Riding in India

Chandratal, what a ride! 14 Kms from Batal and 4300m ASL this was the highlight of our trip. We woke up early that morning in our hotel in Kaza as we were aiming to be on Kunzum Pass around noon. There were heavy clouds in that direction and none of us wanted to get caught in bad weather.

We headed off towards Losar and were slowed down by the condition of the road. Over the 6 years of traveling on these roads, I did not realize I would complain. The road is really bad, and I am complaining! We were ready for this situation though and we had time on our side, making the ride very enjoyable for us. At Losar, We had the biggest breakfast ever and saddled up for Kunzum. We wanted to get as many photos as possible and judging by the road, we would have to work for every kilometer.

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The 14 Km ride to Chandratal

The check post at Losar has shifted outside the village, towards Kunzum and we made our customary entry in the Police logs. Of Course, Morgan had to find his passport which was at the bottom of his bag. All said and done, we started the ascent to Kunzum and the weather cleared. Although it was windy, we had no problems with the weather from that point onwards. Kunzum is a beautiful Pass. It is 4590m ASL and is the connecting pass between Manali and Kaza. Apart from the altitude, it is easy to go up and down it. We rode through it around noon, took a nice long break at the temple and then made our way for the 14 Km ride to Chandra Tal.

A few Kms below the pass and just before Batal, you will see a small board that points to the turn off for Chandra Tal. And the as you keep riding it surpasses anything you have ever seen. The beauty of this place is beyond my telling. Only way to experience it is to go there. There are tent accommodations available here. From 500 Rs a night to 2500 Rs, you have a wide choice. Don’t be in a rush to select one, see them all and then make your decision. We took the one furthest from the bigger camping areas and enjoyed the hospitality of the Nepali boy running the show as a one man army. The temperatures can drop below zero at night, so be prepared and the altitude will play a major role in the way you sleep. Make sure you have stocked up on batteries for your headlamp, a good book and some snacks to deal with insomnia.

This lake itself is a few KMs North of the camp sites. You have to walk the last Kilometer or so as it is a protected wetland. The river is roaring away in a steep gorge East of you and the giant Kunzum range is on your West and the beautiful Chandratal is right in front of you. It is breathtaking. Standing on the hill with all the small lakelets visible in a panoramic extravaganza around you. There is no camera that is good enough to replicate and no writer with enough words to describe it. You just have had to be there.

Riding to Spiti

Nako lake is high altitude lake in the Eastern most part of Himachal Pradesh. It is a beautiful little spot off the highway and a must see for riders going that way. We took a two day stop here just to photograph the place and to chill for a day.

Being at 3700m, the lake is a good spot to stop to acclimatise before you head off into Spiti and further. There are a few good places to stay here and it is tough getting a booking on the phone or email as only BSNL phones work here, if that. We headed straight for Lake view hotel situated right on the banks of the lake itself. The owner is a good host and the staff is helpful. Added to all that, they are probably one of two places that serve meals in the hotel. Choice of food is limited as it is so remote, but you can get any kind of booze here, no problems. This is what i don’t understand, if we can get all sorts of booze, 5 different flavors of chips and coke in such a remote place, why not good food and veggies?

Nako Helipad, Nako Lake, Motorcycle Tours, Spiti

Anyway, the village of Nako is a small one and it is good walking around the windy streets of this little hamlet in the mountains. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhav passed through here and held audiences here in the time of his travels towards Tibet. There is a group of caves a few Kms towards the border area, which we did not go to. There is apparently a beautiful waterfall somewhere close by, which again we did not see. The problem with high altitudes is that by the time you start getting motivated, it is evening time and the rum bottle looks very inviting.

We were just 2 days into our ride and were getting acclimatized to the high altitude, is the sorry excuse. But having said all that, Nako is the place to go and explore a little. For the adventurous types, stay a couple of days as it is not expensive, yet and it is something different than the usual tourist spots.

Riding in Ladakh

Name: Braiden Albrecht

Gender: Male

Age: 28

Nationality: USA

Bike details: Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350

Braiden Albrecht, pangi Valley
This kid hated B!!!

My first ride was in May of 2013. I signed on to a route finding expedition with my great friends at Himalayan Explorers. Our plan was to explore Sach pass and the Great Himalayan National Park over two weeks. The only problem was I needed to learned how to ride a motorcycle and needed to do so in India. Raja employed a no bull-shit stress method to training. As soon as I could ride shift and ride down the road in Gamru, it was time to head to town. 3 days later I was a full fledged, horn blowing, quasi-licensed motorcycle rider and was ready for the Himalaya.

About myself: I’m currently a cellar master in Napa, California. When I’m not making wine I’m out adventuring in Northern California.

Where do you ride? These days I usually ride my mountain bike in the hills and mountains of California.

Where have you ridden? Most of my riding has been in the Himachal Pradesh hill country. I’ve done a few great rides into the Great Himalayan Range and have ventured down to Amritsar as well.

How many bikes do you own? I don’t own a motorcycle at this point. My mountain bike and road bike keep me busy enough for now. One day I’ll get a motorcycle, but don’t tell me girlfriend.

