Altitude happiness in Ladakh.
After a smooth overnight flight we arrive in the dark in India and when we open the curtains of our hotel room in the morning, we're in a different world. We wake up in the middle of the old part of Delhi, where sacred cows quietly walking through the traffic, while the 25 million people of Delhi also seem to walk through our streets. The intense smells, the loud street-noise and a temperature of around 40 degrees are at least impressive. We quickly flee the chaos of downtown and visiting the Royal Enfield Concept store, just outside the city center. A paradise for the real Enfield enthusiast like Mark and David who are making this road trip together with me. Delhi is a nice start to this wonderful journey, but it is also wonderful when we are taking a luxury evening-bus to the tranquil Himalayan mountains.
Our Volvo bus/coach is brand new and has spacious reclining seats, better and bigger then the best business class of a airplain. After a good night sleep in the bus we arrive in the mountain village of Manali. A mix of backpackers, bikers and hippies providing a relaxing atmosphere and with the first high peaks in sight the chaos of Delhi is quickly forgotten. Manali is the starting point for anyone who wants to cross the high Himalayas and automatically it is also the place for all purchases. Everything is for sale: from thermal underwear to boots, from rice to burgers and from motorcycle helmets to socks. Mountaineers are sometimes shopping here for days with their Sherpas, buying food and clothing before their adventure can begin. We do not need any shopping, so we only need to pick up our bikes.
Our 500cc Royal Enfield Bullets are owned by the Dutch travel organization and its 10,000 km on the clock as good as new. There are also many bad engines are rented, we notice the next few days the number of stranded motorcyclists along the route. We have 1,800 km of mostly rugged off-road and good base material is therefore a prerequisite. As additional security we use a support vehicle which will last a full Enfield in spare parts plus some jerry cans of gasoline. Our luggage also comes back the following car, so we have no reason to rush during the climbs. Also is there a very skilled mechanic and backup rider with it, which if necessary can take a motor in case of illness or fatigue. All these precautions are not for nothing, because we go over the highest part of the Himalayas to the highest passable mountain pass in the world. With good preparations stunning reliable adventure, but a hopeless journey with poor preparations. The engines are still just adjusted to each individual's posture, after which we take a short drive to get used to motor traffic. The next day our exciting road trip finally start really.
The first day we all immediately get a familiar but also infamous pass for our wheels: the Rohtang pass. This pass was especially known for the BBC series "World most dangerous roads" and the nickname "Road of corpses." That name is justified, there is evident from the statistics. In the four months of the year it is only open dump, according to the figures on average every day one bus and one truck in the ravine. Because it rained tonight we are today even further than the average and see during the day three trucks are in the abyss. The first tanker loaded with kerosene, has been lucky this morning and linger behind some trees. Two tow trucks are busy with the salvage, but thereby blocking it all the way. We can wait an hour, but opt for adventurous detour through the mud flat along the ravine. Two men stand at the most critical point angled so that they can possibly captured the motor with a slider. After that it is playing with coupling and gas, and we may safely pass through the block without any problems.
When we reach the snowy mountain peak we marvel at some Indians who completely go crazy at the sight of snow. The top of the Rohtang is usually the first place in northern India where snow and many Indians have simply never seen snow. Entire families sometimes travel thousands of kilometers just to just to see the snow and feel. Logical that they go crazy. After the summit turned the road into a complete Swiss cheese and we see no more tripping. Anyone who drives here now has only one purpose and that is to make the big crossing Himalayas. With an average speed of 10 km per hour we descend to 3200 meters and drive along the Bhaga river farther Keylong town. Along the way we enjoy some vast eternal snow glaciers, which seem so close that you get the idea that you can touch them. A wonderful day!
