Ladakh again.....long way in
There's one more week left before I head out with friends......I'm quite sure I'm counting minutes, but my math fails me. So it's one week to go.
Ofcourse, it's a boys only trip. So we're leaving toothbrush, shaving kit etc at home. Everyone is probably working up the sweaty feet syndrome already...
It will be two Royal Enfields 500 (AVL) and one Honda XR400. The Enfields are not rentals, they are our own and therefore in great shape. The XR should ofcourse be a dream bike for the region.
And another friend is driving along on 4 wheels. His spirit of adventure has allowed this sacrilege to pass......and we have somehow landed a support vehicle :evil. It's a 4wd Ford Endeavour (For Ranger based SUV).
We will leave from Delhi, go via close to Shimla up till Kaza in the Spiti Valley. Then swing though Lahaul Valley and join the main route to Leh (in Ladakh) and then get off the beaten path and have all kinds of off road fun in the back of beyond.......round trip around 3500 kms. In Americanese that works out to a lot of "miles".
I'll post more about everything in upcoming posts....Routes / Planning / Bike prep / Gear / Yadda / Blah / Etc.
The route - how to avoid Manali...
The usual route to Leh (capital of the Ladakh region) is to ride north on the main highway to Manali about 550kms away, fight for air with a million tourists, have a nightmarish multi-hour ride up the 50kms or so of traffic jams to Rohtang Pass and the eventually start to have fun after that. Not a good plan.
We'll head up the main highway for 4 hours and cut off to Shimla, thus hit the Himalayan foothills in 5 hours of leaving Delhi. Then half way up cut off east and ride via Chail and come out ahead of Shimla, thereby avoiding the main tourist routes altogether right on day one.
We'll swing by the beautiful Sangla valley, then ride through the Kinnaur region in Himalayas proper, swing north along the Chinese border and enter the spectacular Spiti Valley. Through Spiti to the first main pass, Kunzum La at 15000 feet, and drop down into Lahaul Valley. About 90kms offroad through water crossing and melting glaciers and join up the Manali-Leh route near Keylong.
That brings us up to a 1000kms from Delhi, so a 300kms detour to avoid Manali......thus the "long way in".
Appropriately enough, this part of the route comes out like a question mark :)
Rest of the route - or How to have fun in Ladakh
So the point of going to Ladakh ends up being going to Leh.....which beats the point of going to Ladakh!
So we will end up reaching Leh right at the end of our spins around Ladakh.
The more interesting parts of Ladakh all require permits issued in Leh as they are "sensitive" areas, with militarised borders with China and Pakistan. Evrybody needs these permits, including Indians. And the even more interesting parts of Ladakh are restricted to only Indians, with permits. And then there are even more interesting parts that no one expects anyone to go to so there is an absence of policy on issueing permits for them. But this can obviously be interpreted two ways :evil
So ofcourse that's where all we'll go. From the route to Leh, about 150kms short of Leh we will cut off east to two lakes...Tso Kar and Tso Moriri. Big huge lakes at 14000 feet altitude. Used to be an offroad route, but may have some roads now. Hoping not.
Then we head through a new track, off the map, to a place called Hanle which has the world's currently highest Observatory, though people reach there via a proper other road from Leh. My interest is only that it's a very rarely travelled (or even known) track connecting the two places. Nothing like offroading in the back country at 14-15000 feet altitude.
Then we ride through some interesting valleys, mostly offroad up to the giant mother of a lake, Pangong Tso. 130kms long, crystal clear salt water lake at 15000 foot altitude. Then off through one of two interesting routes to Nubra Valley. Here we'll end up at Hundar, with it's massive sand dunes and double hump camels in a 14000 foot altitude valley.
And then ride up Khardung La, the erstwhile/disputed highest motorable road in the workd at 18000+ foot altitude, and down into Leh in the Indus valley. Then finally head on back home via the spectacularly beautiful Kashmir.
The trick is to obtain all the permits in advance for which many efforts are currently on. Not only is it unusual to receive these permits in advance, some intended spots have suddenly been re-restricted. Apparently some bikers rode off into Chinese territory and got arrested....
pics soon please
Bike prep - Enfield
After a number of rides, I think I have reached the right level of fixes to make the bike right for the mixed riding that is Ladakh - offroad and onroad, long straight highways, windy mountain roads, high altitudes, etc. All the fixes are really simple and straightforward.
First reduce weight....so no rear seat, then lighter version of Enfield official mudguards/fenders, lightweight and simple Enfield engine guard-bars, rear shocks on stiffest setting. I also removed the center stand...reduces weight and increases ground clearance. How to fix flats? We'll just have to see......
I put in a Hitchcock Motorcycles (UK) sump guard, really sturdy steel unit. Swapped the handlebar for a wide and higher cross-braced offroad handlebar. And MSR Barkbusters from the US.
Offroading tyres - huge hassle always finding these in India. For the rear I had replaced the 19" rim with a 18" rim for this purpose. Ran a Duro tyre for quite a while, finally was showing wear after about 4000kms, so put in a new one. All I could find this time was King's Tire. It's knobby and hard, so let's see. For the 19" front all I could find is a dual purpose type, so it'll have to do. Better than stock for sure.
On the back, I have a small fabricated steel carrier. No real use, as the bike will have sling-over saddlebags, but still a steady platform to tie stuff down.
And finally, spare clutch and throttle cables routed in and taped to the installed cables.
Spares include two tubes each for each tyre, puncture stickers, one clutch set, spare footpegs and hand levers, fuses, spark plugs, bulbs, cables, chain links, zip-ties, epoxy.
