Fourth of July!
Up early to breakfast with the school teacher. A local badass stomps in and eats with us, he’s walked up from Purne that morning since the road is still impassable. He lives in Shangka, the town at the top of the valley. Whoa! That is where I’m going! Guy gives me basic directions and takes off. Walking all morning, quick stop for breakfast, now off to his home village to get some farming done. Tough people!
He’s also been in Padum for some sort of property meeting, saw Lobsang there.
So today the weather is again wonderful – I’ll head up valley with my bike to see the tiny village of Shangko. Only three families there and some are building houses in Tanso this year because the last winter was so difficult. How big is Shangko? Lets just say I haven’t seen Shangka on a map but you can see it on google earth.
I buy some packages of cookies from my hosts (this house is also a store.)
I lighten up my bike and ride out above the village. I’m supposed to go up, then over and across a bridge, then up the valley until I reach Shangka.
Well I head up… and the trail is smooth and wide, looks like its seen a lot of traffic. And I go up some more. Eventually I can see that to my right two rivers have joined. There’s an enormous glacier moraine between them, an ocean of rolling gravel. And I’m pretty sure that Shangko is on the other side of that moraine, on the right side of the right hand river. Hmm.. Would that mean there are two bridges? Or did I miss the bridge I was supposed to take? I wonder what “a little way up the valley” meant?
Because the valley I’m in looks so damn cool I just keep riding up. Up at the end of the valley I can see some dramatic high snow covered peaks. I have this whole place to myself. Whats up there?
I continue on for another hour until I’m hungry, then leave the trail and up a nearby viewing point to picnic on top of a nice flat rock. Interesting how varied the rocks are around here. All sorts of different metamorphic and igneous rocks. All sorts of different sorts of quartz. Would be fun to have a geologist with me so hypothesize on the ages of these different critters and how it all got so scrambled up.
The river’s roar is echoing from deep inside its dirt gully. The terrain on that moraine looks inhospitable, is a slurry of big boulders that all got man-handled by a glacier a few thousand years ago. I can peer up the right hand valley as well now and it goes up and around a corner to the left. Sort of feels like there should be a big-ass glacier up there. This is a big place, valley is a mile wide. Would be relaxing to explore more, especially given the big trail that continues up this valley. Is neat to not know where stuff goes.
After lunch I said goodbye to the awesome place and coasted back down towards Tanso. Bike is light and feels great, tires are rolling and gripping well so I leave the path and just ride the rolling tundra. I stay around the ridge above the river and sure enough eventually there’s a small path to a bridge. No wonder I missed it – that is my excuse.
I follow a great sidecut singletrack up the valley to Shangka. Is mostly a nice ride, is mostly uphill, but just lovely day and the air is really really fresh.
Finally reach Shangka and there’s the guy from breakfast out peeling the bark from some sticks while his daughter plays nearby.
Air is just spectacular, a strong breeze that feels like its from the ocean.
Guy gives me a tour of town, shows me the tsampa mills. We climb up the ridge behind town (also a terminus moraine from a long gone glacier) and lo! there’s a big ‘ol doksar here. About 10 people are working with maybe 50 yaks. These folks are Testa-Po, they come up every year to graze their beasts. This year the big snow means this early grass is poor and he thinks they’ll leave soon for a higher valley.
We go in for some tea and I bring along my remaining packages of biscuits and put them on a plate. Host and especially daughter are grateful and dig in, she pretty much ate them all, hungry girl…
Host tells me that big trail on the other side used to be really popular for trading, was some sort of alternative to Shingo La, but something happened to the trail up high a few years ago and its not passable any more.
I glued together a map and tried to figure out where the trail leads, but I’m not seeing anywhere to go. Could be the upper valley is used to feed yak, that would explain all the traffic.
Those Shangka Winters…
Host was in Padum to arrange some stuff about the house he is building in Tanso. Said last winter was just brutal, stuck up there freezing and snow bound for too long. Said his parents already live in Tanso and the other folks in Shangka already are building places in Tanso. After last winter it’ll become a summer only village.
In the 45 minutes I spent inside there’s been a dramatic change to the weather. Blue sky has been replaced with dark overcast. Wind is gusting and ripping and a cold rain is starting to blast me from the side. Whoa! Himalaya weather time. I want to get back to Tonso! Is suddenly cold, feels like its going to snow.
That Shangka Water
Just like the locals said, the water here is amazing – the best I’ve ever tasted, so before leaving I head back up to the main creek and fill my camelback and a bottle.
Host plays around with my bike for a bit, then we do a self-timer picture and I’m off in a hurry to get back before weather gets really rotten.
I rush away and my host goes back to peeling the bark.
Ride back to the bridge is fun and fast. I ride all but a small section where the consequences of a fall were too severe. Was actually a fun ride but you need to be comfortable riding narrow trails.
The water under the bridge is ripping. Here is some video I took on my way up in the morning. Sort of makes you wish for a railing, and also very thankful that there’s a bridge…
Back in Tanso I pass by a house being built by a family from Shangka. Not my host’s house though – construction on his house hasn’t begin yet.
I lounge in the kitchen and watch the woman prepare momos.
At dinner that night we watch more mindless tv, I go to sleep right after dinner while they stay up for hours watching… cricket…