Day 6, Campsite, Pin Valley, H.P., India ęBill Holter

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6) 8/23/99
Start ride: 8:00 AM Pin valley to Dankar gompa to Tabo
Ride: 7 hours total
Miles Ridden: 37
Start Altitude: 11,545 ft.
End Altitude: 10,004 ft.
Up at 6:am, I am greeted by a sunrise lighting up the shear rock walls of the valley. The ride back to the bridge is much easier going downhill. Back on pavement, I tuck and blast down the valley. Arriving at the turn off to Dankar gompa, I wait for the group to catch up. A man approaches and I speak to him in my limited Hindi. He marvels at my bicycle and wants to know how much it costs (a typical question). Yes, even a Proflex 857 is light years beyond an Indian bicycle. I point to a pack of dogs running in the distance across the valley. He says they are wild dogs: "Very bad kill sheep!" Two women walk up the road. They pause in the middle and then begin to sweep loose gravel from the center to the roadside. Out here everyone seems to work for the road department. The rest of the riders arrive and we ride up to Dankar gompa, an 8 km uphill grind. As we climb, the view of the valley keeps getting better, with more peaks coming into view. From the top of the road we can see all the way back into the Pin valley. The Gompa is small and fortresslike, and is a thousand years old. I am the last to leave and have a great downhill ride to the main road and have lunch in an apricot orchard. After eating, some of the others entertain the local children with a mouth popping competition. The kids are good, but are outdone by the old "hand in the armpit" technique. A true cultural exchange! Back on the bikes, we continue down with occasional uphill sections. It has become very hot. Mr. Ugs and I are bringing up the rear (he waited for me on some hills) when we suddenly encounter a river and a washed-out bridge. There is a truck stopped at the edge and some of the other riders are standing in the back. I grab my breaks, come to a quick stop, get off the bike, hand it up to the others, climb up into the back of the truck, and bonk by head into a metal crossbar as the truck takes off across the river!! Thank goodness for helmets! Then we roll into Tabo, future home of the Dalai Lama when he retires. We pause Some local women gather and stare at the bike shorts worn by one of our female riders. They are fascinated by the "space age material." One pinches and pulls on the Spandex, lets it snap back into place, and then they all laugh. We ride past the ancient gompa to our campsite, which is part local bathroom, and part cow pasture. There are some guesthouses here, so I ride to a couple of them to see if a hot shower can be had. One is closed, the other says no. Finally the abbot in charge of the monastery guesthouse allows us to use their shower for 25 rps (about .60 cents) a person. I need to shower! The water is cold, but not as cold as the rivers have been. All of the young monks want to ride my bike.