Manali-Leh-KhardungLa Cycling Day 7 (Aug 31st 2009) : Whisky Nullah to Pang – “How Wrong Was I?”

August 30th was a rest day which we spent lazing around the camp. Few of the guys went to a small hike while I, Mausmi and Ian rested the whole day. We met two round the globe bicycle travelers; Stephan (Austria) and Kuku (Spain) at the campsite.

Stephan was from Austria and spoke excellent English. He was touring for last 8 months. We connected instantly. I heard his stories from Europe, Asia and now India. Kuku (read his blogs here at http://thetxatarrillasproject.blogspot.com) was an even livelier character. He hardly spoke English but made up with his gestures. He was a mechanical engineer and was now biking around the globe for 3 years. He would sit on the smallest folding chair imaginable and would stand up as soon as anyone walks into the tent and offer the chair. It was wonderful meeting these guys. We met them again in pang and in Leh.

Stephan, the globe trotting cyclist from Austria and I at Whisky Nullah

Stephan, the globe trotting cyclist from Austria and I at Whisky Nullah

The most adorable and lively chap I met in this trip: Kuku Perez from Spain.  ON the bicycle for 3 years. Seen the whole of Europe and Middle East and now in India. Planning to go to Far East and Australia and then to Americas. An amazing character!

The most adorable and lively chap I met in this trip: Kuku Perez from Spain. ON the bicycle for 3 years. Seen the whole of Europe and Middle East and now in India. Planning to go to Far East and Australia and then to Americas. An amazing character!

The rest day was all bright and sunny and we went to sleep with optimism about the next day when we would do some 70 km from Whisky to Debring, the base camp of TanglangLa Pass.

I woke up the morning of August 31st 2009, the day we resume riding after the rest day, with a constant “pitter – patter” sound on our plastic tent. It was the sound I hate the most, sound of the rains. It was biting cold, 4 degrees and raining like crazy when I went to the breakfast tent hoping that we would call off our day’s ride.

Raju, the real guide of the trip, who had arrived the last night, shocked me when he said we would move in another half an hour. We were camping on a dry river bed with a good chance of flash floods in case of heavy rains. This meant only one thing, either we go back 40 km to Sarchu or we continue and cross LachungLa Pass and reach Pang 32 km towards Leh from here. Going back was never an option.

So, I was riding in rain, a prospect that did not cheer me up at all. I wore whatever I had that could shield me from rain and cold and set off. We had an immediate hurdle of crossing LachungLa pass at 16,800 feet, a climb of 1,200 feet in rain and cold.

Pretty soon it started hailing and the conditions became really tough with cold wind and hails.

Rains....Hails...and biting cold, it does not get worse than this for biking....

Rains....Hails...and biting cold, it does not get worse than this for biking....

I labored and labored and egged myself on to continue the climb. It was sapping and a painful ride. Finally I reached the top of LachungLa Pass where the temperature stood at -2 degrees Celsius.

At the LachungLa Pass (16,800 feet) in the middle of a hailstorm. The temperature stood at -2 degrees!

At the LachungLa Pass (16,800 feet) in the middle of a hailstorm. The temperature stood at -2 degrees!

The downhill to Pang proved the most painful and difficult part of the whole trip for me. I was cold. I was all wet inside despite my waterproofing as water seeped through the hood and went all the way in.

The road on the way down was pathetic with lots of gravel, potholes filled with water and many stream crossings which were overflowing owing to rains. Many motorcyclists had slipped; their machines failed or got stuck in the mud. On one occasion, I and our support crew helped a mo-biker stuck in mud. He was buried so badly that he would not have extricated himself without our help!

There was no sun so I was wearing my normal glasses which were thin. Mountain bikes have no mud-flaps, lor at least I did not have them installed, so all the mud and slush was splashed right on me. Much of it would splash right into my eyes as the thin glasses did not cover my eyes completely. I was tasting mud in my mouth. I did not care much about the clothing but my glasses would be coated with mud in no time. I had no dry clothes so I would clean the mud with my bare hands.  This compromised my visibility by a great factor and I became the slowest of all in this leg.

I had heard so much about the beauty of this ride but we missed all owing to the bad weather. However, I got glimpses that promised an excellent vista if the weather was merciful.

The beauty that was largely enveloped by cloud, mist and rains

The beauty that was largely enveloped by cloud, mist and rains

I reached Pang, a settlement of not more than 5-6 parachute tents, as a riot surviving refugee. I was cold. I was wet. I was miserable. I was numb.

Reached Pang. Not exactly in the best shape to go for a ballroom dance, but happy to have survived the inclement weather

Reached Pang. Not exactly in the best shape to go for a ballroom dance, but happy to have survived the inclement weather

The hot soup and maggi at the parachute tent along with dry clothes made me feel much better. In fact so cold I was feeling that I had no sensation in my right thumb even if I bit it real hard. I got myself a cup of tea and stuck the right thumb straight into the hot liquid and it came back to life!

We did not pitch tents at Pang. Rather we stayed in one of the Parachute tents owned by some really happy bunch of Ladakhi women who would serve the customers hot food and continue to dance on some peppy local music.

The short day meant only one thing, we would have to do a long next day and do Morey Plains and TanglangLa Pass in the same day, that is if and only if, the weather clears up.

The stats for the day were:

day 07

day's progress highlighted in red

Total Distance

32 km

Total Climb

1200 feet

Total Time on Saddle

3 hours 05 min

Sleeping Height

14,800 feet

Oxygen

57% relative to MSL (mean sea leve58)      At LachungLa 51%

Minimum Temperature at LachungLa: -2 degrees Celsius

We all prayed that tomorrow be a clear day so that we can get back to our plans again. A very long day was on the cards.

Read on: Day 8- Pang to Lato -“The Longest and the Best Day- Size Does Matter”

All Links:

Prologue : Khardungla and My Conditioning

Day 1 (Manali to Marhi):  Meet the Gang

Day 2 (Marhi to Sissu):  The Big Climb up the Rohtang Pass

Day 3 (Sissu to Jispa):   The Cold Windy Day

Day 4 (Jispa to ZingzingBar):  Awww… Those 7 km…

Day 5 (ZingzingBar to Sarchu): The Box of Chololates

Day 6 (Sarchu to Whisky Nullah): The Beauty and the Beast

Day 7 (Whisky Nullah to Pang):  How Wrong Was I?

Day 8 (Pang to Lato): The Longest and the Best Day- Size Does Matter

Day 9 (Lato to Leh):   I Will Reach Leh

Day 10 (Leh to KhardungLa):  The Final Hurrah….

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One Response to “Manali-Leh-KhardungLa Cycling Day 7 (Aug 31st 2009) : Whisky Nullah to Pang – “How Wrong Was I?””

  1. Steve Hoge Says:

    Hey Manasij – Totally inspring story, and extremely readable!

    Do you have any up-to-date info on your tour guide and partners? I’d really like to follow up on some of the support resources for a ride like this. Unfortunately, the links at:

    http://www.magicmountains.com/

    and

    http://www.cyclemanali.com/

    are dead 😦

    Regards,
    Steve

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