90 Days Cycling in the Himalayas: Day 69: Lato to Debring

On the 69th day we rode along the Leh-Manali highway from Lato to Debring. This was part of our 90 day cycle ride in the Himalayas covering Spiti, Zanskar, Batalik, Ladakh, Nubra, Shyok, Pangong, Hanle, Tso Moriri, Garhwal and Kumaon!

Day 69: Lato to Debring

I woke in my luxury room of one in Lato, undisturbed by fellow humans. And promptly went back to sleep.

Till the sun didn’t show its face, there was no reason for me to do so. I took my own sweet time eating and packing, before I left. There was only one small pass to contend with after all!

Breakfast at Rumste

6 km after Lato my stomach lurched with a warning, Tanglang La, wasn’t so small.

I didn’t want the Khardung La mistake to repeat itself. So I knocked down a second breakfast at Rumste. The owner of the dhaba was being super nice to the Jharkandi labourers out there. Respect which they don’t normally get in the plains. Labour down there are treated like shit.

When the Ladakhi asked some of the labourers for help which would have lasted 30 seconds, the Jharkand boys weren’t forthcoming. They looked at him as if it was below their dignity. The irony of the mountains never ceases to surprise.

The Climb!

6 km after Rumste the climb for Tanglang La starts. You can see the top which is on the same mountain. Climbing the same mountain for 24 km is quite incredible. Khardung La at least had different hills to climb!

This climb is very different compared to Khardung La. It is not even and difficult to pace.

It goes from steep in short bursts, to flat, to spots where you can actually freewheel. The last 8 km is so flat that roadies could probably average 30 kmph!

It turned out to be the easiest pass I have ever climbed. Helped greatly by the fact that I ate properly before starting. Then ate a digestive biscuit after every kilometre, ate two chocolates and two peanut butter sandwiches along the way.

Tanglang La climb from Lato to Debring
After climbing some 15 km, you can still see the bottom of the climb!

People Power

The human spirit also spurred me on. Two motorcyclists stopped, clapped and cheered and gave me hot water to drink. Another old gentleman leaned out of his car and yelled out, “Good job, love you dear”. The latter half of the sentence made me think he was excited about Section 377!

The first day I saw no cyclists, on the second I met one from Allahabad, he was riding Manali-Leh with just one small backpack.

There were also a bunch of Indian cyclists with a backup vehicle. Normally cyclists stop and chat when they see another, not these boys. Not quite part of the touring cyclist camaraderie. They could just as well have been riding to India Gate on a Sunday morning!

A bunch of young Pulsar boys were riding in a big group of 20 or more. Turn lights blinking away, headlight some colourful mix of green, yellow and red. Some with noisy exhausts, some waved, others were too busy looking good! All with Delhi number plates, they looked like they had ridden straight from Karol Bagh.

One of them had stopped by the roadside. On enquiring, I got to know that his engine seized on the downhill. How does one destroy an engine when you are barely using it? I am unable to fathom!

Cycling from Lato to Debring
Snow almost at the same level as the road

Top of the World’ish’!

At the top of Tanglang La, the road sides were frozen. There were iced streams and stalactites. As I rode past the ice, it felt like I shoved my head in a fridge! There was a decent amount of snow at the top. On enquiring, I was told that it had snowed a couple of days previously.

Once again luck was on my side as I got clear blue skies and a bright sun which made climbing the pass a piece of cake!

The top was properly cold and there were three Spanish cyclists up there. Bundled up in a lot of winter wear. When they saw me in shorts and a tee, they asked me if I was even Indian and how was I not feeling cold!

One of the three was another Xavi from Barcelona! Shortage of names in that country? For those who don’t remember, I had ridden with Xavi from Barcelona from Agam to Tangtse.

Ice near Tanglang La while cycling from Lato to Debring
Small stalactites on the side of the road as I neared the top
Tanglang La on the Leh-Manali highway at an altitude of 17582 ft
Tanglang La…
Tanglang La prayer flags
The ubiquitous prayer flags at the pass

What goes up…

At the top I wore two jackets and bombed down overtaking everyone. The cold motivating me to get down faster! The temperature was getting markedly more comfortable as I descended.

On the way down I saw a bunch of vultures preening for me. There was even a wolf to be sighted. As a couple of bikers passed by, I cried wolf and vulture.

But the bikers gave a sideways glance at the birds and rode on. It makes me wonder why are these people in Ladakh?

I had to stop on the way as a bunch of sheep were crossing the road. The old shepherd with wrinkled skin and an unsteady voice spoke to me. As I was leaving he asked me for a chocolate. It was quite nice the manner in which he spoke and I was happy to share with him my last chocolate. He then bounded down the slope after his sheep like a young gazelle!

The day of cyclists wasn’t over, I saw two cars with bikes tied to their rear racks and another two riding with a vehicle following them. All these wonderful people were from Maharashtra. If their vehicle numbers were anything to go by. There was an MTB race scheduled in Leh that weekend, and I assume these people were headed there.

Himalayan Griffon Vulture near Tanglang La
Fair weather feathered friends! Himalayan Griffon Vulture

Friends with Benefits!

Just when I thought it was the end of the cyclists for the day, Tanvi, Sumit and Skarma passed me in a car. They were yelling at me and it was surreal. The last people I expected to see there.

The final kilometres before Debring the winds picked up and I was being thrown around like a rag doll. Every time a large vehicle passed me I had to brake to a complete halt. The gust of wind would push me off the road.

The three musketeers were waiting for me at a dhaba in Debring. With mutton momos. My luck couldn’t get better, there is nothing nicer after a long ride than a plateful of mutton momos as recovery food! And what better way to have it than with friends.

They were looking for Walking Thomas and I was the lucky recipient of their search. Walking Thomas is a German gentleman who has been walking around the globe. He left home 5 years ago! He was known as ‘Walking Thomas’ to differentiate him from ‘Cycling Thomas’ and ‘Writing Thomas’.

Alcohol is prohibited near Tso Kar
Alcohol is prohibited near the Tso Kar lake. Yet you will find people drinking around here. A lot of those people are in cars with Delhi number plates! Here, someone chucked a whiskey bottle at the board…

Dinner and Desserts

After they left I chatted with the owner of the dhaba. The old Ladakhi man lamented the lack of education he had received and the importance of educating his children and grandchildren.

He had sacrificed a lot in his life to educate all his children. Interestingly, he gave equal importance to educating his sons and daughters, without prejudice of gender.

Yet he worried that his children will squander their education and live nondescript lives like him.

Route Profile: Lato to Debring

From Lato to Debring you have to climb the massive, mighty and majestic Tanglang La. And the day’s ride center’s around it.

Stock up on food and water at Lato or Rumste before starting the climb. There is nothing available till the top of the pass where there is a small dhaba.

Debring has food and accommodation, it is also the start of the More Plains. A flat stretch of road which looks easy on a map. But it gets exceptionally difficult if you are riding there post noon. Difficult to a point where you cannot make any headway with the headwinds.

Elevation Profile Lato to Debring

Expenses: Lato to Debring

Stay and Food 590
Food 50


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