Rob: Looking out from the terrace of the OM Hotel and after we had someone good strong coffees and an egg stuffed paratha for breakfast, it was time to saddle up the Royal Beast and aim further north to Nako.
It was a beautiful and cloudless day for a ride in the Himalayas and also one of the key reasons Lacy lugged her big heavy camera along our trip this season. We switchbacked our way down from the side of the mountain to rejoin one of the main roads that paralleled the Sutlej River. A river that over an immense timeframe, at this elevation, has created some truly severe canyons in the arid high desert mountains. Calculated irrigation makes for beautiful apple, cherry, apricot and almond orchards terraced into the canyon walls but otherwise the land barely supports seasonal grasslands, sagebrush and tiny scrub pines. A few mountain goats and sheep have replaced wandering cows the further we have climbed in elevation.
The paved road feels good under the tires as we blow by small towns and Army Stations on twisty roads heading north. It is a very relaxing change from our previous segment when every inch of road was a battle. It’s a dream to be in 4th or 5th gear. We were really enjoying the ride through this part of the countryside.
We had mostly climbed above the tree line now, not that many trees could grow on the sheer rock faces and jagged cliff edges as we began to enter the Spiti Valley area. Dramatic cliff-sides of sharp stone framed our view in all directions. The bike was echoing Royal Enfield tunes inside the facing rock walls. We both commented how small we felt here because everything else seemed to be supersized.
We cross the river in a very narrow part of the canyon on a one lane bridge and the landscape begins to change. We now start to climb even higher through long steady switchbacks. The canyon walls open to a wide vista of valleys and mountains ahead. Our reasonably good road has turned to only crushed limestone and very fine sand. Switchback after switchback we climb very slowly and carefully. The rock is very loose and the sand so fine that the steering becomes incredibly heavy as our skinny front tire sinks in the sand and jerks every which way from the rocks.
Just as my brain had begun to swell from the taxation of the ride up, we finished our climb to a spectacular view. Not just the mountains as far as you can see into Tibet, but sweet beautiful fresh pavement ahead. I could hear the Angels singing and the Monks chanting.
The next hours ride was as nice as the first except I wanted to stop and take pictures every 100m. Lacy calls it her National Geographic Photographer’s position where she is shooting from a perch off the back of the bike as I slow for her to get the money shots. Some for you and the blog but mostly for us to remember this amazingly picturesque portion of the ride. Neither of us have ever seen this far reaching a view across layers of white mountaintops.
Nako Lake makes up for its lack of size by being extremely high up in the mountains and in such a beautiful setting. The little village of Nako encircles the football field sized lake itself. Tanzin, our amazing host from Pooh, had called ahead to his friend Shanta, who runs a guesthouse and outdoor tent glamping resort in Nako. While we stayed in the budget oriented guesthouse for just 1,000 rupees, we ate like King & Queen at the resort area. Under a parachute canopy, overlooking the town lake and into the vast snow covered mountains, we relaxed with hand made lime, sugar and soda drinks from the restaurant. Lacy expertly spiked them with some Indian whiskey we had purchased just outside the town. Our whole cut up chicken was presented still smoking and steaming from the Tandoori oven’s blast furnace. The herb and heat from the spice was perfectly complimented by fresh butter and garlic naan bread. We spent about 5x what we typically would for dinner and savored every bite with “tears of spice and joy”!
We watched the sun set, patted our full bellies, climbed down the hill to our room and said cheers a great day.
Lacy: Our intention leaving Pooh this morning was to return the following day to attend a huge Buddhist wedding Tanzin had invited us to. We were really excited to have this opportunity, but as we began to climb the dirt and sand switchbacks to Pooh I leaned forward on the bike and asked Rob if we were going to be able to return safely on this road without a rear brake. Sadly, we both agreed it was not smart to come back without the bike being fixed and would need to heading forward to Kaza. We hoped we would see Tanzin again before leaving India because we didn’t really say goodbye, just see you later.
Feeding my mountain heart
Importance of small gestures