Leh to Manali by road

June 25, 2014

A two-day trip, this time from the comfort of the back of a car. Plan A, leave Leh early (5.30am) so that we could enjoy the three 4,800m plus passes in daylight, and have time to relax in Jispa in the evening.

Everything started very well. We crossed the TaglungLa – the world’s second highest road – and dropped down to the Morey Plains. Enjoyed seeing yak, horses and goats grazing on what we thought was the valley floor. Bit of a surprise when the road bent right at the end and a chasm opened up on the left. Best not to look.

Crossed the LashulungLa without trouble and stopped in Sarchu for lunch. Leh 2014 (73)Leh 2014 (64)

About 3pm we were at the top of the BaralachLa and enjoying snow all around, more on this pass than on any other, which was odd as this is the lowest of the three. When we got stuck in a traffic jam. A combination of snow narrowing the road, and lots of lorries. We were stuck for four hours but did eventually get going again. Only to be stuck again half an hour later.

It quickly became clear we were going to be stuck for the night. Without food, facilities, or really enough warm weather clothes. We did our best, settling down in the car with the driver. I couldn’t sleep – couldn’t lie down because the altitude (4,800m) was affecting my breathing – never mind the cold.

The Indian police arrived at 1am to try to clear the road but to no avail. Not sure I’ve ever been so pleased to see sunrise.

Leh 2014 (69)The next morning it was clear there would not be a quick resolution, so Martin and I walked down 15km to get out of the altitude and get some food. We waited at a seasonal cafe, and waited, and waited. We had just arranged a couple of berths in a tent for the night (with even less clothes as we’d left everything in the car at the top) when the first lorries came down at 4pm.Leh 2014 (77)

Our car appeared at 5pm and we set off. Quite comic at the check point in Darcha. Big queues of lorries and cars held back until the pass was clear – everyone stopping us to find out the situation.

Arrived Manali at midnight, tired but pleased.

The words ‘never again’ come to mind.Leh 2014 (87)Leh 2014 (85)

Some of us were enjoying the weather


Time off in Leh

June 24, 2014

Took the time to visit the City Palace this year – once the highest building in the world. Vie of Leh from the palaceLeh rooftopsThe City PalaceMore window viewsThe Victory FortFertile valley cultivation around LehPrayer flags beyond the Victory Fort

Down in the Nubra Valley

June 24, 2014

The Nubra is remote, high altitude desert. It’s actually two valleys – the Nubra and the Shyok, both combining multicoloured lower hills, snow peaks behind, and a wide sand and shingle-strewn river basin.

Once we’d recovered from the journey over, we spent the next two days recovering before embarking on the ride back. Recovering included camel riding and visiting our friend Tondup, to say thank you for helping us and to join in the village honouring of the anniversary of his father’s death.

Leh 2014 (35)Leh 2014 (38)Down in the valley


Off to the Nubra Valley

June 24, 2014

For those of you who aren’t on Facebook, or those who just want the long version, here’s the detailed version of our ride over the world’s highest motorable pass, the Khardong La, into the Nubra Valley.On they way up the Khardong La

Safely arrived in the Nubra Valley. What a day.

We climbed the Khardong La without difficulty, and stopped to take pictures.

Less thanLeh 2014 (141) one kilometer into the descent, we punctured. On a hire bike, so no spare tyre, inner tube, or much in the way of tools. And all at 5,000 meters high. Also our phones don’t work in this state, and there isn’t much signal anyway. We were rescued by a group of Enfield riders from Delhi. It took two hours to fix the puncture – not great at this altitude – but we were very fortunate to have their help.Leh 2014 (143)

We continued on our way, only to find the bike wasn’t handling well. All this on mud and rock roads over run by snow melt. I got off at regular intervals, ostensibly to make the bike easier to handle for Martin. In truth I was too scared to stay on. We got stopped for road repairs and found ourselves talking to Tundup Wangail. A native of Nubra, Tundup is a policeman who has been working in Srinagar and Jammu. He had been posted back to Leh and was on his way home to see family near Desket.

