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The Worlds Highest Roads - Manali to Leh Motorbike Adventure TOP033_13

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Motorbike the World’s Highest Roads – Manali to Leh

This is India like you’ve never imagined.  Leave behind the chaotic markets and crazy traffic and head north, into the Himalayan Mountains to motorbike the world’s highest roads on this adventure from Manali to Leh.  

Ride across many of the highest roads on Earth, including the worlds highest ‘motorable’ pass – Khardung La.  You’ll make camp beside gorgeous high altitude lakes, scale the highest passes in India, cross deserts, and absorb stunning views of the huge mountain ranges.

Trip highlights:

  • Soak in temple hot springs thousands of years old
  • Feast on North Indian curries and spicy tandoor chicken and mutton
  • Scale Rohtang Pass – which means Pass of Corpses – and cross into high desert plains
  • Cross the high passes of Baralacha (10,000 ft), Lachlung La (16,300 ft), and Chang La (17,500 ft)
  • Ride over Khardung la, the worlds highest motorable road.  Ascend 8000 ft in less than 30 minutes and take in stunning views of the Kangri Mountains and Zanskar Valley
  • Meet the Bhoti people, high altitude nomads who make their living on the high plains in the summer
  • Visit Leh Palace as well as ancient Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu temples and monasteries in Leh, the capital of Ladakh
  • Ride to the furthest permissible borders of Pakistan and China

When you arrive in Manali your tour leader and support crew will introduce you to your new best friend, a 500cc Enfield Bullet (with a fitted front disc brake). You’ll spend most of the tour learning its eccentricities.

Over the course of two weeks you’ll make your way to Ladakh, a place that feels like the end of the world.  The indigenous people there are primarily Buddhist and though now Indian, historically and culturally they are Tibetan.  Due to their isolation from the rest of the country (the Ladakh road is closed 6 months out of the year – no going in or coming out) they have maintained quite a bit of their mystical traditions – making the area unique and surprising.

This is a challenging adventure.  Due to the many hairpin turns, long riding days (up to 250 km in one go), and extreme altitude, a minimum of two years riding experience is needed to secure a spot on this tour.  Rest days are built into the itinerary for altitude acclimatization.

Itinerary

Day 1: Fly UK to Delhi

Day 2: Delhi to Manali

Land very early (by 4am) in Delhi following the overnight flight, to meet the air-conditioned bus from New Delhi to Manali, in the Kullu Valley in the Himalayan foothills (around 12 hours). You should arrive in time for dinner and a drink in our hotel’s fine restaurant, before a well-needed sleep in one of its comfortable rooms.

Day 3: In Manali

The morning is for sight-seeing, or sleeping in. There is every kind of activity to be found in Manali, including good shopping. There are also several interesting Himachali villages in the area that can be visited, plus Hindu temples and hot springs. Eating is another favoured pastime, as is relaxing at the hotel come evening with a drink in your hand. In the afternoon we will have a briefing on the bikes, before taking a ride out to Naggar Fort, the ancient seat of the ruler of Kullu Valley. A quick cup of tea and then it’s back to the hotel.

Day 4: Manali to Jispa

Today we scale the Rohtang Pass (meaning ‘Pass of Corpses’), gateway to the high desert mountains and plains. A half-day – conditions permitting – ride will take us over the rough road that crosses Rohtang. After crossing at 13,000ft, we will stop for the night at the tiny settlement of Jispa… which has a surprisingly good hotel, considering its remote location. Jispa sits at the foot of the mighty 16,000-foot Baralacha Pass at an altitude of some 10,000ft – again providing valuable acclimatisation time before heading really high.

Day 5: Jispa to Sarchu

The day includes many hairpins, especially in the scaling of a sinuous ribbon of tarmac up to our first giant pass, Baralacha La (16,000ft). The view from the top is extraordinary. This road is, on the whole, well-surfaced. On the other side of Baralacha descend onto a huge, open plain with an azure river frothing at its centre, surrounded by huge mountains. Sarchu is situated on the border of Jammu-and-Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh states and is where we will stay in a fixed camp.

Day 6: Sarchu to Tso-kar

The highpoint of the day, found shortly after leaving Sarchu, is our highest pass to date, Lachlung La (16,300ft). It’s a gloriously big snake of a route with ever more impressive scenery. Lunch will be taken at the village of Pang, before we meet the vast Mare Plain. After around an hour’s riding in this bleak yet spectacular setting, we will leave the main Manali-Leh road and head for Tso-Kar, a deep blue salt lake up at 13,780ft, reached via remote roads. Here we will stay in a fixed camp.

Day 7: Tso-kar to Leh

Leaving early for a full day’s ride, we will head nort-east across more high desert, towards the Upper Indus Valley. If lucky, we may spot herds of Kiang – beautiful wild Himalayan asses. We may also run into the Bhoti people, a race of high-altitude nomadic herders, who base themselves on the plains over the summer. Having joined what is certainly one of the world’s best roads, running beside the frothing Indus river, we will follow the spectacular valley of green and purple cliffs all the way to Leh, the hub of modern Ladakh.

Day 8: In Leh

A well-earned rest day in this fascinating town. The large, history-drenched settlement was capital of the ancient kingdom of Ladakh. It is at nearly 12,000ft above sea-level in the Upper Indus Valley and like all Ladakh its culture is principally Tibetan Buddhist. There are also Muslim, Christian and Hindu communities in Leh. Overlooking the town is the huge, nine-storey Leh Palace, long since abandoned, but still impressive and worth a visit. There are many more ancient temples and monasteries to visit and the old market is a fascinating experience. There are also modern influences in this busy tourist area, including a plethora of restaurants, bars and souvenir shops.

