On the 22nd day we rode from Karjyak to Maling in the Zanskar valley, as we continuously lost altitude from Shinku La! This was part of our 90 day cycle ride through the Himalayas covering Spiti, Zanskar, Batalik, Ladakh, Nubra, Shyok, Pangong, Hanle, Tso Moriri, Garhwal and Kumaon…
Day 22 Karjyak to Maling
A rest day…on the saddle!
Driftjockey was suffering from saddlesores and was having a tough time riding. He welcomed every small downhill as it gave him the opportunity to stand on the pedals and give his butt some relief!
From Karjyak we continued along the jeep trail, stopping frequently, the memory of Shinku La fresh in our legs. We gradually descended so it was good on the body.
We met a French gentleman who was trekking the route alone with a guide and mule. He was north of 60 years. I respect him for attempting a trek through Zanskar.
Trail in Process…
The jeep track was built in 2018. Prior to this one had to push/ ride on the trekking route which was substantially slower. We were fortunate to time our ride perfectly. Riding on the jeep trails is better than the trekking routes. Once the road is built this will become another annoying highway.
We saw surveyors taking measurements for building a proper road, so it’s just a matter of time!
The river we had been following had villages on either side. The villages on the other bank cater to the trekkers. It would be a pain to cross the river with a bike, so we stuck to our bank!
Water, water, nowhere!
There was a lack of streams and water bodies on our route. Our shoes were dry and so were the stream beds. At Maling, the gentleman at the homestay told us that winter had seen little snow and no rain either. There was a water crisis in this village, a very different situation from another village just 10 km away. Later we came to know, that water was a problem almost every where in the summer of 2018. Welcome to climate change!
We stopped for lunch at the village of Tangzay. A plate of egg noodles cost just 40 rupees. In this remote part of the country where supplies come monthly on horseback we were charged less than what dhabas on the arterial highway charge. It is incredible how economics works or doesn’t!
After riding just 19 km for the day we had an early stop at Maling. Fatigue had gotten accumulated over the previous few days and we needed the break. We found a homestay and were then hit with mountain standard time. It was just 4 pm and we didn’t know what to do. We went exploring the village, but when there are just 5 houses, there isn’t much to explore. So we sat and ate nuts and twiddled our thumbs till dinner.
Dinner was a sumptuous feast of peas from the local produce along with a green leafy vegetable. Rotis added to this made it the healthiest meal for me in three weeks!
There was a TV in the room and Driftjockey was hell bent on watching it. His eyes would light up every time he saw a working television set! So much so, that he went home after the ride and bought himself a television.
It was surreal (or सड़ियल) to watch television in the middle of nowhere in a village without electricity, phone network or proper land connectivity. To top it off the sky outside the room was lit up with a bazillion sparkling stars and we were cooped within, watching TV!
Villages have been given these TVs at a subsided cost by the government. The TV comes with a satellite dish, a solar charging panel, a huge tubular battery and a set top box.
I do not watch television generally and these are a few observations after spending time with one!
The phrase ‘idiot box’ isn’t very inaccurate!
Screen time was filled with more adverts than programs. India’s current cricket stars are far better actors than the current movie stars. So much so, that I believe they should start playing football. With that much acting talent at hand, we would win many more penalties in football!
Driftjockey was flipping through the channels, happy as a kid with candy. I then noticed that there are a fixed set of channels available. Not all the channels. Besides your regular entertainment and government Doordarshan, there are only two news channels. Zee News and AVP News, both right wing channels with no pretence at moderation. Coincidence that these are the only two news channels available? This is one way communication, in a land where there is no Internet or newspapers. The only source of news are these two vitriol spewing channels. It sent a chill down my spine as Orwell’s 1984 seems to be coming true. We all must ‘love’ Big Brother.
Horses in this region are the backbone of the economy. All supplies come on horseback and even tourist activity depends on it. If you don’t own a horse, your work will come to a standstill. The cost of a horse ranges between 15000 to 40000 rupees. Horsepower has a whole different meaning in the Zanskar Valley. These animals will be redundant as soon as the asphalt road is built.
Route Profile: Karjyak to Maling
The short distance between Karjyak and Maling is easy, since you are descending for the most part. There is currently no road there, but that should change in the next few years.
10 km after Karjyak, there is Tangzay, a village with both food and accommodation available. If you ask nicely, most villages will have a house with someone willing to cook and let you stay the night.
There is also ample place to pitch a tent and camp safely in the wild. There is no danger from man or animal in this region.
Expenses from Karjyak to Maling
Food and Stay for Two 600
Food for Two 80