- New Zealand
- The Queen Charlotte TrackMountain biking the Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sounds
- History on the Heaphy
- Suppressing the Competitive UrgeMountain biking in Malborough
- Northern ExposureMountian biking the Coromandel
- Hurunui Hot SpringsWinter mountain biking to Hurunui Hut in the Lake Sumner Forest Park.
- Craigieburn Conservation ParkMountain Biking Craigieburn
- The Brevet ClubGuy and Laurence recount the suffering and intrigue of the inaugural Kiwi Brevet... a 1100km mountain bike race around the top half of the South Island over six days. Informal with self-enforced rules, no entry fee, unsupported, and... well, hard.
- Wharfedale TrackThis is arguably the best and longest stretch of single track in Canterbury
- Double FencelineThis classic trip snakes along the summit ridge of Banks Peninsula.
- One Night StandsOvernight mountain biking trips in the South Island
- Fool's GoldMountain biking in Central Otago
- All that Glistens... the Croesus and Moonlight Gold TrailsMountain biking on the South Island's West Coast
- Otago GoldMountain biking - Bannockburn, Central Otago
- Loop de LoopGreat mountain biking can be found in most corners of this flat earth and New Zealand boasts its fair share of classics.
- Magnetic WestMulti-day mountain biking, Kaikoura to the Tasman sea
- Romping Round the Marlborough SoundsMountain biking Marlborough
- Rambling Around the Marlborough SoundsMountain biking Marlborough, Arapawa and D'Urville Islands
- Off the Beaten Track An off road traverse of the South Island on mountain bikes
- At Peace with PureoraMountain biking around the Pureora Forest in the Central North Island
- Taranaki for NeophytesMountain biking in Taranaki
- South Pacific
- West meets EastAfter riding all morning through the tail of a typhoon, we didn't want to slosh into a Japanese restaurant in that state. I tried drying out by standing under the vent outside the kitchen. I got no drier, but now I smelled of noodles...
- Tien Shan TraverseWhat do you do in the middle of the mountains when two large, thuggish Chinese men get out of a car and stride purposefully towards you? You smile and say thank you for the stale bread and peaches they are offering you!
- One Gear, One Continent, One Hero.Hero Cycles is the world's largest manufacturer of bikes, spitting out a whopping six million a year. You're unlikely to find one at your local bike shop but as any seasoned traveller can attest, they are the 'people's car' of India.
- Laid-back LaosMountain bike touring in Laos
- The Road to MandalayCycle touring in Myanmar
- Vietnam on Thirty Dollars a DayCycle touring in Vietnam
- A Short Ride in the Hindu Kush Cycle touring in Pakistan
- On a Wheel and a Prayer FlagCycle touring in Tibet
- Shanti Shanti - Across the Himalaya by BikeCycling across the Himalayas
- Biking the Hidden HimalayaCycle touring in North West India
- Pedalling Patagonia"Wow! Amazing! You're cycling to the bottom of South America. Is it all downhill?" Alan and I looked at each other in amusement and suggested that we expected a few uphill sections.
- Cycling Cuba with Fidel and Ché
- Dirt Roading in Colombia'The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay', promises Colombia's latest tourist advertising slogan, printed over glossy photos of idyllic Caribbean coastlines, perfectly preserved colonial towns, rolling, lush coffee plantations and a Latin couple dancing hot cumbia.
- Famous Potato Recipes from Idaho
- My Private Idaho
- Donde Estan Los Pollos
- Alaska - the Last Frontier The Alaskan Iditasport Human Powered Ultramarathon
- In Search of Maple Syrup and a Decent National Anthem Mountain biking in Canada
- All You Can EatMountain Biking in Northern California
- Caffeine and Singletrack in the USA Mountain biking in South West Colorado
- Bici Dolomiti Cycle touring around Italy and the Dolomites
- A Slice of Swiss CheeseMountain biking in Switzerland
- London Calling The London Cycle Show
- Stairway to Heaven - biking Spain's Camino de SantiagoCycle touring in Spain
- Albania for BeginnersIn the summer of 2009, our route from Greece to Germany crossed the small country of Albania...
- Fat Tyre Touring in ItalyCycle touring through Italy.
- Corsica- touring the scented isleCycling in the Mediterranean
- A Scottish Coast to CoastCycle touring in Scotland
- Crouching Tiger - Cycling Ireland's South West Coast Cycling Ireland's South West Coast
- The Italian Job Mountain biking around Lake Garda
- Double DutchA cycle tour of the Netherlands.
- A Rather Big Swedish RaceMountain bike racing in Sweden
- French ConnectionCircumnavigating Mont Blanc on the "Sentier Pedestre" hiking trail.
- A Month in Provence Cycle touring in the South of France
- A French PilgrimageTouring with the Tour de France
- End to End, the Long WayCycle touring in Great Britain
- Steve's SabbaticalCycle touring in France
Shanti Shanti - Across the Himalaya by Bike
Patrick Morgan, UnderGround Issue 27 June 2001
Updated 29 June 2011Me, my bike and an empty mountain road. I was seduced by the idea of cycling across the Indian Himalaya back in 1992 when I took a two-day bus trip from Leh to Manali. Eight years later my dream came true. As the locals say, "shanti, shanti" - slowly, slowly.
