Flipbook of Landscapes

Check out this story of CyclingMonks member, slibero, of his travels through the Spiti Valley on the forum.

“It  will be painful right?

Yes it will be.

Very painful?


At this point in the conversation it became clear to me that I was profoundly unprepared for the upcoming trip. After our plans to cycle in Mongolia in 2015 were dramatically altered; I went to America for graduate studies, and Avinash cycled in Mongolia anyway, I was left with a yearning to do a cycling tour, wherever the opportunity. Spiti Valley? Sure! Let’s! Will you train? Yes! I will, I think.

As the day of our departure approached, I felt a strange sense of excitement and dread. I was excited to see what it was like to pedal in the Himalayas. But the dread which gripped my heart kept nagging me to reconsider. What if I can’t do it? What if my body calls it a day and refuses to go further? Why would anyone want to see the mountains anyway? They are big, ancient and daunting. They just stand there! Since I couldn’t satisfactorily answer these questions, I did the only thing I could in the situation; I booked my tickets.

Between July 10-27, 2018, Avinash and I pedaled, pushed, and dragged our cycles around 650 kms between Shimla-Spiti-Manali. The trip was many things; exhausting, painful, frustrating, exhilarating, and at times, frightfully mundane. Rudyard Kipling’s Kim- in a novel by the same name- described Spiti as ‘a world within a world’. I would humbly call it a world of ever-changing landscapes.  Like a flip-book of pictures, the landscape around us changed slowly but surely. In those 17 days, as we climbed up and down mountains in the region, we saw our world transform from green lush forests to bare vegetation, to barren cold deserts with windswept mountains, to the green line again.

Our ride began on a wet morning in Shimla. Our bus from Delhi arrived earlier than expected and was greeted with gentle rain and mist.  We loaded our luggage onto the cycles and waited for the rain to subside. The rains refused to oblige, and we set off towards Narkanda (60 kms, 954m of climbing), wanting to get out of there before city woke up. The first couple of kilometers were easy and exciting; with a full night’s sleep and fresh legs. As we approached the edge of the city, morning had come to Shimla and cars began animating the hills. A couple of kilometers outside Shimla, the incline increased, and I found myself taking longer breaks. Eventually, I concluded that this was a terrifically bad idea, and returning to Delhi would be a splendid alternative. It was during one of these contemplative breaks, that a long convoy of tourist vehicles passed us by. As the last car in the convoy disappeared on the turn ahead of us, I heard it. Complete dead silence. We were surrounded by thick motionless woods. Nothing but the sound of my labored breathing, and sensation of sweat trickling down my face. As unaffected as I may try to seem about it in hindsight, it was a striking experience. One that made me forget the possibility of returning to Delhi and push on towards Narkanda. After that, the plan was simple; eat, cycle, eat, sleep. However, within this plan rests two and half weeks of experiences as varied as the land we travelled.

Starting out

“You can carry anything you like.

Because you are going to be pulling it uphill, you will throw out stuff along the way. Every gram makes a difference.”

It is important to mention what a trip like this does to your body; you feel it. Acutely. Muscles you didn’t know existed are discovered, used, and strained. Food and water doesn’t just fill you up, you feel it spread through you, the exhaustion of pre-lunch hours disappears, and you cycle on for another couple of hours. You feel the burning sensation of acid build-up in your muscles as you cycle uphill. It is painful at first, till you no longer feel it, and keep pedaling. You also learn a thing or two about body salts, and why they are important.

Read slibero’s full travelogue on the Forum.

One Reply to “Flipbook of Landscapes”

  1. Had read Avinash’s version earlier. Was happy to now read Sirus’ more graphic and philosophical one. Complementary and to be complimented.

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