Day 5, Ki Monastery, Spiti Valley, H.P., India ęBill Holter

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5) 8/22/99
Start ride: 7:00 AM Rangrik to Ki gompa to Pin valley
Ride: 8.5 hours total
Miles Ridden: 34.88
Start Altitude: 12,136 ft.
End Altitude: 11,545 ft.
Other than the crew, I am the first up at 5:50am. Mr. Ugs unchains my bike from the rest and I begin to take off the tires to fix my two flats. I find the holes in the inner tubes and run my finger around the inside of the tire, looking for what caused the punctures. Each tire was punctured by a small sliver of quartz! The likely culprit was the two sections of freshly broken rock we had ridden across yesterday, just before the switchback to the bridge. I had to use a pin to push them back out of the tires. I barely get to eat breakfast before we are off to Ki Gompa. Dawa says it is 6 km up to the gompa. It turns out to be twelve! The first part is more morain debris. The Sumo rescues Sylvia and I as we have fallen behind the rest of the riders. At the Gompa entrance we cheer as the riders arrive. Some are unhappy about the extra kms they have had to ride, given that we still have a full day's ride ahead of us. We get a tour of the Gompa, but photography is not allowed inside. However, on the roof we are allowed to take photos. The monks then direct us to a dining area and serve us tea. We make donations to the Dalai Lama's upcoming Kalachakra ceremony to be held here in August of 2000. After, we return to where we started the ride that morning and discover that just around the corner is paved road! Down we go! Snow peaks loom in the distance. We stop for lunch in the town of Kaza, the district administration center. We encounter some tourists who are really surprised to see us on bicycles. More fast downhill! The road is paved until we reach the bridge turn-off to Pin valley. The Pin valley road is part tallis slope, part morain debris, and partly cut out of the mountainside. There are groups of Nepalese road builders breaking up rocks to shore up the road bed. Some have two-man shovels: one holds the shovel in the traditional manner, while another pulls on a rope that is attached to the base of the handle. Women squat nearby making little rocks out of big rocks using an iron ring to hold the rock and a small hammer to break them. Other than the occasional bulldozer, this is the way roads are built and maintained throughout the Himalayas. The road builder's children come out to get a closer look at the funny-looking sahibs. We give them biscuits (a real treat) while Dawa gives some medicine to their mother, who is sick. We reach the campsite next to the Pin river with enough time to bathe and wash some stinky bike clothes. Some of the clothes are almost dry! As we eat dinner, the river rises two feet, leaving some a little nervous. It takes all day for the snow melt to reach this part of the valley. By morning it is back down to normal. My rear derailleur has been skipping around on the up-hills so Mr. Ugs attempts to fix the problem.