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Indian Himalayas is the absolute dream for every motorbike rider. In a stunning backdrop of the highest mountains in the world, you drive on Enfield motorbikes through the provinces of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh, also known as "Little Tibet". You drive through the green hills and valleys of Kinnaur and the rugged mountains with peaks and permanent snow and Spiti Lahoul. Against the cliff, monasteries have been built with waving brightly colored prayer flags. Burning butter lights, the smell of incense and the murmur of meditating monks witness the still surviving Tibetan Buddhist culture. You pass desolate plateaus and spectacular mountain passes, including the highest pass in the world.
For a large part of the year this region is inaccessible by road, in small towns, no hotels have been built. At the beginning of the summer, tents are built up as a hotel. In winter, these camps are broken down again and the owners move back to the city.
You will stay overnight at least one time in a tent. A tent is fully furnished and equipped. Blankets are provided, however, due to the remote situation blankets are not washed every day, you can smell this. You might consider bringing a bedsheet. In other places, we'll spend the night in a hotel. The majority of the accommodation will be on bed and breakfast basis.
During this trip, you use the new Enfield Himalayan motorcycle. This is a left (European) switching engine with an electric starter.
The combination of three factors can make this trip seriously challenging. Firstly, the Enfield motorcycle requires a rather different way of riding and secondly, there are unsurfaced roads. Most of all, however, it is the high altitude which renders the journey difficult for many participants.
Without exception, everyone will suffer from a high altitude. For some, it will be limited to breathlessness and vague symptoms, whilst others will experience more annoying symptoms such as headaches and nausea.
These are all normal reactions and most of the symptoms will disappear after a number of days. This process is called acclimatization and you will find extensive information about this in the manual. To facilitate the process of acclimatization, it is important to ascend as slowly and smoothly as possible. Motor Trails has taken this into account in the schedule.
You will ride on unpaved roads for roughly 20% of the route. These are usually good densely-packed gravel roads but the impact of the rainy season can render them difficult to ride on. It remains necessary, of course, to watch out carefully in the tight turns.
The high passes in this region are only open in the summer months; in other seasons there is too much snow. This also means that much snow melts in the summer resulting in the meltwater flowing over the roads. This can be a harmless stream but can also be the cause of a significant land shift.
Keep in mind that a solution must be sought in such circumstances. This may be a short detour but might also require riding through the stream on your motorcycle. Flexibility is important during this trip. You could, therefore, consider taking an off-road training as preparation.
Arrival in Delhi. Motor Trails will pick you up at the airport and bring you to the hotel.
In the morning, you have the opportunity to explore the bazaar area in which the hotel is located. The chaotic street scene with holy cows, dogs, street vendors, tinkling rickshaws, honking cars, and an endless crowd will remain in your memory for a long time.
Old Delhi is the busiest part of the city; it is a walled city with countless alleys, bazaars, temples, and mosques. The New Delhi district with its green parks, villas, parliament buildings, the famous Connaught Place with chic shops and the many souvenir shops on the Janpath is quieter.
In order not to have to start motorcycling in the hectic traffic of Delhi with a temperature of 40 degrees Celcius. You take the train to Chandigarh in the afternoon. Chandigarh is located about 250 kilometers north of Delhi against the foothills of the Himalayas and it is built after the French example. There is also a smaller version of the Eiffel Tower.
After breakfast, you drive into the hills with the Enfields. After about 100 km, you pass Shimla. It is built against a steep ridge and is about 2000 meters higher than Chandigarh, making it a lot cooler. In the winter you can even ski here. During colonial times, the British fled the summer heat of Delhi and ruled the country from Shimla. The houses built in the English cottage style recall that period. Between the apple orchards, you continue to Narkanda (2710 meters height).
You descend until you reach the valley of the Sutlej river. You follow this river upstream and encounter more and more Buddhist influences. You drive into a side valley and end up in Sangla (2600 meters height). If there is time, enthusiasts can drive 17 km further and 1000 meters higher into the gap. Here lies the village of Chitkul, surrounded by snow-capped mountain peaks.
