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Bridget's Bike Blog

Mad about cycling mad about our furry friends mad about green living

El Pancito at the Races

A 10mth old cyclist can get more attention than one that has cycled continents

A 10mth old cyclist can get more attention than one that has cycled continents

el Pancito doesn't know this yet, but he lives in the heart of one of the cycling meccas in Africa! Howick is most famous for its rather impressive waterfall and the fact that it is the geriatric capital of the country, with more retirement homes than in any other town. However of late other attractions like the hundreds of kilometres of rocky, rolling, singletrack are becoming the reason to visit or live here! (10 May 2015)

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The Adventures of El Pancito: First Chariot Micro-Adventure

The first few kilometres of the 70km round trip journey involved some of the Howick and Karkloof well worn trails.

The first few kilometres of the 70km round trip journey involved some of the Howick and Karkloof well worn trails.

It was a matter of time that young Gabriel Gonzalez Ringdahl (aka El Pancito*) would head off on a micro-adventure** by bicycle. Having completed a 7km hike in the Darkensberg at 3mths, a 70km cycle trip at 6mths seemed like a moderate start to his cycling adventures. We tested the Thule Chariot so generously given to us by our friends Carla and William when he was around 3mths,  however despite the fabulous suspension system it was still a little on the bumpy side for such a small tot to head out on a proper adventure. Now a sturdy 6mth old  weighing over 8kg, el Pancito has been well accustomed to excursions in the chariot as a walker, so this next step was to test and see how he faired on a little trip into the Karkloof to meet some friends for the New Year at the beautiful Mbona reserve. Our trusty team included our dear friend  Cath Traynor, a surrogate auntie and bike and adventure enthusiast from the Cape. We were so grateful to have her chaperone us on this maiden voyage and document el Pancito's first baby bike 'steps'!

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Chamser Kangri, all of 6622m - Changthang Ladakh

The dazzling Tso Moriri with Chamsar Kangri (6622m) in the background viewed from the only village in the area Korzok at 4600m.

The dazzling Tso Moriri with Chamser Kangri  (6622m) in the background viewed from the only village in the area Korzok at 4600m.

It seems true that once you have been high, you always want to go higher (and  that is coming from someone who hates heights, freezing temperatures and exposed, risky edges.) Chamser Kangri is one of the many 6000m peaks in Ladakh that are less risky in that it is regarded as a so-called trekking peaks. That sounds about right for me, altitude is enough to deal with. We climbed it in September 2013, when conditions were perfect, except for the chill of autumn.

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The Highest Eco-School in the World

Approaching Phey village, there is always something so very soothing and beautiful about Ladakhi villages

Approaching Phey village, there is always something so very soothing and beautiful about Ladakhi villages.

One of the most inspirational discoveries of this trip was finding Secmol campus, an eco-school in every sense. The getting there was a 20km cycle down the truck-heaving 'highway' past the army barracks that litter the outskirts of Leh. The dusty ride continued past the airport where rumbling airbuses hovered above my head and the serene Spituk monastery clung desparetely to a rocky outcrop.  Following the mighty green-grey Indus river I arrived in Phey village, where the school is located on cut platform alongside the Indus.

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They Ran, We Cycled

On the way out of Leh, passing picturesque Ganglas village.

On the way out of Leh, passing picturesque Ganglas village.

The marathon itself is certainly the world's highest and arguably the toughest at an altitude of 3524m, while the Khardung-la Challenge can no doubt be the toughest high altitude race ever. An elite endurance race for anyone wishing to push their limits at oxygen deprived altitudes in beautiful landscapes, its not surprising that it only attracts a handful of runners (for the moment!), around 30.

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Residential Rumi: A Himalayan Dogumentary Part II

Rumi dog almost at the top of the Taglang-la pass (5300m) snacks on an egg. He ww

Our Himalayan hound Rumi dog who followed us for 200km to Leh in 2012. Here he is almost at the top of the Taglang-la pass (5300m) having an egg & chapati snack break.

“Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.” Poet Rumi


It has to be said that one of main motivations for wanting to return once more to Ladakh is summed up beautifully by poet Rumi's quote above. Last year our trip was enhanced by one special and unexpected member - Rumi-dog. We met him a few days from Leh near Tso Kar and he ran with us all the way over 5300m passes, through snow storms, and even when we dispairingly thought we'd lost him he would turn up at camp.  He was partially named after Rumtse village but like the poet, Rumi-dog, taught and reminded us all of,the beauty of  'when you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.' And it is with these very strong feelings I just knew I had to see our Rumi boy again. To see this story click here 'Roaming Rumi - A Himalayan Dogumentary' 

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and the pedaling continued: Sarchu - Leh

And so we pedaled on... more passes, road sign entertainment and enchanting views.

And so we pedaled on... more passes, road sign entertainment and enchanting views.

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Himalayan Cycling Food

Food is what keeps everyone pedaling and for good reason. Here Richard and Colleen arrive at campsite at the end of a long day. A an afternoon snack of freshly cooked chilli bites and tea wait them, soon to be followed by a dinner that is impossible to beat at this alitude

Food is one of the reasons that keeps everyone pedaling, and for good reason.  Here Richard and Colleen arrive at campsite at the end of a long day. An afternoon snack of freshly cooked chilli bites and tea await them, soon to be followed by a dinner that is impossible to beat at this altitude or any other for that matter.

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Remembering old friends of Chumigiarsa village

Every year we take a rest day in Sarchu and since 2011 have taken the hour and half long walk to the remote  village of Chumigiarsa. I love returning as I have got to know some of the wonderful people who live in this very isolated village. I can only at marvel at their resilience and ability to survive in these really harsh conditions. This year I was particularly looking forward to seeing Padme who I have known for all of 3 years and Dom Dom, probably the oldest man in the village. I could tell from a distance that this was little Padme and her mom in the fields.

