Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Day 3 : Tabo to Gette
The rest house is a part of the complex that consists of the Tabo monastery and has 2 kinds of rooms. The family room has 4 beds in 2 rooms and an attached bath, while the normal one has two beds and has to do with the common bathroom. The bathroom was clean and had running hot water supply.
The Tabo monastery is one of the oldest in the world. An inner chapel suggests its foundation in 996 AD. The monastery consists of nine shrines, each consisting of images of Buddha, paintings, murals and other artifacts dating back to the 11th century. We spend a lot of time photographing the monastery.
..... Shrines inside Tabo monastery
Main Tabo monastery
A cute little puppy.
..... Badly needed something to chew on. So chose Dixit’s jeans
The Tabo guest house
It was 11 AM by the time we had breakfast and started out for the day from Tabo. I and Dixit decided to take it slow and stopped frequently for shooting photos, while the others, due to time constraints hurried ahead.
A view of the Tabo monastery complex
It was getting pretty hot under the sun, though it was very cold in the morning when we got up, at Tabo. Dixit was riding with his jacket stuck under bungee cords that tied his rucksack to the bike. After we stopped again to photos, Dixit found the jacket missing, and had to turn back to retrieve the missing jacket. There was no way we could proceed as this jacket was the only warm clothe that Dixit carried for the trip. It took him about 30 minutes to find the jacket and come back to where I was waiting. This, I think was about the only delay we had in the entire trip.
However, we caught up with the rest of the guys soon, as they were delayed yet again. This time, Gurpreet's bike was immobilized after the aluminum plate where the footrests and brake lever is mounted cracked. We spent some time with them in a local workshop as they tried to fix the bike and then moved ahead.
Moving slow as we were, Sunny and the rest of the guys caught up soon, as we had stopped for a photography break. This time, Gurpreet was riding pillion, with his bike left behind at the workshop, to be trucked home. Just as Sunny stopped in front of me there was a sudden, short hiss from his tyre, indicating an air leak.
Sunny, Gurpreet and Praveen
Strangest of rock formations, all along the Spiti River
He carried on as fast as he could, while I and Dixit stayed behind for a few more photos. We were yet to start when we saw Praveen return back. Sunny’s tyre was flat and I was the only one who happened to be carrying a pump. We rushed ahead, and found Sunny just a Km ahead, the tyre totally flat. The tyre was totally bald in the middle and not road worthy at all, at least not for the kind of roads we were riding on. The leak was a major one, with a lot of air leaking even as we filled it. Sunny rushed on; we followed, and found him waiting, not even a Km ahead. We inflated the tyre again and it was flat as fast as before. Inflating was not the solution anymore. There was only one thing to be done; ride to Kaza with the flat tyre. Gurpreet was now riding pillion with Dixit, and they carried on ahead, while I stayed behind and captured some of the most amazing rock formations in this valley in my camera.
Overall progress has been very slow today, and we had not reached Kaza yet. It was 3:30 by the time I reached Kaza. I found everyone scattered around. Sunny and Keerti were at the diversion to Kaza town. Praveen had gone to the petrol pump. Dixit and Gurpreet were somewhere in the town, trying to arrange a truck to get Gurpreet’s bike transported to Chandigarh or Delhi. But, in the end, all the delays of the day amounted to zilch, as the only petrol pump in Kaza, was out of order as I found out soon. None of us could proceed anywhere without refilling. The last petrol pump was at Powari, 200 kms behind, and the next would be in Manali; 340 Kms away assuming we didn’t take any side roads. Gurpreet was making phone calls all over the world, trying to arrange transport and money to get his bike as close to Delhi as possible. Dixit was with him most of the time. Sunny was at the local puncture repair shop; his tube was done for and had to use a tube borrowed from Praveen. We had some light lunch at a local restaurant and it was about 5.30 when we were finally ready to move. The petrol pump had thankfully been functional for some time, and we had already filled up. We bid adieu to Sunny and the guys from South, Keerti and Praveen; they planned to proceed straight to Losar and then on to Manali the next day. We planned to ride to Kibber and camp somewhere in Gette, the highest village in the world.
