The second day’s blog from the 90 day cycle ride in the Himalayas spanning Spiti, Zanskar, Batalik, Ladakh, Nubra, Shyok, Hanle and Tso Moriri.
Day 2 Narkanda to Nankhari
On the second morning of our ride we woke to fluffy white clouds enveloping the town of Narkanda.
Seeing the constant drizzle and the chill morning, ensured I stayed in bed longer than required. This extra couple of hours in bed had a bearing on how the next few days panned out.
An extremely lazy morning later, we got breakfast at the shop next door. We gobbled down omelettes for breakfast while listening to Nepalese music blaring out from a little phone. It is at such times, when one really wonders about technology and its effect on daily life. The big fat radio from yesteryear has been replaced by a tiny phone. It is also not uncommon to see people from Nepal running smaller businesses here or managing business for the locals.
Narkanda is known for its fruit orchards and it was apple season. Well not quite. The trees were laden down with green apples, a month left for ripening and plucking. We learnt the reason for the apple trees being covered with nets. The net protects the fruit from hail, which is common. But like everything else in life, there is a trade off. The net also stunts the growth of the tree. So some use it, others roll the dice!
Old Hindustan Tibet Road
After taking directions for the Old Hindustan Tibet route, we got off the main highway and went tripping. Where the road ends, adventure starts!
The old HT route as it is generally known was the traditional trade route between the two counties of India and Tibet. This route takes the high road and clings to the peaks as a newborn to its mother’s bosom. The current national highway in comparison descends immediately after Narkanda and follows the Sutlej River. We would be taking a road parallel to it, except much higher.
For a cyclist this is the perfect route, since you pedal in the cool of the mountain at temperatures ranging from 17-25 degrees Celsius, while the river valley would be roasting at a whopping 35 degrees!
It is a far more difficult route though and almost every person we met advised against it.
The rain refused to stop and we had to get going. The day was filled with downhills, once we were done with a 2 km climb. We were going down down down. With the wet roads it was slow going. Luggage on the rear of the cycle ensures the tail wags. Caution is key.
Eventually we hit the patches of road we had been warned about, inches deep slush bogged down the bikes. Gnashing through the gears we made it through. It being the first day of downhills, our luggage system needed regular adjustment until we got the perfect setup.
Lunch was at a village called Nankhari. Over lunch everyone warned us not to proceed, rather return and take the main road. Except the valiant cook who rose to our defense and assured everyone we were capable of climbing Mount Everest even! Maybe he was in awe of Si’s charming smile.
The added motivation pushed us on. For the next three kilometres. Si ate a double lunch with the hope of getting double the energy for climbing. Unfortunately cycling doesn’t work like that.
As an academic he had to experiment and make mistakes to learn! He was feeling terrible. We were warned not to take the road ahead. The road ahead was known to be inhabited by leopards and bears, along with dense forest. It was also am extremely steep 9 km climb on rock and dirt.
We stayed the night in Nankhari itself, since we didn’t want to be leopard dinner.
There is a PWD Guest House in which we got a room. Fortunately accommodation is easily available as this isn’t a route frequented by tourists. The last person to travel on this route was a month before us, a French woman on a motorcycle.
Exhaustion made me take a quick nap in my wet cycling clothes and within minutes I was sick as a dog. It was a struggle to keep anything down. A bad condition when you really need the nutrition.
And thus the second day ended with me puking my guts out. Si on the other hand spent his evening with a bunch or religious bigots who were puking their venom towards a certain religion. Ah, you meet all kinds of people on the road!
We missed the time to climb the forest road from Nankhari, because of the extra hours I wasted in bed in Narkanda!
From Narkanda one turns off the NH 22 and towards the Old Hindustan Tibet road. The road quality gets progressively worse. For the majority of the day you will find yourself descending. The climb for Nankhari starts in the last 8-9 km. Shops and dhabas are available in all the small villages you pass. Accommodation was not available anywhere till Nankhari. There also only a PWD Rest House is available, along with a few eating joints a stone’s throw away.
Food for two 220
Stay for two 550