“Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race.”
“Wow, you must know everything about bikes!”
Nope, I know absolutely nothing. I changed my first (and only) flat on the road once my trip had already begun, and I still don’t know how to do anything else.
“Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager whose home is the road.”
People always ask me where I am going. Not just that day or week, I mean, overall. How long will I be on the road, what countries will I be passing through… It is understandable, I mean, you see a gal on a bike and you figure she has a destination, right? And I do always have a plan, my plan just tends to change dramatically on a monthly (sometimes even daily) basis.
“If you don’t like where you are, then change it. You are not a tree.”
For the last few days (since my first home stay in Ki), I have been descending down, out of the mountainous region of Spiti, and into Kinnaur valley. Though the oxygen is richer and the descents have been fun, the road is now busy, dusty, and hot, an awful combination. Oftentimes when trucks pass I have to slow down since the dust makes it impossible to see, and difficult to breath. There is absolutely no flat ground (meaning no camping), and the villages are built hundreds of meters up from the road on the cliffs. It’s interesting to see how they are able to live perched in the side of the hill, and even have small farms beside their homes. Though at one point I was a mere 2km away from Tibet, there was no way to enter because of China’s unfortunate control and restrictions over the area.
“Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning the devil says “oh crap, she’s up!”
I hit a low point cycling yesterday as I had eaten too much sugar and not enough real food. I felt tired and slightly sick, and had no desire to go on. Lucky for me, my afternoon got a lot better once a few local ladies in a small village I was passing through invited me for chai, then to spend the night. The women were three sisters (late twenties/early thirties) who lived with their mom, and one of the women’s child, a seven year old boy. Their husbands were drivers, meaning they were normally on the road driving tourists all around northern India. They all had children as well, but besides the one boy left, the children were at private schools in other towns. Many of the children in the area are sponsored to attend these schools with a “hostel” attached, meaning the children live there, often times starting at the young age of six. The women and their mother tended to the house and animals, and also did construction for a road work project nearby, a job which is both strenuous and tedious. They were a lovely and hospitable family, and one of the women spoke decent English which made my life a bit easier.
I have just spent the last three days at a lake. Though I had only planned to spend one night, I ended up staying longer, and with no time line to follow, why not? Though it was a detour to get there, it was a beautiful ride up.
“I’m going to succeed because I’m crazy enough to think I can.”
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.
“Don’t be afraid to give yourself everything you have ever wanted in life.”
After I arrived up and over the pass I decided to spend the night in a dhaba instead of camping since my gear was soaked and another storm was on its way (plus it costs less than two dollars). Dhabas are tea side stalls that sell rice and dal (the most typical meal here), along with a few basic snacks. It costs less than a dollar for an all you can eat meal (they refill your plate as many times as you want), which is definitely a hungry cyclist’s dream. Dhabas are found just outside of cities, or in the middle of nowhere, and out here, they are especially popular amongst truckers. In this area, two or three dhabas make up a village. These “villages” are only inhabited for four months of the year, because starting in October, this mountainous region is snowed in.
“The advantages? Exercise, no parking problems, gas prices, it’s fun. An automobile is expensive. You have to find a place to park and it’s not fun. So why not ride a bicycle? I recommend it.”
How is it that 20km of flat can be harder than 40km straight uphill? Because cycling is a mental game. Most five year olds can happily ride their bike around the block, and touring really isn’t that different. Sure, you are doing a few more kilometers, and hopefully can cycle a bit faster than them, but it’s the same simple motion. It is always possible to turn your pedals just one more time. Sometimes though, that one push seems much harder than others.
“And then I realized, adventure was the best way to learn.”
Though I could spend months exploring the mountains and valleys in Ladakh, unfortunately it is time for me to start heading south in order to beat the snow which typically starts near the end of September. To do so, I will be taking the one road that leads down, the Leh to Manali highway (the same road I drove on to get up here), and I will be adding on a large loop detour in order to explore two beautiful lakes. All in all it will be over 700km, and I’m guessing it will take me close to three weeks. I will not have internet (seeing as I will literally be in the middle of nowhere, there is not even electricity or permanent civilization in most parts), so I will continue to write blog entries and post them in a few weeks once I have reached the town of Manali.
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”
After climbing up and over the highest pass, the English lad I had adopted along for this four day adventure and I rode into what is referred to as Numbra Valley. Because this road approaches both China and Pakistan, the military presence is very heavy, though there are not many other inhabitants. There are few villages between Leh and Tukturk (200km), and Tukturk is the end of the road (unless you are Indian military) north into the Indian Himalayas. Since most of the valley is no higher than 3,300m, there are animals, such as donkeys and large yaks, who roam freely along the river, and where there are people, there are trees and a bit of refreshing green. The rest of the landscape is barren rock with a few sand dunes between the high peaks.