On the 33rd day we rode parallel to the Indo-Pak border following the Indus River from Garkone to Khaltsi. 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 33 Garkone to Khaltsi
I woke multiple times during the night, while Driftjockey was sound asleep in the guesthouse in Garkone.
In the morning I was tired and didn’t feel rested at all.
We left after Driftjockey had plucked a few plums, stuffed his face with some and his bag with the rest.
Along the border…
We were still on the back road away from traffic, pretty close to the Indo-Pak border. We rode through village after village, with each one having an army base. This isn’t a place you want to mess around!
The next 8-10 villages had some form of accommodation or the other and anyone looking to ride this route should keep that in mind.
South Indian Hospitality in the Himalayas!
As we were passing a unit of the army, someone yelled out, from where are you’ll? Driftjockey responded ‘Kerala’ and we were promptly invited for lunch and a Malyali soldier was also called upon for conversation. We had already eaten at an army run canteen, so we declined the offer. But they didn’t take no for an answer and stuffed our bags and pockets with apples and bananas. I had my bags overflowing with fruit and filled my pockets as well.
They were super happy to see us and we them!
The road was undulating with no big passes and we made good time, thanks in no small part to the fruit we were carrying. We didn’t need a proper meal, because we were constantly munching on apples, plums, apricots and bananas.
We passed a bridge which was almost submerged and saw parts of the road also underwater. Even a few buildings and trees were inundated. Apparently some river had been dumping water in the Indus for the past year and the water level had risen drastically.
We saw 13 cyclists riding around a 4 day circuit of Lamayuru. The ride had been organised by Youth Hostel of India and was a great initiation into the world of cycle touring for those youngsters. They would be riding a scenic route with minimal traffic and only one big climb.
We were also overtaken by a speeding monk on a bicycle. He didn’t have the burden of luggage, both material and otherwise and flew past us on a climb. Every gram matters when climbing and I went through my checklist to see if there was anything else I could jettison!
As we approached Khaltsi, I was pleasantly surprised to see a large number of women drivers. It was good to see so many women behind the wheel in what is essentially a rural place.
Schezwan Biryani in Khaltsi!
By the time we reached Khaltsi my butt had cracked and broken into two pieces and I was stopping every couple of hundred metres to rest my aching posterior.
We found a cheap hotel to stay in, it was cheap only in appearance, not in price. Unfortunately!
Some previous patron of this distinguished lodging had written on the wall, be careful of the bed bugs. When I went to bathe it struck me. Bug bites covered my body. Thanks to the place we had stayed the previous night. The reason I hadn’t slept and my discomfort on the saddle the entire day.
Cursing my luck for finding bugs on two consecutive nights we went in search for dinner.
We ordered biryani.
The town of Khaltsi is halfway between Kargil and Leh. Kashmiri cuisine on one side and Ladakhi on the other. The biryani in Khaltsi was just like the town. It was curried chicken pieces with fried rice!
Going with the theme Driftjockey had his fried rice biryani with schezwan sauce and lime! If they could murder food, so could we.
The heat of the place allowed us to indulge in more ice cream and buttermilk, leaving me confused about my location on the map! Whether I was in Kerala or the Himalayas!
Route Profile: Garkone to Khaltsi
The route from Garkone to Khaltsi is almost entirely asphalt. There is barely any traffic. Nor much climbing to be done. You will climb just about 300 odd metres in the 70 km, as if you were in the Indus plains!
From Garkone to Khaltsi most villages have accommodation and food. There is also a lot of military presence should you require assistance with anything.
Khaltsi is back on the NH1, the main highway connecting Srinagar to Leh. Once you get onto this highway there is a substantial increase in traffic and you immediately miss the back roads!
The small nondescript town has ATMs, phone connectivity, food and accommodation in plenty. But there is practically nothing nice about the place other than being a stopover along the highway.
Expenses: Garkone to Khaltsi
Food and Stay for Two 1000
Food for Two 840