Riding the Himalaya's Razorback on the Enfield 350

Discussion in 'Global Trip Reports' started by FB666Y, Oct 5, 2007.

  1. It was almost not to be. Though I felt a bit off, the opportunity was too good to miss - I had a track session in Pasir Gudang early National Day and by afternoon I had a fever of 39degress. The doctor was not too enthusiastic - he took a sample of my blood to check for dengue, as he put it.

    But the medicine had me sorted out, and by the time I had to take the plane the fever had gone down, and with a sense of trepidation that I might have dengue, I was on the plane and deposited into a balmy Delhi in about 6 hours.

    Almost a year in the planning, this trip was promising to be quite a ride: A 900+ kilometres trip into Leh from Manali, through the Himalayas and some of the highest mountain passes in the world; thereon to Srinagar from Leh.

    In Delhi I managed to snag an Enfield Thunderbird, a 350cc four stroke in Karol Bagh - a place choked with bikes and spares:

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    Karol Bagh

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    Karol Bagh

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    Karol Bagh

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    Identity Crisis

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    The Thunderbird

    The First Leg: Delhi - Shimla
    The day started well, the rental shop gave me a ride out of town. Delhi is not a place you want to do much riding. It's a chaotic mess, more bumper car than proper driving. There are no rules when driving in India - it makes for very hectic and dangerous driving.

    We rode for about 150km through sunshine before the wheather turned vicious: the rain started lashing down pretty good. It was crazy for a while - riding two up and trying to keep the bike upright through ankle deep waters that were churning round street corners and there was the Thunderbird, splonking through large potholes. The rain was so bad even the cows were off the streets and standing under awning giving us looks as we passed.

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    The Delhi - Amritsar highway. Pretty smooth, most of it anyways

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    At a gas station in Chandigarh. In case youre wondering what the plastic cans are for, theyre for the fuel I need to carry cause there arent that many gas stations on my route.

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    A rare let up in the rain.

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    A glimpse of Shimla

    Unfortunately I didnt get the chance of take much pictures. The rain came on so suddenly I didnt even have the chance to put on my rain pants or rain covers. By the time we got to Shimla I was cold and freezing!

    Some scenes from Shimla
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  2. The Second Leg: Shimla - Manali
    The day started miserably, holding on to the coattails of the previous day. We made our way out of Shimla in the drizzle, but the wheather improved the further into Himachal Pradesh we went.

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    Narrow mountain roads - this was a constant: roads so narrow it was amazing how the Indians squeezed pass themselves.

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    Mud

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    More mud

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    Tea stop - by now the sun was beginning to show itself

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    Another constant - rockfalls

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    184kilometres to Manali

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    Coming out of Bilaspur

    Everything came undone a few kilometres outside of Bilaspur - mudslides had made the road impassable. A long queue of cars, trucks and buses stood aimless around, waiting for the heavy cranes to restore sanity. Riding a bike does have advantages: most bikers were having a go at the mudslide. I managed halfway through the first slide, halfway through the second one before I bogged down in squelching mud halfway up t my knees. Bummer.

    Somehow I madeit through with the help of a bunch of locals who lifted the bike over the worst of the mudslide. I was thinking was out of the woods and Manali was still a good possibility. Boy was I ever wrong: there was an even bigger mudslide ahead - the path took the bike down the road till at a point where all the bikers had to gun the bike over a 2 metre hedge. By then the cranes were there and laid a steep 70 degree muddle slope. The Thunderbird made it through, barely, with a dozen hands grabbing the bike to ease it over.

    The bike was caked with mud, my rain covers were gone, sucked in by the mud, my shoes were more brown than black, but somehow I was out on the other side. Now all I had was about 5 kilometres of backed up traffic to navigate. Abreast the trucks werent giving much space - did I mention the entire road clung along the side of a mountain, and I had to thread the Thunderbird along the edge - trucks on my right and a sheer cliff edge to the left. At a point I even had to give that meagre space up for an elephant (you heard right) that was lumbering up.

    Incredible India!

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    Trying to get to the front

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    Traffic backed up

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    That not the mudslide

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    This is the mudslide

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    Well and truly stuck

    It was somewhat of a pity I didnt take too many pictures - wished I did. But man, I was way too busy getting myself out that mud.
     
  3. The Second Leg Continued: Mandi - Manali
    By the time I was sorted out it was pushing 5 in the afternoon and I was bushed. We decided to stay in the nearest town, Mandi, and carry on to Manali the next day. Come morning we were out in the sunshine and we had a comfortable ride to Manali.