Braiden Albrecht, Ride to pangi
At Rohtang Pass, really early and cold

Whats your favorite ride so far? My favorite ride to date is a beautiful section of the Leh Manali Highway. To set the scene… The sound of the roaring Chenab River provided the perfect soundtrack for our breakfast. Hot chai and buttery aloo paratha warmed our frozen hands – still white knuckled from the 3 AM ride over Rohtang La. With our bellies now full, our crew of four riders returned to our bikes, started our engines and prepared for the unknown. After a few muddy switchbacks, and river crossings the road became smooth. With the Chenab a few hundred feet below us on the left, we headed west as the highway opened opened up. 6,000 meter peaks lined the valley on the both sides and our engines roared with excitement. What do they think about riding in India? Riding in India is the only riding I know. At first it was an intense experience that required full attention and energy. Traffic law is fairly free form and at any given time you may share the lane with cows, dogs, goats, pedestrians, motorcycles, bicycles, auto rickshaws, donkey caravans, cars, Punjabi SUVs, goods carriers and military transports. What at first seemed pure chaos eventually took form and the transformation was beautiful. Mountain riding is my favorite. For me, there is nothing quite like the Himalaya. Traveling them by motorcycle offers an sensory experience for the ages. The incredible natural beauty and cultural richness combine with rugged unpredictability and adrenaline to create moments of such intensity that they are forever etched into your memory.

Riding to Spiti

The Spiti Valley is a desert mountain valley located high in the Himalayas in the north-eastern part of Himachal Pradesh. The name “Spiti” means “The Middle Land”, i.e. the land between Tibet and India. The valley and surrounding region is one of the least populated regions in India and is the gateway to the northernmost reaches of the nation.

Losar

Lahaul and Spiti is surrounded by high mountain ranges. The Rohtang Pass, at 13,054 feet (3,979 m), separates Lahaul and Spiti from the Kullu Valley. Lahaul and Spiti are cut off from each other by the higher Kunzum Pass, at 15,059 feet (4,590 m). A road connects the two divisions, but is cut off frequently in winter and spring due to heavy snow. The valley is likewise cut off from the north up to eight months of the year by heavy snowfall. A southern route to India proper is periodically closed for brief periods in the winter storms of November through June, but road access is usually restored a few days after storms end via Shimla and the Sutlej in the Kinnaur District.

Riding to Leh, Sarchu, Royal Enfields

That is what Wiki says about Spiti, we are headed out in a few days on some custom painted, fully restored Royal Enfields we have restored in our garage in Dharamshala. Our friends Rahul Lal and Rohit Lal are coming along for their yearly epic ride with us and its going to be fun!!!

Riding a Royal Enfield in Ladakh

Name: Carl Nickel, Male, 24, USA

2008 Royal Enfield Electra – Vintage California Edition

How long I’ve been riding?

My dad bought my first bike for me and my younger brother when we were 9 and 7. The three of us grew up riding and racing motocross together until we were about sixteen – when we got into other sports. So in short, I’ve been on a bike on and off for fifteen years. A little about me I grew up in Colorado, USA and our family had a good bit of land. My brother and I – along with neighborhood friends were out in the yard building a bmx – turned motocross track from the time we got our first bikes until we moved out of the house. At one point our garage had something like six or seven bikes, a four-wheeler, and two mini bikes. It was a great way to grow up.

Where do I ride?

I like getting out in the middle of nowhere. The more remote. The better. Highlights of this trip have been Spiti Valley and the surrounding villages of Kaza. Komic, Demur, Mudh, and Dhankar were incredible.

Where have I ridden?

Growing up it was at the house during the week, or a couple of local tracks we went to on the weekends. One of my favorite memories was heading out to Moab, Utah for some riding with friends and family. Now that I’m traveling through India I’ve ridden in a loop from Dharamshala to Manali, Spiti Valley, and up to Leh. I just saw Pangong Lake, and plan to hit Nubra Valley, Zanskar Valley, Kargil, Srinigar, then back to Dharamshala.

How many bikes do I own, details?

I own one bike, and it’s the Enfield carrying me through Northern India. She’s a sweet ride. Although she can’t come with me to China, I hope to pick up another bike while there.

Favorite ride so far?

My favorite ride through India. That is tough. Pangong was incredible, but a little touristy. If we’re talking destinations, hands down Dhankar. If we’re talking ride. Has to be Sarchu to Leh. It was by far the most trying ride I’ve had thus far. Close to 10 hours, but didn’t leave until 11.30 due to a blown bridge. If you’ve ridden in the Himalayas you know it’s best to leave early in the morning to hit the river crossings before glacier melt raises the water levels. 250km and washed out roads from flooding. Rain, hail, snow, cold, night riding, and most importantly the best views I’ve seen in my life. It was an epic ride.

Carl Nickel, Pangong Tso, Ladakh, Royal Enfield, Riding in the Himalayas, Adventure, Motorcycle tours

What do I think about riding in India?

One word: Liberating. Northern India is one of the most expansive, diverse, harsh, and beautiful places I’ve seen in my life. There’s no better way to see it than on a bike. Total freedom. There’s something incredibly liberating about putting yourself in some of the world’s harshest environments on your own, and being entirely at peace with the risk you take. When I return to India – and hopefully soon – I’ll be on a bike again. There’s simply no other way to see this country.