km

Total Climb

4300 feet

Total Time on Saddle

4 hours 30 min

Sleeping Height

10,900 feet

Oxygen

67.5% relative to MSL (mean sea level)

I knew our next day was a big one. We were slated to go over Rohtang pass known for its treacherous weather. Rohtang means the corpses in local dialect. I slept like a corpse the whole night for the big climb up the Rohtang Pass.

Read on: Day 2 Marhi to Sissu – “The Big Climb up the Rohtang Pass

All Links:

Prologue : Khardungla and My Conditioning

Day 1 (Manali to Marhi):  Meet the Gang

Day 2 (Marhi to Sissu):  The Big Climb up the Rohtang Pass

Day 3 (Sissu to Jispa):   The Cold Windy Day

Day 4 (Jispa to ZingzingBar):  Awww… Those 7 km…

Day 5 (ZingzingBar to Sarchu): The Box of Chololates

Day 6 (Sarchu to Whisky Nullah): The Beauty and the Beast

Day 7 (Whisky Nullah to Pang):  How Wrong Was I?

Day 8 (Pang to Lato): The Longest and the Best Day- Size Does Matter

Day 9 (Lato to Leh):   I Will Reach Leh

Day 10 (Leh to KhardungLa):  The Final Hurrah….

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7 Responses to “Manali-Leh-KhardungLa Cycling- Day 1 (Aug 24th 2009) : Manali to Marhi – “Meet the Gang””

  1. Ritesh Anand Says:

    Dude. Now I really respect the instinct within you. All this while made me believe that i had all what-it-takes. But, No!!

    What i miss is the instinct like you to do it and then have enough left to write such an epic diary/blog loaded with pics/data.

  2. Learn about Manali-Leh Cycle Ride – 2010 « Stanzint's Blog Says:

    […] https://manasij.wordpress.com/2009/09/13/manali-leh-khardungla-day1/ […]

  3. Manali – Leh Cycle Trip July 2010 « Stanzint's Blog Says:

    […] https://manasij.wordpress.com/2009/09/13/manali-leh-khardungla-day1/ […]

  4. jaspreet Says:

    I want to do this next year, in july 2011, can u give me any suggestions as to how to prepare for the next one year, so that i’d be ready to enjoy it to the full….

  5. neil Says:

    m a frequent rider too… wanna try this in nxt 2 years… how did u get in touch wit ppl or rather how did u find those foreigners as company… me too tried many groups buh neva found some one so insane to think of such ride. m always left alone… lastly kudos to u man… reading your travelogue was fun + informative

  6. indu Says:

    hey manasij.. if you know any reliable place to rent a mountain bicycle at manali/leh, could you share the same with necessary infos. want to do leh-manali cycling but have not yet found a cycle!!
    do reply to my id.

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