It was with some sadness that I part-disassembled my bike on the terrace of our hotel, ready for its journey to Delhi. For the bike geeks amongst you, I rode a 2006 Orange P7 hardtail - the slight chubbiness of which was offset by the comfort only old-school steel delivers. Tyres were Schwalbe Marathon XRs - again, heavy - but they suited me just fine - on the day I became separated from the group for an hour, the first theory as to my absence was a puncture. Cass, knowing what tyres I was using, simply said "nope, not going to happen" and he was right - I rode over what seemed like carpets of broken glass and metal fragments in India, blissfully unworried as to the consequences. The hills had taken their toll though - back home, a full service would discover a completely trashed bottom bracket and rear hub, and the smallest ring on my chainset was missing more teeth than Shane McGowan.
Descending from Sach Pass, the vibrations of a entire day spent flying down a mountain had worked a tight 10mm screw thread on my pump valve connector loose before discarding it trailside, whilst an expensive pair of Endura baggy cycling shorts went to India brand new only to end their life in India a fortnight later, having steadily disintegrated day by day, although they did look fabulous during their short, mayfly-like existence.
After relying on it completely for a fortnight, my bike and I were temporarily parting company here in the Himalayan foothills. With a spare 48 hours to fill with some thrills, Cass and Cara had graciously agreed to take it back to our Delihi hotel for me to collect when I returned, giving me the chance of flying solo to I was off to Amritsar.
Our crew had departed after a farewell meal the night before, eager to return to their respective corners of Spitl and Ladakh after a long absence from their families, so it was in an unfamiliar set of jeeps that we departed McLeod Ganj that afternoon after a fun morning lazing, exploring, shopping and trying to explain to our legs that no, we weren't going riding today (I'm not kidding - such a weird feeling!). Our destination was Pathankot in the Northern Punjab - the closest railway junction to this stretch of the Indian Himalaya. From there the group would catch a sleeper back to Delhi, Pahar Ganj and flights home, whilst I would head West into the darkness and Amritsar.
Saying goodbye to everyone in the car park of Pathankot's Chakki Bank station was a wrench - from here on I was back to being an adult - no more Cara at breakfast telling me what time i was leaving, where I was riding and what I would be having for lunch on the way; no more Cass checking my bike over and getting us out of camp on time - a fantastic bunch of people to have a fantastic adventure with.