    Some pictures from the Kulu Valley ride:

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    Some shots from Manali:
    Im not doing Manali much justice with these few pictures - its actually a very pretty place in beautiful alpine setting:

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  4. The Third Leg: Manali - Jispa - Sarchu - Leh
    The next morning we started out at 7am, hoping to beat the crowd. The Thunderbird barged its way past many trucks, slipped and slid on the sharp slopes up to the first pass: Rohtang Pass.

    The roads were atrocious - correction, there wasnt much of a road - mud mixed with stones both small and large make for a very slippery ascent up. By the time we got up, there were patches of blue in the sky.

    As we got higher a vulture swopped out of the morning mist - there was a calf on the mountain that was on its last breath.

    Manali to Leh was taken in small steps, firstly to enjoy the scenery and secondly to aclimatise to the high altitudes. Due to some Indian National Day celebration we couldnt find a place to stay in Keylong, a smallish town. Instead we had to settle for Jispa, a small village with a hotel, a further 30km from Keylong. Even though we did about 130km on the first day they felt like a thousand kilometres - the roads were aweful, the 20km from Keylong to Jispa was basically rocks. The bike vibrated so much through those rocks the fuel cap came undone and flew off - as far as I knew its still somewhere along the road. I had to use the hotel's bathing cap and a rubber band to keep the fuel from evaporating!

    However despite that the scenery was awesome, huge mountains sprang up around every bend, each one more larger than the last. You can see huge waterfalls from the melting snow, and most mountains peaks were snow capped. The country was rugged and amazing.

    Now the pics:

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    Out of Manali, early morning and cold

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    Almost the top of Rohtang Pass

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    Couple of coffeeshops there

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    A vulture drying out its wings and giving us the stare as we pass by

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    Top of Rohtang Pass

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    A dhaba, or coffeshop on the other side of the pass. The two of us had aloo prathas and tea for 50 Rupees or $2

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    Tandi gas station - no more for the next 360km till Leh

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    Another water hazard - there are numerous streams you will have to cross on this leg

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    The little village of Jispa

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    Our hotel, nestled among hulking snow capped mountains and the Beas River
     
  5. The Third Leg(Continued): Manali - Jispa - Sarchu - Leh
    The day was clear and bright and sunny - in fact we didnt have any trouble with the wheather untill we returned to Delhi. Everyday was gloriously bright, more so for people from the tropics because the wind was very cold. Standing in the shade was an easy way to start shivering, we spent as much time in the sun as possible, and might have gotten a few shades of brown because of it.

    We had an easy (if there's such a thing) ride of 80ish kilometres to Sarchu where we had a tent waiting for us. We rode through gorgeous scenery again and came up Zing Zing Bar (4287metres) - with a name like that I expected something more than just a couple of shacks! After Zing Zing Bar it was uphill to Baralacha La (5029metres). The thunderbird, like its occupants was panting by the time we were up. The headaches which started in Jispa were pounding here, the situation somewhat compounded by the bad roads - our brains were rattling in the helmets.

    From the top it was mostly downhill through bad roads to Sarchu and the tents.

    The tents are pretty basic - just beds with thick blankets. Its pretty awefully cold in Sarchu, youre looking at 6 or 7 degrees celsius. The wind swoop down the valley (its a pretty high valley mind you - at 3.8km above sea level) in a steady howling stream. There's absolutely nothing to do in Sarchu except maybe tend to your headache and look at the raw vistas that stretch out before you. I will not even go into the pretty basic toilet facilities - taking a dump in a small tent in a toilet bowl that's propped up by slabs of rock while the freezing wind ruffles and howls around the tent can be very exciting - enough said.

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    More from around Jispa

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    The scenery was food for the eyes

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    More streams fed by snow melting high up in the mountains

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    I wont say bad roads!

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    Zing Zing Bar arounds

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    Zing Zing Bar arounds

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    Zing Zing Bar arounds

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    Zing Zing Bar arounds

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    Baralacha La - 5029metres. I just stood up and took a a couple of pics.

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    Baralacha La - 5029metres. We stayed maybe about 20 seconds before we moved on!

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    Dhabas - bloody in the middle of nowhere, but the tea was very good!

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    Finally at Sarchu.

    Pictures from around Sarchu:

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  6. The Third Leg (Continued): Manali - Jispa - Sarchu - Leh
    The final day on the Leh ride. We got up early after a restless night - I was up every hour wondering how long I had before daybreak. We were off by 7am and boy it was bloody cold in the shadows of the mountains.

    First up were the Gata Loops, a collection of bends that resemble a long twisted noodle. That got us up to the first pass of the day: Nakee La at 4.7km. Next up was Lachulung La at 5.06km. From there it was mostly bumpy rocks till Pang, a tent town. From Pang it was onwards to the Moores Plains which are situated in a plateau at 4.6km above sea level. You might otherwise considering how flat the terrain is and how the mountain sprout out on both side of the plateau like tooths.

