90 Days Cycling in the Himalayas: Day 68: Leh to Lato

On the 68th day it was the start of a solo ride from Leh to Lato on the Leh-Manali highway. This was part of our 90 day ride in the Himalayas covering Spiti, Zanskar, Batalik, Ladakh, Nubra, Shyok, Pangong, Hanle, Tso Moriri, Garhwal and Kumaon.

Day 68: Leh to Lato

The last night in Leh was spent at Jimmy’s Kitchen because I wanted to be a part of Sumit’s early morning KOM (King of the Mountain) attack on the Strava Shanti Stupa segment.

I rode the motorcycle on this attempt while Tanvi sat pillion and timed it. Halfway up as I heard her, I thought she had got the timing horribly wrong. It was too fast to be true.

True it was, Sumit had walloped the KOM time by a massive 42 seconds. An incredible display of cycling first thing in the morning.

The high of the Shanti Stupa sprint made me forget that I had a ride to do as well. A longer and definitely slower one. By the time I was done with breakfast at Ladakhi Kitchen it was past noon.

But I was hell bent on leaving.

On the road. Finally…

The first few kilometres out of Leh were exhilarating. All downhill and a joy to be back on the road. Then the road evened out and my spirits too.

It was a bloody highway. Traffic, lots of traffic. And roads filled with idiots.

Fortunately after Karu the road climbed for a couple of kilometres and the world felt normal again. Flat roads are not my thing. Especially once the headwinds pickup post 2 pm.

The last 10 km of the ride the sun disappeared behind clouds and the temperature dipped to uncomfortable levels. I was desperate to find accommodation.

The only thing which kept me going was the beautiful landscapes post Upshi. Before that it was as boring as drying paint! The Leh-Manali highway is spectacular in its own right, as most people who have travelled to Ladakh will attest. But after riding through fascinating backroads, this highway felt like, well a highway!

The mountains post Upshi took on a magical purple tinge, I could have sat there for hours staring. But my freezing bottom wasn’t quite willing.

Cycling from Leh to Lato
Snow covered peaks start making a frequent appearance come September


At the village of Lato I found a cheap guesthouse.

Tanvi had recommended staying there rather than going ahead to Rumste, and she was right. It was cheaper.

I had a room to myself, after more than two months of sharing with friends. It was an indescribable luxury to sleep without being disturbed by the snores and farts of someone else!

Lato is the last proper village on the northern side of Tanglang La. The next village is many days away for a cyclist. As such I charged all my electronics, not knowing when I would get phone connectivity or electricity again.

An hour after I made myself comfortable, the owners of the place handed over the keys to me. They told me the room rates to quote other prospective guests and left!

I was in charge of someone else’s property a couple of hours after meeting them. This is the typical mountain trust I experienced across the Himalayas. People trust you implicitly and you cannot help but live up to that trust. That for me is the real mountain magic.

For a couple of hours I was lord and master of a guesthouse. It was a responsibility I could have done without.

A family in an Innova landed up there with one of them sick as a ghost. And I had to play host. I showed them the rooms, told them the rates and asked them to wait for the real owners.

On this stretch of road, I found a lot of people in automobiles who were not acclimatised. They were so sick that they barely looked out of their cars to enjoy the beauty of Ladakh.

I desperately called the owners of the guesthouse. Hospitality is not my strength. I was as uncomfortable as when guests come home! SOS, “Mother get home soon, Mrs XYZ has come visiting!”

Cycling from Leh to Lato
The rocks so pretty and sky so blue that you want to sit and stare at them!

Route Profile: Leh to Lato

The stretch from Leh to Lato is a relatively easy ride. You start off from going downhill from Leh. The road then climbs gently to Upshi. Only the last couple of kilometres are a bit of a climb.

From Upshi you once again descend for a few kilometres before climbing steadily to Lato. The climb is steady, the roads are good and it isn’t difficult.

Food and accommodation is available in multiple villages along the way. Lato and 5 km later Rumpste are the last couple of villages before Tanglang La. There is no food or accommodation after Rumpste.

If you leave from Leh early morning, you will reach Rumpste by noon. Even then you will not have enough time to climb Tanglang La. Therefore it is best to stay the night in either Lato or Rumpste and climb the pass on fresh legs the next day.

Accommodation in Lato is slightly cheaper than Rumpste. People coming from Manali reach civilisation in Rumpste after many days on the road, as such they are more desperate and costs are higher.

Smooth roads of Ladakh
The roads on this highway are so good, that a MTB is not needed. Proper roadie territory!
Elevation profile from Leh to Lato


Food 205


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