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Old 6th September 2012, 20:55   #16
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Default Pangong to Leh

Day 8 - Aug 12th Pangong to Leh

It was quite an early day - can't claim to have "woken up" when u hardly slept. We had quite an early breakfast and were sitting on the banks of the lake chatting away when a crazy thought was floated. Why not take dips in the cold lake? I was game and took the plunge!

Can't describe the feeling of jumping first time into a freezing lake - it literally took my breath away - I was left gasping for breath for what seemed like eternity...once i got a few breaths into the system, it felt so invigorating - felt like some new life was injected - some form of yet untapped energy was released! You got to take a dip in Pangong.


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We spend a few more hours soaking in the beautiful Pangong..

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Some new and beautiful cottages coming up near the lake; some lucky folks could stay here next season..

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The ride back to Leh was the first time we were returning on the same route ever since we started riding...it would be predictable and boring! Naaa..

The Bullet was struggling uphill on the climb to ChangLa... first gear in full throttle wasn't seemingly enough. Yesterday's ascend to ChangLa was different since it was smooth tarmac all the way up. This was just ruble - two bends before ChangLa the bullet refused to pull us up. I had to disembark and walk the bike up with the throttle running. This left me quite breathless and left me doubting why a bullet is still the default and most popular choice for this terrain. I believe it's because modern bikes couldn't stand the torturous circuit for more than a season - so the renting companies would have better ROI with Bullets. All said Bullets are quite reliable and tough wearing - they can stand a lot of abuse!

From Chang La top it was one non-stop ride to Leh. This would be our last night in Leh. There was shopping to be done aplenty...
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Old 6th September 2012, 23:20   #17
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Default Re: Yet another road trip - Motorcycling in Ladakh!

Quote:
Originally Posted by josepeter View Post

Its not about the bikes Johnny! its purely a mind game.... guys have crossed these terrains on m80s and Chetaks; so any bike will do. But it's about how easily these machines tackle this terrain. A bike with the following characteristics would do well:
1. Light
2. Powerful
3. Decent GC and suspension
4. Well built ( can take some beating)

Here are some bikes I believe are less expensive and well suited

1. Duke 200 ( with some dual purpose tyres)
2. Hero Impulse ( with a Karizma engine)

Any big enduro can tear this terrain apart: but incur high cost and is not easily available...if wishes were horses I would be 6 feet tall and riding a BMW GS in Leh every year!
Hmm got your point..hope to visit there some time soon..My ideal ride would be a P200, but just from pure history making feat (for my bike though), I would dare to take my CT 100 there.

Last edited by Technocrat : 7th September 2012 at 22:57. Reason: Please avoid quotinga long post as it causes inconvenience to our mobile readers & quote Selectively, thanks
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Old 7th September 2012, 02:19   #18
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Default Re: Pangong to Leh

Quote:
Originally Posted by josepeter View Post
The Bullet was struggling uphill on the climb to ChangLa... first gear in full throttle wasn't seemingly enough. Yesterday's ascend to ChangLa was different since it was smooth tarmac all the way up. This was just ruble - two bends before ChangLa the bullet refused to pull us up. I had to disembark and walk the bike up with the throttle running. This left me quite breathless and left me doubting why a bullet is still the default and most popular choice for this terrain. I believe it's because modern bikes couldn't stand the torturous circuit for more than a season - so the renting companies would have better ROI with Bullets. All said Bullets are quite reliable and tough wearing - they can stand a lot of abuse!
So I guess we weren't the only ones with stalled engines while making the final climb to ChangLa. I remember us being (a friend of mine and myself) stranded in the middle of the road with our bikes stalled just at the end of a steep ascent. There was no way we could kickstart (no electric starters on our bikes) and no way we could disembark as well. Finally we just waited until a good samaritan got down from a qualis that was going towards Pangong and helped push the bike. Actually, they had no choice but to help us since we were both blocking the road for anyone to cross.

