Day 13+14, 29.9. + 30.9.2011 Leh Ladakh
I reach Leh on the 28.9. about 5 p.m. and look for a guesthouse. I find only crappy places or they are fully booked. I was told the best place to be in Leh is around the “Main Market”. On my way there, I hear two guys calling me. I turn my head around and can’t believe it: It’s Helly Frauwallner and Stefan Rosner from the Austrian Rally Team! They are here for the Raid de Himalaya 2011, the highest rally of the world.
Just a few words spoken, they ask me where I’ll stay. As I have no plan yet, they tell me to come join them. We go out for dinner talk about their upcoming race. Helly is very interested in my journey too, so I talk much about my adventures in Iran and Pakistan. In return, Helly tells his adventurer’s tales about “Tour Nordlicht 2007″, “Rally Mongolia”, his trips in South America and his race at Paris-Dakar 2009. If you are interested to learn about it too, point your browser to http://www.helly-frauwallner.at
Stefan Rosner participated at the Raid de Himalya 2010 and won the 3rd place! Excellent result for a rookie! At this year’s edition he manages the Contiger Rally Team Austria and produces a video with his company BOMB THE BEAT FILMPRODUKTION.
Enough to talk over some beers at a bar! :)
A photo shooting with the Austrian Rally legend and his team is a must!
Helly is keen to test ride BigBertha: “Tom, that’s a bloody big bike you’re riding in the Himalaya’s – impressive!”:
We have breakfast together before the team hits the road again. They have to go back to Shimla, where the Rally will start on Oct. 11th. I’m thrilled to be here in the Indian Himalayas during this one of a kind race. I spend a few hours on my room to make plans for my trip around Leh. I still need to go back to Amritsar / Whaga border to extend my Carnet de Passages. Also, I need to be back in Delhi by Oct 21st. How could I possibly see some parts of this exciting Raid de Himalayas? We shall see.
In Leh, I also must obtain some “inner-line permits” for the Nubra Valley and the Pangong Lake, as these are the disputed territories with Pakistan and China (Tibet). I walk around the main markets, but the tourist offices tell me that they’ll need a minimum of 2 applicants for the DC office. Finally I find one agent, who promises that he can get it done until next day.
I want to see a “Gompa”, a typical Tibetian temple, but find it very hard to walk uphill. Leh is “only” at 3500m above sea level, but the recent altitudes at +5000m seem to have weakened me physically. Later I will find out that almost everone struggles with the conditions at the arrival in Leh. You need a few days of adjustment. So I decide to have lunch at a random place and order a chicken cheeseburger. I hear some German words from a table next to me. It turns out that these guys, Simone and René, are from Austria and they came on the same route to India via Iran & Pakistan, 2-up on a KTM 990 Adventure!
We spend hours of talking about our experiences and further travel plans.
A couple at the next table seems to follow our talks and get involved. They are overlanders, too! What a gathering. They went with their truck through the Stans and Siberia, but brought their vehicle back to Germany. They couldn’t find a cost-effective way to enter India. After a rest in Germany, they decided to continue their trip via public transport. Goal: Australia!
Many stories told, we go to sleep but well meet tomorrow for breakfast again.
30.9.2011, Leh Ladakh
I meet with Simone and René for breakfast at the “Happy World restaurant”. The rear break pads of their KTM 990 Adventure are seriously worn. René wonders if he can make it to Nepal without replacement. We check if my spare break pads might fit. They seem to have exactly the same shape, but the ones for BMW are thicker. We check on the Internet and our bikes need two different part-numbers indeed. That’s not too surprising, but it was worth having a check.
Meanwhile, two Swiss girls join our table and we have a fun morning. The breakfast gets extended to lunch, but after coffee we all decide there is more to do in Leh than just chatting: Let’s have a power-nap! :)
I take the guys 3-up (Asian style) to their guesthouses:
I decide to finally do some sightseeing in world-famous Leh and want to see the “Shanti-Stupa”.
View to Leh from there:
I really enjoy the place. It’s very peaceful.
Upon my return to the bike, a bunch of guys are hanging around it. They point to my rear tire and say: “Puncture, Puncture!”. Indeed, there is a metal part, which certainly doesn’t belong there. However, I’m not very keen on getting this fixed in front of many spectators, so I return to my guesthouse.
WOW, that’s a serious nail!
That’s my first puncture on the entire journey from Austria to India – over 27.000km!
Great opportunity to test my kit. As my BMW R1200GS uses tubeless tires, I brought the POCKET Tire Plugger from Stop & Go. They have a quick tutorial on YouTube.