Keylong is the last village before we go a few days in the inhabited world. Also this village is 6 months ended year of the normal world, but can also remain in the winter there with a helicopter link. The government stated on signs emphatically that the helicopter can not be used for "search and rescue" operations. Only from June to September are the mountain passes open only tourists in emergencies can invoke a helicopter. In the meantime 14 years Touratrek (the tour), this trip provides this has never been necessary, a matter of good preparation. At this preparation also includes a rest day to get used to the altitude and therefore we stay here two nights in a hotel at 3,300 meters. We are already noticing that a sprint draw there just is not even walk up a staircase gives direct deficit oxygen. The oxygen is there, but by the pressure difference at this height it is not absorbed sufficiently by the lungs. The human body is so smart it yourself to solve by creating extra red blood cells, but it will need a number of days. We use this day off for a leisurely ride to the Kardang Buddhist monastery on the other side of the river Bhaga. The monastery itself is unfortunately closed, but the motorbike to it is literally breathtaking. We conclude this last day in the civilized world with a sumptuous meal and a soft mattress.
Today we dive into the uninhabited world. After three big mountain passes (4890m 5059m 4878m) to spend the night at 4800 meters in a nomad tent camp is. The first hour we drive smoothly on nice asphalt to the beginning of the Baralacha pass, where we check in one of the many passport registration points. Thanks to these records can verify that people are not missing, and in some cases it is also a checkpoint if you have all the permits. This permits access to areas that are otherwise closed and after a passport and visa checks purchased in advance in Manali and Leh. Without the proper permits will you irrevocably returned and you can lose just 2 to 5 days of your trip. We have everything in order and comply with the control quickly in the first tank of melting snow. These cisterns can sometimes be up to 20 meters wide and are actually fast flowing rivers that run across the road. Motorcyclists who drive by a fast-flowing river do what's always good in movies and now there is a small team movie recordings. One of the cameramen told me that there are 10,000 Bollywood films are made every year and that at least 1,000 films engine fragments from the Himalayas down. High snowy peaks and a fast-flowing river, better decor, of course, does not exist either.
Just after the summit we come to the Suraj numerous lake fills in spring with snowmelt, but in this dry spell is completely empty. I remembered from school that the Himalayas in the pre-history has been a seabed and still found fossils of aquatic animals at the top of Mount Everest. Before the kind folds of the Himalayas were printed in height, this area was at 4800 meters far below sea level and here was always water. Thanks to India's collision with the Asian continent, we can now enjoy centuries later, this amazing mountain giants. After the Baralacha is a small climb to our first pass 5000+. Laugh Alang pass is not really difficult, but the realization that we are now at 5059 meters are already considerably higher than the highest mountain in Europe (Mont Blanc), still puts a smile on my face. Even our best fit are almost all higher than the 4808 meters of the Mont Blanc. The real desert we get the Kangla pass to tight Miyar runs along the river at 4878 meters altitude. The river here in the course of centuries, more than 3 kilometers limestone ground away and thus a beautiful narrow canyon made aware. The pass runs through the gorge, with both sides peaks so close that you can almost touch them. Because it is so narrow is the road at the beginning of the spring or completely under the water and then drive the Enfields often up to their axes through the river.
We regularly stop at a coffee shop for a cup of "black tea" or "ginger tea" and whenever we get back the feeling of ultimate togetherness. Each biker, trucker or backpacker sitting here with one goal: to cross the high Himalayas. Especially in India has this crossing for bikers a certain cult status, comparable to us with a visit to the Isle of Man. Once in your life you should have done this as a biker. Tea tops are also great to just to warm the hands in a cup of boiling tea. Because at this altitude water boils at a much lower temperature, you can drink tea almost boiling. A disadvantage is that an egg cook also takes longer because boiling water evaporates here so all around 80ºC.
