A little bit of Wonderful India

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by ADVRadu, Jun 24, 2021.

  1. ADVRadu

    ADVRadu Adventurer

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    I feel I've been quite lazy in terms of reporting during the past few years. I also feel humbled by the greatness of other ride reports and their awesome stories and pics. Nonetheless, it's soon going to be 6 years since this trip, and it would be a pity if it all gets forgotten, just withering away, falling pray to my ruthless senility.

    Just wondering if anyone's still interested in Himalayan classics like Ladakh, or ones not so well known, like Uttarakhand. Anyway, here are a few pics:

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    #1
  2. Richarde1605

    Richarde1605 Long timer

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    I sense some stories there. I was talking to Carl in Mumbai yesterday, it was 6:30am his time and birds were singing in the background :-)
    #2
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  3. Richarde1605

    Richarde1605 Long timer

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    Even Dracula likes my post

    :-)
    #3
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  4. kiwial

    kiwial Allweatherrider

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    Always nice to see somebody else made it not just to Ladakh and Spiti but also to Zanskar (or did you only go as far as the Parkachik glacier in the photo) and at the best time of the year, autumn.
    And fresh snow on Khardung La is always a bonus ;-)
    #4
  5. ADVRadu

    ADVRadu Adventurer

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    There was snow on more than just Khardung La. We rode back to Delhi in October. It has been a great time of the year, actually. Due to passenger complaints (which I used to take very seriously) we turned back after two days in Rangdum. In the last years I kept reading news about roads being built to connect Zanskar to Leh - Srinagar and Leh - Manali roads. it would be very interesting when they are finished, but a real bummer for trekkers and wild river rafters.


    We ended up going kind of Invercargill to Kargill back in that year, and the Indian leg of the journey was to be by bike. Now I have to confess, I don't like the Enfields. I also don't enjoy riding rough roads on street bikes. But some compromise had to be devised, and with a little market research and the invaluable help of my friend Atri in Delhi, I ended up with 3 possible candidates as my goat...er...bike: Honda Impulse, Honda Karizma or Bajaj Pulsar. Personally I would have chosen the Impulse, but after some test ride it proved to be as lively as a dead cow, more something that I'd have to shove rather than ride up the mountain. The few Karizmas I found were all kind of beaten up, so the only logical choice for me remained the Pulsar. After riding a few of them, I was quite satisfied with the bike (it seemed actually like a pretty sturdy and fun little machine), and with the help of a very kind gentleman from Subhash Nagar market (Sandeep Bhatia from Graduate motors), I purchased one shiny, almost new, Pulsar 220. It was the newest and prettiest bike I had owned and I was already feeling bad for what I was about to do to her.

    Now even though the purchasing process had taken me a few days, and I thought the hard part was already behind me, I had absolutely no clue about how hard it would be to prepare the bike for a long trip in the mountains. First, nice and easy, new tires had to be fitted. I was already dreaming of leaving Delhi next morning. Procuring some helmets, saddle bags and a few small things went like a charm as well. I was already seeing myself on top of the world.

    But then came the part of the luggage carrier. In my optimistic Romanian mind I had thought: well, there are so many welders and metal shops in Delhi, how hard can it be to fix something? Well, quite hard, it turned out. In the firs two days or so I used to ride around the city and stop at every welding shop and ask, only to be turned down. Apparently everyone of them just did copy-paste designs of gates, doors, hand rails and so on, nobody being keen to try something new. Katastrophe! I did manage to find a business man though. From the beginning of our chat, I knew he had sensed my desperation, and I knew for sure I was gonna get ripped off. But such is life, and such is business, and scarcity creates value. So I payed him about 5k Rs. and after one and a half day's work I had a luggage rack on my bike. It may not look impressive, but In surely was happy as hell when it was all done and I knew we could finally leave the big busy city the next morning.

    Here's a bit of the work in progress:
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    And finally, on our way out, due east:
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    It was still August, so the monsoon should have typically been still around, but 2015 turned out to be a rather dry summer, so we decided to go to Uttarakhand first, and see the valley of the flowers in blossom. I did not understand much of the way traffic works, but I knew I had to make my way through it.

