Tinggly Co-founder and Chief Experience Officer Linas has always been a dedicated world traveller. Only recently though did he manage to live his dream of riding a motorbike through the Himalayas.“When I was about 14 years old, I asked my father to buy me a scooter. I wanted the freedom to visit my friends and get around without having to rely on my parents for transport.
But what I was given instead was two wheels, a fuel tank, a steering wheel and a motor. The young me was a bit stunned, but I was up for the challenge. I spent a couple of months buying the extra parts I needed, and spending evenings and weekends with my Dad in his garage, assembling a completely unique scooter. It took almost a year before it was finally ready, but once it was, you couldn’t get me off that thing. I rode it everywhere, for years.
Dad didn’t want to simply give me everything I wanted – he wanted me to know the value of creating something for myself. The actual goal is often less important than the journey to get there.
The journey is what counts. That lesson was in my head when I embarked on a long-held ambition.”
This is the story of Linas’ most-recent adventure, a week travelling along one of the world’s most dangerous roads in the mighty Himalayas, by motorbike.Motivation for Acceleration
The Himalayas have always held a fascination for me. I grew up surrounded by mountains, and I feel most alive when I am near them. A few years ago I was lucky enough to find myself there, in the Ladakh region, and I’ve never known anything like it. In the Himalayas, the silence is more silent, the calm is more calm, and the air is so soft and gentle it feels unreal. The temples, the intriguing local culture and way of life there – it’s amazing when you think that three seasons out of four much of it is completely cut off from the rest of the world.
When the chance came to return, I needed no encouragement. But this time, instead of trekking, I would be riding a bike. To me, motorbikes are as much about fun as they are for getting from A to B. I’m far from a professional rider, and my experience is rather limited, but I can safely say that I know what I’m doing on two wheels. My longest journey previously had taken 6 hours, on a ride through mountains in Spain. So heading to India, to tackle some of the highest and most challenging roads in the world, was something I was excited about, and nervous, in equal measure.
I wanted to recapture those sensations I had when I first saw the Himalayas. I wanted to take an epic journey that would provide plenty of adventure along the way. And, if I’m honest, I also wanted the adrenaline rush of putting my abilities and courage to the test.
This was way beyond my comfort zone, but like they say – if you’re not living life on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.
Travelling 550km over 4 days doesn’t seem too difficult, but when you’re doing it on some of the most dangerous roads in the world, it becomes a much riskier proposition.
A friend and colleague, Michal, would accompany me, and we decided to take the Manali – Leh route, the highest point of which is 5328m. To put that into perspective, the highest peak in Europe, Mont Blanc, stands at 4809m.Gandhi Airport in Delhi was an overwhelming experience in itself. Immense crowds of people, bright flickering advertising boards everywhere, and a surge of noise. Navigation was difficult. We struggled to find the registration desk for our flight, and when we asked for help, we were sent to the wrong desk entirely. Finally we joined the long queue to check-in, only to find out the flight was delayed.
We got dosa for breakfast. These large, soft pancakes are dipped into sauce and eaten with your hands. Perfect travelling fuel. As we strapped into our seats on the tiny, full plane and set off up the runway, our airport odyssey finally over, I was looking forward to seeing Delhi from above. Instead, I was asleep before the wheels left the tarmac.After a little while, I woke to a bout of turbulence, and the stern voice of an air hostess telling us very matter-of-factly that due to poor visibility above Manali, the pilot had decided it was safest to return to Delhi. I turned to the man sitting next to me, who seemed perfectly calm in contrast to my pale and sleep-deprived expression. He told me this was a perfectly normal incident on the Manali route, and suggested we book a different flight, to Chandigarh, and from there get a taxi to Manali.
It didn’t seem a bad idea at the time, but when we landed in Chandigarh, we realised we had a 10-hour drive over bumpy and serpentine Himalayan roads to look forward to.
Travelling in India can be a thrilling and rewarding experience. It can also require resilience and a lot of patience. Michal and I finally reached Manali, arriving at our guesthouse some 14 hours behind schedule. Were we downbeat? Not in the slightest. We were ready to roll.Manali
The next day we woke up around noon refreshed, hungry, and eager to get underway. We opened the curtains and saw that Manali was beset by monsoon rains. The town was covered in dense cloud, and we learned that this weather was forecast to continue for the duration of our ride. Things were looking worse and worse.
