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Old 4th November 2015, 22:11   #1
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Default Mana Pass : A dream come true

Mana Pass!

The planning for Mana Pass started from the day I reached Mana village for the first time on 28th September 2012 as part of Chota Chardham drive. I never even knew what to expect and how to push for the permissions and what vehicle could go up there. From the day I was keenly looking out for any one talking about a trip to Mana Pass.
Wikipedia says
Mana Pass (el. 5,545 m (18,192 ft)), alternatively Māna La, Chirbitya, Chirbitya-la, or Dungri La, is a mountain pass in the Himalayas on the border between India and Tibet. It appears to now be the highest vehicle-accessible pass in the world, containing a road constructed in the 2005-2010 period for the Indian military by the Border Roads Organisation and visible on 2011 imagery on visual globe systems such as Google Earth. The well-graded gravel-dirt road is higher on the Indian side than the new road on the Tibetan side, and rises to 5,610 metres (18,406 ft) on the Indian side of the border, 250m west of the low point of the 5,545 metres (18,192 ft) Mana Pass.

Mana Pass is located within the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, 24 km north of the town of Mana, India and 27 km north of the Hindu pilgrimage town of Badrinath in Uttarakhand. It is the source of the Saraswati River, the longest stem of one of the longest Ganges tributaries, the Alaknanda River. That river trickles through several scenic small ponds between the pass and Lake Deo Tal three km southwest of the pass. Mana pass is also the key col for climbing Chaukhamba peak.

Mana as a name derives from "Manibhadra Ashram", the ancient name of the town of Mana.

Mana Pass was an ancient trade route between Uttarakhand and Tibet. Mana Pass led from Badrinath to the kingdom, now province, of Guge in Tibet. The Portuguese Jesuits António de Andrade and Manuel Marques became the first known Europeans to enter Tibet across Mana Pass in 1624. The pass continued as a minor trade route until its closure in 1951 by the Chinese. On April 29, 1954, China and India signed an agreement granting pilgrims and indigenous travelers the right to travel between the two countries through Mana Pass.

The pass is reached from the south by an extension of National Highway 58 (NH58) that connects Delhi with Badrinath
In the middle of 2013, HVK asked me if I would be interested in joining him on a drive to Mana Pass. I was overjoyed with the idea. One of his many contacts would get us the required permits and tentatively dates in September 2013 were chosen. As always I went ahead and booked my flight tickets to Mumbai to join HVK at his home to start the trip. But unfortunately the roads were washed out and hence getting the permits and the trip looked grim. HVK and me kept the faith and unfortunately 1 week before our planned dates we had to call it off. I was almost planning to cancel my flight tickets, when another idea struck us. We went on the same planned dates to Nepal. It was one hell of an adventure by itself and a very good one at it. I am yet to write about that trip, and in mine and HVK's words the drive is still called a "Secret drive somewhere", since even today not many of his huge fan followers knew that we have done such a trip together. But that story is for some other time.

We again started discussions in 2014 beginning. We again planned tentatively for September 2014. This time HVK did not allow me to get my tickests till everything was sure. By the middle of the year HVK was deeply involved in his Fan Forum activities, and his bandwidth and his resources were quite choked. He also did not get a confirmation from his contacts for sure about the permits. We had to call it off in OCtober. I was disappointed, HVK too was. But that is life. Sometimes things just wont workout the way you want. I took off on 10 day drive on the Maharashtra Coastal Highway to keep me happy. MSH4 drive in December 2014 was yet another lovely adventure. This time it was me and my Civic blazing those beautiful roads. Never seen such pristine beaches before. Loved every moment of the drive. Unfortunately I am yet to write about this drive too, but again that story is for some other time.

Fast forward to February 2015, one of our common friends Tilak Soni of Where Eagles Dare posts an event in his Facebook Page about a biking adventure to Mana Pass in September 2015. I immediately messaged him about the possibility of joining the adventure and how I can be accommodated since I do not ride. I was offered a place in the support vehicle and the deal was struck. The next day I booked my flight tickets and hotel rooms in Delhi for the September dates. I also sent my details and some advance to make the permissions done. A month before the trip I sent my medical fitness certificate for the documentation and Permits.

