Due to my injury, plantar fasciitis (it is as ugly as it sounds), I have decided to focus more on cycling. But I found that I had to ride much, much longer and further to feel I had a good workout. And I don’t have so much time!
So, I started to ride on Saturdays. First to Tikar Taal and back. This is an old favourite, and I have done it a few times – even ran there once or twice. Subsequently, I went to Subathu and then to Nahan. This past Saturday I went to a friends apple orchard near Dalash.
I have had trouble navigating in the past with the map on my phone. It usually travels in my moon bag around my waist. I have missed several turns that way. But, I found, just in time, a little bag on Amazon that straps onto the frame where my phone screen can remain visible. Little did I know how much I would need it.
When I woke up at 2AM my phone was only charged to 48% and I thanked God for providing a way where I could keep it charging with the power bank sitting snugly inside the bag. During the day I also charged my Garmin watch and my light in the same way.
By 6 in the morning I had done the first 50k, but after that the hard work started. Sushant told me that it was mostly flat with a steep hill at the end. I soon realized he must have told me that to keep me from changing my mind! The total climb for the day was 10 kilometres which is higher than Mt. Everest.
At least this means also a lot of fantastic downhills. But, my little Firefox Cyclone bicycle does not have any shocks left, and the surface was mostly not very smooth. Still, I enjoyed the respite.
More than that, I loved the silence, the majesty of the mountains, and of course, the sheer challenge of the whole endeavour.
I stopped for breakfast around nine and had an omelette and chai.
At some point, around halfway, I went over some newly laid loose stones and one must have jumped up and dislocated my derailer. I tried to put it back, but couldn’t. Three friendly guys gave me the advice to walk just a few hundred metres to the next village. I was lucky (or blessed) that I was so close to one. So, I walked. The first mechanic just shook his head and pointed down the road. The next one took one look and told me he only works on the “normal” bicycles without gears. But, I asked him to try. So he did.
He looked at it from all sides. Then took it off with an Allen key. Now, I was able to get it back into position. He fastened it and lo and behold, it was done! He refused payment and got me a cup of tea.
Somewhere on the road was an ominous-looking black snake that luckily gave way. There wasn’t enough room (literally) for both of us on the road. I also narrowly missed riding over a smaller one sometime later.
There was a stretch of about 50k next to the Satluj river. It is a more significant river than I imagined and it runs in a gorge or some small canyon. It has sandy beaches bordered by overgrown riverbanks or steep cliffs. Coming back in Sushant’s truck the next day I could appreciate the danger of falling down some of those. The river sounded not unlike the ocean. The rushing of water could be heard very far in that deafening silence. I had the time of my life, but it seemed never-ending.
I was still next to the river when the sun set, and I had to fish my light out again. I reached Luhri around 8 and Sushant sent me instructions to get to his orchard. I realized that it is still 30 kilometres away, and it was mostly uphill. This was when I decided to call it quits and accept his offer to come and get me. I sent the Whatsapp message reluctantly. I am not someone who quits easily. But I had my hosts to consider since at the pace I was going it may have taken me 4 to 5 hours more to reach.
Anyway, I was not going to wait passively, so I started cycling again, expecting my lift to arrive after about 40 minutes as he said. Within minutes my light died. It was very dark, so I pushed my bike in that rich silence and sang the anthem of that whole day:
Oh Lord My God
When I in awesome wonder
consider all the works thy hands have made.
I see the stars
I hear the rolling thunder
thy power throughout the Universe displayed.
Then sings my Soul
My saviour, God, to thee
How Great thou art.
How Great thou art.
I decided to try with my phone light, and it went OK, but the light switches off automatically after a while. I put my torchlight on the charger and continued like that for about 5 of the most gruelling kilometres uphill.
Forty minutes became an hour and then an hour and 15 minutes before they finally came.
I stopped my Garmin on 205 kilometres. It took me close to 19 hours. Maybe that is the end of this urge to go further and further. Or maybe not. I figure it is about halfway to Manali? Riding another day could get me there!