A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Mike Casey

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)

Day 6: October 7th : A Rest Day at Jogindar Nagar.

A tour of Jogindar Nagar, organising my four day trek into the Himalaya, a key note speech to students, and a very pleasant evening dinner with Dr Naresh.

sunny 40 °C

A bit of a lazy morning and late breakfast, although at 8am, there is a knock at the door, and it’s Vikka with my strong morning coffee, he is like my own personal valet, “Morning Sir, your coffee”. I said to Vikka, “Its Mike”, he replied, “Okay Mr Mike”. He has been so helpful already.

The view from the balcony of my room at Trekkers Nest looks over the Kangra Valley, and looks down to Jogindar Nagar. The high ridges of the Dhauladhar rise steeply above. The area is very lush and green.

After breakfast I had a tour of Jogindar Nagar, a busy and pleasant town, with two main streets, a bus station and the eastern railway terminal of the Kangra Valley Railway, one of the twenty or so, narrow gauge railways in the world. Trekkers Nest Hotel will be my base for the next week.

After lunch I get my kit organised for the planned four day trek. Naresh has supplied a down sleeping bag , rucksack and tent. Robin will be my guide, and Mukesh my porter. Naresh and I go into Jogindar Nagar to buy food and supplies for my trek. In the afternoon all the kit is packed and ready.

I am invited to Naresh’s house for evening dinner. He has been a practising GP and Doctor in this area for over 35 years, including remote parts of Lahaul and Spiti. We discussed other plans for my trip including visiting Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj (the home of the Dalai Lama) and staying overnight at the high settlement of Bhagsu.

A Royal Enfield has been hired for the following week when I ride to the Kullu Valley and Lahaul, exploring the Western Himalaya's.

After a very pleasant evening, it’s back to Trekkers Nest, ready for tomorrows trekking.

Posted by Mike Casey 06:41 Archived in India Comments (0)

Day 13 - Jogindar Nagar to Manali on a Royal Enfield Bullet

A 165km Road Trip through some of the most spectacular scenary in the Himachel Predesh

sunny 28 °C

I arrived in Manali on Day 13 of my trip through India after a 165km ride from JN to Manali. I have been keeping a daily diary of my trip, and have been trying to update my travel blog as I go, but sometimes you are off the radar and cannot get Internet facilities. So I am a bit behind, also I have yet to download photos and video clips, so please be patient with me.

I have had a tremendous time in the Kangra Valley, based at Jogindar Nagar for nine days. It seems much longer. I have made so many new friends here, especially Dr Naresh Singhla who has organised so much for me in the north. Naresh has in the last year set up a new venture in this area of the Himachel Pradesh called Alpine Treks and Trekkers Nest Hotel. He offers a very comfortable hotel and guided trekking in the impressive Dhauladhar Mountains. I highly recommend this stunningly beautiful area to you. Its less busy than other areas of the Himachel Pradesh, it is also a great base for exploring the rest of the Kangra Valley, and the fantastic Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj. Check out the Trekkers Nest website and go there !

I left JN at 10.30am on one of the greatest adventures of my life, a 165km solo motorbike ride through the Kangra and Kullu Valley's into the very heart of the Western Himalayas to Manali. I have had an incredible journey to Mandi along the beas River Valley, riding along high contouring mountain roads. after Mandi, the road climbed high above the dam and reservoir lake at the western end of the Larji Gorge. Then the climb up and ride through the Larji Gorge, absolutley stunning. then when I came out off the gorge, the unexpected, a long road tunnel that took 15 minutes to ride through, then I entered the southern end of the Kullu Valley. The road NH20 was actually very good from Mandi to Nagar, being a military road to the border areas, but after Nagar it varied between tarmac, potholes and unmade,rough and dusty.

I arrived in Manali dusty and a bit bedraggled. My Belsfaff riding jacket did the job over the last three hours. Its been a great adventure today, even Charlie and Ewan would have been impressed. Tomorrow I will have a rest day in Manali, booking onward accommadation at Keylong for four days, my base for exploring the higher passes of the Rohtang (3980m) and Bara Lacha La (4890m), but not onto Leh as planned as the snows have arrived and further progress will not be possible.

I will therefore explore the Chenab Valley, the Chandra Valley and the Bhaga Valley, that radiate out from Keylong, and the area around Manali. The peaks of the Himalayas here rise up to 6500m. They look very impressive from the Kullu Valley. The weather is bright, blue and sunny. Off to explore Manali now.

Posted by Mike Casey 10:40 Archived in India Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises mountains skylines people Comments (1)

Day 1: Overland through India

Brotton to Dubai, Tales of Excess Baggage

32 °C
View Overland through India on Mike Casey's travel map.

After a major kit review by Tom, "Don't need that or that, or that..............." as I cried and pleaded for mercy? Then Nick arrived, the terminator, no mercy shown with his ruthless seasoned traveller advice to me. Then finally, Jane "We will not pay any ransome demands for your father!". Thank you my beloved wife and dear sons.

Anyway by 9am the zips where closed and secured with every Pacsafe device known to man, and so load up in Tom's Audi we drove north to Newcastle Airport via Ouston? I checked in with my baggage to a lovely Emirates lady, as I smugley looked down at the 100's of Ryanair passengers, then glanced over at the empty and very civilised Emirates bag check in. All was going well with another lovely Emirates lady until she said "I'm sorry Mr Casey but you are 3kgs over weight" I thought cheeky person, but she was referring to my baggage, 3 kg over and £50 exrtra ? Jane, Tom and Nick shook their heads, thinking will he make Delhi?

Any way itwas now time for goodbyes, hugs and kisses as I took on the next challenge, Security ! No problem, straight through, no body search or off with your shoes, I felt very smug as I looked back at my Family.

I bet you have not eaten oriental shrimp and noodles salad, chicken in coconut sauce, lemon and cream torte, and a lovely chardonnay at 39000'? You must ! So onwards and upwards to Dubai, landing at 12 midnight and 32oC !!!!

I hope these travelblog diaries of my trip will be strong on spontaneity of my experiences rather than sober reflections I hope that they tell my story of discovery, adventure, people and places that I meet and see as I journey "Overland through India" over the next six weeks.
I hope you all enjoy my journey with me too! So please leave a comment or two.

Got to go now for my check in for the next leg of my journey... Dubai to Delhi ! Best wishes, Mike.

Posted by Mike Casey 15:49 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (1)

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