An Ode to the Himalayas: Nights on the Road

“I can’t have bad dreams when I sleep under the stars.”

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As a final farewell to the Himalayas and to mountains in general for the next little while (ok, long while, the alps are still quite a few kilometers away) here are a few of my favorite camping spots (that I remembered to take pictures at) from my stay in the mountains.

This photo was taken 42km up a 52km (2,000m elevation gain) pass just outside of Manali in Northern India. I found the only flat ground available, perched on a cliff none the less, and set up camp only to awake in the middle of the night to a storm. Thankfully by the morning the rain had subsided enough for me to continue on my way.

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This wonderful sunset appeared on our second night during out stay near a lake on our way from Leh to Manali. Besides the beautiful mountains and difficult high altitude passes, this 500km section of highway was wonderful because of all of the other cyclists we met.

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This picture accurately dipicts Ladakh, a high altitude desert where absolutely nothing can grow. It was a bit like living on the moon.

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Though you can see the storm approaching in the photo, we had no idea at the time just how powerful it would be. After an hour or two of torrential rain and hail, our tent and all of the surrounding fields were completely flooded. We ended up packing it all up and moving as we didn’t feel like spending the night in a pond.

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This was a beautiful spot along our trek in the Makalu region in Nepal.

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With our tarp for the roof, this stone shepard’s hut proved to be one of our most amazing camping spots along the Leh to Manali highway (you can see the blue tarp in the far right).

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Also taken from our trek through Makalu, this was our first view of the mountains even though we had been in the region for a week because every other day had been so cloudy.

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This perfectly normal camping spot turned into a wild night when, after hours of anticipation due to powerful flashlights shinning straight at us from across the field, a “gang” of older Sikh men in colorful turbans jumped over the wall at midnight. They began to laugh once they figured out it was merely two western cyclists as they were worried it was a car full of rowdy drunk Indian men, and had called upon half the village (over a dozen Sikh men and boys) to handle the situation with machetes and random scraps of metal in hand.

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We decided to take a detour and cycle into Suru Valley, a region Kevin and I both absolutely loved.

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This one was also taken in Suru valley. A nice older farmer let us sleep in front of his old home (he no longer lives there). He even offered to bring us tea and started clearing out rocks to make space for the tent which made us feel safe and welcomed. Coupled with the beautiful mountains around us, it was definitely one of our best nights this trip.

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We set our tent up inside of this shepherds hut for the night just after our magnificent snowy pass where we found ourselves completely encircled by beautiful white peaks on all sides. This was definitely one of my favorite nights as well.

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This was our first view of green for weeks as we sadly made our way out of Ladakh along the Leh to Manali highway.

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Just after that we ended up camping on top of a half built building since we couldn’t find any flat ground to pitch our tent on. We had an amazing view with glaciers and waterfalls alongside the walls of the very green valley.

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Who needs a tent when you can sleep under the stars? We had a beautifully clear night, like always in Ladakh, and as we were days away from any towns during our trek to Zanskar the stars and moon were as bright as ever. We also had a funny visitor, a curious yak who came around to watch us get into bed.

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Though this picture doesn’t do the Indus River justice, we found this spot after following the turquoise river all day.

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Just before climbing our last pass through Ladakh and into Zanskar we set up camp next to this little stream.

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In both of these pictures I camped in a school. In the first, as you can see, I was literally in it, whereas in the second I was simply in the yard in front of it.

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The mandatory selfie with my tent and bike. I was so happy to be in the mountains, and as this was taken during my first week of cycling in the Indian Himalayas, I still felt like I was in a dream.

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We found this great camping spot after a few days of really hard cycling in Nepal. If you look closely, you can spot Kevin’s fly rode leaning against the tent as it was his first chance to fish in the country.

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Cold, wet, and hungry, I desperately cycled (in Spiti Valley) on into the evening convinced I would run into a village (my map told me so!) where I could get something to eat and sleep in a stone hut for the night instead of setting up my tent in the pouring rain. Instead, I ran into this abandoned hut where one man lived (some type of government job). Though every brain cell told me not to sleep alone in a small room with an Indian man, I didn’t have much of a choice given the weather and the fact that I physically had no where else to go on the deserted road. Thankfully he was a gentleman who cooked a warm dinner for me, and, in the crazy way that India works, ended up leaving at two am when his friend came to pick him up in the storm on his motorbike. Looking back it is one of the strangest nights I have had, but one that turned out wonderfully when I woke up with my own hut to a beautifully sunny day.

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Though you are right in pointing out that this stone hut is not exactly my tent either, I ended up staying in a few of these stone dhabas during my journey through Spiti Valley. As all is it is a pile of rocks in which you lay your sleeping bag, it certainly feels a lot like a tent.

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This was our first night along the Makalu trek in Nepal and though we were in someone’s backyard, we knew better camping spots were to come.

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Later on in our trek we stayed two nights in the snow, a cold and wet campsite as the clouds had us completely socked in the whole time. Luckily we had a friendly couple in a tent next to ours with whom we could share our misery. We camped in front of a trekkers tea hut where we could take refuge during the day.

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A pretty typical spot along the Leh to Manali highway. This highway was definitely the best for cycling because there were no villages around so no curious visitors at night!

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My first night camping in India! I was definitely nervous, but I figured that I needed my beauty sleep badly enough not to worry and keep myself awake all night long.

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Early morning sun. After a night of pouring rain we had a slow morning in order to let our tent and clothes dry out. As you can see, every bush in sight quickly became a drying rack.

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This was taken during a side trip I did on my way to Nubra Valley, an area north of Ladakh which has only been part of India for thirty or so years. The people and culture are Pakistani which was a change from the Tibetans in Ladakh. This was taken just after climbing the highest motorable pass in the world.

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On that same trip through Nubra Valley, I camped under the one tree I saw during four days just because I missed greenery. This region was interesting because the people were Pakistani, not Indian, and as the disputed boarder was so close, I cycled to the last town possible, there was a very heavy army presence.

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I ended up staying three nights at Chandatal Lake, a beautiful high altitude lake in Spiti valley. As you can see from this photo I even adopted a dog while I was in the region, a shepherds dog who had nowhere to go for the winter and after spending some time with me, decided it was worth running all day behind my bike to follow me.

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This is a pretty typical picture which describes much of my time in the Himalayas. A tent, my bike, some mountains, and a river.

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Another night in the mountains, surrounded by mountains, with only the wind to keep me company.

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Though this spot was over 4,000m high and extremely windy, I loved the Tibetan couple who owned the stone hut right beside my tent and ended up staying two nights at this spot just enjoying life in the mountains.

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I was elated to enter into Nepal after a rough end to India and even happier when I was invited into a wonderful home stay right away. After staying a few days I found this peaceful spot by the river in order to spend a day by myself. (Ok, I’ll admit, this one is from the terai (the flat part of Nepal) and not from the Himalayas, but I liked the spot none the less.)

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Oftentimes through my trip I end up camping hidden away in the bushes, next to a river or stream whenever possible. Though it may not make for a cool photo, camping in the open usually attracts too much attention when there are towns around so hiding is key!

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Goodbye Himalayas! It’s been wonderful.

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