DAY 9: Leh to Nubra Valley  

Today we leave Leh for the big one; the climb over Khardung La (‘La’ meaning ‘pass’ in Ladakhi), reputed to be the world’s highest motorable road. In less than 30 miles the road will carry us around 8000ft upwards. The surfaces are mixed – in some places smooth tarmac, in others potholes and rubble – but the views across to the Kangri Mountains and Zanskar beyond are consistently stunning. The ride down into the valley, which is around the same altitude as Leh is no less impressive as the landscape opens up into huge views of the Nubra Valley and beyond.

DAY 10: In Nubra Valley

This is a remote, less-visited valley, requiring a special ‘inner-line permit,’ as it runs right up against disputed territories with both China and Pakistan. Towering above us is Saser Kangri, which at over 25,000ft is one of India’s highest mountains. Nubra is also home to several fine monasteries and the endangered Bactrian camel (the shaggy one with two humps). We will take a ride out to the furthest permissible frontier and look for camels, before returning to our camp – an orchard in the grounds of a disused monastery.

DAY 11: Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso

Having explored Nubra, will will head southwards, towards Pangong Tso. Carrying us through the most remote of regions is a little known road, only recently opened to outsiders. Surprisingly good, curvaceous tarmac continues over a pass and down the other side onto the Chang Tang Plateau, which stretches away from us into occupied Tibet. More fine riding carries us gently downwards, until Pangong Lake comes into view. This is the most spectacular of settings, with a backdrop of yellow desert rock and snow-capped mountains reflected in the aquamarine water. We will watch the sun go down in this incredibly beautiful location before spending the night near to the lake.

DAY 12: Pangong Tso to Thiksey

The ride up to and over Chang La (17,500ft) should take us in the region of six hours and is another utterly absorbing ride. Having crossed the high pass, we descend towards bright green arable villages, nestling in the valley below. The day ends at an hotel set jesu beneath Thiksey Monastery. There should be time to scale the ramshackle pile of buildings in time to watch the sunset.

DAY 13: Thiksey to Leh

The morning is free to explore more of the monastery and surrounding village, or take a well-deserved lie-in. From here to Leh is just a short, but interesting, hop down the main road.

DAY 14: Leh

A well earned day off in Leh to explore the wonderful city and some time to do any last minute present shopping.

DAY 15: Fly Leh to Delhi to home

After coaxing your 1950s-style single-cylinder time machine through scenery that hasn’t changed for millennia, the airport (even Delhi airport) will probably appear like a futureshock dream. Then you get to sit in a chair for about nine hours.

More Details

Documentation

You will need a passport with valid visa, appropriate travel insurance and an international driving permit.

Currency

You should be able to get by on around £200 spending money if you don’t do a lot of shopping. You may want to change a little money (about £30) at the airport, but check the rate before changing a large amount. Cash and travellers’ cheques are easily changed in Manali and Shimla (where there are also cashpoints), but nowhere else on the route.

Climate

Even at high altitudes the Himalaya can be surprisingly warm in summer. But nothing can be taken for granted and although rain is rare there is always the chance of wet weather. When overcast, things can get chilly at night and at the highest points there is a remote possibility of snow. The maximum temperature is likely to be around 30ºC; the minimum 0ºC (rarely, at night).

Bike Kit

We advise riders to consider their kit in terms of layers. Good quality gear can also prevent a minor spill causing a trip-ruining injury, so we require that you ride with no exposed skin (except your face).

Luggage

While your main luggage will be carried in a support vehicle, you may wish to bring a small rucksack or tankbag in which to carry articles you need on the road. Your main bag must be ‘soft’ and not a suitcase.

Fitness

While you don’t have to be an athlete to join us on this adventure, we would not recommend this tour to those who cannot, for instance, climb a flight of stairs without puffing and blowing. Please note that there are some long days in the saddle. We reach some great altitudes on this tour, so if you have any existing medical condition, please consult your doctor and the tour operator before booking.

Riding Skills

While we insist those joining us have a full motorcycle licence, and recommend a minimum of two year’s riding experience, time in the saddle and miles ridden are of more relevance to an adventure like this. Riding in India is very different from Europe and although the speeds at which we travel are relatively low, demands on planning and observation are high. Other factors making demands on riders are the heat (and possibly cold), conditions of the road – including sections of unpaved dirt – and getting used to the bikes’ reversed foot controls.

Health & Hygiene

Although there is always the chance of getting a ‘holiday tummy’, following a few simple guidelines keeps the chances of this to a minimum. The tour will be accompanied by a medic with extensive kit to deal with any problem. If you have any pre-existing medical condition, it is essential that you consult both the tour operator and your physician before booking.

Dates: 25th June 2016

Price from: 2,995 GBP per person

 

What is included

  • International flights
  • Bike with mechanical back-up, spares & repairs
  • Medical & luggage-carrying support
  • All internal transfers
  • First tank of fuel
  • Accommodation on a Bed & Breakfast basis

What is not included

  • Most Lunches & evening meals
  • Entry fees
  • Fuel subsequent to first tankful

 

Operator

This highly experienced motorbike outfit have been running small group tours since 1999 and their love of bikes and passion for discovering the most exciting new routes shines through.

The trips are meticulously researched and lead by expert guides plus mechanics and a professional medic with safe and well maintained equipment. Eat and sleep in the best locations enjoying the best riding and cultural experiences in each destination.

The company is committed to supporting the local communities it works with providing education for staff-members and their families and contributing to the local economies. They are also bonded with ATOL and comply with the Package Travel Regulations so you know your money is protected.

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