Zanskar is one of the most isolated regions in the world, and for most of the year, this high altitude valley is covered in snow. The only way out in the winter is a ten day frozen trek on ice, though in the summer once the snow has melted, it is a fascinating place to visit. I loved the tiny patches of green which marked a village, and the beautiful monasteries throughout the valley. The climate and topography in this region make for some of the harshest living conditions in the world, and these Tibetan Buddhists who have been living here for thousands of years still live for the most part as they have for centuries.
We can’t post a series about our favorite routes without mentioning the famous Leh to Manali route, as well as the Kargil to Leh route in the Indian Himalayas. The region of Ladakh is a high altitude disputed territory which boarders Pakistan and China and is full of monasteries and Tibetan monks, desolate dry mountains, and a few beautiful rivers. Ladakh is a wonderful place to cycle for those of you who enjoy isolation, endless high altitude passes, and easy camping.
Spiti valley was easily my favorite route in all of the Himalayas; I loved the feeling of immense solitude that came from going hours without seeing anything or anyone, and I had two wonderful homestays with various women which showed me a small window into what life above 4,000m looks like. The road through Spiti valley is notoriously rocky, but it’s worth every ounce of energy dispensed to be isolated in these high beautiful mountains.
After leaving Jammu, the capital of Kashmir valley which is the Muslim majority disputed territory that borders Pakistan in north-western India, we headed up and into the Himalayas along a mostly paved road which took us over a beautiful pass before landing us in the not-so-pleasant town of Kargil. From there we took the turn off south which leads to Zanskar valley. Though we weren’t able to make it all the way down to Zanskar valley due to the snow (late May), we really enjoyed cycling there and back through this very beautiful region (Suru Valley) and would highly suggest it to others who come this way.
I’ve decided to take a few of our favorite camping photos from pre-South America and tell a little story about each one. Though the photo sometimes captures the natural beauty of a place, it never really gives the whole story.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive”
I’m sure that you have all heard of the pay-it-forward movement, the idea that you do something kind for someone in the hopes that they in turn will do something kind for someone else. And for those of you who have been with me for a while, you already know about our debt to the world (which we will happily pay back for the rest of our lives) because of the amazing hospitality we have received through homestays, and the kind acts which seem to happen to us on a daily basis no matter where we happen to be. It’s these experiences, both big and small, which have made this lifestyle into the successful endeavor it has become, and so, to cap it off, here are a few pay-it-forward experiences that we have recently received, most of which came from other cyclists like us.
“Don’t tell me has educated you are. Tell me how much you have traveled.”
Why do we cycle? We do it for the peaceful nights at 4,000m surrounded by the stars and the snowy peaks. We do it to explore and discover rather than to simply sit and wonder, and we do it for the lovely people we meet along the way. One of the main reasons Kevin and I chose to travel as we do, and one of the thing that has kept us going through each and every country, is the astounding kindness of strangers and the wonderful homestays we have been lucky enough to partake in. Though it may seem pretty crazy if you haven’t experienced it yourself, total strangers really will invite you into their homes for a cup of tea (or even a night), and despite what the media may constantly tell you, our world is indeed a truly wonderful place.
“Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.”
A 900 point score on the SATs is in the bottom two percent. No school, not even a state university, will accept you with a score that low. With a score like that your teachers will consider you a lost case, your peers will humiliate you, and you will begin to believe the lie they all tell you, that you have failed in life before even turning eighteen. Though you may not want to say it out loud, you too are thinking that this person is a failure.