Monday, November 22, 2010

Bicycle

Source: Reddit

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Manali-Leh; The Story (Part 7) Final.

All vehicles were moving fast & furious on the Morey Plains. The roads were muddy. Everybody left with a vengeance to make up the time lost in Sarchu & Pang.

At that time, I thought my friend was already approaching Leh in order to take the Aug 9 morning flight to Delhi. We stopped for a while at the summit of Taglang La. The view was just amazing. The marker stone stated that at 17,582ft, it is the 2nd highest motorable road in the world but some people said that it is the highest but had to give way to Khardung La for economic reason. I regret that I didn't switch on my hand-held GPS to check the actual height myself.

At the top of Taglang La

The sign on Taglang La

View from Taglang La

Descending from Taglang La was very challenging. Not only because the road is narrow, winding and rocky. But our driver made it so easy by taking 'short cuts'. It was quite scary but we did saved a lot of time.

When we reached Rumptse, I saw lots of tourist were hanging out at the dhabas. As if like they were waiting for their bus or train. There were lots of vehicles- jeep, trucks, motocycles stopping there. But we keep moving on heading to Upshi.

Unfortunately after few kilometers from Rumptse, we were stopped by the road works. The military & BRO workers were trying to clear the road from the landslide. Looks like it was massive as some part of the road were visibly missing, apparently collapsed into the river! We were told that there were no more road for vehicle to reach Upshi at that moment and was advised to return to Manali.

The road work after Rumptse

So all of us have to decide whether to move on by foot to the nearest village of Upshi or to return to Manali by jeep.

My jeep buddies quickly made up their mind and decided to move on by foot. But majority of the people from other jeeps have decided to return to Rumptse because they can have option whether to stay there and wait until the road open or return to Manali by jeep or bus.

I made a quick decision to join my buddies. My argument was it will take another 4-5 days or more to reach Delhi if I return to Manali because we will have to stop for over night at Sarchu and the road condition at Pang, Sarchu, Zing Zing Bar & Rohtang La were still uncertain. But, if I walk, it will only takes 1-2 days to reach Leh + 1 more day to reach Delhi.

So I unpacked my luggage; 2 panniers, 1 duffle bag + 1 bike. I quickly adjusted & tuned up my brakes and derailleurs and quickly joined my Tibetan buddies.

So 5 of us started walking through the landslide area. Some of the workers were looking at me with awed. Probably they thought I was crazy to push my bike along. Yeah...it was heavy. Then we met another local guy walking from the opposite direction who told my buddies that it was not possible to bring my bike because the trail was so narrow. I told them not to worry because I can dismantle my bike into small pieces and carry. After approx. 3 kilometers from a small village called Lato we reached the end of the road (the road ahead were collapsed into the river) What we saw was tiny size of people climbing the 80-100 feet cliff to bypass the river. Then I realized that there was no way that I can bring my bike along! And it was a scary sight because the cliff looked slippery. I decided not to join my buddies who keep climbing it.

This used to be Manali-Leh Highway

...and this too. But there were no more roads ahead. Look at the cliff where people were climbing

So, after 1 hour standing at the edge of the road observing my buddies climbing the cliff, I decided to turn back to Lato. The journey was very tough because it was un-rideable. The route was full of deep mud, big rocks and it was ascending. Furthermore, I was pushing a fully loaded bike! After more than 2 hours, I finally reached a dhaba at Lato. I thought I was making the right decision not to climb the cliff because the sky looked like it's about to rain (which it did later on).

Team work...but still dangerous

My buddies were climbing

Arrived at the dhaba, I met with a German family who were hiking to Leh. They too decided to continue their hiking on the next day after it rained. And while hanging out at the dhaba, I suddenly saw a kid (happened to be the dhaba's owner's son) riding a bike that looked familiar to me. When I approached him, I was told that 3 English guys & 1 Malaysian left their belonging including their bikes at the home stay and had left for Leh in the morning! When I was brought to see their belongings, I recognized those panniers, cycling gears, including the stuff that I lend to my friend- fuel bottle, waterproof glove & handlebar bag. So it seems that I was 1 day behind them!

Back at the homestay, I spent the night planning for my next day journey to Leh. My room is just an empty room with 1 candle. I decided to leave everything behind except for my travel documents, the electronics gadgets- hand-held GPS, DSLR camera, ipod, blackberry, stove, water-filter, first aid kit, a set of clean clothes, thermals and my Brook Saddle. It doesn't sound much but these stuff were very heavy. I carried my Camelbak without the reservoir (a big mistake!) and a dry bag to carry these stuff. It was very cold (did not use my wet sub-zero sleeping bag..haha!) night as I slept on just the carrymat, I really couldn't sleep. Maybe my mind was busy thinking about my next day journey that I was not looking forward to.

