After Uzebkistan, I'll be entering Tajikistan, where the real adventure begins. The historical Pamir Highway, officially called M41, is an excellent challenge for a 4x4 adventure travelers. Most of the road is paved, except for the mountain passes, and the length of the road is 2.038 km kilometers linking Termez (Uzbekistan) and Kara-Balta (Kyrgyzstan) going through the Pamir Mountains. The road is heavily damaged in places by erosion, earthquakes, landslides, and avalanches, which makes it in the top list of world's most dangerous roads.
It's advised not to travel this pass in severe weather conditions. Some sections of the road have a notorius lack of oxygen that tests the organisms and a high degree of steepness. Most people feel altitude sickness at around 2,500-2,800 meters. Most of the Pamir Highway is located in Tajikistan, a country situated in the middle of Central Asia with India to the south and China to the east, but the highway also goes through Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. This is where I need to make sure I take of the motorcycle really well as the going gets tough.
Tajikistan does not require a LOI. It's the most simple process among the stans. Upload all the details on the website, with the photocopy of your passport and you can go ahead get the Tajikistan e-visa in less than 10 minutes.
Kyrgyztan requires LOI (Letter of Invitation) from either a tour agent or someone from the country. They will basically have to go the Ministry of External Affairs and get it approved. They will send a Telex no. to the Consulate of your country and you will have to apply at the consulate with the LOI.
These Tour Agencies work in various ways.
- The LOI is free, but you will have to give them you Itienrary and you’re bound to stay at the places/hotels they book you
- The LOI is charged somewhere between 50$ - 80$ and you are free to do your own booking through your time in Uzbekistan.
Kazak is a really huge country, I just using this as a transit as It's mainly Tarmac and also the LOI and Stay is really expesnive. My focus next will be the lovely Mongolia. I'll be applying for the Transit Visa of Kazak at Bhiskek (Kyr) for this leg.
Havas (Samarkhand) Tour Agency - email@example.com
Contact Person – Nargiza
Carvanistan Tours – www.caravanistan.com/
Contact Person – David
Expenses so far –
Tajikistan Visa - Approx 4000 INR
Kyrgyztan Visa - 25000 INR
This was a little expensive as the embassy folks here in India charge enormously as I required it in Urgency. This included the agent fee too.
Pic: Tajikistan Travel guide
I’m embarking on a rare adventure on my Royal Enfield Himalayan to ride, explore, document and share with the world the wonderful cultures and the stunning yet challenging routes and destinations of the Silk Route of Central Asia and Russia as well as a large part of Europe. And a good part of that documentation will be to record the music of those parts; a subject very close to my heart. It's 3rd of March and I've 42 days to leave India on this maiden overland journey. I’m writing this note after sorting out all the paperwork for my Carnet appointment day after, I just pray it goes smoothly. It’s Itching, I really can’t wait to get on my motorcycle on this unfamiliar new land and kick start my journey. I’ve been just thinking and dreaming about this and only this over the past few months. The ride towards the beginning has been really good so far. I’ve learnt so much in this whole preparation regarding to the motorcycle or Visa processes. I’ve been really lucky and fell blessed by the support I’m getting from everyone around. I’m really Overwhelmed by love and support I’m getting working towards this journey. First of all, I can’t thank MTM enough, The meet has been the main plug to push me to even think of going across borders, Santhosh, You have my undying gratitude for your push and Motorcycle Traveller's Meet! I believe it really has changed me in person and let’s just see how it’s going to change me during this journey.
Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Mongolian Visa have been acquired. It's going to be quite a rat race ahead with time crunch to acquire the rest of the visas. Hoping for the best
So, I’ll be writing about how I’ve been chasing the documentation work towards each country and today I will talk about Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan is rich in history. Samarkand was conquered by Alexander the Great. Islam was introduced by Arabs in the 8th-9th century. The most famous leader to come from Uzbekistan is Tamerlane who was born in Shahrisabz south of Samarkand. Russia conquered Uzbekistan in the late 19th century. I’m really curious to explore the architecture and desolated Aral sea areas in this country.
Like most of the Stan Countries, Uzbek also requires LOI (Letter of Invitation) from either a tour agent or someone from the country. They will basically have to go the Ministry of External Affairs and get it approved. They will send a Telex no. to the Consulate of your country and you will have to apply at the consulate with the LOI.
These Tour Agencies work in various ways.
- The LOI is free, but you will have to give them you Itienrary and you’re bound to stay at the places/hotels they book you
- The LOI is charged somewhere between 50$ - 80$ and you are free to do your own booking through your time in Uzbekistan.
Havas (Samarkhand) Tour Agency - firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Person – Nargiza
Carvanistan Tours – www.caravanistan.com/
Contact Person – David
Expenses so far –
I went through a Visa agency so I did pay some extra dough
Visa - 17,000/-
Flight Ticket to Tashkent from Delhi – 19,000/-
As I opted for Option 1. Since it was
my first country, The stay for 23 days- 30,000/- (445 $)
I will be travelling around 3000 Kms before I cross into Tajikistan over 23 days. Alright, then I'm signing off now and stay tuned for more updates.
Join me on this epic journey over nearly 6 months! All support is welcome!
If you like what I'm doing, you can contribute to my journey here:
Featured Image Courtesy: Uzbek Tours and Travel ( I don't own any rights)
"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing" It's been a great year of riding for me - Dubai, Bhutan, South India, North East and lots of travel was involved. I'm venturing into something big and taking a major step in 2017. Stay tuned for more blog posts and the link below for more details.
Wishing you all great 2017!
To more miles
for more details
Earlier this year, I visited Bhutan and stayed there for 2 weeks. I visited Thimphu, Wangdue, Paro, Phobjikha and Punakha on a rented Royal Enfield TB500 from Bhutan TUSK Motorcycle company. It was a beautiful experience that I'll definitely cherish for a long time. In Bhutan, I got a chance to live like an absolute local. I didn’t feel like a tourist at all. Apart from eating authentic Bhutanese cuisine for almost every meal, I also tried out their local fermented millet drink called Chhang. It was prepared for me by a Bhutanese family. It tasted something like beer and coconut water with a sour after taste. They served it in small buckets, along with a plate full of fried pork sausages. In Bhutan, because of the dominant Buddhist culture and religion, slaughtering of animals is not allowed. But you get non-vegetarian food everywhere. They import everything from India. So they are against killing, but that doesn’t stop them from consuming it.