We continue the route to the Tso Kar lake with mostly loose sand and Enfields wag delicious on the straights. The lake itself is just another natural wonder what we may see on this trip. On the whole world there is no salt lake which is so high and at the same time is so deep, so there are discovered regularly entirely new species of fish and reptiles. To the naked eye more visible are the white plains of pure pure Himalayan salt, which fully by the nomads is smuggled into Tibet. We're here so close to the Tibetan border, that most cola bottles and frozen Snickers therefore also have Chinese texts. It is simply cheaper to smuggle them on yaks and donkeys from Tibet (China), then drag them all the way from Leh and Manali up.
Overnight this day is very special. Only 4 months a year, life possible at this altitude, so here there are no hotels or guesthouses. Well there are a number of places complete nomad tent camps, where everyone is welcome to choose the Himalayas crossing maakt.Wij for a luxury tent camp in Tso Kar salt lake. Double insulated tents, with a large tent decorated as a restaurant and even neatly European plumbing. It nevertheless remains little oxygen at 4,800 meters and a wind chill of 15 degrees below zero, yet dispense properly. The indescribably beautiful starry sky, however, ensures that we do not suffer from altitude sickness, but rather suffer from altitude euphoria or perhaps altitude luck.
The next day we have a short climb. 4800 meters to the second highest pass in the world: the Taglang pass with an altitude of 5328 meters. After 4 days, mainly to have had poor or no asphalt, it's a relief that the north side is almost completely paved. The Enfield Bullet also shows here of all the markets to be home. or 500cc eenpitter does not have high speed, but the enormous torque and strong engine brake is also a perfect combination for asphalt in the mountains. The Rumtse valley after Taglang pass is undoubtedly one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Officially the valley if not stated, but the color palette of the mineral by colored rocks is nowhere else in the world so intense. With the sun at our backs it seems like we drive through the center point of a diamond. One minute you drive between rocks with a deep golden color as the fur of a lion and a turn later the rocks as green as grass, to be as blue moments later as the sky that hangs above it. Indeed all the colors come from the rainbow within 20 kilometers beyond. Breathtakingly beautiful as you drive by a painting by Mondrian.
Almost as colorful are the garlands of Buddhist prayer flags. Blue, white, red, green and yellow form a festive highlight of any high mountain pass and every Buddhist temple or monastery. Each color represents an element in nature and the text on the flags is often the familiar mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum". Loosely translated this text something like: "Luck is with you and everyone around you.". The flags should be as high as possible to be hung so that the wind can take the mantra text as far as possible. Once the flags perish the text was handed over to the recipients and there is again a little more luck on this planet. Also we visited Lamayuru monastery is covered with thousands of flags and the 150 permanent monks daily muttering all kinds of mantras for a perfect world. The Lamayuru monastery is visited by us especially because of the beautiful route through the Moon Valley. On one side the mighty Indus River, and on the other rocks again with all the colors of the rainbow. It is so beautiful that the current Dalai Lama has already announced here wanting to spend his last years.
The highlight of our trip we stay first in the town of Leh, the capital of the former kingdom of Ladakh. Just like Manali Leh is the start / end point of the great Himalayas crossing, so suddenly there are again plenty of shops and restaurants. We enjoy delicious croissants, real cappuccino and in the evening a real Italian pizza. This city has always been an important strategic place for India, Pakistan and China on a doorstep. In the nearby War Museum we get a good idea of how the battles are executed here in the mountains in the past. Cold and altitude sickness here were perhaps the greatest enemies.
Big help for the soldiers was undoubtedly the Royal Enfield WD / RE ie the "Flying Flea". A development of the RE 125cc version that had been developed in 1938 for the Dutch company Stokvis and Sons. This WD / RE Enfield weighed only 59 kg, could be dropped by parachute, and was well suited for the rugged mountainous terrain of the Himalayas. Nice detail is that this bike during D-day full wast used by the 6th Airborne Brigade in Normandy.