Having said that, I still feel the Enfields are a popular choice for a lot of reasons:

1. The amount of luggage it can carry is unmatched for any other bike except the GS series etc.
2. If you have a pillion, there's nothing more comfortable than an Enfield for him/her. The seat positioning is pretty good for long distance touring and you won't have the pillion falling all over you each time you brake.
3. Easy to fix - minimal plastics allow you to mend most parts pretty easy, a lot of "jugaad" can be worked out. Barring the 500EFI, the engines have been around for decades and easy to fix for most mechs. Now, if it were a Ninja, it wouldn't have gone bad at all given all these years of engineering improvements on the same engine etc, but the Enfields are ofcourse not in that league and will never be!
4. Riding in the mountains with the thumping sound itself gives you a kick that nothing else can match. So it's not the power delivery that gets you excited in an Enfield, its the adrenaline that gushes through with the rhythmic sound of that engine. Add to that the macho image etc etc and it becomes a good package overall.
5. Lack of better options - I'd be more than happy to trade my T'bird for something more powerful and in the same price band as the new Enfields, but there's nothing that can satisfy that need as of now!

Net-net, the Enfields are definitely not the most powerful bikes and we've been beaten to death by the Pulsar 180 on all our rides, be it the tar roads or water crossings. I'm sure the newer bikes are even better, but they still can't match what the Enfield can do on the first 4 points that I've mentioned above.

PS> My comments are not really to start a war on what bike is better, but just highlighting my perspective on why the Enfields are still preferred by most folks riding through difficult terrains.
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Old 7th September 2012, 13:03   #19
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Default Re: Yet another road trip - Motorcycling in Ladakh!

@Josepeter : Thanks a lot for such beautiful narration and the vivid pictures.

Many congratulations to you and your team members for successfully completing such a challenging expedition on the difficult mountain terrains.

Surely dream of visiting Leh once in my life.
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Old 7th September 2012, 14:31   #20
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Default Re: Pangong to Leh

Yes Amol, once I was on ChangaLa top, I did watch for sometime for Bikers ascending from Pangong side and could see that bullets were struggling to take the last two bends..we aren't the only ones!


I agree to the 5 points you have made in favor of Bullets but have some views:

1. Luggage: All that one needs for a ride like ours can be packed into a pair of Cramster saddle bags and tank bag. For a two week ride with stop over at hotels ( not your own tent/stove etc.) you can manage with the following gear:

1. One good riding Jacket with armour
2. Riding pants with armour + rain bottom
3. Helmet + balaclava
4. 2 pairs of gloves
5. Army long boots or Quechua Forclaz ( and a roll of 3M duct tape)
6. 10 pairs of woolen socks (army ones) and undergarments ( be prepared to discard them when wet)
7. One pair of thermals
8. 2 -3 pairs of jeans
9. 5-6 tees
10. One small bag for toiletries and medicines


Items 1-5 will be worn always; the rest can easily fit into saddlebags.


2. Agree that pillion comfort can be good on a Bullet.

But "lack of options" seem to be the most valid reason.

Last edited by Technocrat : 7th September 2012 at 22:57. Reason: Please avoid quotinga long post specially when its one same page as it causes inconvenience to our mobile readers, thanks
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Old 7th September 2012, 15:21   #21
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Default Re: Yet another road trip - Motorcycling in Ladakh!

Day 9 - 13th Aug - Leh to Tso kar


The ride to Tsokar would take us on the road back to Manali from Leh; so instead of the route via Upshi and TanglangLa; we would visit TsoKar and halt for the night.
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The route to TsoKar would take us through Karu on the Leh-manali route and then deviate onto Chumathang and then onto TsoKar. These regions of Ladakh, which also includes Tso Moriri are famous for sheep that are used to produce the famous Pashmina wool. Sheep herding is the sustenance of most villages in this belt and one can see herds of thousands on this route. There are several hot springs on this route - but we never actually took a dip in any of them.
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We stopped for lunch in Chumanthang, that is on route after crossing the military area of Kiari. The ride after lunch was pretty special; some 30 kms before the destination, we hit the gravel road that was straight out of a fairy tale - albiet a slighly scary one. There was vast nothingness all around, distant mountains to the left with herds of wild asses and vast grasslands on the right that seemed to end in a distant water body. There were no signboards whatsoever and a few kilometers into that stretch, one starts wondering if its the road to nowhere. Everyone had a blast - all of us where at full throttle in top gear, bikes were sliding on the gravel, kicking up dust and stones; it was a surreal experience.