I found this practice quite ridiculous and hypocritical. Also, tobacco is banned. But you can source cigarettes easily – again brought in from India. Alcohol is everywhere. It is a staple part of their lives, like French drinking wine. Every person on the road seems to be high, No wonder it is a happy country. Another mode of intoxication (it is all about keeping yourself warm in the mountains is Doma – it is a concoction of betal leaf and arica nut. Doma stained teeth smiling at you with wrinkled eyes – that’s how I remember Bhutanese people. They have such genuine, heartfelt smiles. And so infectious. You can’t stop smiling when you are in Bhutan.
Paro is known for the majestic Tiger’s Nest, also called Taktsang. It is a place of pilgrim for Bhutanese, similar to India’s Vaishno Devi trek, though Taktsang trek is much shorter (takes about 3 hours). The legend goes that Guru Rinpoche flew to this cliff on the back of a tigress and meditated in one of the caves. This was really a refreshing trek, opens up all your senses, totally rejunuvating.Hiked through the valley and really enjoyed the idyllic scene of Phobjikha Valley. Very peaceful. Passed by fields of flowers and farms and cows and stupas and of course prayer flags. The valley and the views Enroute are very nice. It's also the winter home for the black neck crane which migrate from Tibet. There is also a black-neck crane interpretation center here and you need close to an hour here as they show an informative movie about the cranes, the valley , the residents as well as the conservation steps that have to taken over the years. There are also 3-4 scopes in the center that will help you spot the cranes in the fields in front of the center. The roads in Paro, Thimphu, Punakha and Wangdi are very good. In Central Bhutan, some patches on the Trongsa to Yotongla Pass section (before Bumthang ) are in need of minor repairs which are carried out regularly. Unlike Sikkim, landslides are not so common here.Bhutan remains an enigma till date. And it prefers it that way. You don't get to read much about it in the newspapers or hear about it in the news. Unlike its high profile neighbours, India and Nepal, this small Kingdom is publicity shy. Further, in 1988, Norman Myers identified Bhutan as one of the ten bio-derversity hotspots in the world. It has also been identified as the centre for 221 global endemic bird areas. Bhutan's ecosystem harbours some of the most exotic, endemic species of the eastern Himalayas. It has an estimated 770 species of birds and over 50 species of rhododendron. The mountains brim with other exotic species like the blue poppy (national flower) and different medicinal herbs. Animals like takins (national animal), snow leopards, golden langurs, bears, wild boars, tigers and elephants roam its forests. 72.5% of the land area is under forest cover. Which makes it almost Carbon Negative! :) I really can't wait to go back here. I need to spend a lot more time. I'll be back soon!
So finally got my hands on the Himalayan two weeks ago was really eager to see how it's going to handle on some tougher terrains. Frankly, I'm really impressed the way the stock handled, 1200 kms in 2 days exploring some off beat trails and roads off Kerala and Karnataka. I was done waiting for the KTM 390 adventure or overhauling an Impulse and I gambled with this one. Though not a fan of newer RE's, about this bike, I really Love the ergonomics and suspensions! Yes, It's heavy! I'd say it's underpowered with respect to it's weight, which can also be sorted my 'Jugaad' of carb and free flow exhaust, which will make it peppier for trails. I'm sure this is going to be a good company. Incase anyone is in two minds, I'd say go for it! No hard shifts and no other issues. It easily did a top speed of 135(on the speedo) which is +/- 5 kmph I'd say, Easily cruising at 110 kmph @ under 5000 rpm, Subtle speed of 80kmph @ under 4000 rpm, so, It's all good, This is definitely the best bike out of RE's Stable, All speculations of the Newer 310 and any other bike, I will only see it to believe it for India :) The bike is a little sluggish under 2000 rpm at 2nd and 3rd gear, hope to resolve it in the 2nd service. Happy trails!!
cheers and ride safe!
Chris Zahner travelled across India to capture the beautiful story of Royal Enfield and the inclination towards it from some serious and passionate people. A film exploring the love affair between India and the Royal Enfield (Bullet) Written, directed, edited and produced by Chris Zahner
Watch the full film here:
Last summer the Royal Enfield team spent testing the new RE Himalayan which is officially releasing tomorrow.
While RE has been at it for years now, the RE Himalayan is the one motorcycle they claim to change the landscape of motorcycling in the adventure category. Finally it's a new breed out of the RE stable, a brand new 410cc Oil Cooled Engine. The RE Himalayan has been spotted several times before its launch but this time, it is final, the Himalayan adventure is being launched tomorrow on the 2nd February, 2016.
Our thoughts :
We have been hunting trails and have done a lot of touring on a good old 1970's RE STD 350, modified to our needs. Though the old CI engines have had its drawbacks, this is our trusted steed and has accompanied us in a lot of memorable journeys without any major breakdowns. Stay tuned for "Chasing The Bullet" scheduled to release on Feb 15th to know more on that story.
As far as The Himalayan goes, it's a pretty sizeable bike and the engine block looks pretty large. For 410cc, it does not look drastically different from its predecessors in terms of the specifications. Obviously Royal Enfield has the advantage of history and nostalgia, and we think the styling is spot on. But if you want to play fair, it will never compete with an XL 400, XR 400, XT400, dz400 with its rivals outside of India. These may not be major factors in India, but the fact is you can find a well maintained model of all the above bikes for around $1000 - $2000 anywhere in the United States/Europe/Australia/Japan.
Kudos to RE for choosing CS Santosh to test and review the bike. In his words,
""It's not Intimidating, it's got the power but not aggressive!"
So being dual sport enthusiasts ourselves, the above statement kind of worries us. The bike nose diving a lot on the promo video definitely shows that it's underpowered. Will the production variant be the same? we will have to wait it out!