Early in the morning at 6.30am, I left Lato and headed to the cliff alone. It was a scary feeling to walk alone in the mountains. While walking, I thought that I'm going to die in that mountain and nobody will find my body.

But luckily after 1 hour of walking, I met with a group of locals who were climbing the cliff. It was probably 30-40 of them. And I recognized some of their faces because they did stopped by at the dhaba and started their walking earlier in the morning. So I joined them knowing that I would not survive at that place alone.

It was a very hard journey that includes hiking, rock climbing, crossing fast flowing stream, river edge, absailing. But with the help of the locals, I survived the 8-hours journey that took us to Upshi about 26++ km through the Ladakh region in the Indian Himalaya with lack of water to drink.

At Upshi, I met my Tibetan buddies who were waiting for the bus. Apparently, they have spent a night at a village, Miru before continue their walk to Upshi. And during my conversation with them, I was told that they have met my friend and his English buddies in the house that they stayed at Miru. That means all of us will arrive in Leh on the same day but at different time!

We managed to get a ride on the Military Truck to Karu Army camp, and finally took a taxi to Leh. The ride to Leh via Thikse was bumpy- hot, dry & dusty. It was a very long ride when we were stopped from entering Choglamsar due to the new landslide. Therefore a 7km trip became 25km due to the road closed. At the end, we arrived at Leh at about 4.30pm and went straight to check in at a Guesthouse near the Main Bazaar.

Jama Mosque & Leh Palace at the background

I arrived at Leh, looking like a zombie with dry mud on all over my jacket and pants because I fell on mud pool twice near Miru. We saw many charity drives for the victims of the flood at Choglamsar. I went straight to Jet Airways office but it was closed. Then I went to the Internet cafe checking my emails & facebook and I was told that my friend was probably still in Leh because he did not arrive at Delhi airport. A facebook friend then told me that my friend's wife when crazy worried about her husband! So I quickly called my father to inform that I was still alive and explain to him my situation so that my family understand and not worry about me.

These were all that I salvaged.

When we arrived in Leh, we saw many charity drive like this

...and like this too.

Changspa Road

Some rock formation near the river at Changspa Road

The stairs to Shanti Stupa

The next day I went out walking around Leh searching for my friend and my other cycling buddies at the Oriental Hotel & Guesthouse as we have earlier agreed to meet up there should we arrived in Leh. It was a long walk via the Changspa Road to the hotel and the receptionist informed that nobody from Australia, Scotland, French or Malaysia have checked-in.

near Shanti Stupa

So, I went back to the Ticketing office at the Main Bazaar and purchased a fresh ticket back to Malaysia via Delhi & Chennai. And in the evening, I was informed via facebook that my friend is already in Delhi and happy to get back to Malaysia while I have to stay for another 3 days because that was the earliest flight that I managed to get to fly out from Leh.

So, during the 3 days, I went out to check my emails and facebook at the Internet cafe, taking pictures around Leh, find good restaurants for better food to eat other than rice, dhall & omelet and went shopping for jackets and bags to replace the one I left behind at Lato.

Prayer wheel on Changspa Road near Shanti Stupa

Me & my buddies-Kesang & Yeshi at the Guest House.

Finally on August 14, 8.20am, I arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Relieved. And it was my friend who was waiting for me in his van to send me back home. Home Sweet Home.

JULLAY!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Manali-Leh; The Story (Part 6)

The ride to Zing Zing Bar went smooth as I was busy looking outside searching for the river that troubled many cyclist and drivers that trying to cross it. Until we reached the dhabas for breakfast stop about 8km from Patseo, I still haven't found it.

While walking around the place, I met with the kids from Delhi whom I met in Patseo. According to them they have reached Pang but had to turn back because there was no access to Leh. So now they are heading back to Manali to catch their bus back to Delhi.

Dhaba at Zing Zing Bar

Since there was no telephone line or the internet, our source of information were from other people who traveled along the highway. In this case, trucks & taxi drivers. But no one actually saw the destruction at Upshi. Someone told us that the military has reported that there were no more bridge there as it was destroyed by the flood. The fact was, most the information that we received were merely hearsay; they heard it from someone else. So we thought maybe we still have some chance that by the time we reached Upshi, the bridge might be already repaired and accessible.

So we moved on to Baralacha La. On the way, I finally saw the river; the water was very fast but our driver whom I called 'Colin McRae of Manali-Leh' drove it through like it was just a small stream. I thought..Bloody Hell..LOL. I knew that I'm going to have hell of a ride with him as a driver.

