Posts Tagged 'cycling'

Tata Bread

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My parents gave me a breadmaking machine for Christmas. Cara used to be BreadMaster but now that she’s moved back to the States, I’ve taken over baking duties. It’s seems fitting to have the house filled with the aroma of fresh bread, as the workshop that is now crammed with bikes was once a bakery for the railway workers who lived in this part of Totterdown.

Howard, who joined us on one of our early tours, found what’s apparently a very fancy toaster in a skip. He coaxed it back to life and proffered it as a house warming gift. Clearly traumatized by the Indian Driving Experience, he also laid his hands on a Tata truck badge and soldered it to the toaster, voodoo-style. It works a treat, and can megatoast six thick slides at once, providing perfect quantities for post winter rides. It seems apt to, for as Katie pointed out, six is the average number of locals in every (small) car in India.

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Indian Himalaya tour dates 2008

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We’re having trouble accessing our main website at the moment, so in the meantime, here’s our provisional dates for this summer. Every year we rotate trips, and for 2008 we’ll be running one Manali-Leh (via Wari La) pass cruncher and two Spiti and Lahaul Epics. One of the Spiti trips is already booked up, so here’s details of the other two.

Manali to Leh via Wari La: 20 days, 20th July to 8th August, £875.

Spiti and Lahaul Epic: 16 days, 9th August to 24th August, £795.

Please note that on the date mentioned as the first date of the tour, you need to be in Delhi by noon. On the date mentioned as the last date, plan your flight to leave Delhi after 8pm.

We were pleased with how the rides went in 2007 so the itineraries are largely unchanged, bar a few tweaks here and there. As we expected, adding in a couple of 5000m+ plus passes at the tail end of the Manali-Leh ride threw down the gauntlet… especially when they’re as steep and untamed as Wari La. But there’s no better way of reaching Leh than a 40km descent (-:

We also like to work in new bits of trail whenever we get the opportunity. We were delighted to discover a singletrack finale (Dazzler’s Descent) to our Spiti trip, which plummets from the dizzy heights of Dankar monastery to the riverside settlement of Sichling. For ’08, the plan is to finish the ride a little further east in Tabo, home to an equally impressive, 1000-year-old-monastery.

There’s plenty of bike geek info over on the main site about what setup is best for riding in this part of the world. Our Spiti exploration is definitely geared towards ‘proper’ mountain biking, but there’s hopefully enough optional singletrack on Manali-Leh to spice things up for those who want it – and we’re adding more all the time. A hardtail with front suspension is our preferred weapon of choice for both trips, though a light full susser works well for Spiti, and intrepid tourers can tackle Manali-Leh on fully rigid setups, as long as you’re happy to forgo singletrack and some comfort here and there.

You may have noticed we’ve increased our prices from 2006/7, which we’ve had to do due to increased running costs, and fuel prices in India. We still feel the trips are really good value, especially if you consider that we limit the group size to 8 people, plus us. Many companies take groups of up to 16. 8 seems to be a good balance. Fun and social, but also personal and manageable.

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Our man in Ladakh: Phunchok Anchok, jeep driver and problem-solver extraordinaire. We couldn’t do it without him.

Indian Himalaya Tours 2008 – and dancing hairdressers…

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A brief glimpse of HH Dalai Lama, summer 2007.

Update on our tour schedule for 2008:

At the moment, it’s looking like we’ll be running two mtb-inspired Spiti and Lahaul rides and one mammoth, pass- crunching Manali-Leh via Wari La trip, from mid July through to the end of August. It would be nice to squeeze in a Leh-Manali self-supported journey too, if there is enough interest. We’re just waiting to hear confirmation from a group enquiry, then will post more details and dates.

In the meantime, I’ve updated one of our last blog entry in China with some photos, back from when we were riding with our German friend Christof. Don’t miss the new action shots of the Wonderful Dancing Hairdressers…

Read all about them here:

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En route to Leh 2007.

Photo-Story Laos

We didn’t manage to post any pictures of Laos while we were on the road, so here are a few from the trip, with captions. We’ve also worked in plenty of others into previous posts, so sift through if you want to see any more. We’ll do the same for our travels in SW China in the next week or so.

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The roads were generally very quiet in Laos, even Highway 13, which links Luang Prabang and Vientiane. Certainly peaceful enough to ride two by two and chat.

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It was December but still, the sun beat down, making the climbs tougher than we expected. The first couple of days rollercoasted up and down from one valley into another. Up and up…

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Then back down again. Fast and swoopy. Road bike territory.

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We had our own on board sound system, so didn’t need the cheap copy Karaoke CDs and VCDs sold in every roadside truckstop. Laotians like nothing better than to crack open some beers and (drunkenly) sing the night away.

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There’s plenty of fresh fruit on sale too. You’ll need to sharpen those bargaining skills, as prices spike at the sight of Westerners. Tourism has mushroomed in the last five years (apparently in 2007 it was over 1.4 million, up 37 percent from the year before), with a slew of negative side effects on Lao culture – yet Laotians are still a very welcoming people.