    The Moores Plain was pretty bad even though I heard otherwise. There were roadworks going on, and sections of the road was 2 foot deep sand. The Thunderbird spent some time trying to twist upon itself. It also blew a fuse here - for a while there it was panic station as I was trying to figure out what was wrong with the bike. I didnt fancy getting stuck in the middle of nowhere!

    After Moores it was upwards again to Tanglang La at 5.35km. Did I say there are no roads, just rocks - big rocks! The views at the top were impressive. Then it was downhill, shuddering all the way to Leh where the roads improved.

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    Gata Loops

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    Gata Loops

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    Gata Loops

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    At the top - Nakee La

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    Traffic Jam. The place a couple of large rocks under the front wheel of the army truck

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    That lifted the army truck and provided that couple of inch for the tanker to scrap metallicly through

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    Approaching Pang

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    Pang

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    Moores Plains - doesnt look like its more than 4km above sea level

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    Moores Plains

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    Moores Plains

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    Tanglang La

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    Tanglang La

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    Ladakh and getting closer to Leh

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    Just outside of Leh

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    Finally in the guest house in Leh

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    Guest house in Leh

    Some pictures from around Leh:

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    the twisty back alleys of Leh

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    the view from our guesthouse

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    Guy's Kawasaki broke down in Pang - about 150km from Leh

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    Its amazing what you can put on the top of a bus!

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    View from Shanti Stupa at dusk

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    View from Shanti Stupa at dusk

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    Shanti Stupa
     
  7. The Fourth Leg: Leh - Kargil - Srinagar
    Next up was a comfortable 400km saunter to the Kashmir valley and Srinagar with an overnight stop in Kargil. The 200km stretch to Kargil took us about 6 hours and through mostly good roads (subjective here - compared to what we have been riding on!).

    Leaving Leh we managed to pass the Dalai Lama who had a long train of cars following him. The roads were lined with people hoping to glimpse the Dalai Lama and had to deal with a dusty Enfield till the Dalai Lama drove by. The high road through Lamaruyu was amazing, though I didnt get any proper pictures of the thousand year old monastery there. We bumped into a bunch of Polish riders who had shipped their bikes over to India and were footloose and fancyfree through the Himalayan and Zanskar ranges with the BMWs and Africa Twins.

    Kargil was pretty dull. We didnt do much except watch tv - miraculously they had satellite tv and managed to catch the Motogp. The next day we were held up in Kargil while the local school had a race on the local roads. We finally got on the road and made our way to Zoji La Pass, the pass that pass from the brown Ladakh ranges into the green verdant valleys of Kashmir.

    Zoji La Pass itself was in a terrible state - large rocks, exceeding narrow roads, and potholes so large they were craters.

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    Out of Leh we bumped into a Polish ragtag bunch of riders

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    Lamaruyu

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    One of the many quirky roadsigns put up by BRO

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    Lamaruyu

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    Approaching Kargil

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    Kargil

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    Kargil

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    Kargil

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    Hmmm - the enemy is evidently just over the hills. Close to where the Pakistani came over in 99

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    A village just outside of Kargil

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    A village just outside of Kargil

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    Approaching Zoji La Pass

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    Climbing the Zoji La Pass

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    The top

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    Tourist - you find them everywhere nowadays - this bunch took a bus up.

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    The road down the pass and into Kashmir

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    Going down - I wouldnt even call that a road!

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    The green Kashmiri valley

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    More from Kashmir

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    More from Kashmir

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    More from Kashmir

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    More from Kashmir

    Pictures from Srinagar, with the Daal Lake and several mosques:

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  8. The Fifth Leg: Srinagar - Amritsar
    A 430ish kilometre jaunt, the ride to Amritsar was done in one day. We went from the cool valleys of Kashmir into the dry and hot plains of Punjab. The road was mostly good - early morning in Srinagar and the road to Jammu saw loads of military personnel combing the road and surrounding countryside for mines. The day passed pretty much uneventfully and by 6pm we were in Amritsar.

    We did a bit of a walkabout in Amritsar, and the evening the next day we went down to the Wagah border to watch the border closing ceremony. More of that on YouTube here - . Its a bit of a show the 2 sides put up with flag waving and goose step marching and taunting.

