Breaking the Cycle in Ladakh

Sep 30

Karu - Lake Pangong (Spangmik village) - Hunder

Published at 03:44
Dispatch created from email
Blog 11

26th - 27th September
Days 24 - 25
Distance cycled - 176km
Total distance cycled - 1000km

Day 24
Distance - 84km

At Karu, Dorjay (driver) and Jigmet asked around to find out the
condition of Chang La pass. Like nearby Taglang La that was still
closed, Chang La, being a few metres higher, had been closed until the
day we arrived in Karu. The advice, adding to my immense frustration
was that I would be unlikely to get permission to pass the check point
on a bike and would have to put the bike back on the roof of the
vehicle for the climb. These people have no idea what it is to ride a
bike, and that it would be, if anything, safer than driving a car or
motorbike, given the low speed and care any cyclist would take to ride
such a difficult pass.

The drive up Chang La was still spectacular. After about 4400m we
entered above the snow line and left the green valley behind on the way
to the 5364m pass. As it turned out, the whole route, with a 2000m
altitude gain, would have been rideable. I convinced Dorjay to stop
about a kilometre before the top so I could start riding, cross the pass
and continue from there. There was slushy snow on the road, mud and
stones, but I simply took it slowly and carefully, riding to the
conditions as I always do. It wasn’t long before I left the snow behind
on a very long descent, following a narrow gorge which then opened out
to a vast open mountainous landscape, no vegetation in sight.

By the time I dropped to Durbuk, a military town, and then on to
Tangtse, I had covered 30km and descended to 3900m. From there it was a
slow ascent up a beautiful wide valley, gaining another 400m before
freewheeling down to the stunning Lake Pangong (4277m). It was a
beautiful, sunny day which brought out the deepest blue colours in the
salt water lake that contrasted with the bare though colourful mountains
on the far shore.

Of course, we could not help but stop immediately to capture the
afternoon light, but as the mountains on the south side of the lake came
into shadow, I had to push on a further 8km including another climb, to
the village of Spangmik where Dorjay knew of a good Homestay.

Day 25
Distance - 92km

Rather than back track 50km to Durbuk, we drove that bit and I resumed
my ride from there to the village of Shyok and then down the vast, awe-
inspiring Shyok valley to the Nubra region.

The word Shyok means ‘death’ belying the beauty of the glacial-fed, aquamarine coloured river. The origin of the name probably dates back to when the Silk Route was active and travellers would journey from the Karakoram Pass along it, or the
Nubra River. Apart from late summer and autumn, the river would
represent a huge challenge; the winters are extreme and then in spring and up to mid-summer, the river is in flood. The road that I followed is
usually closed then. I enjoyed riding along new stretches of tarmac, but every so often, sections had been destroyed by landslides and wash-aways. These were very rough and the BRO (Border Road Authority) seems to be always on the job repairing the road.

I made it to Khalsar and on to Hunder in Nubra where we stayed. My permit wasn’t even checked for Nubra, so I could relax and enjoy.

I am back in Leh now, but you will have to wait for the final blog tomorrow -
Nubra and the Khardung La pass.


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