I had no clue as to who the others would be for this trip, all I knew was it would be around 15 to 20 persons and a few bikes and support vehicle. I was also apprehensive about will I be able to get some clicks and whether I could get the front seat like I am used to on my drives with HVK. The other drive that I did without HVK to Uttarakhand was one drive that I did not want to repeat.

But thankfully I found a great partner in Alok who hails from Delhi, who has a lot of solo drives to his credit in the North. Alok offered me the navigation seat in his Thar from Delhi all the way to Mana Pass and back. His partnership and our silly discussions helped us make an otherwise tough adventure very much enjoyable. Tilak with his wonderful reach in Uttarakhand made this trip possible.

And I am one happy man after three long years of plans to scale Mana pass. The team was quite happy that we were among the few civilians to have reached all the way till Zero Point in recent times.

The team after successfully completing Mana Pass
Mana Pass :  A dream come true-manapass-team.jpg
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Old 4th November 2015, 22:31   #2
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Default Re: Mana Pass : A dream come true

The Plan

Day 0 : 19.09.2015 : Bangalore to Delhi
Day 1 : 20.09.2015 : Delhi to Gauchar
Day 2 : 21.09.2015 : Gauchar to Badrinath
Day 3 : 22.09.2015 : Badrinath to Ghastoli
Day 4 : 23.09.2015 : Ghastoli to Mana Pass and back to Badrinath
Day 5 : 24.09.2015 : Badrinath to Srinagar
Day 6 : 25.09.2015 : Srinagar to Delhi
Day 7 : 26.09.2015 : Delhi to Bangalore

Basically this drive was focused at attempting Mana Pass only and hence the drive was spaced out at a relaxed pace between days and all days it was real sumptuous food breaks and and multiple stops and catching up. Was really a comfortable and relaxed plan.

The Team
We had three two wheeler and Four 4 wheeler and the support vehicle. 2 Bullets, 1 Bajaj Scooter, 1 Thar, 1 Fortuner, 1 4x4 XUV 500, 1 Gurkha, and Max Pickup as service vehicle. A total of 14 members.
For privacy reasons I am not taking the names of individual members for this adventure.

Last edited by laluks : 4th November 2015 at 22:37.
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Old 5th November 2015, 21:41   #3
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Default Re: Mana Pass : A dream come true

Before I write about our adventure, I thought credit must be given where it is due first. From many searches on the web on Mana Pass, this particular picture stood out very distinctly. Deo Tal is the sacred lake atop Mana Pass, considered very holy since this lake is believed to be the origin of the Mythical Saraswati River. Mana Pass and Zero point is about 3.5Kms from Deo Tal.

Sailing At Deo Tal - 1993

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Gautama Dutta sailing a Laser on Deo Tal at 5420 m on 18 Sep 1993. World Record for sailing at the highest altitude

This write up was so intense, that I could feel the same vigor as the author once we reached Mana Pass.
Very few Indians have been able to make a mark in the World of Sports and the famous Guinness World Records.
But thanks to the superior quality of sailors in the country, there have been a lot of yachtsmen who have made their marks and have participated and won at the Olympics, Asian Games and have been conferred the title of Arjuna Awardee (the highest title in terms of Sports in India).

Gautama Dutta, the man behind the success of Ferrettis and Pershings in India – was born with a sail. Serving the Indian Army for years, his lifestyle and hobbies are typically soldier-like till this date, and has helped Marine Solutions in a big way to be the company that it is today.
Below, he shares a part of his personal history, that not only makes him a proud man, but also India a proud motherland of quality sailors.


