Left Rarik early in the morning. I was hoping to get a comfortable distance up towards Shingo La that day.
My provisions: 2 potato chapatis, 4 packages of biscuits, a few emergency sports bars that I’d carried from the states and… a Big Ball Of Tsampa, my primary calories until I reached Kargiakh.
As altitude was getting higher I noticed I was breathing more. I was very careful to keep my breath easy, I didn’t want to go anaerobic and start using muscle sugar. This entire trip I was planning to stay aerobic. The bodies store of sugar was for emergencies, for stuff I didn’t plan on doing. Made no sense to sprint up a hill when I could just ride it slowly.
I zig zag up above Rarik and over to Chumi, its sister village. I think I made a good choice staying in Rarik… got passed near Rarik by the morning bus, then passed it while it was turning around. Bus service! Who would ever have imagined that?
A short while later I reach a lovely spot that makes me sort of sad, The Bridge At Palamo. There is a furious river that has eaten its way through very hard rock. Or… from the look of it, a furious river found itself running through a crack in some very hard rock – the rock isn’t making much progress. Sometime in the 70s a local bridge was built across this narrow gap. Again: FURIOUS water is down there.
When the BRO came to build the road they put their steel bridge exactly over the local one, and threw down the wooden beams.
Incredible polish on the rocks at palamo. It would love that this was caused by millenia of water wear but as we know from other large granite structures, its usually glaciers that do this to granite.
After palamo I crossed a quarry and many people at work on the road. Shovelling gravel?
And finally I cross a hill and can see the side valley that leads to shingo la. The scar of zig-zagged road is clearly visible from everywhere.
There is a new vehicle bridge at Zanskar Sumdo to cross the Barai. The old tea stall was a big tent at the base of the moraine, but now a new more permanent looking tea stall is sighted just before the bridge, and I’m surprised to find there’s a large tent camp here, with modern lightweight western-looking tents. I cruise into this tent town hoping the tea stall is open and instead find myself greeted by a college mountaineering team. They were the ones in the trucks 2 days ago. They have an enormous pile of gear. “What are you doing here?” I ask.
Well… they had hired trucks to take them and their gear to Chumi Napo, a campsite way up near the pass. But the road isn’t passable. So now they’re trying to find some way to move all their stuff up the valley? They have spent the day scouring the valley for help but noone is available. No horses, etc.
I suggest they start carrying loads, each trip would take about a day and would give them fitness and acclimitize them. They figure it is coming to that.
They give me a nice lunch and some chai, invite me to stay the night which was very kind, but I need to get a move on.
Across the river i find the switchbacks to be in absolutely terrible shape. Even the low section is far too rough for a lifted BRO truck. There is a tracked digger there that has just cleared a 15′ deep snow drift, which is nice of it.
As I go farther the road worsens and I’m having to climb over boulder slides and many avalanches. If the lowest section is so poor, what am I in for?
Finally I exit the steep entry to the side valley and the devastation becomes clear. This isn’t going to be the bike ride over Shingo La that I was planning.
Fortunately the valley widens near Ramjak which significantly reduced the road destruction. I pass the destroyed Ramjak Detatchment BRO camp and arrive at the “Shepards Hut” which now sits a few meters from the road. It is a nearly roofed dome of rock. Inside is dark and sort of dank and has some litter. I plan to sleep nearby on the grass. Clouds are coming in though so is a good option in case the weather turns during the night.
I munch some biscuits and gnaw that lovely tsampa and then pack everything up for a quick getaway in the early morning. I fall asleep before it is dark.
In the night I wake to enjoy some of the best stars I’ve seen. Certainly the best stars I’ve seen in India.
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