Thursday, August 30, 2007

On the roof of the world

Yeah, I have diseappeared from the blogosphere for a while, but only because I roam now in the Indian Himalayas where Internet cafes are few and far between, and when there is one - and it happens to be working - the connexion is slow and the prices are extortionate. Photo uploading is out of the question, obviously, though the landscapes are incredibly picturesque. I'll try to catch up when I'm back to the civilization - which won't be long because I'm flying back by the middle of October.

In a nutshell, after getting acquainted with my new Enfield, I rode it directly to Shimla, avoiding the start of the monsoon - not! But as I climbed into the high valleys of Kinnaur and Spiti the rain subdued. Since then I haven't had much rain (except for a hailstorm on the Stok Kangri trek), although the clouds often build up they rarely give more than a few drops of rain. That explains the harsh, desertic landscape.

After a week in Spiti exploring the side valleys and the gompas, I met the Manali - Leh road behind Rohtang pass, carefully avoiding Manali and the Parvati valley, famous Israeli ghett.. - I mean, hangouts. Israelis are generally fine people, but they tend to flock in large groups all in the same place, turning by their own weight the places in small Tel Aviv's with Hebrew signboards and restaurants sporting Israeli food. And of course they find cheap drugs, which is #1 reason Israeli come here. "Chai, chillum, chapatti: chello Parvati" as the saying goes, but I found out they also crowd Ladakh, and Leh sports its own Israeli/backpacker ghetto. Nevertheless, in the month or so I spent in Leh and around, I made some good friends and met some fine people. Life is easy here, and it's just as easy to get stranded as it was in Goa.

Ont he way from Spiti to Lahaul I met 2 Swiss Italians bikers coming from Manali, and we rode in 2 days on the famous Manali-Leh road, crossing on the way a pass at 5300m. Altitude was not a problem for me as after having spent 1 week at 4000m in the Spiti valley I was well acclimatized, but Andreas theTicinese had a mild case of AMS, not surprising as you go from 2000m (Manali) to 4500m for the night. This is actually worse than flying from Delhi to Leh as it is only 3500m in altitude.

After this eventless ride (you know, the usual Enfield way, losing unessential parts such as the exhaust pipe, the chain guard or - almost - the oil drain bolt..) I based myself in Leh and spent the last few weeks exploring the areas around: Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri, Nubra valley and the countless gompas on the way.. fantastic vistas - sorry you'll have to wait for the pics. I also went for a small trek, which ended up climbing Stok Kangri overlooking Leh, at 6145m. I had cold feet about that, given my pathetic physical conditions after 1 year of sitting on a bike, but learning that everybody and his grand-mother goes there, I decided to tagf along with a group of other guys, without guide or support. As it turns out, the base camp, although at 5000m altitude, has a parachute-tent dhaba, so you don't need to bring food. A tent and sleeping bag, warm clothes, crampons and ice axes and off you go, as if you went for a 3000m peak in the alps. Amazing.

The season is reaching its end here in Ladakh and it's now much more quiet than on the peak of July and August. Next on my shopping list is Zanskar and Kashmere, before heading back to Delhi, sell my bike and fly back at the end of October.

No, still no photo, sorry.