A Ducati rider by heart I wanted to share with you my adventures of riding solo through the Indian Himalayas on a rented Royal Enfield. Everybody advised me against it (I mean, a girl riding alone on a motorbike can lead to no good), but I’ve proved them wrong – and succesfully completed 3000 kilometers through the mountains on some crazy off-road routes.
Here is the story of my motorcycle adventures in the Himalayas (I got some pretty cool pictures too!):
The Indian Himalayas is for many of us the wet dream of a motorcyclist. Rough mountains, gorgeous scenery – but most important of all : batshit crazy roads! Most people go in groups and bring support vehicles, mechanics and even paramedics.
I went on my own.
In Manali I rented a Royal Enfield (what else) Himalayan: a light, 411 cc bike – perfect for these roads. At the local bazar I bought a road map, leather jacket, gloves, some knee and elbow pads and off I went!
Nothing planned, nothing organised – I just followed the road!
In three weeks, I completed 3000 kilometers riding through Ladakh, Nubra Valley, Zanskar Valley, Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Himachal Pradesh. On the way, everything those mountains had in them was thrown at me: rocky roads, sandy roads, potholed roads, blocked roads and roads with entire rivers flowing over them to plough through. I scaled world’s highest motorable pass (at 5600 meters altitude) twice, road through a sand storm and had to dodge donkeys, horses, cows, water buffalo, monkeys and yak all along the way.
The most exciting part of the journey though – was Zanskar. Unlike most other valleys in this part of the world, Zanskar gets completely cut off from the outside world due to snowfall in the high passes up to 6 months out of the year. The only way to reach it, in summer time, is to travel over 250 kilometers on a non-paved, very rough road. And once you’ve managed that – you’ll have to leave Zanskar over those same 250 kilometers all the way back. As a result, very few people dare to make it here – perfect!
Passing mountains with snaking glaciers, fields full of yak and the occasional river crossing, the scenery was magnificent and the road horrible. The tiny, narrow road, hugging the mountains was an absolute disaster. My bike was bumping and flying all over the place and it took all of my willpower and strength to not launch it off the edge.
I got wheels deep stuck in the mud and dropped the bike twice in steep-steep-steep hair pin corners full of loose boulders and sand. Each time I had to wait and sit on the side of the road for help to come. Which it did! It came in the shape of a car full of Buddhist monks who jumped out and came to my rescue and a sheepherder who pushed my bike out of the sticky mud.
Fuel is a major issue in these remote corners of the world, and so I had two jerrycans of extra fuel with me. Somewhere along the way into Zanskar, one of my cans came flying off. No problem – I thought – there is a petrol station in Padum, deep into the valley. Too bad it was out of fuel for several days already and a major fuel hunt was initiated. I met the local botany teacher (how about that), and he took me tour around the village, visiting his family, friends and students – looking for fuel. We managed to scrape together 3,5 litres of petrol, which should be enough to get out of the valley again.
Except that two roads were blocked for maintenance and I had to make a massive detour passed even more remote villages. There went my fuel – leaving me stuck in the middle of Zanskar valley.. again! But it seemed wherever I went, locals would go out of their way to help me out. Once again, I found a villager who had a secret petrol stash and was willing to sell it to me for petrol station prices. Awesome!
My challenges were not over yet though, as soon after I left Srinagar – the capital of Kashmir – I started hearing a rattling sound coming from the engine. I managed to find a Royal Enfield workshop, and as soon as they opened the bike up, it became clear my clutch plates were completely destroyed. The parts were not available, so it took a mere 8 hours before the parts had been retrieved from another town and the bike was fixed. By that time, it was dark outside, rainy and I found myself in a tiny town without any place to stay.
So the manager of the shop said: ‘you can stay with my family’ – which I did! It happened to be one of the highlights of my trip as I was immediately welcomed into this Kashmiri family like a lost daughter. They urged me to stay a few more days to see their apple tree orchard, to show me their village and just to talk to them. This was hospitality on an entire new level!
When I finally returned the bike, I was sad that this incredible adventure was over. The feeling of freedom while riding through these stunning mountains by myself was something I had never experienced before in such extent.
Don’t let anyone discourage you to embark on a motorbike adventure all by yourself – it’s the best!
Noraly is a 31 year old Dutch, solo female traveler. She’s currently on a mission to travel the world by motorcycle. Read more of Noraly’s adventures on her blog Itchy Boots.
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