May 14, 2010
What a sight? A thin ribbon of a road, snaking its way down to a green valley below. No traffic, unless you consider goats and sheep traffic. Blue skies. The warm sun on my face. This was a downhill well earned.
I'd already been cycling in India for four months. The crush of humanity--sometimes overwhelming, sometimes fascinating, and occasionally maddening. So the less populated mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh in northern India at the base of the Himalayas was a welcome respite.
I coasted down this scenic stretch as it descended over 5,000 vertical feet. All the while thinking to myself, "Boy, am I glad I'm not going the other direction." Rides and roads like this can put your face in danger of cracking from excessive smiling. Spontaneous laughter and giggling your vocal cords haven't produced since primary school can pour out from the depths of your soul.
The road finally flattened out and I pedaled into Chamba. Time to drink some tea and wander through the street stalls for something to eat before pressing on.
What I hadn't planned on was the wall of snow that was to greet me on the other side of town. I stared at the road that disappeared into the snow and ice. The only way out of Chamba was by helicopter ... or by pedaling back up the mountain road I had just coasted down.
What a piece of luck ... or ill-planning. But on the positive side--I knew the road well, every bend and curve. But instead of 30 mph, I now had the privilege of experiencing it at 5 mph ... minus the laughter and giggling.
Photo by Willie Weir
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday. Willie Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His books, Travels with Willie and Spokesongs, will inspire you to hit the road, and might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can read about their adventures at http://yellowtentadventures.com.