The 14th day of the ride saw us climb an epic route from Kaza to Losar. Crossing one of the highest bridges in the world! This was part of our 90 day ride in the Himalayas covering Spiti, Zanskar, Batalik, Ladakh, Nubra, Shyok, Pangong, Hanle, Tso Moriri, Garhwal and Kumaon!
Day 14 Kaza to Losar
Kaza to Losar is a straight forward route, but who wants to move forward while going straight!
The homestay owner in Kaza, Tashi, gave us accurate instructions on a parallel route which was far more scenic. We jumped at the opportunity.
Before that, we jumped at the homemade yogurt he served us for breakfast. The yogurt was from the milk of the cow he owned, and we polished it off along with the honey we had purchased previously. A delicious way to start the day.
Climb to Key and Kibber
The road out of Kaza immediately climbs towards Key Village, which has a beautiful monastery perched as a cluster atop a hill. The Key Monastery is iconic to the Spiti Valley and one will almost always find images of it, when searching for Spiti on the web. At the gateway to Key I found Si fast asleep on the roadside with tourists clicking photos of him! The strong mountain sun and Si didn’t get along well together.
Another pep talk later we moved on to the village and monastery of Kibber. The two monasteries of Key and Kibber are normally part of a day’s circuit for most tourists based in Kaza. They leave early morning and return for a late lunch. We saw all of these people overtake us and return whilst we were still climbing to the top!
Near Kibber we found a shortcut to Chicham which was under construction and closed to traffic. Being push bikes, we pushed it across the 2 km stretch and saved our aching legs some additional climbing. The Chicham Bridge is unofficially the highest bridge in Asia. That claim has not been verified but the view from the bridge was worth the climb. Not knowing the route profile we expected to descend after the highest bridge. It wasn’t to be. We continued to climb all the way to the village of Chicham. We were out of food and water and the only eatery there was out of cooking gas, so we got biscuits and tea from the neighbourhood auntie!
It was well past noon and the wind picked up. The road after Chicham was flat to gradual descents. It didn’t help. We had a headwind so fierce that we needed to pedal downhill to maintain 10 kmph! The views of the wind swept mountains are best understood from the back of a cycle. In a car you just won’t notice the killer wind and how over the years it can change the landscape of massive mountains.
We rode through green meadows completely uncharacteristic of the barren mountains of Spiti. The land in fact reminded me of the steppes of Mongolia, with bigger hills though! Multiple trains of mules passed us as they were headed to Kibber to take people trekking across the high passes.
After the meadows the road steeply descended to river level, even then we needed to pedal to keep moving. One gust of wind brought Si’s bike to a complete halt on a slope. We had to ride extra carefully because the road was narrow with a sharp drop down to a broken neck!
A nerve-racking hour of descending later we reached the main road and the village of Kioto. We went to the only hotel there but the caretaker behaved like an arsehole and so we moved on to Losar.
On the way we stopped for noodles and tea where Si taught a child to say his name while he learnt hers. She was very happy to have learnt something new. He also taught her to wipe her snotty nose clean, all this while we were grabbing some grub!
We reached Losar at 9 pm exhausted and with no bargaining power with the hotel guy. Lesson learnt, reach destination before dark. Exhausted we slept off without any thought to the world.
From the turn off at the river immediately after Kaza, the road climbs. If you cross the river you will go along the main highway route to Losar, which is flatter and quicker. Going straight along the river will first take you up the climb to Key Village and then to Kibber Village before dropping down for a bit to the Chicham Bridge. From the bridge the road continues to climb till Chicham Village.
After Chicham, the road is flat for a short section, before descending steeply all the way down to the river and back onto the highway a couple of kilometres before Kioto.
From Kioto the road is flat’ish’ all the way till Losar, with only the last couple of kilometres after crossing the river a bit of a climb.
Food and accommodation is available in Key, Kibber, Chicham, Kioto and Losar. There is ample opportunity for camping along the way as well.
Food for Two 330
Stay for Two 900