Then we reached Baralacha La, the scenery was magnificent. And I can still see the snow everywhere. But it was too cold to my liking. I thought, if I continue ride to this place that day, I will definitely get very sick. And as I expected, the descent from Baralacha La to Sarchu will be very slow for cyclist as the road were very bad..mud packed. I suspected that my friend must have reached Sarchu after sunset.

View at Baralacha La

When we reached Sarchu, we received another news about road closure ahead, so we were forced to stay overnight in one of the dhaba. So seven of us from the vehicle shared a room for Rs.100 per person. After dinner at 7.00pm, I went to sleep.

The next morning, after we received green light from the military, we were allowed to move on. After less than 1 hour on the road, we were stopped by road works that were working to clear off the landslide.

Police checkpoint at Sarchu

Then we climbed the Gata Loops & Nakeela La. When we passed through Whisky Nallah, I saw a jeep with bikes in front of the dhaba. And I knew it well that it was Ron & Annette's. But our driver did not stop there but keep moving to climb Lachulung La. Suddenly, I saw Thomas and Lucie on their bikes. I can see on Lucie's face that she was struggling with the rain & bad roads. And the road descending to Pang, could be the worst that I've seen on the Manali-Leh highway! At that time, My thought was for Thomas & Lucie. I hope they will get through it.

Road to Pang

Then again we met with another road works. It was massive because we got stuck on that road for almost 3 hours before we were allow to drive through. While waiting there, I met Ron & Annette. Apparently, they have stopped riding because of the bad roads and I can see that Ron was having problem with his health too. Then, I saw Thomas & Lucie pushing their bike through the traffic jam. I felt relieved that they have made it through so far.

Traffic jam due to road works

When we reached Pang, I saw Ron Jeep's and the driver. I approached him and he greeted me by saying 'Come, let me take you to meet up with the gang'.. Then in a tent, I was greeted by Colleen, and I saw Ron & Dave as well. Annette was having her rest in her tent as I was told. Then Colleen 'cheerfully' told me that the military has closed the access road to Leh, and many people has died due to the flash flood' and continue saying with a smile 'And they has closed the airport so nobody can go back to their country'..hahaha I thought, Ok if they have closed the airport, then all flight will be delayed. Great! I can got time to catch my flight then! That's what I thought.

Dhabas at Pang

I reached Pang on the Aug 7. And due to the road closure (again!), we were forced to stay overnight there. But I need to reach Leh by Aug 8, so that I can catch my flight of Aug 9. And at that time, I thought my friend was already at Tso Kar (as per our original plan). So I thought we were still on scheduled!

While in Pang, I went to the Military Hospital for my cough. The doctor told me that my lungs was clear and gave me some free medicine (again!). Thanks Indian Government!! And the military doctor who treated me was very nice and professional. And I thought, his tent was the warmest & coziest tent in the Indian Himalaya! Later Colleen told me that DiPankar has been admitted into the hospital as well due to altitude sickness. I can see why. And she also told me that at previous night, there were about 3000 people staying at the military camp as they too got stuck in Pang due to the road closure. I can see that there were telephone line available for use courtesy of the military for us to call our embassies. But looking at the long queue, so I passed. Later on, I saw Thomas & Lucie in front of the dhaba. They have finally made it! Yeahh!

Police checkpoint at Pang

The next morning, I met with DiPankar who were eager to continue his ride to Taglang La alone but he was stopped by the military/police checkpoint. I also saw many cyclist who got stuck in Pang- the French & the Swiss cyclist. I was informed that Colleen & Dave managed to get a lift for themselves and both Thomas & Lucie on the military convoy to Leh via the alternative road bypassing Taglang La. Colleen challenged me to a bet who will arrived in Leh first. So I smiled and confidently told her that I will despite not knowing what was in store for me later. But in my mind I knew that I have 'Colin McRae' on my side! haha!

'The Gang'

So, after received green light from the military, we were allowed leave Pang and head to Morey Plains & Taglang La.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Should we blame the parents?

Over excited parents who want their kid to be the next Lance Armstrong? Oh man...

Source: Reddit

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hotel Etiquette

Respect is something everyone has to earn. As traveling cyclists, that can sometimes be harder to remember — but even during moments of frustration, we should always keep in mind that whenever we are out riding, we're ambassadors for current and future riders. One area where we may forget our duties as ambassadors is when we finish the day's ride and check into the comfort of a hotel or motel room.

