The Himalaya Adventure – Riding on the top of the world!
It has been the TAMARBIKES mission to bring to the motorcycling community around the world, the most interesting and exciting destinations our little globe has to offer. So, this year we’re adding The Himalaya Adventure to our offerings. As we always do we start a new destination by taking a scouting ride with some of our more adventurous clients to come along for the ride. This is our Himalaya Adventure TAMARBIKES first impressions.
The Kullu valley and Manali
The TAMARBIKES Himalaya Adventure begins when we land at Kullu airport near Manali the unofficial capital of trekkers and shopping in the Himalaya. Manali is a bustling place. It’s a soft landing, Hotel is nice, food is great, even if already a bit on the spicy side, and our hosts the local guides are great. We finish off the first day with some sightseeing, a local temple and a walk through the Manali old city.
Next day it is riding time. After signing for the bikes that have been delivered to the hotel we head out to the mountains around Manali for an orientation ride. There is a lot to get used to. The Royal Enfield Bullet 500 singles are surprisingly fun and comfortable, the views are breath taking with green peaks all around, and once you are out of traffic, riding is fun and weather is perfect.
This is an important day before we hit the heavy stuff lying ahead to get ourselves accommodated to altitude, traffic, and the bikes. It is an easy day.
The formidable Spiti Valley
We start the day with the Rohtang La pass. It’s a climb to 13000 feet (3550 meters) and we reach it early in the morning. As we climb into the clouds it’s raining lightly, the road is partly washed away. Trucks and buses are everywhere hindering our progress. Reaching the Rohtang La pass we feel a sense of achievement. It’s the first Himalayan Pass and we’re only 2 hours out of our starting point.
Coming down from the other side on the ‘Manali – Leh’ road we learn about the havoc the winter reeks with the Himalayan roads. This will be the main motto of this tour and will dictate much of the itinerary later down the line. After a 30-minute roll down the northern part of the pass, we turn off on to HW 505 the main road running the length of the Spiti valley west to east.
The Spiti valley (meaning in between) has a floor of about 3000 meters and the peaks around it run between 6500 to 7500 meters. Some are in Tibet and some in India. It is only once you start exerting yourself in water crossings and other hard terrains that you begin to feel the altitude and the lack of oxygen. But mostly, it is breath taking views of incredibly barren mountains with a lot of water running across the roads.
We stopped counting at 10 crossings in the first hour and we now focus on the major water crossings which are immense and challenging. Things get even more challenging as the day is hot and we are running late. The pace is painfully slow we are barely getting 10 -15 km/h on average and the surface of this road is so bad that you are afraid the bike will come apart right under you. My bike is the first to go, so we stop and get some rest while the tour mechanic, a must on such a ride, takes my ‘Bullet’ to pieces. A rock has pierced a hole in the block and there is no compression. It’s fixed with epoxy glue and this fix will hold to the end of the tour with no further problems. We reach Chandra Taal the Moon Lake just before sun down and get settled into our ‘Swiss Tents’. It’s been a grueling yet amazing first day.
For the next couple of days we continue through this harsh but awesome land. We will cross our highest pass on this tour, the Kunzum la pass 15000 feet (4650 meters), we will reach the king of Spiti’s home in Kaza, visit the Key monastery where the Dalai Lama visited then Komic the highest village on earth. We will also visit Tabo, home of a 1000-year-old monastery.
It’s here things start to go seriously wrong! We begin to get news that the road east out of the Spiti has been washed away and we will not be able to reach the Kinnaur valley continuing east. Our hosts spread their arms and tell us that this is the Himalaya where the only thing unexpected is ‘no surprises’.
For the next few days we will be back tracking the route to Manali to reach the Kinnaur valley through its western entrance, but that is still to come.
The Pin Valley
Just before Tabo, we ride south into The Pin valley with its picturesque end-village of Mud, (pronounced Mood). Mud is an important trekking center as we learn several major Himalayan treks begin here including a few days’ hike towards the Kullu valley. However, there are no rideable roads so we will have to back track a very long way to reach Manali again. The Pin is beautiful, quiet, mystical and the stay in Mud at 3800 meters Is when the altitude first gets to me. The guest house is comfortable and the host welcoming. The locals are fascinated by the bikes and show genuine affection to us everywhere.
We start the day with a walk to the river. Climbing back up literally knocks the air out of our lungs. But everything is like a post card and so beautiful.
The Kinnaur Valley
Contrary to the barren Spiti the Kinnaur is lush and green year-round. We head out and visit the village of Kosol a trekker’s heaven and the ‘weed’ capital of the area. We settle for Momo, a local dumpling’ for lunch and continue to our final destination of the day Banjar.
The green is eye-popping after the week of high-mountain deserts. Much like the Kullu valley only higher and greener. We are staying in a private home stay with a great couple, and their 3 children. Their 5-year-old daughter Jaisha turns to be the highlight of our stay. Our plans to ride further the next day are quashed by fog and rain and we stay and take a walking hike of the Banjar forests around us. It’s an amazing relaxing day, and we are getting ready to wrap up the tour up and go home. A much-needed relaxation after a long hard ride.
We return to Manali, return bikes, and have a festive farewell dinner. Tomorrow we all take off and go our separate ways from the Kullu airport on the long voyage home.
Agra and Delhi
Tamar, my partner in life and crime, had done extensive traveling in India 25 years ago before we met. She has been ‘on my case’ ever since to go back with her to India. Tamar loves India and so I took advantage of this scouting tour and her long love to convince her to join te scouting tour with us. As there was some shopping to do for the kids left behind, and I insisted on ticking off yet another one of the Seven wonders of the world, The famous ‘Taj Mahal’, we crammed into 24 hours a ride to Agra and shopping in Delhi. Our best shot was going to be pre-booked train rides, which we did, adding yet another ‘must experience’ of India.
The Taj Mahal is spectacular and does not live down from its promise. Take a guide and go see the Taj at Sun rise. It’s worth the effort. A true and amazing shrine to the love of a King for his wife. It is glorious and leaves you at awe at this unbelievable effort and expense just to put up a mausoleum. It is A lifetime experience. Don’t miss it.
Coming back to Delhi after 2 weeks of wilderness and desolation hit you like a rock. The most noise polluted city on earth, its takes a westerner time to understand that you simply cant drive without a horn, the car will not go. We hit the famous DLF mall near the airport coming off the train at the eastern old station, and just barely make it back to the hotel to take a shower repack and get on the cab to the airport. We started out in Agra at 4:00am so sleep on the flight home is not going to be the least of our problems.
The Himalaya Adventure – summery.
This Motorcycle guided tour or should I say Motorcycle Adventure will take you by surprise. You cannot prepare or plan, you can only come ready for what the Himalaya will throw at you, day in and day out. Be it a washed away road, or be it changing weather. Be it altitude sickness or be it mechanical failures, simply come prepared. The sooner you get into the Himalaya state of mind the sooner you will begin to enjoy one of the most challenging regions on earth. It’s worth every effort and it must be on any serious rider’s bucket list.
**Click here for more info about our next Himalaya Adventure .
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