Until 2003, Khardung La pass at 18'380 feet was the world's highest motorable road. Now the honor belongs to Marsimek La (18'634 feet) in the same region. It's only a difference of 300 feet, but the road to Khardung La is like a baby's bottom when compared to the climb of Marsimek La.
ALSO SEE THIS: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Khardungla_Pass
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Jet Airways and Indian Airlines are the only flights to Leh from Delhi. It sucks, unless you're riding/driving at least one way of the Manali - Leh route. Also the sudden change in altitude ensures that most people have AMS upon landing. The airstrip is also small so aircraft have issues landing due to weather etc.
Screw the view the airlines tell you about when you're landing at Leh airport. When you land, tall mountains and heights will be last on your list. The only aircraft to Himachal landing in Bhuntar is a charter from Jagson Airlines. NOTE: Jet Airways has flights to Bhuntar (Kullu) airport now. (Added 03/08/2010)
DO NOT use Jagson airlines. Walk, it's not only safer, but faster. The
best way is to take tourist buses (Volvo's and others less comfortable) into Manali and
then rent a bike (about Rs.500/day). The most popular "ride" leaving for
Delhi/Chandigarh is the 4:30 am from Manali bus stand. Book tickets in
The Army and the BRO (Border Roads Organisation) start road-clearing operations as early as April, weather permitting. The roads are generally clear from Mid-June. We prefer riding down in September when the roads are less slushy. This has its disadvantages; it's getting colder every day, as compared to the opposite when you go in July. You need to get your ass out of Ladakh by the first week of October or risk staying there till next summer unless the Army airlifts you out. To sum up, June to Mid-October.
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Local transportation is flaky at best. The ideal way to explore Himachal is to rent an Enfield or a smaller 100cc two-stroke motorcycle. There are buses, vans and 4WD options available, but if you're one of those people, please close the browser now and get off our website.
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Seasoned 350cc 18 BHP Royal Enfield's (approx. Rs.500/day) are available to just ride down to the Parbati valleys or to venture into Ladakh and the regions beyond. A few 500cc 22 BHP Enfield's are also available, ask around. The engines will always be in top order as the dealer does not want you stranded alone in the mountains as much as you. Do not touch the engine/carburettor settings; they're set for the high altitudes where oxygen is lower besides being fine tuned for each bike. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
Please ask the mechanic you rent the bike from to show you the basics
of changing cables, spark plugs and tires. Tell your mechanic exactly where
all you plan to go. It is not fun discovering there's something you can't
fix at Lachlang La pass with dusk approaching. Temperatures drop well below
-10 degrees C WITHOUT wind chill in the valleys.
Always wear your helmet when riding, preferably, an open face one so you can enjoy the view much more besides being able to smoke.
Pay attention to the road, the Enfield's you're riding are hardy mean machines but you can easily bend your fork/handle on these roads.
Or, smash the chassis/engine/clutch housing if you drop the bike, even at 4 Km/h. It's happened to a friend of mine and they had to get the Bullet back in a truck to Manali and never did see 18'380 feet air after that.
Do not ride after 4:00 pm NO MATTER how close your next destination is. If you have a breakdown, there will be nobody who will see you till the next day. Now imagine a broken shin with a bent fork at 9:00 pm. Sweet dreams.
Carry ALL essential spares like cables, plugs, bulbs, cold patch puncture
kits etc. for your bike. The guy you rent it from will provide these, if
he doesn't, ask him. When making any repairs, work slowly, DO NOT build
up a sweat. The lack of Oxygen at this altitude will have you dazed from
even walking a few meters so don't fancy pushing the bike anywhere but
to the immediate side of the road. Don't forget the air pump. Air is hard
to blow into bike tires with your mouth at any altitude.
Snow melting off the top of the very mountain you're riding forms streams that gush across the road at regular intervals. In July/August, when the maximum amount of snow melts, this water has a lot of force. This current should NEVER be taken lightly.
The stones you can't see below the water are rounded and behave like ball bearings which roll, pitch and yaw. Get down or have your pillion check the water for depth, with a stick, and to mark out the best path for you to take through it.
