Day 30 Parkachik to Kargil
On the 30th day we rode from Parkachik to Kargil clocking over 80 km as we crossed the scenic Suru 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.
There has been a recurring theme in this trip. In the Spiti leg, almost every day Si would get a puncture and the morning would be spent repairing it. Now it was my turn!
I once again woke up to a flat front tyre. Over tea and breakfast we repaired and pumped it up. The good news was I had figured out the problem, the bad news was that I had already pumped up the tyre and was in no mood to take it apart and redo the damn thing! So we left the problem to be sorted out in the future, following the philosophy of most governments around the world.
Before starting this blog I return to another recurring theme on the Padum to Kargil stretch. The kids. All the children we passed on this route would shout out, “one chocolate” or “one toffee”. Sometimes they would run along yelling and on one occasion when we stopped they pestered us. They were as persistent as if they were begging. Which was otherwise completely out of character of the people of the place. The hardworking people had at no point acted like they were waiting for freebies to be doled out, then why did their children behave the opposite. I do not know and will put it down to cultural differences.
Now back to the day in question: Driftjockey’s Birthday!
We were given seven big khameeri rotis (whole wheat yeast bread) for breakfast along with quite a few eggs and tea. Driftjockey gave up after two rotis and the task of finishing all the food rested on my frail shoulders. I gave it my best shot and was so stuffed by the end of it, that I waddled rather than walked after breakfast.
Which was rather cumbersome, considering we were celebrating Driftjockey’s birthday, by climbing the hill right next to the Parkachik Glacier. We were in for a treat as neither of us had seen a glacier from so close. The cracking ice did remind us of the animated movie, Ice Age! There was a persistent drizzle, which sent us back to the homestay faster than we would have liked, but run down we did. Except me, I waddled!
We got back to the main road with our bikes, thanked Hussain bhai at his shop and scooted off towards Kargil. We had 80+ km to go and it was already 10 AM.
Push comes to shove…
Driftjockey was in a hurry. He first pushed me to go faster with encouraging words, and when that didn’t work, he just pushed me. Literally! He put his hand on my backpack and pushed me till my bike picked up speed. Even that didn’t work after a bit, I just love going slow!
By the time we got out of the village, the rain stopped and we were sweating inside our rain gear. So we stopped and wasted more precious time.
I then decided to take revenge on the birthday boy. He had been plugged in and listening to music from the previous day and every time I spoke to him, he wouldn’t be able to hear me. So I stopped in front of him and moved my lips as if speaking to him. He yelled back ‘whaaaaaaaaat’ and I would continue moving my lips. He would reduce the music volume and still hear nothing. Finally he would unplug his earphones and by then I would ride away. Cheap thrills!
Butter smooth road!
20 km after Parkachik we went from gravel to asphalt roads. Along with that we were gifted downhills. It was perfect, we made good time as we rocketed down, including me. No more waddling for this one! As the roads got better I got quicker, to a point where I was coasting down faster than Driftjockey. He wasn’t used to seeing me go faster, especially not on his birthday. So he pedalled hard downhill and in full aero tuck he tried to reel me in. And he failed spectacularly. I was still ahead of him on every descent much to his chagrin. Ah, more cheap thrills!
The benefit of this cat and mouse game was that we made fantastic time. The downside was we didn’t stop to click pictures. Hell bent on getting to Kargil before dark. Which was rather unfortunate, since every section of landscape differed from the previous. The Suru Valley was gorgeous, but we just couldn’t stop. It is a fantastic place to spend more time and I would love to go back there someday.
Parts of it felt like we were riding through an agricultural belt, except there were tall imposing mountains on either side.
We achieved our goal and reached Kargil with time to spare. We found a hotel, plonked our stuff in and headed out for birthday celebratory dinner. Which was excellent kebabs and biryani, a welcome change from the Himachali dal-chawal and Tibetan momos and noodles.
The town of Kargil was more a shock than a pleasant surprise. Everyone who had been there told me that it was a terrible place, rude aggressive people, with an element of fear hanging in the air. Such a grim picture had been painted by multiple people, that I half expected gun fights at every corner! The only person who tempered my expectation was the old man at Parkachik.
The town of Kargil was like any other in the mountains. The people are warm, friendly, helpful and cheerful. More so than any other town on this trip. The food is delicious. There is no reason I would give a bleak description of Kargil to anyone, except if I suffered from a bad case of Islam-O-Phobia! Once you remove your spectacles of bias, Kargil is just like any other town.
Not that I recommend the place. It is functional like other hill towns. I don’t recommend Shimla, Manali, Nainital either. Because all are overcrowded and no place for a vacationer!
Kargil also happened to be the place where I got a working SIM card for my phone and finally a pair of slippers. My slippers were washed away while climbing Shinku La, many moons ago.
Route Profile: Parkachik to Kargil
The route from Parkachik to Kargil is easily doable in a day, since you are by and large descending. Suru Valley is scenic and it is advisable to stay the night there and head to Kargil the next day.
There is also an asphalt road at Phanikar, which is 20 km after Parkachik. The asphalt continues all the way till Kargil. There are plenty of villages along the way, where you can buy packaged food from shops. Dhabas are also available at reasonable distances.
Kargil is like a metro city in comparison to the other towns. There are a plethora of accommodation options to choose from with varying budgets. Bargain! If you enjoy meat, then the best food you will in the entire Ladakh region is in Kargil. Not the bland soupy stuff you get everywhere else!
BSNL and Airtel SIM cards are available in Kargil. Airtel works better, especially in the bigger towns. BSNL has a wider network. I chose BSNL since Airtel didn’t provide service in many areas.
Expenses: Parkachik to Kargil
Food and Stay for Two 700
Food for Two 610
BSNL SIM Card 620