Saturday, July 7, 2018

Change Of Plans (Part Deux) July 11-12 2018

We’ve saved the big one ’til last: Khardung La Pass! Join the elite handful of motorcyclists that have stood on top of the world with their motorcycle by their side. Reputed to be the highest motorable road in the world, Khardung La pass sits at 5,380m above sea level (that’s the same height as Mt. Everest basecamp!). The views from the top are second to none, looking across Zanskar and the Kangri Mountains. We’ll ride down the other side on rocky dirt roads until we reach our final destination. 

Having returned to Leh after a night at Pangong Lake it was off to Nubra Valley in the morning.  Again the landslide revised the itinerary from what was originally supposed to be 2-nights luxury glamping at the eco-lodge to just 1 night.  However due to the 8AM departure we would be arriving in the early afternoon with some time to explore.  The next day it was back over the highest motorable road in the world for a second time and into to Leh for the last time. 

On the ride through Nubra Valley the locals were all out lining the street with all the buildings adorned with gold and red fabric.  While they all politely waves at us it was the Dalia Lama they were all there to see.

Best government road sign of the day: "Life is not destination it is a journey"

...things got very zen in the Nubra Valley.

Change Of Plans July 10 2018

After enjoying breakfast and a couple of cups of chai tea down by the lake, we’ll saddle up for another days fine riding through the mountains. We’ll travel through an incredibly remote region along an old military road that has only recently been opened up to tourists. The smooth road surfaces cruise us down into the beautiful Nubra Valley. 

That was what our ride was supposed to have been today but a landslide in one of the narrow canyons north of Pangong Lake had us coming back into Leh for the night.

Best government road sign of the day: "First you speed then you divorce"

Insurance July 9 2018

Riding over Chang La pass at 5,280m we’ll cruise over towards Pangong lake – the highest salt water lake in the world. Watch out for the huge Himalayan Yaks that patrol the valley! We’ll stop for a picnic lunch alongside a stream in this beautiful valley, before continuing down towards the lake.

The lake, shared by both India and China, is 134km long and a spectacular sight with snow capped mountains and orange rock faces reflecting off of the perfectly clear blue waters.

Turns out Jim the fellow who fell heavily twice the second day of riding had 5-broken ribs and over the preceding few days developed a hemotoma.  At the summit of  Tanglang La he was put in the van and yesterday morning taken to the hospital in Leh and into surgery soon after.  Apparently while in hospital in India it is the family that takes care of the patient so  Jim's friend along with the guide and medic took shifts overnight keeping him comfortable while he recovered.  Due to the nature of his injury and the surgery he likely won't be able to fly for a few weeks so as we left this morning arrangements were being made with his insurance carrier for a room in the best hotel in town.

Best government road sign of the day: "Don't be a gama* in the land of the llama"

* Ya, Google doesn't know what a gama is either.

PS: I won my bet, Mark was back on his bike today and one of the Portugese has still not received his luggage.  That being said his travel insurer or Air India will soon find out that they have been ponying up for the most expensive motorcycle gear and casual wear to be found in Manali and Leh.

3 Pass Day July 7 2018

After breakfast we will saddle up for what might well be the most beautiful days riding you’ll ever have experienced (this is certainly the opinion of Toby, one of the Ride Expeditions owners!). We start the day by riding up ‘Gata Loops’ – 21 hairpin turns that snake up the mountainside. Riding towards the Upper Indus Valley and over two more of the World’s highest passes (Lachalung La: 5,085m & Tanglang La: 5,330m) the winding roads are an immensely joyous ride and there are fresh breathtaking views around each and every corner. We do have a larger itdistance to cover today, but the road conditions are excellent (with exceptions of course – we’re still in the Himalayas!) and we’re able to increase the pace.

Longest riding day of the trip, wheels rolling at 7:00AM with 260 km to Leh our next stop.  And once again through some absolutely undescribable terrain that neither words nor pictures can do justice to. 

As we descended from the second highest motorable road in the world (Tanglang La at 5,330m/17480ft) into the Ladakh region the presence of the Indian army became a lot more pervasive.  Being a border state with both Pakistan and China there were military check points at increasingly frequent intervals and multiple large bases.

Upon arrival at the hotel the most pressing question was not what the wifi code was but where would be able to watch the England - Sweden World Cup quarter final match.