The bike got serviced and ready yesterday at my favourite Aman Automobiles in Gurgaon. They put it down for a "Ladakh check-up". Oil in good shape, clutch plates good, brake oil topped up, nuts and bolts tightened, new chain link put in and chain oiled, wheels balanced and aligned, electricals tested and sorted. Battery is a bit low due to low usage, but in good health and will charge up while riding.
So one bike good to go. Today I finalise the Honda.
The Enfield going through the routine
Honda XR prep
First thing on the XR400 was to make it more road worthy.....basically the engine would feel strained at even 80kmph sustained. So I've put in a 16 tooth front sproket and I'll carry the original 15 tooth in the bag. Already I can feel the engine running easier and I dont seem to have lost any low end either.
A number of other things had been getting put on already - 3.8 gallon Clarke tank, MSR Barkbusters, Devol skid plate, new clutch cable and perch.
The latest addition is a set of locally bought cheap mirrors - came in chrome so I spray painted them black. The fancy Acerbis set I had imported was useless with such short stems that all I saw were the hair on my forearms.
And then I've put in a set of MotoSport pannier brackets to keep bags off the side panels and exhaust. The tyres are Pirelli MT21, newly put in. Also put in a horn, almost critical in India, which seems to be right real moody bitch.
The bike is now ready. New oil, chain cleaned and lubed. The only thing I'm worried about is kickstarting in cold weather in the thin air of the high altitudes. Let's see how that goes. Usually starts in third kick, but every once in a while the bike tries to teach me who's the boss.
Prep work in a "workshop"...(they do know what they're doing...)
The pannier brackets
The Five 'O
So here's how I plan to get into trouble with the Police:
1. Quite likely we will be overspeeding in places.....
2. The Enfield's insurance has run out. Not sure I'll have the time to get that sorted before leaving....5 days left....busy in office.
3. I may not be able to find the pollution certificate for the Honda in the paper mess at home....
4. The Honda's "number plates" are basically small computer printouts, taped over on to the fenders. I'm quite sure that's not kosher.
5. Ofcourse, the Honda has no turn signals and only a moody horn......when a cop wants to screw you these are rrelevant. Otherwise no one cares.
6. And lastly, I just saw that my driving license expired two days back......this I am SURE I wont be able to sort out before leaving.
So, months of planning down to the smallest details; maps, distances, GPS tracks, gear, equipment......and the some big things I dont bother with!
So I'm going to be a good Indian and wing it......it's called "Dekhi jaayegi".....(We'll see) :)
So we finally have permits for all the places we aimed for, except one. This is a major achievement.
Usually one needs to go to Leh and apply for the permits to these restricted areas. Not only does that take one whole day, it makes it necessary to first go to Leh before going anywhere more interesting and creates a lot of riding repeat sections.
With all kinds of hard work, we have these permits in advance, so we cut off into our intending riding areas without ever hitting Leh till right at the end. Just as planned and intended. And even more exciting, permissions of travel to many of these areas were withdrawn three weeks back, but we've somehow been given those permits too! Maybe they're opening up and all one needs to do is ask real nice.
This routing creates a loooooong section of 750kms without any re-fueling possibilities. That's a lot of kms. But the friendly 4wd comes in handy.....my friend SP will be carrying 60ltrs of fuel for the three bikes on his roof carrier, besides 60 for himself. So we now have a fuel tanker along :)
So 4 more days till the rubber meets the road.
Gear and stuff
A good friend works for Bering, a French bike gear maker. They have great stuff and I get great prices...:)
Bering Newton jacket - Three layer with removable waterproof and thermal layers. While I've been using a Dainese goretext two layer jacket, this time I'll try out the three layer thing. May be hugely inconvenient when it rains suddenly, but on dry days the large air vents and lighter weight should be nice.
Bering Odyssee pants - Again three layer with waterproof cargo pockets, air vents and adjustable knee straps. Used Bering goretext two layer in the past......but looking forward to the lighter materials for the heat.
Alpinestars Jet - boots - Trusty goretex boots, used for about 5000kms of rides already.....hope they last, looking in good health for now.
Wolfman Explorer Lite tankbag- After much thinking, got this one. Fixed it today and all seems fine. Doesnt come in the way while standing up, fits snug. And it swallows half a mountain of stuff!
Cameron Adelaide pannier bags - I'm a big fan of soft luggage and these are great. Compact(ish) in size and are expandable to nearly twice their original size. The come with a drybag layer which I have fitted inside. Cameron is a sub-brand of Bering too.
LaFuma tent - Three man, will be used for two. Waterproof three season tent. And LaFuma sleeping bags.
The panniers/saddlebags are full of clothes already, despite taking bare minimum stuff. Gotta consider 40c heat freezing to -5c cold along the way, with rain thrown in and no washing along the way......
So a random small bag will go on the tail with spares and tools etc. And then Bering perforated leather gloves for the heat and Reusch goretex winter gloves rounds it all up.
Wolfman mounting test today
All the best.
Looks good.Sounds good.
For insurance try buying one online. Looking forward to more
All set and 'ready-to-roll', i see...! :)
Good-Luck & happy trails out there, Manish!
Looking forward to reading your story as also some 'amazing' photographs! ;-)
Subscribed and hooked.. I'm all set and following you starting 31st july on my GS with three other blokes also on GS!!
So it appears my user ID is disabled and multiple mails to the admin have gone unanswered. Finally made a new ID which is finally active. Been back for 10 days or so, sucked back into work big time.
I'll start uploading photos and writing the story soon.
It was a good trip and I came back with a sufficient amount of zen. The Honda XR performed brilliantly overall, though I don't think I will singing praises of the seat comfort :rofl
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