Archive for the ‘India’ Category


The horses were pushed forward by the shepherd and back by the bulldozer. Some were pressed against the prescipice. After a brief moment of panic they moved to safety. Finally the horses did lead the way past the bulldozer and forklift truck to push through the freshly fallen scree. It all took half an hour.

Clearing the road

Clearing the road

I was impatient. I know – I shouldn’t have been. Cycling with the British cyclist Josh, we had got it into our heads to make it over the Barachala Pass in one day. He was on the other side of the scree as the minutes ticked by.

We decided around Pastio to give it a go. I put on my Infected Mushroom music for the first time this trip, and felt so alive and happy. I felt strong as I climbed the hairpins, with beautiful mountains as a backdrop. I got in the zone and laughed with joy.

The road up

The road up

At Pastio, we remarked that there were only men there. No women. It is a man thing – a right of passage of a sort – to ride the Manali Leh on a motorbike. The men were bathing in the lake there. It was a bit cold for us, and anyway, we were men with a mission. Next stop: Zing Bar.

The road to Zing Zing Bar

The road to Zing Zing Bar

Before Zing Zing Bar I got cramp in my leg. *sigh* I sent a message on to Josh through a passing car that he should continue. I’ll make it to Zing Zing Bar and stay the night. Rather than continuing, he returned, and we cycled the last km to Zing Zing Bar together.

After a prolonged meal, be both continued. The tents for sleeping were 6km further on.

I’m now happily set up in Zing Zing Bar. Josh is on his way over the pass. I think it will be tight, getting over the pass on daylight – even without cramp. Zing Zing Bar is a cool place to spend the evening.

Zing Zing Bar

Zing Zing Bar

Zing Zing Bar

Zing Zing Bar

My tent at Zing Zing Bar

My tent at Zing Zing Bar


A group of mountain bike cyclists doing a supported Manali-Leh and a single British guy doing it unsupported with less luggage than I would take to go to the supermarket. I won’t be alone scaling the big passes. But today is a rest day in Keylong.

Sweet things in Keylong

Sweet things in Keylong

The road was good, and 50km was again a short morning affair. The afternoon was spent eating Indian sweets fattening up for the heights of the coming days.

The road to Keylong

The road to Keylong

The road to Keylong

The road to Keylong

Tomorrow I’ll be cycling with Josh to Zing Zing Bar.


Bumpy rocks. Streams that take over and become the road. Mud slicks after stream crossings that become one long mud bath in the dying kilometres as the road climbs to Grampoo. It was all a bit of a challenge in the beginning. In the end I just wanted to hit the sealed road and for it to be over. And now it is. I’m on the Manali – Leh road.

The road to Spiti

The road to Spiti

The rain had cleared and the valley was now surrounded by snowy, rocky peaks. A beautiful sight as the road followed the Chandra River downstream.

The road to Grampoo

The road to Grampoo

The road to Grampoo

The road to Grampoo

The stream to Grampoo

The stream to Grampoo

The mud bath to Grampoo

The mud bath to Grampoo


It’s a hive of activity in the roadside hut. A stone wall with a plastic tarpolin roof, it epitimises warmth and comradary. Travellers come and go. They arrive shivering with cold, wet feet. They warm themselves up. Eat some food. Drink some tea. Tell some stories and continue on their journey. Batal – the roadside stop in the middle of a lonely road deep in the Himalayas.

The cosiness of Batal

The cosiness of Batal

I arrived here, like other travellers, wet and cold. It was raining. There was a head wind. My feet were wet from fording a few streams that were waterfalls across the road.

On the road I met 4 auto rickshaws bumping along. The road gets worse for me ahead, they said. Others have warned of this stretch – it’s worse than the rocky bumpy surface I’ve been navigating. Time to stop, and be fresh for the road tomorrow.

Batal

Batal

My humble abode is cool. A little hut. Actually it’s a stone wall with a plastic tarpolin as a roof. Inside there are heavy blankets, enough to snuggle up inside. I had an hour nap after lunch.

My humble abode

My humble abode

I spent the afternoon and evening chatting with all sorts of travellers. Indian trekking guides, people studying plants, people touring around, absorbing the surroundings.

