On the 25th day we rode from Ichar to Padum in Zanskar Valley. 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 25 Ichar to Padum
Wedding over, honeymoon begins! At least for the couple who got married the previous night in Ichar.
For us the honeymoon was over! We were going from untouched villages and lots of adventure to boring roads and touristy places. The ride was on a jeep track with lots of traffic. Okay, maybe not a lot, but it appeared that way after our days of seclusion.
We bumped into a biker couple from Pune who were going to trek to Phuktal Monastery. Unfortunately they were dressed up in too many layers of clothes which would have left them steamed like a momo by the end of it!
My rear tyre was worn and with the roads of the previous few days I was expecting bad news and it happened. The rear punctured and I had to remove the tubeless setup and install a tube. That took time and even though we had just 30 km to cover, it felt a lot.
The land was boring, so was the road and to add to the misery, the sun beat down hard on us. I couldn’t wait to reach Padum.
Which after an exhausting few hours of riding, we did.
Padum might be am idyllic little village for people coming from the bigger towns of Leh and Kargil. For us it was an overcrowded touristy town! While others come here for the peace and solitude. We stayed an extra day for electricity, sleep, a working toilet and washing our clothes.
I had been riding continuously for 15 days and needed a break. The hiking section had taken a toll, since neither of us were used to walking!
In Padum we headed to a payphone and called up all the necessary people after 6 days of being in the wilderness. We also ate traditional Uttarakhandi food in Ladakh! A welcome change which included Gulab Jamuns as well.
Much to Driftjockey’s delight I spotted a shop selling tinned fish and we bought a can of tuna and fresh bakery bread, it turned out to be a feast, fit for a king!
For dinner we went in search of mutton momos and found a government school teacher sat at the table next to ours. The conversation which ensued was both informative and entertaining. He told us about a Danish guy who had been walking from Kanyakumari for six months and wanted to cross the LOC in Kargil. He apparently didn’t believe in borders or paperwork. Good to know there are crazier people than us!
He sent his own children to Dharamshala to study in the Tibetan school there. Even though he himself was a teacher! He bemoaned the lack of infrastructure for children to get a quality education in their respective village schools.
He also told us about good schools in remote villages in that valley which were funded by NGOs from Germany, France and Italy. A crying shame that foreign NGOs are more interested in educating Indians, than the Indian government.
Since these schools are under the state department, Urdu was the official language. He was a teacher who had travelled a bit, so he chose to go against the curriculum. Teaching the children Hindi, because that was a more useful language for them, once they grew up and entered the ‘real world’.
We spoke about many other things, from the change in the weather to the increase in Indian tourists corresponding with the decrease in foreign tourists. The improved roads bringing more Indians, which in turn reduced the foreign crowd.
Thanks to the conversation I ended up eating hardly any momos, while Driftjockey happily hogged them all!
Route Profile: Ichar to Padum
From Ichar one descends to the main road and continues along the rocky jeep track all the way to Padum. Some 5 km before the town an asphalt road starts.
There is the interesting Muney Monastery on the way and a few villages where food and accommodation might be available. Since it was so close to Padum, it made more sense to head to the biggest town in the area.
Padum itself has multiple food and accommodation options. There are cheap, clean but bare rooms available near the mosque. There are many options available in the main market. A few hippy/ backpacker places are also available which tell Indians that the place is full, while opening their doors for foreigners!
Expenses for Ichar to Padum
Food and Stay for Two 600
Food for Two 400