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There are very few hotels in TsoKar (one or two); we chose to stay in the rooms rather than in the tents. These rooms were new and two of them smelt quite strongly of fresh paint. We chose to not raise a stink and decided to cuddle for the night in the other room. It was Ashok's turn to take verbal batter that night and ended up taking it all patiently - quite literally like Jesus ( see pic below).


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Old 7th September 2012, 15:47   #22
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Day 10 - 14th Aug - Tso kar to Sarchu

Views of TsoKar that morning was pretty amazing, we took long walks on the grasslands near the lake, there was hardly any water to speak of.
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Our humble jukebox belted heavy metal and Sufi music..

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The hotel is run by a local here, he was very courteous and polite and had lots of tales to share. According to him, the shoot for that famous scene in 3 idiots was initially done here and since the actor and crew found the terrian quite tough, decided to move it over to Pangong. Seemingly the winter temperature here hits -40 and they do walk over the Indus river to the villages at the border with China to buy essentials.

There was a village close to the hotel which we noticed as we set off to Sarchu. All huts seemed to be locked, apparently all of them were out herding sheep! Of all locations we had stayed in, TsoKar looked the most charming and mysterious - its a village right in the middle of nothingness.
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The road to Sarchu would take us through Mahe, Moore plains, Pang and Gata Loops and two mountain passes of LachulungLa and NakeeLa - would be quite an interesting day. We were all looking forward to dunebashing in Moore plains...


Making Butter tea at Pang

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At Sarchu we met a group of 3 young riders who rode on two bikes, an FZ and an AVL 350 form Manali. The AVL had developed starting problems at Sarchu and they got the bike loaded onto a truck - as bad luck would have it the bike got rammed into by another truck passing by - badly damaging the front forks. We decided to help them get the bike back to Manali and offered the hapless bloke a lift back in our support car.

That evening at Sarchu was quite relaxing...we could take the cold and lack of oxygen without any issues - signs of being acclimatised..
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Old 8th September 2012, 00:29   #23
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Old 8th September 2012, 00:34   #24
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Default Re: Yet another road trip - Motorcycling in Ladakh!

Wow I visited almost all the places that you've visited the only difference being that you were almost 10 days ahead of our schedule. Must've had even more fun riding Royal Enfields there.
Fantastic pics of Pangong lake btw.
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Old 9th September 2012, 14:06   #25
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Day 11 - 15th Aug - Sarchu to Keylong

This would be the penultimate days' ride and a pretty short one; all of 100 odd Ks.


We started off with 7 bike that morning; Sonu, our mechanic vialianty aboard the bullet with ben forks. It wasnt such a great idea. After 10 kms Sonu had decided that the bike wouldnt make it to Manali in that condition, so it was left at the next available tenthouse with instructions to load it onto the next empty truck returning to Manali.So Sonu was back in the Bolero and we carried on.

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The ride to Sarchu was quite fun; but for an unfortunate incident that practically ended the ride for one of us. Just before we reached Zing Zing Bar, one bike skidded on debris that fell right in front, resulting a bent front end and badly sprained palm and bruises. Thankfully there was no great damage - thanks to protection in the form of Knee and elbow guards.


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At Darcha, we stopped for Lunch. We had some authentic Ladakhi cuisine in the form of Thupka and Momos. Thupka is essentially hand made noodles in a bowl of watery lamb stew. It was quite delicious. The mutton momos were to die for. One of the best meals we had had on the whole trip.


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We hit Keylong by early evening and weren't prepared to deal with the influx of people into the little town owing to the Independence day celebrations there. Apparently this celebration in Keylong is a feast of sorts and the main cultural events were conducted in a public place next to our hotel. After an hour of trying to get to the hotel on Bikes with no luck; many of us thought skipping Keylong and riding to Manali straightaway would be a good idea. Without thinking through we rode to tank up in Tandi, some 10 kms away. But after some deliberation and consultations we decided to return to Keylong. We parked our bikes in another hotel near the main road and trekked down into our hotel.

