Chamba > Jot Pass > Final camp > McLeod Ganj
The next day we dropped back down to the river and headed South towards our final Himalayan pass, somewhere around 2250m. In theory this was an easy day, but none of these hills turned out easy for me! As usual I was last to the top, and the others were patiently waiting at a cafe just shy of the summit. Cass and Cara hadn't told us exactly where camp was that night, so they were able to surprise us with a stunningly beautiful campsite actually on the pass, just a few hundred metres past the cafe. A few wispy tentrails of cloud and mountain mist only added to a stunning sunset and the beginnings of a real "end of trip" feeling within the group - we were riding out of the big mountains tomorrow...
Our ride off into the valley the following morning was fast and thrilling in the hot morning sunshine.
Whilst stopping to regroup we were overtaken by a distressed cow with an injured leg - each bloody hoofprint looked insanely red and bright in the harsh morning sunlight - a very strange few moments. It turned into another long day's riding as we rolled through the foothills and towards the highway to Dharamsala.
Just like the previous night our guides found us a stunning campsite - this time riverside just outside a small village. Unlike the Himalayan rivers this one was gentle and warm, so the second we were in camp we all stripped off and headed for the water with our soap for a communal bath. Last night in the tents, so Norboo simply cooked all of the food he had left, and we had a six-dish vegetarian feast to finish. Cara and Cass were on their way to China after getting rid of us, so I spent most of the evening bluetoothing music to Cass, and got some fabulous Hindi pop in return.
Our final day's riding, and we awoke to yet another perfect sunny day to find that we'd camped on a path between villages, so I'm sure we provided plenty of entertainment for the locals as they went about their business. Our last day's riding was a high speed flat run to the turning for Dharamsala, then a final kick back uphill through the town to the settlement of McLeod Ganj above, home in exile of the Dalai Lama.
Once the road went vertical, for one final time I happily fell off the back of the peleton and settled into hill-crawling mode. It was going to school time and so several hundred children Namaste'd me as they passed in their smart uniform. The extent of the Tibetan community was immediately apparent by the appearance of those I passed. A shiny Landcruiser sped downhill, with sunglass-clad tourists in the back and I realised they were the first westerners I had seen since Rohtang pass, which was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away!
After the busy and scruffy town of Dharamsala the final stretch of road wound its way through a very British looking garrison camp, with cheerful guards eager to find out where we had ridden from.
Unbelieveably, Cass, Katie, Jack, James and Mark had waited for me on the outskirts of town so we could celebrate the end of the ride together. Thanks guys - your patience won't be forgotten. Then, we happily wove our way through the streets to the hotel. The end - no more riding on this trip!!
Clean, showered and in fresh, non-biking clothes, a fine afternoon was spent exploring McLeod Ganj and, more importantly, downing my first beer for a fortnight!