Day 108 – 10th June, 2014 – Zingzingbar, Himachal Pradesh to Sarchu, Jammu & Kashmir (Kanyakumari to Leh Cycling)
I was feeling quite good after getting up as my body got acclimatized to the high altitude. I was making use of my mountaineering skills to keep myself and my friends fit at this height. We had boiled eggs for breakfast and took a bread packet for lunch from Zingzingbar itself and left around 8 in the morning. Baralacha Pass was about 12 kilometers from our starting point for that day at the height of approx 4850 metres and we were in Zingzingbar at the height of 4,050 metres. It was a merciless upslope and we could see trucks far away as small toys. We were cycling at our own pace. I was cycling too ahead of my friends and I had to stop in between as we all need to be together at the pass.
There were many vehicles passing by and while I was waiting for my friends to cover up, one car stopped and two guys came out of it. They wanted to have a picture of them with my cycle. This has happened many times with me on this trip. As I cycled ahead, I saw a family playing in the snow and as I passed by them, a little cute girl was saluting me and her sister shouted at me, “You are a real hero”. These small gestures from others have always been quite motivating. Before reaching the pass, strong hunger pangs came over me and I was fully exhausted. We all had some dry fruits and snickers.
My 4,500-kilometre mark of this cycling journey was touched exactly at Baralacha Pass. We knew it was going to be all down slope after that. This downslope was no different than others. It was all broken and with deep pits filled with water on the road. So we had to cycle slowly. After the pass, there comes one more tented accommodation and place to eat, known as Bharatpur, for travellers but people were busy removing snow there and it was not operational. We – all 4 friends – stopped a while later where it was plain and had bread with pickle. Rested for a while and then moved further. This whole route is so lonely except for the trucks and bike riders who pass by us. We reached Killing Sarai where a new dilapidated bridge was built. Before, people had to cross a strong water current “nala” flowing down this bridge. We rested a while there and a man took pictures of ours after stopping his SUV where we were resting.
The road was in a rough condition with sand and gravel spread all over it. After an hour or so, I cycled into a pit and as tyres came out of it, I heard the sound of air coming out from my rear tyre. My whole energy was gone and I stopped my cycle immediately. I pressed that place from my finger and waited for my other friends to reach me and take a look at it. I moved my cycle from the middle of road and sound stopped coming. Then I realized suddenly that I have a self puncture repair tube with a liquid filled in it which seals the puncture as when tyre moves, but I stopped my cycle immediately as I heard sound. I filled the lost air into the tyre and cycled ahead. Soon we entered a valley with plain good road and on left side of it were strange structures of sand made by water and air. Sarchu was nearby from there and downslope. We were really happy to cycle down on such good roads and my cycle was like flying. Sometimes it reached 50 kms/hour.
Sarchu comes in Jammu and Kashmir. I entered Jammu and Kashmir for the first time. It is used as the main halt point for riders and other truck drivers as it is almost in the mid way of Manali to Leh highway. Many trucks were parked there and there was one wine & beer shop as well where people were having beers. Triumph Tiger bikes were also standing there as a group of foreigners was on their trip with full back up and a spare bike for them in a truck, all imported & arranged from Germany.
We pitched in our tent behind a shop and cleaned & oiled our cycles. Our cycle had a very bad day but they survived. We have reached almost midway of our Manali to Leh cycling in five days and we were quite happy.