Pushing the pedals
A last minute purchase before the trip sees me sitting on the Ridge in the early morning watching school children file past. Next to me is a bike with no pedals, it would be laughable were it not happening to me right now.
I sit considering my options when Hassan a Kashmiri tout I’ve been chatting with over the past few days appears. Ever the man about town within a minute he’s pointed me toward Clement and Ida a polish couple who have just arrived from the Spiti valley after finishing their own cycling trip.
After some initial pleasantries its down to bike talk, fortunately Clement had the foresight to bring a pedal spanner with him. They kindly offer the loan of it to get me going, we walk back to their hotel and chat about cycling trips past and present.
Its a pleasure spending time with them and all too soon I have a complete bike with pedals, gratitudes are expressed and with a huge sigh of relief I’m back at my hotel.
Packing up the bike with all the various bags and harnesses takes time, its almost 1.30PM before I emerge from Lakaar Bazaar.
One piece of good fortune is all my lot today, the heavens open as I begin climbing to Dhalli and then Kufri. Regardless of the weather the overwhelming feeling of relief couldn’t be greater, and the sheer simplicity of pedalling a bike causes all the trepidation and self doubt to disappear.
The traffic above Kufri is thinner than anticipated, and roads have an almost alpine feel to them were it not for the Indians trucks thundering down the road, and occasional monkey sauntering across the road.
Suddenly I find myself the unexpected recipient of big thumbs up,smiles and the odd incredulous look from the cars and trucks passing both ways.
Views aren’t readily offered up as mist shrouds the valleys below, the occasional glimpse reveals ridge line after ridge line plunging to the valley floor below.
Starting so late in the day I don’t expect to reach Narkanda and instead eye Theog as my end point for the day,arriving its a dirty and depressing place and I decide to push on through the traffic jam.
Riding further on I begin to get a taste of village life as I pass through village after village. High up towards Narkanda lorries are repaired, loads exchanged and road worsens.
It feels like every bit the adventure I was hoping for but I’m quickly brought back down to earth when I meet a pair of road cyclists. The roads are rough and its hard to imagine how they got there, but judging by one of the bikes squealing hubs it can’t have been pretty.
Arriving in Narkanda as darkness falls it feels good to be finally moving. Pushing on hasn’t left much time for photos or to soak up the views offered late in the day but its served as a good test for the legs and lungs.