We bought some biscuits for dinner/breakfast and started on our way towards Kibber. It was already 5.45 PM, but daylight stretches far into the evening and it was still very bright. The side road for Kibber starts about 3 Kms after Kaza, just at the start of a bridge. For the past three days, the rivers, Sutlej and Spiti have been our constant companion. Now, as we moved away from the Spiti, we had a magical last glance of the waters of Spiti, rendered a gleaming silver by the rays of the sun setting on the other bank.
Sun sets across River Spiti
The setting sun cast an ethereal ambience on all earthly objects, and the ki monastery stood high above, on a hill; a witness to all this for centuries.
Last rays of the day...
Some where on the way to Kibber, we took a wrong turn and ended up at the entrance to the Ki monastery. A very steep road leads right up to the steps of the monastery. We turned back and were soon on the way to Kibber. So far we have been riding along the riverside, with snow peaks and giant mountains all around. Now we were actually getting up close to the peaks that we have been seeing for the past two days. We could actually feel the gain in altitude. And so did the bikes. Soon we had Kibber in view. We had plans to camp for the night. And I didn’t want to camp close to inhabited places. As we were getting closer to Kibber, I saw a dirt road branching off the main road. Instinctively, I took that road; hoping to find a flat grassy patch of land before it was too dark. Some way into this new dirt road, I found a small flat meadow, fit to pitch a camp. There was still some time left before it would be dark, and we decided to explore a bit more, and if required, backtrack to camp here.
Still further, I noticed tracks made by four wheel drives, which apart from the well cut out dirt track, climbed straight up the mountain faces. It was time for some real adventure now. I stopped my bike and asked Dixit to follow, since this 4WD track had to be a shortcut. Just as both wheels got off the road and into the track, the engine died, and I found myself struggling to keep the bike from sliding down, both wheels locked. It was too steep and in this altitude of over 4000 meters, there was just not enough steam in the engine to pull the bike, me and luggage up. I tried again, kept the revs high, almost redlining it and then half clutched the bike and it started rolling. Even still it stopped frequently and I had to do what most of us would do to pull off a wheelie in the plains to get into motion again. The steepness eased off a bit as I proceeded and I stopped as I touched the old dirt track again to check for Dixit, who was now out of sight. I climbed down a bit and found Dixit stuck right at the start. His bike just won’t move! I took over and with some pushing from Dixit, the bike climbed up. Again, we had two choices; the good old dirt track and the steep and exciting 4WD track. I choose the latter while Dixit, being double minded, first chose the dirt track and then turned back to join me. The climb was less steep this time. As we joined the dirt track again, we had an amazing view of the mountains all around. The Kibber village was back in view; this time, were standing higher than the highest road connected village in Asia. And we had more climbing to do! There were no more 4WD tracks left; I suppose the founder of these tracks had enough and decided to go straight. But all the same, it was an amazing climb.
We were in level with the snowline in the adjacent mountains and there were plenty of sites to pitch our tent. I loved one particular location, which had a huge patch of green flat meadow, perfect for lawn tennis. Having selected our location, we explored a bit further and some where down in the valley, we saw some flat cultivated land along with a small cluster of houses. This was the Gette village. We turned back, ready to camp above the highest village in the world! It was almost dark. We got our bikes off the dirt track and into the meadows, headlights positioned to light up our camp site. We had to fiddle a bit with one of the poles, and it was 9 PM by the time we were all set. The altitude made sure that we were gasping for breath all the time. Dixit was too tired and went straight to sleep. I tried some night photography, but the exposure didn’t come out right. It was Dixit’s first time at such heights. For a first timer, sleeping at about 4300 meters could have proved dangerous, as I realized later. I had camped at heights before, but never this high.
We drank some water and along with the biscuits we bought at Kaza, was our dinner. We had a tough time going to sleep. The altitude was really getting to us now. To add to my woes, the full face mask I wore didn’t allow me to breathe easy and I had a bad cold. I found some relief after taking off the cap. As long as we were awake, we deliberately breathed harder to compensate for the lack of oxygen. The moment we dozed off, the breathing would get normal and the resulting suffocation would wake us up, panting hard. All in all it was a very uncomfortable night, and it was only towards the early morning hours that I could catch some sleep.
Kms covered : 70
Expenses : 585 (Food and fuel)
Excellent Snaps, I am also planning for the same trip but by my car. Found your blog on blogsearch..