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 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



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!


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. was super bumpy but fun!

Manali-Leh; The Story (Part 3)

view at Jispa

We had a long rest in Keylong to recover from the previous day's long ride from Rohtang. So we started late at 12.00 noon from Keylong and rode 21km to a very nice village called Jispa.

preparing to cross the stream

It was a very short ride because at 4.00pm, with my speed, I don't think that we can reach Darcha or Patseo before it's getting dark. At this time I had very hard time to cope with my friend's speed.My cough started getting worst since we reached Keylong. I noticed that when the weather getting colder, my cough will worsen. And I started to take Decolgen in Keylong & Jispa because my body temperature was shooting up. At the same time, I retook my Blood Pressure pills instead of the Acetazolamide for Altitude Sickness because I though that riding to Keylong and Jispa made my heart work too hard. In Jispa, I felt sick and was really in bad shaped. And I don't know why, suddenly I thought of my parent and how worry they are. It really made me sad.The next day, we rode to Patseo. It's a 24km climb to a small settlement of parachute tent of Hozer cafe. Again, my speed was very slow and we had to cross 2 quite deep streams before reaching Patseo. There is a small tear-shaped lake near the tent with beautiful scenery at the background. In fact, I think this stretch offer the most scenic view from all angle.

view from Hozer Cafe at Patseo. Road to Zing Zing Bar

view from Hozer Cafe at Patseo. Road from Darcha

We stayed in the parachute tent for Rs.150 per person. The tent can fill up to 10 people on sharing basis. While resting and unpacking our stuff from the bicycle. The 3 cyclist from England whom we met while riding up to Marrhi, arrived. They too decided to stay at Patseo on that day. So 5 of us shared the parachute tent.Unfortunately, when the temperature getting lower, as expected my cough became worsen. The guys from England noticed it and asked me if I 'm having AMS. I said No. Because I don't have any sign of Altitude sickness i.e headache, nausea and dizziness. But later on I noticed that I have been losing my appetite and had difficulty of sleeping. And the worst was having the dry cough which according to the guys is the sign of HAPE. It came across my mind also that I did not pee during riding even though I drank about 3 liter of water every day. But I never mention this to anyone. Stupid move.

the lake at Patseo

The guys advice me to go down to lower level to recover. It really made me very uncomfortable when sharing the tent with these guys because I felt like they were observing me. So, I have to walk slow, do things slowly in order to lower my breathing sound. It doesn't help at all. And the next day, I felt much better and when asked by the guys about my condition, I gave them thumbs up. They left early after breakfast to head to Sarchu. Because by this time, all of us actually had 6 days to reach Leh and catch our flight back to our countries.

view of Hozer Cafe when coming from the road

the parachute tent

view of inside of the parachute tent

So by 9.00am, we left Patseo to cross Baralacha La via Zing Zing Bar. But before that we heard that there is a deep river after Zing Zing Bar that we need to cross. Unfortunately, after reaching the Lower Zing Zing Bar near the BRO Workers Camp, I went bonked! I have no more legs to go on. I was struggling to even ride 10m. So after 1 week of pushing and dragging myself riding on this route, I finally surrendered to Baralacha La. We stopped at the BRO Camp hoping to get any lift to take me to Sarchu for medical treatment at the military hospital. My friend said that he still feeling strong to finish the ride. So, not to slowing him down because the ride to Sarchu is still very far away, I quickly decided to go down to Patseo by myself. So, sun blocked handed over to him, he move on. I waited until he is lost from my sight, suddenly I have the urge to continue ride and chase him but my legs just lost it. So with heavy feeling, I ride down to Patseo alone.

road to Zing Zing Bar & Baralacha La

heading back to Patseo

Friday, August 27, 2010

Manali-Leh; The Story (Part 2)

The bikes are ready

This is it! For months, I have been dreaming about this ride and on the 28 July, we started our journey to Leh.

It was drizzling and we started quite late because we thought that to ride 38km to Marrhi is not difficult. We were wrong! To climb 4,700ft over 38km on mud-packed road, countless switchbacks, traffic jams, unpredictable weather and at altitude more than 10,000ft is not easy at all. It's true as it is mentioned in Laura Stone's book, we did arrived shattered. In fact, we arrived at night about 8.00pm. The first thing to do is to find a place to sleep so we searched for dhaba with rooms to rent. So depending to who we talk to the rate of room can vary from Rs.500 to Rs.1,000. We knew that Rs.500 is actually still high but what the heck! It's just RM35 per room when convert to our currency and to be shared by two. So instead of pitching tent, we rent a room and that night we had a big meal for recovery. And I had a cold shower despite the cold weather.


The highest traffic jam in the world

The next morning, we had a photo session with the guys at the dhaba who were very enthusiastic with our bike. And we set for Rohtang La and Sissu as per original plan. The climb to Rohtang La is only 2,200ft and 16km. Sounds easy. But this is the hardest climb we have had because from Rahalla Falls to Rohtang, we had to ride in the rain. The fact is rain at 13,000ft is very cold. We were struggling on the mud-packed road and my health was deteriorating. When we reached dhaba at Rohtang, I was visibly shivering and first thing on my mind was 'Please God, no hypothermia' And luckily, I didn't get it. Still I was feeling very cold and my hand was shivering to the extend that I had to go to the kitchen for some heat from the stove. And we were forced to pitch our tent with the help of the local (Tibetan) kids because there were no rooms to rent in Rohtang.

