90 Days Cycling in the Himalayas: Day 20: Zanskar Sumdo to Ramja

The 20th day saw us ride from Zanskar Sumdo to Ramja and pitch our tents before reaching the mighty Shinku La near a BRO camp. This was part of our 90 day ride in the Himalayas covering Spiti, Zanskar, Batalik, Ladakh, Nubra, Shyok, Pangong, Hanle, Tso Moriri, Garhwal and Kumaon!

Day 20 Zanskar Sumdo to Ramja

It was just one of those days, when badly laid plans come to bite you in your arse.

We woke late and arsed about, before packing up and moving out. Late, by any standard, especially mountain standard time, where time slows when you finish for the day and hastens when you have a mountain to climb.

Cycling from Zanskar Sumdo to Ramja
A terrible sight to see first thing in the morning, Driftjockey’s face!
Cycling from Zanskar Sumdo to Ramja
The scene from the tent improves drastically after getting rid of Driftjockey!

We had camped a couple of kilometres shy of Zanskar Sumdo and were sure to get breakfast there. At least that is what our map and plans promised! On an empty stomach the climb was terrible. We struggled to reach the land of milk and honey, where food was to rain down on our heads!


There wasn’t a village there. Not even a dhaba. Absolutely nothing. Except a summer camp of the Border Roads Organisation who are building a road over Shinku La and connecting Zanskar.

We were shocked to find nothing there. They were surprised to see us so woefully unprepared! They laughed at us heartily before inviting us in for lunch.

We were treated to steaming hot food and military humour. Someone had tied a condom over another’s bed as a prank. One of them told us, such pranks were the only highlight in their otherwise boring existence!

The satellite phone services were down, because of which they were cut off from the rest of the world for a week! Yet, they preferred to be posted in remote areas. Since they got better rations, more rum and high altitude incentives, which helped pay off their home loans.

Being a Sunday, everyone was in camp and they regaled us with tales of other Quixotic stories like ours, people who ventured out without thinking it through!

They were happy to know that Driftjockey was from Kerala since they had made sambhar. This wonderful South Indian dish had been cooked by hill folk under the strict supervision of North Indian army men! As a result, Driftjockey waited for the promised sambhar while eating normal dal chawal! Little did he realise that the dal was ‘allegedly’ the sambhar.

After the meal we were given kheer, which was fantastic under the circumstances. The military personnel didn’t allow us to leave till we were properly fed.

Cycling from Zanskar Sumdo to Ramja
A snow covered peak directly in front of our collective noses!
Cycling from Zanskar Sumdo to Ramja
A speck of blue in this bleak universe!
Cycling from Zanskar Sumdo to Ramja
Rock sandwich 

A mountain to climb

Bang in front of the camp was a rock face with a road climbing steeply. They told us the road climbs still further after that! The climb so steep that the men in uniform wagered on the duration we would take to reach the top.

Like hounds after the proverbial hare, we attacked the steep climb and reached the top faster than the faujis thought we could. The result of which was that we were a spent force when the easy climb started! Lesson learnt, never push too hard in the mountains.

We had been told that there was another B.R.O camp 8 km further and it would be prudent to stay the night there. Driftjockey scoffed at the idea of riding just 8 km more. By the time we reached the camp, he was blacking out, had a severe headache, feeling nauseous and was ready to swallow his ego and stop after that ridiculously little mileage for the day.

A Nepalese lady ran a dhaba there. She cooked us steaming hot food and replenished our supplies. Replenished is a rather strong word, considering we had nothing to begin with!

The lady had a young daughter who in turn had a kid, no, not of the human variety, of the goat kind! The kid followed the child around like a dog. It even wagged it’s little tail.

We setup our tents inside a snow hut of the B.R.O since they had given us permission. It was much warmer and less windy inside. Driftjockey was in a bad way and extremely restless, the altitude getting to him. He finally popped in half a tab of Diamox and slept off.

The day was an epic adventure or a badly planned one. Depends on how one would want to view it!

Cycling from Zanskar Sumdo to Ramja
The man, the climb…
Cycling from Zanskar Sumdo to Ramja
The bustling city of Ramja! 26.5 km after Darcha, this BRO labour camp had a ice huts (white building behind the yellow board) inside which we pitched our tents. 

Route Profile: Zanskar Sumdo to Ramja

The road from Zanskar Sumdo to Ramja will see you climbing unrelentingly the entire day. You will also be at uncomfortable altitudes for those who haven’t acclimatised. 

There is nothing available permanently on this route. Zanskar Sumdo and Ramja can at times have dhabas for the B.R.O. labourers. But these cannot be counted on and it is prudent to carry your own food!

No accommodation is available on this section. You need to carry your own camping equipment. Worst case, you can request the B.R.O officials to let you stay in their camps. They are extremely warm and helpful people. 

Elevation profile from Zanskar Sumdo to Ramja


No expenses on this day, because there was nothing to buy and nowhere to stay!


3 Replies to “90 Days Cycling in the Himalayas: Day 20: Zanskar Sumdo to Ramja”

  1. The humorous tone of this day’s adventure probably masks the hardships you faced. Nice of the army guys to accommodate you. One also wonders why we earthlings are fighting over such barren terrain?

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