Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race Ultramarathon, India: Arrival in Mirik, acclimatization, and a bit of tourism too!

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Race headquarters: town of Mirik, India

At long last, I am finally posting pictures of my amazing adventures in India! For those of you who don’t know, in October and November I ran the Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race, a 160 km staged ultramarathon, run over five days in northern India. For most of the first three days, we were running right along the border of India and Nepal. Yep, altitude was an issue (everyone asks me that – so I’m just getting that part over with). The route was roughly a big loop (with a few out-and-backs thrown in), starting around 2000 m / 6000′, and heading up that first day to nearly 3600 m / 12,000′, and staying that high for the next two days, until descending back to around 2000 m /6000′ for the final two days.

You can read my complete ultramarathon race reports, from each day of racing, on SleepMonsters – THE place to go for adventure racing news. But I didn’t post many pictures there – so here, in these coming blog posts, are the photographic highlights of this amazing running event. The photos that I’ll post this  week will show far better that words ever could what my experience, running in the Himalayas, was like…  Enjoy!

First view of the Himalayas, flying Delhi-Bagdogra.

First view of the Himalayas, flying Delhi-Bagdogra.

This post is what I call “Day 0” – the day (really nearly two days) before the race. We flew into the town of Bagdogra, in the Darjeeling region, northeastern India, on Friday October 25th. By the time that everyone had convened at the Bagdogra airport, and then had travelled in a little diesel bus on impossibly narrow roads, winding our way up to the village of Mirik, which is race headquarters, it was evening. The next day was an acclimatization day – with a tour to Darjeeling departing at 6am for those who were up to another 6 or so hours in the bus (there and back) – and a lower-key tour of Mirik for those, like me, who weren’t up to the bus ride. Then it was early to bed, ready for another 2 hour bus ride to the race start at the village or Rimbik.

Here are my pix from “Day 0,” Bagdogra and Mirik.

The Spanish team, from Banco Santander, at Bagdogra Airport.

The Spanish team, from Banco Santander, at Bagdogra Airport.

That bus ride, from Bagdogra to Mirik. Not sure how we squeezed past this kid and his cow.

That bus ride, from Bagdogra to Mirik. Not sure how we squeezed past this kid and his cow.

Race briefing in Mirik that night.

Race briefing in Mirik that night.

Next day, on our toru of Mirik - all the hillside plantations growing Darjeeling tea.

Next day, on our tour of Mirik – all the hillside plantations growing Darjeeling tea.

Women picking tea.

Women picking tea.

Mirik village - streets not exactly designed for buses.

Mirik village – streets not exactly designed for buses.

A very interesting and pretty town - while their standard of living is not the same as ours, most of the people are definitely  not living in poverty. The houses are nice, people are well dressed - they just don't have all of the luxuries and excesses that we consider "normal."

A very interesting and pretty town – while their standard of living is not the same as ours, most of the people are definitely not living in poverty. The houses are nice, people are well dressed – they just don’t have all of the luxuries and excesses that we consider “normal.”

Mirik village - houses all brightly painted, with lots of flowers in front of every one.

Mirik village – houses all brightly painted, with lots of flowers in front of every one.

Just up the hill from the main village, the water source. People were carrying huge containers down to their houses, as well as washing right here.

Just up the hill from the main village, the water source. People were carrying huge containers down to their houses, as well as washing right here.

We continued up the hill to a monastery… unfortunately, although our guided tour took us to some interesting locations, there was no actual guide who explained anything to us. Fortunately I could google it after the fact – turns out the monastery that we went to has a website. It is the Bokar Monastery – consecrated by the Dalai Lama, and construction  commenced only in 2001. (Umm, that mountain on their Welcome Page was not there when I was there…)

Going up the hill to the Bokar Monastery.

Going up the hill to the Bokar Monastery.

While we were there, the monks were practicing for some dance or ritual that they would be performing in December.

While we were there, the monks were practicing for some dance or ritual that they would be performing in December.

Inside the Bokar Monastery.

Inside the Bokar Monastery.

The altar (I'm not sure if that's the right word for it?).

The altar (I’m not sure if that’s the right word for it?).

And I'm definitely not sure what the Oreos are for!  Offerings? Or incentives for tired monks?

And I’m definitely not sure what the Oreos are for! Offerings? Or incentives for tired monks?

A pensive monk.

A pensive monk.

Sculptures in front of the monastery.

Sculptures in front of the monastery.

This is the view from the monastery, back to the hotel we were staying in in Mirik - the big yellow building.

This is the view from the monastery, back to the hotel we were staying in in Mirik – the big yellow building.

And here's the view from my hotel over town. There's a lake down below.

And here’s the view from my hotel over town. There’s a lake down below.

There, down by the water, were a number of horseback riders (offering to take tourists for a ride).

There, down by the water, were a number of horseback riders (offering to take tourists for a ride).

And here's the view across the lake... very peaceful.

And here’s the view across the lake… very peaceful.

It was good wandering around town and stretching my legs. But it was also worrisome, how much I could feel the altitude while walking up the hill to the monastery. The altitude here was nothing compared to what we would deal with tomorrow, Day 1 of the race…

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