The 9th day of the 90 day ride in the Himalayas saw the cycles sticking to the national highway, in what turned out to be an incredibly long and punishing day!
Day 9 Spillow to Nako
A bad decision. That is what this day was!
The day was a trilogy in four parts. Sleep, climb, die and eventually give up!
We started off from Spillow with 60 km and 1600 metres of climbing awaiting us. The first goal was to reach the village of Pooh. The village sits atop the mountain and I wasn’t looking forward to the climb, so rather than stay in Pooh, we chose to ride the base and avoid the village and the climb altogether.
The ‘flat’ road to Pooh saw us climb 600 metres in 30 km. Si was in a bad way for most of the ride and was literally sleeping off while pedaling his bike. He continuously vomited and wanted to throw in the towel. With a lot of pushing and prodding I managed to get him to Pooh. There we stopped for lunch.
While waiting for Si to catch up, I chatted to one guy. This person enquired why I was riding alone. When I told him my friend was following, he scolded me for riding along with a guy. He told me I should have taken a girl along, it would be a lot more fun! *Nudge nudge wink wink*
Winnie the ‘Pooh’
At Pooh, Si took a short nap fuelled by fresh apricots off a tree. Mentally he was down in the dumps and I had to give him a pep talk to get him going. I told him what I had learnt in the mountains. Don’t focus on the tough ride, focus on the beautiful ride!
The nap, pep talk and a 10 km downhill put him back on track as we descended to the river Khab. As soon as you cross the river the road climbs for Nako. The climb is around 1000 metres in 20 km, which is brutal. Added to the fact that we had already ridden half the day.
We started the climb around 3 in the afternoon under the scorching sun. With spirits high we climbed the famous Ka Zigs, a set of switchbacks which take you from the river Khab till the village of Ka.
The mistake that people make is to assume the Ka Zigs is the end of the toughest section of the climb. It isn’t! After the village of Ka, the road continues to climb steadily before hitting two more sets of shorter switchbacks, which just knocks the wind out of the rider’s sails.
By the time we neared Nako darkness enveloped us and we were trudging along without being able to see the lights of the village in the distance or even the road in front of our nose! Si was a spent force and alternated between pushing and pedaling his bike. His flagging spirits couldn’t be raised by any number of pep talks! Probably because I was exhausted as well.
Si couldn’t take it anymore and 2 km before Nako we hailed down a passing pickup and climbed aboard along with our bikes. The couple in the pickup were returning to Nako from their apple orchard. In the back of the vehicle we held onto dear life and bikes as the driver ripped through the corners, swinging the tail like the driftking from Tokyo Drift!
At 9 pm we walked into the village of Nako dead tired. The village was sound asleep. Our rescuers helpfully took us to a lodge, which was an incredible coincidence. This was the same place I had stayed 6 years ago on my previous ride through Spiti. If that wasn’t coincidence enough, they had only one room remaining, the same one in which I had stayed 6 years ago!
To compound matters of coincidence, we dumped our luggage and went in search of food. And lo and behold sitting there were two of Si’s friends from Bombay!
An exhausting and never ending ride to Nako came to an end with dinner with friends. One cannot make up such coincidences!
The route from Spillow is flat for the initial part through some rugged mountain terrain. As you are nearing Pooh, the climb starts in earnest, as you leave the river below. If you wish to stay in Pooh village (advisable) then you need to climb a set of switchbacks from the highway all the way up. Which is quite a climb! Between Spillow and Pooh, nothing is available.
Immediately after Pooh, the road descends constantly all the way to the Khab River. There you cross the river. Once past the river, the road climbs unrelentingly all the way to Nako. It is a couple of kilometres to the base of Ka Zigs, from there it is a 6 km climb to the top. Another couple of flat kilometres to Ka Village, where a couple of dhabas are available.
After Ka, the road again climbs constantly till Nako. Food and accommodation is available some 5 km before Nako. The village itself has plenty of stay and eating options.
The Nako Lake is nothing special, but the village is very pretty and the view from the top and helipad is sensational.
Food for two 220
Stay for two 500