… And Stuff Lists
Ahoy. I’ve returned yesterday from more than a month of travelling by bicycle in the northern Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, which contains the ancient buddist kingdoms of Zanskar and Ladakh.
I’ll be using this site to record my memories, experiences and opinions of travelling alone by bicycle across Zanskar and Ladakh. What is a little different about my bicycle trip is that I followed the traditional horse routes from Manali to Lamayuru, which required transiting several roadless passes. There are quite a few other people who have done this on bicycle before me. Those crazy people did it when there were fewer roads than there are now, so my hat is off to them.
I’ll also say… its not a trip that I could recommend to anyone. Some of the passes were really awful with a bicycle. You shouldn’t take my advice though – if you feel like you need to do it then go ahead, I’m sure it will be just what you wanted. It is nice to travel alone without support, and even nicer to not need to walk on all those new roads. So bicycle makes some parts better, even if a few parts are a lot worse.
Since I travelled early in the summer season I was able to spend several weeks in the upper Lungnak valley before it was reachable by guided tourists. My time with those great people was the high-part of my trip.
I hiked alone in Zanskar in 1991, again with wife in 1999, again with son in 2018. Starting with the 1999 trip I was fascinated with the idea of riding the region with a bicycle. While hiking with my son in 2018 I was very surprised by the proliferation of roads and realized I needed to visit again for an extended trip before the roads caused extensive culture change.
Here’s my route artfully drawn onto a 1915 survey of india map using mspaint. I drew an X everywhere i slept.
Travelling off-road by mountain bike often requires lifting and carrying the loaded bicycle for extended periods so it is extremely important to keep weight down. I am fairly happy with the choices that I made, perhaps I carried 2-4 pounds that I didn’t need, I’m not fully decided. Just because I didn’t use something doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good idea to bring.