Rob: More terrible instant coffee this morning. We are going to have to fly home through Rome to get a proper Cappuccino in the not too distant future.
The sun was out. We geared up for cooler weather at a high altitude and were rewarded with one of our best rides ever!! Lacy says this was THE BEST ride of the entire Indian trip.
We left Kaza which is at 12,000ft plus and climbed and climbed and climbed up winding roads that split several high canyons and after about 50 minutes we plateaued onto a wide high meadow. The little village of Langza with its giant Buddha statue overlooking the town and the valley was in the distance. Himalayan mountains surrounded us on all 4 sides. We were maybe getting close to 14,000ft and still staring straight up at the full breadth and range of the mountains at this vantage point. Usually we have views through canyons or valleys up to the biggest mountains but today we felt closer to everything because we could see wide portions of the range and multiple layers of mountains as far as you could see in any direction. We were on peaks of the foothills versus within them and it made all the difference.
On the way to Komik, which is the highest Himalayan village reachable by motorcycle, we came across meadows full of sheep. Lots of them. Then fuzzy goats, the furriest mules you have ever seen and the mixed breed high altitude Yak Cows, Chur.
The road was very rough again of course and a bit more technical than previously because of the tight switchbacks, water crossings, erosion and the simple fact that these were seasonal summer dirt roads, at best, mostly used by 4×4 tractors as a way of living, work, travel and pretty much everything up here for the 3 villages we would visit today.
My iPhone told me we were at 15,200 ft as we played with the timer on Lacy’s camera to try and take a pic of us and the bike. We motored on to Hikkam and stopped for tea before making the ride back down. Now on a different road, we could see Kaza straight down a very narrow canyon some 3,000 ft far below us. The downward roller coaster road view was a bit ominous and we took a gutcheck moment to be sure we were ready to go down. Thankfully, with the repaired brakes and the road having lots of long slow switchbacks, it made the gravel road down quite manageable. It took us over 30 minutes but we let the bike do the work and coasted down in second gear almost all the way.
Today was a truly epic ride. We both love the mountains and to spend a whole day so high in these mountains was very spiritual and amazing to see the sparkle in Lacy’s eyes.
Lacy: We achieved the pinnacle of our India adventure today – riding to 15,000 plus feet and witnessing the sheer magnificence of the Himalayas stretching across the sky. Larger than life. This was the best view to date and for me, a dream come true. A dream that manifested nearly six years ago when I lived in Kathmandu and saw the Himalayan mountains for the first time dangling in the sky in the distance. I could hardly believe how high up those mountains seemed from the Nepalese valley I resided in. I was in awe and knew that I needed to get closer to them.
Last year, as we hiked the Annapurna Circuit through the clouds of monsoon season, I was afforded glimpses of snow covered peaks reaching 20,000+ ft above sea level. Each time I was like a little kid unwrapping a gift. Excitement coursing through my body and a desire for more ignited. This year, riding through the Himalayas of Northern India, we have had a front row seat to the unobstructed beauty of these towering peaks. Rob and I have always shared a love for the mountains. We were married on top of a mountain, hiked thousands of miles up and down numerous peaks and volcanoes across the world and on our latest journey set off on a very challenging ride on one of the worlds most ‘treacherous roads’. All for that heart and soul fulfillment that we feel when we are reminded just how tiny we are in this vast world. Staring up at dramatic cliffs, standing in valleys engulfed by giants and winding through canyon roads at 15,000 feet help you keep perspective in this increasingly fast paced and crazy world where it’s increasingly easy to just go through the motions.
Our travels in India have been a mixed bag and every time I began to feel defeated or sad about the happenings in this country it has been the mountains that have brought me peace and helped me find my center again. We met two local couples riding on Royal Enfields in The Travelers Shed (a hotel and restaurant in Kaza that has the only WiFi connection, weak and unreliable as it is) that asked us how our travels in India have been. When I responded that it’s been a little up and down they said that India is a country of extremes. Roads, people, weather etc are either extremely good or bad. I couldn’t debate that. And the more I think about it, it is the best way to describe what we have experienced here. We have run across some really terrible people here who are intent on trying to cheat and mislead us. Just when we are beyond frustrated and want to say “Fuck this country” we are blessed to have someone like Tanzin come into our lives and warm our hearts back up. When we arrived in Pooh and Tanzin welcomed us as friends into his beautiful hotel it was exactly what we needed as two weary travelers. We had just spent eleven days off the bike in Sangla trying to heal Rob’s sprained ankle. The ankle he sprained because the bike we rented lost its rear brakes just two days after renting it. Believe me, that everyone in India who has asked how much we paid to rent our bike (and everyone asks. Locals always want to know what you paid for your rental, the shawl you bought in market, and what your house back home costs. There are no boundaries when it comes to asking about money and it’s honestly a little annoying) and readily informed us that we overpaid. We were willing to pay a little more for a bike, for the convenience of arranging it overseas, easy pickup in Chandigarh and the knowledge that it is a nearly new bike and would be in great condition for a challenging ride. This we were assured of.
It’s hard to explain the level of disappointment and anger I experienced realizing that the rear brake line was compromised in a way we could not have damaged in two days of riding. I am fiercely protective of Rob and the fact that he was injured because of the bike being in less than promised – and dangerous – condition puts me in Mama Bear mode. So our time in Sangla, for various reasons, really took the vibe of our trip down a notch. Because Rob was injured I was out and about on my own a lot and grew really tired of all the stares and attention I was getting as a solo white female. By the time we left Sangla I didn’t even want to leave the hotel. The hotel where we experienced half a dozen traveling men walking into our room to try and sneak a peek of me undressing or what not. I was becoming exhausted by this country by the time we reached Pooh and it was Tanzin’s genuine heart and hospitality that gave Rob and I the strength for further travel. I could go on and on about the good and bad we have encountered or how India is certainly the most challenging country we have explored, but what I want to convey is that it was all worth it to see these mountains today spanning across North India. Today, this ride, these views, being here with my best friend and husband is a day I will not soon forget.