On the 29th day we rode from Rangdum to Parkachik as we moved away from Zanskar Valley and towards Kargil. 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 29 Rangdum to Parkachik
The excellent hotel in the middle of nowhere was run by nice people. Even though they charged us a bit extra for the food because of the heavily discounted room we got!
We packed our bikes and were ready to leave when I saw my front tyre had almost no air. The ride started with the only upper body workout that cyclists undertake, pumping up the tyres! A small pump with big tyres makes for a lot of work.
As we exited town we passed a small water body, in which the liquid was so clear that we could see every stone at the bottom. This pristine pond was hidden behind a tuft of grass and bush. Driftjockey made a poignant observation, do peeps in cars and bikes ever see these hidden gems. And to drive that point home, a couple of cars rolled past with the occupants fast asleep!
The sky was grey and we could see rain ahead. As we climbed a small hill towards Parkachik, the rain came down. Not hard. In the mountains it never rains heavily. It was just a constant torrent of tiny icy pellets. The mercury dipped and we were shivering with blue numb fingers. No matter how hard we pedalled, the body wouldn’t warm up. I forgot to wear my rain pants in time, while Driftjockey forgot to put his backpack below his rain jacket. As a result my underwear was as soggy as his book!
He then got onto, what can best be described as an acid trip, and pulled out a Sony Walkman from the third century BC with cabled earphones and started listening to music. Keralite audio numbers apparently from the famous artist, Shakeela, the pleasure on his face evident from a mile away, as he danced on his bike.
From thereon it was a slog fest as we struggled through the wet and cold, shivering in our boots and hoping to get to a dry place soon. We passed through the densest clouds and came out on relatively dry ground. Driftjockey thought it was a good idea to dry our soaking wet shoes and socks. It took me 10 minutes to get my shoes off and then back on because my fingers were so numb.
There is a reason one shouldn’t always take the advice of your fellow traveller. Half a kilometre after drying our shoes we rode through six water crossings which left us with drenched feet again!
To top it all, a dog was barking continuously at us while we crossed the streams. I wasn’t sure if he was trying to warn us, or someone else about us!
At the other end of the streams were two serene shepherds and as we chatted to them, the dog quietened down, safe in the knowledge that we weren’t wolves! The shepherds were out grazing their sheep. They would leave the sheep for the day along with the dog, who ensured that the wool stayed within boundaries. The dog could be trusted to manage affairs for some time without human supervision. 400 sheep and 1 dog. Intelligent and loyal critters them four legged animals are!
The shepherd offered to buy my bike, not the first time I received such tempting propositions on this trip. He wanted to go downhill to his village and as he pointed out, the rest of the way to Parkachik was down.
Parkachik is a turning point of sorts. Rangdum was a Buddhist village with no trace of Islam, while this one had four mosques, all Muslim inhabitants with no trace of Buddhism. This massive shift in culture in a span of 30 km with no other village in between. There was nowhere for a bit of both to coexist.
The village is a cool place with a close up view of the massive Parkachik Glacier. As luck would have it, we stopped at Hussain bhai’s tea shop and enquired about accommodation. He had a homestay and took us there.
That humble abode had the most magnificent location imaginable. It was the last house in the village and the closest to the glacier. We were as close as possible to the ice, without actually freezing on it!
Hussain left his father in charge of us and returned to his tea stall, who regaled us with tales of yesteryear. How global warming had reduced winter snowfall from 8 to 2 feet and the non-existent man-animal conflict. He told us that even though there were plenty of bears and wolves in the surrounding mountains, it was only on rare occasions that their livestock would be affected. These fierce animals never harmed humans. Once in a blue moon, a sheep/ cow/ horse would get picked up as a gentle reminder that their are dangerous predators afoot. They accepted the ways of nature and were never in a state of conflict.
We were once again treated to roti with boiled vegetables from their garden, for dinner. Which was as healthy a meal as one can get. Talking about gardens, their’s had a stream flowing straight from the glacier. Beat that you fancy pants landscaping artists of big cities. No amount of money you throw in your pretty garden will have a glacier running through it!
The day was a bit special for Driftjockey as it was his last as a 28 year old. He was to wake up an older, but not necessarily wiser man!
Route Profile: Rangdum to Parkachik
After Rangdum the place gets greener as you move towards Parkachik. Offering a multitude of opportunities to camp out in the open if you so wish. The greener pastures also offer opportunities to predators like bears and wolves!
The road is broken for the entirety of the route between the two villages and there is nothing available for either food or accommodation between the two. It is a flat road for the most part, with the last few kilometres a gentle descent to the village.
Staying a day or two in Parkachik is highly recommended!
Expenses: Rangdum to Parkachik
Food and Stay for Two 1310
Food for Two 288 (Including a pint sized birthday cake and expensive fruit juice as drinks to celebrate Driftjockey’s impending birthday!)