“Sailing is a sport I have passionately pursued since I was a child. In the year 1988 while going through the Guinness Book of World Records I came across an entry for sailing at the highest altitude in the sports section of the book. The record stood in the name of three persons from UK who sailed a Mirror class dinghy on a lake in the Andes at an altitude of 4910 m. I made up my mind to better this record and with this end in mind I first set out to locate lakes in India which would be higher than the existing record and yet be accessible. It took me three years to carefully research the various high altitude lakes in the Indian Himalayas and Karakorum Range before I finally set my sights on lake Deo-Tal. This lake located in the Upper Himalayas at an altitude of 5240 m lay along an ancient trail connecting India with Tibet over the Mana Pass, making it fairly accessible from the nearest road head of the temple town of Badrinath. Further investigation with mountaineers and army personnel posted in that sector had revealed that this lake remained frozen the year around save the month of September. Having gained this information, I wrote to the Guinness Book of World Records in 1991 to confirm the status of the existing record and to learn about the guidelines for attempting the record. On receiving confirmation and the go ahead from the Guinness Book of World Records, I set about planning my attempt. The first task at hand was to raise money to import a Laser class sailing dinghy from Japan which I was able to do by the following year. Thereafter I worked towards organising my finances and planning an expedition to Lake Deo-Tal. R. Z. Rana of Baroda, a mountaineer friend of mine, helped me with necessary Govt. of India permissions and the arrangements with the local guides and porters of Badrinath. We finally decided to attempt the expedition to Lake Deo-Tal the following year in the months of August-September during the peak of the melting season.

On 30th August 1993 I set off by road from Baroda for Badrinath along with Rana and a few others. We travelled in a van with my boat, ‘Hotspur’, lashed on top of the roof. Everything was a tight fit with the eight of us including the driver squeezing in with a pile of provisions and climbing equipment. We drove through the Rajasthan desert making a few stops at historical spots before we arrived in Delhi in the middle of the night on 31st August. There were a few formalities that needed to be cleared with the Indian Mountaineering Federation (IMF) the next day after which we set off for Joshimath in the Garhwal Himalayas. We arrived at Joshimath on the evening of 02 September and spent the next day stocking up on provisions and obtaining the final go ahead from the District Magistrate. On 04 September the expedition established the first camp at Mana village near Badrinath town.

The move towards Mana Pass was thereafter delayed by reports of unexpected bad weather in the upper reaches. After fours of waiting, five members of the trekking team from Baroda, Hira Singh the local guide from Mana, ten porters carrying the boat and provisions, one Border Police guide and I set off from Mana leaving behind our van and its driver along with one member of the trekking team who was down with mountain sickness. On 09 September we established camp 15 kms from Mana along the course of the River Saraswati which we were to follow till the pass. En route we crossed the famous Bhimpul bridge which is a strangely wedged rock left hanging by nature over a bottomless raging gorge. Our move the next day was delayed by the sudden disappearance of one of our ponies who decided to return to Mana village in the night. However by night fall we were able to make our next destination – the grassy little valley of Ghastoli.

From Ghastoli when we moved on climbing beyond 14000 ft. the landscape turned bleak and arid, rocky bare hill sides fraught with landslides and glittering white peaks in the distance. On the morning of 12th September we had to negotiate the dangerous torrent Bulbula Dhar. We waded through at the early hours as the torrent increased with day becoming warmer. The same evening everyone had checked in at the Border Police outpost of Rattakona when all of a sudden the weather turned nasty. After three days of incessant snowfall, Rana and I decided to reconnoitre the area ahead to our next halt at Jagrao and examine the feasibility of carrying on with our attempt. There were serious thoughts of abandoning the attempt as two of the porters were down with mountain sickness and some others had varying degrees of mild frost bite. After long deliberations we decided to wait one more day and as if to reward our patience the next day the weather cleared. On 16th September 1994 in brilliant sunshine and five feet of fresh snow the team moved on to Jagrao where a few shelters built by the Border Police existed. We left behind the two sick porters and some of our provisions for our return journey. When we moved the next morning from the Jagrao huts to the deserted Old Jagrao camp the numbers were down to bare minimum as we had to leave behind three more porters along with two members of the trekking team suffering from frost bite and snow blindness. We established camp at Old Jagrao with bare essentials on the evening of 17th September 1994 and prayed the weather gods would be kind the next day.

