Jullay from Leh

Welcome to Prue and Ian's blog of their cycle tour of India

"Soaring thousands of metres above the rush, heat and chaos of India's plains, the Indian himalayaare a world apart. prayer flags snap in the wind on high mountain passes, immense yaks thresk barley at harvest time and the colourfultata trucks crawl up the hairpins like ants. The people, especially in Buddhist Ladakh, are cheerful, honest and gentle. The landscape is a reflection of their religion - white chortens line the roads and approaches to villages like pawns from a giant game of chess, burgundy-clad monks hitch lifts at the side of road, gompas perch on spectacular crags and everywhere the air is alive with the flutter of prayer flags Here is some of the most starkly spectacular mountain scenery you will find anywhere in the world"

Laura Stone Adventure Cycling

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Blog 2 Journey to Leh

After a night in the hotel (with brekkie in bed!) we hit the road again. A beautiful sunny day. I had the solar panel tied on to the back rack to maximise the charging power for the camera batteries that night. The Sunday traffic was generally light and many of the locals were out doing the washing. Boys from the road crew camps were everywhere either washing themselves or hanging their cleaned clothing on any available space - usually the safety railings on the side on the road. Namaste was the word of welcome as we passed by. Many Nepalis were part of the road crews.
Several big river crossings  broke boredom of the dusty rock strewn surfaces we faced most of the day. Several large convoys of Indian Army trucks passed in the opposite direction - returning empty to that big supply depot somewhere south?? I laughed to myself wondering how many Made in China items the Indians move up here.
As the morning disappeared the road became sealed and we entered the township of Jispa. A young guy was out riding his bike and stopped to chat. He was the local post master and invited us home for a cuppa. The cuppa lead to lunch and lunch lead to an overnight stay.Gailchhen , his brother and mother were just so welcoming. We toured the family farm, shared photos and we were just so fortunate to have a window into local life. I asked Gailchhen if he invited strangers home very often and he recounted a story from 6  years ago when a Bollywood star stayed the night. So Prue and Ian from Wangaratta were up there in the Jispa  social stakes! Guess what we had for lunch? Yes the old D and R!  Preparing dinner involved Prue and G's mum cutting up vegetables on the front verandah and G's brother Tanzin making chappatis. I took the opportunity to wash the bikes and lube the chains. The next morning Mum (55 year old - so bonded well with Prue) was up at 5:30am and off to work in the fields. We had a leisurely brekkie with the boys and after photos headed north again. We both couldn't believe our luck at meeting Gailchhen on his Sunday day off.
 As the morning worn on the weather deteriorated. A very deep waterfall crossing didn't help. By 1:00pm we reached a remote parachute tent cafe. A young couple with a 1 1/2 year old had taken up residence the day before. A bowl of two minute noodles and vegies went down well. Our bike mojo (mascot) - a stuffed kangaroo came out and entertained the baby for 30 minutes. When we left, the kangaroo had a new owner. It rained most of the afternoon and a soggy pair finally arrived at the the foot of our next big pass at another parachute cafe in the Zingzingbar area. A warm night was had but we had a lot of wet clothing with no chance of drying it.
The next morning snow was falling and we both decided that what laid ahead was quite dangerous with our lack of back up warm clothes.
At this point of the blog Christos Milliankos needs to look away.
Christos bussed the Manali - Leh Highway several years ago. He said to us " There is no way you will be able to cycle all the way. I'll bet a bottle of Moet on it." A handshake sealed the bet.
If anyone sees Moet on special between now and when we get back, please buy a bottle for me to give to Christos.
In the snowfall I organised a lift up the hill in a diesel carrier. A roof box over the cabin was ideal for our bikes and panniers.
We left at 8:00am
An hour and a half up the road we came to a stand still. A "roll over" in front of us caused the problem.
4:00pm we were on the move again.
Half an hour later at the top of the pass (4500metres) we came to a complete standstill again as about 100 trucks created a traffic jam. Think Mt Hotham around Mt Blowhard. A snow tunnel 2 metres high. Everytime a truck moved another truck moved into the space until no-one could go anywhere. No shovels No chains and No one going anywhere! Our driver shugged his shoulders, cooked up a meal in the cabin and settled down for the night. I scrambled up on top to get our sleeping bags and the three of us had a very cosy night. I drew the short straw sharing space with the gear stick.
 The next morning nothing happened until 10ish when someone managed to orchestrate a move that unlocked the puzzle. A very rushed descent had Prue and I a little worried. The driver relaxed with smoke filled with some Kashmiri hashish. We filled him up with some chai and an omlette at the first parachute tent we came to. Just down the road a major bridge was out. We had already had to rearrange steel plates on another bridge. But this one was suffering sub-structure issues. We sat in the truck for an hour and a half while BRO road crews fixed the problems. Finally Sarchu - the agreed drop off point, came into view. The rain and cold snap at Sarchu lead us to re-negotiate a new drop off at Pang. We arrived at 7:00pm. What was to be a two hour tour ( as per Gilligan's Island for all of you Baby Boomers) turned into a 35 hour cabin fever inducing 110kms.
Clean the crystal Christos.

Photo album can be viewed at    http://picasaweb.google.com/106588479237837990839

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