Back from India, and our hike ‘n bike through the Pin Valley.

Into the Pin…

So, we made it back.While we get our heads down, update the site and work out next year’s schedule, here’s some pics from the last week in India, our self-appointed *holiday* to wrap up and celebrate the end of this season’s tours.Always on the hunt for new places to explore, we decided to hike’n’bike from the Buddhist Pin Valley, an offshoot of our regular haunt Spiti, into Hindu Kinnaur. Used for both trading and trekking, the route crosses the Great Himalayan range, close to the border with Tibet. We rode self-supported deep into the valley, until the jeep track petered out beyond the whitewashed, traditional village of Mud, then hired the services of a couple of ‘donkeymen’ and their herd to haul our Bob trailers, and sometimes bikes, over the 4900m pass (16 000ft).To a backdrop of 6500m sawtooth peaks, the journey showcased the transformation from bone dry, mineral speckled valleys – typical to this region – into green and lush alpine pastures, blanketed with elm forests and fed by glacial rivers. Less of it turned out to be rideable than we hoped, so we shouldered the bikes and scrambled around for up to 10km at a time…But what we could get our tyres round was stunning; sometimes fast and flowing, sometimes technical. And always very remote. Along the way, we camped in our minimalist £5 tarp we made locally, warmed ourselves around pungent, kerosene-doused donkey dung fires, bought bizarre but colourful potted plastic flowers, befriended a shepard’s hound for the day, and ate bowl after bowl of rice and dahl.Getting back involved a medley of transport: a 4 hour jeep ride (plus stops for tea), a 16 hour local night bus (£2.50, but it broke down), a 5 hour, sweaty and people-packed train ride (sitting next to the squat loos), and 12 hours on a plane (via immaculate Bahrain)…Whoah. Sometimes, it’s good to be home….

mudvillagelow.jpg

The pic above is the village of Mud, nestled in the sheer, mineral-rich walls of the Pin Valley. The one at the top of the post is of Cara, pulling our ever faithful Bob trailer, towards the camping pasture at Paldor. The one below is of Cara, tearing down some singletrack after the pass to, funnily enough, a beautiful camping spot known as Kara.

Descent to Kara

And this one is of me, crossing a rickety bridge that links the hamlet of Tailing to the main track that leads to Mud. The Pin River was a shade of milky turquoise, and very cold.

ricketybridgelow

One night it was particularly chilly (this being October, at 4500m). Our ‘donkeymen’ guides, Dodje and Anchok, doused some pre-prepared, sun-dried donkey dung with kerosene and made us a fine fire. All our kit had a particular odour over the next few days, but it was worth it…

Donkey Dung Fire

In between the short and sweet good stuff were various hike’n’bikes. While they were easy on the eye thanks to the epic scenery, lugging the bikes round was a bit of a chore. We’re toying with the idea of getting lightweight bikes built, as we always seem to end up doing this kind of stuff. Or maybe harnesses on our rucksacks so we can quickly hang the bikes to keep our hands free for scrambling. Any ideas for such a design would be very welcome (:

hikeandbikelow.jpg

The trek ended up plummeting down towards a village called Humpti, set high above the Sutlej River, across from Wangtu Bridge. It as a quick transformation. Elms, pines and birch popped up all over the valley once we were below the treeline at Mulling – it looked like how I imagine Montana would be. At the moment, it’s just trekkers and shepards who use the route. Plans are afoot to build a road through this valley to link it with Pin, though I guess this is several years away.

mulling camping site

Here’s our tarp. Vivek, at Feamat in Manali made it for us from a design we pulled off the internet, for just 1000 Indian Rupees. Next time, we’ll make a few tweaks but for now, it’s just what we’re after. It’s packsize is the size of a small loaf of brown bread, it weighs 700g or so (with poles and pegs) and is really nicely constructed.

tarp

Unfortunately, my DSLR (Canon 20D) gave up the ghost while we were in India, so all the pictures are taken on Cara’s Canon S70 Point and Shoot. There’s loads to post, so it’s probably easiest to make a gallery on PBase www.pbase.com, which I’ll get round to doing soon.

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Please check out our main website for details on our bike trips to the Indian Himalayas.

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