Unpacking the Bike AND Gettin’ Ready to Ride Off Into The Woods.

Manali: Arriving in the morning, stomach filled with delicious walnut banana bread from The Imperial – I was planning to relax for the day but felt pretty good so open My Boxes to start reassembling My Bicycle. At this point I’m pretty nervous, so much could go wrong if something didn’t travel well. Sort of like the opposite of christmas. Open the box and “Oh! Shit! I’m fucked!”. There’s a puddle of oil at the bottom of the box, fork is leaking.

Was thinking through what my options were if bike was wrecked or lost. I could get some cheap thing in Manali and power on through with a backpack. No good bikepacking bags would mean I’d need to hire a horseman or porter. But all would be well. Would be sorta fun actually. In hindsite, sitting happy at home the “do it all on the fly with money” approach has a certain appeal. The real issue I guess is that I am not going to walk on a road. Trip would need a massive re-routing in order to satisfy my requirements.

I am extremely happy to have the wire clippers to cut the myriad zip ties. That was 40 rupee well spent!

Fortunately almost everything survived perfectly and bike went together really smoothly. Reassembly took about 90 minutes. One thing that didn’t look good was a pool of fork oil on the bottom of my box. Somehow I’ve lost fork oil and thats something I neither have, nor can attain in manali. I give the fork additional pressure to make up for the missing volume. Honestly fork feel more plush than usual. I’m worried something will go wrong but have little choice. If fork stops being suspension I can just lock it out?

Bike assembled I go on a victory tour of the trails above manali:

While the trails are mostly coated with concrete, they are also much too exposed and steep for easy riding. I am a sport for a while and there are some good sections but finally turn around.

I also see the insane construction that’s occurred in this valley. I visited in the early and late 90s when Vashist was a tiny little place. I didn’t really have time to look when I was back to manali with my son in 2018.

View across the beas from above old manali.
Old manali liquor store.
Bridge to old manali, sometime after the bumper-to-bumper traffic has eased.

Next day in Manali is to be a relatively easy day, just live and acclimatize, get money and visit acquaintances.

Also it is starting to sink in how difficult it will be to repackage the bicycles in Leh. Where will I get good cardboard? Where can I get good tape? Since building the boxes in the USA took me and my wife a full day, I’m thinking I really should have them shipped to Leh.

Visit post office and find they’re too big. Visit shipping companies and again, either too big or will cost hundreds of dollars. Finally I find where the Leh Taxi Union drivers live and park. This is the crew that drives tourists to Leh. I find a driver willing to deliver to my hotel in Leh for 1000rp. $14 to avoid spending a few days stressing is a pretty good deal for me. There is no damage to my bike that will cost less than that to repair…

My Boxes safely stored on top of a Leh/Manali driver’s vehicle… Lets hope the weather is good.

I’m stunned by how much development has occurred in old manali. The traditional houses are still there but are surrounded by concrete. Very few apple fields remain.

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