Bad roads from Marrhi to Rohtang

The switchbacks to Rohtang

The reason that we decided to sleep in Rohtang although it was too high for us to sleep is because we don't want to gamble by riding at night when descending to Sissu. And it was proven the right decision because the next day, we found out that the road to Sissu is quite bad with mud, countless switchbacks and hairpins corner. We might get lost by taking the wrong junction at Gramphoo that is going to Spitti instead of Khoksar which we almost did even in day time. But after Rohtang, I felt my body became weaker. That's the reason I fell 4 times including one very nasty fall from shimmey while descending fast because I was trying to avoid the military trucks from overtaking me. Due to that fall, I hurt my left ribs badly which really hurts throughout the trip.

Crossing the stream along this road is very common

The switchbacks descending to Sissu

The ever presence military trucks in the Himalaya roads

The next day, to cover back the losses in distance, we rode from Rohtang to Keylong via Gramphoo, Khoksar where we went throught Police Checkpoint Sissu, Gondla & Tandi. And descending to Tandi, I managed to clocked the fastest speed of 53km/h because the road is very smooth and the slope is quite steep. However, from Tandi, we had to climb back to Keylong. And the problem was, we had to do it at night and with my poor health. Therefore, we rode very slow in the dark on really bad roads. Nevertheless, we gained 67km and it was too much for me as I was breathless when we reached our hotel in Keylong at 10.00pm. The funny thing was the hotel is owned by the father of the motorcyclist that we 'rescued' when he had a puncture in Rohtang who also happened to be the owner of the hotel that we stayed in Manali; The Valley View Hotel.

Hillside of Keylong

Manali-Leh; The Story (Part 1)

Waiting for cab at the airport

The Manali-Leh Highway is a classic route in the Indian Himalaya that has been the 'dream ride' to countless cyclists and motorcyclists. In fact, I have planned to do it over a year after reading about it from a magazine.

On July 25, my friend and I arrived in the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport in New Delhi at 9.30pm (local time) and immediately proceed to collect our bike from the Baggage Claim. Our bikes were nicely parked near the conveyor belt as we did not box-up our bike when check-in in Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). This is the advantage of traveling with Malaysia Airlines (MAS). We were quite at the center of attention because only both of us were pushing fully loaded bicycles at that time. In fact, the Security personnel at the arrival gate smile and gave us green light to go out without the need to check out luggage tag whatsoever. Suddenly we feel so macho.

Without wasting any more time, we got a cab to take us to our Hotel about 45km from the airport. The ride on the cab introduced us to the culture of Indian driving. It was horrifying and fun at the same time! The most obvious about the drivers in India is they really like to honk. And their honks are of various sounds and they really melodious. My only regret is that I should have recorded my experience using my hand phone video camera and post it in YouTube or Facebook.

The next morning, we had our first taste of riding in New Delhi . It was made in hell! The honking, the trucks, buses, autos rickshaws, it was just havoc! But I would not elaborate on this because it was just too messy and some of our experience were really disgusting! By 6.00pm, we rode to Janpath Road to take our bus to Manali. Here is where we first met Ron & Annette from Scotland who are riding Manali-Leh too.

The bus ride took about 15 hours to reach Manali. When we arrived there, it was raining. We knew that we are going to experience wet days in the Himalaya. Luckily, waterproof gear is on top of our list. We checked-in the same hotel with Ron & Annette. At the same time we met other fellow 'unsupported' cyclist; Dave & Colleen from Australia. In the afternoon, we rode around New & Old Manali to purchase our supplies and acclimatize with the weather and the altitude. And I realized that I was not feeling well.

Actually, it's all started on the plane to Delhi, where at times I had nausea and some times felt difficult to breathe. This is not normal because for the last 3 years I have been a frequent fliers and I have never experience any air sickness before. So, while other people were sleeping I used the airsickness bag to breathe in and out and it made me feeling better. And while eating peanuts, my tooth filling came out. And I know this is not a good sign! In Delhi, while riding around, we fail to find a dentist. Even though, we have asked the hotel staff but we didn't manage to get the right answer on the location of any dentist from them. So, when we reached Manali, we quickly search for the Altitude Sickness Meds (acetazolamide) and a dentist. Luckily, the pharmacy is just beside the hotel and the dentist is just above it. And after talking to the dentist about my problem, he treated me by giving a new tooth filling immediately. I thought everything is settled then, but I was wrong!

The Old Manali

Monday, August 23, 2010

Manali-Leh 2010 In Pictures #1

Photos courtesy of Anuar Amir

Manali-Leh 2010

This year's Manali-Leh Cycling Tour is full of drama. Too many incidents happened; landslides, flash floods, cloudburst, crash, altitude sickness, etc.... But I still had great time in the Indian Himalaya region of Himachal Pradesh & Ladakh. Jullay!!!

Established in December 2006