That was a quick fix. I was done in about 5 min. Here is the result:
While having my kit out, I decide to also change the tire valve and do some other maintenance like checking the gear box oil.
Tomorrow will be an early start. I’m planning to cross “Khardung La”, the highest motorable pass of the world!
Day 15, 01.10.2011: Leh – Khardung La
Khardung La on Google map and Wikipedia
The highest motorable pass in the world - 5359m altitude… and the day I lost my left pannier.
I meet with Simone & René for breakfast. Originally they planned to join me for the ride up to Nubra valley, but changed their plans last minute. They feel like running out of time on their itinerary and want to proceed to Srinagar. That’s sad, but understandable. At least we get a photo done:
So I take off solo to the famous Khardung La, the highest motorable pass in the world. From Leh it’s about 40 km to the pass itself and 118km to Diskit, my destination in the Nubra valley. The road is in perfect condition, so I can enjoy the view down to Leh:
There is a police check post, where you present your “inner-line” permit as well as your passport. These guys are very helpful and friendly and the process is easy. You drink some chai have a chat, take a few pictures and think you have just another great day. Well, this is the last picture in which my left pannier is still there, but first things first.
The remaining road to the pass (some 13km) is bumpy gravel, but you get rewarded soon. That’s a smoother part of it. It’s unbelievable to ride at the peaks of the these mountains, the top of the world:
“You are driving up to the highest motorable road in the world and not a short cut to heaven!”
I better take these warnings serious! Up here you ride on the edge of a steep precipice:
Shortly after I reach Khardung La @ 5359m altitude. Let me tell you! It’s quite an experience to ride your bike up here!
On the way down from the pass, the road gets worse.
The terrain really keeps you busy, you literally have to stop to enjoy views like this:
Suddenly I hear a strange sound, but think it’s from the roadworks or so. Some 15 min later I figure that I lost my left pannier. I turn around immediately and search the road, but have no luck until I reach the pass again. I notify the army guys there, but I’m being told that nobody dispensed anything. They notify the check-posts around and advice me to go back to the last police check point to report the case. A motorcyclist on a Royal Enfield helps me with translation. He tells me that if an Indian truck driver or an Army guy found it, he would be very tempted to open the box and try to sell the content. He will think that he just found a big treasure and I might have very little chances to get it back. BUMMER!
I rush back to my bike to go down to the police check-post. A group of bikers want to take “snaps” with me, but I’m really not in the mood for a chit-chat. Later on I will learn that these are the G.O.Ds, the Group of Delhi Super Bikers, but for now I just have my lost pannier on my mind.
As I arrive at the police check post, the guys already had been informed about my problem, but also there is no sign of my valuable piece of equipment! There is an Army base nearby. I see the convoy of Army trucks that I came across after I obviously lost my pannier, but these guys are not very helpful and don’t allow me to search the trucks. Frustration!
I keep searching around and speaking to various people, but can’t do much more than leaving my contact information and go back to Leh. In the guesthouse I bang my head against the door. After some chai with my host I go to the internet café, but I am told: “Internet down, come back tomorrow!”.
This doesn’t seem to be my day! There is a restaurant nearby, where I order pizza to compensate the frustration. A group of trekkers from Austria join my table. At least I have a nice conversation on this miserable day.
Later I go for a coffee and meet a guy from Mumbai. After he listened to my story of the day, he says:
“Be resilient to find your box. Don’t worry, it’s the best part of a journey loosing things and finding them again. That’s why you travel. Otherwise why would you travel? You can’t travel all this way and loose nothing!”.
“So you think, it’s the best part of traveling, just to loose stuff and be in trouble?”, I’m asking.
“To fall down and get up again is the basic philosophy on such a journey!” is his response.
“But what do I do if my bike breaks down and I’m missing just this small sparepart?” is my next question.
“Than you need to trust Indians, Indian mechanics!” he replies.
The conversion continues. He quotes movies and a story from Ted Simon, his preferred traveler, but I understand his message: Stay positive and everthing will be fine!
“You must be more happier, that you lost your luggage and you can drive easy now, if you don’t have much stuff to carry!”, he goes on. “What I mean to say is you become free in a sense that you have the basic essentials, not materialistic and diagnostic things and stuff, which you can manage without. You need to stop worrying and start traveling. It will be good.”
Wow, what a speech to end this day! ;-) I guess he is right and this is just another lesson to learn for me. Don’t try to be prepared for everything. Let things happen to you!
Anyway, here is how BigBertha looks like as of today. From now on it will be even more fun to balance her through the dirt ;-)