Keylang to Patseo 40km
Patseo to ?
It's 10pm and we are camping at 3650m, just about the height of Mt Cook Aoraki. It's been an amazing day of up hill riding. Amazing scenery, virtually empty roads, sometimes really good road surfaces, sometimes like walking up rivers. It's very cold, and we've been in the tent since before dark. Tessa is under two heavy blankets, borrowed from the caretaker of the closed lodge, and has three layers of clothes on. I'm in my Icebreaker boxers, in my Expede sleeping bag, sweating.
The reason for my sweating, suddenly becomes apparent. My kidney stone begins to throb. Feck. Not a good time, or place. Before the pain takes over my every thought, I start rummaging for out sack of drugs, which wakes Tessa. She dives for her medical notes, and starts dishing out the appropriate drugs.....everything we've got. Oh my goodness. Is this going to be the night from hell? ......No. After about half an hour, the big green ones kick in, ably assisted by the yellow ones, the two pink ones, and the red and white one. Peace and calm, other than Tessa's high altitude cough, and sleep talking about the building we are in tilting in the earthquake (I think I'm over stimulating her brain, because her dreams are bizarre).
So the biking has been amazing. Out of every valley, flows a huge brilliant blue river, feed by glaciers and fresh snow. Many times the river flows under snowy glaciers, that stretch from one side of the valley to the other. The road is narrow, snaking around the cliffs above the river. Steep drops threaten to bring on my vertigo. I keep well away from the road sides where the are no barriers. There are many times where there are huge cracks in the road, as it slumps towards the river. Road crews are working frantically, by hand, trying to fix the slumps and repair the culverts, which are causing the water run off to flow straight down the road, in place resembling fast flowing streams. The road is meant to be opening in 10 days. They have a lot of work to do.
We meet several people along the way. A cyclist, going the other way, u turns to chat to us. He is very interested in my trailer, as are so many here in India. Turns out this guy is a professional motor bike rider. This morning he is out for a training ride on his mountain bike, but during the day, he rides his motor bike, a #######, through exotic locations, while a film crew follows him. He quite enjoys his work.
Another guy we met owns the only mechanics shop in the valley. Tessa's reckless riding downhill yesterday has loosened her seat clamp, which causes her seat to keep dropping. We have burred the thread on the bolt trying to tighten it, and need another. The mechanic tips a couple of containers of bolts and nuts on the floor, and let's us rummage. Eventually, he finds a bolt the correct size in another pile. He can't fix Tessa's bottle cage though. It's toast. No charge for the mechanics time or parts.
A local guy comes and sits with us in a dark "cafe", where we are eating stir fried veges and noodles, and trying to warm our hands. The fingerless cycle gloves are not really cutting it. This guy lives in the valley permanently. He grows potatoes and beans in the very short growing season, June to September, and runs a couple of horses as transport, when weather allows otherwise. June to September are the only months warm enough, and also the only time of the year when locals can get in and out of the valley to the rest of India. Mid winter, December to February, temperatures can get to minus 27°C, and the snow can be two metres deep. The only pass out, the one we rode over yesterday, can have up to eight metres of snow.
The not yet open rest house, has a caretaker. He comes from down the valley. When we arrived he was sleeping....it was 2pm. He was happy for us to camp, and came out with tea, and blankets. Really keen to chat too. He also came up with an ancient cooker when I couldn't get my MSR to go. (Altitude? Bad fuel? Perished O rings? We were destined for cold, uncooked rice and veg).He told us how much he loves his job. This "town", a few abandoned buildings, and half a dozen barking dogs, is really quiet, and surrounded by huge peaks. Just the mountain partridge, and eagles for company. When the road opens, in about ten days, he gets much busier. Just as it was getting dark, he came and spoke to us through the tent. Some soldiers were going to be staying in the lodge tonight. If they gave us any problems, we should come to see him.
It's raining on the tent. The plan today is to ride on up the road. Apparently, in about 10km, it is blocked by huge amounts of snow, and landslides. In all probability we will be turned back, but we will have no regrets, other than not getting to Leh. An amazing ride, an amazing adventure. I can't wait to come back, perhaps in July, in a few years, and complete the whole route. Who's coming?