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Religion is predominantly Buddhist, with some Animist tendencies too. Offerings, often in the form of a soft drink (and in this case some deodorant), keep spirits happy and thirst quenched. And clean. Continue reading ‘Photo-Story Laos’

A road to Vientiane – The End

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Children are everywhere, and never miss a wave or smile.

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Stack ’em high: cheap and easily sourced wicker is used for all kinds of goods.

Finally, as Cara and I leave Vang Vieng, the terrain calms down. The lumpy, hazy limestone backdrop is still impressive, but now the long climbs have been replaced by gentler rollers, which relax into an all but level, agricultural landscape. It’s been a while since we’ve ridden a flat road.

Still, when the short and stunted climbs come, they hurt. They should feel easy: our leg muscles are strong and sculpted from dozens and dozens of mountain climbs. But the sun syringes out our energy and salty sweat blots out our vision. My heart pounds in angry, head-thumping beats and my sweat-drenched arms are as slippery as eels.

Past cement works burping out fumes into the hot, sticky air, the traffic is now newer, faster. The latest, bodywork-pumped Toyota Hilux pickups, and even some sleek Mercedes sportsters streak past, and a couple of ridiculous civilian Humvees. There are wartime Willy’s Jeeps on blocks, and older flatbed minibuses too, locally converted into people carriers. Not in the European sense of the word. These ‘Jumbos’ heave both people and their produce, so loaded their chassis sags over balding tyres, gulping over every pothole. Jetties are welded on the back to handle the assumed overflow: wicker baskets with discontented chickens, lengths of rebar dragging in screetchy screams along the tarmac, even a moped or two roped down on the roof. Come school time, boys hang off the rails, or off each other, like a bunch of grapes swaying in the wind on every bend. Other school children are on their bikes, dismounting to push up the hills, which their simple, one-geared drivetrains can’t cope with. Girls ride, holding parasols to protect their faces from the sun. Here, dark skin is for peasants. Continue reading ‘A road to Vientiane – The End’

Pics from our first weeks in China

Here’s a few pics we resized in our first couple of weeks on the road, but never managed to post in China – or rather, were blocked by the Great Firewall… Loads more to sift through when we get home!

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The road to Dechen is said to offer some of the best views on the Yunnan-Tibet highway…

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Dropping down towards Zhongdian – I mean Shangri La, as it has been officially renamed, a marketing gimmick for the hordes of Chinese tourists… There’s an ‘eco-village’ nearby – cue convoys of tour buses.

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Every day in China was a banquet. The parents of this little fellow ran one of our favourite finds.

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Peckish? Dumplings don’t get better than these. Steaming hot. Just 3 Yuan a plate – that’s 20p. Continue reading ‘Pics from our first weeks in China’

South to Vang Vieng, B52s and Bruce Springsteen

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Highway 13 runs south of Luang Prabang and is the last challenge on our ride. Rising from the hot and humid banks of the Mekong, its backed by canine teeth mountains and sharp limestone peaks straight from the pages of Middle Earth, where one jagged silhouette blurs into another. In the morning, clouds lie marooned in the fertile valley folds below, as we climb one pass after the next, briefly skirting along ridges before swooping down once more to cross a river. Then we huff back up again, slowing to a crawl as the sweat beads down, maliciously stinging our eyes – and this is one of the cooler times of the year… Water stops come courtesy of the communal taps in villages, most of which bare the insignia’s of various aid agencies – in fact, 10 percent of the country’s GDP is provided by foreign aid. There, men with slim, toned muscles, and women with sarongs clinging to their petite but shapely bodies, wash in the sun and wave as we pass.

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High Five! Laotian kids have borrowed from the book of Borat, high-fiving us as we rode by.

The villages themselves are invariably small and simple; most houses are little more than bamboo huts. Tobacco, grasses, chillies and fruit are being dried out in the open, and enormous, spiky-skinned jackfruit hang down from trees, straining their branches. Like bird baths, miniature golden temples – the size of doll’s houses – are set on plynths fixed to posts; offerings include soft drinks crawling with ants, sticky rice and even cologne. By afternoon, we’re melting in the heat haze. But a relay of smiles keeps us riding. Girls dance to the music from our on-board sound system as we pass, and everywhere, children wave and call out the Laotian greeting with impressive, relentless enthusiasm. Babies are scooped off the ground and their tiny hands flapped into action by smiling mothers. All this attention is phenominal. We pull over for bananas sold on bamboo tables by the roadside, short and stumpy bunches like a fat man’s fingers. Or to refresh ourselves with sweet, sticky papaya that runs down our chins.

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Firy colour: chillies drying in the sun.

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There are plenty of mud-caked water buffalos…

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…but fish is the main source of protein in Laos.

Continue reading ‘South to Vang Vieng, B52s and Bruce Springsteen’


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

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