On the 72nd day we rode from Bharatpur to Keylong over Baralacha La, as we moved from Ladakh in J&K to Lahaul in Himachal Pradesh. This was part of our 90 day ride in the Himalayas covering Spiti, Zanskar, Batalik, Nubra, Shyok, Pangong, Hanle, Tso Moriri, Garhwal and Kumaon.
Day 72: Bharatpur to Keylong
The morning in the Bharatpur dhaba was spent laughing and joking with the biker boys before they left and then it was my turn.
The 8 km climb to Baralacha La was super easy and fun, and I was happy to do it without taking a break. As much fun as it was to climb, it was the opposite while descending.
Downhills aren’t fun..
It was bloody cold and I froze, from my brains to my toes. Three empty trucks tried to race me to the bottom and were doing a mighty good job of it till we hit a 40 truck military convoy coming in the opposite direction.
I reached Zing Zing Bar, ordered and drank a cup of tea, slurping away on this wonderful beverage. Only then did the trucks manage to catch up and go past. The joys of being the smallest (and fastest on descents) on the road!
…or are they!
As I finished my tea a convoy of army trucks was going in the same direction as me.
I paid, hopped onto my bike and flew down the mountain. I didn’t want them to overtake me and spew diesel smoke in my face. But it was not to be. 200 metres later, there was a small climb and they all overtook me. Plastering my face with fumes. I was stuck in the middle of the convoy with trucks in front and behind me.
It was risky but fun snaking my way between those behemoths.
In the midst of my cat and mouse convoy games, I spied two loaded cyclists and stopped to meet them. They were from Bangalore and one was on a very nice looking Surly. I told them to hurry as the weather was scheduled to turn and the dhabas to shut.
After seeing them off, I caught up with the army convoy once again as they had stopped at a TCP (Transit Check Post). The drivers of almost all the trucks laughed and waved out. They apparently enjoyed the downhill as much as me!
It’s Getting Hot in Here…
If people were surprised to see me riding in shorts and tee in that cold, I was shocked to see a foreigner in a singlet and shorts on a full suspension bike. The poor fellow was on the worst possible bike for the given road conditions. Almost perfectly smooth roads on a bike which was built to handle gnarly trails, isn’t what the doctor ordered.
As I descended to lower altitudes, the heat increased. And I was shedding clothes faster than Ms Leone!
Just before Darcha I stopped at the turn off for Zanskar Sumdo, where Driftjockey and I had gone on quite the adventure a couple of months previously.
As I stood there and reminisced my good fortune of going there and returning in one piece, a local struck up a conversation. On getting to know about my cycling exploits which had taken me through his village, he invited me to stay at his house. Unfortunately it wasn’t on my route and I thanked him and headed on.
At Darcha I went to the same dhaba where we had stopped a couple of months ago. I wanted to meet the couple there and tell them ‘I’m back’, a la, Mr Terminator. Sadly neither were there and it was a bucket of cold water thrown on my grand homecoming plans!
The next village of Jispa two months previously was buzzing with activity. On this occasion, everything was being wrapped up. Camps were either shut or being packed. The season had come to an end and it was imperative I got out of there as soon as possible!
In Keylong I reached by late afternoon and took my own sweet time to search and find the cheapest place possible to spend the night. I found a dormitory with only one bed. Yes, something like that can actually exist!
The downside was cold water to bathe, but at the price, I couldn’t complain.
Keylong is also the gateway to the telephone world and I managed to get reasonably fast Internet. There was really nothing more that I needed in life after being lost in the ‘wilderness’ for the past few days!
Route Profile: Bharatpur to Keylong
Almost immediately after you pass the dhabas of Bharatpur, you will start climbing for Baralacha La. It is an easy 8 km pass from this side. Compared to the other side which is extremely difficult.
From Baralacha La you descend to Zing Zing Bar which has dhabas with food and accommodation.
Post Zing Zing Bar, you will find food and accommodation in Darcha, Jispa and Keylong.
Darcha is the first village where you get phone network, only on BSNL though. Keylong is the first town where you get internet as well.
It is an easy day’s ride with a lot of descending. Once past Zing Zing Bar, you are out of Ladakh and will see increasing amount of greenery.
Expenses: Bharatpur to Keylong
Food and Stay 500
READ THE FINAL BLOG FROM THE LADAKH LEG AS WE CYCLED FROM KEYLONG TO MANALI