After a good hour's drive, you arrive at the town of Recong Peo. Here you have to arrange a permit for the sparsely populated area in front of you. You arrive just a few kilometers from the Tibetan border and the culture is Tibetan Buddhist, which is evident from the stupas (Buddhist pagoda), gompas (Tibetan monastery) and the many prayer flags that you see along the way. You continue to climb, you have already passed the tree line, and the landscape consists of brown and gray rock masses surrounded by snow-covered peaks of more than 6,000 meters high.
During the winter, which lasts longer than 6 months, the country is covered with a thick layer of ice and snow. Then this region is cut off from the outside world and the population is totally dependent on itself. You spend the night in the beautifully situated village of Nako (3625 meters altitude)
You go even further up through a, once again, fascinating landscape and continue our journey through the Spiti valley. The name Spiti means House of Mani, after the Buddhist mantra Om Mani Padme Hum. Due to the high altitude, strong temperature changes (day / night and summer / winter) occur here which, together with the bleak wind, cause erosion.
This has created a rugged alien landscape. Due to landslides and the demolition of gigantic pieces of rock, the road also suffers from erosion and the asphalt has disappeared in some places. You spend the night in Kaza (3650 meters height).
After having driven the motorcycle for 4 days it is time for a rest day. Kaza is a small village with around 3300 inhabitants. As the crow flies it is only 30 km away from Tibet and it is built entirely in Tibetan style. People who miss the pounding sound of the Enfield can take a tour along, for example, Langza and Koumik where you can see stupas, gompas and Buddha statues looming massively in “impossible” places in the rock.
Today a short distance on a bad road surface but there is plenty to see again. It is hard to imagine that you were in the Netherlands a week ago and are now traveling in a completely different world. Just north of Kaza is Kibber, which is known as the highest-lying (4200 meters) permanently inhabited village in the world.
You spend the night in a tent camp at Chandra Taal, a mountain lake at 4250 meters. The lake can only be reached on foot between May and August. During the day the color of the lake is Prussian blue and towards the evening it becomes greenish hues.
Even at night the scenery is spectacular. Because there are no people living in the wider area there is no light pollution which together with the height creates a particularly clear sky where you can see countless stars.
You cross the Kunzum La ("La" means "pass") of 4600 meters. This is followed by a long descent on an often bad road. As for the entire trip, it also applies here that, depending on the weather in recent days, water and mud can flow over the road. At Gramphu, you connect to the main road to Ladakh and it gets a bit busier. You are now back under the tree line and back in civilization.
You follow the Bhaga river and drive on a broader road through a valley with many green fields and small villages to Keylong (3080 meters altitude). It is the last inhabited place until you arrive in Ladakh and there are Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists living there.
You pass through a gorge whose steep walls are lined with green fields. After an hour's drive, you leave the greenery and you return to a mountain desert, a landscape that consists of rock, gravel, water, and snow. Today you pass two passes: the Baralacha-La of 4900 meters and the Lachang-La of 5065 meters.
Usually, the road surface on the southern slopes (climbs) of these passes is in reasonable condition but the northern slopes (descents) are much worse. After the valley of Sarchu where you have lunch, you will follow the 21 hairpin bends of the Gata loops
The last part of the trail, you drive through a gorge with sand sculptures caused by erosion until you arrive at Pang (4500 meters altitude). Pang is a riverbed where in the summer, which lasts only three months, Ladakhi's offer shelter to travelers and drivers. In the winter, they retreat to their villages in the Leh valley. At this place, there is nothing but snow.
After a very fresh dive in the ice-cold river (only for enthusiasts and people with a strong heart), you go to the More plateau. After you have swung over S and hairpin bends in the last few days, you can see the road here as a straight line for many kilometers. There are nomads living here who let their herds of sheep, goats, and yaks graze the grassland.