Tundup drove me to the army check point at North Pullu, while Martin rode down. There we assessed that the rear tyre wasn’t properly inflated. Tundup found us a pump, and phoned the bike hire people as we were not sure we could continue. They offered to come out, but it would take them three hours from Leh. It was already 4pm and we still had at least 2 hours to ride.

We agreed Martin would ride down to Khardong village – at least it’s Tarmac from North Pullu down, and Tundup would drive me. Martin made great progress and we ended up convoying down to Timor, where the road splits – Sumur one way, Desket the other.

The descent wasn’t without further incident. The road between Khardong and Khalsa is very twisty, narrow, lots of ‘marbles’ and occasionally very broken up. Plus we ran into a sand storm in the valley.

But by the time we reached Timor, we were only 15 kilometers from our destination. And lo! A friend of Tundup turned up at the junction, on his way to Sumur. He offered me a lift and to guide Martin to the camp. We made it. There was the little matter of a couple of fords to cross. Oh and part of the carrying rack on the bike fell off as we arrived at the camp.

We’re going to do the whole ride again in three day’s time. If we’ve recovered.

Up North day two – Leh here we come

May 17, 2014

Not sure if the following ever made it to publishing in June 2013. Anyway, we are going again soon, so it’s appropriate.


Made it on the 5.15am flight to Leh. Spectacular scenery over the Himalaya, right over the Rohtang La, worth the early start for the mountains at sunrise. Warm welcome at Leh airport and at our hotel. 360 degree mountains, a garden full of lilacs and irises, and Martin cannot keep up with the new birds.

But the best bit is the height. At 3,520 meters, Leh is into altitude sickness territory. So everyone keeps telling us to take complete rest. As if we needed any encouragement!

Here is the view from our balcony.

The mountains north of Leh

The mountains north of Leh

Weighing nylon twine.

May 17, 2014



A few years back Martin found a tangled long length of string on the beach at Colem, near Palolem. To wile away some time on a lazy Sunday he salvaged a good few yards of the stuff and because of its great quality has helped secure stuff more or less permanently. With the move of house the supply has gone, so it was time to go in search for more of the same.


Best advice, was to go to the Gandhi Market in Margao. Several likely shops were only selling cheap nylon rope (rots quickly) and all said that he should be looking for ‘cordon’ rope. The word string was not recognize and Martin was unable to ascertain the Konkanni word for it. Cordon rope is to be found at a shop in the old New Market, but cordon rope is hemp string and rope (rots quickly) and it’s the only type they sell.


Martin then went in search of the local commercial fishing shop and found it wasn’t where he’d last found it and no-one knew where it had moved to. So a trip to the new New Market only to find more cheap rope. The effort was abandoned for the day.


Next day it was needful to return to the old New Market and Martin immediately spotted the fishing shop. He’d only walked straight past it three times the previous day. Signage is a very weak point in India and  shops look the same whatever they are selling, stacked high with stuff in no particular order, anywhere just so long as there is space. Anyway, it then only took five minutes of discussion to find the right string (nylon twine is what the locals call it). To ascertain the cost involved scales and a calculator. One hundred and one rupees later and the prize was Martin’s. He’s got enough for his lifetime.

No photo of string but I like this one of a young langur – Orchha 2010.

High wire act in Orchha

High wire act in Orchha



Siesta at Porvorim

May 16, 2014

The photo was taken at lunchtime at our Porvorim Clinic about an hour north of home. We shifted to this very large flat in a gated community for the upper echelons of society after our Panjim clinic didn’t prove to be in an effective position and our partner in business, Minakshi, found the new place at cost effective rates. We travel there once a week and since the move business has picked up keeping this effort on the worthwhile list. Siesta

Magir. Pre-monsoon preparations.

