Kevin Swains
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This is Kev's Travel Blog

Khardung La

Relaxed for a few days in Leh. Had more mild diarrhoea so took it easy and the next day pigged my face ready for the climb of the Khardung La, the highest motorable road in the world at 5602m!
Again it's in a restricted zone but I forgot what day it was and ended up not being able to get a permit because it's the weekend. I know from the internet that other cyclists have made it to the pass without a permit and decide to head off regardless.
Initially I set a blistering pace wanting to set a fast time for the assent. This doesn't last long as the altitude kicks in. I decide to stick in my middle ring instead all the way up.
The road rises slowly and I puff along steadily. The views behind back down to Leh are incredible but a little hazy. The road is quiet as it's a Sunday and I enjoy the ride as I go.
I saw a herd of cows in a nearby field and went over for a yak and nearly caused a riot....
Anyway after 4 hard hours I reach the checkpost and get ready for the fun and games....

Going up the Khardung la
Riding the Khardung La, looking back down to Leh.
I enter the room, it's an army dormatory and an officer sits at his desk in front of some bunk beds.

We greet each other and he shows me to a plastic chair.
"You're late" are his first words!
I'm genuinely confused and ask him to explain. Turns out the pass in one-way at certain times and I'm 45 minutes late. He simply tells me to go in a firm voice.
Suddenly my vision begins to darken and I can feel myself going to faint. I know if I faint he'll never let me pass. I briefly lower my head and passes!
I think I'd been working hard and then suddenly got off my bike and began breathing normally when my body still needed extra air?
He sat there blank faced just waving me away. I tell him how hard it's been and that I set off 4 hours ago at 7am just to make it at this time. He shows me the rule book. Of course he's right but it say 'vehicles' and I argue the toss that it doesn't say bikes. He laughs!
At this point I'm sure I'll have to turn back!
But....theres a few things in India that one must always keep in mind. Firstly, if someone is behind a desk then they'll have a power kind of complex. They sit there wasting time doing little work, just ordering people around. Like all societies they role play and one must play along to get things done.
The other point is almost anything is possible in India!
I sit there and try to decide how to play the game. I ask him how else I can pass without a permit! Of course I'm offering a bribe but in a way I can always deny that it's a bribe.
He tells me to show him my permit....I laugh inside and put on my best stupid face (it actually came quite easy:) and say I don't understand. He explains and shows me a hand full of permits that show other tourist visiting the summit. I'm buggered on two counts now:)

Khardung La Summit
It's all down hill from here! I'd reached my ultimate goal but felt a little let down
after making it so easy and started making more plans straight away!

I sit there looking dejected and tell him I'll go back to Leh and come back with a permit. I just need some rest. I sit and times passes....
Then he asks where I'm from. I tell him origionally
England and now OZ. He says that Australia is a very beautiful country. The perfect chance was there to start talking about cricket. Talking cricket will open many doors in India but my knowledge is poor and all I know is Ian Botham walks a lot and Shane Warne is a fat bastard....and I can't say either in Hindi!
I need to make it look as if he starts the conversation. It's how all the great scams work in
Thailand. They manipulate you into asking them for things that you don't even need!
Anyway....I look behind his head and notice a Bollywood poster with Rani (hot Indian actress) pinned to the wall. I look at the other bunks and see Priety Zinta and Aishwaria Rai (1996 Miss World). I look at them in turn and and let out a sort of giggle cum snort. As I look at Rani trying to get his attention he says "you like Rani"?
I tell him shes ok and reel of a few names off to prove my Bollywood knowledge and tell him that my favorite, Kajol isn't here.
I can't believe it. I've hit the bullseye from 100m! He takes my hand and shakes it tightly. He tells me she's also his favorite. He then asks for my pasport and takes my details, gives me back the passport and again takes my hand for 2 minutes while he makes me swear that I'll never tell anyone that I passed without a permit.
"No problem, I swear" I tell him over and over again:):) I don't spose he'll ever be viewing this web page!?
The last 14km takes 3hrs with rests. I feel good but I've already climbed nearly 2000m in half a day and can feel the altitude.
Eventually I reach the summit. Again it's a huuuge shit hole full of the usual army junk.
The summit is busy with Indian day trippers waiting to return to Leh when the traffic changes direction. They saw me earlier and can't believe I've made it. They all begin to clap and cheer and then come to greet me and have their photo taken with me. I feel rather stupid now:):)
I get a free cup of chai (provoded by the Indian government to anyone one the pass) from the chai shop and try to relax form the Indian attention.
The traffic starts to flow. I take a few photos and zoom off back down to Leh at warp speed.

Then....psssssssshhhhhhh. I get a snake bite puncture after 1km. I stop and pop in my spare tube and pump but this too has a pucture, probably from inside my cycle pannier. Like a typical Kevin I've forgot my 2 puncture repair kits in my hotel room:):) I flag the next passing truck, throw my bike on the roof and jump into the cab for a slow and uncomfortable return to Leh....
I reach Leh and head for a celebratory pizza and my first Indian beer.
While I eat the pizza I chew over what to do next. I've reached my goal with ease. I'm way ahead of my loose schedule and feel little satisfaction after reaching the Khardung La.
Almost immediately I decide to leave for Pakistan in the search for real adventure.
I don't know what that will be or where but I need to head from this place, thats all I know.