Sunday, June 29, 2014

Cycle Ride to Khardungla

That awesome feeling, when you are on a bi-cycle and you can see aeroplane flying below you.

Khardung La (Khardung Pass):
Khardungla lies on north of Leh, is the gateway for Nubra Valley.
The roads are maintained by Border Roads Organisation (BRO),
Locals/BRO claim that it is world's highest motorable roads(18380ft),these claims are disputed by modern GPS systems which measure as 17582ft.

Renting Cyles : 
As we planned cycle ride to Khardungla, the first thing was to rent good bicyles.
We started the search, went to almost all cycle renting shops in Leh, didn't find good cycles.
After a long search we finally found one bike shop "Summer Holidays" on upper Tukcha road, Leh.
They keep good Mountain bikes for renting, he had TREK 3700/4300, GIANT bikes, and many more.
As that was peak season, rent charges are Rs.900/day/cycle same as that of renting an Royal Enfield Bullet.
After a good bargain we got 10 cyles for Rs.8000/- along with back up van, which we didn't thought of.

Cycle Ride :
Khardungla is 42Kms from Leh.
Ride to Khardungla is tough considering the whether, road and terrain conditions.
We started at 5:00 in the morning, temperature was around 5-8 degrees.
Moved towards Khardungla, streets wore a deserted look, no one around.

The route was not easy, as we started 5 from our batch moved past me.
After riding for an hour I realized i was the last rider, moving steadily negotiating climbs.

As time passing the distance between me and fellow riders kept increasing.
At a point thought of going back, but didn't, kept on riding.

We are not well prepared, just the day before we completed YHAI Mountain Biking Expedition.
Just had noodles before the start, carrying gatorade and few energy bars.

On the way to Khardungla
Later on I stopped for sometime, had a snickers and gatorade, started again.

Just before reaching south pullu, i was almost dead.
I cannnot push myself beyond this,and Khardungla is 15Kms from there.
And there is no point in pushing hard and falling ill, so decided to stop there.

Suggestion for Visitors - At south pullu

Saw a van ( not our back-up van) coming from behind, asked for lift.
Driver stopped and asked me to get in, the driver himself loaded and tied my cycle on van top.
These Leh people are so helpful, always ready to help.

Roads till south pullu (24Kms) are in good condition, from there the roads are full of rocks, dirt and may be snow melt.

The van driver a was great help, it was like a social trip for me.
All the way we were discussing about Ladakh Culture, what they do, how they live, etc etc.

Khardungla Top:

We reached Khardungla top, driver helped me untying the cycle.
As I tried to offer some money for the help(typical city lives), he refused firmly.
I gave my number and asked him to call for any help in pune (his children are studying here).

As I waved good bye to driver, the temperatures are below 0, felt something weird happening to me.
I was feeling dizzy, unable to stand, happened like my vision getting blurred.[Altitude Sickness]
Immediately went into nearby military facility, the army guy standing said civilians are not allowed.

Snow clad mountains - Khardungla Top
I can see cafeteria, its just 100mts away from me.
I was thinking "will i make it to cafeteria or collapse in between"
Took few deep breaths left all my belongings, walked straight to cafeteria, had 3 tea and hot noodles.
Rested for sometime, body gave a "good to go" signal, went out and roamed nearby.

A small frozen waterfall in between.

"The" route.

"The" route.

My cycle posing on the world's highest roads.
On the top, people are surprised to see me with cycle, started asking all sort of questions
did u come on bicycle? how did you manage? where are you coming from? etc etc..
Few people wanted to take photographs with me, now this is real weird for me.

Clicked few pics there and started back to Leh.

Elevation Profile : 
Elevation Map : Click for the elevation map of the route

Suggestions:
- Start early.
- Plan well, sleep well before night.
- Carry water, energy drinks/bars.
- Wear layers of clothing, temperature changes quite fast, you can add or remove accordingly.
- Be extra cautious on rock and on fresh snow patches.
- Oxygen in air is 50% low compared to that of sea levels, be well prepared.
- Do carry cycle repair kit.