Right at the beginning I was catapulted into another world. India is very different from what I have seen so far. Especially with the traffic I had great trouble. Cyclists have no easy life on the Indian roads. Also the eternal hup concerts were already quite fast on my nerves. So I was really happy when I reached Rishikesh.
After a few days of rest, it finally went slowly into the mountains. On the second day, I was greeted by a violent monsum rain. In the middle of the night my tent was pressed down by the storm. With my body I had to lean against the inner tent. A nice welcome gift!
After a few days I reached the Kinnaur district. Kinnaur, is located in the northeast corner of Himachal Pradesh bordering Tibet to the east. A mountainous area, ranging in altitude from 2,320 to 6,816 meters (7,612 to 22,362 ft). The administrative headquarters of Kinnaur district is at Reckong Peo. There I was able to issue an Inner Line Permit. Foreigners may not enter the region without the ILP.
The route is also notorious for the many rides that lurk here. Just before the Pooh town I almost got into a stone fall and above Nako, an approximately 50-meter-long section of the road was torn away by a rock fall.
Only on foot you could cross the section. My bike and all the luggage I had to carry over. Afterwards, the way was free for me in the Spiti Valley. The valley and surrounding region is one of the least populated regions in India. Spiti is surrounded by high mountain ranges. It is a research and cultural centre for Buddhists.
After 12 days in the saddle I reached Tabo, where I spent a few days in the guesthouse of the monastery. Tabo is noted for being the oldest continuously operating Buddhist enclave in both India and the Himalayas. Tabo Monastery was founded in 996 CE by the Tibetan Buddhist Rinchen Zangpo (Mahauru Ramabhadra).
The monks had shown me a map with all the important convents in the Spiti Valley. So I first went to Dhankar. On the way a mudflow had flooded a part of the street. But now I had already gained enough experience with such situations and had overcome the obstacle soon.
Dhankar is situated at an elevation of 3,894 meters (12,774 feet). It was built as a fort monastery on the Central Tibetan pattern. Dhankar was the traditional capital of the Spiti Valley Kingdom during the 17th century and has some features dating back to the 12th century. It was the seat of the early rulers of Spiti, the Nonos.
The Spiti Valley is a fantastic place to camp. You can put your tent wherever you want and enjoy the silence. In the rest of India this is practically impossible. From Dhankar I cycled to the next monastery via Kaza.
Kye Monastery is located on top of a hill at an altitude of 4,166 meters (13,668 ft) above sea level. It is the biggest monastery of Spiti Valley and a religious training centre for Lamas. Kye Monastery is said to been founded in the 11th century. It accommodates nearly 250 monks.
From the monastery I went on to Kibber, it is a village at 4270 meters or 14,200 ft. There I made the mistake to stay in a homestay. The Indians do not know much about hygienic standard. The next day I was really glad to be able to sleep again in the tent. The temperatures were always cooler and on my 33rd birthday I reached Losar.
The way to the Kunzum La pass as well as all the accommodations in the village were closed. So I spent my birthday freezing in the tent. When I fell asleep I was totally undecided how the journey should continue.
The next morning the whole landscape was covered with snow and the next snowstorm was already announced. So for me only the retreat remained. In a single day I drove all the way back to Kaza.
In Kaza I stayed in a hostel. Since I was too tired to cook myself, I decided to eat in the hostel. The Indian kitchen is enormously diverse. However, hygienic conditions are also here a catastrophe. In the middle of the night I ran to the toilet and vomited all the food into the toilet. Only after 8 days I felt again fit enough to go on.
Meanwhile I had decided to go back the whole route. The staff of the hostel recommended me to make a detour to Langza, Hikkim, Komic and the Pin Valley. From Kaza it went straight up the mountain. For the 23 kilometer stretch I needed a whole day.
After another cold night, I visited the Tangyud Monastery the next day. It is one of the highest altitude gompas (monasteries) in India, at an altitude of 4,520 meters (14,830 ft). It is thought that there was an earlier Kadampa establishment here founded by Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055 CE). It is one of only two monasteries belonging to the Sakya sect left in Spiti.
Unfortunately the road to Demul was still impassable. So I drove back to Kaza and from there to the Pin Valley. Right next to the Pin River, I pitched my tent. The next day I visited the last monastery on my list. Kungri Monastery is a Buddhist monastery of the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Kungri is Spiti’s second oldest monastery, built around 1330.
On the same day I drove back to Spiti Valley and rested in Tabo in the monastery’s guesthouse for 2 days. Then I had to once again increase the climb to Nako. At this point I took my leave of this beautiful area. The trip to the Spiti Valley was definitely a highlight from which I will still tweak my whole life. The lifestyle of people mixed with the beautiful mountain scenery have moved me deeply.
Shortly afterwards I wanted to go back to this area. Cycling in India is enormously dangerous from my point of view and I would not necessarily recommend it. So I was pretty happy when I reached the border to Nepal 2 weeks later.
A German motorcyclist had very well described the Spiti Valley in Nepal: „It is the most beautiful place in India because it is not like India“. I can only agree with this statement.