FlowTouring – High altitude edition
Edges of India is a unique MTB tour across the high altitude desert of Spiti and the many villages that we will visit on this tour line the borders of India with Tibetan region of the Himalayas or present day China. One of them less than 3kms away from the edge.
This tour is a massive undertaking and is not for the faint of heart. When you complete it, you can confidently boast to be the first batch of riders to do this tour and part of a handful of cyclists who have ridden here.
The tour is 21 days long with 15 days of cycling, 2 days of rest in between with 2 days of driving and 2 days of staying in big towns before the driving leg of the tour begins.
Short Itinerary (Detailed itinerary below)
Day 00 – 18-08-2022 – Morning arrival at Shimla in pre booked bus from Chandigarh
Day 01 – 19-08-2022 – Acclimatization at Shimla (our bikes will be waiting for us here in boxes)
Day 02 : 20-08-2022 – Drive to Reckong Peo (boxed bikes and us will be driven in our support tempo traveler)
Day 03 : 21-08-2022 – Bike building and repacking (We segregate our luggage into what we will need on bike and everything else)
Day 04 : 22-08-2022 – Ride to Sangla (Gravel + broken tarmac climb)
Approx distance: 39kms, Approx elevation : gain 1800m, loss 1500m
Day 05 : 23-08-2022 – Ride to Chitkul (Gravel + broken tarmac climb, reach the first edge of India on our tour)
Approx distance: 25kms, Approx elevation : gain 1000m, loss 190m
Day 06 : 24-08-2022 – Ride Back to Peo (Gravel descend and short climb to hotel)
Approx distance: 65kms, Approx elevation : gain 1700m, loss 2700m
Day 07 : 25-08-2022 – Ride to Pooh (Gravel + Broken Tarmac climb on the treacherous NH05 and a surprise)
Approx distance: 67kms, Approx elevation : gain 1930m, loss 1120m
Day 08 : 26-08-2022 – Ride to Nako, Chango (We pass the Khab Sangam bordering China & enter Spiti territory, lot of steady climbing & another surprise)
Approx distance: 60kms, Approx elevation : gain 2000m, loss 1500m
Day 09 : 27-08-2022 – Ride to Gue (Ride to the 3rd edge on this trip and to a village that houses a Mummy)
Approx distance: 25kms, Approx elevation : gain 960m, loss 260m
Day 10 : 28-08-2022 – Rideto Tabo (Mostly downhill and easy riding on NH05)
Approx distance: 33kms, Approx elevation : gain 450m, loss 780m
Day 11 : 29-08-2022 – Rest Day (we visit a 1000 year old monastery and ancient Buddhist meditation caves)
Day 12 : 30-08-2022 – Ride to Demul (Fourth edge on the tour and a full day of tarmac esque climbing)
Approx distance: 55kms, Approx elevation : gain 1520m, loss 490m
Day 13 : 31-08-2022 – Ride To Komic (Steady Gravel climb on a route that no one uses and earning legendary status by riding down to the world’s highest village)
Approx distance: 25kms, Approx elevation : gain 670m, loss 510m
Day 14 : 01-09-2022 – Active rest (Riding around Komic to the villages of Hikkin & Langza and try finding pre historic sea creature fossils and send post cards from the World’s highest post office)
Approx distance: 30kms, Approx elevation : gain 500m, loss 500m
Day 15 : 02-09-2022 – Ride to Kaza town (Downhill on gravel to tarmac roads to enter civilization for resupply and refueling)
Approx distance: 20kms, Approx elevation : gain 160m, loss 980m
Day 16 : 03-09-2022 – Ride to Tashigang (Destination : A village with 6 homes via the most popular monastery of Spiti, Key Gompa)
Approx distance: 31kms, Approx elevation : gain 1200m, loss 470m
Day 17 : 04-09-2022 – Ride to Chicham (Visit Kibber enroute to Asia’s highest suspension bridge)
Approx distance: 17kms, Approx elevation : gain 310m, loss 590m
Day 18 : 05-09-2022 – Ride to Losar (Last day of riding, we reach Losar through an alternate to the the highway over rolling gravel terrain)
Approx distance: 36kms, Approx elevation : gain 550m, loss 590m
Day 19 : 06-09-2022 – Rest day at Losar (We repack the bikes into boxed and pack our personal luggage ready to fly)
Day 20 : 07-09-2022 – Drive to Manali (Take the Batal – Manali highway and visit Kunzum pass enroute)
Day 21 : 08-09-2022 – Exit from Manali
What do you get?