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    Last looks at Kashmir

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    Last looks at Kashmir

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    Last looks at Kashmir

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    Last looks at Kashmir

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    Last looks at Kashmir

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    The Golden Temple in Amritsar

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    From around Amritsar

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    Attari Wagah Border Ceremony

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  9. Nothing much to say about the last day on the bike. A 500km kilometre jaunt went smoothly till about a 100km from Delhi when a stray spoke peeled back the chainguard, pushing it rearwards. Luckily it didnt get stuck in the wheel, and after taking off the wheel I managed to hammer it back to place. It held for another 70km but by then it was raining and I made it into Delhi and back to the bikeshop with the chainguard rubbing against the spokes.

    And thats about it.

    Some pictures from around Delhi, and the Taj Mahal (which I managed in a day trip from Delhi)

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  10. Thank you for taking us on such an epic journey.
    Awesome pix of an amazing trip.
    Was there any reason you chose a 350 instead of the 500?
    How many kms & how many days in total?
     
  11. Totally impressive, especially considerring the state of this roads and indian style driving habits !!! How long did this take you ??
    Himachal Pradesh & Ladakh are for sure the most amazing states in India. Back in 1988 I walked alone from Leh-Lamayuru-Manali, by then the roads were even worse or non-existent. Did you access the Manali-Leh track without any hassles ?? Or still the frequent stops trough police//military personnel ?? Oh I would love to go back to India and follow your tracks on a big bike............cheers & congratulations for this sucessful trip, Franz
     
  12. Wow. Congratulations. Amazing trip, photos & write up - Robert H (The China Rider) has some competition now!
    Many thanks for contributing this to the GT Rider board.
     
  13. ____________________

    Thank you for taking us on such an epic journey.
    Awesome pix of an amazing trip.
    Was there any reason you chose a 350 instead of the 500?
    How many kms & how many days in total
    ____________________

    Rhodie:
    Well let's see - we were riding two up, myself and the girlfriend and the Thunderbird was somewhat friendlier that way.
    Plus the Bullet has the brakes and gears on the wrong feet!

    We left Delhi on Sunday 12 Aug and were back by Friday 24 Aug. So thats a total of 13 days.
    Unfortunately I didnt have much time in the way of leave - plenty of stuff that I didnt get to see or do.

    Distance wise it was about 2000km, give or take.

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    Totally impressive, especially considerring the state of this roads and indian style driving habits !!! How long did this take you ??
    Himachal Pradesh & Ladakh are for sure the most amazing states in India. Back in 1988 I walked alone from Leh-Lamayuru-Manali, by then the roads were even worse or non-existent. Did you access the Manali-Leh track without any hassles ?? Or still the frequent stops trough police//military personnel ?? Oh I would love to go back to India and follow your tracks on a big bike............cheers & congratulations for this sucessful trip, Franz
    ____________________

    Franz:
    You walked?! And I thought the cyclists were crazy!
    Anyways no hassles from Delhi - Manali - Leh. It was only around Kargil that we had to register at the police checkpoints.
    In all maybe 3 or 4 checkpoints - one before Kargil, one right outside of kargil, another 2 at the Zoji La pass.
    Other than that there was a heavy military presence all along the Kashmir valley right up to Srinagar. Every hundred metres or so along the 100km stretch into Srinagar you see the soldier standing just off the road - must be bored - most of them were on their cell phones!

    As for the roads - what roads! It made riding in Laos on my R1 a cakewalk! My gas cap vibrated off after shuddering through a 20km stretch of loose pebbles where I didnt dare go above 30kmh. A lot of roads were basically just rocks - its a wonder how the trucks and buses handled those roads.

    But I guess thats just part and parcel of the whole journey. The scenery made up for anything the roads lacked. Round every corner and as far as the eye can see - those pictures fail to put into perspective how it feels to be there.
     
  14. [Franz:
    You walked?! And I thought the cyclists were crazy!

    Not crazy but when I was 19 years younger I liked mountaineering; wanted to start in Leh, go up the Ganges, round the Kailash, follow the Brahmaphutra down to Lhasa, but the Chinese wouldn't let me in, nor did the Pakistanis so I had to shorten the trip and simply walk down to Manali, went up to 6.500 m but had to turn back because of heavy snow. One year later I tried the "white needle" but had a deep plunge, that's when I decided to climb mountains with the help of motorbikes. Now I'm getting really jealous about your tour.........

    Another good place to make tours like this should be Nepal, have been there many times but did not bike there but was aware of a lot of overseas Bmw's, XT's and AT's, even in Phokara.....just have a look, fancy to do another tour???? If you do just email me, might do so myself !! Cheers, Franz
     
  15. I loved every bit of your report. Thanks for taking the time and effort to post it.
     
  16. Thanks for writting up your epic journey...

    I have been following it as you posted but wanted to wait until the end to comment to keep it all together...

    I hope that you gave the 'soft' riders from Poland on their purpose built bikes all sorts of hell [:D]

    Cheers,
    Daewoo
     

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