A few years ago during my ride to Leh i had heard about a place called Padum in the Zanskar valley and decided on my way to Leh I would go and visit. This was a beginning of the season and the roads were still covered with snow and large amounts of water form the melting ice flowed on the road. I managed to get to Kargil and found a place to camp at night next to this park. As luck would have it the place i was camping at was rented by someone who ran a hotel at Padum. He was the Chief of the village and at that time the only engineer from that place. During the course of the evening over a drink he told me a bunch of things about the place. I discovered that the only way to get there was from Kargil and instead of going towards Leh I would need to take another road that passed through a small bunch of villages and went towards Padum. Apparently the roads are so messed up that it would take me 2 days to get there.
Early next morning i left Kargil on the way to Padum. After a really hard day of riding which included a couple of falls and my ass landing on the ice managed to get close enough to a town called Rangdum. Just as i got close enough into the town there was this river that flowed through the road. Since it was my first ride i did not know the water would be ice cold that i should take off my shoes before attempting to ride through. The moment i rode through the water my foot almost went numb. For the next couple of kms i had to ride without shoes and was shivering. Finally found a house that doubled up as a guesthouse. Quickly sat next to the fire and warmed up. The wonderful part of getting to Rangdum was the road had only opened a day earlier and i was the first person through. The area is so primitive that everything runs on Solar since electricity hasn’t reached there yet.. There are no cell phone towers and people watch dvd’s on really small screens once in a while.
Now for the exciting part. After this long journey i wanted to use the Loo. I went in and looked around for the pot, couldn’t find one. I discovered a hole in the ground. Sos here’s how it goes. There is a bucket of mud at the side so after you are done, you will bury the poo with mud. Its brilliant. Everything turns into manure for plants to grow. Its clean and no smell what soever. After this have i started burying my poo every time i go out camping. So every time i go out on a bike ride and cant find a loo and have to go into a field i use mud to cover up. Its convenient.
The next morning i discovered that the road to Padum wasn’t open yet. Walked around in Rangdum which had a monastery at the end of the street and a shop where one can buy a pack of smokes and cookies. This little town has about 400 people living there and everyone goes to college in Leh. The road to Kargil is open only in summer. Everyone stocks up and makes sure all there transactions happen before the winter sets in. During winter schools and colleges are open since kids really cant go back home from Leh. The only unsettling part is incase there is a medical emergency you cannot get out. The last i heard was the government was building a road to connect Padum and Rangdum to Leh that could stay open all year around. Its brilliant how people live this cutoff without even electricity. Inspite of everything the people there are hospitable and amazing.
The learnings on this ride were amazing. the difference between Rangdum and Olkhon Island in Russia was that the loo on Lake Bhaikal was disgusting. Its a hole and no mud around and stinks. Cathy refused to go to the loo there. We went to a really high end restaurant that charges about 300 rubles for a cup of coffee for her to go to the loo. To pee she choose to go in the bushes rather than the loo. May i should have taught those guys about burying stuff in mud. I also learnt how to ride in water, and why it is important to take off my shoes before i rode through ice cold water. This is something i have used in the last few years while i went back to Leh and when i rode to Nepal.