The descent down Kunzum La is rough and chilly, it has an isolated feel despite the occasional jeeps ferrying passengers over the pass.
Taking the junction to Chandra Tal I’m blasted with rain and a fierce head wind. I stop to put my waterproofs on and what little cold weather gear I have. The ever present blue skies replaced with storm clouds, giving the landscape a dark brooding feel not dissimilar to Scotland.
The riding is interesting and manages to keep me warm as the road snakes off in to the distance, never quite offering its intended destination.
I arrive at the first tented camp to find them breaking camp for the season. I take shelter in the mess tent, as the camp master tells me to turn around and descend to the dhabas in Batal at the base of Kunzum La, back the way I’ve just ridden. Just as I go to leave one of the workers catches my eye and tells me of another camp higher up which is still open.
After 20 minutes riding in to the gloom I come to the road head and meet Jamaica the camp manager, a lively and interesting character stood out in the gloom watching expectantly for new arrivals and some company for the evening.
After setting up camp I’m invited in to a stone shelter acting as the kitchen (or Jungle as Jamaica likes to call it), here I meet Ankur a doctor from Assam who is trekking around the Spiti valley and has just arrived.
The Jungle is a comfy place with mats and blankets, as the wind howls we settle in for a convivial evening spent drinking whiskey and brandy from a hip flask, listening to music, eating and chatting amongst ourselves like old friends. Occasionally Ankur has to translate the conversation but I never feel left out.
Its a cold night spent in the tent, the silence of the evening occasionally broken as the camp dogs bark and chase off Himalayan wolves when they come to the camps perimeter.
By morning the storm clouds are once again replaced by blue skies and a light covering of frost on the ground.
I make the short walk to Chandra Tal just over the hill from the campsite, with the place to myself I sit and admire the view.
As my camera battery dies I turn on my heels and head back to camp for breakfast in the sun.
More Jeeps arrive and their drivers congregate and sit enjoying the sun. Its hard to pull myself away, packing seems to take an inordinate amount of time nothing seems to fit in its intended location. All that’s left is the ride back to Kunzum La.
Less than 24 hours later leaves an altogether different impression as I retrace my ride from the previous day.