Sunday 10th August. Kishtwar – ?
From Kishtwar, the nicely surfaced road dropped steadily in a series of hairpins down to Bhandarkhot (a descent of about 450 m in 12 km). Since most of the day would involve climbing towards Sinthan Top, this wasn’t actually what I wanted.
The road crossed a bridge over a river, then climbed a little to an army checkpoint. This one was quite thorough, involving the taking of many of my details and a series of phone calls. Then an officer (I presume so, although he wasn’t in uniform) strolled down, asked if I had a satellite phone or a rifle, then bid me on my way. Another river crossing and then the day began in earnest. And in heat, since it was quite warm down at 1150 m.
The climb was relentless but on a good surface and not bad to ride. Maybe, I am finally getting some fitness. I stopped in a small town for tea; it suddenly became quite crowded in the little tea shack as the local police joined me. They were quite happy to have their photograph taken with me which was a bit of a surprise; most in uniform shied away from the camera.
Then more steady uphill, regaining the morning’s lost altitude and then some. And then some more. There was the occasional road sign to break the monotony.
I’ve ridden to Kanya Kumari twice. Once down the west coast from Mumbai in 1991 and then down the east coast from Darjeeling in 2012. Now I’m riding in the state of Jammu & Kashmir and will be in the Vale of Kashmir in a day or so.
Another refreshment break, this time for a local cola (not pepsi or coke but probably just as healthy).
The girls were a little camera shy at first but relaxed once their elders had been photographed.
Getting higher and into the forests now. In the late afternoon, I came to another checkpoint where I had to wait quite a while, although I’m not completely sure why; I think they were waiting for a superior officer to give them the authorisation to let me proceed. The soldiers at the checkpoint were quite happy to take my photograph on their phones but wouldn’t let me photograph them because they were in uniform. I’m not sure why that is important; any information I could record on an image was easily on view for anyone passing by.
One soldier asked me where I was going to sleep. I said ‘Tent’ since that is a word that is quite universally understood. ‘Alone?’ he asked. ‘Well, yes’ I thought, there’s only me. ‘But there are elephants and tigers, sir!’
As it grew dark, I picked my spot at the side of the road. It was far from private but there hadn’t been much traffic all day. I was laying out my sleeping bag when a car, decorated as from a wedding or pilgrimage, stopped and a young man asked what I was doing in good English.
‘I’m going to sleep here,’ I said. ‘But there are bears in this area!’
‘No,’ I replied ‘only elephants and tigers.’
He laughed, told me to be careful of the bears and drove off down the hill.
My room for the night:
It looks like it might be a busy night, wild animals and all.
My gps gave my elevation at 2623 m, with an elevation gain of 1563 m for the day. For once, I had ridden it all. Having a decent surface makes all the difference.
55.6 km, 7.71 kph, 1223 km to date