May 13, 2014

It always seems that the Goan authorities and utility companies are totally unprepared for the annual monsoon season. If we had a monsoon in the UK, I’d guess that, as a rule, works would commence immediately the rain and wind subsided. Here in Goa there seems to be a sense of “Oh! It’s stopped. That’s good. Time to relax after all the problems of electricity, sewerage, roads falling to bits etc. We’ll think about repairing the damage magir. (Magir is a much used word in Goa and sort of means manana, tomorrow, later, perhaps, maybe, you’ll be lucky.) Then after about five months of fine weather all hell lets loose on the roads as the realization that there’s another monsoon on the way in about two months time and something really should be done.  These works never seem to reach fruition and the roads remain a patched up mess for another year. One main road out of Margao is now into its fifth year of sewerage improvements. It’s about half a mile.


Electricity is another problem pre-monsoon and monsoon . There has been a programme (well we think it might be a programme) to relocate the rickety overhead mains supply underground. Slow progress here and each time some of the cabling disappears under a road and sort of reinstatement of the road has taken place along comes the sewerage cum

Aethopyga siparaja vigorsii.

Aethopyga siparaja vigorsii.

drainage outfit and digs it all up again. At the first sniff of rain, the power goes on and off regularly, at the first puff of wind branches take the wires down and the power goes off again. Somehow or other the electricity bods seem to get through monsoon better than might be expected.


Well, monsoon is only a couple of weeks away so we are closely studying the local roads and learning where the major potholes are to try and avoid disappearing into one that will be heavily disguised as just a little puddle when the rain falls out of the sky. Happy motoring!

Photo is of Crimson Sunbird, a regular evening visitor. This race is specific to the Wes tern Ghats around Goa. Its scientific name certainly doesn’t do justice to its beauty.

Jumping Chicken

May 13, 2014

IMG_0205 After a couple of light showers late March, a storm rolled in and gave us solid rain for a couple of hours. We were able to sit outside and watch the spectacular with drinks in hand and listening to various rain-related songs over the roar from the storm, favourite being Weather with You by Crowded House. The garden looked very strange in the lightning being sharply defined but in monochrome.


As it eased and we were mopping up the flood in the bar, the sound of happy bullfrogs took over from the uproar. As last year, they came out of hibernation with the first heavy rain and we guess they are enjoying the start of the mating season. A difference from last year was that no cars loaded with frog hunters arrived and went away after a couple of hours with sackfuls of what is a local (illegal) delicacy known as Jumping Chicken. This was at Macazana our previous home for eighteen months before JCBs and lorries rolled in to turn the paddy fields and hillside into a wasteland, while they toiled away at a major project, which is unlikely ever to be completed. Ho hum, it’s India.

Duracell Bunny

May 13, 2014

IMG_0225After 6 months of relative sloth, in March Martin launched himself into the task of finding a new home and business premises. A week’s holiday in Nepal failed to slow him down and on exactly the right day our business continued uninterrupted at the new bungalow. We’d also moved in the majority of our stuff from our Macazana home.


Time for a rest? Not a bit of it. Business blossomed unexpectedly – we were thinking there would be a lull due to the move. Au contraire, new patients arrived and old patients who had stopped coming because of the hill climb to the college clinic re-appointed. This pattern has continued even after being there for five weeks.


Shortly after settling in, we fulfilled a pre-Xmas promise to our friends Norman and Carole who own a hotel not too far away (www.casasusegad.com), to look after their animals while they were away. We shifted again and settled in to the life of out of season hoteliers.


This took the pressure off day-to-day household stuff at the new house. All meals are cooked, laundry and cleaning done by an able and willing staff. Time for Martin to slow down? No. He’s been fixing non-working bits and pieces in the new house, putting up kitchen and other shelves, sorting out minor plumbing problems, re-arranging electrics, running around after the panchayat  (village council) people trying to get a No Objection Certificate to run the business, fixing oil leaks on the Bullet, servicing the scooter and sorting boxes filled with seven years accumulation of papers  and other stuff. Plus he’s been out in the garden planting (right time of year, first rains and everything takes off pre-monsoon) and pressure washing the paint work which is suffering from a couple of years monsoon moss etc.


Alison said  all was unnecessary in such a short space of time and commented that he was behaving like a Duracell Bunny. No sign of the battery reaching the end of its life yet.