Picture yourself pedalling through the highest mountains in the world. Roads dotted with lonely nomad camps. Tibetan refugees tending their yaks and crafting cheese by hand. Crashing at tent hotels. Fuelled by simple meals of rice and dal served up at the local teahouse. Climbing switchback after switchback for hours on end into the thin air at 5,000 metres. And then proffering thanks to the gods at the summit shrine before hurtling downhill for endless kilometres, past wildflowers, waterfalls and loopy road signs.
Leh is the only town in Ladakh, a region of India near the Tibetan border. The region is high and dry - lying north of the Himalaya which protects it from the monsoon rains. It is sparsely populated as the barren land supports little agriculture. Ladakh is sometimes known as Little Tibet. It is probably more purely Tibetan with its Buddhist culture and architecture than Tibet itself, as it was never occupied by the Chinese. Ladakhi people wear traditional clothing, grow barley, drink yak butter tea and practise Buddhism freely.
Manali lies south of the mountains, nestled at the head of a lush valley. In contrast to Ladakh, it is a bustling place full of backpackers who flock there for its trekking and laid-back lifestyle. The Leh-Manali road literally crosses the Himalaya. Accumulated altitude gain exceeds a breath-taking 9,000 metres. Taglang La is the highest point at 5328 metres. The road was built by the Indian army to supply their bases in this politically sensitive border region and has been open to foreigners for only the past ten years. The road was designed for trucks, so the gradients are not steep. About 90 percent of the road is paved and gangs of tar-smeared labourers are gradually completing the rest.
Leaving Leh, the road follows the Indus River, passing Buddhist monasteries, army bases, whitewashed houses and irrigated barley fields. The dry mountains are subtle shades of pale amber, ochre and sandstone set against a cloudless blue sky. Climbing the first pass I settle in to a steady rhythm. I am acclimatised to the thin air after three weeks trekking in Ladakh but I can still feel my heart pounding against my chest. I pause to let a convoy of green army trucks pass. Soldiers, wrapped up against the cold, wave and call. A truck stops and the turbaned Sikh driver leans down and wordlessly presents me with a fresh tomato. I choose to ignore all advice on eating uncooked food and take a bite. Sometimes you have to go with the moment. Delicious!
Across the More Plains I struggle into a headwind all afternoon. It gets so bad that I have to seek shelter behind a concrete milestone - the only structure on the road. I'm low on water so have to push on. Finally I reach the sanctuary of the tent hotels at Pang - a scruffy ring of cotton tents offering meals and accommodation. Four cups of sweet tea restore my vigour so I head out to socialise. I pass the evening with an Indian container ship captain who has sailed as far as Tauranga, and a busload of Israeli backpackers bound for the green fields of Manali.
The next few days deliver empty, windswept roads stretching past nomad camps and climbing over a couple of passes. A few lonely soldiers stand guard at bridges. They're happy to chat about Richard Hadlee, and share their cha with a passing stranger. On day four I roll down a long descent from Baralacha La into the greener Spiti region. It is strange to see trees again. I'm conscious of my grubbiness once I hit town so I check into a proper hotel and take my first shower in days. It's good to be clean but I miss the solitude of the road.
On my fifth long day in the saddle I top the last pass before dropping into Manali. I'm feeling pretty good about my dream ride as I start the 1,900-metre descent... until I meet another cyclist pushing his bike up the hill. The bike is a heavy steel beast with just five gears. His name is Deepak and he too shared my dream of riding the Himalaya, only he started 800km away in Delhi. He carries a sports bag and has a floor pump tied to his bike. Deepak is wearing jeans and said he had sore knees. He had 450km of mountains still to ride. I feel humbled.
The Nitty Gritty> The road from Leh to Manali is closed in winter due to snow. It generally opens in June and closes in October. I went in August and had fine weather.
> Leh is a one-hour flight from Delhi - see Indian Airlines. In the thin air at Leh, planes can't take off or land fully loaded so it pays to book early to secure the few available seats. The alternative is a bumpy three-day bus ride from Delhi.
> The Northern India map published by Nelles has a 1:650 000-scale section detailing the route or you can pick up a tourist map of Ladakh available at Leh airport. Spelling of place names varies. Lonely Planet's "Indian Himalaya" is the best guidebook I found.
> One Kiwi dollar gets you about 20 rupees. You can check the current rate at Oanda.
> Manali is 485 km from Leh. Allow 5-10 days for the ride.
> I recommend starting in Leh as you score more downhill sections and it makes sense to acclimatise in Leh before you start biking.
> Take tools and spare parts for basic repairs. There are no bike shops between Leh and Manali. Indians rely on hammer and pliers for most repairs - be warned.
> If you plan to camp and feed yourself you'll need a kerosene stove. Kerosene isn't widely available so stock up in Leh. I relied on tent hotels and tea houses.
> Cart a water filter with you for drinking water - or if you're staunch use iodine drops.
> Some personal accounts of biking the route I found useful at Gorp.com.
> This is known as the second highest 'motorable' road in the world. The highest crosses Khardung La (5602 metres) from Leh to the Nubra Valley... but that's another story