A good night's sleep does wonders for the mind & body. Feeling energetic we all trooped into the restaurant at 5.30 am to grab our breakfast. Jam, butter & toast with tea / coffee, till Manjiri opened a jar of her homemade, lip smacking peanut butter. Within the next few minutes the toasts and the peanut butter had disappeared from the table.
As the sky started to lighten, I observed the Shrikhand range of mountains, hoping to catch a glimpse of the peaks in the morning light. Lady luck did smile upon me and I got a couple of shots before we left for the day.
Today's ride was supposed to be tough. A 20 km downhill, interrupted by a short bike and hike to overcome some road repairs and then rolling terrains till Karcham. From Karcham it was supposed to be a steady climb till Sangla, which was supposed to be our campsite. While coasting downhill towards Jeouri, we saw a lot of jawans running for their morning parade practice.
The road continued next to the Sutlej, rising up and down as the river flowed through the valley, cutting deep ravines. It was a bumpy ride to Karcham, but with majestic sights to behold. Rocky overhangs forming tunnel like structures, deep gorges on the sides and steep downhills in between. The comparatively heavy traffic on the narrow road made it difficult to stop and click pictures.
Enroute we crossed Wangtoo, from where a road leads to the picturesque BhaBha valley. It is one of the most scenic and easy hikes in this region. 11 years ago, when I had embarked on that journey, the roads were under construction, and work was going on some big power projects. In the last 10 years, the area now boasts of tar roads and many hydroelectric projects.
The weather was pleasant and we made good progress till Tapri. A quick breakfast of special masala maggie and honey lemon tea later, we were back on the road. For some reason on such adventures, Maggie always turns out to be the first choice for a mid meal snack - lip smacking, hot and just about filling.
The route from Tapri to Karcham laid out magnificent views of the Sutlej and the mountains beside it. Gigantic walls of hydroelectric projects dwarfed us while we rode alongside. At Karcham we crossed a small catchment area and started our climb towards Sangla.
The terrain changed, the road became a mix of tar and dirt road, climbing up in a series of gradual climbs and switch backs. What seemed an easy climb at first, soon turned out to be a nightmare.
Although the views were grand, the climb combined with the Sun kept sapping on our energy reserves. It was only a continuous supply of On The Run bars, Chikki, enerzal and bananas that kept us going. 3 hours into the climb, in the lowest gears, we managed to reach Sangla, elated that we had finally arrived. The excitement lasted for 5 min, as we realized that we had 5 more km to go for the campsite. "5 more Km? How bad could that be?" ,thought I ...and in my enthusiasm egged both the Sid's, who happened to be looking for a quick snack in the market, to ride on. Till date they still curse me for that decision, as we it took us an hour to cover those 5 km. It really seemed a never ending ride.
On the way we came across inquisitive school kids who clambered over each other to be a part of a photograph, and a lady who saw us cycling and asked us if she could take the cycle for a spin, only to shy away when we offered it.
We finally reached the campsite at 4 pm, exhausted, weary and covered with dust. The camp manager had been kind enough to keep the lunch spread open for us, and we made the most of what was offered. Hrushi's Garmin was questioned again and even though the camp was beautiful, he did have to listen to everyone cribbing about the additional km's that they had to cycle post Sangla
After a hearty meal and a hot water bath (nothing helps you unwind faster), we relaxed in the heavenly campsite to enjoy the evening. We watched the Sun set from the camp, ruing the lack of energy to cycle back some 2-3 km to one of the finest view points on the road and watched as snow laden peaks emerged in the moonlight.
The scrumptious dinner was topped off with a piping hot coffee by the campfire, listening to old Bollywood songs on someone's MP3 player.
Eventually, fatigue came calling and we made way to our tents for a much deserved, good night's sleep.
Glimpses of the ride from Sahaan to Sangla