The Following article by RE's Very own CEO - Sid Lal is a brilliantly written article, where he shares the sentiment and techinical points what went through in the making of the Himalayan.
According to us, this bike is here to stay and is definitely going to be a game changer for Indian market . Dual disc brakes brakes, great geometrical chassis, long suspension travel, low seat height, and off-road tyres are making sure it is adventure touring bike which can go anywhere. We expect it to handle well and provide comfort at the same time from the engine.
Three points to watch out for:
- The quality control of the parts, I hope RE has notcheded up their exterior quality process.
- The power of the motorcycle, We'd love to have it at 36-38bhp considering it's 410cc.
- Can go 10,000kms without oil change? we don't see any Oil lasting more than 3,500kms. If I'm owning one, I'll certainly change within 3,500Kms.
Apart from the above three, It's a great looking bike and serves all purposes of what an Indian adventure enthusiast was waiting for. We certainly cant wait to get our hands on this new Royal Enfield and take it down our marked trails and explore some new ones.
Note: All pictures Courtesy RE
Rynox Optimus-M V2 Tankbag is larger sized bag comfortably fits on most metal tanks or tails and are perfect for touring. Bags can be mounted as either a tank bag or tail pack. Specs as stated by the brand:
- 5 powerful monopole magnets
- Also comes with 1 handle bar strap (Strap that goes around the handle bar) and 2 fastening straps (to be attached to the foot-peg/trellis) with instant release button for quick mounting/demounting, especially at fuel station.
- Top quality 1680D Polyester with PVC Coating
- Highly reflective Rynox logo for added visibility
- Fail safe heavy-duty state of the art waterproof zippers
- Protective pad to hold the bag firm without slipping or marking bike
- Waterproof rainstorm cover
- Heat resistant under panels
Cavernous, sturdy made and waterproof. Its 22 /31 -litre capacity is enough to accommodate a change of clothes and shoes for a daily commute or alternatively all the phone, chargers, documents, maps and dry socks needed for a touring holiday. We carried our immediate First Aid, DSLR and other basic utilities.Fits on the tank or pillion seat with straps, straps convert it into a rucksack. There is something that this bag lacks in terms of the build. Hopefully, we can figure it over usage of the bag at extreme conditions.
5 Solid magnets slap down on the fuel tank and hold it securely in place, and you can yank it off in one pull when you get where you’re going. It’s spacious and has a great mixture of compartments for everything from shoes and books to clothing, keys and documents. You can even fit a helmet in it at a push and it’ll hold firm at high speed with anything short of a Basket ball inside. It’s weather-resistant and even comes with a waterproof attachable cover.
We're happy with the way the bag has performed on a short distance travel. Looking forward to use it on our upcoming trip to Western Ghats in the coming week.
Our Rating: 3.5/5
Well, we were just not too happy with the build quality of the rucksack straps and this being a little pricy with it's contenders. Other than that, this Tank Bag is here to stay!
And here's an equally good bargain from Mototech. Bet you didn't think you'd find that brand's sophisticated color palette and flatteringly slim fit at such an affordable price, did you? Ventilation is handled by average mesh panels across the torso and sleeves, while safety is taken care of by elbow and shoulder protectors that expand across the area of your body. Buy this one if you don't want to look like a dorky, logo-whoring biker the second you walk away from said bike.
An unbelievable amount of style and function packed into an affordable price point. Abrasion resistant fabric also stretches a little for a form fitting, sport fit, while mesh panels allow flow of air. Only Suggestion would be if these jacket would breathe a little extra with a couple of more meshes, It really gets hot in summer, the jacket doesn't breathe as much when compared with it's rival in Cramster/Spartan. A ton of protection from the incorporated armor, plus that pocket for a Wave insert back protector
Material - Waxed Cotton - Breathable, Burn Resistance and Abrasion Resistance material A big thumbs up for being the most stylish, one of it's kind jacket from the Indian Market.
- Independent Fleece Vest liner (can be worn separately) - Multiple utility pockets: 2 waist pockets, 2 chest pockets, 1 inner chest pocket, 1 right forearm pocket - 3M reflectors on the chest pockets and back for higher visibility. - YKK Zippers - Wooden Hangers for convenient storage - Sas-Tec Protectors with High-end engineering for greater safety
You put a picture of a motorcycle in front of a person who's not into motorcycles and just play one of Skrat's song in the background, He/she cannot avoid controlling that thought of him/her on that motorcycle riding away to the horizon. Maybe, that's why? They did the whole tour on Motorcyles? Hah!
Skrat is a HIgh Enrgy 3 piece Loud/In your face/Garage Motorcycle Rock! That's what we 'd love to call them. A tour of 7 cities, 8 shows, and a total of 8 bikes and a car hitting over 3600 Kms. we charted a route that went through Bangalore, Goa and Pune, avoiding most national highways, the riders hit little-known back-routes and country-side trails in Kalasa, Kudremukh and a few stretches in Northern Karnataka and Maharashtra.
Checkout the Band's music here:
Trailbug and Wanderlust are really happy we were a part of the whole 'The Queen' - Album tour. Though, we are part of the crew handling sound duties as well, Touring all cities on motorcycles was one memorable experience. Here's the whole experience summarised in 20 minutes.
Do watch and share:
More Pictures here:
Avalanche and Emerald are valleys that's much more than just beautiful with rolling meadows, swaying flowers, slow trickling streams and marine life that comes, literally, kicking out of the waters. It lies at some 26 km from Ooty, and is a great draw for wanderers.
Emarald lake, the water is emerald colored and its majestic. The view from the dam is heavenly. Except for the dam there are other places where you can sit beside the serene water and have some time of your own. Quaint names and much quainter spots – I have no words to describe these twin lakes. Much more off beat location some 30 km away from Ooty, this is visited by very few tourists and out of bound of almost all package operators. There are some eight lakes in this high altitude that make one of the most thrilling trek routes in the sub continent. For picnickers, there is a day tour run by Forest Department. Otherwise one has to get permission from the same Department to go oneself. A couple of good stay options are available here – the Destiny and the Red Hills. It is believed the place got its name from an avalanche that occurred in the nineteenth century and from crystal emerald like waters.
