Kevin Swains
Travel Website
This is Kev's Travel Blog
Cottage appartment accomodation with a 5 acre ensuite bathroom attached
at the bottom of the Kunzum La. Despite it's looks it was clean and comfortable.
Big climb ahead going up the Kunzum La.
At the top of the Kunzum La 4553m
Nice scenery in Lossar over the Kunzum La. 4160m.
Trouble ahead.
On the road heading up a very tough 900m climb to Nako. A new road that wasn't
here the last time I passed through and caught me by suprise by it's severity.
By the end of the day I'd done my toughest and longest day yet, 57.3Km
with 11.07hrs of walking (timed by satilite) and 908m of steep
and poor surface roads thrown in!
My trolley loaded onto a Chola (cable car) to bypass a landslide area before Nako.
My heart sunk as I watched it race away out of sight to the other side.
I walked around over the slide area to meet up with my gear.

25/8/08     Chhatru to Batal (N32.21.495 E077.37.138) 4014m

            32Km Walked. '.39Hrs. Up 684m. Down 398m.




26/8/08     Batal to Hansa (N32.27.062 E077.51.607) 3964m

            42.3Km Walked. 7.17Hrs. Up 716m. Down 733m.


I wake after a good nights sleep in my self contained luxury apartment and roll back my wheel of a door to find a beautiful day dawning. I walk across the road to the smoke filled restaurant and take a seat at the three meter long steel plate table that stands about a foot of the floor, resting on old kerosene stoves. I would love a table like this in my living room in Canberra, but maybe I would work on replacing the stoves with something more suitable.

I order a double helping of paratha and omlette and pay my bill of Rp140, pack and leave.

The climb up the Kunzum starts immediately on what is semi decent graded surface. I was hoping for a little bit of tarmac.

After a few hours of steady climbing I look up to see an almighty road winding it's way up the mountain in the front of me.

Again, despite the climbs dramatic looks and ever present challenge, my body readies itself for the gradient onslaught, the adrenaline kicks me in the rear and a huge smile strikes my face. I mean what more could a person want to be doing right now?

As it turns out the climb in the front of me is a new road under construction. The old road is somewhere steeply to my right and out of sight due to the gradient but one thing is sure it ends up in the same place and so has to be as severe.

The Kunzum is my last big climb lugging the trolley behind, or at least I think it is. So while I might looking forward to the climb I'm also saddened at the thought of all that boring nothingness of downhill to come. Give me a damn good climb anyday.

As usual I'm pumped up and steam up to the summit and shoot a happy snap of myself on the self timer. I often think I should spend more time with my photos but I'm perfectly happy with an average photo just to prove that I've been there and for my memories. Anyway....I'd prefer to walk for 8hrs a day instead of taking photos for those 8hrs.

Soooo....after the up it's always down, and this down is for 20Km or so and all things being equal, this means my feet will be in pain tonight?

Going downhill with my trolley is generally about 0.5Kmh faster than going uphill and not at that enjoyable and is the case of the Kunzum the downhill is annoyingly hard. The road is full of small stones that attach under the trolley wheels and prevent it rolling easy and give the sensation of pulling the trolley backwards. It also pulls sideways depending which wheel the stone is under. The whole descent is very tedious and I try to counteract this by singing some country and western songs and amazingly it has no effect what so ever so I sit down and eat half my stash of nuts for an energy surge.

Eventually after a tiring 30Km I reach the town of Lossar and walk straight through the police check post again without stopping and again without any problem.

I hit a restaurant I remember from the last time I was here and get the best plate of veggies since I arrived in India. Considering how lush the area is here it's beyond belief how few veggies are offered on the menu and the small quantity you get when available.

With a full tank I head off downwards and thankfully on some tarmac.

The fields around Lossar are postcard perfect with harvested and manicured fields around traditional houses.

After 12Km of easy going tarmac I find myself at the small village of Hanse, which is basically a 200m strip of mostly traditional house with a mini building boom taking place. As I walk through I see a badly painted dhaba sign hung on the outside wall where several locals chatter away. I ask them if rooms are available and they say yes....amazing. But the owner tells me it's full until some Indian says I can share his room for Rp30....done.

He tells me he's a contractor with his broken English. The room is very basic to say the least but has two beds that are pushed together and are far from having fresh linen. We have a wee chat before I head into the filthy restaurant area and after looking around the place I decide to play it safe and go 2minute noodles. They may be on the lacking side but they are hygienic and impossible to screw up. Or at least I thought so until I tried there noodles and indeed the old dear had screwed them up alright. What to do? I eat them all and still feel undernourished.






27/8/08     Hansa to Kaza (N E                  3661m.

