Manali via Spiti valley to Leh
June 24 - July 7 2013. € 2250
Leh to Manali
July 13 - July 27 2013. € 2250
Manali via Spiti valley to Leh: June 24 - July 7 2013.
The tour will begin near the town of Manali and we will ride to Spiti via the lovely Kinnur valley. We will have plenty of time to explore along the way, and once in Spiti valley will have a base from which to explore Spiti and Pin valley, and to fall in tune with this amazing place. Later we will ride over the KunzumLa pass into Lahul valley and then follow the Chandra Baga river to its confluence with the the Chanab river. Once again we will have time to visit and explore the side valleys and ancient temples. Our ride to Leh will take us over 4 more high mountain passes of ever increasing height! Lahaul-Spiti is rich in the religions and cultures of Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism.
The mighty Sutlej river has its source in lake Mansarova at the base of Mt. Meru, (Mt. Kailas) in Tibet. After entering India from Tibet it carves its way throughout the Kinnur valley. This was the ancient Himalayan Trail into Tibet from India and in places the precarious road is cut cut into the solid rock walls which follows the river's path, passing Kinnur Kailas the mystical mountain known as the seat of Shiva.
Spiti valley was once called 'middle valley' and was part of the ancient Kingdom of Guge in western Tibet. It lies along the present day border between India and Tibet. There are several side valleys, one of which is the beautiful Pin Valley, home of the famous Pin valley ponies and the Kungri Gompa with its ancient Ningmarpa temple. The Ningma order was founded after Padma Sambhava the magician and tantrika converted Tibet to Buddhism.
Situated high above the Spiti river Donkar is the ancient ruined capital of Spiti. It was largely destroyed by an earth quake 800 years ago! There is a short trek above Donkar to a high lake in the mountains for those of us who want to have a change from riding our bikes.
This monastery lies at 4500 meters! The monks stay here all year round and it must be the highest working monastery in the world! The friendly monks do month long 'Pujas' (chanting and reading scriptures). The ride up here is stunning! Nearby on the Eastern border with Tibet is Lingti Valley, once part of the ocean floor before the mighty Himalayan mountains were created. It is still littered with fossils that are between 250 million and 500 million years old! We can approach the nearby Kibber national park which is a nature reserve for rare fauna and flora.
Over 1000 years old this is the oldest Tibetan Gompa in India and with its massive adobe walls looks as if it should be in New Mexico USA, not Asia! It has a peace and power that is clearly palpable.
Famous for the Pin valley horses and on an important ancient trekking route which connects it to the Kullu valley. It also has several old and new Tibetan Monasteries.
We will ride along the mighty Chandra river, from its source near the Kunzum pass where we enter Lahul from the Spiti Valley, all the way to Tandi, where the Chandra river is joined by the Baga river. This narrow valley is unsurpassed in its stunning beauty. Waterfalls and glaciers abound, falling from the high side valleys in the sheer mountain sides on both sides of the road.
Our ride will take us over more high passes on this amazing day. We stay in a very comfortable tent camp in Sarchu, and possibly see marmots on the hillside, sunning themselves in the early evening light.
More Plains and Rupse Valley.
At 14000 ft (4000 meters), More plains has an other world quality and the beautiful mountains peaks on either side look deceptively small. We cross the 17,480 ft (5328 meter) high Tanglang La and wind down and through the wonderful Rupse valley to the Indus river valley.
Riding into Leh there is a wonderful feeling of wonder and achievment. Leh was an important market town since the days of the silk road caravans. Our hotel is in the traditional Ladakhi style, both friendly and comfortable and there are scores of restaurants to choose from with delicious international food choices.
Leh to Manali. July 13 - July 27 2013.
The town is still dominated by the now ruined Leh Palace, built in the same style and about the same time as the Potala Palace in Tibet. We will explore the many Gompas and Palaces that surround this market town, through which the ancient caravan routes connecting Tibet, India, Kashmir and Pakistan passed. This is an amazing area with a history of sustainable agriculture and many westen visitors come to learn how the local people have lived for thousands of years, literally isolated for the long winter months from the fertile plains of India and Kashmir. Sadly opening the area up to modern tourism, and other outside influences, has changed the delicate balance that sustainability requires. The whole area is in transition, like so many parts of the world, and it will need great intelligence and wisdom to find a new balance that addresses the many problems that now are faced by the beautiful Ladakhi people.
Alchi lies 10,500 feet up, sandwiched between the snowy peaks of the Ladakh and Zanskar mountains. Traditionally, the creation of the Alchi complex is attributed to the famous scholar-translator Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo (958–1055) in the 10th century, along with the Lamayuru Monastery. Rinchen Zangpo engaged Kashmiri artists to create wall paintings and sculptures and a few of these have survived, with the Alchi Monastery complex having the most beautiful of these.
Renowned as Tharpa Ling which means the 'place of freedom', Lamayuru monastery is the oldest and one of the largest monasteries in the Ladakh region. In the past even criminals could seek shelter here. There are around 150 permanent monks resident in it. The monastery belongs to the Red-Hat Sect of Buddhism, the Dri-gung-pa. It was founded by the Tantrik master Naropa who meditated in a cave here in the 11th centuary.
Like the rest of Ladakh, Nubra is a high altitude desert. The Shyok River meets the Nubra River to form a large valley that separates the Ladakh and the Karakoram Ranges, (It is possible to see K2 mountain). The villages are irrigated and fertile, producing wheat, barley, peas, mustard for oil, and a variety of fruits and nuts, including apple, walnut and apricot.
To reach Nubra we pass over the Khardong La pass, (5,350 m) which is historically important as it lies on the major caravan route from Leh to Kashgar in Central Asia. About 10,000 horses and camels used to take the route annually.
Sarchu. Sarchu is at 4,500 meters above sea level. We stay in a luxury tent camp in this amazing valley and may even see Himalayan marmots near our tent camp.
The beautiful Lahul valley abounds with stunning waterfalls. We ride along the mighty Bhaga river to Keylong which has several interesting monestaries nearby. Buddhist nun Tenzin Palmo spent 12 years meditating alone in a cave on the mountain side above Keylong.
Our last mountain pass, the Rohtang pass, is the gateway to the Kullu valley. There is a feeling of being nurtured by the lush greenery as we reach our final destination.