Exploring the India Himalaya

Unexpectedly our trip this year ended up being in the Indian Himalaya, no complaints as we had both spent time in the Himalaya walking and skiing so time to spin the wheels there. Our plan is to fly into Delhi, get the train to Shimla and then bike up the Spiti valley crossing the Kunzum La into Ladahk, Leh and then a side trip to the Zanskar region on the northern side of the Himalaya. We will finish in Srinigar – note the posts below are in reverse order..

Ending our journey in the Vale of Kashmir

More 4 am wake up calls from the local mosques were a feature of our last days in the predominantly muslim state of Kashmir. From Kargil we had our last pass to cross into the Vale of Kashmir, the 3800m Zoji La and we had our first day of getting wet while biking – hmmm – we have been spoilt. We parked up in Drass for a day so we could get good weather over the pass. Drass has the dubious fame of being the second coldest inhabited town in the world when it hit minus 60 … Continued

Entering the fabled Zanskar

The huge peak of Kun dominates the down valley view from Rangdom but we missed the sunrise on it because of a veil of high cloud. The mornings fun was taking the shortcut to the Rangdom monastery 6km away across the river flats. We could ride most of the numerous river channel crossings even when they reached the bottom of our panniers. At this time of year the river is chocolate brown and runs high from snow melt, by the end of summer there would be substantially less water and by this … Continued

Have you one pen please?

We were warned, in black and white, how bad the road surface was on the route in from Kargil to Padum. At present it is the only way for people and supplies to get into the villages of the Suru and Zanskar valleys. it is a dead end road and the Zanskar valley inhabitants are cut off for 7 months of the year by snows on the 4400m Pensi La. It is 240km into Padum and 140 of them are rough and cobbly. I was excited to be going back to Padum … Continued

Following the Indus – knocking on the door to Pakistan

One day of eating, relaxing and clothes washing in Leh seemed enough and we made a late start down valley. There seemed less traffic on this road that links Leh to Srinigar – the final destination of our journey. As we were climbing up to a saddle a small van pulled up alongside and the occupants said ‘hello’. It turned out to be the two tour leaders of a cycle group we’d met in Keylong and they’d given us a spare tube. They were going to be staying at the Nimo, where we … Continued

Last high pass to Leh

From Pang we had a short day to the shrinking Tso Kar Lake. We were picturing camping by the blue waters but all we could see was salt plains in the distance. We did see a herd of wild donkeys instead as a small compensation. We treated ourselves to dinner at one of the luxury camps dining tents for a diet change from rice, dahl and subje. A large group of motorcyclists came in well after dark – cold, wet feet and feeling miserable because of altitude. Not happy campers. We were away early … Continued

North Into Ladakh

For 300km on the road to Leh (from Manali) there are no permanent settlements and the road is only open for about 5 months of the year because of winter snows. To accommodate the busy tourist traffic over the summer there are a number of parachute tent ‘cafes’ that are set up along the way providing food and tent accommodation for the huge number of motorcyclists, vehicle traffic and the small number of cyclists that need food and a bed. There are 4 high passes on the route, up to 5300m, and the road varies from … Continued

Raising the bar on cycle touring – Kunzum part 2

In Batal we woke to a grey and cold day, pleased that we had crossed the pass the day previous. Eggs and roti, chai and another chai were needed before we faced the day ahead. We had been warned! The first few km’s we bounced down the road alongside the Chandra river. We came to the first of several large areas of avalanche debris. The first was flat and a long way from the river so we pushed our bikes across, no problem. The sections of snow got progressively trickier in terms … Continued

First Wheels over the Kunzum La 2015

It was time to start moving forward again with the challenge of getting over the Kunzum La. The ‘advertised’ opening date is 15 June but because of a big winter they were looking at a much later opening date. We talked to motorcyclists who had been to the pass and back and they complained of very bad roads and not being able to carry on over. Kaza had started feeling like home and we had dinner our last night with the only foreigner who lives there most of the year -a woman … Continued

Immersion on the high roads

With time to spare before the Kunzum La opens we decided to do a loop above Kasa that would allow us to spend three nights at around 4300m. We ditched our camping gear and other miscellaneous and left town with just 2 paniers each. It was a big climb above the Spiti valley alongside yet another stunning gorge. Part way up we met a roading crew laying new tarseal – a big fire heating the bitumen and then it was mixed with gravel in a Lorax type machine which presumably then spread … Continued