While I like to camp when touring, occasionally it's nice to grab a room to get out of the rain, or to enjoy an evening of air conditioning. While most hotels and motels are good about allowing bikes into their guest rooms, it takes only a few bad experiences for a hotel to take this privilege away from everyone. To help keep the option open for fellow cyclists, here are a few things you can do to maintain a good relationship with the staff and management at a hotel or motel.

1. Have a rag on hand to wipe down your bike before entering the hotel, especially if you're coming in from the rain. Focus on keeping the tires clean so you don't lead a trail of mud and dirt to your door.

2. Don't crowd other guests in the elevator with your bike. If there are a few people in the elevator already, let them go and grab the next empty one. They will appreciate it, and it will save you the effort of positioning your bike in a tight space.

3. Once you have the bike in your room, be aware of your chain. Try not to let it lean or brush up against the bed sheets, curtains, or furniture.

4. If possible, avoid storing the bike on carpet. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but if there is a tile or hardwood portion of floor, leave your bike there. Inevitably, there will be some water or debris that falls off your bike, and it is much easier to clean up from a hard floor than from carpet. Private balconies are ideal.

5. Don't use hotel towels to clean your bike. While this can be incredibly tempting, always keep your own rag on hand for this.

6. Lastly, be sure to thank the hotel staff for allowing you to safely store your bike in your room.

If for some reason the hotel you're visiting does not allow bikes inside their rooms, ask about a storage shed, or a secure courtyard where you can lock up your bike for the night.

The better we represent ourselves to the public, the better position we put ourselves in to earn respect from others — and for other cyclists.

Source: Adventure Cycling Association Facebook- by Joshua Tack

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Manali-Leh; The Story (Part 5)

So I'm back in Keylong again, the only town on the Manali-Leh Highway where the rest are settlements and villages. Keylong is one of my favourite place on this highway because living here was like going back in time..the 60's. Moreover, the hotel food is great and I can have my shower after 4 days of only brushing my teeth! There is nothing special about the hotel other than the staff are very friendly & helpful but also, it is Dalai Lama's hotel whenever he stop at Keylong.

Valley View Hotel

They have 2 banks but no ATM (maybe they have it IN the bank). Dhabas & groceries shops are really old-fashioned. The main roads through the town is very narrow but not busy with traffic because there is an alternative roads that are for trucks, buses and other big vehicles bypass the town centre. And most of the buildings are on the slopes.

Buildings on the slopes

Keylong is located at 10,318ft high. So that means I went down for another 3,000ft from Patseo. The main reason for me to return to Keylong is to recover from altitude sickness as well as to get a transport to catch up with my friend. In fact, the first thing I did when returned to this town was to get some moisturizer and sunblock cream. Unfortunately, there is no pharmacy whatsoever. So, I went to see the doctor to get some treatment for sunburn. And courtesy of the Indian government, I got antiseptic cream for skin & lips and anti-allergic pill for free! Yea..

While in Keylong, I spent the day by hanging out at the hotel garden overlooking the 'King of Keylong'. The view was simply breathtaking. The air was cool and fresh. The difference of 3,000ft really made me feel better. My breathing is not as deep as before. And the most obvious sign that I was making good progress was that I didn't pant heavily when walking up and down the ramp/ slope. I still have the dry cough, though.

The King of Keylong at the background

With the help of the hotel staff, Dave. I finally got a ride from a vehicle that was coming from Manali heading to Leh. I was told that he has 1 more seat but to sit at the back. I was so desperate to get a ride, so I quickly agree with it. The next day at 6am, I went to the bus station waiting for the vehicle. Due to some technical problem, it came late. By almost 8am, we left for Patseo to collect my bike.

Keylong new bus station

Initially, I had hard time to adjust myself sitting in the jeep. Actually, it is a Tata 3.0L Diesel, a 4WD that was cramp with 11 people. I used to feel suffocated or nausea when sitting at the back of a car but in this case, I have no other choice but to quickly adapt myself with the situation. What I did was I open the window behind me a bit for better air ventilation and it worked! And there were 4 people sitting at the back including me and fortunately they were nice and friendly English speaking Tibetans who thought that I was a Japanese. LOL ..and 2 of the Tibetans- Yeshi & Kesang became my good buddies from then on.

Fortunately, the road from Keylong to Patseo via Jispa & Darcha was not so bad. It's still bumpy, though. And definitely not a fun ride.

View from the Keylong-Jispa road

Keylong-Jispa road (at some stretch)

Darcha

When we reached Patseo, I quickly take my bag from the tent and said goodbye to the Hozer's family. Mr Hozer helped carry my bike to the jeep. It was quite sad because I have become quite attached to them after staying 3 nights in their tent. I gave them some of my stuff; food supplies, tent, some tools and my duct tape thinking that I would not be needing them again.

