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October 2019 Club News

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Ronnie and Adrian's India Ride

Story by Ronnie

Ronnie enjoying the view.
We had talked a lot about this trip and finally we made it happen. We flew to Delhi and while on the plane we got talking to the guy sitting next to us. He turned out to be the owner of the hotel we were going to stay at and he gave us a free taxi ride to the hotel.

Nice people already. Delhi, what can I say. You have to see it to believe it. It was 40+ degrees, no wind, smog, dust with beeping horns, cows and chaos.

Adrian getting to know his Enfield.We picked up our Royal Enfield 500 bullets and left early in the morning on compass out of this crazy city. We were told that we couldn't purchase phone or internet data. So there were no fancy Google maps for us, just the old-fashioned way.

We kept going north for 1.5 hours until we saw the first town/city signs. When we passed the city Chandigarh we took the small roads to Bilaspur where we booked a room. We started to climb in to the foothills of the Himalayas, very exciting.

We headed towards Srinagar via all the back roads. The roads were in all sorts of state. That's why the average speed was 40-50km/h. The scenery was amazing. Roadblocks by the military were the norm of the day. Passport check, where are you going, what are you doing here, where did you come from today, were some of the questions they asked.

At the time Kashmir was a no-go zone for foreigners, but if you want to do the loop you have to go through Srinagar. By now Adrian had picked up a dust infection in his lungs and was not well. After a few days of antibiotics and a visit to the local hospital he was ready to go again.

We had better be fit because we were going to climb to higher altitudes. Srinagar is the place with all the houseboats and mosques galore. It was the end of Ramadan and one prayer after another came blasting out of the speakers.

The road from Srinagar to Kargil was spectacular over Zojila pass at 3530m. In Kargil we bought some fuel containers for the trip to Padum. Nobody could tell us if there was any fuel in Padum. 6 o'clock start for the 250km trip.

Enfield hitting a high water-crossing.
Some amazing views of 7000m peaks. It took us 11.5 hours to get to the village. After a beer and nice food we slept well. The next day the rain came as a surprise even for the locals. Being at 4000m it turned very quickly into snow.

So we hung around the hotel the whole day. The next day was no better and the locals had shut most shops. Penzila pass was closed for at least three days, bummer. When the weather cleared and the pass was open after 3 days we made an early start.

Ronnie and Adrian on the Penzila.
The road was in worse condition so it took 1.5h longer. We slept extremely well that night too. A sleep-in and on our bikes again for a beautiful road ahead to Leh. The scenery changed every hour. This road was mostly bitumen and in good shape with nice sweeping bends.

Buddhist prayer flags in Leh.
In Leh we booked a recommended hotel and organized permits for the next valleys. We had lunch with a friend we met in Padam and had beer out of a teapot. Because some days of the months are dry days they can't sell beer, but us Australians know our way around it.

So we mentioned to pour the beer in a teapot so it looked like we were drinking tea. The next day...guess what: RAIN again. We left early so we would miss the check post that checks if the bikes are rented in Delhi. There is a bit going on between rental companies from Delhi and Leh.

Useful information for travellers.
The check-post can send you back to Leh and you have to hire a bike in Leh to do Nubra and Pangong valley. We missed them. As we were climbing, the rain turned into snow. We were now about 5 km from the highest rideable road in the world and the gate was closed. The guard told us to wait 2 hours, maybe the pass would be open by then.

We waited a bit and three trucks went through. Adrian said: “On your bike! We follow them”. I said “What about the guard?” He said “Don't worry. “ And off we went. Another 1km of bitumen and then gravel.

Slipping and sliding and a 1000m drop off the side. Not a good idea. After maybe 500m we couldn't go any further, the bikes were running like shit and we did a few 360's. A 4x4 came past and the guy said; "You two - officer says go back - you show permits!" Oops completely forgot about our permits. I said to Adrian "Your idea, you can talk us out of Indian jail".

The officer was okay but the pass was closed for two days. Back in Leh, same hotel, we checked the weather and the forecast was rain for Manali. So we made the decision to head towards Manali. Then we headed for Pang, it was a nice day. This road is well travelled by motorcyclists.

Plenty of people from the plains of India who want to see the snow. They have all the safety gear: shoulder, knee and elbow pads but no helmet! Most of them also think it is not cold near snow, looking at their gear.

Nice dirt road with a view.
We were crossing Taglang pass 5328m and it was pretty amazing. At Pang we stayed overnight in a tent. Pretty basic but with blankets weighing a ton, we were warm as.

Keylong here we come,with three passes and unbelievable scenery. What a day and we couldn't get over the amount of snow and ice. Sometimes I reckon 4 to 5 meters high.

After Keylong you have the option to go east or south over Rothang pass. As that is the main road it is packed with people going up to the pass. The pass east was still closed so we had to go over Rothang and you have never seen anything like it.

Having fun in a Himalayan traffic jam.
There was a traffic jam going up for at least 15 km. Being single lane, they blocked our half as well by overtaking. Us on bikes, couldn't even sneak past!

Finally, Manali where we were going to stay two nights. Lots of tourists and hotels. Now we were safe weatherwise and we headed towards Landsdown. These are called "hill stations" where the English people would go on holiday and escape from the heat.

Riding in the snowy river.
From Manali we went over Jalori pass at still 3220m. The landscape changed to more forest. One of the roads we rode took us to a town where foreigners are not allowed because off the military. We got moved on and couldn't stay in any hotel.

After 60km we finally booked into a hotel. The most expensive and flashest one so far. They warned us about the noise because there was a pre-wedding party. Later on we got invited to the party. No alcohol at this party so we didn't stay long. It was getting hotter again and in Landsdown we booked accommodation for three nights.

Again - did we have trouble finding a place. It looks to me that every person is involved/or works for the military. There are bases everywhere. The stay was nice and we talked to some young guys who came from Delhi to escape the heat and enjoy nature. The smog was terrible, you couldn't see the other mountains for days.

When the last day to Delhi came, we both didn't look forward to this day. Adrian started to feel sick again. We left early to beat the heat. Near Delhi we had some help from police and locals and in the end we found the hotel pretty quick.

Phew what a trip this was. Would I do it again? For sure - but then we wouldn't go to Delhi again. Hire the bikes from Manali or Leh. Our trip had of course heaps more adventures and great things along the way but then this story would be miles long. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it and that it gave you inspiration to do the same.

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