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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 4: October 5th: Amritsar to Jogindar Nagar

My Adventure to the Land of the Eternal Snow and the Himalayas

sunny 40 °C

The next fifteen days I was going to explore the Himachel Pradesh and the Western Himalaya in north India. It is a mountainous state, deriving its character from the Himalayas, the largest mountain range in the world. It includes high snow capped peaks of 6000m and glaciers, deep forested and cultivated valleys of the Kullu, Kanga and Patten, the mighty rivers of the Chandra Bhaga, Chenab, Ravi and Beas which flow down from the Himalaya. It has high, remote, barren and arid plateau's and valleys in the northern areas of Lahaul, Spiti and Ladakh.

I was going to explore this area on foot and by motorbike. I would visit Dharamsla, the home of the Dali Lama, trek for four days in the Dhauladhar mountains, ride a four day motorbike trip along one of the worlds greatest or "dangerous" roads through the Himalaya from Manali. Finally a visit to Shimla, the capital of HP, in the Himalayan foothills, once the summer capital of British India, travelling on its famous narrow gauge mountain railway from Kalka (one of the worlds great railway journeys).

I was picked up by my driver Lalli, who is 68 and a great man. He was great company on the six hour car journey North. We drove through the agricultural land of the northern Punjab, passing busy and prosperous towns and villages, shops, workshops and people going about their daily lives. A very green and lush area, crossing railways and canals built by the British Raj.

We reached the Punjab and Himachel Pradesh state border crossing at Chakki Bridge, well bridge is an understatement, the new one was being built, so we crossed an earth and stone bridge to the HP border post checkpoint at Chakki. “Can I see your passport and visa Sir?” We then stopped at Jyoti’s Hotel for some lunch and a break by the river post. The transition from the Punjab to Himachel Pradesh was much defined, the forested hills of the lower HP rose straight away from the river, and the road climbed up now for the rest of the journey.

We were soon at Pathankot were I saw a big military garrison and barracks, this would be typical now all the way North through the Himachel Pradesh to the border areas or “line of control” with Pakistan. The states of the Punjab and the Himachel have a long history of providing men and women for the Indian Armed Forces, it is custom that every families eldest son serves in the Army?

We have been following National Highway 20 from Amritsar or NH20. I think at this point I should state that India loves to abbreviate names, places and roads! So for example, NH20 is National Highway 20, HP is Himachel Pradesh, JN is Joginder Nagar, and I am MC Mike Casey and I ride a RE Royal Enfield and live in the UK United Kingdom.

We arrive in JN at 5pm, a long day, through spectacular landscapes. Incredible India! We drive through JN and up to Trekkers Nest Hotel where Naresh and all the staff are waiting like a guard of honour. I sit down to dinner with Naresh and we discuss my plans for the next ten days. We have a great conversation about our lives and my trip to India. This is the next stage of my adventure in Incredible India.

Naresh suggests a one day trek tomorrow up onto the Dhauladhar Range to get acclimatised, then a four day trek from Barot, into the heart of the mountains. Also a day and night trip to Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj. Then my motorbike road trip right into the Western Himalayas, up through the Kullu Valley and to the high road passes from Manali to Leh. One of the worlds great motorbike journeys and adventures.

An early night, because tomorrow my first trek up into the Dhaladhar Mountains, and high altitude.

Posted by Mike Casey 05:37 Archived in India Tagged the to pradesh himachel Comments (0)

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