Thoughts on India

India part 8 | Tips | Day 112

For Bike Nerds: Before stepping foot in to this amazingly different part of the world, we had a lot of questions. Here are a few things we learned after riding two months in the Indian Himalaya.

ACCOMIDATIONS

It is easy to stay in a guest house, homestay, or a shack every night if desired. We only camped once in India while going over Pensi La pass in Zanskar, but with a big mile day this could be avoidable.

Prices range from $3-7 a night per person, smaller villages tend to be cheaper and towns can be a few dollars more. 

“Accommodations” range from a guest house -sleeping in someone’s home, roadside duhab with extra room or tent full of beds (dorm style) and regular hotel. 

Amenities vary. Hot water is uncommon in small villages. “Hot Bucket” can be possible, but they will have to physically boil you water. An actual hot shower will typically only come in more established villages/towns. 

There was not much power on the Leh to Manali highway, and it is sparse in Spiti. Leh to Kargil and the Zanskar Valley had power most nights, although all areas are prone to intermittent power outages.

Discuss breakfast and the time you would like to eat the next morning. Most restaurants and stores tend to open around 9:00AM, so if you like to get an early start make arrangements before. 


FOOD

$4-8 for 3 meals a day.

Cooked our own food once. Most days we would pack a lunch, and tried to always carry two days of snacks. 

Not much is imported. Mostly the same basic food is available everywhere. Breakfast: TEA, chapati (bread) and omelet for breakfast Lunch: maggie (raman noodles) and vegetables, if you’re lucky and Dinner: Dal (lentil soup) with rice, a vegetable, and chapati- usually comes all you can eat, perfect after a long day of riding. 

Larger villages have a little more variety in the food choices, but don’t expect things to look or taste quite as you would assume from the name, and definitely do not bother with any “Mexican” food. 

Must tries: banana lassi and pakora  


CULTURE

Most people speak or understand at least a little English. The further from tourist destinations, the less English is spoken. Our needs are basic and communication figures itself out: “room?” “how many rupees?” “more food?” 

All prices are negotiable, but haggling is not a huge part of the culture in Northern India. People typically ask fair prices and we mostly haggled for bigger dollar items like long taxi rides, and multiple nights stay in a guest house or hotel. 

Everyone is willing to help. Mountains create a population of kind and compassionate people.

Hitching is easy. If stranded a bike can be thrown into a back of an empty truck -empty Tata trucks are best. 


WEATHER

The only rain we saw was in the green valley before Rohtang La. 

It was not as cold as expected, in fact it was hot riding during the day. Temperatures ranged around 80's during the day and 50's during the night -depending on altitude. 

Only wore our down jackets a couple of times.  


WATER

Carried three liters of water each, just enough to get us from village to village. 

Filter water as much as possible, to reduce plastic use, but it is possible to buy it for 25 cents a litter. You could probably drink from most streams as you can pretty much see the glaciers they stem from, but we filtered just to be on the safe side. 


THE RIDE

Generally we rode 30-40 miles a day, ending around 3:00 PM. This gives us time to explore the village we are staying in each evening. 

Though there is traffic, most drivers are courteous, give you space. Since the roads are so rough, vehicles can't go much over 20 mph. Taxi drivers are the craziest. Tata drivers are the best.

Climbs are generally very gradual and well graded. Back in the U.S. we had nightmares of these 17,500 ft ascents. Turns out the climbs over the pass are spread out as much as 40 miles or so, making it much easier than the steep climbs on the Great Divide. 

No forging any rivers, but there were plenty of streams to get your feet wet riding through. This may be different earlier in the season, when the snow is still melting. 

We generally ran into a cyclist a day going the opposite direction, which leads me to believe that people are behind and in front of us going the same direction too. We traveled with two other cyclist for 14 days. 


NAVIGATION

Laura Stones “Himalaya by Bike” is a great resource and most cyclists we ran into carried a copy. She provides a suggested daily plan with small write ups on each village, and other useful information. 

We carried a GPS, but with only one road it’s pretty hard to get lost, we usually kept it off to save battery.

There are frequent km markers on nearly every route giving distances to the next village.

Intersections all have signs with clear directions, usually in both English and Hindi. 


SAFETY

The bikes stayed in our room every night, with the exception of a couple nights where we locked them in a downstairs room of a guesthouse or next to our tent. 

We felt safe leaving our bikes and belongings in the room while we explored the villages on foot, guesthouses give you a padlock for the door. 

Northern India is safe! The people of these mountains are kind, generous, friendly people. We never had any negative experiences with anyone.  


CHANGES IN GEAR

We threw out one of our two bladders because carrying that much water is not necessary, now we have the ability to carry 5 liters.  

Olivia swapped out a pair of pants for some local baggie pants

Olivia bought a cooler fanny pack/bag to keep money, passport and other important things on her at all times

Eric swapped out his beanie for a local beanie

The sidewalls tore on both of our 3" Surly Knard front tires. Forcing us to use tubes and forego our tubeless set up in the front.  

-We highly recommend tubeless, we went almost three months without a flat. We have each had a sidewall tear, since then we have had one flat.

After much debate, we have decided to get rid of our video equipment - this will save us A LOT of weight. 


BUDGET

Average daily food & accommodation: $13/day per person

This is traveling fairly comfortably, eating at nicer restaurants for all meals and accommodations every night. Someone could easily get by for less by not indulging in eating out, and camping frequently. 

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