- Complete mechanical support
- Complete logistical support
- Complete route guidance
- Complete skill guidance
- Partial sweep support
We will have a van tailing us with our luggage that will meet us at our daily destinations. This van will be our mobile aid station for water and first aid, but this van is not meant for us to get onto unless its an emergency. This van will be used to infiltrate us with boxed bikes into Spiti from Shimla and exfiltrate us out of Spiti to Manali once the tour is complete, again with boxed bikes. This van lacks the ability to carry bicycles and riders unless bikes are boxed and loaded on the roof.
- All meals included from Shimla to Manali
All meals will meet our nutritional needs. All meals may not be lavish and will be basic. We are in really remote places and just like the space station cannot serve Tandoori chicken, our meals will be generous quantities of Dal, roti, chawal, sabji and the occasional meat stuffed momos.
- Permits and permissions to strategic and protected sights
- All accommodations in hostels or homestays
- AC bus pick up from Chandigarh to Shimla
- Boxing and shipping of your bicycles from BLR and back. Bikes will reach Shimla from BLR and leave Manali for BLR on return.
- STARGAZING like you have never done before
- Connecting with yourself at a level you never have before
- Memories for life
- Bragging rights for the next 2 lifetimes
- Stories for your grand kids
What do you need?
- Decent mountain bike (no specific recommendations, just a fully and properly functional bicycle. The bike featured above is a now 15year old Hercules Omega with single wall alu rims and V brakes modified to carry luggage and had a basic 7×3 basic drivetrain)
- Guts and determination. Lots and lots of both.
- Beginner to medium MTB skills.
- Good climbing legs.
- Proof that you have good climbing legs by completing this ride : Esteem mall-Nandi top x4 and back to Esteem on a single day done on 6th August, 2022.
- Ability to survive in minimalistic in mud built home stays and hostel set ups with temperatures dropping to -4Deg C in the nights and hot scorching high altitude sun during the days.
- 21 days away from home and a big part of that away from general civilization and connectivity.
- Book your own flight tickets in and out of Chandigarh. Reach on 17th Aug, 2022 and leave on 8th September, 2022
- Book your own bus to exit Manali into Chandigarh based on your flight timings and any other personal plans.
Here’s a kit list of things to carry along for this tour.
How much will it cost?
Rs. 55000/- per head with all the inclusions mentioned above. That is roughly Rs. 2700 per day. What this amount does not include is bus from Manali to Chandigarh after the tour. Flight in and out of Bengaluru and any other personal expenses like shopping etc. If for any reason you would like to split this amount, please reach out to your host #staraniSh over whatsapp on +91 9741577884
This is what you will get when you enlist for this tour. Glory and Immortality from being the first group or brave people to bicycle tour this route.
Here’s a rough preview of the route and days of riding. Please bear in mind that your tour host staraniSh has ridden 90% of these routes alone and self supported and hence is not impossible to ride, but is impossible to map on Google or Komoot as few people have been here before let alone have tracked and recorded their rides to supply satellites with information. Here’s some of the errors that Komoot threw at me while I meticulously tried to map the route. I dare you to search for Hurling between Tabo and Sumdo over at Strava. And Hurling is where we will eat some form of the protein flour Sattu for brekkie on the morning of 28th August.
Day 00 – 18-08-2022
Report at Shimla
Acclimatization and Resupplying
Shimla was the Summer Capital of the British East Indian Empire and is at around double the altitude of Bengaluru and is impossibly vertical for someone from the plains to fathom. Eg: I walked into a building during my visit in 2012 while filming Meeting Mountains and I discovered that since the building was built from the bottom of a cliff, I had directly entered the 5th floor from the road and had to climb DOWN instead of UP to go to the 2nd Floor.
Day 01 – 19-08-2022
More walks and acclimatization at Shimla
Shimla is going to be as big a city as we can get to see during this tour, so we spend the day buying things that we might have forgotten or didn’t want to carry from home and just walk around the capital of Himachal Pradesh to get a feel for going up and down the sides of hills. In the evening, we hike to the top of Jakhu temple where a chart dictates fitness levels based on age and time taken to reach the top. This is a great initiation into what’s about to come our way. The top has a ginormous sculpture of Lord Hanuman, the symbol of supernatural strength. In some twisted sense of mythology we are doing this hike to seek blessings to scrape out superhuman strength in us over the course of this tour. I did mine in 22mins at the age of 32.