This morning I made my way through the cold and wind to Chandra Tal – a beautiful high altitude lake. Clouds spent most of the time hanging over the surrounding mountains blocking the view. Occasionally the sun poked through, only to hide again a minute later.

Chandra Tal

Chandra Tal

Chandra Tal

Chandra Tal

Poem: Content

My nest is warm. I was cold. I piled the blankets on top of my shivering body and rubbed my legs together. I was still cold. I rubbed my legs together as a cardio workout, with vigour. And long. I stopped, gulping breaths of thin air. I had generated heat. My nest is warm.

My nest is protected. Outside the wind blows. My nest lies behind the stone hut out of the wind. The gusts of wind merely sway the plastic hanging from the roof, hiding the stone walls of my nest. My nest is protected from the wind.

My nest is dry. Outside I was wet. The rain was seeping through my clothes. My feet were icicles. My dancing manoeuvre across the stones of the river failed, and I had trodden, shin deep, in the icy water. With both feet. Outside I hear the pitter patter of rain. But inside, my nest is dry.

My nest has food. The owners of my nest have a big vat of rice. They take off the lid, and the steam envelopes them in a cloud. They have bubbling dahl and hot vegetables. They have a wall of chocolate biscuits. And another of chips. My nest has food.

My nest has water. On the tables of the owners’ of my nest are jugs and jugs of beautiful, fresh water. My nest has water.

My nest has smiles. My nest’s owners are happy. Laughing. Smiling. On the wall are newspaper clippings. They have won prizes – best tourism awards. They are here at the bottom of a high mountain pass. Rocky, bumpy, dreadful roads for miles and miles in all directions. Outside the elements are harsh, but here my nest is warm, and I am happy.


From sweltering in the heat in the Spiti Valley, I lie in my tent with all my warm clothes on listening to the pitter patter of rain in Chandra Tal. They say it might snow tonight.

On the way up Kunzum La

On the way up Kunzum La

I was in two minds about starting over the Kunzum La pass this morning. It was drizzling and there was a headwind. I was told it wasn’t dangerous – just cold.

The road continued its bumpy, rocky self as I edged forward through the wind and drizzle up to the 4590m pass.

Kunzum La

Kunzum La

I stopped in a hut entrance on the top, threw on lots of clothes, and ate some lunch. They say Kumzum La is the most beautiful pass in the Himalayas – surrounded by amazing mountains and views. All I saw was cloud, being blown across the pass in front of me, with the prayer flags fluttering at full tempo.

Kunzum La

Kunzum La

The road down was very beautiful, but too wet to photograph. Very steep mountains with little riverlets of white streaming down the sides. Half way up the mountains was a censor of clouds.

I took the turnoff to Chandra Tal. This is the absolute favourite place of my friend Mark. The road continued to be bumpy, and with a couple of river crossings, my feet got drenched. I need to stay dry.

On the way to Chandra Tal

On the way to Chandra Tal

There is a village of tents at Chandra Tal – all more expensive than I was expecting. I put up my tent, paid my $6, and joined some other travellers in the food tent, huddling around the wood stove.


My goodness. Today had so many elements. Beautiful monasteries, an absolutely spectacular descent into the Spiti Valley, and a 20km struggle into the wind on a bad road surface. I lie contented in my warm bed in Lossar, stomach full and body tingling after the exersion.

Spiti Valley

Spiti Valley

There is an alternative to the main road from Kaza to Lossar. It is hilly, passes some beautiful monasteries, and crosses a new bridge over a chasm. My cycling friend Mark crossed the chasm in a basket run by a pulley when he cycled here 2 years ago. Now there’s a bridge. Much less exciting but safer, I guess.

Chicham bridge

Chicham bridge

The monastery at Kee is on all the photos of Spiti Valley. Perched on a mound above the valley, it looks amazing from a distance.

Kee monastery

Kee monastery

Inside the monastery I was transported back to my cycle across the Tibetan Plateau. The smell of yak butter did it. I met all sorts of groups of people, and was able to speak Hindi, Indonesian and Chinese with them. Something else I love. All really lovely people.

