Mostly in Photos. .

Trip Start Feb 19, 2006
Trip End Oct 01, 2006

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Flag of India  ,
Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Ahh, the fond memories of my foray into the mountains.
Leaving my comfortable roost in Manali, along with some gear (sadly, guitar included), I set off once again over the Rhotang pass again, this time with the intention of going past it and seeing where the road goes. Keylong, and possibly Leh and Ladakh, though it seemed that everyone was going there, and I like to do things a little differently than the madding crowds. .

The other side of Rhotang was even more desolate and beautiful than the way up, as you might be able to discern from the attached pictures. Rounding a bend in the road, of which there are too many to count, I came upon a tiny dhaba, no more than a tarpaulin spread over some crude walls of rock, with a couple of the oft-seen red plastic tables in front.
As I was going pretty slow, I managed to recognize a familiar face at one of the tables. An English fellow, whom I had last seen in Dharamshala, us discussing the philosophical talks of J. Krisnamurti. I'm not good with names all the time, but I believe his is Jeremy, though I am probably wrong.
Names, correct or not aside, he and his companion, a russian (?) girl of some powerful bearing, were waiting for a bus, ostensibly to take them at least as far as Keylong, so that they could spend the night there and arrange transport to Ladakh the next day. I enjoyed a coke in the rarefied air as we caught up on our respective travels. They had been in the spitti valley, to the east and south, but declaimed it as being too crowded with the always demanding and boisterous crowds of Israelis, young and vacationing between the years of service and the years of University. .
Trading pictures and laughs, and finally a local bus came. A buddhist monk with sneakers on and a jolly smile was the first to get up and try to flag down the bus. He looked a little more like Charles Dutton than an aesetic, and the bus being full, he had to wait down the road with the other native hopefuls. There are only three or four local buses that go from manali to the next town, Koksar, so they are always crowded, with people and luggage sharing the ever-shrinking roof space. . .
In a few more minutes, though, a private bus came along, and at the insistence of his female companion, my friend got on with her, we expressed the hope of meeting in Keylong, and they negotiated a fare all the way to Leh. .
Left alone on the mountainside, my bottle of coke emptied, I once again boarded Rocinante to finish the ride down the back side of the mountain.
Passing the bus containing my friends, I raced down and down, eventually coming to Koksar, where I was stopped by the police. Nothing serious, of course, it seems that the police like to have your passport number on record, I guess in case something happens to you and you do not come back. Possibly, though, the Big Room Of All Useless Paperwork, somewhere in Delhi, is not quite full yet, so it needs more filler. .
Of course as I sat there, a little proud of myself for showing my friends just how much faster it is to travel by two-wheeler instead of bus, their bus showed up. And they debarked, complaining that the price they had negotiated with the driver did not include lodging, which all the other passengers got in the price of the ticket. So here we were again. .
We shared some chai, and I, being fairly famished, had some roti and dal, and just as they finished theirs, along came the elusive local bus, crammed inside, and full on top.
Somehow they squeezed on, clinging to the metal railing barely, and the bus drove off, with much waving on my part and theirs.
I lingered for another chai, a couple of cigarettes, and drove on.

The valley was stark, the road not so good. A brown river ran through the middle, swelled with melting snow and picking up much silt on the way down from the mountains. Some parts of the road were rivers themselves, needing to be forded, to no small risk of Rocinante and myself. The trick with these road-river crossings is to just damn the torpedoes and go. If you stop, you are lost, with wet feet, or perhaps even worse. The power of the Bullet comes in real handy there, along with the weight as well. .
Through villages, almost getting killed numerous times, and with an interesting encounter at 60 km per hour with a swarm of bees, I finally made it to keylong. A beautiful place, surrounded by mountains (look at the pictures!!) and found my rest at the Tashi Deleg, negotiating a good price with the innkeeper.
The Tashi had amazing views, and a restaurant reminiscent of some kind of swiss "alpenhutte" and was all round comfortable.
The next day I would make my first attempt to go towards Leh, but as we shall see in the next entry, Ladakh holds a curse for me, but I guess this is just as well. I mostly spent my days arond Keylong driving roads that no-one ever goes on, seeing things that no-one ever sees, as most people treat Keylong as a waystation on the way to the much more popular Ladakh.
Pity, that. I think many miss out on some really incredible scenery and formations by following the "bible" of the lonely planet guidebooks. . .
Ahh, see for yourself in the pictures. It cost a fortune to post them, so I hope it is worth it, as I starve to death here in Chennai. . .

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