The choice of back roads of Nilgiris proved to be an excellently rewarding in term of scenic beauty. The road climbed beautifully through some lush green forests. The beautiful green trees on the reddish colored soil with the black tarmac and blue sky painted an amazing colorful easel. The route was dotted with some awesome quaint villages. The highlights of the villages were the kids. The school kids would line up and cheer us at the top of their lungs and give us high fives as we raced by.
Warmee – a saviour tool for motorcycle enthusiasts
We received a few packs of Warmee from a very good friend Aditya of 'Motonomous' ; We did hear a lot about it and we were keen to try them out this winter. Visiting the Himalayas, the only fastest way to get that instant warm, is to not leave the fireplace or sit next your bike's exaust. But these warmer packs just did the job. It was really cold at nights and we camped, It was windy and temperature went down to about below 8 degrees Celcius. All in all , Warmee literally helped us overcome the cold.
We recommend Warmee to all the travellers and motorcycle enthusiasts.
Click here to know more about Warmee
You can order 'Warmee' from Outdoor Travel Gear
Our Rating: 4.5/5
We ended up camping close to Red Hills Nature resort. Red Hill Nature Resort has sweeping, dramatic 30-mile views of the majestic Avalanche mountains and lakes. The experience blends the comforts of home with the quality you’d expect from a top-rated exclusive estate resort. Privacy and seclusion are complemented by as much – or as little – contact as you choose to have with the area’s charming historical sites and activities; surrounded by tea plantations, enjoy fine cuisine from the traditional hospitality of the Badaga community. Red Hills is a uniquely defined by it’s incredible lake and mountain views which is designed to give you privacy, seclusion and a sense of ownership of the entire mountain range.
We've just wrapped up a brilliant tour with the Chennai Rock Band 'Skrat' covering 3000+ Kms with some brilliant trails of Kalasa to some epic countryside roads of Andhra and Karnataka and playing 4 shows including Royal Enfield Ridermania 2014, Bacardi Nh7 Weekender (Bangalore and Pune) and New Wave Music Festival.
So, We covered Saach Pass (Pangi Valley), Ladakh, Spiti Valley and rode all the way till Kanyakumari via the amazing East coast. Stay tuned and watch this space for all the stories. The Great Indian Ride! They were loads of river crossings, landslides and what not! Along were this couple who did the whole route of over 13,000 Kms and over 41 days.
We started off from Leh early in the morning and my accelerator cable snapped just in the outskirts of Leh. It took a while, fixed it and started towards kargil. The wind was really strong and the bikes weren’t going over 40 kmph. The landscapes and the road were beyond epic. Few kms down the road away from Lamayuru are the Hangro Loops, the 18 loops are fast yet sharp loops with steep gorges, There was a major traffic jam just Lamayaru because of an accident between a army truck and a local truck. Somehow we bikes could evade it and we managed to have zero traffic for almost the next 50-60kms. The altitude much lower than the passes we had crossed till then, Namika La, a windy yet scenic pass. Roughly 40kms Namika La is Fotu La, the highest point on the Srinagar - Leh highway, (13,479ft). then you get down to Mulbek. A few kms before Drass is the Drass war memorial, built in the memory of fallen soldiers in the 1999 Kargil war and a must visit for every traveler passing through this route. The wind was really strong and rocks falling off cliffs, few rocks even hit a tractor which was infront of us. The weather was just beautiful, cloudy and looked as though it would rain, It was almost 6 in the evening and we just wanted to cross zoji la at any cost. We had something light to eat at Drass and started towards Zoji la. To Sonamarg the landscape starts changing dramatically all the way from the famous Zoji La pass (11,640ft), roads on the both side of the pass are in bad condition with lots of gravel, during rain the gravel turns to slush, so if you are planning to attempt this pass during rain, be prepared. This pass was a massive one and we crossed it in failing daylight. This was also the toughest few kms of the entire Srinagar - Leh highway, beyond which tarmac is fantastic. We were running low on fuel. We decided to halt at sonamarg and start towards Srinagar in the morning.The journey from Srinagar to Sonamarg takes you through some of the magnificent, Breath taking landscapes Kashmir is renowned for. Even though there is heavy army presence and there are soldiers posted every few hundred meters, it is relatively safe and security forces are there to help you out. Apart from this the journey is pretty straight forward and you will be in Srinagar in couple of hours, take a breather here and marvel at the beauty of Sonamarg i.e. meadows of bliss. Apple and apricot orchards stood all along. It was raining. Mist on the road level and it was one sight we can never get over and we reached Srinagar by 9 in the morning, Had breakfast and started towards Jammu. The Amarnath yatra had opened up and There was so much traffic. We tackled almost 3000 trucks and busses on the main highway. It was as though you were playing ‘Galaza’ on your video game console. The traffic never ended. With almost 300+ kms of twisties in the traffic, we crossed Patnitop and reached the plain lands of Udhampur by 8 in the Night. We were really exhausted! We wanted to get out of the state of Kashmir as We were out of Cellular Network for a long time. We decided to ride in the night and somehow reach Pathankot. We took the Lakhanpur road skipped jammu and reached Pathankot by 1 in the night. We took a Hotel room, we were really excited to see the network on our phones. Our last pit stop was Amritsar as Anoop had his flight booked from Amritsar to Bangalore. The next day we got up in the afternoon and headed towards Amritsar, through the beautiful countryside roads of Punjab. The weather shift was insane as just two days earlier, we were in the world’s second clodest inhabited place and now we were stuck in the sweaty and humid Punjab. A total phase shift. We reached Amritsar, took rest for 2 days, visited the Golden Temple, Jalianwala Bagh and Wagah Border. Anoop was leaving by flight the next morning and It was my ride SOLO till Bangalore. I was really stoked about this journey almost of 3000+ kms down south. At