You Call That a Road: 3500km

“I’m going to succeed because I’m crazy enough to think I can.”

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I have just spent the last few days on what is known to be one of the worst roads in India. To give you an idea how bad it really is, another cyclist described it as, “One of the top ten worst roads in the world, a road so bad even goats avoid walking on it.” It was so rough, in fact, that even on the flat sections I could only manage 7 or 8km/h. The “road” was a rocky trail that often passed through nalas (streams), and in some sections, it became so rough I was forced to slowly push my bike. The hardest part about this terrain was that I was unable to zone out or get into a rhythm because I was constantly having to navigate my route. This left me mentally drained by the end of the day. Many roads here in the Himalayas have small sections that are this rough, but they never last more than a few kilometers. This section was over 100km of tedious unpaved mess.

Here is one of the many nalas I had to cross. Though they are only six inches or a foot deep, it is hard to bounce from rock to rock while pushing your bike, and sometimes, when there are no rocks to step on, you just have to suck it up and walk right through (nothing like wet socks and shoes for the rest of the ride).

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To make matters worst, it poured all day and much of the night during the first section. By five pm I arrived soaked (from hours of rain, and to add insult to injury, I had also fallen into one of the nalas) at what I though was going to be a village, meaning a dhaba or two. Instead I arrived at what looked like an empty courtyard with an obviously deserted building. I yelled out namaste, slightly desperate, as I was so wet and it was still raining hard (with no sign of letting up) that I had no desire to set up my tent. Fortunately, someone popped out of one of the small sections in the building and invited me in. Though I was wary at first, I did a quick character judge and assessment of my situation, and decided it was worth staying in his hut for the night (he had a few mattresses laid out in case people stopped by). He was a great guy, and made me lots of hot chai and dinner. Then, in the middle of the night, his brother arrived to take him home (he was employed by the government to stay in the hut, for reasons I could never imagine, but his home and family were all in a village 150km away), so he left me with a lock and key, and took off. I have absolutely no idea why (the joys of India!), but it was nice to have a safe hut for the night all to myself.

Here is the hut. Though the other sections use to be small shops, they were obviously abandoned years ago.

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I woke up the next morning to a completely blue sky and fresh snow on the surrounding peaks. It was absolutely beautiful, and I spent the morning laying around in the sun before continuing on my way.

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That afternoon I arrived at a dhaba run by a very sweet and welcoming old couple, and decided to set up my tent next to their place.

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Though the road was rough, I enjoyed riding through the mountains once again. It was the kind of ride when, halfway through pushing your bike through shin deep water, you stop, look around, and laugh at what you have gotten yourself into.

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4 thoughts on “You Call That a Road: 3500km

  1. Wow! You are really tough. At least the scenery was spectacular, right? How cold were the streams? My husband and I had to ford glacial-fed rivers hiking in Iceland. They were so cold that they were painful. I am not looking forward to that when we finally make it to Ladakh. any advice?

  2. Pingback: Favorite Cycling Routes: Spiti Valley (Northern Indian Himalayas) | The Wandering Nomads

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