We have a late start from Jispa and everyone is feeling relaxed after hot showers here, cold Kingfisher beers and a chance to dry our boots out a bit! We leave town on a reasonable road as we head up to the next major pass. It’s a definite tourist track now with everyone coming up from Manali – there’s a lot more traffic with other bikers on tours, domestic bikers and masses of fuel trucks. We come across a section where the road has been taken out completely by snow-melt and has become a nightmare of large boulders, gushing water and massive queues of army trucks and traffic. We get through one by one and all meet up for chai and a lunch-break while we wait for our support vehicle to catch up.
There is a choice on the menu for either magic noodles or a bread omelette and what a discovery the latter is! Basically, they saute some diced onion, garlic and tomato on a skillet, place two slices of bread sliced diagonally onto the mix and pour over the beaten eggs. When the bottom is done they flip it like a pancake. It was sort of like fried bread but we all thought we’d like to try it at home.
Coming down from Baralachala Pass it was my turn to come off in a tricky river-crossing! There was nothing to do but wait in the cold water for someone to lift the bike off me – no injury except my pride and a boot filled with water!
We arrive in Sarchu, a major halt point with tented accommodation which sits at an altitude of 4,290 metres. We are sore and tired from a rough day of riding but there are no hot showers here. The tents have a floral inner liner and an ensuite attached at the back with a flushing toilet, a cold-water basin and very dodgy plumbing. We have proper queen-size beds with really heavy quilts and after everyone retires for the night, a voice at the tent door asks if we want a hot-water-bottle for one person or two! With very low temps outside, this is a very welcome treat.
Giant ground squirrels called marmots appear in the morning sun on the hillside above the camp and if alarmed they emit a sharp, piercing whistle and scurry back to their burrows.
After more dodgy river-crossings, we climb up the Nakeela Pass with it’s infamous 22 hair-pin bends called the Gata Loops – to be honest there seemed to be a lot more than that!
No sooner were we down then it was back up again and over the Lachangla Pass with the scenery becoming very barren, bleak and devoid of life.
Riding through the Bargha Canyon is another world of limestone and land-forms sculpted by wind erosion until we arrive at the intriguing Moray Plains – a vast 40 kilometres long and 50 kilometres wide.
We turn off the main road and wonder where we’re heading – the broken bitumen is single-lane and there isn’t much in view. Finally, a small town appears beside Tsokar Lake…our home for the night and our last remote location on this tour.