6 years back, in 2007, when I was touring at Manali with my family, I saw a lone cyclist between Manali and Rohtang pass. Until then, I had not even imagined that one could cycle in such a road.
That sowed a desire in my head. Subsequently, I had quit my job and hence didn't have enough money with me for such a trip. Later I joined the old job back again, got married and was always tied up by either work or family. However, 6 years after the dream was conceived, in 2013, dream was to turn into reality.
Task number 1: Permission from my wife. And it was granted. She knew that this was a really big dream of mine.
Task number 2: Logistics for the trip. Four of us had confirmed for the trip; me, Venu, Sandeep and Uli. 3 of us are in Bangalore where cyclists are a fast growing community in spite of the traffic woes. The fourth among us had planned to come all the way from Germany for the trip. A support jeep was planned to carry our luggage and for any eventualities during the trip. Raju (www.magicmountainadventures.com) would arrange the jeep for us in Manali. Sandeep and Uli decided to rent a bicycle from Raju while I and Venu decided to carry our own bicycle in our flight to Delhi. From Delhi to Manali, we would take a bus.
Task number 3: Preparation for the trip: A google docs excel sheet was prepared: Planning sheet for Manali to Leh cycling expedition. And the biggest preparation of all was to gain some cycling miles. We did Mysore-Melkote, Chamundi hills a few times and Bangalore-Nandi hills once. We did not know yet how difficult it would be in the Himalayas and that ignorance kept us confident for the trip.
On June 15th, we all reached Delhi. I and Venu were with our bicycle boxes. You can buy these from Firefox bicycle shops for Rs.20. The large boxes are a bit difficult to fit inside taxis though. You will need SUV type vehicles or better still, you could use public transport. Jet airways staff at Bangalore airport were awesome with their bicycle handling. We were almost accorded royal treatment. We took the airport metro express at Delhi airport and then, used a cycle rickshaw to the bus stand. On June 16th, we were at Manali. We got our other two bicycles from Raju, bought most of the items as per the excel sheet and were ready for the next day. Murari, our driver was also ready with the support jeep.
On June 17th, we started from Manali to Kothi at 9 AM. The excitement to start had kept me awake since 5 AM itself. Our original plan was to cycle upto Marhi which is about 35 km from Manali. However, all the camps at Marhi have been closed down now due to a court order related to environmental protection.
Kothi is 14 kms from Manali. It is situated 600 meters above Manali at an altitude of 2500 meters. This would be an easy climb and a rest day at Kothi would also be good for acclimatization. As expected, we took less than 2 hours for the climb. The ride was not difficult but the traffic was. There are two or three hotels here and finding a room is not difficult. If you do not find accommodation here, you could go back 3 kms towards Palchan and find something there. We stayed at Hotel Sagu valley for Rs.1250 per room. The evening was spent playing Frisbee on the mountain tops.
At Kothi, we also met a group of 12 cyclists, most of who were from Bangalore. Gurudeep from Unventured.com was leading this team and we were happy to find another bunch of people to travel with. They headed off to Marhi where they would pitch their own tents. They had their own kitchen and hence did not have to rely like us on hotels or camps.
Real cycling had not yet started.