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A personal adventure travel blog

Following the Chenab river

Christian Anderson

Gondhla > Udaipur > Sach Kas

With the challenge of Rohtang behind us, we could chill out a little and enjoy the riding. I still found each day a challenge, but the legs did get stronger, if not any faster. Leaving Gondhla, we flew down for a few kilometres to the bridge at Tandi, which is where the main road turns North to Keylong, and then on to Leh. The highway wasn't for us though - we kicked up a small hill and branched off towards Udaipur instead.

Fertile land is obviously at a premium in the mountains and every flat or vaguely flat space was intensively farmed, mostly it seemed with potatoes. The various villages were clearly preparing for the winter to come, but it was refreshing to see that this area of Himalchal Pradesh seemed quite prosperous, with solid houses and smartly dressed schoolkids waving from the roadside as we passed.

Late morning every day we'd be overtaken by our support crew in two jeeps, driven by Phunchok and Motu. Chef Norboo and his helper Rana made up the rest of our team. Once they got rid of us in the morning they would relax for an hour, then pack up and drive past us to the next campsite, where the tents would go up again and Norboo would start to prepare another feast. Make no mistake, we might be cycling hard, but the support team made this a far from horrible experience!

Our camp for the night was just past the military town of Udaipur, close to the river, in which I made a perfunctory attempt to bathe, before being beaten back by the currents and icy cold of the milky grey Himalayan meltwater - cleanliness becomes a very relative thing on the road.

As cyclists we were all obsessed with keeping just one part of us clean - how shall I put this - our main "contact point" with the bike. Thus, the definition of a good day was simple - getting into camp early enough to handwash and line dry that day's lycra undershorts, ready to be worn again the day after next. Everything else was detail...

Next day we journeyed further away from the highway as the river narrowed and dropped into a gorge with the road clinging on besides. It turned out to be a hard and long day of riding - the last few kilometres or so spent walking not riding as my rear mech kept jumping forwards and jamming the chain. It was with some relief then that I arrived last and least at our night stop - Sach Kas. Nowhere to camp, so we ended up sleeping on the bare concrete floor of a half-built government resthouse - 5 star luxury with the added bonus of a cold shower.

Cass made short work of getting my bike back to full health the following morning, eschewing my hi-tech tools for the more practical approach of simply cleaning the chain and cassette - "we'll need a rag and a twig". With a Sydney to London ride under his belt, all problems were very quickly followed by solutions in his world. Back on the road, in theory we had an easy half day up to Killar, a largeish village / small town. In practice, it was quite a kick up, so I was soon last man on the road, but hanging in there.

On the plus side, after a couple of grey days the sun came out, as did the monkeys, so it was a fine morning's work, with the highlight of seeing a rainbow inside a waterfall on the other side of the valley as we steadily climbed towards Killar.