Dawn, I left Amritsar. It was 4 in the morning. The roads were really beautiful and empty. Met a lot of humble truck drivers, shared stories and meals with them. I was to explore Sambhar Lake and camp up somewhere close to Ratangarh in Rajasthan. As soon as I started exiting Punjab, the Weather just got hotter. But the transition from Punjab – Haryana – Rajasthan was really amazing. The Horse carts became Donkey carts and finally in Rajasthan they transformed into Camel Carts. The Rajasthan roads were truly super awesome. Though the heat was killing, and I drank almost 9 lts of water in the first half of entering Rajasthan, which was the desert belt. The Second half of Rajasthan after Rawastar was the Green Belt. The Desert belt was like No man’s Land. There was harldly any civilization for over 50-80 kms. I was all alone. I saw like 6- 8 vultures feeding on the camel Carcass, I also got chased by some wild foxes, which was really scary. I had to outrun a mob, who had blocked a road, They seemed really pissed as I evaded their roadblock. I did not stop for the Next 40 kms haha! The greenbelt of Rajasthan was really amazing, The Milestones near Deogarh were really hilarious. I visited Sambhar Lake, Spent some time there and reached Ajmer by 8 in the Night. The roads were really splendid, I din’t even notice that I actually covered around 800 kms. I had some killer Aloo paratha and went to bed. It was constantly raining. I was looking forward for the journey ahead, But a Stupid 6 lane highway began. I was really irritated. After a few kms ahead it narrowed down to beautiful two lane again, towards Udaipur. The skies cleared out, It was cloudy and with the wind on my face, It was an ideal riding weather. I reached Udaipur, I saw the Fateh Sagar lake, which is when it started pouring heavily. I started heading towards Ahmedabad, the coulds showed no mercy and it began to pour like crazy. My next 200 kms was in the rain. I somehow crossed the Gujrat border and the it stopped raining. I had a chat with Mr. Gaurav Jani (One crazy Ride & Riding Solo to the top of the world ) I got the contact no. of his mechanic, Sayeed, I had a little issue with my tappets and he helped me get through that. It started pouring again, I spent quite some time with Sayeed and Pappu at their garage. The rain showed no signs of stopping, Half of Ahmedabad was flooded, I Started from his garage by 1230 in the midnight,, I Cooked Maggi and we had it out there. I thought I’lll atleast hit the highway and find some place to sleep. The Surat high close to Ahmedabad was in a real bad shape, I rode in the rain, with facing headlights of trucks. And could’t find any place to sleep, I entered a dhaba, spoke to some truck drivers from Tamil Nadu, there were really suprised to hear Tamil at that point of time. I took a power nap there at the Dhaba which Gurupal was running. I made a lots of friends, Trucker Friends. So it was 8 in the morning, My plan was to reach Mumbai and take some rest. So I started towards Mumbai. It was still raining, I almost rode 500+ kms in the rain now. Even though with rain covers and protection, after a point my luggage was getting wet. I stopped at a roadside dhaba again. Got some rice and with the homemade Puliogre, made some Puliyogre for Lunch. Closer to Mumbai, It wasn’t raining. I reached Outskirts of Mumbai by around 5PM and with the traffic, It took me 2 and half hours to reach my friend’s place and finally slept. I was supposed to take the Coastal route via Goa towards Bangalore. But the weather conditions were really bad and Karwar and the nearby places were flooded, And with forecasts of cyclone hitting Mumbai in a day also was on my mind. So I decided to leave Mumbai in the afternoon itself. My plan was to reach Karnataka border. It took me 2 hours t get to the outskirts of Mumbai. The lonavala road, Post showers, was lush green and amazing. I forgot to avoid the city, missed out on the bypass and lost two hours there. I reached Belgaum by 10 in the night and took a hotel room and slept. I was really happy and excited that I had actually reached Belgaum from Amritsar in 4 days. I culdn’t believe that the whole thing had happened. Next morning, I started towards Hubli, got bike's Oil Changed and proceeded towards Bangalore. Finally, I reached Bangalore by 8 in the night, met Anoop at a common adda, My roadtrip had come to an end. Everything seemed surreal. I actually took a moment and went back in time to the day I started off. Those 30 days were the best and happiest I’d ever been. With Riding solo, I just realized I had changed.
I never thought my life would be involved with Motorcycles; maybe it’s a passion or an addiction. Motorcycling is a culture. It’s where I’ve made good friends, I’m grateful for this. This trip has given me the mental strength to ride almost anywhere on this planet. The freedom to explore the world on two wheels. Life’s too short not to try, I aimed for the place which tests both man and machine. The place like no other, The Himalayas! I will go back again!
Next day, we got our bikes checked down at Tandi, topped up fuel and wanted to head towards Sarchu. But then again, Baralacha la was closed due to a block/accident. So we decided to camp at Jispa. We met a group of bikers from Bangalore and Delhi there , Yeshwanth, Abhishek, Pawan, Karthik and Abhishek(D). On a relaxed evening, we cooked upma and noodles. There was bonfire and music, A lot of travellers joined us.We decided to go sleep as all of us planned to leave by 4 in the morning. It was well before dawn and we started off from Jispa, the chill winds start to set in. We crossed Darcha and Zing zing bar encountering 3-4 river crossings. It was extremely cold.
The next hurdle towards Leh was ‘Baralacha La’ at the height of 16,000 ft which was covered completely with snow . Half way there, we couldn’t feel our limbs again.This was a different terrain when compared to Spiti. The cold was intense, The chill wave was crawling through our spine. Baralacha had a lot of black ice, A lot of people were falling off their bikes. We were stuck on the top of Baralacha pass for almost 4 hrs. The altitude was doing weird things to a lot of people.There were lot of people falling sick. The rest of the guys whom we met wanted to rest at Bharatpur, but we decided to move on towards Pang. After Baralacha, the roads made way for lot of plains, we hit Sarachu, the last village of Himachal on the Manali- Leh highway, We had chai and proceeded towards Pang. Pang was at 15,280ft ASL.