Discovering the Kibber Canyon

We are constantly amazed on things we stumble across on our journeys, whether it is good timing (lunching monklets, Hindu processions) – or by a casual conversation with someone. In this case an Indian motorcyclist mentioned a rope bridge beyond Kibber village that stopped wheeled transport to the next village Chenai. We carried on climbing from our overnight stop at the Kye Monastry and arrived at the village of Kibber (at 4000m altitude). Mid afternoon we went looking for the said rope bridge. What we found was an amazing deep canyon cutting through … Continued

Of things Budhist and barking dogs

At 10 years old, the host from our Kaza Guest House, escaped with his mother, father and 2 brothers over the Himalaya from Tibet to Nepal. Near the border they were shot at by Chinese and it took 3 months for the journey. They arrived in Nepal with nothing. It was the same year that the Dalai Lama escaped Tibet during China’s ‘Cultural Revolution’. Most things Budhist in Tibet was destroyed or banned. At 15 he was working on the Indian roads with his parents – he earned 1 1/2 rupees for an … Continued

In the village of Nako

We spent a couple of nights in Nako as it is such a lovely village. The old part of town is an eclectic collection of mud stone houses. Most of the houses have a small walled pen for goats and cows, a bottom story of the house is for animals or grain storage, then living is on the upper storey. Walking lanes separate the houses and any animal dung on the lanes is cleared for drying for winter fires or compost. There is no forest on the hills at this altitude so … Continued

The Bowels of the Himalaya

Every time I think we are emerging from the bowels of the Himalaya we are submerged again into yet another incredible gorge, cycling under solid and not so solid cliffs, bouncing along roads that maybe 10 years ago were smooth tarmac but now are broken and rough. The smooth descent from Recong Peo was followed by rough travel through a gorge that as we emerged we saw the sign “World’s most treacherous road”. Leaving early meant we didn’t have to deal with the traffic as well – tho it has dropped off … Continued

India’s Religions – gods and cricket..

From Sangla and the Baspa Valley we bounced down to and along the Satluj and back up to the district headquarters of Reckong Peo to sort an Inner Line Permit to allow us to carry on up to the Spiti Valley. We thought we may have passed the last of the hudro projeccts as the river was in full force – sadly they are starting on the next dam. The road alongside the river was rough, dusty and slow. Reckong Peo is a large town, set high on a horticulturally developed ridge … Continued

Dead Cow Road to the Beautiful Baspa Valley

Our progress along National Highway 22 is being slowed by diversions to amazing places off the highway. They are popular tourist destinations with local Indian tourists from Mumbai, Delhi and Kolcatta and we are often stopped to get our photos taken. It is not peak tourist season yet and there are not many foreigners around either. O f course no one else is on a bike and with the nature of the topography there are no push bikes used in towns. From our PWD rest house we had an early morning descent … Continued

Stunning and Altered Landscapes

We headed up the Satluj valley from Rampur. We had a few hours along the main valley before a 1000m climb to a small  village called Sarahan – famous for an old Hindu temple Bimakali, named for the Goddess Bimakali who occupied a small shrine room guarded by her tiger consorts.  We were lucky with the weather as it was overcast and drizzly which made the climb bearable in terms of heat. We found a nice hotel and had a look around the temple and town. Next morning I woke with a … Continued

From hill top station to hot lowland riversides

In the Indian way of things it takes half a day to sort a sim card in Shimla, the up side is that we discover The India Coffee Company coffee house. We leave Shimla in the heat of the midday sun (even at 2200m). Up thru dense pine forest, climbing and contouring to our ridge top town of Fago. No accommodation in the town so we start the descent and come upon a lovely ‘Homestay’ guest house  set above apple orchards. Dinner at the nearby restaurant and the owner tells us he … Continued

Heading for the hills – Delhi to Shimla

We were up at 4 am for our travel day to the foothills. First step was to go back to the Parcel Office with our bike boxes and get them registered for the train trip. Despite assurances we stayed with the boxes and supervised their transport across all the railway lines of the New Delhi Railway Station. it was a relief to board the train knowing the bikes were safely aboard. It turned out we were travelling first class to Kalka (4 hr trip) – comfy seats, bottled water, snack and lunch … Continued

On the ground in New Delhi

Is it a good sign to spend the first 3 hours of your journey on the tarmac in a plane that is being cleared by authorities for lightening strike? Despite that small inconvenience we made all our connections through to Delhi and we arrived mid-morning to be met by our taxi driver from the  Pearl Hotel. His mumbling about our 2 large bike boxes squeezed into his vehicle, and police, came to nothing. Our hotel is in Paharganj, 3 km from the centre of the city, and very close to the New … Continued