On the 57th day we rode from Chushul to Tsaga, from one tiny village to another even tinier village! This was part of our 90 day cycle ride in the Himalayas covering, Spiti, Zanskar, Batalik, Ladakh, Nubra, Shyok, Pangong, Hanle, Tso Moriri, Garhwal and Kumaon.
Day 57: Chushul to Tsaga
Chushul the nondescript village is the gateway to paradise for the strong willed.
Since we had pitched our tent in the PWD guesthouse premises we had no access to a working toilet. Instead we were treated to a pit in the ground, while we sat perched 10 feet above.
It reminded me of the toilets in Mongolia! The stark difference being the pornographic drawings on the inside of the toilet door. It was incredible that someone would sit in that stinking pile of shit longer than necessary to complete their drawing!
We then freshened up at the hand pump in front of the police station. Armed with toothbrush and paste we took full advantage of the pump, including clicking ‘rustic’ village pictures! The policemen on duty were not too pleased with our tomfoolery.
Beyond Chushul there is not a lot. Only Indian tourists are allowed and there isn’t any tourism infrastructure. We had breakfast at the only dhaba there and packed lunch as well. Better to carry food than to go hungry. Information about the route for the day was scant.
The monastery in front of the dhaba had an amusing health advisory, ‘Stay safe from AIDS, use condoms’. It was rather ironic that this important message was at a monastery where the people are celibates!
The policeman on duty at the checkpost had told us the previous evening to show our permits on departure from Chushul.
When we went there to do the same, he was shocked that we hadn’t left even at 10:30 AM! After checking our permits he literally harried us out of there, pointing at the sky and promising us that the weather would turn for the worse. We were least bothered.
It was my turn to carry Akshay’s handlebar bag. I carried the bag with the tent in it and was happy to maintain a decent pace with the additional weight.
The most striking feature of the landscape after Chushul was man made.
Military bunkers peppered the mountainside. Though they looked like ghost bunkers. There was no sign of human activity around them, no military trucks, personnel or anything else with signs of life. My assumption is that these are from past battles which are maintained but not used anymore.
The other reason for my belief in these being dormant is the fact that there is no road there. The military is otherwise very particular about having proper roads on the border.
We crossed multiple streams. While I searched for the ones we were warned about. Fortunately only one required me to take off my shoes, the rest we could thrash through.
One such stream snaked its way through an idyllic grassland. A perfect place to eat our packed lunch. After a good meal it was time to give my bike a proper washing as well.
1962 War Memorial
On the way we also paid our respects to the war heroes of 1962 at Rezang La War Memorial. This was the site of the battle where the 13 Kumaon Regiment fought till the last man and last bullet against the Chinese Army in 1962. The company was led by Major Shaitan Singh.
The inhospitable conditions in which the soldiers were fighting makes the hair stand on the back of your neck.
The wind picked up after 11 am. Add to that the dirt road and it became quite a challenge. Like clockwork at 2 the wind became fierce and pushed us with incredible force. Even on the downhills we had to pedal!
There was a small pass to take care off, Tsaga La, just before the village of Tsaga.
As we reached the top it started drizzling and we rushed down, only to be greeted by hail. The small hailstones pricked like pins as I held onto the handlebar for dear life. The surrounding peaks turned white immediately, which was beautiful to see.
Should I stop and enjoy the view or run in search of cover? A question which plagued me at the time.
I rocketed down to the nearest homestay in the midst of falling hail and rain. The lady running the show could easily have taken advantage of my position. I was wet, shivering and desperate. But she didn’t.
She quoted the rate which was applicable under a blue sunny sky as well. These are the small joys of travelling in less touristy places.
Roof over our heads
As we sat there shivering, safe from the inclement weather, we were served piping hot coffee and Maggi. Which under the circumstances felt like manna from heaven!
The evening ended with a peg of Old Monk which Akshay ordered on my behalf! We also got to try dried sheep and yak meat. Which was possibly the highlight of the gastronomic section of this trip!
Route Profile: Chushul to Tsaga
There are two routes from Chushul to Hanle. The first one goes via Mahe, this route is via Tsaga. The Mahe route has two passes and no accommodation or food available along the way.
Tsaga on the other hand has three dhabas and a couple of homestays. There is also only one pass to contend with!
The distance for the day might appear less. The problem is that there is nothing after Tsaga all the way till Hanle. So it is important to break journey in Tsaga.
Expenses: Chushul to Tsaga
Food for two 330
READ THE BLOG WHEN WE RODE FROM TSAGA TO HANLE