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DAY 39: November 9th: Sunrise at Cape Comolin

The end of my journey from the Himalayas to the very Southern most tip of India, where the 'Three Oceans' meet.

sunny 38 °C

Up at 5.30am to see the 'Sunrise' at Cape Comolin, the very Southern most tip of India where the three oceans meet, the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, also the end of my journey through India from the Himalayas. It was going to be a significant moment, as yesterdays 'sunset' was overcast.

As I walked down to the harbour area of Kanyakumari it was still dark, but the night sky was clear, with many stars. The prospect of a spectacular 'Sunrise' was very good. People were slowly walking down to the Cape harbour area, I took up a great position on the outer harbour wall, built after the 2004 'Tsunami' hit Kanyakumari, killing over 1000 people, most of whom were pilgrims visiting the Gandi Mandapam holy temple, and watching the sunrise.

By 6am the light was beginning to change, an orange - red glow began to increase on the flat horizon, and some light cirus cloud was reflecting these colours, sunrise was going to be wondeful. I was shooting this event with my fully charged camera, then a clear, sharp and bright red ball began to rise above the horizon to the cheer of the waiting crowds. Finally a full sunrise bust open above the horizon, it was fantastic magic moment as the Cape area reflected wonderful red and orange colours.

This atmospheric moment at Cape Comolin completed my journey that had started 39 Days earlier in the Himalayas. I had travelled south though India by train, car, on foot, by bamboo raft and by motor bike, a Royal Enfield ofcause. I have had a brilliant adventure. An offical 'paddle' in the three oceans was required next, followed by a celebration breakfast.

What a special day !

Posted by Mike Casey 07:49 Archived in India Tagged india the of cape tip southern most comolin Comments (0)

Day 20: October 21st: Last Day in Manali

Last day in the Himalyas before moving on to Shimla.

sunny 30 °C

Feeling better this morning, but things to do. Phone Jane and Naresh, go to the police station to collect my “incident report”, phone Naresh and check my onward coach journey to Shimla. The Enfield was being picked up at 11am, from the hire place in Dharmshala, they were also picking up my other bags from Jogindar Nagar.

The guy saw the damage, no problem; I paid him 40 pounds, no grumble with that. The insurance is an odd thing, I was legal, but it must be third party, anyway I haggled a bit, but when you look at UK prices, the parts were not much.

I was sad to see the Enfield go, it had been a good partnership, it never let me down over the 600km, it took me through some spectacular landscapes in the Kanga and Kullu Valley’s, It took me into the remote Bhaga Valley and that high arid plateau area of Zingzingbar, my high point at 4270 m. It had given me a real introduction to adventure biking, solo, and in a high remote area of the Western Himalayas. The Royal Enfield adventure was great, and it brought me back to Manali, safe and sound, even after my “off” on the Rohtang.

As the Enfield tank logo says, “50 years in India, and the Legend Rides On”.

Posted by Mike Casey 07:49 Archived in India Tagged the in end of trip royal manali enfield Comments (0)

Day 19: October 20th: The Rohtang Pass and back to Manali.

“A bit of a bad day” - A lost bag and an incident on the Rohtang Pass !

sunny 36 °C

I was up early at 7am, kit all packed up, breakfast, Enfield loaded up, and I am off back over the Rohtang, to Manali. I was at Tandi Petrol Station topping up with fuel by 8.30am, and away up the Chandra Valley. The road was good, very little traffic, a dry sunny morning, and all was good. After an hour I was at Khoksar Bridge, and then started the climb up the Rohtang.

You know sometimes when things are not quite right? The Enfield had not missed a beat over the 600km so far, I stopped on the other side of the bridge, and so my shock and dismay, my Lowe Rucksack had fallen off the side luggage carrier, despite been strapped on. It had my wallet and cards, IPod, power cables and some spare clothes in it. I had in my rack bag, the rest of my kit, including travel tickets and documents, and around my neck, passport and some cash.

Only one thing for it, return to Tandi (35km) to see if I could spot it! No such luck, so at Tandi a slower ride back to Khoksar Bridge, nothing! There was nothing I could do, so I decided that I must crack on over the Rohtang Pass, back to Manali, then phone Jane to cancel cards etc...

As I rode up to the Rohtang Pass, which was over an unsealed rough road of gravel and stones, it was another blue. I was still sick as a pig about loosing the bag. I have done over 600km on the Enfield from Dharamshala to the Zingzingbar, my high point at 4270m, along tarmac and rough roads, through villages and towns, I had coped with the crazy Indian traffic, but mostly it had been along mountain roads and high passes on this amazing route through the Himalaya. I was approaching a right hand bend, and a truck came bouncing down, I had no where to go, except take avoidance action. I missed the truck at slow speed, but the next second I am on the road, a little shocked, but uninjured. The Belstaff kit, gloves and the helmet took all the impact! The bike is on its side, a few feet from the edge of the mountain road !

I looked at the Enfield fearing the worst. I picked it up, put it on its stand and checked it for damage. Front headlight cracked, right foot peg bent, right crash bar bent – but it did its job keeping the bike off my right leg. Next check, will it start? I kicked it over, nothing, kicked it over again, nothing, bugger! Now at home how many times have I tried to start the bike, and I’ve accidently knock the “kill switch” off. I checked the Enfield ‘kill switch’, it was off. Clicked it on, kicked it over, and the bike started as sweetly as ever, “thank God for that”.

So steadily up over the Rohtang, but I decided I must crack on down to the Kullu Valley to Manali. Now most Indian tourists are driven up the Rohtang from Manali by tourist taxi drivers who thing they are rally drivers. On the descent from the Rohtang there was new tarmac (God Bless the road gang workers), so the ride was smooth, but single track.

The inevitable hooting from behind “Let me through”, well I was not going to move over my safe line, they could try an over take, but it would end up as the quick way down to the Kullu Valley. More road works, a long line of vehicles and a very smart filter move, and I am clear away down to the valley, and back to Manali.

I arrived at the Kunzam Hotel very dusty, tired and and a little battered. I was greeted warmly by the staff, “Mr Mike, how are you?” I told them the story.........After a shower and a cold beer, down to the police station to report the day’s events, which was recorded in a typically efficient Indian way. Back to the Hotel, phoned Jane to tell her my events of the day, and to block my bank cards. Then Naresh phoned, told him the story, “What do you need Mike”, “Well some cash”. No problem, I will send a friend to you with cash. Naresh seems to know everyone in the North of India; he was so helpful, as always.

So by the evening, the day was getting better. Jane, God Bless her, had sorted things out in the UK, Naresh was on my case, further checking my needs, and then I decided I needed food and my bed. A nice big bruise on my right thigh I noticed, but the day could have been worse?

Posted by Mike Casey 07:43 Archived in India Tagged the on pass rohtang an incident 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)

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