            46.7Km Walked. 8.4Hrs. Up 615m. Down 775m.







29/8/08     Kaza to Tabo                        3287m

            47.1Km walked. 8.42Hrs. Up 415m. Down 998m.



I don't need an alarm clock this morning. The guesthouse owner is pacing everywhere mumbling loudly up and down the corridor and outside the window. This is the second time I've come across this phenomena. When I was in Leh in a similar Buddhist style guesthouse the owner did exactly the same thing. Of course they are more than mumbles, (to him anyway) they are Buddhist prayers but as far as I'm concerned the bloke needs locking up.

Anyway....energized from copious amounts of chocolate croissants, mud cake and two plates of momos yesterday I set off for Tabo some 47Km away. For the past three days all the road signs had been indicating that Kaza to Tabo is 40Km, but now the signs are informing me its 47Km!

It's another quiet day on the lonely roads, nearly void of traffic.

The valley is still the same as the last few days, wide and brown with little to make me gasp in amazement. It's not as if it's amazing, it's just that I'm only covering 40Km per day so I can't expect too much in the way of scenic change.

Fortunately food is available at two villages on the way to Tabo, even if both stops are only for chai and two minute noodles, it's better than nothing and saves me arsing around.

The road is gently sloping down with only a few short power climbs that come as much relief.

I pass several gangs of female road workers who I guess walk along the road removing all the rocks that fall from the steep sides and they also sweep it clean, by hand. They are always well wrapped up to protect themselves from the sun head to toe and their headscarf's are wrapped around their heads to leave only a small slit for their eyes and it makes them look like a gang of ninjas! They are also always laughing and giggling as I pass by. Only wish I knew what the wenches are saying?

Within 5Km of Tabo the road becomes littered with thorns and I'm sure a puncture is on the way and sure enough with Tabo in sight I realize the right hand side tyre is flat, but for how long I don't know. I decide to push on regardless as it seems pointless repairing it with the homely comforts of a guesthouse less than 500m away. But as I plod along the tyre seems to be working it's way off so I stop and put some air in and do this several times until I reach a guesthouse.

I take a clean room for Rp200 and can't believe that this will be two clean beds in two days....amazing!

Anyway....I repair two punctures in the inner tube and then eat my first lot of food. When I can eat good food I'll take whatever I can.

With a full belly I head back to my room and start my diary, which is way behind. To be honest I get very little free time after walking over eight hours daily. Anyway....after about an hour of typing while laying on the bed I notice a bed bug making it's way onto the mattress and so I squash it and pull back the mattress only to find another one and that on also gets the same treatment.

Bed bugs are a real problem for many hotels and are an increasing problem in the western world. Most tourists around here stay only for one day and so obviously sees many nights in different beds. Many trekkers also return from the wilds having stayed in home stays and being around animals etc. Basically, tourists are perfect vehicles for bed bugs and fleas.

At this point I could loose it and demand another room but that will mean moving all my shit, which is strewn everywhere, so instead I take out my inflatable mattress and sleeping bag and doss for a night on the adventure in my hotel room!



30/8/08     Tabo to Hotel (N E ) 2942m

            44.6Km walked. 8.08Hrs. Up 564m. Down 902m.



I wake to find my tyre flat again, so take out the inner tube and stick it in a bucket of water only to find that there are another five punctures in the damn thing! Serves me right for not repairing it first off and now I'm out of puncture patches.

By the time I've filled my face and repaired many holes it's 9o'clock. Not a good early start that I was hoping for.

The problem when staying in guesthouses is they open late in the morning at around 7am and take ages readying the food. The good thing is the choice of food of course and it is usually freshness. It's just a trade off I suppose.

I make good pace having pigged out on good food for the last two days. After my down day I analyzed why I was feeling that way and of course it came down to crap food, so now I'm feeding my face at every opportunity. I was actually trying to do that before but I'd lapsed into bad habits. Now I'm powering along, full of Duracell energy like I as when I first started my trip.




31/8/08     Sango to Dubling (camping) (N31.45.143 E078.37.376)

            2554m. 57.3Km walked. 11.07hrs. Up 908m. Down 1393m.




1/9/08      Dubling to Skiba (N31.34.939 E076.22.583) 2161m.

            47.6Km walked. 8.19hrs. Up 507m. Down 996m.


I stick my head out of the tent at just after 6am to see where I planted myself the previous night and all is good. I'm about 10m from the road and a few meters from a high drop into the river below.

The nights sleep was pretty woeful from the pain in my shins but another day lays ahead and plenty of walking is to be done.