It was also a busy evening for Sonu, two riders who had rented Bullets from Sathyarth bikes in Manali the day before had one of the bikes developing troubles and were waiting for him in Keylong. Sonu handed over one of our 5 bikes in exchange without full consultation as it turns out - and was taken to task.
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Old 9th September 2012, 15:05   #26
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Day 12 - 16th Aug - Keylong to Manali

Alas! It was the final day of our Himalayan Biking expedition..It was an uneasy feeling as we donned gear and moved to our bikes with keys in hand. The exciting times were coming to an end - but the feeling of mild sadness was easily over powered by an ell engulfing feeling of anxiety - Rohtang was waiting for us! I remember it was quite a silent take-off from Keylong; Rohtang was the only thought on everyone's mind..

Rohtang was what we expected and lot worse. The traffic jam was on from the last afternoon; 4 wheelers moving towards Manali were stuck for 24 hours in the thick and hard slush just after Rohtang top. Riding through hardened slush was actually more strenuous than wet slush. Changing direction was so difficult and moving forward after a stall needed extra pairs of hands..we did get a lot of help from guys stranded in their 4 wheelers!

It took us more than a couple of hours to negotiate a 2 km stretch - taking breaks to let trucks go up the climb. It was quite a sight watching truckers fighting with their fully laden beasts negotiating the hairpins with inches to spare..u have to respect truckers after being there..


A peaceful Rohtang Top

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Hell!

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The Maverick Sonu - negotiating Rohtang on a broken Bullet!

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This Ducati Hypermotard needed a slight push to let its street tyres stop spinning..

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This excavator was literally pushing stranded trucks up the slope..

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Yahooo time!

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As all of us were euphoric after the successful pass through the hell thats Rohtang, we realized that our ride was all but over. The ride back to Manali would be filled with images of the wonderful days we had in the Himalayas. We had crossed 13 passes, ridden some 1800 kms through gravel, tarmac, desert sand, water crossings, slush, incredibly steep climbs and dangerous drops. No ride will ever be the same again; no destination would ever seem so exciting. That's what such a trip would do - no place else seems worthwhile anymore...

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We witnesses the destruction caused by the cloudburst we were lucky to get through on our way up...

Needless to say; we had a great big party that evening - all of us relieved to having made in back to Manali in one piece..we could live many years thinking about those 12 days of our life...Phew!

But of-course there was a 2500 km drive from Manali to Hyderabad to think about all that at leisure...
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Old 9th September 2012, 17:14   #27
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Cheers ... great to see all those bikes with the Himala.... When is your next trip ? Would like to join ..
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Old 9th September 2012, 18:05   #28
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Those 12 days in the hills... Best days in our life.... All 6 of us now have enough stories to tell everyone - Similar to an army man who returns home on holiday!!!
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Old 9th September 2012, 20:15   #29
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Default Re: Yet another road trip - Motorcycling in Ladakh!

Quote:
Originally Posted by josepeter View Post
Sonu took the forst of the bullets are charged through, the rear tyre was almost swept away but he managed to hang on to the gas and crossed safely. I wanted to have ago myself but Sonu deemed it too risky and took all bikes across. None of the bikers at the other end attempted the crossing - i guess they waited for the water to recede.
Attachment 981075Attachment 981074

The rest of the ride was quite uneventful and we hit our hotel in Leh by 7 PM, all tired and ready to hit the sacks. Tomorrow would be a day of rest in Leh.
Here is how I did similar crossings in 2007 when i went:
The way is that you first walk through to find the depth, then put the bike in 1st gear, walk it through with another person supporting the bike if required. It is a freezing idea but it works and you have no chance of losing your balance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by amolpol View Post
2. If you have a pillion, there's nothing more comfortable than an Enfield for him/her. The seat positioning is pretty good for long distance touring and you won't have the pillion falling all over you each time you brake.
4. Riding in the mountains with the thumping sound itself gives you a kick that nothing else can match. So it's not the power delivery that gets you excited in an Enfield, its the adrenaline that gushes through with the rhythmic sound of that engine. Add to that the macho image etc etc and it becomes a good package overall.

