Archive for the ‘India travel’ Category

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

99 Cannons

June 27, 2013

We met the 99 cannons (or 15 of them at least) at the top of Khardung La, the world’s highest motorable road. These Bullet bikers had nearly reached the end of a journey from the southernmost tip of India, Kanyakumari. They’d been in the saddle for more than three weeks. This is certainly not a journey for the faint-hearted.

The ride wasn’t just for the hell of it – they were promoting Women Empowerment in India. Despite constitutional equality, women in all walks of life are discriminated against and abused.

Our travel plans coincided with theirs and we encountered them on four other occasions as we journeyed to Srinagar.

One of 15 Cannons

One of 15 Cannons

Days 10 11 and 12 – Srinigar

June 27, 2013

After the exertions of the last few days the remainder of the holiday was very relaxed. We watched the lake people going about their water-borne business. Everything you might need day to day came past in shikaras; food, water, alcohol,flowers, laundry service. We kept an eye on the wild life, did a little (unsuccessful) fishing, embroidery, read books, listened to music. Martin took the little shikara out to try and master the navigation of the craft. We took a cruise with Rasheed, a jewellry merchant who had successfully sold us a few items. And that’s about it until a 5.oo am departure on Sunday morning in a reasonably violent and cold storm.

All in all, Srinigar suited us very well but we ditched any ideas of setting up a third clinic there. We don’t do cold, especially in June!

HB Taif

HB Taif

Blog Srinigar HB Taif (27) Blog Srinigar HB Taif (31)_edited-1



Showing off a birthday present.

Showing off a birthday present.

Up North day 8, part two – finding our way around Srinagar

June 27, 2013


Having found a room for a couple of nights at the excellent Hotel Swiss, we did our usual and set out on foot to get our bearings. For once, not a good idea. Distances are quite long and the map in my Kindle Lonely Planet is a weak point. Difficult to read and refer to.

Quality low cost Hotel Swiss

Quality low cost Hotel Swiss

First impressions of Srinagar are not encouraging. In some ways it is any town India, and after the purely of the air in and around Leh, we really noticed the pollution and heat of the reduced altitude. Eventually we did reach our goal of the Houseboat Owners Association. The best place to start viewing houseboats.

As so often, we fell on our feet. We finished up with Rasool and his two boats, the A class Taif and the deluxe New Sherin. We had a choice between the beautifully furnished ‘honeymoon suite’ on the New Sherin – all walnut furniture and Kashmir embroidery on the soft furnishings, or taking both rooms on the Taif and having the boat to ourselves. We chose to have the whole of the Taif.

HB Taif at dawn

HB Taif at dawn

The Taif has its own Shikara, so trips to/from shore and around the lake are all included, as are all meals. Specially for Martin, the Taif also has its own small shikara. Martin loves to row, so every trip on the water we have taken has involved a second paddle, so Martin can help. He is on the water as we speak, practising his steering. Much to everyone else’s amusement. Next stop he’ll be fishing.

Up North day 8, part one – Srinigar

June 24, 2013
Goats overtaking; petrol tankers 1 ft from precipice edge.

Goats overtaking; petrol tankers 1 ft from precipice edge.

An early start was required from Mulbeck, to ensure passage over the Zoji La before it is closed to traffic from our direction at 10am. Although not a high pass by the standards of others we have been over, the road is terrible. It isn’t a road, really, just a track. The goats want to know what the cars and lorries are doing on it.

So at 5am we departed Mulbeck, stopping for breakfast in Drass (the second coldest inhabited place on earth) before heading up the pass.

The scenery is lovely, with the barrenness of Zanskar giving way to meadows and flowers, more reminiscent of Switzerland than India. This of course means lots of livestock on the road, including goats, sheep, ponies and donkeys, moving to summer grazing.

Hold ups on the road can be numerous, as it is only just wide enough for two vehicles to pass. Bear in mind there’s always a sheer drop one side. And no safety barriers.

First we got held because of a river overflowing the road. Motorbikes were being walked through the water by two people at a time and were still struggling to stay upright.

Further up, we encountered a recent avalanche, where the snow had been cut through to clear the road. We finally reached a division into an upper and lower road. We were directed upwards, and promptly ran into a jam. Our driver rather bravely decided to turn round – not easy on a narrow track above a precipice, however we managed it. However we didn’t get very far before getting stuck on a corner with lorries coming the other way. Just when we were wondering how to progress, a herd of goats and sheep arrived, weaving their way round and sometimes under vehicles. So no one was going anywhere until they passed. We did eventually get on to the lower road, and discovered the cause of the chaos. On the lower road a lorry had broken down, blocking the pass for heavy traffic from the Srinagar end. So only light traffic could pass from either way, so all lorries were on the upper road and couldn’t get past each other.

The lower road was not without its adventures. Our driver stopped at one point because there was a landslide starting just above us. Rocks and dust were coming down, but we got past.

Eventually the road improved and we fought our way into Srinagar, past a road-blocking demonstration about water supply, and a toll in a village.

Glad to have made it.10 Mulbeck- Sonamarg blog(6)

The long and winding goat track. Zoji La

The long and winding goat track. Zoji La

Up North, day one – to Delhi

June 6, 2013

We have embarked on a trip to the furthest North we have been in India. The trip will also see us ascend higher than either of us have ever been without being in an aircraft.

First stop,we leave humid, rainy Goa for dry, very hot Delhi (38 degrees). We found our hotel with some difficulty. How can you be a taxi driver at Delhi airport without having a good grasp of the local area at least? The 10 minute journey included a rumpus at the airport exit booth – had either the driver or the money taker done this job before? And a stop on a dusty, rubbish-strewn highway while the driver phoned the hotel for directions.Anyway, we made it, and had a comfortable bed for the night, in a pink and purple room. Plus air conditioning, not something we normally have but beneficial in Delhi at this time of year.  And it’s a relief to only be a short drive from the airport as check in for our flight tomorrow opens at 3.30am.