“So I have two mountain bikes”, said Mr. Tsering Bodh, “You can take them and reach this beautiful village called Langza the first day and from there you can move ahead to Komic the second day and then you can decide if you want to come back via Hikkim or continue ahead to Demul and then reach back to Kaza.”
This casual conversation was happening in the dim lit lobby of Sakya Abode in the month of October two years back. A great conversation, moving from our travel plan in Spiti to funny moments in our lives. The only staff member at that time of the year, Deepak leaning against a pillar carved in colourful Tibetan art, staring directly at the top beam of the main door, commented on one of the characters in our conversation, “Zada parh liye honge woh. (He must have studied a lot.) ”. We were talking about a rebel friend of Mr. Tsering, who all his life had the courage to do what he had to do and never he cared about what society thought of him. After many interesting (sometimes illegal) experiences in his life, he became a monk.
Next day the cycles were ready. Mr. Tsering had just bought them and we were the first people to ride it. Two blue coloured Trek mountain bikes. We had to leave early in the morning but we woke up late. After lunch we finally we decided to leave at 2pm. Sangram, after five chin ups on the main gate of Sakya Abode climbed the bike and then I sat on the bike and told them, “I don’t really know how to ride a cycle.” They didn’t believe me at first but then after when they saw me struggling with it, suggested me to take the car instead. I rejected the suggestion and went down the slope towards the monastery to test if I can balance it. I could and without looking back and leaving the handle bars, I shouted, ‘good bye!’ to Mr. Tsering and I continued ahead. I thought I would learn the rest of it on the way. The only thing I was scared of while riding a cycle, whenever I had tried it before, was traffic and there was none in Spiti.
After reaching the world’s highest fuelling station, we realised that we forgot to carry drinking water. Sangram went in the lanes of New Kaza to look for water bottles but couldn’t find any, so we continued without water. He had a bag with few chocolates and I had a small pouch with my camera attached to a wide angle lens.
After we crossed the final building of Kaza, the road had a gradual climb. I had no idea how to work with the gears, so I had to get down and push the bike. After 2kms, we met a kind hearted guy who gave us an empty bottle of coke and filled it with a broken pipeline of the water department.
Next, there was a gradual climb so we could peddle our way up. Sangram taught me about the gears and we continued. I must be riding a mile behind him. After another few miles, we were lying on the side of the road, resting from exhaustion. “I am going back”, Sangram announced while eating a chocolate. He suggested to go back and get some water and food before continuing the journey. We must have completed 6 kilometres and I was in no mood of doing the exhausting journey again. So we decided to continue. After gaining some strength from the harsh sun we starting pushing the bikes.
We reached Langza (4400m) that evening, covering 14kms. At twilight we reached Tenzi Home stay and after dinner, slept like logs.
The sun had already covered quite a lot of its daily journey when we woke up. It was shining bright and after a quick breakfast we were ready to leave. The road from Langza had no tar and the ride became bumpy. There was another few miles of uphill journey.
Soon we reached the point from where the road no longer climbed. It was an amazing moment. We rested for sometime and continued with a new energy. From this point onwards we could enjoy the breathtaking landscape we were riding through. A beautiful road through yellow grassland with high blue mountains in the background.
We had tea with the monks at Tangyud Monastery at Komic and continued towards Demul. Komic is known to be the highest village in the world connected with a road at 4520m. This part of the journey was breathtaking. Sangram was way ahead of me and I couldn’t even see him and the experience of cycling alone in the wilderness is beyond any words. You never feel alone in the wilderness when you are in Spiti. It is a beautiful feeling.
We soon reached the road that goes down to Demul, but we decided to go back to Kaza instead. Immediately after the sun went behind the mountains, it got very cold. Must be less than 10˚C. We now had to descend to the main road. The road was bumpy and full of curves. The wind chill was making our fingers freeze and after every few minutes we had to stop to warm our hands. I was happy and satisfied with my ability control the bike at the increasing downhill speed. It was getting dark when we reached the main road that felt like butter to ride on. We reached Kaza in no time. When we reached Sakya Abode, Mr. Tsering and Motu bhai were getting ready to look for us in the wilderness. As Mr. Tsering says, “When the sun goes down in Spiti, it is best to look for a place to sleep for the night”. They got worried and were going to drive on the route we took. The cycles were parked outside the lobby door and hot ginger lemon tea was prepared as we rested after a 67km journey across the high altitude villages of Spiti.