Day 02 : 20-08-2022 Drive to Reckong Peo
Time to make a new best friend, our TT driver
Shimla being the capital of Himachal Pradesh has a lot of touristy spots around it and hence traffic and we are not here to be stuck and troubled by traffic, we get enough of that in Bengaluru. And so, we load our still packed bikes, our luggage and ourselves onto our support van that will drive us through the busy towns on Narkhanda and Rampur on NH 05 for about 200 kms in around 7hrs through dense Deodar forests to reach Reckong Peo in Kinnaur district of Spiti. Just trust me on this when I tell you that you will be fighting to sit on the left side of the Van. PS our bikes have been couriered to Shimla from BLR separately so we do not have to deal with excess baggage and transfers in our flight journey.
Day 03 : 21-08-2022 (hotel accommodation)
Bike build and repacking
Reckong Peo is our last big town where we can buy essentials and although we will not be much higher or lower in altitude from Shimla, the air quality here is definitely different and the views are solar systems apart! Today we will, in my guidance assemble our boxed bikes. Primary responsibility of this is mine, but I want everyone to also participate in assembling their own bike so we can learn to identify anything going out of place during the course of the very rough riding ahead of us. We will also take time to repack our luggage in terms of stuff we need while riding on person or on bike and stuff that we will need to change into for the night and will get dumped into the support van. Local sightseeing and early bed time on the log today.
Day 04 : 22-08-2022 To Sangla
We finally start riding
There a very good reason why we are taking as long as we take to start riding. That is letting things take as long as they should take. Acclimatization to high altitude is done in only one way, that’s slow ascend and slow initiation of our lungs to the depleted oxygen supply. Its not like we’re going to be strolling on flat lands, we’re going to be doing some lung screaming climbs and I want all of us to be prepared. The human body is an amazing creation and can adapt to any environment, IF we let it. And I will bloody well make sure that everyone of us is prepared properly.
Today’s ride starts with a descend, marveling at human engineering feats of tunneling and hydro electric power generation and then climb a hill like you have never before. Gravel track with palm sized rocks and 89% gradients (I told you these routes are impossible to map remotely). We will possibly even encounter a jeep running up and down the road with a warning to the tune of -“Do not enter the river or its banks, we may have to open the flood gates at any moment and that can cause you to become dead” The Baspa Dam employees have no chill but are really sweet to cyclists.
We will cycle roughly 40kms today to reach the village of Sangla where we spend the night at a hostel.
Day 05 : 23-08-2022 to Chitkul
Today we reach our first village that is on the Edge of India, Chitkul. When I was here in 2019, I thought it was a bit of a let down. But in retrospect getting to Chitkul and succeeding the climbs to it and making new friends prepared me for every bit of the nasty stuff that came after. It is somewhat of a baptism by fire kind of emotion.
We start our day with climbing on tarmac to broken tarmac surfaces and then that cycle continues with a bunch of sandy gravel surfaces tossed in. We get to see a lot of huge clouds, dense forests and cross some really creaky bridges. There is also a Indo Tibetan Border Police check post that we will have to cross after proving our identity.
Our riding today is for about 25kms and should be done in about half a day. Today we spend the night at a Hostel and will do some recovery stretching and walks in the village and watch a spectacular sunset before we hit the bed.
Day 06 : 24-08-2022 Back to Peo
Descends are where all the fun’s at
We are going to lose the last two day’s climbing elevation in just over half a day. Yes, that’s not a false claim. It does get tricky in the gravel sections and the blind curves and hence caution is very important. I will take my time to point our a very peculiar plant that grows abundantly in this region and is surprisingly neglected too.
Once we reach the river, we will climb back up to the town of Reckong Peo for the night. Having covered around 65kms, tonight we shall stay at a hotel room and prepare our lungs and legs for tomorrow’s climb where I have a surprise for you. Something that I am 100% sure you have never experienced in your life before.
