Post the ride till Sangla mentioned here, I crashed for the night and ended that chapter there. This is the 3rd in a series of about 12.
18th June 2008
It is that time of the day when Mother Nature wakes you up by ringing its own alarm clock… the birds and the sunshine. Last night was a killer with cold winds, which chilled you to the bone but the bright morning sunshine was a very pleasant experience. I lay basking in the sun, soaking in its warmth with the much needed “Chai” for about 30 minutes and then decided to get ready to move on as the ride was going to be tough, long and tiring.
With the tummy lightly filled with bread and eggs, the campsite @ Sangla and we (read Black Beauty and I) parted company for our onward journey into the lands unknown to us. But this parting was eagerly awaited as riding in the Kinnaur/Lahaul & Spiti region was an ever present and persistent dream which would be realised pretty soon. While parting, the campsite people advised to tank up on fuel at Powari, as there is no petrol station after Powari till Kaza, which was our destination for the day.
Started riding and 18 Kms of state link road later, we hit the NH 22, take the right turn which would take us to Powari, 13 Kms from the Karchham turn-point towards the Indo-Tibet Border. Pretty soon, we rip the roads @ 50 KMPH with barely any traffic and reach Powari. The petrol pump is a small joint, and the people are friendly. while getting the tank filled up and the reserve fuel topped up, I ask about the road conditions up ahead. I get a pat reply… “Jab tak iss sadak pe ho sab theek hai, aagey bhagwaan jaane.”
This statement gets me a lil worried as to what would be the road condition once I get off the NH 22 towards Tabo? But decided not to dwell on the thought as I had to go ahead anyway, I conveyed my thanks for the info and started riding. I remembered reading somewhere on the HPTDC website that if you wish to proceed ahead of Recong Peo, you would need a permit, which could be taken from the DM’s office there.
About a couple of Kms ahead, I see the turn for Recong Peo, a small town with a major sarkaari office to warrant a DM’s presence there. I take the turn, reach the office and waste some time and some money (5 bucks for the permit and 50 for the tout’s fee) to collect the permit. I am then advised by the Clerk to make at least 5 copies of this document without which I would not be able to go beyond Jangi, 30 kms ahead, which is the check point and the place where a copy of the permit is taken, your vehicle number is noted and you are allowed to enter.
A word of caution for the Non-Indians who are deciding to do this route, apart from taking that much needed permit, you would not be allowed to stay overnight between Jangi & Kaza due to security issues as this is declared as an Inner line Area due to the proximity with the Indo China (Tibet) border.
Since i did not fall in that category, and Kaza being the destination of the day, I had nothing much to worry about… (How wrong could I have been?) At Recong Peo, I started feeling the effects of the high altitude and popped a Diamox to keep that dreaded “Acute Mountain sickness” at bay.
Started riding with a bit of caution and a decision to stop at the first sign of any major symptoms of AMS, namely Nausea, Vomiting or Dizziness. Thankfully, nothing much happened and I reached Jangi, where they processed whatever info they processed and checked my vehicle documents, my license, my permit, my destination, why was I doing what I was doing and why in god’s name was I doing it on a motorcycle?