If it seems like you will have to put your foot down while passing over the water, take your shoes and socks off. If you wet your shoes, they won't dry for days besides the added trouble of having to cut your toes off due to frostbite. Some very experienced riders from Poona wear rubber floaters/sandals like Nike ACG's when riding in these parts but I prefer my feet warmer than that.
DO NOT rush through it even if it seems easy and shallow. If you do get stuck and the current is very strong, leave the bike, it may get swept to the valley below, but it's cheaper than prosthetics for the rest of your life.
Many inexperienced riders have gone Rambo on these streams because they
look easy and have had sorry tales to tell after. You have been warned.
The next petrol pump/gas station after Manali is in Tandi (150 Kms. away). The next pump after Tandi is in Leh (275 Kms. away) and the one after Leh is in Srinagar (500 Kms. away). Most of the bikes that are rented for Manali - Leh rides have large tanks (18 Liter upwards).
None of this means you don't carry extra fuel. You ALWAYS carry at least 10 liters of extra petrol in a can that is mounted on your bike. Don't forget a liter of engine oil and any other lubricants you many need.
Your bike will always be climbing up and down very steep roads and your consumption of fuel and oil is always high.
Now for the good news. There are a few Army units along the way that might have petrol to give you. Most of the army vehicles there run on diesel except old Jonga's. Feel free to ask. The army guys around the mountains are very helpful in all aspects.
In case your hand/foot operated air pump fails, don't despair. All trucks have a pump that provides pressurized air. Most truckers and ALL the army trucks will have the pipe and nozzle to fill air.
If you're insane/desperate like we were and are attempting this trip on 100 - 200cc bikes, open your carburetor and put a 15 Amp rated copper wire through your main jet before you leave Manali. This will choke the fuel intake into the combustion chamber to allow it to burn efficiently at that altitude. The lack of oxygen and the flow of fuel through your regular jet will choke the chamber with unburned fuel causing huge loss in power.
If you have a Fuel Injected (MPFI) vehicle, you will have no problem, as the onboard computer will automatically regulate the fuel-air mixture to achieve optimum combustion. Enfield's do not seem to be affected by this, seemingly because of their large engines. Whatever bike you take, DO NOT under any circumstances use a larger main jet in your carburetor than the engine manufacturer specifies. You will face loss of power and believe me; you need all the power you can get.
The locals, out of sheer terror at your madness doing it
on a bike or out of respect for having the balls, and the willingness
to lose them will help you in any way possible. Also works the same for
any single chicks you meet in Leh.
Altitude Mountain Sickness or AMS is a condition that afflicts humans at high altitudes. Symptoms include headache, nausea and dizziness amongst others. Dissolve 2 tablets of Disprin/Aspirin in a glass of water to relieve the symptoms. Disprin thins the blood making it slightly easier for the body to cope with the newfound lowered oxygen levels.
Your body will slowly acclimatize to the change in altitude and the symptoms will go away. Rest, take fluids and frown till you feel better. Our recommendation is to not ride more than 150 Kms. a day and rest as soon as the ride is over when approaching higher altitudes. I also swear by Spirulina's and 2 capsules a day had us tearing through the landscape without any fatigue.
The kind of company you have on the ride is a big factor to your
general sense of well being. If you have a cranky chick or a wimpy guy and they
start to bitch about the wind or cold while you're fixing a fuel filter at 17'000
feet, there's a huge desire to throw them off the mountain. Keep such malefic
check or avoid the situation completely by proper screening of pillions.
Bring your own tent, sleeping bag and other necessary gear. The rental scene sucks, unless you're in a group tour with the large operators like Himalayan Journeys, North Face Adventure Tours or the Mountaineering Institute & Allied Sports.
ALWAYS carry extra fuel and food. You WILL need it. There isn't much
to burn for a fire after Rohtang. It's a high-altitude desert.
Possession in India can carry a sentence of up to 13 years under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPA). Please be prudent, it's a free country, not Amsterdam. For the record, Manali is light, cerebral and fruity tasting. Parbati tastes almost as fruity and has a harder physical punch. Malana, while expensive, is the best, although many intelligent people rate Parbati "junglee" as numero uno. Check out Old Manali, Vaishist, Jari & Khirganga. If your search is for the world's best, you need to ride to Kashmir.
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