The 18th dawned a sparkling clear and windy day. This was the day when we were to make our final push towards Mana Pass and Deo-Tal. Early in the morning I set off along with a couple of porters carrying the boat and some emergency rations. The trekking team decided to move to the Mana Pass with the local guide while I was to stop short and turn off towards the lake and sail my boat there. We planned to return to our camp at Old Jagrao by dusk. The climb towards the pass was extremely difficult because of the thick snow and glaciated stretches in between. At places the boat had to be belayed by ropes and pulled up vertically 50 feet and more. After five hours of toil we finally reached the sparkling blue waters of Lake Deo-Tal. The intense rugged beauty of the place was overpowering. The icy peaks surrounding the freezing blue waters gave the whole vista a surreal feel and somehow I couldn’t help dwelling on the name of the lake which in Sanskrit means ‘Lake of The Gods’. After an hour of tramping along the frozen shores of the lake we finally found a small sun warmed gravel patch which afforded access to the turquoise blue waters. Here we set the boat down and unpacked her. The porters offered a short prayer to the holy waters of Deo-Tal as I launched Hotspur and steered away to the distant shore. The bright sunshine and my wetsuit did not suffice to keep the frozen chill out and I soon
had to head back for shore, cutting short the most exhilarating sail of my life. After briefly thawing out my frozen limbs I quickly packed up my boat began the back breaking trek back to camp.

We returned to Mana Village on the morning of 21st September after having picked up all those we left behind at various camps on our way up. I felt compelled to pay a visit to the local deity at Badrinath and asked his forgiveness for having sailed in such holy waters. This seemed to satisfy the locals who had great misgivings over the entire venture and then in the evening over a campfire with a freshly roasted goat and a barrel of the locally brewed spirits all the anxiety and toil was forgotten.”

After almost two decades, when there is a mad scramble to claim and reclaim many tall success stories of scaling Mana Pass, I can only smile at the predicament of all those once they stumble upon this piece of history.

And thanks to many irresponsible teams who had attempted the pass before, and posting pictures of our military installations without a care on social media, the permissions are now tough. There is absolute ban on photography anywhere after Mana village till the pass. All cameras and mobile phones have to surrendered at Mana Village check post before we start the ascend to Mana Pass, some 60 odd kilometers away. The pristine Saraswati valley is a view to remember forever.

By the way, Alok and his Thar currently has gone the farthest a civilian Four wheeler has yet till Mana Pass, and we are among the few civilians who have reached till the zero point in recent times

There will be no pictures from our side of our adventure to Mana Pass, but I'll try get some earlier pictures posted on the web for our story

Last edited by Aditya : 9th November 2015 at 07:44. Reason: Typo
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Old 5th November 2015, 21:51   #4
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Some pictures till I get on with the day by day account

The team raring to go
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Dev Prayag, the holiest of the confluences
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Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home
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One of the best roads to ride

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Thar enjoying a break
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Fortuner at its turf

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Morning at Gauchar
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Somewhere near Pipalkoti

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Yummy Paranthas
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1 Km to Badrinath
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Mana, The last village on the Indian Border
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Old 5th November 2015, 22:00   #5
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Badrinath - A fish eye view
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Badrinath Temple in the night

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Sun Kissed Neelkant Peak
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Snow covered peak

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A trek in the wilderness
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En route Vasudhara Falls trek
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First view of Vasudhara Falls

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Vasudhara Falls and the surrounding valley
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Balakun Peak (Alakapuri - the home of the wealth god Kubera)
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Vasudhara Falls
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One of the last places Pandavas stopped on their way to heaven. It is believed that the water from this falls never fell on sinners. A silver colored fall tumbling from a great height of about 500 feet.