Hozer Cafe at Patseo

After my bag & bike is securely tied on the jeep, we made our move to the next stop- Zing Zing Bar.

The Power of Bicycle


Source: Johan Bruyneel Facebook

Farewell 'The Professor'

Laurent Patrick Fignon
1960-2010
Adieu

Source: photo from mediotiempo.com

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Manali-Leh; The Story (Part 4)

the road back to Patseo

So my tour is finished! We can't afford to lose any more days and now I'm heading back to Patseo. When I reached Hozer Cafe, I can see the surprise on their faces. When asked why I'm coming back, I just told them that I was not feeling well.

Hozer Family Portrait

I was hoping that my friend will be able to join the 3 British guys in Sarchu so that he would not be riding alone on the Himalaya. If there were any technical problem, I know he will be in trouble.When descending, I noticed that there are hardly any vehicles going to the same direction with me. But at that time, the road at Zing Zing Bar was still open for both direction. Another thing that I noticed was that the scenery looks different and refreshing when I went opposite direction despite the fact that I was there that morning. Maybe it was just my perception, I don't know.

the government rest house near Patseo

So, I thought, I need to catch up with my friend in Sarchu because we have a strict schedule to follow to ensure we reach Leh by Aug 8, the latest. Maybe I can get a vehicle to bring me to our next stop. But after waiting for hours, there was no car, van or truck willing to stop for me. So, that night I stayed at the parachute tent sharing with some young kids from Delhi who are also heading to Leh by cab.

the beautiful lake and its scenic background

The next morning, I did the same thing; waiting and waiting for any vehicle that was going to Leh's direction. This time I plan to join my friend in Pang. I was hoping that with 1 day ahead of him, I can get medical treatment in the hospital at the military camp. Again, there was no vehicle stop at the cafe. So, at noon time, I decided to spend my time taking pictures of the Hozer family. They were very delighted. In return, they took me for a boat ride on that beautiful lake. In my mind, I though, it was really cool because I was boating on the lake that is located higher than Mount Kinabalu at 13,000ft! I also kill my time by doing some trekking around the area. It was just beautiful. So, I had fun...at the same time sun burnt!


boating at 13,000ft

Trekking at Patseo

view at the end of the lake

By 2.00pm, From far, I saw my 1st cyclist of the day. Lo and behold! It was Ron and Annette! Apparently, they are now supported by a small Jeep with the guy that we met at Manali. Then while they were resting, came Thomas & Lucie, the couple from France. So after finished their lunch, they move on to Zing Zing Bar. I told them about the obstacle waiting for them and they were aware of it. Then by 4.00pm, came Dave & Colleen. Seems like they all came from the same hotel in Keylong, but left at different time. So after a short rest, they too continue riding to Zing Zing Bar.

Ron & Annette

Lucie & Thomas

Colleen

Dave

So, that night I have no other choice but to stay at the tent. But this time I had to share with the helpers as the parachute tent was fully occupied by people from Manali who were forced to stopped there due to road closure at Zing Zing Bar. Apparently the river was too deep for any vehicle to pass through. And these people have reached Zing Zing Bar but returned to Patseo due to dhabas at Zing Zing Bar got fully occupied.

The next morning, again I failed to get any lift from those vehicle that stopped at the Cafe. Despite I offer to pay them but nobody wants to take extra baggage. So this time I decided to go down to Keylong because chances of getting a vehicle is higher. Moreover, staying at 13,000ft doesn't really improve my health due to the lower temperature and lower oxygen level (I think).

At about 12.00 noon, came the 1st cyclist from India, Dipankar. This guy was very unique because he was carrying a backpack on his bag and on the rack. He also had a DSLR camera on his neck! Gosh! that must be very heavy on the neck! unless he has a strong neck like Mr.T. He told me that he didn't carry any sleeping bag or tent, instead has been staying in BRO Worker's camp. He also carry his notebook in the backpack and an iPod Touch where he stored his Manali-Leh route map in pdf format. This guy rode at average 70km everyday! I thought, wow!

DiPankar

After finished his lunch of omellette- double serve. He continue his ride to Zing Zing Bar. And finally, at about 3.30pm, with the help of the helper at Hozer cafe, I managed to get a lift on the Diesel Tanker heading back to Manali. But this time, I decided to leave my bike and other stuff behind (to recollect later) and only carry my panniers with me to Keylong. It was an exhilarating and refreshing experience riding on the Tanker on Patseo-Keylong road. Yeah...it was super bumpy but fun!

Established in December 2006