Day 07 : 25-08-2022 to Pooh
No Lycra at the start and carry your towel
Today is a full scale climbing day and also a long distance of about 70kms. We descend from Peo town onto the main highway and the path gets pretty treacherous, sketchy and really sunny. This is the start of the desert part of Spiti region. The geography and vegetation changes drastically compared to what we have been seeing in the past few days. This is what we came here for. There is very little shade apart from the cliff on your left. The start of today’s route on NH05 has been dubbed by the BRO as World’s most treacherous road. The trick to crossing this section safely is that there will be small traffic hold ups where the road is slushy or being worked on and on these stretches, do not get bullied by the other vehicles and claim your space. Be as large a body as you and you cycle can and go where you need to go. Do not get cornered anywhere and never on the right side of the road.
To give you strength to deal with this day, I have a surprise in store right around when we start on the highway. All I can tell you is that it is natural and requires shedding of some inhibitions but is going to be one for the grandkids to hear about. We reach pooh today and will stay at a home stay. Early to bed, not much to see in this town either and we HAVE to get our rest in for another day of climbing.
Day 08 : 26-08-2022 to Nako
Another edge and possibly drink Chinese water
We get out of our accommodation and head to Khab. If you look at this place properly, it can easily become your most favorite place on this tour. This is where the Spiti river meets the Sutlej river flowing from China. In a straight line from the bridge here we are about 5kms away from the Indo-Chinese border and will be eating one of the most memorable breakfast ever. The rock faces here have clear indication of where the river split the mountain to form its path. If you know your geology too well, you may not want to leave from this spot. But we have to. Lot of climbing ahead. And this is steady climb that you will enjoy on broken tarmac, recently graveled wide roads and ending up in pristine tarmac as we reach closer to Nako.
Lunch is at a Cafe at Nako, we then look around the monastery and leave to enjoy some breath taking tarmac descend into the village of Chango where we will spend the night at a homestay.
The total ride distance today is around 60kms and two thirds of that is climbing.
Day 09 : 27-08-2022 to Gue
Let the mysticism begin
One does not need to go to Peru to see the rainbow hills and nor to Egypt to see a mummy. All we need to do is take a not to obvious detour to the village of Gue. But before that we will need to report at the ITBP check post and prove our identity. (foreign nationals will need a special permit which I will obtain) and possibly also pack a few Samosas from their canteen. Gue village no doubt is at the top of a serious gravel and broken tarmac climb and in the highly unlikely event that I do not remind you to, please do stop, turn around and take a look at where you came from. In life and on this climb. You will see some of the most spectacular things that you have come through and a view that compels you to keep going.
We will most likely have to report at a ITBP bunker on the hill once we reach the monastery that houses the naturally mummified remains of a Buddhist monk. Draw a straight line from this point and the Indo-Chinese border can be less than 4kms away and even the villages elders aren’t allowed to “wander” on their own without a military patrol.
Tonight we prepare to spend a night at around 12000ft (4000m) altitude and this may cause some mild discomfort in some of us. This is the first time on the tour that we are going to be at this high an altitude and that too for as long as a whole night. Here’s the upside, STARS! The village of Gue has so little artificial light that I guarantee you that you will not be able to spot your most favorite constellation in the over population of night sky objects. At best, you will take at least 10 times as longer. Bonus, the moon sets at 1945hrs on this day and the following day is a New Moon. (I do not kid you when I say a lot has gone into the planning of this trip)
Today we have covered around 25kms and the last 10kms of it has been a steep incline. We spend the night at a homestay and will need the extra layers to come out tonight.
Day 10 : 28-08-2022 to Tabo
Return to “civilization”
Today will be melancholic. And that’s why the ride is like a day of active recovery. To leave behind Gue and to head back onto the highway takes a lot of mental courage. The sights on the highway that the vast majority of the Instagram selfie taking people think is amazing will start becoming a little mundane to us. And trust me you will have a sense of pride and accomplishment in you that you will laugh at people who ride past you on motorcycles like you are royalty and they are the real peasants. By riding to Gue you have done what a handful of people have done on this planet! And for this accomplishment, you are being rewarded with a day of rest at Tabo, our destination for today.
We cover around 35kms today hopping from one settlement to the other along the Spiti river. There will be a stone skipping contest today.
