A Travellerspoint blog

October 2010

Day 26: October 27th - Jaipur to Delhi along Highway 8

Forget Route 66, you must travel along National Highway 8, the craziest road on the planet !

sunny 38 °C

After a great day at Jaipur, including the Observatory and Amber Fort, both over 400 years old, it was back to Delhi along National Highway 8.
Now India's roads vary from nice new tarmac to unmade, pothold dust tracks. Well National Highway 8 had all of these, plus 10 million trucks who all thought that they were FI or Paris to Dakhar Rally drivers.

So forget your dream of riding or driving Route 66, its one of the craziest roads on the planet. The first part of the road through Rajasthan was great, on new tarmac, fantastic scenery, light traffic, including more carts being pulled by camels. Then the drive slowly took on a different character. Every driver became an F1 or Paris to Dahkar Rally driver whether is was one of the thousands of old trucks, taxi's, cars or 125 motorbikes. There were overtakes, undertakes "in between takes" - 'OH MY GOD' !!!!, off road takes, horns and lights, cows, goats and sheep, oh and also the people who at small villages and towns trying to cross NH 8 #########.

The 'Race' became fastest, tighter, crazier the nearer we got towards Delhi. Have you all seen the film, Gumball Rally" that coast to coast road race across America. Well multiply that by 10 and you get National Highway 8.

I have never seen so many tucks in all my life. But I was in good hands, I had Sunjay, he is the Indian World Champion Driver, we were taking every truck,car, cow, goat and camel on the road. I loved it, road it and survived it. We finally got to Delhi and crossed the line first, what a drive NH8 was !

Posted by Mike Casey 08:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

Day 25, October 26th : Jaipur, "The Pink City" of Rajasthan

The Journey goes on through the Golden Triangle.

sunny 40 °C

The journey goes on after the marvellous experience of the Taj Mahal yesterday in Agra. Words and photo's are not enough, you have to be there for sunset by the River Yamuna. You must go there and see it !

After breakfast it was back on the road with my excellent driver, Sunjay. We drove out of Agra at 8am, and were soon out in the rural countryside on NH11 to Jaipur. The area looked rich in agriculture, small tidy field systems,very green, with people, mainly women, hard at work harvesting. There were many gangs of men waiting for their day's work, school children and student's off to school and college, and again more evidence of very poor people, especially the children, that makes me think how lucky I am.

The NH 11 then just gets better, "tarmac", and all the way to Jaipur, the "Pink City" in the desert area of Rajasthan, 260km away on the second side of the Golden Trianagle.

On route the first stop of the day is at Fatehpursikri, and the palace of the Mungal Emperor, Akbar. This was built in 1569, and is absolutely stunnning. It is full of all sorts of designs and influences including Persian and Turkish. It is one of the finest examples of Mughal architechure in the world, a combination of Hindu and Muslim design, plus many other symbols from Asia and the Silk Road. Constructed in the red sandstone of the area.

My second stop was unexpected, it was at the Keoladeo National Park and Bird Sanctuary at Bharatpur. What a fantastic 'birding' session with my great park ranger and guide Ishwarsing, a Sikh. He was very knowledgable as he took me around the national park, spotting many new birds of India that I had not seen. I was also able to take many photos of birds with my zoom lens on, the battery is still going after 3 weeks ?
I had a fantastic few hours at Keoladeo National Park, you must go there !

Then on to Jaipur, the flat lands suddenly gave rise to a series of red sandstone ridges that the road cut through, until we finally arrived at Jaipur, which was quite different to anywhere else I've seen in India. On the edge of the Rajasthan desert. I had other matters to deal with in Jaipur, God Bless Jane and Tom, my grateful thanks ! Finally arriving at the Hotel Sajjan Niwas, a very old and traditionally styled hotel, my base for the night.

I will add more information and photo's later. I'm still catching up with emails, phone and my travel blog.

Posted by Mike Casey 06:22 Archived in India Tagged landscapes people birds jaipur Comments (0)

Day 18: October 19th: Last Day in Keylong, Lahaul.

The Royal Enfield - The Legend Rides On

sunny 40 °C

After such a great adventure yesterday in the Upper Bhaga Valley and the high plateau at Zingzingbar, and too many encounters with the Indian Army, I thought I would have a quieter last day in Keylong. I have been off the radar for a few days now, and wanted to make contact with home. Keylong has yet to get wired up with the www.internet; the only facility to communicate back to the UK was an STD phone in the local barber shop.

So I spoke to Jane (5.30am UK time) to tell her that all was well, that I’m fit, healthy and safe, also about yesterday’s adventure into the high Himalayas and caught up on news from home. I told Jane that I would be riding back over the Rohtang Pass tomorrow, back to Manali where the trusty Enfield would be returned, and my main bags sent through from Jogindar Nagar. Speaking of travelling light, since I left JN five days ago, I have lived out of my red Ortlieb Rackbag, what a good bit of kit!

