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Biking the Himalayas with Photographer John Barnard

Curators’ corner

Biking the Himalayas with Photographer John Barnard

Adventure and travel are universal passions for photographers. And when you combine the two, you get a new genre of photography that is as much about the experience as it is the photos.

John Barnard is a longtime friend of Duggal Visual Solutions. He has been coming to us for nearly 20 years, with both his own photography and projects involving his independent printing company, Backdrop Productions. John has an impressive background spanning commercial art, painting, photography, advertising and self-publishing. He has traveled all over the world, and when he told us about one of his favorite excursions, we couldn’t help but share the images with you. But first, a little background:

The Manali Leh Highway is a scenic, high-altitude, 300-mile dirt road in northern India. Winding through what a tour guide describes as “a landscape so high and so barren that there’s no permanent human habitation at all,” the route runs at an average altitude of 13,000 feet and boasts awe-inspiring views of the Himalaya Mountains.


John has mountain biked the Manali Leh Highway three times (and the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan once, when China unexpectedly closed the highway for 10 days). His most recent trip was with his wife in August 2015, as the two toured with Red Spokes Adventure Tours in a group of six travelers. As John describes it, you basically wake up early in the morning, have some tea, hit the road by 7:30 a.m. and ride all day. The tour van follows with your belongings and sets up a tent for the night, and then you wake up and do it all over again – for two weeks straight.

Between the rugged terrain, high elevation, unique cultures and unexpected challenges (for example, the Chinese closed their border the day John’s group was scheduled to pass through the country), the Manali Leh tour seems to be about as adventurous as adventure travel gets.

“When you’re on a cruise or a bus excursion, they’ll take you to famous sites,” John says. “With adventure travel, you have no idea what’s going be around the corner. It’s the thrill of seeing new places and landscapes that you could have never imagined even existed.”

The trip started with a day-and-a-half van ride from New Delhi to Manali, where the tour group acclimatized for two days at an elevation of 6,500 feet. Then, they rode for 10 days from Manali to Leh, through a series of increasingly higher mountain passes and valleys. After two days of rest in Leh, they trekked for six days over a 15,500-foot pass from Phyang in the Indus River Valley to Hunder in the Numbra Valley.

Here are some of John’s spectacular shots throughout the journey:











It’s always inspiring to see the amazing things our clients are up to, especially when it’s extreme travel like this. To see more of John’s photography, visit his website,

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