High Highs and Low Lows: 3380km

“And then there are times when it doesn’t need to make sense. It just simply is, and it is all you need to believe in.”

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Instead of cycling the 200km back to Leh along the same route we had just accomplished, my British cycling buddy and I decided to try our luck at hitchhiking. After two hours without cars, a few army trucks passed where we were waiting and graciously picked us up. As we hopped into the back of one of the massive trucks, we were greeted by a dozen very friendly Seek Indian army men. They all had dark green turbans and goggles, and smiled and laughed at us as we joined them for a ride until the next army base camp. From there, the driver hooked us up with another truck who was going another 50km farther, but not before shaking our hands and handing us each a bar of delicious chocolate. Our second ride of the day took place amongst many boxes and gear, with two other soldiers, in the back of an equally massive truck. During both of these rides, each time we passed through a village the children would run after the trucks with their arms out wide asking for candy. I have never wished I had a bag of lollipops to hand out more than whilst in those trucks.

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Nubra Valley: 3340km

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”

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After climbing up and over the highest pass, the English lad I had adopted along for this four day adventure and I rode into what is referred to as Numbra Valley. Because this road approaches both China and Pakistan, the military presence is very heavy, though there are not many other inhabitants. There are few villages between Leh and Tukturk (200km), and Tukturk is the end of the road (unless you are Indian military) north into the Indian Himalayas. Since most of the valley is no higher than 3,300m, there are animals, such as donkeys and large yaks, who roam freely along the river, and where there are people, there are trees and a bit of refreshing green. The rest of the landscape is barren rock with a few sand dunes between the high peaks.

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Up and Over the Highest (Motorable) Pass in the World: 3200km

“I doubt if anyone would claim to enjoy life at high altitudes- enjoy, that is, in the ordinary sense of the word.”

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I just cycled over the highest motorable pass in the world. I never imagined that someday I would cycle up to 5,602m, and I definitely never imagined I would actually enjoy it. I started out late in the morning and had planned to camp at a village about 15km from the top in order to summit the next day. When I arrived, I realized it was a military base with a few tents of soldiers, and a few other tents with Indian men. After sitting in the “village” reading for an hour I realized I did not feel comfortable sleeping there. The guys stared rudely, and the military men kept coming up and taking my picture. Lucky for me, earlier in the day I had met an English fellow who was biking up the pass as well so I decided to ride down with him. Though I turned around before the top that time, it had been an amazing day. The cycling up had been surprisingly fun, and cycling down at 50km an hour while the sun was setting was absolutely unbelievable.

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