Today was the first day of my annual leave. Up to now it’s just been weekend and work-life balance days. Work- life balance feels so removed from where I am, sitting in a roadside store in the remote Himalayan village of Dubling, camping in the owner’s yard. I’m back on the road again.

Today had lots of different elements. Morning rain. An interesting discussion while watching the rain. Technical difficulties. Bad road surface but spectacular views. An unexpected camping experience in Dubling.

My hotel guest mate goes around to schools and puts on an educational performance. An interesting life. He had lots of tips for the road forward.

I’ll cut to the chase, and show some photos from this beautiful road.

The hotel that I was expecting in Dubling wasn’t there. I’d deliberately avoided the village of Pooh to stay in Dubling near the start of tomorrow’s big climb.

The kind shop owner let me pitch my tent in his yard. No longer credit card touring – just lots of human to human contacts.

I asked if there was somewhere to get dinner, and I was told that would be sorted out. A sequence of misunderstandings saw me go to bed when they shut up shop, and eat some biscuits in my tent. Then, when I was almost asleep I was invited to dinner. My hindi is, indeed, not brilliant. The evening was the perfect example of having to go with the flow, and see where out leads you.

I sat on the balcony, breathing in the view of the massive mountains on the opposite side of the valley. In front was the temple village of Kalpa. Slowly, slowly, the shadows of the mountains behind crept up the mountains in front until it faded to darkness.

The weather changed with a thunderstorm at 2am last night. It was cloudy and beautiful weather for climbing up the valley today.

The narrow road was cut out of a vertical cliff in parts. In others it dropped down to run just above the river.

There were lots of hydro electricity plants and lots of military garrisons. Regularly I was passed by one military truck after the next. You can tell this is near the disputed border with China.

The highlight was the climb from the valley to the capital of the district – Reckong Peo, and then up to the temple village of Kalpa. It was a bit of a slog though. Kalpa is over 1000m above the river.

I’m all kitted out for a forey tomorrow across the inner line – the area near the Chinese border.

‘And you switch it on for hot water.’
The hotel manager dangled the electric wire in the bucket of water, plugged the end into the power socket, and flicked the switch. There was a flash from the bucket in the dim, concrete floored room as the manager smiled, the fan creaking rhythmically in the background.

My spare battery sat happily on top of the fan control unit, the plug made taught in the socket with a rubber band. My clothes were sprawled out on the bed. I had decided not to climb the 700m up the side of the valley to the temple. I was hot and tired and I could feel the cramp coming on in my leg. Instead of the climb, I decided on an early night and an early start to bring myself to cooler climes.

I’m glad I did. I had a nice experience watching the shoemaker fixing up the crack in my sandals, and checked out the hot springs. I also had brief success eeking out a few WhatsApp messages at the cyber café.

After a breakfast at the happy chef’s restaurant from last night, I had a wonderful decent into the valley – nearly 2000m along a good quality road, not so steep to necessitate braking, with beautiful views.

I even met some other cyclists – Jessica and Thomas from NZ who have just finished the Karokorum Highway.

The valley was beautiful, and the road followed it, slowly rising higher and higher above the brown rushing water.

The road continues upward tomorrow – bringing me closer to the Spiti Valley. Yay!

Well. It wasn’t how I planned, but I’m here in one piece, as is the bike. No ordered taxi but an oversized motor rickshaw to my Dehli hotel at 1am. A 12 hour drive through the Himalayan traffic jam to the ski station (so the sign says) of Narkanda. The cycling can begin.

The plane was 2 hours late and my taxi driver didn’t show up. On ringing the hotel, they said they’d send him. I rang again half an hour later and they said I should find my own taxi.

I passed trough the crowds of taxi drivers offering exhorbitant rates, people pulling my packed trolley left and right, and ended up with my prepaid taxi slip being led to an oversized motor rickshaw. Somehow the bike fit, and we drove off into the Delhi night smog.

The driver didn’t know where the hotel was, so we stopped at the police to ask, called out to a homeless guy curled up in front of a shop window, and asked some dudes just hanging out, with their bellies exposed to the elements, China style.

I got to the hotel at 2am and then proceeded to put my bike together.

It all worked, and I smiled. I was one step closer to starting!

It was scorching outside as my taxi took me and bike through the heat along the dead straight freeway, lined from beginning to end with ‘dhabas’ – places to stop for food.

Finally the road started winding into the hills – and the traffic started banking up. The mountains are beautiful – not high yet, but very very steep. The road curls along their side with steep drops above and below. Villages consist of buildings on top of each other marching down the slopes.

The plan was to reach Shimla by 3. We were there as the sun was setting. My hotel and starting point of the bike trip was 60km past Shimla. We got there at 21:30. I’m knackered, and feel bad for my poor driver who must be even more tired. He had a 12 hour working day. I gave him a nice tip.

The bike is 26kg. I thought it would be 20. The second check in bag is 16kg. I thought it would be 12. That’ll be $700. Ouch. Time to panic.

Lucky Aaron was there to calm me. I stress out in situations like this. I repacked, had 2 heavy but not too volumous pieces of hand luggage and 33kg of check in luggage. Cost – $0.

It was good to catch up with my cycling buddy Mark again. We cycled together in Tajikistan, Krygyzstan and Laos.

This time he was giving meet tips of amazing, secluded monasteries high in the remote Himalayas, and beautiful side roads across the high, barren landscapes. He had been talking about it all last night, apparently. We both got excited – him from the memories and me from the expectations.

A walk,

and a dimsum later,

and I find myself in Hong Kong airport again ready for the last leg to Delhi, and then taxi to Shimla. Bring it on.

Two years ago I arrived in Australia – having cycled from the Netherlands without catching a plane. After a turbulent readjustment time, I have now built up a new life in Australia. I have a new job, a new partner, and a new home.

With the stability and a regular job comes annual leave. This time I only have a month (rather than 2 years), so I am flying directly to the nice bits. I’ll be cycling in northern India from Shimla to Leh via the Spiti Valley.

Stay tuned to this channel for some blog entries and a video of this trip! 🙂

And so they stood, in their beautiful pink wedding dresses, their hair done up nicely, dainty on the road in front of their stationary VW bus wedding chariot. The bus revved up. Again. But the wheels refused to turn. After filming the ordeal I was pulled in to push the bus up the short ramp from the ferry to the road. The slope must have been all of 3%.

The wedding party

The wedding party

Today’s trip was from Gosford to Windsor along the Hawkesbury River. Google showed me a little road called Popran Road that performed a massive shortcut to the river. There were some locked gates, but, maybe doable. Plan B was the long way around through Mangrove Mountain.

Avoiding the motorway and the motorway bridge, I wiggled down to the valley floor and back up again on the old road. It was quiet and lovely, if a bit more strenuous.

The old Pacific Highway

The old Pacific Highway

The shortcut was through Glenworth Valley – a big horse riding area in a beautiful valley. The owners were lovely and let me through, onto Popran Rd and through to the Hawkesbury River.

Glenworth Valley

Glenworth Valley

Popran Road was lovely, although I couldn’t stop for long because of the ferocious mosquitos. They seemed to like the mangroves which were on the river shore.

Popran Rd

Popran Rd



Then along a lovely quiet road following the Hawkesbury River to Wisemans Ferry. The road back to Windsor was familiar, livened up by the wedding party ordeal.