Rohtang: The pass of "pile of corpses". It was a ominous start with a light rain overnight. Our support jeep driver and the hotel staff did not like the idea of us cycling up in bad weather. The driver woke us up at 3.30 AM and wanted to transport us in the jeep to somewhere safe on the other side of Rohtang. Elsewhere, a few hundred kilometers away in the Himalayas, floods were already ravaging villages and many were dead. The danger of floods and landslides was always present in our itinerary as well.
We took a chance and started at 5.30 AM from Kothi. Luckily, the rains stopped just in time. The temperature was probably 10 C, the roads were still wet and it would be uphill for the next 35 kilometers at least. Thankfully, it was a Tuesday when the road is closed for normal tourists due to maintenance. I started with a good pace initially but eventually there was no energy left. We had a short chocolate break at Marhi at about 9.30 AM. Just then, the unventured group of cyclists started from Marhi. It seems that they had a bad night due to their tents getting drenched in rain in the outdoors. Definitely, this should have been one hell of an experience, especially in that cold.
For the next 4 hours, I was in a trance state cycling through hairpin turns, land slides, slushy roads, rivers, waterfalls, snow and ice. Every muscle ached and there was a piercing headache, probably due to the altitude. My respiratory system was making a huge noise and my feet were wet from the snow on the road. I cycled and sometimes walked and was thinking if I was really sane to have undertaken this trip.
At 2 o'clock, I along with Sandeep reached the top some 2 hours behind Uli and Venu. The other group of 12 had already left Rohtang. While we were having noodles for lunch, it started to snow. The camp owner asked us to quickly start off or risk being stranded in the snow clad top. I still wonder why the locals are so scared about rain and snow. The name of the place certainly should have some facts behind it.
From Rohtang till Khokhsar is a maddening downhill and the road, a pain in the ass, literally. Worse, I didn't have a good saddle. Landslides had eaten up a lot of road. Snow and water were finishing off what was left of the road. I had one tyre puncture on the way. After Khokhsar, the road travels along the Chandra river and is quite good. Occasionally, you will find rivers crossing over the road and waterfalls falling directly on the road.
13 hours after we started, we reached Sissu just before 7 PM. We thought we had crossed the toughest part of the tour. Little did we know..