Best government road sign of the day: "Be Gentle On My Curves"

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Thin Air July 6 2018

We’ll ride smooth tarmac in the morning that curves its way up to the scenic Baralacha La pass which sits at a whopping 4,883m above sea level. We stop just on the other side for lunch and there are three things that might now happen: 1. Nothing at all; 2. You might feel a bit queasy; 3. You might feel a bit drunk and giddy – happy days! Don’t worry though, this is just your body acclimatising to the high altitudes and it should not last long. Our medic will be on hand to monitor to your blood oxygen levels and we have oxygen bottles to hand if required.

After lunch, we will descend to the Sarchu plateau where our campsite awaits. After enjoying a buffet dinner in the ‘restaurant tent’ we will light a bonfire to keep our toes warm and toast marshmallows!

According to Wikipedia - altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), is a negative health effect of high altitude, caused by acute exposure to low amounts of oxygen at high altitude. It presents as a collection of nonspecific symptoms, acquired at high altitude or in low air pressure, resembling a case of "flu, carbon monoxide poisoning, or a hangover".  AMS typically only occurs above 2,400 metres (8,000 ft).

There had been much talk up to this day as to how everyone was feeling about the high altitudes we were about to encounter.  The answers ranged from blasé to concerned worry.  As it happens as we headed out that morning the infamous Delhi Belly was the more immediate health issue for many.

A stunning morning ride through mountain canyons and up over the pass.  After ascerting that there were no immediate AMS issues to deal with we carried on to the extended lunch stop where the monitor in continued.  A few headaches and some shortness of breath but all in all we were good to continue the short ride to that nights "camping" site.

Best government road sign of the day: "Darling I really like you but not so fast"

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

And The Carnage Continues July 5 2018

Leaving from Manali, we continue the ride alongside the Beas river before starting our climb up to our second high pass of the trip so far: Rohtang La at 3,876m. The roads up to the top are incredible, with countless hairpin turns and spectacular views across the hills. The roads get a little rougher as we descend into the Lahaul Valley, but with its cascading waterfalls and rugged terrain the scenery is no less impressive. Tonights destination is the small town of Keylong… if your beard needs a trim, we recommend the local barber experience!

The clouds broke overnight and the clear blue sky revealed the surrounding mountains.  As for the missing luggage - still lost in the fog of Air India baggage hell.

Todays ride could be simply described in a few words: first we go up up up then we go down down down.  Actually we had to go down a bit first as the hotel was at the top of a steep treacherous driveway.  Still slick from the recent rain too much front brake claimed yet another victim.  This accident saw a visit to the emergency room, x-rays and a stage 1 shoulder displacement diagnosis.  Mark would join us later at dinner firmly believing that he would be back on the bike by Monday.  He's a tough guy - my money has him on a bike before the Portugese group get their luggage.

Best government road sign of the day:. "Love your neighbour but not while driving".

T.I.A. July 4 2018

We’ll ride the rough roads down into Banjar Valley, through the pine forests and quaint rural villages. We’ll descend until we meet the Beas River which we’ll then ride alongside all the way to Manali. The traffic gets a bit manic so you’ll need to keep your wits about you as you weave around trucks, rickshaws, dogs and cows! We’ll escape this as best we can by crossing to the other side of the river and riding tiny winding roads through small villages, all the way up to our excellent 5* hotel.

Couple of things to remember while travelling here:

1- There will be no hot water.
1a- If there is hot water there won't be enough cold water to cool it down.
2- There will be no WiFi.
2a- If there is WiFi there will be no internet connection.
3- Things will be late.
3a- If things are on time things will be broken.

Another rainy day riding through the Himalayan foothills.  Good news is that overnight 1 of the missing pieces of luggage was delivered via an overnight taxi ride from New Delhi.  Bad news - there were literally too many bags of misplaced luggage for Air India to process so the 4 riders from Portugal continue on in borrowed gear.

I mentioned that there was tour staff and vehicles trailing the group along the road.  Good thing too as this morning one of the riders took a fall having grabbed too much front brake on a slick muddy downhill section.  After a thorough check over by the medic he exchanged motorcycles with the mechanic and was on his way.  Unfortunately soon after he misjudged a steep downhill switch back and rode off the road.  At that point all decided that continuing in the van would be the wise choice here.  The van ride lasted until lunch when he decided that he would feel safer riding on the motorcycle than in the van...

This Is Asia after all.