Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Dec 24: Climb to Darjeeling(part 1 of 2)

It was 6:15 by the time I got out of the hotel. I was out of Teesta
Bazaar in a jiffy. And then the climb started from an altitude of
234m. First 300m of climbing and I was gasping for breath and wet with
sweat. Very hard climb this one, they call it a 'khadi chadhai', and
that really means that one has to pedal standing to climb!

The first lesson I learnt was : never stop in the middle of the climb.
The climb was so steep that generating enough momentum to start again
was very difficult. With some pressure applied on the pedals, the
front wheel comes up in the air – wheelies are free :-)

Climbing this was hard enough. There were two other annoyances. The
first one: it was a single road, and honking by the vehicles coming
from behind tended to break my concentration – leading to me stopping!
The second annoyance: bad road. It's hard enough climbing the steep
climb. Rocks coming in the way make it that much more harder.

At an altitude of 1200m or so, the row of snow-capped peaks, dominated
by Kanchenjunga pops into view. And stays put for a long time indeed.
Magnificient sight! How I wish it was a bit less foggy.

After climbing a few more 'khadi' chadhaies, I learnt my second
lesson: don't climb standing! Instead, bend forward and climb.
Climbing standing wastes way too much energy heaving the whole body up
and down. This was a valuable technique I figured, and used it to
great advantage for the remaining part of the climb.

Heavy breakfast at Lopchu (1500m?). The locals get their water supply
by running pipes from the hills. Surprisingly, there are no taps (I
noticed this in a public toilet) – and this wastes a lot of water!

The next few kilometers was the steepest part of the climb. The road
had small pebbles and gravel at times – making it close to impossible
to climb at times. The back wheel would just spin and the bike would
stop. So when I stopped, I had to push the bike to a place without
gravel and then start climbing again!

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