Answered all these questions as patiently as I could and once through with the questioning, I moved on towards Puh, 14 Kms ahead. Reached Puh and took a breather to get dressed for the high altitude riding and the cold which accompanies it by means of a jacket, with a fleece lining, biker gloves and protective padding for the elbow and knees. Difficult to do much of physical stuff when the oxygen content goes low… This task left me breathless and the stopover of 10 minutes extended till 25… should have listened to people and quit smoking and should have gotten some excercise in the daily routine to keep the body fit ;-)
But that was water under the bridge, in the past, and there was nothing I could do to improve the situation… so in goes a deep breath and there goes the kicker to start the bike. Thankfully, the B.B. thumps in one go and I engage the clutch, shift into 1st gear and move on for a place called Khab and post that, it was mostly an uphill ride, ascending to 3600 Mtrs to reach a place called Kah. Tried to locate someone to ask but could not find anyone… not a single soul on the road and this was just noon. So I do the next best thing… take out the map to figure out the progress… The map tells me the progress has been pretty good. Even after wasting 10 minutes while dressing up, I am on time… That peps me up a lil and I decide after looking at the map to visit the Nako Lake… about 10 Kms ahead and a 7 km ride on the link road towards the right… Reach there in about 45 minutes as I start feeling the AMS symptoms in the form of a persistent headache, which means real cautious riding. Reach the parking spot, kick the side stand out, lean the bike and I gaze with awe at the sight… The Lake is surrounded by trees and the Nako village just seems like rising out of it, cap this sight with astounding snow covered peaks and you have a picturesque setting which takes your breath away. Literally, it does. The walk to the lake seems so difficult and tiring. I wasn’t kidding when I said this leg of the journey was going to test my endurance levels to the max in my last post.
Spent some time clicking and admiring the beautiful spot and the majestic peaks and decide its time to make a move for Kaza, which according to the map was 150 odd Kms ahead.
I ride 7 Kms back to NH 22 and ride uphill to reach Chango. This is the place where you shift from the Right Bank of the Spiti river to its Left Bank, which brings you to Sumdo, 13 Kms ahead. Sumdo is the place where you have to get off the NH22 and take the state road for Kaza. This spot marks the end of the honeymoon phase between the bike and the road… and the fights begin. Due to the early season, the roads are in pathetic shape and it feels like you are off roading rather than riding.
This is the stretch which would test the bike’s endurance limits to the maximum possible. The riding on this road would have to be done very cautiously, and attentively. One break in concentration and you just might end up in a very hairy situation. But the concentrating part is easier said than done… the distractions of the beautiful kind in the form of snow capped peaks, the deep royal blue sky, the ochre coloured earth come together and present a breath taking sight… and photo ops are aplenty.
A 8 Km ride on the Left Bank brings us to a crossing point, where we have to cross over the spiti river to ride on the Right Bank, which brings me to a place called Lari, which is 5 Kms short of Tabo. Tabo has a monastery which decide to give a miss as I am a self proclaimed atheist, who would rather believe in the statement “God is all around us” and would not want to look for him in religious buildings. I keep riding on as the destination of the day Kaza is only 85 kms ahead. But due to the dilapidated road condition, the going is painfully slow, worsened by the headache which has been persistent post the stopover at Nako Lake.
Not in a mood to make any stops short of Kaza, I ride past Kurith, 3 Kms ahead, and then ride past the turnpike 22 Kms ahead, which would take me to Dhankar Monastery. 9 kms ahead of the Dhankar turnpike, I reach a place called Lingti, a tiny village in the middle of no where. Now only 13 kms separate us from Kaza… A break for smokes is in order and I promptly take that. I tank up on water, which is leeched out of the body due to the dehydrated climate and the high altitude. Its already 6 in the evening and its been a tiring day for me, further confounded by the headaches and now… a flat tyre… 30 minutes later, I am still at Lingti trying to replace the tube which seems like a really uphill task due to the lack of oxygen.
Finally, 15 more minutes pass before we are set to roll. I pack up the tool kit, snap up the spares in the bag and start the B.B. and on we go… Kaza Beckons!
As I reach Kaza, I am grateful to see some human life form, which I had been sorely missing on this leg. There is some solace to be had when you see people around when you travel. The anxiety of getting lost is lessened and you have hope that some enlightened soul would point you in the right direction when you are confused or lost. Anyhow, I managed to reach where I wanted to be and the next task is to locate the campsite and check in. I find the place, and the staff seem to understand the situation much better and offer me tea and ask me to rest and they would wake me up in time for dinner. I sip on the tea, take a Diamox and off I go into La La Land… Who would want to eat anything in the condition I was in???
To be Contd. in Part 4