View from the Kee monastery

View from the Kee monastery

Kibber was my lunch stop. I had a tea stop at a very unexpected place – at the top of a kind of mini pass – in flat green pastures full of cows.

The inconceivable cafe

The inconceivable cafe

The descent from there back to the Spiti Valley was incredible. The river was spread out over a silt plain, bordered by huge sandy sides rising up on both sides to plateaus high above the river. The weather looked threatening, making for a special experience.

Spiti Valley

Spiti Valley

Spiti Valley

Spiti Valley

The last 20km were a real slog. With a strong headwind, a bad road, undulating landscape, climbing on average, and a smattering of rain, I arrived exhausted in Lossar.

The road to Lossar

The road to Lossar

The road to Lossar

The road to Lossar

Tomorrow my first pass – Kunzum La.


I saw something moving in the dusk. A black shape about 50m away on the river bed. I switched on my torch and saw him. A fox. With a big bushy tail. He turned to me and I saw his yellow eyes shine brightly in the torch light. Two points of yellow light. He moved closer. He paused. Then he backed off and stayed staring at me – the two yellow dots were all I could see. I didn’t think I’d see much wildlife. I watched him and he watched me. hope I don’t see a snow leopard like this.

A room with a view

A room with a view

Today’s goal was to camp in the river valley and watch the stars. The best place to do this was only 30km away, so I went on the detour (a 400m climb) to the Dankhar monastery. Perched on a rocky outcrop high above the valley, the monastery looks amazing from the valley, and the views from up there a incredible.

Climbing to the Dhankar monastery

Climbing to the Dhankar monastery

View from the Dhankar monastery

View from the Dhankar monastery

View from the Dhankar monastery

View from the Dhankar monastery

View from the Dhankar monastery

View from the Dhankar monastery

It remains incredibly hot for being at 3500m. When at the monastery, I decided it was too hot to go and see the beautiful lake an hour’s walk away. Instead I chatted with some French backpackers and Barbara – a woman I met in Kalpa and Nako.

The setting up the tent and the cooking went well. I even have a foxy friend to keep me company tonight.


From the cool heights of Nako to the hot river bed. I never expected to be hot at over 3000m. The sun radiated its heat from above and from the rock faces all around. I cycled through this playground of rock, ending in the monastery village of Tabo.

Tabo

Tabo

Today was about cycling, but also about taking, and sharing stories. I crosses paths with the New Zealand cyclists at breakfast and several places during the day. We also spent most of the late afternoon and evening talking. That didn’t leave much time for the monastery. That’s for tomorrow morning at the prayer service at 6.

Thomas, Jessica and myself

Thomas, Jessica and myself

The valley

The valley


I sit in the sun, high above the mountain village of Nako. Next to me groans the prayer wheel as it is goaded into motion by the wind. The prayer flags flutter, highlighted by the sun. Over 1000m below in front of me is the Spiti Valley and behind me is Tibet. I am alone, with only the sound of the wind and the flags, in this beautiful place.

Nako

Nako

I didn’t think I’d stay in Nako. It’s too high, and I’m not acclimatised. I also thought I’d have to do the climb only nourished by the biscuits I bought last night. Well, there was a Bob Marley ‘restaurant/ hotel’ 7km down the road before the climb started. I had some dahl and chepatis, and again in Kah – a sudden patch of green in the middle of a barren red rock and sand landscape.

Bob Marley restaurant

Bob Marley restaurant

The rest of the time I spent spiralling up into the heavens, surrounded by a bleak, rocky landscape. The river I saw disappear to obscurity below.

The climb

The climb

The river below

The river below

Barren landscape

Barren landscape

The climb continues

The climb continues

I arrived in Nako and fell in love with the place. So peaceful and beautiful. I guess the food helped too. I sat down and proceded to have 4 main courses and 3 lassis.

Nako cow

Nako cow

Nako street

Nako street

The Nako prayer wheel

The Nako prayer wheel


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.

My humble abode

My humble abode

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.

Scree warning guy

Scree warning guy

Car wreck

Car wreck

Rivers joining

Rivers joining

View up the river

View up the river

Side stream

Side stream

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.