At the end of this plateau, you will climb again until you conquer the 5360-meter high Tangla-La, the second-highest pass in the world. After a descent of 2000 meters, the rugged landscape gives way to a more friendly environment. In Ladakh (land of the passes)you drive through a beautiful gorge with green and purple rocks, and a fast-flowing river lined with green fields and bright yellow flower fields. You see the first Ladakhi villages. Houses with flat roofs on which wood, grass, and fruits are dried in the warm summer sun as a stock for the long winter. The gompas and stupas make you realize that you arrived in small Tibet.
Leh (3500 meters altitude) is the capital of Ladakh and is isolated in the midst of the vast mountain ranges of the Himalayas on the Indus River. For centuries it was a junction of the caravans of the Silk Routes. Ladakh has a long history of close contact with Tibet. This shared past becomes visible in the rich Buddhist culture, which can survive unhindered in Ladakh. Large monastery complexes can be found everywhere in the area and the many festivals give a colorful picture of the living traditions.
You follow the Indus to the west for a day trip to Lamayuru. The landscape consists of immeasurable gray mountain slopes that have been carved out by the river. It is a mountain desert with an occasional green oasis along the river. At the end of the Ladakh valley, you drive up a steep rock massif over countless loops.
It is an absolutely spectacular route with ditto views of more than a thousand meters deep gorges, brightly colored rock massifs and wonderfully eroded golden sandstone. Lamayuru is situated in this fairytale landscape with the beautifully situated gompa, the oldest in the region, on a steep cliff that rises high above the village. After you have seen the monastery you drive on a different, no less spectacular route, back to Leh.
Today, you make the day trip to the Kardung La. This is the highest road in the world at 5.608 meters. You need a special permit for this region. Due to local rules, motorcycles that are not registered in Ladakh are not allowed to drive on the pass. That is why Motor Trails rents local motorbikes for this day trip. From Leh, the road winds about 40 kilometers up the pass to climb to 2,100 meters. As you get closer to the top, the road gets worse and the chance of snow increases. The top is often covered with snow and mists.
Your last day in the Himalayas. The program is free of choice. If you want to attend a service in a Buddhist monastery this is your chance. Then go to the large Thik monastery. If you leave Leh, on foot or by motorbike, on the north side you will pass through a rural area where time seems to have stood still. Rivers and fields with Tibetan houses in between, whose inhabitants work on the land and take care of the cattle.
Here and there you will find small and larger stupas. It is a fantastic environment to read a book, write cards and absorb the atmosphere in peace. You can also view the colorful bazaar and get lost in the winding streets around the old palace.
The one and a half hour flight offers a final view of the mighty Himalayas. The price of this flight ticket is included in the travel sum. In the morning, you arrive in busy and chaotic Delhi where you may think back with nostalgia to the tranquility of the mountains. The rest of the day there is time to do some shopping in the busy bazaars or to see one of the sights such as the red fort, the Jama Masjid mosque and Raj Ghat (where Mahatma Gandhi is cremated). The large Sikh temple Gurudwara Bangla Sahib is definitely recommended.
You travel by bus to Agra, once the capital of the mighty Moghul empire. The goal is the world-famous Taj Mahal, a mausoleum made of white marble, inlaid with countless semi-precious stones. This world wonder is the most important attraction in India. Between 1630 and 1653, more than 20,000 people from India and Central Asia participated in the construction, assisted by experts from France and Italy, among others.
A bizarre detail is that the emperor wanted to build the same structure of black marble for himself. However, this dream did not come true. He was deposed by his son who thought that dad had wasted too much money. The emperor was imprisoned in the Fort of Agra. Through the bars of his cell, he could just see the Taj Mahal.
Departure from Delhi. Most flights to Europe depart from Delhi around midnight.
Indira Gandhi International Airport
Please book your flight to arrive at Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL). The transfers from and to this airport are included in the price.
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