Today we climb the highest motorable pass in the world, Khardung La, with up to an altitude of 5602 meters. The first part to permit control is neat new asphalt, but after that it is again the famous Swiss cheese with regular loose rocks and gravel. It is fully engaged in road works, but that is literally manual labor. Dozens of Indians sitting in full sun squatting with small hammers one by one large rocks smash into gravel format. With this method it is still years before they have enough gravel, but that is maybe better, so that the charm of the dirt Himalayas remain as long as possible. In 2018 there was opened a large tunnel at the Rohtang pass, making the crossing already a piece will become easier. The genuine original cross is only likely to be drove in 2017.
Because we are used to gravel roads, we have plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful scenery and let's quietly doing climbing the Enfield during the climb. At the top I realize that we are almost 200 meters above the base camp of the highest mountain in the world: Mount Everest. No oxygen bottles or picks for us, but black tea and a beautiful Royal Enfield which is gleaming in the sun. A warning sign that we can at the top for more than 25 minutes remaining due to altitude sickness, brings me back to the world. Luckily I do not suffer from altitude sickness, but the diagnosis height or altitude euphoria happiness is certainly in place.
Location: South Asia
Capital: New Dehli
Distance from Holland: 6350 km (as the crow flies)
Highest point: Kanchenjunga (8598 meters)
Population: 1.2 billion
Language: Hindi, English
Scripture: Devanagari, Latin
Currency: Indian Rupee
Time difference NL: + 5½
Area: 3,287,263 sq km (80 times larger than the Netherlands)
Religion: Hinduism (80%), Islam (13%), Christianity (2%), Sikhism (2%)
Neighbouring countries: Arabian Sea (West) Bengal Gulf (east), Pakistan (west), China and Nepal (north), Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Myanmar (east)
Climate: India is a huge country. The climate varies from a tropical climate in the south to temperate in the north. On the southwestern coast and in the northeast of the country is an enormous amount of rain. In the Thar Desert in the northwest is once again extremely dry, there is no year more than 50 mm of rainfall. India has not four but three seasons: the cool winter season (between November and March), hot summer season (from April to May / June) and the monsoon time, named after the Arabic 'mausim. It begins in late May or early June. Moist air blowing in from the ocean from the southwest into the country. During the monsoon rains every day. Usually the rain lasts for a few hours, then it is dry.
Additional info: India is one of the largest and most populous countries in the world, you will find also many cultures and religions. A key role of the caste system, the population divides into four categories: Brahmins (priestly and learned class), Kshatriyas (warriors and rulers), Vaishya's (farmers and merchants) and Shudra's (servants and laborers). India has the largest film industry in the world. Film is very popular, according to many because it serves as an escape from the reality of the often poor. Bollywood (derived from Hollywood, the B stands for Bombay) is the center of the Indian film industry.
Also useful to know, in India they drive left
When: As the climate of India varies as to give it difficult to exactly when is the best time to visit the country. Roughly this Himalayan trip the period from May to September is the best time because the other months there is a strong likelihood that roads will be impassable. Would you still drive the original route, you have to be quick as the Rohtang tunnel opens in 2018.
Travel time: 19 days
Distance traveled: 1,800 kilometers
All information: www.lifeisjoy.nl
Highlights on this trip:
- The highest motorable pass in the world
- The second highest motorable pass in the world
- One of the "Most dangerous roads" of the world
- (One of) The most beautiful mountain road in the world
- Unique road trip through high Himalayas
- Part of the original ancient Silk Road
- Sleeping in a tent camp at 4800 meters
- Visit capital of India: Delhi
- Visit capital of Ladakh: Leh
- Visit Buddhist temples
- Visit summer capital Srinagar
This Himalayan trip is a real dream trip where you can reminisce the rest of your life!
Extra nice is that I'm going to accompany this trip and everyone I know 100 euros must give discount! The tour I agreed namely, that all those who through me sign up for this trip, get instant 100 discount off the regular price. This discount can I also offer this way to all readers. If you are interested, click here.
Prices and more details: Click here.
Booking or info by mail: Click here.
Additional movies: Click here.