I then spoke to Naresh about my onward plans, returning the Enfield to Manali and getting my other bags sent on from Jogindar Nagar. Naresh, typically efficient, had everything in hand; he has become a good friend, also concerned that I was okay.

So off down to Tandi petrol station to ‘top up’ with fuel. I had thought of exploring valley number 3, the Chandra Valley, but I had ridden down that two days ago, and will return up it tomorrow morning on my way back to Manali, over the Rohtang Pass. So I will make an early start tomorrow.

I decided therefore to ride back out along the Chandrabhaga Valley again, just to enjoy the spectacular beauty of the valley, then back to Keylong for lunch, and a relaxing afternoon on the hotel patio catching up on my travel diary on my ‘netbook’. What a good bit of kit that has been!

Just looking across the valley and up at the high ridges and peaks, the weather seems to be changing with some cloud build up the west, and blue sky to the east. The weather has been very settled, and the snow is not yet due for another couple of weeks. I just want to get out of Lahaul, over the Rohtang Pass, and down into the Kullu Valley tomorrow.

So some kit and Enfield checks now, a relaxing afternoon, dinner and an early night, ready for an early start tomorrow. Lahaul has been a brilliant area to explore; it has been a real adventure, especially the upper reaches of the Chandra, in the barren, high rocky plateau area below the Baralacha Pass.

It has ben another great ride on the Enfield. it has not missed a beat !

Posted by Mike Casey 07:06 Archived in India Tagged the in ride a western royal enfield himalaya's Comments (0)

Day 17: October 18th: The Bhaga Valley and the Bara Lacha

One of the greatest motorbike ride's "A Long Way Up". The Bhaga Valley and the Bara Lacha Pass (4830m).

sunny 40 °C

Today the plan was to ride up the Bhaga Valley as far as the Bara Lacha Pass, the third highest road pass on the Manali to Leh highway. After an early breakfast at 8am, I was out with my kit for the day, but first daily checks on the Enfield, oil okay, no leaks, fuel okay, no leaks, and tyre pressures okay, it started up first kick. So off down to Tandi petrol station to top up with fuel, 2 litres for 100RS, back up the road via the hotel to pick up my iPod, today I wanted some tunes!

An early stream crossing just north of Keylong to get warmed up on, then away on old road surfaces, mixed gravel and dirt road, a couple of stream crossings and graded prepared road. Around the next bend came an Indian Army truck and another, then another................I counted thirty trucks, and waved and smiled at everyone. I got waves, smiles and even salutes back from every truck! As you know, I have encountered the Indian Army before.

Onwards and upwards, then another Army convoy, has something happened that I don’t know about? Then I encountered the biggest BRO road gang I have seen, and I have seen a few. There must have been hundreds of road workers on this section, which was getting its final dressing before the tarmac. These guys I think are from Bengal, but I’m not sure? They live in work camps near the section they are working on, very basic and squalid tarpaulin tents on the side of the road or on the hillside. Their work is hard manual graft despite some heavy machinery. I have thought about their lives, and how hard it is every day.

I enjoyed the challenge of riding the difficult road conditions, but I was very grateful to the kilometres of tarmac that these men had built. So every time I passed a group of them, I would always gratefully wave to them with thanks. National Highway 21 will be complete tarmac by 2012, between Manali and Leh, and these hardy fellows will have built it. It is not just an important link between these towns, but it is also a very important Indian Army communication and supply line to the borders or “line of control”, with Pakistan and China.

The ride up and along the Bhaga River and Valley was truly spectacular, passing the villages of Kolong, Gemur and Jispa, where the Mountaineering Institute is based. After Jispa the tarmac began to run out, but the mountains of the Himalayas rose higher at Darcha, where two other valleys joined the Bhaga. The Upper Bhaga Valley was also becoming wilder or more remote.

I stopped at Darcha, at the first snack bar over the bridge, and had a splendid omelette and lemon tea for 50RS. The people in this area of Lahaul are Tibetan, and typically very friendly with big smiles. I then left for the final stage of this ride, the climb up to the Bara Lacha Pass, another 40km. As the road climbed above Darcha, the Bhaga Valley became steeper and even more remote. I stopped on the road before it dropped down towards the small settlement of Patsio to consider my options before committing myself further.

I was riding solo, the Enfield had not missed a beat, but I was going through various scenarios, puncture, and mechanical problem and running out of time.

Patsio was 9km, and I could see new tarmac, I pushed on with caution. The tarmac was welcome, but I decided to make Patsio my stopping point. Then a young local lad flagged me down and asked for a lift, my gut instinct was ‘Yes’. He was grateful, and we cracked on to Patsio, then over the rickety bridge, the tarmac was good, and Zingzingbar was the next settlement on what was now a very desolate plateau area.

I turned a bend and then I found myself approaching a military check point and camp, another encounter with the Indian Army.

