Monday, September 26, 2016

Royal Enfield to Ladakh 2005 pt1

Sifting through old CDs and eek! this is now more than 10 years ago. The three week trip was a quick test for us to see how we could handle riding a Bullet two up in prep for the planned trans Africa route. We flew in to Delhi, dropped in on old friend, now sadly passed, Lakhvinder Singh Chawla and hired a 350 Bullet from Gurdial Auto Engineers. I knew Gurdial and Bawa from way back having first bought a Bullet from them in 1996. The hire bike was one of the home market models, a regular classic 350 fitted with cdi ignition and a front disk. The petrol tank was a larger 22 litre job and it had the 'Ladakhi outifit' panniers as they were known locally with jerry can holders. It was a sweet bike, not much affected by the altitude up in the Himalayas and it pulled pretty much as strong as a 500.

The mission was to make it up to Leh in Ladakh via the Khardung La and back. We did it in August when the road was guaranteed to be open and there wouldn't be much snow around. The ride out of Delhi was, as always, hectic and things didn't really get less manic until we got to the Himalayan foothills. First stop was Rishikesh and then on to Dehradun. The ride from Rishikesh to Dehradun is great, a first taste of being in the Himalayas, the road just goes up and up, the town itself though seemed like just a thoroughfare.

Thence on to Shimla through heavy heavy rain. Within a quarter of an hour the water was up to the Bullet's axles in some places. Shimla is a great stop, very scenic: playground of the wealthy of the Raj and now a popular honeymooning destination for Indian newlyweds. Next on to Manali, for a while the road runs along a spectacular wooded gorge which is a taster of the head for heights you will need later on in the ride. The town of Manali is a tourist destination but its main offering is as a gateway to the high Himalayas and as such the urge was to move on.

After Manali is when the fun really starts and you start to get a taste of the high peaks. We overnighted en route in Keylong as the last town of any note, not a big distance from Manali but the roads are not quick going, you've already crossed the Rohtang La (nearly 4000m) and it's good to take it easy and enjoy the scenery.

Next overnight is the Sarchu tent camp, a good place to stop to get used to the altitude before heading over the Khadung La (5359m) and on to Leh.

Rohtang La top. Digital cameras have come on a lot in a short
time. These snaps look slightly poorly focused...

Roadside dhabas (food shacks).

Baralacha La top. (La is hindi for pass).

Sarchu tent camp.

Tanglang La top.

Rumtse monastery close before Leh.

Khardung La top.

Keen eyed will spot the lack of bags on the bike. We went back
up the Khardung la on a day trip from Leh.

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