Getting to Manali was was an adventure! This highway is only open for about 4 months of the year and the average elevation is more than 13,000feet (4,000 m). It is 17,480ft at its highest point at Tanglang La mountain pass. Day 1 started fairly well. I made the Rohtang pass with no real problems. It was a stunning ride with plenty of dirt tracks and breathtaking views. Particularly riding through the Moore plains which is surrounded by stunning natural rock formations. After about 8 hours of riding I made it to a small settlement in Sarchu where I found my tent for the night. It was pretty cold here at around 15,000 feet but I had plenty of blankets and a good dinner to keep me warm.
|Hitting the snow|
Around 4am the next morning I woke to the ominous sound of heavy rainfall. I knew I had two more high passes to make and with rain comes fog, snow, mud and the threat of landslides. I didn't relish my ride. The rain kept coming until around 7am and that is when I decided to go for it.
Following my usual ritual, I packed Rhonda, gave her a quick once over and pressed the button to fire her up. For the first time in our 11,000 miles and 4 months together, Rhonda did not start! The combination of cold and altitude had got to her and she just couldn't seem to get enough fuel to get going. I kept trying until eventually, as the battery gave it’s last bit of energy, she started! I had to hold her on full throttle for a minute or so before the fuel started coming through properly and power was restored. What a relief! Now all I had to do was go for it!
|Stunning rock formations|
As I headed for the first pass of the day I cranked up my heated grips and prepared to hit the snow. First though came the mud. The tracks were slippery and rutted but we had no real problems. The hardest part was getting past the trucks as we caught up with them. It still amazes me where these drivers take their trucks! They are fairly good at giving you space to pass if you let them know you are there. This time though I got it wrong. I beeped my horn and watched as the driver pulled to the right, I saw my gap and went for it only to find his front end coming in on me and closing the gap leaving me dangerously close to the edge with nowhere to go. He hadn't seen me. I had failed to see that he was not moving for me but swinging out for a bend. I was passed the point of no return and my only chance was to make the gap before he closed it entirely and so I squeezed the throttle and screamed in my helmet, sure I wasn't going to make it! Just when I thought India had used up all my adrenaline, there it was, and it wasn't even 9am!
|The river crossing|
The view of the glacier lake as I started my decent was breathtaking but all too soon my attention was pulled away and was now focusing on the next problem. We had made it passed the truck and had come down out of the fog but now the mountain track ahead was covered in rocks. The result of a fresh landslide. There were trucks on the other side and all the drivers were stood by. They looked like they were waiting for something.
I assessed the rocks and thought “I can ride over those! Get on your pegs and work it!”. There was a biker behind me and we both went for it. That’s when the truckers started jumping up and down and screaming something! I lost concentration and went down as did the guy behind. He came over to help me lift Rhonda and I asked him what they were saying “The rocks are coming” he said. I looked up to see a shower of stones bear down on me. I was glad I had kept my helmet on but wondered what was following and nearly ran but the guy with me just kept on trying to lift Rhonda so I stayed and kept my eyes upwards as we lifted. The truckers kept shouting, which was very unnerving but between us we made it over the rocks and to the other side.
The next challenge was a river crossing, which we made with no issues. Then came another and there was already a biker in there who had dropped his bike. However, there were also a few half naked, rather dishy men who had just got their bikes through and were now helping others, and having a whale of a time doing so. Just what I needed! I really didn't want to drop Rhonda in here. It would have been a real effort to get her out again. I crept closer then went for it, making it over with ease and with a cheer from the guys! Lovely! I waved and headed on my way.
After the river crossing came a muddy hill that was covered in trucks and bikes and cars, all stuck and trying to work their way out. I had to go for it. If I stopped I too would be stuck and probably on my side again. I picked a line between the vehicles and gunned it. Rhonda pulled us up with ease! This was great. Like an enduro race with luggage! Just as I was patting myself on the back, I dropped her at the top, trapping my leg underneath. The guy from the landslide appeared from no where and managed to lift Rhonda enough so I could ease my leg out. What a guy! I wonder if he will be there next time? I could do with a guardian angel!
|Rhonda gets a wash|
So that was the Leh to Minali pass! Wonderful! Stunning views and a great adventure. I would highly recommend the ride! Rhonda is fine but her luggage system is a little battered. We have lost a bolt that holds the rack, broken a bolt that holds the top box and snapped the front rack! Otherwise we are in one piece and I even treated her to a wash! Manali is a stunning valley and the ride down in to it was breathtaking. A chilled hippyish kinda place full of travellers, climbers and people generally looking, finding or found themselves! As I rode in I I was waved down by a guy who has been following my ride! Lovely! I also met an Ozzy couple who I shared a few beers and a few stories with! We have a date when I arrive in Australia! Cant wait! Not long now!