Yet within an hour, the rain had stopped, and we were able to explore Manali. The air was amazingly fresh, as we wandered through the surrounding forest. We sat down at a riverside cafe for a much-needed breakfast, and felt pretty wonderful, all things considered. We had made it to the jumping-off point of our trip, overcoming plenty of obstacles along the way, and a bit of rain was not going to stop us now.After breakfast, and a gallon of good coffee, we took a tuk-tuk over to the other side of town and the motorcycle rental shop. Here we met our contact Anhurag and his brother Abinav. While they prepped our Royal Enfield bikes, the guys gave us some useful advice such as where to buy drugs we might need for altitude sickness (a common problem for newcomers to Himalayan heights), which roads to take and which to avoid, where we could charge phones, find overnight accommodation and where we could find medical help if we needed. We had our own maps so the guys simply marked points of interest on them for us. All-in-all we spent pretty much the whole afternoon at Anhurag’s shop talking about our plans and getting set on our bikes. We handed over a bundle of cash, and with that we were on our way.False Start
We were in a great mood as we left the shop to ride back into Manali. The weather remained good as we filled up the tanks and stopped to buy essentials like water, nuts, chocolate and medicine. But when I tried to kickstart my bike again, the engine didn’t respond. Instead, I got a flashing light that indicated the starter was dead. Just a few hours after I rented it! I thanked my lucky stars it had happened now though, and not in the middle of nowhere. Pushing the bike down a slope I was able to get it running again and we returned to Anhurag’s rental shop to have it fixed up.
While we waited, we went to a nearby restaurant with a view that instantly made us forget our troubles. We feasted on paneer curry, chicken masala and Tibetan momos (dumplings) then called Anhurag, who told us that my bike was out of action and he was going to supply me with a new one. The next morning we were to return to the shop and collect the bike and the permits we would need to move through the Rohtang Pass. The deadliest road
The narrow road curved to the top of the mountain, with breathtaking vistas on either side. This first travel day we needed to cover 130km, from Manali to the city of Keylong. The mountain crossing known as the Rohtang Pass stands at an altitude of 3980m, and while the road there was treacherously snaky all the way, at least the surface was of good quality. That allowed us to get used to the way our bikes handled, and the presence of other bikes and trucks that kicked up dust ahead of us.Three kilometres above sea-level, and I was finding it harder and harder to concentrate on the bike when there was so much to see all around. We pulled over several times to admire the snow-capped peaks which rose through the clouds, powerful waterfalls tumbling from enormous heights and lush forested slopes.Approaching the pass, the road changed, becoming rocky and slick with puddles which made focus vital. Previously we had been riding at a steady pace of 30-40km/h, but now we were forced to drop down to 10km/h. We noticed flags snapping in the wind and smoking sticks of incense, passers-by stopping to wave as us as we neared Rohtang. Now the road became even more treacherous, large holes testing the suspension of the bikes the limit and slamming us around quite violently. It’s at this point I should say that Rohtang apparently means “pile of corpses” – a testament to how many people perish every year attempting to make this crossing.
Despite the “rodeo” effect and being required to focus on the bike and the road to the point of exhaustion, instead of enjoying the scenery, I felt completely elated. Here, finally, was the beginning of the challenge I’d wanted.After a while, we grew so tired that we thought about pulling over for a rest, but with no trees or grass anywhere, just steep slopes, rocks and puddles, we were forced to continue. Luckily, the road began to improve and we pressed on. Just as we thought we were over the worst of it however, my front wheel went through a deceptively deep puddle and my backpack and a spare fuel container went flying off the back of the bike. Luckily they didn’t bounce down the mountain, and I was able to firmly reattach them. Lucky also it was them that fell off the bike, and not me, I thought.
It was around this point that both Michal and I noticed serious pressure forming around our temples. Whether it was from concentrating so hard for so long, the helmets we were wearing, the altitude or a combination of the three, we needed to take a short rest, some medicine and a snack.We reached the foot of the Rohtang La, and a better road took us alongside a fast-flowing river. We sped up, loving the curves in the road and the feeling of freedom. I was almost shouting with joy despite the tension of the last few hours and my physical exhaustion.As the sun began to sink below the mountains, we reached our destination, Keylong City. Happily, we found a hotel almost immediately, and I leapt into the shower – no hot water, but it still felt incredible to wash off the dust and tiredness. We ate, but I have almost no memory of the meal, such was the state my head was in. I was asleep within moments of getting into bed, dreaming of the higher mountains that waited for us tomorrow… Life is all about Tinggly moments. Be inspired and book YOUR next adventure on https://www.tinggly.com Part two is coming…