Oct 28, 2011

The last pass
The last “day before”, excitement, preparations, buying food, asking questions, studying the map, the last stressful morning, packing quickly, eating, leaving.
The last climb, slowly-slowly, climbing with every pedal, guessing where the pass is, estimating the time left till we’ll first see him.
The last satisfaction of reaching the pass… seeing the other side.
The last downhill… the famous question –“what do you like more, uphill or downhill?”
My answer is – both. There is no better feeling than climbing a whole day (or more) and then, in one second, it’s over; from here I can only slide down, down with the river, into a beautiful new valley.
I can still remember the first passes, endless, to many serpentines, to high to climb; another curve, another hour, the last hour, a few more kilometers, staring at the prayer flags situated at the pass.
And here I am now, in Rangdum, 26kmfrom the Pensi-La, my last pass (for this trip, anyway), my last climb, my last downhill.
When the idea of cycling in India first came-up, in Trujillo (Peru, 12/08) I searched the internet, fantasying. I bumped into a picture of the views from the ‘Pensi-La’ pass, to the Zanskar valley. Who would have believed it will be my last pass?


Aug 24, 2009

We were excited about entering the Suru Valley.
8 years ago the road was so bad that Rami wasn’t relaxed driving the heavy Enfield motorcycle; after about 100km we turned back. We remembered it as a beautiful, isolated valley, and the views of the towering 7,000m peaks, Kun & Nun, 4,000m above the valley.
It was a dead-end road, about 250km from Kargil to Padum, away from the Indian traffic, except for a few buses carrying pilgrims to participate in the 3-day Dalai-Lama seminar in Padum.
The first day was easy. The only annoyance, breaking our tranquility were the frequent shouts from the millions kids & elders: “Happy one pen”, “One chocolate” and “Where going?”.

 Entering the Suru valley.
 Simple games.

 Lots of glaciers.
 The road quickly deteriorated.

Will Rami’s tire surive?
While unpacking at the ridiculous government guest-house at Sanku, we noticed that Rami’s new “specialized Armadillo Crossroads” tire, which was complicated to acquire, has collapsed, after less than 2,500km!!!
The previous Crossroads tire lasted 11,000km with ZERO flats!
We were very disappointed and a bit worried. We glued a patch of a trucks inner tube (one must carry at all times a piece of a trucks inner tube and a chewing gum) and hoped it’ll hold for the remainder 210km to Padum.
Later, in Israel, Ehud Dahari (our mechanic and savior) remarked we should have simply sowed the torn part back together.

 The guest-house at Sanku - nothing changed in 8 years ;-)
 The hole.
 A local, carrying barley.

 A village on the way.

 2km paved... hmmm...

Kun & Nun 17/08/09
After a short cycling day we threw our stuff at yet another ridiculous government guest house, in Panikar, and quickly attacked the shortcut to Parkachik (a 1,000m climb over a secondary ridge), to enjoy the impressive Kun & Nun and their glaciers.
As we stared our descend the batteries of the camera died, so unfortunately there are no photos of the beautiful valley during sunset.

 Starting the climb.
 Marmots! Silly little animals.
 Many flowers.
 Ooh - we've climbed a bit.
 The pass to Parkachik. Kun & Nun.
 The glacier of Kun & Nun.
 Last minutes of sun - it's gonna be cold!!!

We had a “rest day” at Parkachik, where on our motorcycle trip Rami chickened out and we returned.
It was nice seeing that nothing has changed: the same neglected government guest house and the same young Muslim girls peeking through the window into our room.

 Oops, thanks good we carried a spare cartridge for our water filter.

 Hmmm, the Zankari NASA?

 The same Muslim girl, peeking.
  Sheep, returning to Parkachik.
 Beautiful Parkachik.
 The glacier breaking...
 Muslim Suru valley.

 The endless road.
 The pilgrim buses, returning from the Dalai Lama thing at Padum.

A beautiful cycling day, the sun is smiling.

 More marmots!


 Zanskar style houses.

We reached Rangdum, a Zanskari village, the last before Pensi-La.
The crappy-funny government guest-house was all booked by the military, so we slept with locals (home-stay).

 The Government guest-house in Rangdum.
 Our home-stay.
 Fuckin' cold!!!

 Leaving Rangdum.

Pensi-La 22/08/09
The climb to Pensi-La was easy.
We were cheered by hundreds of Marmots, whistling as we passed them.

 A monetary.

 Where's the road?
  So cute!

 10km to go.
 Prayer flags... the last pass!

Just after the pass we stumbled across a huge, endless, white glacier, pouring down the valley.
We stood there for a while, amazed by its beauty, enduring the freezing wind.

 Cycling down.

We camped just below the pass, in a nice, but freezing valley, on the banks of the river gushing from the glacier.
Rami surprised once again and managed to get hold of a bottle of fresh cow milk (“Gui-ka dud”) from the nearby shepherd camp.

 Washing dishes in the freezing river (Rami).

 The kid from the shepherd camp.

Back to Buddhism 23/08/09
Pensi-La defined the border between the Muslim world (the Suru valley) and the Buddhist world (the Zanskar valley)
The following 2 days we crossed the remaining 80km of terrible road, along the Dora river, passing through many beautiful villages.
Rami cursed every silly Stupa, which defined another tiring serpentine in the endless road, while Gals only thoughts were about this being the end of our 3-year cycle-tour.


 Making butter.
 Taking my last picture on this bicycle tour...

 The last 6km to Padum were perfectly paved!

Padum 24/08/09 
We Reached Padum, "The big city". One long (1.5km) dusty Tibetan main road, with tens of similar shops selling basic food.
We entered the local silly government guesthouse, just at the entrance to town.
A smiling old Zanskari welcomed us with the question: "horseman?"

 Baby birds in our guest-house.
 Cheep (& young) Indian labor.
 Packing the trailers for the horses. A classic mess!