Ladakh to Spiti
3/8 I leave Leh and head for Lahaul and Spiti. As I learn that today the Dalai Lama arrived and his residence is on the main road I take the road on the other side of the Indus. I'm not sure whether I have saved anything here, as the road is very bad, but once I leave most of the settlements behind things improve and there are good views over the valley. Before Pang the road passes through a wide valley. There is no sign of habitation any more. There are lots of road works and some patches of very soft sand or even just dust. The riding gets interesting here, but not just for me: in one of the sand pits lies an overturned truck. Pang is just an army camp and a few tents serving food and you can stay in some tents, too. I continue to Sarchu, which is more of the same.
After Sarchu I camp on the side of the river, high above it. I'm tempted to pitch my tent on one of the vertical columns, but I decide against it, as there is a very strong wind blowing and anything I might drop would end up down in the raging torrent.
As I have run out of chain lube again I ride into Keylong, a small town glued to a hillside. No luck here, apart from sewing machine oil in a non-resealable bottle. A little futher another traffic jam of moron truck and bus drivers, who stop any which way, thus blocking the road for any smaller vehicle that might otherwise fit through.
Charging out of a dubious looking water crossing comes a big BMW and I meet Stuart Ringer, whose acquaintance I have already made on HUBB. It's that time of the day, so we have lunch together and swap stories. He's just come over the Rohtang La and reports pouring rain on the other side. I'm glad I'm not heading that way (yet). Instead, I turn off towards the Kunzum La and Spiti valley, said to be as dry as Ladakh.
Batal, situated at the foot of the pass, is on my map. It consists
of a few huts with canvas roofs and an eatery. They also have a "room",
low stone walls covered with canvas, bedding on the ground and the side
of an old wooden cable drum serving as door. As I know that the two
French don't have a tent I decline. I also turn down some bedding in a
storage shed. Instead I pitch my tent on the other side of a low hill,
where there is a little grass. It is difficult, because it is extremely
windy. It's a pity, I passed many lovely looking camp spots, but here
everything is stones and uneven. The French turn up a little later.
Their bike stalled in the last big water crossing, so they got their
feet rather wet.
The next morning I'm awoken by rain. It lasts just long enough to make my tent thoroughly wet. The others are still asleep under their canvas roof when I leave after breakfast. The pass is easy with traffic almost non-existant. When I reach Losar to my great surprise the road is sealed again. There is also another police check post in the village, where again I don't have to stop, because the barrier is open. Any yelling and whistling behind me must have been directed at some stray dogs...
Yes, Spiti is very beautifull, I let the pictures speak.
Lunch in Kibber, a village that once toutet itself as the highest in the world. They then qualified that as "the highest village with a road and electricity". No signs to that effect now... There are quite a few tourists and guest houses, though. To the left I can see another village and there is a sign about a link road to it. I follow it, but find that, yes, there is a road, but the bridge over a spectacular deep gorge is still under construction. Next time... At lunch I meet Eddie from Italy again, with his French friend. They have rented an Enfield (the thing to do around here).
On the way down I spot a sign in Hindi pointing up the mountain again.
Should there be an even higher village? Where might this lead? Only one
way to find out. It's quite a good track that zig-zags up the mountain,
with some shortcuts in between. Taking some of those I come unstuck,
where it joins the proper track, it's very steep loose sand. I drop it.
Luckily, there is a young Israeli lady who comes running to my rescue
and helps me pick up, drag and push the bike, until I can get it back
on level ground.
The brand-new and easy track leads over a pass, almost as high as the Kunzum La and ends at a hamlet with a guest house. I'm tempted to stay here, but after two nights camping I'm hanging out for a shower, plus it's not exactly conveniently located to go sightseeing or get a permit for Kinnaur. Back on the main road I meet the same Israeli again with a friend and this time I can help them out with some water.
The main road follows the river just about all the way, but at one
point Im faced with an unmarked turnoff. Straight ahead is the old road
that slipped off the mountain a few years ago and after a few km I'm
turned back by a tractor driver blocking the road. To bypass this
stretch they have build a fantastic pass with great views, leaving me
with that age old bikers' dilemma: to go fast or to enjoy the views? I
go fast, but stop for many photos. At the top the choice is easier:
they ran out of tar and it's a somewhat rough track.
Down the other side I'm stopped by an Indian on an Enfield 350. His bike is running out of power, he can't get up the hill. While trying to help him some more bikers, one with Enfield knowledge, arrive, so I leave him in their capable hands. Down in the valley the old road is clearly visible. The further I ride the more spectacular the scenery gets. After lunch at a truck stop near Nako the road descends back down into the gorge, where the road is carved out of the vertical cliff face. There is no avoiding the check points this time, they want to see my permit, I'm very close to the Chinese border here.