We had got acclimatized staying at that altitude for over a week and altitude wasn’t doing any sort of things to us. We came across the Gata Loops, got past Lalchung La, and were closing in on Pang. The textures of the mountains was changing. It now made way for sculptures which actually looked dazzling. That was mind bogglingly freaky and beautiful, it was just about to get dark and we made it there much earlier before it got dark. We got up early morning to find snow on the seats of our bikes. The weather was really cold again. We were excited to get on the road and cross the mighty ‘Tanglang la’, the second highest pass in the world. We started of at 730 in the morning got onto the Morey plains a vast plateau, which looked like a proper landing site for UFO's. This was this 40 km stretch, with plains . Yaks, Sheeps and horses grazing and with nomads living their lives in full peace and content, I was really envious of the whole changpa lifestyle. Further Ahead, crossing ‘Tanglang la’ we reached ‘Rumtse’ Then made it to leh by 4 o’ clock Crossing Upshi and Karu . We were in the Indus valley. It was a moment that none of us could ever express, We went local Sightseeing to Sanchi stupa and the Leh Bazaar. Got our Bikes Checked from ‘Juma’ bhai. Day well spent and we were heading to Nubra Valley the next day Via Khardung La.
There was a block at South Pullu as BRO were blasting stones making way for the traffic and clearing blocks. Around 5-6 km before the top, road deteriorated considerably. This is common for nearly all the passes. The top 5 km from either side is bad because it comes under snowline. During cold, heavy snow falls on the road which needs to be dug out by bulldozers and during summer, all that snow melts creating puddles of water. Due to both these conditions, the roads falling under snowline are bad. I dare say that Chang La was lot more difficult to climb that Khadung La, Chang La is steeper than Khardung La. For Chang La, you have a climb of only 12 km to reach 17586 ft and here you have a climb of nearly 40 km to reach a height of 18380 ft. The bike performed fabulously and we reached Khardung La Top without any hitch. My eyes misted up on finally realizing my dream and could not control my emotions for couple of minutes. I was already even more excited on riding towards Nubra Valley. We started descending and stopped at Khardung, Khardung village is around 20 km away from Khardung La top. The road from Khardung village to Diskit is a sheer beauty and landscape here is absolutely different than other parts, The Shyok River meets the Nubra or Siachan River to form a large valley that separates the Ladakh and Karakoram Ranges. The Shyok river is a tributary of the Indus river. Nubra is a high altitude cold desert with rare precipitation and scant vegetation except along river beds. You keep on descending from Khardung La Top till around 10 km before Diskit. At Khalsar, we had amazingly delicious Paneer Masala and Rotis and started towards Diskit. Looking at the the sand dunes in that part of the Ladakh was quite surprising. I never expected to see something like this in Ladakh. So we took a beautiful homestay at Diskit and went to Hunder. We came back to Diskit and called it a day. The next day, we planned on hitting the right arm of Nubra, which was towards the hot springs of Panamik. After backtracking for 20 odd kms you should be back at the turn from where you had taken the diversion to Diskit, now you need to take the other route going towards Sumur and Panamik. The 20km drive from here to Sumur is scenic to say the least, with the views changing every few kms. Sumur’s main attraction is the 150 year old Samstening Gompa and apart from that the village itself is an oasis in the middle of a desert. 20 kms down the road from Sumur is the village of Panamik, famous for 250 year old Ensa Gompa and hot water springs. This is also the last point tourists are allowed. We started back towards Khalsar and Khardung, crossed Khardung la again and reached Leh, by evening. The next day, we were heading towards Pangong Tso , Chushul and Tso Moriri and Back.
We had brunch and started towards Chang La. The road was amazing. While climbing, we felt a loss of power so we stopped at an army post situated at 15000 ft ht. There I crossed a board saying – ‘You are now at 17000 ft’, my bike started choking . Unluckily, the bike had stopped at an avalanche zone so a local car driver advised me to either move forward or backward by around 100 meters. This is where the bike had stopped. A friend of ours who was on a RX got down and gave me a hard push and I did not stop till I got to the top of Chang la. At 17,800ft it is also the second highest pass in ladakh that you will come across. Once you reach the summit, you will be greeted by the Indian Army troops.There is a temple on top of Chang La pass, called Chang La Baba ka Mandir, as well as a cabin built by the army where we did warm ourselves up while chatting with the soldiers.
After a while, it was time to begin the descent from Chang La. The road is in bad condition for few kilometers, and one huge water crossing, beyond which superbly laid tarmac coupled with beautiful scenery awaits you. Our next break was at Tangste. It is a good idea to have your lunch here or in case you have arrived late in the evening, then spend the night here instead of continuing to Lukung or Spangmik. Journey beyond Tangtse for most part is through fantastically laid tarmac and views, There were quite a few water passages built in the middle of the road, which essentially mean 8-10 feet long depression in the middle of the road without any warnings, and Water streams flowing rapidly. As we approach the lake, the sheer size of it starts becoming more apparent as you finally reach its shores. On the banks of the lake is a military camp and also Lukung which is a collection of tents and newly built Eco Huts. We took a tent just right opposite the lake and chilled the whole evening. It was full moon night and watching the moonrise amidst the mountains was just a speechless and unexpressable feeling. Getting up early in the morning next day, it was bright and warm. We started towards Leh. We reached Leh by late evening and went back to the rooms and crashed. The next day, it was the journey back towards the plain lands via Kargil – Srinagar – Jammu.
Contd... We found huge boulders in the middle of the roads, rocks falling without warnings off the cliffs and roads which would allow just one truck to pass, we always had to wait it out and go ahead with ease. The truck drivers here were really well disciplined with road sense. They'd let us pass whenever they got some space to give way. The valley and surrounding region is one of the least populated regions in India and is the gateway to the northernmost reaches of the nation. With riding leisurely, we reached the beautiful village of Nako. The Uphill loops were a challenging for the bikes, The lack of oxygen started made the bikes coughing as they climbed uphill. The mountains are barren and largely devoid of a vegetative cover. We rode leisurely and took a room right opposite to the Nako lake and called it a day.
