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Sun 9 Oct: Delhi

We arrived in the morning and checked into the Claridges Hotel. In the afternoon we visited Bookworm in Connaught Circle and bought the Nest and Wings guide which accompanied us for the rest of the trip. Delhi was hot.

Mon 10: Delhi–Mussoorie

A

Padmini Nivas

frustrating 8-hour taxi ride. The road is urban at first and then crosses rather dull plains as far as Dehra Dun. Night had fallen, and the lights of Mussoorie hung above us on a ridge. The driver had never been here before, and showed an uncharacteristic caution as he negotiated the hairpins. We stayed in the Padmini Nivas. Mussoorie was cold.

Tues 11: Mussoorie (47km, 1070m ascent)

Mussoorie is okay. We reassembled the bikes and in the afternoon dropped down to the plains in the direction of Dehra Dun for the pleasure of climbing back up and testing our bikes. Tracey’s wrist altimeter immediately started to complain of a low battery.

Weds 12: Mussoorie–Barkot (95km, 1050m)

The road

Fields

drops down behind Mussoorie, past the Kempty Falls beloved of Indian daytrippers, eventually reaching the Yamuna river at Yamuna Bridge (about 770m). The valley north gains height gently, passing through lush rice fields, eventually reaching the uninspiring town of Barkot, where we stayed at the GMVN resthouse.

Thurs 13: Barkot–Janki Chatti (50km, 1600m)

The road

Amaranth

continues up the valley, gradually becoming steeper and more prone to losing height, especially when crossing the Yamuna or its side streams. The villages remain largely traditional. The crop changes from rice to stunning crimson amaranth.

There are occasional glimpses of the Bandarpunch mountains at the head of the valley. The route passes through the small villages of Syana Chatti and Rana Chatti; soon tarmac gives way to a difficult rough surface. Hanuman Chatti is the former roadhead, now seemingly more of a potato depot. Eventually we rolled into Janki Chatti as clouds began to threaten.

Notes: We stayed at the Arvind Annex, which was okay. The GMVN resthouse looks quite pleasant from the outside, but is a little further on beyond the end of the road.

During this ride we had the second of our misfortunes with altimeters: the sender of Colin’s computer lost its top. All our readings from now on were partly manual.

Fri 14: Janki Chatti–Yamunotri–Barkot (12km/600m on foot, 50km/400m riding)

We left our bikes at Janki Chatti for the steep walk to Yamunotri.

View down

The trail is well made, clinging to the side of a precipitate valley (and occasionally projecting from it on flimsy-looking struts). Indian visitors often hire ponies or dholies/dandies, which are litters carried by four porters. Children and frail old women are carried on the backs of porters.

Yamunotri

We were early and ahead of the traffic. Yamunotri is a small pilgrim village with a temple and hot springs. The stalls provide food and religious offerings. Mountains rise almost vertically behind it.

We had breakfast and walked briskly back to Janki Chatti. Immediately across the stream from here is the village of Kharsali, noted for its temple but equally interesting for its unspoilt traditional architecture. Like many places in Garhwal, it reminds the visitor more of Nepal than of other parts of India.

The temple itself

Kharsali

is several storeys high, and could as easily be a fortification or a granary as a religious building. The local boys will show you around for a few rupees and a temple offering. The children of Garhwal have not been spoilt by tourists, and haven’t learnt to pester for one pen, one rupee, one bonbon.

It was still not lunchtime. We got back on our bikes and bumped down to Hanuman Chatti for a meal. From here it was an easy sunny ride down to Barkot.

Sat 15: Barkot–Netala (90km, 1400m)

From the bend near Barkot

Rarighati Khal

a mountain road heads directly to the Bhagirathi valley, crossing the Rarighati Khal at about 2240m. It’s a lovely climb, zigzagging first through terraced fields, then through forests. At the summit is a small temple and a tea stall. The descent follows a lush valley, meeting the Bhagirathi at Dharasu Bend. From here to Uttarkashi there is more traffic than we saw elsewhere, and more than we prefer for a cycling holiday. We rode a little beyond Uttarkashi to the village of Netala.

Notes: We stayed at the Mahima Resort, which was inexpensive and quite attractive.

The road is not quite safe as it bypasses Uttarkashi. It lies below an unstable hillside which discharges the occasional rock onto travellers.

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