“Nostalgia in reverse, the longing for yet another strange land.”
Most people with tonsillitis get over it within a week. Mine, of course, lasted longer. Then instead of disappearing with the antibiotics I was prescribed (which, by the way, didn’t work), the infection spread. I ended up with swollen gums, open lesions, and a very painful case of gingivitis. I spent two weeks, stuck in a tourist town, unable to cycle. During this time, the temperature started to drop, the snow appeared in the mountains, and my time to spend weeks cycling through the Indian Himalayas came to a close- before it had even started. Then, to make matters worst, the infection in my mouth increased to the point where I couldn’t eat anything (besides a banana lassi).
“Everything’s impossible until somebody does it.”
For those of you who think I’m a bit crazy, listen to this. Starting from Leh, the town I have been stuck in while sick, there is a half-marathon, marathon, and even crazier, a 72 km ultra marathon that runs up and down the highest pass (5,600m). Sure, there was part of me that wanted to do it, but besides being sick and untrained, I struggle to comprehend just how these amazing athletes are able to run, any distance, never mind an ultra marathon, at this altitude. It was mostly Indians (especially locals), though there were a few westerners as well. It was great fun watching them finish, and then, true to India, the whole area turned into a giant dance party! I have a few great videos from the dancing, but, I can’t figure out how to upload them (I am not quite as tech savvy as I should be considering I grew up in the “Age of Technology”), so for now, you will just have to settle for a few pictures.
“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”
The lady who ran my guest house (and her baby cow).
“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.”
Before arriving in India I had spent a fair amount of time starring at the Himalayas through google maps. After locating Leh, I realized that there was one small road leading to the north, even farther into the mountains. Obviously after noticing it was there I had to cycle it. After a bit of research I figured out that the first part of the road leads over the highest motorable pass in the world, which at 5,600m, would be extremely difficult to bike over. After that, there are very small villages spread out along the road until it end. Literally, it just ends. To the left is Pakistan, to the right is China, and all around are impassable mountains. Sounds appealing right?
“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
I am here, in the middle of the Himalayas, surrounded by snow-capped giants on all sides. I am in a place I have dreamed about since I first started to travel, and even more so since I started reading about mountaineering expeditions to this majestic area. It is the mountain lovers heaven to say the least.
“Some people follow their dreams, others hunt them down and beat them mercilessly into submission.”
I am currently curled up under a very thick handmade quilt at 4,400m (14,500ft) in a tent that is part of a makeshift village in the Himalayas. It is amazing to think that I’m still in India, as I am currently in a scarcely populated mountainous region that couldn’t be more different than Delhi. The people are friendly, and unlike the rest of India, the women work alongside the men. They no longer wear the colorful silk outfits of the south, but rather boots, jackets, and warm scarfs, because even during the summer time it’s cold. They no longer look indian either, but rather they look like strong mountain people, and rightfully so. This makeshift village is situated on the road from Manali to Leh which is the only access to the north. Because there are passes over 5,000m, this road is only open three or four months of the year. During the rest of the year, Leh and the surrounding area is cut off from all civilization. On this “highway” there are tents about every 30-40km that sell food and water, and occasionally have a bed or two to stay in as well. There are also people every ten or twenty kilometers working on the road, a never ending hopeless project. Between the heavy rainfall during the monsoon season, then snowfall for the rest of the year, it’s amazing there is anything left of the highway. There are numerous landslides that wipe out sections of the road every year which is one of the reasons we only averaged 25-30kmph while driving along it. The road, for the most part, is also only wide enough for one car, so it was always interesting meeting a vehicle coming the other way. Though the road was rough, it was an absolutely spectacular drive though the highest mountains in the world, and I was lucky enough to have the front seat. This is the road I will be cycling on in a few weeks once I leave the Ladakh region.