Next day early breakfast because Mone Gompa is “So Far.” Stanzin is staying across the village with his parents, arrives for another delicious breakfast.
And then we take photos. And then Stanzin says I need to come over and meet his parents. We walk across town and I meet the stupendous badasses that raised such wonderful people in this wonderful and industrious village. The parents live in a lovely house they built 50 years ago with views of the village and fields. Terrific smart people with a great sense of design and I am so honored to meet them. Its these elder people and they great hearts that make the upper Lungnak so awsome. We have tea in their kitchen/sun-room.
I enjoy a surprisingly good cup of Nescafe… the fresh milk made it I think.
Finally back to homesay to collect my loaded bike. Father is in the pen stoking a wood fire. I head over and Lo! He’s distilling Chang into Arak for an upcoming wedding.
Finally its 10am and time to leave. So much for the alpine start. A final family picture. Very difficult or impossible for anyone to smile when the camera is out.
I am keen to leave town on the lovely trail I took last year. I winds out of town along a watercourse, then along some cliffs with terrific views before finally intersecting the road. Just as I’m leaving the son pipes up: “You can’t go that way, the trail is finished.” I hem and haw. What! I really want to go that way. Is he sure? “Yes. It stops at a steep cliff. It was destroyed when they built the road.” Dang! Hey… maybe this dumb kid doesn’t know nothing? I’ll ask the father?
Father says: “Well… its steep. But its not so bad. You’ll be fine.” Whew! Glad I asked.
I head out of town on my idyllic trail. Stop at the stupas for some snaps. This is the ancient entrance to the town. Is just so perfect. Is like the town and this trail evolved together. The trees, the watercourses. I’m so glad to be on it. Its sorta narrow sometimes and a fall would be deadly, the cliffs are tall… but that’s how you get the good views, right?
Starts as a wide track, winds through steep cliffs and deep gullies, stays pretty level. And then…
Well… Lets just say… this is definately the most dangerous thing I did on this trip. The trail turns first to steep switchbacks. And then it turns to really damn steep loose switchbacks on scree. Too steep. Crazy steep. And then… the trail ends in a 12 foot vertical or overhanging drop to the road.
Well. I can rock climb. But… I’ve got a 45 pound bike to bring down with me. Hmm. There is a sort of vertical chute across the cliff a bit. If I can get to that I can stem down and lower the bike between my legs? Hold it by the back wheel?
I do so. Pretty quickly realize I’m stuck going forward, no return. Extremely strenuous. I stem and dangle bike below me from one arm. I use the other arm to drop my foot, then switch hands and drop the other foot. Takes a few minutes but finally the bike is only a foot or so from the road. I am really worried about damaging the bike but no choice, I let it slip from my fingers and it drops to the road and falls over. Looks ok.
I stem the rest of the way and realize I’m in a sort of physical shock from the strain. Arms and legs and hips and lungs all sort of cramped up. That was bad. That was really stupid. I’m really glad I didn’t fall. I’m sort of angry at the BRO for ruining the trail out of the village. Village should fix that trail. Is a shame that they need to use the stupid road now.
Back at road, I’m now moving quickly. I’ve learned the bike is fast so I stop a lot for photos and to take in the place. Still I’m finding that my speed is too high. I’m going way to fast and looks like I could easily be in Padum today.
The majority of my day is descending except for a tough section right before Amno. There was a lot of blasting to make this road through those cliffs.
I pass Ichar and am tempted to head up for a visit but its 150′ vertical and not yet noon, too early for lunch. In hindsite I was a total idiot to skip it. What was my hurry?!!
And then… there’s a bicyclist riding up towards me! A loaded bikepacker! How cool is that!! I stop and wave and he stops. We’ve got a brief discussion. He’s pretty sure he wants to go over Shingo La in the next 3 days. Not sure if that is some sort of Macho Thing or what. I tried to discuss his route with him, he doesn’t seem to know the terrain or the towns around here.
Here’s a video of me describing our discussion that I made later in the afternoon.
Finally its noon and I realize I’m going way too fast. I gotta stop, eat. Chill a bit. Why am I hammering downhill?
I’m heading through a narrow section close to the river when I pass a local walking up the road. He mentions I’m close to Reru! Damn! Too fast. Not even noon.
I find a little rock cove above the road and stop for lunch.
And after lunch I descend to the stream before Reru, a bit of a climb to its plateau, but for perspective its like 30 minutes of climbing, then descend out of town to Mone. So fast!
Stop at Mone, hoping to stay at the gompa or a sweet looking guest house but no one is home. There is a lovely garden behind a locked gate. Local assures me the owner will be back in a few hours so I find a comfy spot to nap. Eventually some nice sunlight shows and I take some snaps.
I have fond memories Camping at Mone in 1992. No road and everyone in traditional clothes. Here’s some old snaps of the place.
I hang out at Mone until about 5pm. Looks like rain, a storm is coming. No guesthouse owner is showing up. The road workers have all quit for the night. Hmm.. Not happy but I guess I’ll head down to Padum…
I roar off down the hill and yes there is a mighty huge downhill. But then I reach sand. And hills. And sandy hills.
I’m racing against the light, getting all sweaty. Working hard. And I am out of water.
I come around a corner and find I place I’d totally forgotten: Bardan Gompa! A lovely huge monestary up on a high rock. Never been up there to visit.
Right next to the road is a big blue water tank with a handwritten sign: Drinking Water. Woo! I stop to fill my camelback and then a water bottle. I drink half the bottle in one shot. Just as I’m finishing and ready to refill and thinking how hungry I am a voice calls from above: “Come up! Chai??” What? I look up and far over my head there is a man yelling down to me. “Chai?? Come up??” “Yes! Please!” I shout back. He points over to the gate, that I’m to head up the stairs.
I mostly carry my bike up the shallow stairs to the gate and I meet my new host and the head monk who kindly invites me to spend the night. I’m lead to the kitchen for tea, then up to my room. OMG. Its one of huge “Lama Rooms” up at the top of the gompa with terrific views through walls of windows. Awesome!
And the whole gompa is wired with power thanks to that unsightly solar complex. I charge my camera batteries and my phone.
Dinner in the kitchen with 15 noisy young monks, then to bed at 9:30pm.
Sleep is interrupted by a free jazz session from the roof: long horns, kazoos and drums. Awesome. Almost can’t think of a better way to fall asleep.