Day 109 – 11th June, 2014 – Sarchu to Pang, Jammu & Kashmir (Kanyakumari to Leh Cycling)
That day was incredible for us that took us 84 kilometres ahead from Sarchu and we crossed Gata Loops, Nakee La and Lachung La. All decisions were made but my coming face-to-face with a very critical situation could have resulted in my cycle and me dropping down into the valley from the mountain.
We started from Sarchu at 08:30 am after packing 10 chapatis for lunch and crossed Whiskey Bridge soon. The road was in a good condition and almost plain with few mild upslopes. I was cycling at a very good speed and got too ahead of my other cyclist friends. I had to wait for them for exactly half an hour at a place from where we cycled together up to Gata Loops. The sad thing was that we were at the lower side of Gata Loops. Gata Loops is a series of 21 loops going up which takes us almost 480 meters above in altitude.
We were completely exhausted but we were cycling slowly but continuously. Some loops were very long. We stopped after doing 8 loops and saw a shortcut going up. Even the trucks coming from up made use of this shortcut and disturbed the dust. We rested for a while and then pulled our cycles up. This way we reached 10th loop directly but it exhausted us even more than it would have if we would have cycled up to the 10th loop. We again rested and then started off.
On 16th loop, we had our packed chapatti with pickle we were carrying. There were 10 chapatis, four guys and we divided it equally. Chapatis got hard and it was like a labor food but we loved it and needed more to eat but we had nothing left. We reached the end of Gata Loops in a while after that and it took us total of 2 hours and 10 minutes from down to up on all 21 loops.
We then headed for Nakee La at 4,900 meters above sea level. We were not sure how far it was but we thought of staying after that at Whiskey Nala. We could see a truck going towards Nakee La from far away and it was looking like an ant to us. We just hoped there are not many loops on this route but we could not avoid few of them. Of course our determination was too strong. That is why we were on this route.
We reached Nakee La at 3 pm. We met a guy there who was on bike with his friends. He did this route on cycle last year and this year, he is going to come with a group on cycles, each head of them paying INR 41,000 from Manali to Leh, food and accommodation included. But I was spending too less and my total amount spent will be revealed at last when I reach Leh. After Nakee La, it was all down till Whiskey Nala and we took 20 minutes to reach there at the bottom through a rough road.
Before that, while taking shortcut from up to down and going completely off road, I let my cycle go on path full of gravel and ditches. My cycle was going down uncontrollably at very high speed and I still remember everything became too slow. If I would overshot the little road ahead, my body have gone down with cycle and my soul up had I not been able to control my cycle skillfully at last moment.
We reached Whiskey Nala and decided a place to pitch in our tent. We had stomach full whole meal and while we were having it, we decide that we can do another pass that day, Lachung La. It was just 06 kilometres completely upslope and thought we could reach Pang that day itself.
Pang was approximately 24 kilometers down slope from Lachung La. Everybody agreed to it and set off again at 4:20 pm. We reached Lachung La at 6 pm at a higher altitude, tired but extremely happy at what all we had achieved that day. After spending few minutes there at the pass, we set off further and we had to reach Pang before it got dark. Road was really bad. Sun was set behind the mountains but there was light and it started becoming cold.
My fingers were half numb but I did not have gloves. So I put my socks in my hands and they were doing just fine. Just before reaching Pang, we came across a very mesmerizing place that made us felt as if we were on some other planet. It was starting to become a little dark and we made it at the entrance of Pang at 7:40 pm. Pang seemed to us much more happening than Sarchu.
We pitched in our tent at Padmini Dhaba which was quite famous there and it also had a television with Tata Sky, so we got to watch television after so long and we charged our cameras. We were quite elated at having cycled this far in just a day. After having dinner like omelette and milk, we slept off.