Most bikers dream about getting to ride one of those twisty pass in Europe. Bragging rights, a once in a lifetime experience or whatever could be the reason, its child’s play compared to what few had gone through riding across some of the highest parts of the world, riding the Himalayan range.
We are talking about places like Khardung La, in the Jammu and Kashmir state, which is at 5,359m above sea level. That’s about 1km higher than Mount Kinabalu itself, the highest point in this country.
The story started a few years back when Fadil Ali went on to follow the annual Royal Enfield’s Himalayan Odyssey ride up the mountains in the Himalayan area. He joins the group a few more times before deciding to venture off on his own adventure, going for a different section of the Himalaya. He is joined by 15 other men and one female rider for a ride from Manali to Leh, using Royal Enfield Bullet 500 bikes.
Amazingly according to Fadil, the RE bikes which was almost the same bike built back in 1955 remained stock standard with no special modification done to it. “The bikes are so simple and rudimentary, less things to go wrong and hardy, making it just perfect for our ride up the mountains,” explained Fadil. If you had watched World’s most dangerous roads on the Discovery Channel then you can have some idea of what these guys went through as the road (if you can call it that) are quite similar to that.
Some are paved but most are just made of gravel, only passable during a short period of time, between May to September. Their journey started in New Delhi where they landed and took an 18-hour bus ride to Manali where they picked-up their rented bikes and their guide.
Two nights in Manali to acclimatise before they were off Sarchu campsite, which is 230km away. While dying of a high-speed crash is impossible since they were maxing out at 30 to 40km/h speed most of the time, there were many other factors that made the journey dangerous.
Sub-zero temperatures, land slides, falling rocks and high altitude sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) were some of the dangers the group had to face throughout the ride. Amazingly they had to go through all of that on the Manali to Sarchu section itself. “It was one of the scary moments of the ride, though the group had done some preparation for the ride, it still took a lot out of the group,” said Fadil.
As the only female participant on the trip, Alison Murugesu didn’t see it as challenge as she puts it, “I have 17 heroic men to help me if I need so,” said Alison laughing. On tow with Alison was her ten-year-old son Adrian Ishak Ghani, who was happily being pillion whenever conditions permits, which was scarce. Most of the time the young traveler was safely following the group in the back-up crew’s 4×4.
After a night’s rest the group moved on to Leh, 260km away. Again it was a challenging ride for the group especially Mohd Ishar Ishak who was suffering from AMS.
“The most part of the routes were gravelly. I remember letting the bike fall, when I failed in my attempt to ride a shortcut via a 45deg slope. I could not remember the fall, it happened in a blink of an eye. However, I remember thinking, ah.. I fell,” explained Ishar.
“Lucky for me, I was wearing a full PPE for riding. I suffered neither a scratch nor a bruise. I did feel some weird feeling on my right hip joint, whenever I squat, but it went away after two days. After that, I discovered that I could sit cross-legged for a long time without pain – so, the fall had fixed my right hip joint.”
Ishar decided to play it safe and finish the section in the safety of the group’s 4×4 support vehicle. Upon reaching Leh, they had a free and easy time for the next two days where the group rest and gathered their strength while taking their time visiting some local attractions like the museum. Leh, located about 3500m above the sea is an important location for travelers to stopover since ancient time as it is located between India and China.
The last three days the group rode to nearby locations like Nubra Valley and Lake Pangong before returning to Leh and then to Delhi for the flight back. “It was an eye opener, everything is raw, the trip really gives me a new perspective in life,” said Mohd Hamka Mohd Hassan.
Are they going for it again? for sure, at least Fadil is, to a different location and interested bikers are welcomed.