Woke at 6am in my palacial room at Gondhla homestay. Huge bed. Maybe beyond king sized. Huge room I think could comfortably sleep 20. And just little ‘ol me. I’m lazing myself awake with light streaming in the windows, reviewing the past day and what this day will look like when there’s a knock at the door. Come in!
Its my host with a thermos of hot masala chai. Damn! Nice! He’s off to Keylong today for some business. We say goodbye.
I dress, breakfast with the family and buckle up my bike. Depart at around 7:30 to cool lovely sunrise in this deep valley. View across is of the most spectacular mountain. Great ridges of stone all down its face. Very complex geology. Also surprising is how darn lush and HUGE the fields are. This place is an agricultural powerhouse.
I’ve not really studied a map, my plan says today is Keylong. I’m to follow the bhaga river down this valley for a while, then hang a roscoe at its confluence with the chandra. I know I’m going down river but I don’t really appreciate that Gondhla is located at the high point in the road, that I’ll now be purely descending a big ass hill for almost 10km until I cross a bridge at Tandi.
Weird experience, I’ve ridden this path so often in a bus but I’ve no real recollection of the hills. I’ve also no recollection how pretty any of this valley is. The stuff I saw yesterday, especially the rows of poplars leaving Sissu, is so damn pretty! This little valley is much nicer than I expected. Probably because it isn’t dark and sleeting.
My map says 14 miles to Keylong. On flat ground thats an hour but who knows here. In any case it dawns on me that this bike is way too fast to take anything close to a full day. I’d better take my time.
I can’t really go past Keylong because I have some internet business I must transact.
Try as I might to go slowly I descend much too quickly. The bike just zooms and even dilly-dallying I’m at the confluence in less than an hour.
Why didn’t I ride down and see the Gondhla tower? A defensive fortification constructed 300 years ago which can allegedly sleep 200 people? I’m such an idiot. At least I took a snap of it.
Also, on other size of the river is a nice local trail. Would be interesting to see how possible it would be to descend that size instead of taking the road. Sort of looked like it didn’t exist in the upper valley.
Anyway, arrive at a modern looking gas station above Tandi, hoping for some snacks but there’s only fuel for sale, proceed down to the bridge and an enticing sign. Just past the bridge is a turnoff to Udaipur… whoa. Nice switchbacks up and away. I see on my map that road goes to Kishtwar. That would be a nice ride! My heart tells me to go that way but I don’t listen. Maybe on a different trip?
Head up and up to Keylong. I’m dreading this climb but turns out it is nothing. I seem to be pretty well acclimatized, having a much easier time than last year when I was out of breath just walking. I blame the diamox.
A mile before Keylong are a set of hotels below a monestary, then a steep road that climbs to the monestary.
Finally the road traverses a steep gorge and I reach Keylong. Being high season the first hotel is closed. Full of motorcyclists. Hotel kindly recommends Tashi Deleg and I take a nice room there.
I remember Keylong in the early 90s: dark, raining. Sleeping in the restaurant next to the old bus station. Pretty horrible. I did walk the tiny town then and there was so little there. Pretty dirty.
Now Keylong is a totally different place. Much bigger town, many new families. In the evening folks go out and stroll, say high to each other, watch the evening light. Really friendly city now.