On the 35th day of our 90 day cycle ride in the Himalayas, we rode from Nimmu to Leh, past the famous Sangam, Magnetic Hill and Gurudwara Pathar Sahib. This was part of our Himalayan ride covering Spiti, Zanskar, Batalik, Ladakh, Nubra, Shyok, Pangong, Hanle, Tso Moriri, Garhwal and Kumaon!
Day 35 Nimmu to Leh
It was Driftjockey’s last riding day.
It was a terrible start to the day as we grabbed breakfast. A dog was chased out of a compound and as it scooted across the road, two trucks ran over it. Driftjockey watched the entire scene unfold and lost his desire for breakfast. I on the other hand enjoyed the omelette with the khameeri (yeast) roti.
After that the day was near perfect. It was good climbing first thing in the morning rather than under the noon sun. Our legs were fresh, the weather was cool and bellies full. We easily climbed Magnetic Hill, a ridiculous tourist attraction. It is a hill which has a slight incline, not visible to the naked eye. This allows gravity to pull the vehicle forward, which gives the hill the name.
Unfortunately, we are cyclists and climbed the hill and even the gentlest of gradients is apparent. Also apparent was the stupidity of tourists who believe any rubbish that is fed to them!
At Magnetic Hill Driftjockey was hell bent on expressing his love for speed and drifting. The sucker that he is, he rented out an ATV for 800 rupees to ride a 1.5 km dirt track. He took off on the under-powered vehicle like his arse was on fire, scaring the living daylights out of the ATV rental guy. He wasn’t used to seeing patrons kicking up dust and stones and drifting across the track.
After Magnetic Hill it was downhill all the way to Leh. On the way we passed Pathar Sahib Gurudwara, and saw a bunch of cyclists of varying ages ripping it in proper aero formation. It was a treat to see more cyclists around.
Driftjockey plucked a thorny flower from a cactus and stuck it onto his helmet, in the process pricking his fingers multiple times. But he was successful and ended up looking like a cartoon character from Mars in Looney Tunes!
We climbed into the city and my butt hurt once again post the 30 km mark. We made slow progress and stopped at the bus stand to enquire about departure timings. Driftjockey was at the end of his trip and was looking forward to getting home.
The bus to Manali from Leh leaves at 4 am and reaches late in the evening. So Driftjockey booked a seat on a private van. It takes less time, but is a bit more expensive. Once his plan was solid, it was time to look for cheap accommodation for me.
Since I was going to be alone, I was looking for a hostel with a dormitory. I had been given two leads, Ecology Hostel and Hostel Avie. We were in search of the latter in Leh when a cyclist saw Driftjockey passing through with his bikepacking setup and immediately stopped him and chatted him up!
The Big Z
Enter Mithun. A cyclist who would be setting up my experience of Leh. He immediately befriended us and took us to a hostel called Zaltak. I got a bed in the dormitory, where he and another cyclist were staying. He then took us to an excellent place for lunch followed by chocolate dessert. Food is an excellent way to get to know fellow cyclists. After lunch we returned to the hostel and met up with the other cyclist in the room, Akshay.
In Zanskar people told us about him. He was the only other Indian who did the same Zanskar route, but a couple of weeks before us. I finally caught up with him in Leh, because he was taking longer breaks and also getting off the bike to do treks.
It was time to see off my riding partner of a fortnight, Driftjockey, the daredevil. As he was leaving, I took the air pump from him, as mine was toast. But the bugger didn’t return my pen, for the first time I was travelling without one. Sacriledge!
5 minutes after he left, Akshay and I realised we were doing the same route ahead. We decided to ride together. Almost immediately after one left, I had another riding partner!
Being a Sunday evening Leh was crowded. People visit for the weekend from Delhi and Bombay.
Akshay and I went in search of dinner. After wandering in the market, we found a South Indian restaurant called Madras Café. There I indulged myself with a ghee roast dosa, a welcome change from the hill food I had been eating for a month!
Route Profile: Nimmu to Leh
The road from Nimmu to Leh is perfect asphalt as it is the national highway. There is a lot of traffic as you get closer to Leh, which has an airport. People often fly to the city and go around the place on rented motorcycles and cabs. Most of the rental bikes have pilots with little sense of handling a two-wheeler. Be careful of them!
It is an easy route with just two small climbs, one up Magnetic Hill and the second from the Leh Airport to the town. Being the largest in the area, Leh has all modern facilities and ‘pleasures’ that you need!
Expenses: Nimmu to Leh
Food and Stay for Two 1290
Food for Two 695