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    It wasn't long before we hit some rougher roads, too:
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    But it wasn't too long before we reached Nainital, where we would rest for a few days and enjoy being out of the scorching/sweltering heat. The mountains were getting closer, we could smell the fresh air, finally.
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    Bonus for today, some road oddities:
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    #5
  6. kiwial

    kiwial Allweatherrider

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    ● Quote: "There was snow on more than just Khardung La. We rode back to Delhi in October. It has been a great time of the year, actually" -
    ○○ Thats why I like spring and autumn (in autumn all the rreally bad places of the road have been fixed) because the scenery looks so much better with a bit of snow on the mountains.
    And because most of the tourists are gone, the place feels a bit more old school.
    I was there once as late as you in October and while that is quite risky (a blizzard on 24. September 2013 with 3 days of snowfall had tourists stuck for 6 days on the Manali-Leh and Spiti road and they had to be flown out) the place feels even better than in September.
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    ● Quote: - "Due to passenger complaints (which I used to take very seriously) we turned back after two days in Rangdum."
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    ○○ I just about turned around in Rangdum as well because my KTM Duke kept overheating on the slow bad uphill road to Rangdum but seeing the next day that the road to Pandum was slightly better and flatter, I made it to Zanskar proper.
    If it is any consolation to you, most of the 'famous' RTW riders here on Advrider that made it to Ladakh and Spiti didn't make it to Zanskar either. One of the very few that did was Noraly ('Itchy Boots').
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    ● Quote: - "In the last years I kept reading news about roads being built to connect Zanskar to Leh - Srinagar and Leh - Manali roads. it would be very interesting when they are finished, but a real bummer for trekkers and wild river rafters."
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    ○○ Sofar the most direct road from Leh to Zanskar/Padum through Nimmu/Chilling is still unfinished but
    the road from Leh to Lamayuru and Lingshed has now been extended to Padum and
    the Manali/Darcha to Padum 'road' over Shingo La is officially open now
    ...and with that goes the isolation of its people with all the good and bad that comes with it.
    #6
  7. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Adjustafork.com - CEO

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    I'm no fan of the Enfields either. If I were to ride there again, anything but an Enfield.
    #7
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  8. kiwial

    kiwial Allweatherrider

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    Especially because of having had to rebuild the engine on day 2 (3, 4...?) of the journey...albeit it only cost ~$200.
    You had the secret of light 'carry on luggage only' travel sorted.
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    ('ADVRadu'...Joe's Ride Report is another Classic...,
    even if he didn't make it to Zanskar either ;-)
    .
    #8
  9. ADVRadu

    ADVRadu Adventurer

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    It's not a contest, plus we did make it to the highest point on the Zanskar Road, plus a random mountain peak near Nun-Kun, so not too bad.
    #9
  10. ADVRadu

    ADVRadu Adventurer

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    We met some people on Postie bikes there, too. Why would anyone do such a thing to themselves is beyond my comprehension.
    #10
  11. ADVRadu

    ADVRadu Adventurer

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    We spent a few days in bliss in Nainital, but then it was finally time to hit the road again. Us chasing a levitating cow:
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    Passing and abandoned church (I'm still wondering what the people who put it there were thinking in the first place):
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    The scenery looked heavenly, lush green, waterfalls.. a bit like Rivendell.

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    And since I almost forgot, this might be a good point to reintroduce the team: me (Radu), my then girlfriend (and now wife) Loredana, and our shiny red-and-black sportsbike (also called "the fastest Indian"):
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    Somewhere around here we were debating where to go next...and as the weather looked bright and sunny (and pretty dry for still rainy season) we decided to head to valley of flowers. We also had really good veg food at the restaurant by the river. At this point though, we were beginning to miss the "non-veg" slightly. And the craving for beer was also a steady companion, especially in the midday heat.

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    The road kept on being interesting:
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    And we saw other sentient beings satisfying their cravings, too:

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    And at the end of the day we had made it to Govind Gath, the starting point for Valley of flowers and Sri Hemkund Sahib. It was probably the shittiest of all accomoddations we had in the whole tour, but luckily it's been one night only.

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    Next day we hired a mule to carry our bags to Gangaria (which turned out to be a pretty stupid idea), and off we went:

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    I'll finish this one with a question, guess what the dark, saggy things are:
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    #11
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  12. ROAD DAMAGE

    ROAD DAMAGE Long timer Supporter

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    Bees?
    #12
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  13. ADVRadu

    ADVRadu Adventurer

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    That is correct!