Spiti, which literally means the 'middle land', is a gray and barren landscape situated to the north of Shimla, in the state of Himachal Pradesh. It is the trans-Himalayan land with Tibet to its east, Ladakh to its north, Kullu to its west and Kinnaur bordering the south. Our next stop was Kaza. Kaza is a Sub Divisional Hqtr. of Spiti Valley. It is situated at the foot of the step ridges on the left bank of Spiti river. After starting early off Nako, Mine and shreyas' bike couldn't climb one of the the elevated roads, the altitude was causing the bikes to choke. We had to unload all the Luggage off the Bikes and then literally push the bike with the engine on in the first gear. we encountered a river crossing where Anoop was waiting as it wasn't a problem for his new bike. Me and Shreyas couldn't breathe. Pushing the Bikes weighing over 200+ kilos on that Altitude was really tiresome. We just sat there for 5 mins and THUD! Rocks started to fall off the cliff side and block the road ahead. we were trapped. Me and Anoop went and tried to move those boulders, But they were really massive and we couldn't. We had to wait for some or the other travellers to come and help. Finally, A scrorpio came and 8 of them moved the boulders and cleared the path. Moving ahead with such beautiful landscapes that I cannot even describe we reached Kaza by noon, got the bikes checked, took a stroll in the bazaar and went to bed. We met a lot of people in this whole journey, out of which we met very good folks of ‘ Spiti Ecosphere’ who run voluntary programs at villages of Spiti. We had a chat with them for like 2 hrs about the stuff they do in that region, and also collected information on all the places we had to visit the next two days.
Centrally located Kaza makes an ideal base camp for trekking, mountaineering and tours directed to other parts of the valley. Some of the major tourist attractions in and around Kaza beside Tangyud Monastery are the Key Gompa, Kibber village at an elevation of 4205 Mtrs,
Langza village famous for presents of marine fossils, the Pin Valley National Park, a protected area for Himalayan high altitude wildlife and komnic monastery, One of the highest monasteries in Asia. The following day, we visited all the 4 places except Pin Valley. We wanted to spend one full day at Pin.
The next morning, we started hearing news that the road after Kunzum is partially open and some taxi drivers were saying it might not open at all. This got us worried as to what the scene would be. Because we had to go back all the way 400 kms if we had to reach Manali, via Mandi . whereas it was just 201kms from Kaza.
There was also a huge river crossing at the entrance of Pin and the road to Pin was blocked. We had to cancel Pin valley and decided to march towards Kunzum la. When we got up, it was drizzling and windy and very cold. Shreyas was struck by the altitude and chilly winds. At one point none of us could feel our fingers. It went all numb. We made frequent stops and made it to the top of Kunzum la with sky clearing partially and sun playing hide and seek. It started to snow faintly. We crossed Kunzum la and reached ‘Batal’ encountering first black ice on the downhill.
The greenery on the southern side of the mountain pass disappears and the mountain slopes on the side become brown and arid. However, the mountain peaks are covered in snow and shine brightly in sun. The water from glacier melts is ice and results in water-crossings on the highway.
‘Batal’ was like a savior for us. We were heavily drenched. We had some hot Chai and the hospitality we received by these old couple at ‘Chandra Dhaba’ was really overwhelming. The old couple Mr. and Mrs. Dorji are running that Dhaba from past 49 years. They literally helped and saved lots of lives of people who have been stuck there due to intense weather conditions.
Aloo Sabji there was utterly delicious. We slept there fighting extreme cold conditions, possibly hitting subzero. We met couple of BRO chaps who said that roads are open ahead for 2 wheelers, At night, a couple of SUV’s came back from the roadblock as they couldn’t proceed further. We knew we would have a tough day the next day.
They also advised us to leave around 830 in the morning. It started snowing in the morning, Gearing up and thanking Dorji we started off from Batal, we came across a lot of river crossings, 3 big chunks of ice crossings, with walls of ice as high as 6-7 ft.
There was this place called ‘Chota Dara’ It was like 16 kms from Batal. We stopped for chai there. The caretaker there told us the block is just 9 kms away and he also told us 3 other bikes had stayed overnight at his place and they had started the same morning. Moving ahead we came across a lot of boulders and river crossing and finally reached this place when we couldn’t see the road.
The whole glacier was sitting on the road. There we actually met these 3 Bikes 2 RE c500’s and one BMW GS 1200R, they got help from the nearby village and had crossed two bike across the glacier and were moving their last bike across the block. Since they had laid tracks on the snow, we din’t need any help so told them to proceed further and we’ll manage across the block by ourselves. It took us nearly 45 mins to cross all the 3 bikes across the glacier and transfer all out luggage to the other side.
We did feel a sense off achievement that time. But little did we know that there were more blocks ahead. After this block, we encountered a lot of stream crossings which were really knee deep. We had to help each other at certain crossings as the bikes would get stuck at boulders.
Then a few kms ahead we saw the other 3 bikes who had crossed earlier examining a block. There was absolutely no road. We felt defeated. The civilization in the other side was just 9 kms away. It was too late to go back towards Batal.
Everyone were skeptical regarding how to cross the block. It was a huge 300 mtrs long glacier directed towards the valley and with a 20 ft drop at the end of the glacier to enter the road. Myself and Anoop took a walk over the glacier and examined the path and somehow thought we could cross the glacier by manhandling the bike to a certain extent. We started to be positive and somehow convinced the rest of the guys as well to help us take one bike out so that the rest of the bikes will get easier. First we got Anoop’s bike to the other side.
Creating a pathway and understanding the conditions of the snow with a great difficulty we took the bike halfway across snow till the 20 ft drop. Then we had make tie the bike with ratchets and had to slowly slide it down on the ice to join the road again. The sun was right above our head and the snow was starting to melt. With tremendous difficulty as we had a 300kg bike to cross as well, we crossed all the 6 bikes and moved all our luggage to the other side. All in all it took us 5 hrs.
We were all really happy about the teamwork and managed to cross all the bikes. Mr. Vijay, Mr. Matthew ( from Dubai ) were aged 50 and 60 and dint show any signs of giving up. This in turn motivated us a lot as well. After a couple of more river crossings we reached Gramphoo. Those guys headed towards Manali and we headed towards Keylong. It was almost a week since we had seen tarmac.
