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What comes to your mind, when I say “adventure in the Himalayas”? I am quite sure your answer would include things like trekking, skiing, hiking, mountaineering, river rafting and paragliding. But there is more to excite you in the Himalayas than these; and that is the scintillating road trips, which are undertaken by thousands of people, year after year. There is a certain charm about riding through the Himalayan regions that beckons adventure seekers from across the globe. The challenges that one faces during these road trips are innumerable, but everything gets compensated by the satisfaction of successfully completing it.
The road trips to the Himalayas guarantee an unlimited supply of breathtaking locales, panoramic views and unspoiled beauty. From the far reaches of the Ladakh region to the closer Uttarakhand and Himachal Valley, the plentiful opportunity one gets to explore the Himalayan range is truly astounding. Fortunately, I have been lucky enough to have enjoyed some liberating road trips, especially in the Himalayas. Whether one agrees, but these trips remain etched in our minds so deep that one can visualise them just like a movie.
And if you think, you are ready to go on such a road trip to the Himalayas, then read on and find out the ways of doing so; remember, each option is as good as the other, it all depends on your capability and level of enthusiasm.
Meandering Through the Himalayas on Bikes
A motorbike trip into the scenic valleys of the Himalayas is nothing short of a dream-come-true for many. Hence, every year, we see hundreds of bikers from across the country making their way towards the Himalayan Mountains with unparalleled enthusiasm. True that mountaineering and trekking lovers outnumber the motorbiking enthusiasts as of today, but this is likely to change in the years to come.
There is a special pleasure in riding bikes on the off-beaten tracks of the Himalayas; it’s something, which only the ones who have had the chance to do so, can understand. An interesting aspect of this experience is that it is not solely about riding bikes on the rugged, treacherous roads but beholding nature’s beauty that this region has been endowed with. Another interesting advantage, if you like to say it, with motorbiking in the Himalayas is that it gives one the opportunity to explore even those places, where it is difficult to reach with a Jeep ride. These are the areas, which are located at a higher altitude. This is one of the reasons why enthusiasts enjoy exploring the regions of Ladakh, Kinnaur, and Lahaul and Spiti on their motorbikes. Besides sightseeing, it also gives them enough opportunity to halt at several places and enjoy the warm hospitality of the locals.
Motorbiking in the Himalayas gives one an opportunity of a lifetime and that is the chance to drive through some of the highest motorable roads and passes in the world. One such route starts from Manali that leads to the picturesque Rohtang Pass, which lies at an approximate altitude of 3980 m above sea level. This pass serves as the gateway to the arid region of Leh and Ladakh. Another such route starts from Shimla that leads to regions of Kinnaur and Spiti. And to reach these places, the bikers get the chance to drive through the mesmerising Kunzum Pass.
There are many motorbike tours on offer in the Himalayas that range from 17 days to even about 60 days. So, if one has the will, then he or she can make the most of the motorbiking expedition in the Himalayas. But this is not only limited to India. Similar experiences can be enjoyed in the Himalayan countries of Nepal and Bhutan as well, especially in the Kathmandu and Pokhara valley areas as well as the wild regions of Nepal.
Admiring the Beauty of the Himalayas on a Cycle
Another way to adventure travel in the Himalayas is to hop on a cycle and enjoy the passing vistas. In the Himalayas, cycling involves travelling by bus and walking as well. During their cycle expedition in these mountains, there would come many sections of the journey, where one has to mount the cycle onto a bus to reach a point from where cycling can be done. For instance, the roads leading from Chandigarh to Manali or Kathgodam to Nainital or Kalka to Shimla keep becoming steep every kilometre and add to that the heavy car and bus traffic; this gives no pleasure to the cyclist. It is to be noted that the main trunk roads that enter the Himalayan region are not at all suitable for recreational cyclists; and more than the suitability factor, it can be unpleasant and dangerous.
The real joyous experience of cycling in the Himalayan valleys is enjoyed on the less-frequented roads. There is a plethora of choices when it comes to picking out destinations for cycling in the Himalayas, but one stands out among them is Ladakh. The Indian Himalayan region offers a range of light and introductory cycling challenges, which includes passing through some age-old trade routes as well.
For beginners, cycling in the Terai forests, especially along the foothills of Nainital can be a wonderful experience; it is not physically taxing. This journey can begin from Thakurdwara and continue up to Ramnagar village, which lies on the outskirts of the Corbett National Park. Ranikhet, another picturesque destination in Uttarakhand, is a paradise for cycling enthusiasts. The road that goes downhill for about 20 km till Kosi is perfect to enjoy cycling and admire the sceneries all along. The state of Himachal Pradesh too has some wonderful areas for mountain cycling. Riding on the Shimla-Kalka road can be fun, especially by starting the journey from Kumarhatti. Then there is a link road, which runs through a beautiful pine forest, falling and rising till one reaches the small town of Sarahan. The route from Sarahan to Nahan is also excellent with the road passing through dark forests, which usually remains traffic free.
However to enjoy cycling in the best possible manner in the Himalayas, one’s choice of a cycle has to be spot on. From cycles with sporty trims for superior lightness to ones with spring suspensions for a cushion against bumpy roads to ones with deep and broad-threaded tyres for better grip on mountain roads; the options are plenty. However, the most important feature the cycle must possess is multi-speed gears, which come in handy to comfortably deal with steep climbs and slopes of the mountain roads.
Motorbiking and cycling in the Himalayas offer a lot of thrills, but so does the excellent Jeep rides. Ranging from short tours to long ones, the adrenaline-pumping experience of driving through the mountain valleys on the rugged roads, especially where one finds protruding mountains rock on one side and deep valleys on the other, is simply awe-inspiring. One of the most fantastic Jeep rides in the Himalayas can be experienced by driving to the scenic Pangong Tso Lake in Ladakh. From Chang La Pass, it takes about 4 hours to reach here. This drive can be really arduous but at the same time, it is totally exhilarating.
Another such exciting drive can be enjoyed by heading to Tso Moriri Lake from Leh. This Jeep tour to Tso Moriri generally follows a particular itinerary, which means, passing through Karu, Upshi, Kere, Chumathang and Sumdo along the way to finally reach Korzok. From there, the tour continues towards the Leh-Manali highway, passing the Tso Kar Lake and the quaint villages of Thukse on the way.
Jeep drives in the Garhwal and Kumaon hills of the state of Uttarakhand and Spiti Valley have also been a favourite of many enthusiasts over the years.
If you ask most of the adventure junkies, they will tell you that there isn’t anything better than self-driving in the Himalayas, especially to destinations like Leh-Ladakh and Spiti Valley. Sitting ideal in a Jeep or taxi driven by chauffer is something a lot of people are not fond of. The pleasure of self-drive in the valleys of Himalayas has a special charm and excitement, which only a handful of enthusiasts have experienced so far. But this might not be feasible for someone living in the southern, eastern, western or central part of India; even for those living in the northern states, it is not an easy decision to make.
Also, transport companies located in the Himalayan states do not entertain such requests, and even if they do, the price quoted is something that simply quashes all the zeal. However, in recent years, a few companies have started renting out their 4 wheelers to those interested in self-drive expeditions in the Himalayas; and to be honest, it is something that any Himalayan enthusiast will love to do.
Now, having gone through this list, I am sure you would have made up your mind as to which option suits your sensibility, dare devilness and enthusiasm the best. Then, go ahead and make your plans for a trip to the mighty Himalayan Mountains. Do it! You will never regret your decision of doing so!