The 6th day of the 90 day ride in the Himalayas covering Spiti, Zanskar, Batalik, Ladakh, Nubra, Shyok, Pangong, Hanle, Tso Moriri, Garhwal and Kumaon. This day saw the cycles getting off the national highway and back onto the Old Hindustan Tibet Road.
Day 6 Jeori to Urni
It is a strange feeling to sleep with the fan on in the hills, but Jeori is at river level and it was hot!
The day didn’t get off to a fantastic start. Si kept his glove on a parked car while he tied up his luggage. Unfortunately in the meantime, the car drove off along with his glove! So we walked the single city street in search of the missing glove, but to no avail. Si was to be the one gloved man for the remainder of the trip!
The road from Jeori climbs gradually into the mountains and the landscape changes continuously. From lush green tree covered hills, to taller mountains with the tops brown.
It was a weird and terrible to ride on the national highway after so many days of being lost in the wilderness.The diesel fumes being spat out by passing trucks choked us and we wished for time off the highway.
Along the way many a motorcyclist passed us with their heavy bags tied to their bikes. As an ultra-light cyclist I couldn’t fathom the need of so much junk. You really don’t need to carry your kitchen sink on a vacation! These overloaded motorcycles would struggle to climb a hill. Not as much as we did though!
I had told Si that the road would be ‘flatish’ till the town of Tapri, he wasn’t quite amused at my description of flat as we climbed 600 metres in that duration!
A quick snack at Tapri later, we were to get off the highway and climb to the village of Urni.
At the turn off a policeman stopped us and enquired on our whereabouts. When we told him our planned route, he was horrified and told us not to do it. But our steely resolve saw him crumble and he let us through. As this conversation happened in the open, all the listener’s on did a collective face palm! Apparently the road we wanted to take was for madmen and dogs.
It was five in the evening when we started the climb and a few metres in, we knew we had bitten off more than we could chew. The sun was disappearing faster than we could climb. It was a dirt road and Si had never climbed a steep set of switchbacks before. We made slow progress to the top, or what we would think was the top, till we saw more road above us!
It was eerily dark by the time we entered the village and the dogs brought the house down with their constant barking. In most of these villages the government rest house is at the top of a hill, which provides splendid views of the surrounding landscapes, but for us cyclists it was torture at the end of the day.
Finding the caretaker was another challenge since we reached late and he took full advantage of our desperation for dinner!
But the beauty of the property and the mountains more than made up for the terrible food.
We were literally at the top of the world, or so we thought. Little did we know what lay in store for us the next day!
The road from Jeori to Tapri is perfectly paved smooth roads of the Shimla-Kaza highway. There is incredible amount of traffic on this stretch, even though it reduces substantially after Rampur. Lots of heavily laden trucks belting out diesel smoke makes it quite irritating.
A couple of kilometres after Tapri the route turns off the main highway. One needs to take a left towards Urni on a dirt road. A warning to newer cyclists. The road from Urni to Kalpa is fraught with danger and not to be attempted without adequate precaution and experience. If the appetite for risk is low, then it is best to continue along the main highway.
The switchbacks to Urni are steep and take a considerable amount of time. The road continues to climb for a few kilometres after the switchbacks. The only accommodation available there is at the Government Rest House, which is a beautiful old construction from the British era, with the wooden pillars of the porch having people’s names carved into them from decades ago!
Food for two 400
Stay for two 850