Day 11 : 29-08-2022 Rest Day
Meditation caves included in package
Tabo houses a 1000 year old monastery, a post office, a helipad, a bunch of cafes, an ATM and hotel Snow Leopard where we will be staying. Hot water and a nice bed is the highlight until we start heading out for a short hike post lunch. This is so that we don’t annoy the other guests with the stories of our adventures.
We will go to the Monastery, the prayer wheel, the Stupa, roam the town. Wander into a café and visit the nearby hill that hosts the meditation caves. We will also proudly now buy the Tibetan prayer flags and put them on our bike because we have earned them. I will try and get one of the monks to tie it on our bikes for us.
A quick check of our bikes and equipment is also a mandate for today before we hit the bed for some much needed sleep.
Day 12 : 30-08-2022 To Demul
Second Act – Cycling prohibited
They say it only gets better. They also say, it’s all downhill from here. That second part is not true in our case. We climb up to the village of Demul today and this route gave me the creeps when I did it in 2019. This is also a region where I had only met 3 human beings for a period of 48hours. I didn’t even meet them, they just happened to pass me. I was alone and had all kinds of luggage on me. I had a home on my bicycle. This route had gotten me so overwhelmed about the size and scale of existence outside of me that when I camped out that night, I had accepted that I may not wake up the next morning and that I was fine with that. But I woke up and went on to have one of the greatest adventures called life and I also discovered a really good part of this tour which we will ride tomorrow and now, let’s get the Sado-Masochism out of the way and there’s always one sure fire way to do that, STARS!
Today’s route is so remote, that Komoot believes that some of the parts of this route is prohibited for cycling. Pff! We’ll see about that Komoot. We ride roughly 60kms today and will spend the night at a homestay. Demul village is known to have an elusive view point (it’s quite a hike and can only be reached on foot) which claims to grant one the view of the entire Spiti valley.
Day 13 : 31-08-2022 To Komic
Birds of prey
All this while on the tour, we have been been going up and down altitude levels, for the first time we are going to be on a steady climb and also moving laterally without a significant drop or gain in elevation and this allows us to understand experience and even possibly view some of the wildlife that calls this level of altitudes their home. I should also mention that this is easily an abandoned route. It’s all gravel and rocks and we will not see more than two vehicles here as an extreme example.
We cover around 30kms today but this will be at 14000 – 15000ft altitude and human bodies don’t function too well when exposed to this altitude for too long and that’s why it is a damn good thing that a fast gravel, volcanic dust-esuqe descend awaits us to get us into the village of Komic. Here’s another reason to pat yourself on the back. Komic is regarded as the highest village in the world connected by a motorable road. Which means everyone goes UP to Komic, but we will be the legends descending into it.
Our tour halts here for 2 nights at a Homestay or the monastery to explore the nearby villages of HIkkim and Langza.
Day 14 : 01-09-2022 Komic-Hikkin-Langza-Komic
If we find a fossil, we do not carry it back with us. It can be seen, touched, photographed, videographed, but cannot be carried back. As small and insignificant as it may seem. The existence of these fossils in this region plays a vital role in maintaining the eco system and is a way better place for it to be than our show cases. It is not easy to identify fossils unless you know what you are looking for. Here’s some reading material.
Today’s ride will give us the opportunity to take shortcuts that only MTBs can let us. We will see the magnificent Buddha statue, ride on a lot of dirt roads and also visit the world’s highest post office and send postcards to our loved ones. There is also a very real possibility of us running into a herd of Yaks. They’re friendly from afar.
Our riding today is for about 30kms and we will return to the same homestay as last night and enjoy the views of the villages and valleys as the sun sets. There’s also a hidden meditation cave here that we can try to hike to and discover.
Day 15 : 02-09-2022 To Kaza town
Taking to long route down
Kaza is the capital town for Spiti, this is where you get a newspaper and that too is a day late because a HRTC bus needs to bring it from Shimla on a two day trip. And yet Kaza has almost everything else available including a fuel pump and almost 4G mobile connectivity. A few cafes, electronic stores, ATMs and a bunch of other stuff. I call it the Malleshwaram of Spiti.