To reach here you need to trek for 5 Kms. The climb starts at Mana Village (3200m, 10500feet) for 5Kms till we reach the falls at 3767m/12355 feet. We took 2.5 hours for the trek up, as the scenery was beautiful and we took many breaks for photos. It a moderate trek, and you get some steep climbs. Took less than 2 hours for the return. A total of 5 hours of high altitude trek.
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Old 5th November 2015, 22:07   #6
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Vasudhara Falls and surroundings
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Suddenly mist covers up the area
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Time for us to return
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Clouds gathering
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Even the crows are beautiful here
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Snow covered peaks playing Hide and Seek

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Hide and seek with the clouds

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Alakanda River flows by
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Mythical Saraswati River flowing in to the big orifice in the ground before it disappears
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Old 5th November 2015, 22:16   #7
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Team after a successful attempt of Mana Pass
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Alok and his Thar
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Time for me to show off too
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Can you spot the river and the winding roads?
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Karna Prayag

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At Rajaji National Park
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Old 5th November 2015, 22:33   #8
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Some pictures of Saraswati valley en route Mana Pass from the web. All pictures are collected from a Google search on images for Mana Pass. Copyright belongs to the respective owners, only re posted here for story telling. Most of it belongs to Tilak's escapade in 2012. We have deposited our cameras and Mobiles and hence no pictures from my side.

The right turn here takes you to Mana Pass
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Frozen Deo Tal
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Deo Tal
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Deo Tal and the small lakes before it. Mana pass is wrongly marked in the picture. Earlier teams was only allowed a few hundred meters from Deo Tal , and hence they mistook the pass for this location.
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A few 100 meters from Deo Tal from the elevated portion you can see Deo Tal from a height. From this point Mana Pass is still 3+ Kms away.
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Saraswati Valley
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Some pictures from Tilak's earlier escapade
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I will be continuing with the day by day log, and route details from the next posts.
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Old 5th November 2015, 22:38   #9
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Some statistics of the adventure
Mana Pass :  A dream come true-our-drive.jpg

We reached a max altitude of 5634m (18485 feet) in this adventure

The story follows
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Old 5th November 2015, 23:46   #10
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 6th November 2015, 08:57   #11
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Wonderful thread sir ji !!

I have been following your posts on Facebook and the yummy photographs of Mana and surroundings had me hooked. Like many others, Mana Pass has been in my list for about two years now. I have been following Mr. Tilak Soni's posts on the HVK forum too to get as many details as possible, but I understand the trail to Mana Pass is still very elusive and only a few fortunate souls have been there.

Many Congratulations for this amazing feat.

While you were off to Mana Pass, I had been to Spiti on my motorcycle. While on my way back, I met a few bikers at Rohtang Pass who were riding all the way from Kerala. I stopped to take a break, took off my riding jacket to relax. I was wearing my Team-Bhp hoodie inside and one of the bikers I met there promptly asked me a question on seeing the hoodie, "Do you know laluks?"
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Old 6th November 2015, 10:19   #12
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That's was my reaction by my body even before the muscles of my mouth could help it utter the word "WOW"
Later my hand closed supported my chin before I froze for the next 20 minutes reading the post

How lucky are you guys!

After having completed the "fake highest motorable road" drive, I now dream of a drive on the "real highest motorable road" Thanks for giving me a dream

Hooked onto this thread for more pictures and words.
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Old 6th November 2015, 11:48   #13
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Awesome travelogue @Laluks. I have been seeing your photographs on Facebook about Mana Pass but haven't really heard the entire story! I am glued to the thread to learn more. Please do write more about physical fitness/ preparations and if anything specifically you did for this trip considering high altitude.
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Old 6th November 2015, 12:00   #14
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I am in absolute awe. Beautiful pics and what an adventure. This will remain as one of my best read threads.

Hats off.


Last edited by GTO : 6th November 2015 at 14:31. Reason: Please don't type with excessive
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Old 6th November 2015, 12:02   #15
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Another awesome travelogue after a break.
Kudos to the bikers who dared bad roads and cold climate.
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