    And there we are: Valley of flowers:
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    Hard to describe how beautiful this place really is. My shots don't do it justice either. But here goes nothing:
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    Interesting pic of the day: some people do not walk (not sure if by choice or by need). Nonetheless, it's hard to even imagine what a miserable job poor guys who carry them on their backs really have.
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    After a few days of relaxing in the area it was time to hit the road again - on a short trip to the temple of Badrinath:
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    Despite being quite populated, the place was very serene, and definitely a place I would have enjoyed spending more time. The stars did not align for that though, so we were off due west. I spotted an old Bajaj in a town, and I do have to say I definitely like the styling. And it seems to have held itself well technically, too. Respect to the owner for taking such good care of it.

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    We slowly made our way towards Rishikesh (of which I did not know much at the time). We passed by quite some beautiful spots:

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    Giant Shiva statue:

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    Pig herd:
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    I still don't know what's the idea with pigs in this part of the world. I've seen them in many places roaming around, especially digging into piles of thrash, but never have I seen any pork on any menu.

    We ended up in a "very spiritual place" full of enlightened hippies and potheads. FFS, even the guys who did shoe repairs on the side of the street tried to sell me dope while I was asking them to fix something at my saddlebags. Plus, this was a "dry" area, so we had to drive for 30kms or so to get a few damn beers to chill in the evening. But I do remember sharing the porch with two educated young ladies from India, who were of similar disposition. It's been a good evening and we were happy to share beers and stories with them.

    We didn't linger for too long in this town and we made our way further to Shimla. At the end of a long day, and after navigating some crowded and very narrow streets in the old town, we were rewarded with a great meal in Nahan:
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    The room we found wasn't great, but at least it was cheap and we had a roof over our heads, so we called a day.
    #13
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  14. ADVRadu

    ADVRadu Adventurer

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    We passed Mandi, Shimla and Dharamshala in a bit of a hurry - as Kashmir was getting ever closer, I was feeling the mountain fever. I was already seeing myself at the gates of Tibet, or maybe just strolling by the lake in Srinagar.

    I remember staying in a hotel with a very interesting name for some of us Europeans:
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    I did manage to get something technically significant done. I felt quite a few times that the bike was a bit too long-geared for steep ascents with 2 people and luggage on its back. It was probably designed for flat highway riding and achieving maximum top speed possible out of her overwhelmingly powerful 220cc massive engine.
    My internet research had paid off, and armed with a Karizma chainset I had bought in the market in Rishikesh, I managed to short-gear the bike in Shimla. Boy, did those 4 extra teeth make a difference! I was going to really thank me later for this, as my bike was, by far, the fastest vehicle on all high passes in the Indian Himalayas.

    It was raining cats and dogs in Dharamshala and we did not see much. We hid by a roadside dhaba and waited for the rain to pass. As we subsequently headed into town, we were assaulted by people offering "great rooms" and we decided it was probably not the place for us.
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    We took a look at the old abandoned church:
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    Then we looked once more towards McLeod Ganj and the mountains in its backdrop, and off we went:
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    There were monkeys all over the place. Some were quite aggressive, angrily chasing us as we passed by. Others peaceful, just minding their own business.

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    Although the OSM had mostly worked for me, sometimes it lead me into ridiculous situations. Now it expected me to climb some stairs, as if they were a road:
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    I have a faint recollection of where we slept that night, though I am not completely sure. I do remember bringing the price down from 6K to 1K for a riverside suite. I think not to bad for a couple of Ausländer.

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    Next day we found ourselves in the lowlands again. It was hot, but there were cute things here and there. For example these flowers in the area separating the lanes on the highway. Take that, western world:
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    Nonetheless we were quite happy when we first entered a valley:

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    And we saw one gentleman traveling in style:

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    I dunno wth I was doing, but I'm sure I knew at the time:

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    Oh, such words of wisdom! How clearly did I remember them, those few times when things got ... tensioned:

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    The true meaning of this one I would realize only later:

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    And man, this road turned out to be hard. I was hoping this would be easier than Rothang La, and would also offer a more gradual ascent overall, hence I chose this way. But there were so many trucks. And so much dust. And such heat. And people in the villages looked like Taleban. And children were throwing rocks and sticks at us. So I thought, hell no, we're not stopping here overnight, even if it means driving on a mountain road at night. So I pushed as fast as I could, and granted, in the few bits where trucks were not cueing, I quite enjoyed it. Until I hit a big puddle of grease (I guess somebody's gearbox or something must have had cracked in the middle of the road). I smacked the road pretty hard and some of the things we had on the bike decided to go on their own separate ways. I damaged my jeans and my single needle shirt I had bought in a second hand market back in Malaysia beyond their useful life. I had a few bruises, but otherwise not much. Loredana, smart girl, had worn knee protectors and a jacket. Her jeans were soiled with grease as well, but in a much better shape than mine, and thankfully she was all right. We made it to Srinagar just before midnight, and luckily enough there was one nice hotel who welcomed us, even though at this point we were looking a bit like a pair of hobos. Check out the clothes:

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    But hey, there's nothing a little beer shampoo won't clean:

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    And one more thing. While were scrambling to gather all the stuff back together after the crash, quickly as possible before trucks run it over, there was one shepherd on the roadside. He just stood there, staring at us intensely. He also had a kind of Taleban style and look. It was, and still is, hard for me to comprehend how can somebody be so indifferent to the problems of others. Now I don't expect to have problems caused by me solved by somebody else who just happens to be there, but hey, being a little helpful doesn't really hurt. I know I at least would try to help. His look still kinda haunts me from time to time. And sometimes I do think to myself, what could have happened if stuff was more serious and we weren't able to go on?

    Later someone told me that the locals there would have preferred to be part of Pakistan, rather than India. And that the kids were attacking us because they thought we were Indians. I don't know what to make of that. It does explain some things, but not everything. Anyway, I was glad this part was behind us and it would be smooth sailing from now on. All we had to do was get some fresh clothes and some SIM cards that would work in J&K...but not before a long awaited good night's sleep.
    #14
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  15. ADVRadu

    ADVRadu Adventurer

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    Srinagar used to be quite a beautiful city. I certainly hope it is still that nowadays. I realize a lot must have changed.

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    After a few days at the "palace" it was time to hit the road again. The best lay ahead of us, still: Zoji La, Zanskar, Ladakh.
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    We decided to take it easy and we stopped in Sonamarg. There was a pretty valley to explore on foot nearby.
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    Next day was cold and windy. I thought to myself...hmm, if it's like this "down here", I wonder how bad would be "up there"?
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    I took a sort of a shortcut towards Zanskar, but I realized I would not have enough fuel, so we turned back to the main road and we headed to Kargil. Fun fact - this was the northernmost point of our tour that year. The southernmost was Invercargill in New Zealand. Thus Ivercargill to Kargill, more or less.
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    It was on this road we first tried mutton momos. And man, were they the most delicious little things ever! Especially after all those weeks with only veg food. And next, we're off into the Zanskar valley. Even the biscuits are excited.
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    And for good reason:
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    The majestic Nun-Kun peak:
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    You could almost touch the glacier from the road. I wonder if the glacier had receded in the years in between.
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    And the stupa is marking we're in Buddhist lands now. Don't be a Gamma in the land of Lamma...

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    Not exactly like the BAM, but there have been a couple of water crossings. Then again, I was wearing blue jeans, a softshell jacket, hiking shoes and an indigenous flip helmet. A far cry from a full-out Klim outfit and "adventure"-style helmets and boots.
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    Definitely in the land of Lamma:
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    Due to passenger complaints (which my transport company takes rather seriously), this is about as far as we went in this valley before heading back. There you go, Pantsy-La:
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    This is one last look towards Zanskar:
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    Some more random pics from this little paradise:
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    Being tired of riding on the rough road, we went for a hike again. About 1000m altitude difference, which we really felt brutally, going from 3500m to 4500m. But we were acclimatizing. This is the kind of activity that makes sleeping at night and even just moving around a whole lot easier.

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    The views as we approached the summit:
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    And there we made it on top of "The little peak of our own" (it seemed nameless on the map, so we named it).
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    We could also see the big guy from a different angle:
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    And me "basejumping" between Nun and Kun:
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    Actually glad to be on asphalt again.
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    That famous confluence of rivers:
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    Going to proper mountain desert
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    Nature was feeling rather generous one day, so she made a monument, the image of which would surely enchant many of the ladies:
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    Entering Lamayuru. The promissed land, Shangri La, it all seems tangible now. We've almost reached the skies.
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    Smooth road for smooth ride...nothing can stop us now:
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    Perhaps only a "very weak bridge" could slow us down:
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    The endless road to Leh:[​IMG]

    And here we are:
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    Finally time to rest again.

    Tomorrow it's going to be 6 years since our crash in Kinnaur. I think I should speed up with this story, history is passing me by :-)))
    #15
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  16. BrockEvan

    BrockEvan Brock Warwick Supporter

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    ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!
    #16