The route to Kaza is 20kms of downhill on unpaved roads and we will take the longest possible route down to enjoy all of the downhill. We have to cut through the town and go to the very opposite edge (which is actually the main entrance from the Shimla side) to get to our hostel. I love how the first time we reach a entry gateway on this tour, we are actually exiting it. Our hostel is also motorcycle club / garage / cafe. Which means, warm showers, a nice bed and tools to fix any big repairs. It still has solitude as it is a lonely property on the edge and has no neighbors. We will try not to get carried away with the hustle of the town and get good sleep because we have a particularly long day ahead tomorrow.
Day 16 : 03-09-2022 To Tashigang and redemption
Third Act – The mysticism amplifies
Our destination for today is a village that came highly recommended to me when the wise locals saw me on a bicycle alone, but couldn’t ride to during my tour in 2019. So today there’s redemption and also the fact that this village has only 6 houses as motivation to do all the climbing.
Our ride today begins with visiting the Kaza monastery, brekkie at the outer edge of town and climbing to the mystical monastery of Key. We will spend some time, possibly attending prayers and a short hike to see one of the best examples of how Nature inspired humans. We then start on the route to Tashigang. Yes, you guesses it right, this is another Edge of India that we are going to be at. Draw a straight line from here in the right direction and the Indo – Chinese border is about 5kms away and it is also the country’s highest polling station.
Total riding today is about 32kms with quite steep gradient and the route after Key is gravel and unpaved surfaces with a gradient of 43% at a point (according to Komoot, let’s test that out) The ride finishes when we reach Tashigang, we will spend the night here at a homestay and the altitude here is about 15200ft. Expect some discomfort and cold at night. But the STARS should make it all better.
Day 17 : 04-09-2022 To Chicham
Today we will end up doing some touristy shit!
Our destination today is the village of Chicham. Chicham is world famous for having the worlds highest suspension bridge. Highestbridges . com may have a slightly different reasoning to it. We descend from Tashigang through the village of Kibber which is famous for Snow Leopard sighting and ride into Chicham across this rightfully hyped up bridge.
The ride distance for today is about 17kms on gravel to broken tarmac to pristine tarmac and are mostly descends, but there is a lot of sight seeing, visit to the Kibber monastery and picture clicking to be done before we reach our homestay at Chicham village for the night. This picture clicking could possibly include spotting Ibex, red fox, blue sheep and if we are really lucky, a Snow leopard too.
Day 18 : 05-09-2022 To Losar
Last day of cycling
Do not sigh! I have picked a really good route to end our tour. It’s gravel, steady incline and declines and of course vistas and sights that many people don’t see because they think the roads here are “bad” That’s the stuff us mountain bikers are seeking and boy do we get a lot of it on this day. There will be a lot of picture taking. Group selfies, Instagram content generation and a full year’s supply of new display pictures. There’s even a spot that we will ride past which Google Maps calls as the Spiti river photography point
The distance we cover today is about 35kms to reach Losar on the Manali road where we will stay 2 nights at a homestay as we pack bikes and get ready to drive out.
Day 19 : 06-09-2022 Losar
Boxing bikes and repacking
Today is the day we unpack a lot of our baggage, physical, mental and metaphysical. We revel in the glory of what we have achieved and enjoy the views of the plains of Losar. We repack our baggage based on check in / carry on box up our bikes to load it on the top of our van (we have been hauling our boxes in the van all along) Time for some laundry too.
Day 20 : 07-09-2022 Drive to Manali
One last high pass
We eat breakfast at Losar and drive out towards Kunzum pass to reach Manali. Kunzum is at the altitude of about 15000ft and is surrounded by higher hills, snow on top of these hills means that winter is coming. That’s the locals way of knowing it. After Kunzum, the road gets bumpy to say the least, we are driving through boulders the size of 10 year olds rolled into a ball and a lot of water crossings. We stop at the famous Chacha Chachi dhaba, the owners of which have been credited with saving the lives of many a tourists and adventurers who get trapped in the snow fall or bad weather here.
Once we’re out of this, we cross over the legendary Rohtang pass. We will try not to take the Atal tunnel, but that depends on the authorities there on that day. We reach Manali in the evening and will check in to a hostel for the night.
Day 21 : 08-09-2022 Exit from Manali
Leaving the hills behind with memories for 2 lifetimes
From hereon, everyone on the tour is figuring out their own ways of getting out of Manali to Chandigarh or Delhi or anywhere else they plan to go to. We have the hostel till the morning of 8th August. You will leave your boxed bicycles behind here and I’m in charge of getting them picked up by our courier.