PS> My comments are not really to start a war on what bike is better, but just highlighting my perspective on why the Enfields are still preferred by most folks riding through difficult terrains.
Amol ji,

You are entitled to your opinion, which is mostly wrong, except the above points, which are a matter of taste:
#2 - Granted but its manageable in other bikes with a seat mod as well.
#4 - 100% true, but again, only for those who love bullets.

Reg #5, There are some folks here, who have upgraded from a 500 EFI to a CBR 250 and are absolutely happy about it

Last edited by phamilyman : 9th September 2012 at 20:20.
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Old 12th September 2012, 15:20   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by josepeter View Post

I agree to the 5 points you have made in favor of Bullets but have some views:

1. Luggage: All that one needs for a ride like ours can be packed into a pair of Cramster saddle bags and tank bag. For a two week ride with stop over at hotels ( not your own tent/stove etc.) you can manage with the following gear:

1. One good riding Jacket with armour
2. Riding pants with armour + rain bottom
3. Helmet + balaclava
4. 2 pairs of gloves
5. Army long boots or Quechua Forclaz ( and a roll of 3M duct tape)
6. 10 pairs of woolen socks (army ones) and undergarments ( be prepared to discard them when wet)
7. One pair of thermals
8. 2 -3 pairs of jeans
9. 5-6 tees
10. One small bag for toiletries and medicines

Items 1-5 will be worn always; the rest can easily fit into saddlebags.
Picture a ride with your wife/girlfriend and with no support vehicle and no mechanic, add to that your desire to travel 600-800kms without fuel stations and readiness to have some camping adventures as well. Add another big bag for the camera equipment, laptop etc. Now, imagine whether all the luggage can be fitted on just about any bike. It's not just the clothes, there's camping equipment, food supplies, spares, tools, tyre tubes that add to the bulk and weight.

I've once had 50 liters of petrol strapped on the panniers along with the regular luggage which in my opinion would be a very difficult task for the regular bikes in the market today, and I'm not even considering the fancy fairing ones for this situation. Even if you do manage to strap it all on, I'm not sure the bike would hold steady given the centrifugal force generated by the liquid swaying it side-to-side, unless you have a good upright riding position. It's not just choosing a bike looking at the power delivery and max speeds that you can achieve in this terrain, its about whether your ride is going to satisfy your needs and get you from point A to B safely and comfortably.

Quote:
Originally Posted by phamilyman View Post

Amol ji,

You are entitled to your opinion, which is mostly wrong, except the above points, which are a matter of taste:
#2 - Granted but its manageable in other bikes with a seat mod as well.
#4 - 100% true, but again, only for those who love bullets.

Reg #5, There are some folks here, who have upgraded from a 500 EFI to a CBR 250 and are absolutely happy about it
Well, my opinions are mostly built over two decades of being associated with the enfields and whatever little riding I've done in the three bike trips to the region so I may very well be wrong. I must also admit that I'm a bit biased towards the enfields and haven't really been in touch with the riding scene as far as the new-gen bikes are concerned.

On #2, I know people who've done pillion rides on a Pulsar and the FZ and they preferred the enfield. My wife's never complained of the back seat since I've got a customized backrest for long distance riding. All this makes me believe that the enfields are really good for the pillions. I know you could potentially customize seating on other bikes too, but I've not seen too many examples of it to make a judgement. As for me, personally I'd not sit pillion with anybody and on any bike in the world so I have no first-hand information here.

And yes, the sound of the bullets is music to my ears, may be coz I've grown up with them and still find it hard to part with them. I don't know whether moving from a enfield to a CBR250 is really an upgrade, unless someone had bought the enfield thinking it was a fast and mean machine. For me, the enfield guys and the racer dudes have always been poles apart and they will always remain that way. I'm not saying one is better than the other, they're just different in their own ways. May be I'll change my opinion on this when I see someone riding the CBR or a Ninja on the broken sections of Leh-Manali road standing upright on the footpegs.
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