Archive for the 'On tour: North Indian Himalaya' Category

A day in the life of the Pashminas

Cass and his furry friend

I was sifting through our summer 2006 pics, and came across these two furry fellows. The pic was taken by Aussie Dan after I’d fed this friendly miniature goat a piece of chapati. The toothbrush was for my own benefit. The three of us were reaching the end of our Karzoc Valley ultra-light (and ultra-hungry) hike’n’bike adventure, on a mission to unearth new singletrack. A story which I’d like to write up one day (if they’ll have it) for a fine UK publication by the name of Singletrack.

The night before, we’d dined with a Tibetan semi-nomadic shepard and his wife, as well as a handful of hey-diddly-neighbours in cowboy hats who’d crammed into the tent to watch us. As luck would have it, the wife spoke surprisingly good English, and told us a bit about their lives.

In the warmer summer months the small village of a dozen families cross the pass and descend to the vast, grassy expanse of the Morei plains to fatten up their livestock – in their case a grand total of 99 Pashmina goats. In the winter, everyone huddles away in cuboid, mud brick houses. They’re set in a protective quandrangle, with windows only on the inside: this place gets very, very cold. It’s 3 days and nights away by horse from Leh (when the roads are cut off by snow) and a real ghost town in the summer. We’d passed through it the day before, and even in these warmer months a cutting wind was whipping through the valley.

Every once in a while, a businessman from Leh visits to buy the pashmina wool, considered the softest in the world. Interestingly, the goats aren’t sheared but brushed, which removes their fine hairs.The family treated us to a hearty breakfast (goat milk and goat yogurt amongst other things) and then we said our farewells – the husband set off with his mates towards the hills, yodelling and yipping to the various yaks, sheep and goats that were milling about. I said I’d go back next year with some pictures.

The Pashmina Massive

The Pashmina Massive.

Nomad head

This chap didn’t say much, but he seemed to like watching us.

Cass, Dan and Rob

One for the family album.

Bike shadow

Inside the nomad tent, warm and out of the wind…

Singletrack Morei Plain

Singletrack off the Morei Plain.

Pics by Daniel and Cass.


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….


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.


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

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

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