There was this sense of joy and we were all grinning and riding. Spiti Valley was really treacherous and it’s definitely not for the faint hearted and mentally/physically weak. Us and the machines were pushed to extreme limits. Now the Manali – Leh highway looked like a joke to us as we had just got out of Spiti. We reached Keylong at failing daylight got ourselves a hotel room and the rush was still kicking in and we couldn’t stop talking about the day.
36 River crossings, 3 ice pack crossings, a hell lot of black ice, 3 glaciers crossings - Spiti, You were the best.
10 states, 30 days, 6746 kms. I was always envious looking at people who’d already been to the Himalayas. Reading blogs, looking at their pictures. It took me almost a month of research on the roads and getting familiar with the Himalayas off the road, by following blogs and catching up with people. I had been dreaming of this for 3 years. So this year, travelling on these serene roads was a PRIORITY. We got our bikes loaded on the train at the Yeshwantpur Railway station, Bangalore. It was 8th of June, and we had to wait and wrap the bikes up. We just couldn’t wait to reach Delhi and hit the highway. Even after we got into the train to Delhi, the wait seemed like one year. According to our itinerary, we were supposed to rest one day at Delhi and start towards Rishikesh on the 11th of June. But, As soon as we got to Delhi, the unbearable heat made us want to leave Delhi immediately.
New Delhi - Rishikesh (230 kms)
So we started towards Rishikesh in the scorching heat of New Delhi. The millions of flyovers were really frustrating and really confusing. It took us 2 hours to weave our way through all the traffic. Our itching skins made it worse. Soon after we got out of the city, we stopped at a dhaba for lunch. It was a welcome break, as we relaxed, relieved that we’d escaped the city. This was the first pit stop of the whole trip.
The roads towards Rishikesh were really good till Muzaffarnagar. There was not much traffic. We drove through the green paddy fields and irrigation canals, with huge buffalos blocking us every 10 kms. We managed to reach Roorkee (200 kms from Delhi) and it started to get dark. With the highway work still going on, the road from Roorkee to Rishikesh was in bad shape. High beams of the oncoming traffic was really annoying. There was a lot of dust. Finally by 10 PM, we reached Rishikesh found a hotel and called it a day.
We decided to head out for rapid water rafting in the mighty ‘Ganges’ the next morning. We got up early in the morning by 6 to know that it was raining, usually the rafting season always shuts at the last week of June and this was the first day Rishikesh got its showers. Having chai, we headed towards ‘Shiva by the Ganges’ – A beautiful campsite, which was even more beautiful that day post showers and with fog rising out of the Ganges.
This is located like 12 kms from Rishikesh at this place called Shivpuri. I’d got the lead on this place by a good friend ( Nandita ) who had visited the same place just a couple of weeks ago. We had aloo parantha and started towards THE rafting starting point. We wrapped up rafting by around late afternoon and started towards Shimla by 2 PM. The roads were really chaotic and crowded till Dehradun. The road just transformed into a beautiful passage near Ponta Sahib, The amount of greenery around and late evening breeze made the ride very blissful. It was 730 in the night, there was a lot of daylight. We were still 90 kms from Shimla. So we decided to reach Solan and rest.
Rishikesh – Solan ( 245 k ms).
I was accompanied by my very good friends Anoop and Shreyas. Me and Shreyas have been riding a lot together and Anoop had joined us on the ride after almost a year. I really couldn’t have asked for a better company. On the third day, of which I was really excited because we were getting close to Spiti valley. We started from Solan and headed towards Peo.
Solan – Peo ( 290 kms )
Reckong peo is the head Quarters of the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. At dawn, we started off from Solan, took the Rampur highway and towards Peo. We started encountering crazy twists and turns. At one point we spotted Sutlej from a top ’view point’. I was really pumped, we were riding along Sutlej throughout.
Rampur roads have high speed corners and very minimal traffic with landscapes making us want to stop every kilometer and take pictures. A few kms later we spotted the first mountain with icecaps. That was Kinner Kailash.
Anoop and Shreyas really were excited as well, we stopped to take pictures. Little did we know about the conditions of roads ahead and it was about to get dark. We were 35kms away from Peo and it was 1930 hrs and daylight was failing. The roads started to disappear, we encountered our very first river crossing in the night.
With Sutlej roaring next to us roaring with tremendous force and with absolute darkness we struggled and made it to the Peo uphill road, We saw the milestone saying 6kms and we were happy. When we started towards Peo, I was leading the pack and I saw something move in the bushes ahead and I stopped. Shreyas was next to me and he did stop as well. I asked him to be silent. We saw a fairly big animal of a cat family ( Snow leopard - what we presume.. Haha!) stood and looked at us for 2 secs and with pride and class crossed the road and headed towards the mountains. We were shocked and staggered, we didn’t know what to do. We came back down to the foothill waited there for 10 mins and then went towards Peo took a hotel room and slept. Since we arrived at Peo by night, We din’t realize what landscapes were surrounding us. We woke up to see Kinner Kailash just glowing and blazing strong with pride with sunlight reflecting on the snow. It was a surreal sight. We headed towards Kalpa - 9 kms from Peo ( Uphill )where we got a better view of Kinner Kailash. Our next stop was the town of Nako, and we would enter Spiti Valley. There were hardly any roads it was 80 pc gravel and 20 pc tarmac. We encountered our first roadblock 30 mins away from Peo.
We had to wait out for the bulldozers to clear and make us a path to carry on. There were lots of Army Convoys heading towards a camp near Pooh. There was a small Military canteen on the way, just before Pooh, where the generous army folks offered us Tea and snacks. They also gave a shocker of a news that Roads after ‘Kunzum la’ were blocked and it’d take easily 2 or more weeks to clear. But, just being optimistic we convinced ourselves we can somehow manage and cross towards Gramphoo or were just positive that It might open by the time we get there . We came across the board “ YOU ARE NOW TRAVELLING ON THE WORLD’S MOST TREACHEROUS ROAD”. This signboard just made us really happy and the adrenaline just kicked in and we said “ BRING IT ON! “. This was just the beginning. We were going to enter SPITI the next day.