Bagatou > Sach Pass > Tisa
Leaving Bagatou the next morning I was a happy person - by this time tomorrow the hardest part of the ride would be over. Looking back, what was unique about the next few hours was we were finally away from people - having got used to being surrounded by humanity everywhere in India, this was a strange sensation. Worried about the climb to come, I started out early, and was steadily overtaken by the fast kids, which had the advantage of getting some great photos as they passed me. Happily falling back into my ride/walk routine of the previous day, I enjoyed the perfect weather and getting past my previous altitude PB of 4017m (Toubkal!) until, without warning around an anonymous corner, I was surprised to find myself at Sach Pass, 4450m - I had done it!!
Cass, Cara, James, Katie, Jack and Mark were generous enough both to wait for me and not to chide my tortoise-like pace - thank you to all.
Not a place to hang around tho' - after a quick exploration of the obviously well used temples at the pass, and a few celebratory pics, we put on every stitch of clothing we had and flew down the other side.
Within a couple of hours, and after a plate of Veggie Chow Mein and a chai at the police post 12km past the pass, we were back down amongst the forests, the people, the colour and the warmth, after an epic adventure, but it was still only lunchtime, and there was a good 70km or so still to ride and by no means all freewheeling as we lost altitude - the road kinked into tributaries onto each side of the main valley, so it would be downhill to the end of each re-entrant, then over a bridge and back uphill towards to the main valley again.
Once, after stopping to adjust my brakes I lost touch with the group and was horrified to stumble across a junction in the road. I was pretty certain I'd taken the right turning, but with the road descending fast it would have been a long way back up if I hadn't. After a further delay (ever tried overtaking a couple of thousand goats going the same way as you) I was hugely relieved to catch up with the others.
With jeeps, people, tents and bikes in the wrong place (not everyone made it over OK), camp that night was a chaotic affair. Finally at the front of the ride by the end of the day with ho sign of the campsite, three of us stopped for chai in a small village. 10 minutes later Cara arrived to let us know we'd overshot the village by about 7km, downhill all the way.
Normally this would have been a throw my dummy out of the pram moment, but I'd just ridden across an awesome Himalayan pass and was having the adventure of my life, so what's another 7km UPHILL between friends?
That said, when we did get back to camp I was hugely relieved as the low battery light had been going off in my head for some time – waiting for the boiled water to cool so I could force a jumbo pack of rehydration salts down me was not pleasant, and I slowly realised how dehydrated and exhausted I was. My tent was stuck the other side of the pass, but with two engineers in the group, a tarp was constructed within minutes, and I happily collapsed underneath it. The rain woke me a few times in the night but the sleeping bag stayed dry and another bright dawn revealed a fresh dusting of snow on the peaks behind us - we had crossed the pass with perfect timing and avoided the first suggestions of winter...