They were very welcoming and allowed me to ride through the camp, but I told my passenger this was the end of the ride for him, as I decided now that this would be my final out point, my head was saying “Be sensible”. So I stopped at the edge of a helipad, 12km short of the Bara Lacha Pass.

Zingzingbar was at 4270m, I had gone further than planned, but I was not going to push my limits or my luck. So a half hour rest, snacks, water and loads of photos and video clips, then it was time to return to Keylong.

It has been an excellent day’s adventure motor biking into the remotest and highest mountain area that I have been in my life, and I did it on a Royal Enfield!

Posted by Mike Casey 06:59 Archived in India Tagged the in ride a western royal himalaya enfield Comments (0)

Day 16: October 17th: A Ride along the Pattan Valley.

A Ride on the Royal Enfield to see India's “Hop Growers” and a Kingfisher Beer !

sunny -10 °C

After a good meal last night, I slept well at the HPTDC Hotel Chandrabhaga at Keylong, in the Lahaul District of the Himachel Pradesh. I am based here for three days and three nights. My aim is to explore the three valleys that converge at Tandi, 4km down the valley, by motorbike, the Royal Enfield.

Lahaul is such a contrast to the lush Kullu Valley on the other side of the Rohtang Pass. A barren mountain landscape of high Himalayan peaks and glaciers, some areas of high flatlands with some surprising patches of green and cultivated land. Also many secluded and remote Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries. There are several high mountain passes, high glacial lakes, and two large rivers the Changra and the Bhaga, these converge at Tandi to form the Changrabhaga which flows NE.

The British Raj in the colonial days in India described Lahaul as “Himalayan Scotland”. Looking around the Keylong area you can recognise similar features of the Scottish highlands. The Tibetan’s who live in this region call it “Country of the Gods”. The word ‘La’ means ‘pass’, so Lahaul could also mean the “Land of many passes”.

One of the world’s highest roads passes through Lahaul, and connects Manali to Leh (475km). It crosses four high altitude passes, the Rohtang La (3980m), the Baralacha La (4982m), the Lachlang La (5066m) and finally the Tanglang La (5360m). It was one of my big aims of this trip to ride the Manali to Leh road by motorbike, a Royal Enfield. But my plans were modified due to early altitude problems and also predicted weather forecast of early snow and lower temperatures.

So I have changed my plans on this advice, and will do three day rides, exploring each of the three valleys, I will also summit the Baralacha La pass today, which will be both my high point and furthest “out point” on this incredible road. It is a road that attracts adventure cyclists and motor bikers from around the world. I met two French bikers at the Rohtang La Pass the other day, riding....... Royal Enfield’s.

So up at 7.30am, early breakfast, gear sorted for the day, and then daily checks on the Enfield. Now the Enfield has not missed a beat since I picked it up and rode it back from Dharamshala. It climbed out of Manali up and over the Rohtang, and down to Keylong yesterday. But I noticed some oil leaks on the engine casing, and a bit worryingly, petrol dripping out of the carb when I turned the fuel tap on ?

Oh dear! So I found a motor bike workshop just below the hotel, three minutes freewheel! Three guys were outside, and this is Sunday, having a cup of tea, and I coast in “Can you help please, I have a problem”. They then set about an inspection of the Enfield , the diagnoses was two loose oil feeder pipes and the carb reservoir was overfilled with fuel. Two new oil pipe clips and a draining of the carb, and five minutes later the Enfield bust into life, “Many thanks and how much please”? “Oh 20 rupees Sir”.

Finally after this “pit stop”, I set off to explore the Pattan Valley, through which the Chandrabhaga River flowed. I stopped at Tandi Bridge petrol station, the only one between Manali and Leh, so I have been ‘topping’ up with fuel. There are no breakdown services to call up here! So back over the bridge and left turn up to Malang, after passing a Government supply depot, and after a couple of twists and turns, I was above the Chandrabhaga River and travelling down the Pattan Valley, with high mountain ridges and peaks rising to over 5000m.

Along the valley floor, and rising higher up were cultivated fields growing apples, potatoes, hops, beans and cabbage. This region is well known for its hop growing, and supplying India’s beer industry, including Kingfisher Beer! The ride along this contouring road was very pleasant and breathe taking, so the camera and camcorder were working overtime to capture this very beautiful valley.

I rode through Thapak, Jahima and Thirot, stopping at Jahima for some pasta type snacks filled with curried vegetables, delicious. At Triloknath Temple I stopped my outward run down the valley, and returned the same route, stopping at Jahima, were I had spotted a motorbike workshop. I stopped and asked a young mechanic if he could oil the drive chain as it was running a bit dry, but he lubricated everything that moved. I asked “How much”, he waved his hand away and shook his head, “No charge”.

Again how typically nice this was of people, and so back to Keylong and two cups of lemon tea in the main square, watching people come and go. Another pleasant day.

Posted by Mike Casey 06:58 Archived in India Tagged the in ride a western royal himalaya enfield Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 8) Page [1] 2 » Next