I pack all my shit together and head the 500m back into Dubling village to get some breakfast from a dhaba from the big bright yellow Maharaja Tea advert shop. They are just opening so I sit down in a pleasant court yard by the road that is drenched in sun. An old local guy is chanting 'Om Mani Padme Om' on the verandah above and an old lady with a horizontal back and wearing a traditional Kinnauri green and red hat walks around the yard sweeping it with a bunch of sticks. Friendly locals come and stare at my trolley and have some chit chat before my breakfast arrives. I've ordered two omlettes and two parathas and they also come with about 500g of dripping fat. The taste from the fat is barely bearable but I manage to shove 90% of it down my throat washed down by good chai.

I hit the road leaving the locals laughing behind. I climb for a few Km and initially set a cracking pace before both shins kick in and begin to give me big grief. It's the first time that I've had such pain from both shins. I try to massage them but it's very painful. I can feel the inflammation in the muscles and take my second last Ibuprofen tablet. With no chemist available over the past week my stocks have dwindled. I've also finished my Ibuprofen gel off as well.

The pain killers begging to work as I descend to Pooh but the pain is made worse by the downhill sections and I'm forced to stop and do some loooong stretches.

I remember Pooh as a harsh and dry place but this time there is a fair amount of green on the hills that is obviously more than 4 years old. I sometimes wonder what I was looking at 4yrs ago. Still....if you are going to have a green Pooh is has to be in India!

Moving on....passing Pooh the valley closes in, a steep drop to he river on my left and a steep wall of rock to my right, much of the road has been blasted from the rock. It's a very boring view indeed and around every corner seems to be the same.

A powerful wind picks up, screaming up the valley and pummels me on certain stretches. The wind also dislodges rocks above, showering me with small shrapnel stones and I cover my head with my hands just in case anything bigger may arrive.

After 29Km I arrive Spillow, a small town with a variety of grubby dhabas. I find one with nice paintwork and clean chairs and order Mutton Momos, dal and chapattis. I never really eat meat in India simply because to quality of the meat is terrible but for some reason they are now in the front of me and in true Indian fashion the meat is a mixture of rubber and gristle, so I order dal and chapattis to wash it down.

As the day drags on and the Kms start to climb into the 40's I begin to think about a place to sleep as I reach the town of Akpa. There is a rest house that I may be able to stay in but it's 2Km uphill and I simply can't be bothered with the effort of getting there on the maybe there is a room, so I continue.

Akpa passes quickly and I reach another small place. There's a dhaba with no rooms but I ask if I can sleep on the floor but with no luck, but they tell me I can camp for free. I tell them there are too many Indians around for comfort and they tell me this is no problem. I decide camping elsewhere is my only option and begin to fill my water bottles for the nights noodle session. Suddenly Indians appear from nowhere and form a good sized staring squad....and Indians are no problem they say!

I leave and walk down the hill, where I see a general store wit two local guys sitting outside. The shop is elevated, reaches by a dodgy set of stone and dirt steps and I'm standing next to a sizable ford crossing the road. I look up and ask them if they is a room available, to which the smiling guy nods. I ask him if this is a guesthouse to which he nods again. I'm doing the one thing one should never do to an Indian, and that's asking yes and no answers. They will generally smile and say yes to every question, even if they don't understand a word you are saying. In the past I have asked is this the way to the moon to be told 'yes'. I drop my trolley and trudge up the path saying to smiling Joe 'I don't know if you understand a single word I'm on about or if you are just nodding your head to every question I ask'? to which he replies in good English, 'this is not a guesthouse but I do have a room available for your use'! He brings me a cuppa while a boy goes to prepare the room.




2/9/08      Skiba to Rekong Peo








Due to a sick guesthouse chef I'm forced to take breakfast outside and as I'm walking through Rekong Peo I spy a small dhaba with trays of eggs so I duck inside and order. It's only when I've ordered that I take a look around the place and to say it's dirty, even by Indian standards would be an understatement! There is mess and filth everywhere and in the middle of the floor is either a rotting rat or a very old rancid potato. I can't make it out and fear to ask and the once yellow walls are now being used as a mass fly breeding area. Judging by the scum on the food preparation areas, shelves and shop in general I would safely bet that the guy hasn't been on a food hygiene course? One thing that always amazes me is how they store the chai glasses upside down on the said scummy surfaces when all it needs is a sheet of newspaper underneath to make it more hygienic and welcoming. That said, my omlette is as good as it gets and being fresh obviously well cooked and the old boy even frys my bread to go with it and so I order another one.



3/9/08      Sungri to Rampur

More chai and omlettes at the same useless restaurant as the previous night, this time waiting 25minutes for a cuppa that never arrived. target is 50Km to reach Rampur which is basically a downhill day.