The 4th Day from the 90 Day Cycle Ride in the Himalayas covering Spiti, Zanskar, Batalik, Ladakh, Nubra, Shyok, Hanle, Tso Moriri, Garhwal and Kumaon!
Day 4 Taklech to Dharanghati
I got out of bed with a heavy heart, hoping to see my doggy friend sitting outside, knowing fully well that it wasn’t possible.
He wasn’t there.
There was a terrible feeling of having let down a loved one. It was strange.
The caretaker of the rest house had warned me about the tough climb in store for the day and accordingly served me a heavy breakfast. I sat on the floor in the kitchen and ate a few stuffed parathas and drank sweet tea, as he complained incessantly about the government employees who stay there for free!
Even though it was to be a long day on the saddle, I dragged my feet to get started. Hoping against hope that the furry four foot will show up.
It was time to leave. Alone.
Surprisingly, even though my destination was just 30 km away from Taklech, most people hadn’t heard of it. Directions were hard to come by initially. Dharanghati is a little known place where tourists don’t venture.
The first couple of kilometres descended to the river and from there it was climbing straight up to the pass. I went hard at the beginning and ran out of steam midway. Rookie mistake. The error brought on by riding alone after a few days of riding with a slower rider. Si wasn’t present anymore to pace me!
I found myself at a fork in the road with no one in sight. Finally a gorgeous woman drove up and helped me out. Seeing her there in the middle of nowhere was surreal.
A few kilometres later I saw her car parked outside a village school. She was a teacher there from the looks of things. Lucky students!
From river level I climbed to apple orchards altitude, the trees laden with green apples. Another couple of months before harvest.
At the halfway mark when it couldn’t get more difficult, the asphalt disappeared, replaced by rock and sand. Difficulty level increased! The rain came. I was cold, tired, wet, hungry and still a long way away from lunch. Riding solo meant I had to dig deep to push myself mentally to the top.
At the village of Pashada I helped a couple of local boys to bleed the disc brakes of their motorcycle and then got myself lunch at the only dhaba on the route. An hour long rest at the lunch table gave me the opportunity to chat to the locals about politics, religion, local economy, education, marriage and a lot more. Though every other person would comment that it was insanity to be riding alone!
After lunch a wonderful gentleman plucked a dozen apricots from his garden and stuffed them in my bag, to the point where the fruit was overflowing from my bags!
The last 3 km to the top of the pass was extremely steep. I got off and pushed my bike. Push 10 metres, stop, breathe. Repeat for 3 km!
At Dharanghati Pass I got to the PWD Rest house. The amazing thing about the pass is that there is nothing on either side of it, barring that sole government rest house. There is also just 20 metres of flat road, with a steep climb on either side. With no traffic and barely any humanity, this place was heaven.
The caretaker of the rest house cooked me the simplest meal possible, since only dry rations are available, no fresh fruit or vegetables ever reaches the top! I gave him the apricots to eat, since fruit was a bigger luxury for him than me. One good turn deserves another and the world goes round.
The rest house in question was a century old building made by the British. And I was the only person staying there. With massive rooms, the ceiling 20 feet high, a big balcony overlooking snowed out peaks, fireplaces etc. it had everything which mountain luxury provides. The best bit was, phones didn’t work there!
If I wasn’t so exhausted climbing Dharanghati, I might have actually been scared of ghosts!
Start early. The majority of the climb to Daranghati has no tree cover and you are exposed to the sun in the first half of the day. Covering as much of the climb in the cool of the morning is useful.
The first half of the climb is on paved road and is relatively easily, the latter half is on broken road, with lots of mud and rock. Shops with chocolates, biscuits and water are plentiful, dhabas aren’t. It is wise to carry something nutritious for the climb.
The Rest House needs to be pre-booked as per the rules, but few government officials visit. Chances are high that you will find place to stay there. If you get unlucky, there is a small hotel, for which you will have to descend some 3 km, near the road going to the temple. There is a temple near the pass, which is higher and affords even better views, I didn’t go there!
For campers, there is a meadow just behind the pass, where you can safely pitch your tent without worry. Animals generally aren’t around in summer, check once with the Rest House caretaker before pitching though!
Food for one 120
Stay for one 520