Every year we take a rest day in Sarchu and since 2011 have taken the hour and half long walk to the remote village of Chumigiarsa. I love returning as I have got to know some of the wonderful people who live in this very extreme environment. I can only at marvel at their resilience and ability to survive in these really harsh conditions. This year I was particularly looking forward to seeing Padme who I have known for all, of her 3 years and Dom Dom, probably the oldest man in the village. I could tell from a distance that this was little Padme and her mom in the fields.

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Manali-Leh Highway 2013: Rhotang Pass (4000m) to Baralacha-la (4980)

Quaint Old Manali and Doongri village, mark the start of once more of the legendary Manali-Leh highway.

Quaint Old Manali and Doongri village, mark the start of the legendary Manali-Leh highway. Although my 5th time along this 600km epic route it never ceases to leave me in awe and amazement.

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Spain and the 'supermarket' bike

Setting off for our first exploratory ride from the 'Segur' beachfront.

Setting off for our first exploratory ride from the 'Segur' beachfront.

There is just about no way I can go on holiday and not fit in some riding, to me cycling = holiday. Although in this case I had resigned to the fact that it may not happen. Traipsing my bicycle to Spain for 10 days of family visiting  is just not worth it.  We investigated the possibility of hiring a bike at every bike shop we could find in the Segur de Calafell area (just south of Barcelona), none to be had.  But with some determination a friend of Carlos's mama said she had an old one stored in the basement.

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Day 4: The descent to Chamba

Lush and bountiful we relished most of the 113km down from 4400m to Chamba some 3000m below!

 

The next morning, we headed down a seemingly never-ending 113km to the more tropical climes of Chamba. Despite a rainy start we enjoyed having gravity on our side and whizzed through at least 5 vegetation zones: high altitude, flower meadows, alpine, deciduous forest and sub-tropical. Although downhill (mostly) it took a good 7hrs30 of surprisingly hard work. I have always found cycling at lower altitudes much tougher as  besides the much hotter temperatures, the humidity is so high and feels a lot harder than cycling higher, in 02-thin air at cooler, drier temps.

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Day 3: Finally, Crossing Sach Pass (4400m)

Just over half way, another 14km would take me 3hrs to finally summit Sach!

This is the toughest and most epic pass I have ever cycled. Although not as high as many of the other himalayan passes, Sach is steep! So steep that in many instances I resorted to pushing. It took me 7hrs30 to cycle 32km of up from 2200m to 44oom, (although the total days ride was actually 8hr30  (58km) taking into account the first 11km were downhill and then the 14km descent to the police check point over the other side).  While it was supremely tough it was also utterly stunning, and therefore will remain one of my favourites.

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Day 2 - to the Sach Pass (Udaipur to Kilar)

Leaving Udaipur we cycled through magnificent pine forests


For sure this must be one of the most beautiful routes that I have ever cycled.  It took us almost 8hrs to ride the 80km to Kilar for a number of reasons: really tough terrain of unmetaled, stony roads and scenery that we simply had to stop for, every couple of kilometres. The road slithered and climbed along the ever narrowing and harrowing Chandrabhagga river valley.

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Day 1 - On the way to the Sach (Saach) Pass

A few kilometres after Keylong we left the Manali Leh highway and followed the mighty Chandrabhagga river (2400m) which cuts through the spectacular Pangi valley.

The Sach (Saach) pass, one of the lesser known passes in Himachal Pradesh has always had a certain allure since friends Cass and Cara had cycled it 6 years before. They had rated it as the most beautiful and challenging they had ever cycled (and they really know the Himalayas). With a bit of back tracking from Leh, we set-off from Keylong and followed the confluence of the Chandra (moon) and Bhagga (sun) rivers which form the great Chandrabhagga (or Chenab) river which flows into Pakistan.

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Meeting old and new friends on the Manali Leh Highway

Insect-like Janet, negotiates her way down the Baralacha-la pass to the plains of Sarcchu where Chumikgiarsa village occurs dot-like beneath a crumbling mass of mountain.

There is always something to look forward to when returning. It may be small changes, like roadside flowers that you had never noticed before. There is also something comforting  in that nothing has changed either, in this case, no mountains have been moved! Then there is the anticipation of meeting old friends again and meeting new ones too.

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Roaming Rumi: A Himalayan Dogumentary

Rumi our special boy


'Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond' ~Rumi

This is our 4th year of running bike tours in the Indian Himalayas and I have to say that my enthusiasm and passion for this region has not waned, if anything I love it more every time. We are always so fortunate to have fantastic groups of cyclists, all of whom share a similar passion for adventure, making the trips so different and interesting. This year however, we were graced with a particularly special person who became a firm friend of the entire team and crept into all of our hearts. This is his story. Rumtse (Rumi) is a himalayan hound and a very special one indeed!

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Some reasons why I like the Himalayas

It's back to Ladakh and these are some of my reasons...


the landscapes

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Himalayan Hounds raise funds for African counterparts

Himalayan Hounds raise funds for African counterparts

Thanks to everyone for supporting 'Cycling with Himalayan Hounds'. R1,600 was raised for Funda Nenja, our local dog training initiative in Mpophomeni

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Cycling with Himalayan Hounds - fundraiser for Funda Nenja, township dog-training initiative

Funda Nenja roughly translates from isiZulu to “learning with the dog” and that about sums up what an enthusiastic group of people are doing in Mpophomeni just outside Howick. Every Friday afternoon sees a gathering of about 10 volunteers and 65 dogs with their handler -children coming together to share interspecies and multicultural communication.

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