On the 61st day of our Himalayan ride, we cycled from Sumdo to Tso Moriri. The gorgeous high altitude mountain lake, where we stayed in an ITBP camp! 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 61 Sumdo to Tso Moriri
Sumdo is a tiny village unaffected by tourists, even though they have to pass through it to reach Tso Moriri. A jewel in the ladakhi crown.
As we were leaving Sumdo, a bunch of cars stopped. The tourists jumped out and clicked pictures of people working in the fields. Their attitude towards the locals was the same as people pointing towards animals in a zoo. The sight of which was grotesque.
Road to Tso
We had been warned about terrible roads to Tso Moriri by a number of people. On a cycle you are going too slow for a road to be bad. And the first 30 km for the day was a breeze.
The climb to Kiagar La started 6 km after Sumdo and it was nice and easy. The pass turned out to be a proper freezer. Not so much because of the altitude, but the bad attitude of the sun, which refused to show its face!
I waited for Akshay at the top for a long time. Eventually I left, as the cold became too terrible to bear.
The other side of the pass had a beautiful lake, Kiagar Tso.
The lake looked especially gorgeous with snow clad peaks standing like sentinels around it. There were two things which reduced our enjoyment. The overcast sky with dull grey clouds and the wind which pierced our bodies, through the many layers of clothing.
As expected, the road finally became a pile of rocks.
We then bounced, jumped and hung on. Even our bikes weren’t slow enough to avoid the stones. The worst was, it wasn’t uphill or down, but flat road. We needed to sit and pedal but were going too fast for comfort.
The road was badly rutted from tracked military vehicles and it just added to our woes.
We reached a crossroad where a butter smooth road was visible. That road goes on the other side of Tso Moriri. Where civilians aren’t allowed. We were doomed to continue along the rocky ride.
The village of Karzok was visible not too far away and our spirits soared. We were almost there, except we weren’t. It took us more than an hour to traverse that 10 km flat stretch of road. It was mind numbingly irritating!
So close yet so far…
At the ITBP checkpost in Karzok we asked for the promised accommodation. After being served tea we were told to roam the village and then return. A weird ritual!
We did as ordered and returned at 6. We were immediately taken under the protective wing of the commander. They were exceptionally nice to us and made place for us to stay.
Life in the Army They say is Mighty Fine…
It was the first time staying in a military barrack. As I sat there it dawned on me the reason for sending us to the village.
During the day the barracks are empty and we couldn’t be allowed in there unsupervised.
The ITBP setup is very different from the army. With a rather more casual approach. No one gives the kind of respect that rank normally affords. In the barrack itself almost everyone was cooking their own supplementary food, over and above the standard rations.
We sat there with bated breath as kerosene stoves were kept busy cooking chicken.
Kerosene stoves aren’t awesome for fast cooking and it took aeons for the chicken to cook, until then we stared at the food with our tongues wagging!
Dinner was as extravagant as it was late. We were given a plateful of rice each, lots of meat, a big bowl of dal and 30 rotis.
I hate wasting food and tried my best to finish it off, but even my magnificent cyclist appetite had to throw in the towel. A lot of the food went to the dogs. Literally!
They handed out sleeping bags for the night. One bag for the two of us! It wasn’t as weird as it sounds. Since a bag has an inner and outer layer. Meant for temperatures as low as -40 degrees centigrade.
It was an incredible experience sleeping in a military barrack with soldiers and their weapons. Something which words can’t quite describe.
Route Profile: Sumdo to Tso Moriri
6 km after Sumdo, the climb starts in earnest for Kiagar La. It isn’t a very difficult climb since you start at a respectable height.
About 15 km before Karzok, the roads ends and a badly rutted and broken trail begins. Karzok is the village where food and accommodation is available on the banks of Tso Moriri. There are plenty of guesthouses in Karzok, though nothing is cheap there. You can camp a bit beyond the village if you choose.
You need separate permits to go beyond Karzok along the lake and towards Spiti. It is an amazing trekking route which a few cyclists take as well. The route goes over Parang La.
Expenses: Sumdo to Karzok
Food and Stay for Two 620
Food for Two 150