For first part of the series on Manali 2 Leh, click here.
The easiest way for such long trip is to join a group and cycle along with them. There are organisations like “Cycling and More“, “Himalayan Caravan“… Its a safe bet, one need not even take personal cycles. Reach Manali by your own transport and rest everything is taken care. Taken care includes: cycle, back-up vehicles, support vehicles, pitching tent, finding places for camping, food and at times even provide beer! 🙂 Everything comes with a cost.
The cost maybe higher or less if you organize everything by yourself. This is if you do not want to do a self supported trip but a self organized trip where you have a back-up vehicle tugging along. This is exactly what we did.
Even before I go into the details, first and foremost is always the uncertainty whether all those who said they would be in the trip would actually make it. Leaving this decision pending till the last minute adds more tension than anything else. When you travel with organized groups it does not matter if one drops out, it would not affect your planning or the cost of the trip.
Second is to find a person who is going to drive along for the next 9 – 12 days that one would take to reach Leh. Check with your contacts, ring up every leads and find that one person and appropriate vehicle and work out the cost. The cost is always less for a pick-up truck as compared to a Tempo Traveler. If more than 4 in the group it is better to go for a tempo traveler. Why so? Cycles are packed in boxes and sent to nearest airport. Its better to retain the boxes till end of the trip. Otherwise travel by airlines who would wrap it up and put it as check-in luggage.
We had sent our cycles by Air India cargo for a very decent fare from Bangalore to New Delhi. And from New Delhi took the cycle by bus to Manali.
The boxes were with us till end of the trip put inside the tempo traveler. Our driver was Ravi who came from Kulu.
The next part is to find a cook and our cook was Raju who came through India Hikes. Its better to have a helper along with the cook.
During the ride by evening when you plan to camp always look for a place which has abundance water and calm surroundings.
It is very important that the cyclists meet regularly and have status updates and split tasks between each. Rather than one person doing everything and not to wait till the last minute to get confirmations. WhatsApp did come handy in creating a group and having quick conversations when we could not meet in person.
Important also is, DO NOT land in Manali on a sunday for a trip which is self organized. The shops would not be open to buy all the groceries and kitchen items. We lost a day because of that.
Find a cycle dealer who can pack the cycles and also provide with spares. Decathlon is a good place to pick up spares and cycling shorts, jersey, gloves. Rakesh from RR Cycles was very helpful in providing me with spares for cycle and also packing all our cycles.
Learn the mechanics of the cycle! With no mechanic tugging along in the trip you should be able to service your cycle with some support from others.
August is a good month for cycling where the fluctuations in weather conditions may be minimal.
It is good to stay away from alcohol and smokes from well before the trip and also during the trip.
Do regular practice rides of longer distances and riding up the hills. Some amount of off-roading is also good to get your back conditioned.
Stretching exercises and regular exercises help a lot. This is where stretches and exercises given by Dr. Gladson of Attitude Prime helped.
The list of items we took along with us:
1. Oxygen cylinder for emergency
2. Tents and sleeping bags and mata. Kitchen tent.
3. Groceries for cooking. Includes: wheat flour, pulses, soup packets, tea powder, ginger, garlic, vegetables, kerosene, cooking oil…
4. Utensils for cooking and stove…
5. Medicines for emergency situation like HAPE or HACE, for high altitude illness emergencies/ First aid kit and regular medicines for individuals.
6. Chocolates, biscuits, glucose.
7. Spares for cycles which included tyre, tubes, brake pads, cables, spokes.
8. Sipper bottles for drinking water/glucose/electral/gatorade is better than carrying water bottle.
9. Cycle helmets are mandatory.
10. Since we cross high altitude peaks it is better to keep wind-sheeter or jackets handy at all times. I had my jacket tied to cycle using a velcro.
With all the preparation and planning anything can happen during the trip. There would be some who would be lucky not to use any cycle spares and there would be situation like this also.