Dhanashri Bapat is a 43 year old, mother to two daughters and an IT professional. She started cycling as a part of her exercise routine since December 2010, in Pune. With her cyclist group she has already been on various Cycling Expeditions in Srilanka (~400kms in 2014) and Gujarat (appx. 300-400kms in 2015). She rides twice a week with a target of 20km each day. Recently, she successfully completed the famous cycling expedition Manali to Leh which is appx km. Missy Traveler invited Dhanashri Bapat to share her experience on the blog.
1. What inspired you to take adventurous Journey from Manali to Leh on bicycle?
I had read about articles published by cyclists who had undertaken such adventurous expedition to Khardungla, the world’s highest ‘Motorable’ road and had always wondered if I could ever attempt it. This is an ultimate dream for every cyclist. There are several groups in Pune who organize this event every year. I knew the owner of one such group, Mr. Kedar Gogte, (Green Earth Adventures) who regularly arranges such expeditions. I was approached by my friends to go on this trip this year and that’s when I made up my mind to attempt it.
2. What was the preparation you did for this journey?
We practiced hill climbs in & around Pune for almost 5 months. We rode to Sinhagad, Lavasa, Mutha top, Bopdev & old Katraj Ghat. Our routine rides included Chandni chowk loops & ARAI hill in Pune.
Enroute Bara-lacha-la pass (16000 ft)
3. What were the challenges you faced during your ride?
We experienced extreme weather conditions this year. Apart from unexpectedly cold weather, there was a lot of wind & rain too. Even the support team were quite surprised to find such adverse conditions in Ladakh and claimed that they hadn’t seen anything like this in the past 8 years.
Initially, I went through a lot of mental stress as the roads are so narrow and with a lot of traffic specially buses & trucks. You have to stop at the edges for the traffic to pass. That was pretty scary!
Also, some of the roads are in utterly bad conditions; especially the last 10 kms of Khardungla pass. There is no road, only stones and pot holes. It’s very challenging to maneuver your cycle through it. I was not able to ride the last 2 km, so I walked with the cycle by my side. That was the toughest walk ever at 17000 feet. One motorcycle rider stopped to click a picture with me and praised my courage. He said he couldn’t even walk 50 meters at that altitude. We had a lot of cheering tourists in cars & bikes who used to appreciate our cycling and asked us if we were okay.
At Suraj Taal – 16000ft
4. What was the best part about this ride? How do you feel after successfully finishing it?
The routes that we cycled on were absolutely stunning. You could see the snow-capped mountains & gushing river streams flowing below, starting from Manali all the way. The beauty of nature seems to take away the pain & the stress. Riding down from Tanglang la (second highest Motorable road) was a splendid experience. The roads were smooth and winding. We rode to a small village ‘Lato’ where our camp was setup. It was a beautiful village. The pleasure that you get after completing the climbs or the routes is immense- beyond words!
5. Readers reading this might have this expedition (Manali to Leh on Cycle) on their bucket list. Please give tips.
The gradients in Ladakh are not very steep but the low oxygen level makes it harder to cycle. If you are seriously planning to go there, I suggest practice hills where ever you find them. That should boost up your confidence. It’s more about your mind strength than your body.
6. What is next on your list?
I would love to cycle in Spain, Europe.
With this Dhanashri signs off inspiring lot among us, motivating us to take up cycling as a healthy option to improve way of living as well as experiencing the incense of hard work. Thank you Dhanashri for sparing some time and sharing your travel experience with us. May you go exploring places on your cycle and keep inspiring more people around you.