The Himalayan ride

05 August 2013, 06:42 PM Pratheek Kunder


 The mighty Himalayas

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity” said a famous author and I was soon going to be part of those thousands, courtesy – Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey 2013. This time the odyssey was special, not because I was going for it. It’s because this year it marked the 10th edition of riding to the Himalayan pilgrimage that started in 1997 where a group of brave souls venture to arduous 2500km round trip from the heart of the capital to the dirt tracks of Leh situated in the Himalayas.

 First look of the Himalayas while approaching Kushok Bakula Rimpochhe Airport, Leh

My feelings were mixed. I was nervous and at the same time very confident. Not because this is my first trip to Himalayas and also not because I never rode a Royal Enfield for more than 50 kms. It’s because my ride route was from Leh to New Delhi unlike other riders who would have known about this difficult terrain as they reach Leh. It made me feel whether I will be able to do this ride considering the fact the altitude change would be drastic from mere few hundred feet to 11,562 feet in a matter of few hours. I feared altitude mountain sickness (AMS) would eat me and might destroy the dream of riding in the Himalayas. I had to make myself understand that fearing a fear won’t get me anywhere. Fortunately, I reached Leh two days before the ride back to Delhi starts to acclimatize myself with the altitude and the weather. However, things that I had planned in Mumbai before leaving home were about to change once I landed at Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport (Its one of the highest airports in the world).  I checked out with my limited number of baggages and was out of the airport where the Himalayan dream invited me with a mind blowing view.


Outside Kushok Bakula Rimpochhe Airport,Leh

I left the airport in search of my Hotel where a group of riders invited me with ‘not so inviting’ look.  I managed to find my room and prayed “God, I am here to have a great experience. Please help me keep altitude mountain sickness out of my room door”. Interestingly, this small little prayer of mine worked but things got different after few hours of rest.  Being adventurous since childhood and known to test my limits, I decided to ride to Khardungla – the highest motorable road in the world. Yes! We are still on the same day of my landing.  At this point, I had completely forgotten what AMS was all about and continued to my destination for the evening. The first few kilometers till the South Pullu check point are very nicely paved but after that, I encountered dirt and loose rock roads and sometimes no roads at all.

On the way to Khardungla 

The difficult task of covering 6020 feet in just 2 hours was overcome as soon as I reached Khardungla Pass. So here I am talking to myself that I actually made it to this marvelous place and admiring the God’s creation. This place makes you feel that you have achieved something in life which distinguishes yourself from other souls. I was enjoying the moment but felt little bit of dizziness (which was obvious) making me cut my time on this dream location. After 15 minutes of difficult breathing, I decided to ride back to my hotel and rest myself.  


 REunion parking bay

The next day was an exciting as Royal Enfield organised their first ever ‘REunion’ get-together in Leh which saw over 180 Royal Enfield riders participate in various strength and mental events.

 RE riders at the REunion location

The whole day was spent knowing other riders who have come from across the country. There were few who came from Dubai, London and Japan just to be a part of this motorcycling mecca.

REunion organisers along with fellow riders

After a lovely dinner, I decided to go to my room and rest early as my actual ride starts tomorrow with Tso Kar being the first destination. 

Day 1

On the way to Tso Kar

Next morning was bright, exciting and full of energy. A briefing session was organised by Sachin Chavan (lead rider) regarding the day’s activities, re-group points and the road conditions. I was ready to hit the hilly roads on the Thunderbird 500.


After bidding adieu to Leh for playing a perfect host, I started heading to Tso Kar where I will be spending the night in a camp. After riding for 154 kms through some marvelous Himalayan scenery, I reached the Tso Kar base camp. After some delicious vegetarian food, I called off for the day. 


The Himalayan mountain ranges in Leh

The famous magnetic hill

One of the motorcycle trails near magnetic hill

Day 2

Next day was Keylong which was 235 kms away from the current location. I was little skeptical of leaving Tso Kar camp as I loved the place but the effort I had to take to reach this place was tremendous so I wanted to enjoy it more. But I had a plan to follow dotted by Royal Enfield team.


So after a heavy breakfast, I was off for the second longest and the toughest route of the trip (which became the first in next few days). I never expected the second day of the trip will become the most memorable one. I am not terming it as most memorable one because I passed through some legendary places like Sarchu or Gata loops or More plains. It is because I rode through some brilliant terrain which I can never imagine going through anywhere in the country.


Royal Enfied riders fuelling up their motorcycles

Time for photo session

The terrain was mixed with rough looking mountains, few ranges covered with snow and some breathtaking scenery. After 235 kms of some grueling ride, I am not embarrassed to say that my back had gone for a toss. I was hold up at Hotel Dekyid and the view from my hotel room was something people will die for. I took full opportunity of this and made my cameras self-timer feature to work. After few clicks, I decided to eat something and sleep as there were signs of fever surrounding my body.


Tso Kar lake

Tso Kar lake

Tso Kar lake


Medic vehicle


Tso Kar lake

Tso Kar camp area

Day 3

Refuelling time at Tandi, Keylong

Breifing before the ride 

There was some real nasty river crossing which I would be doing for the first time.  So the next day, I started early morning at 7am, fueled up my 20 litre tank and we were off.  I was pretty excited about this route but after some ‘not so difficult’ river crossing and some offroading, disappointment led my way.

Truck accident on the way to Kaza

The road was blocked by a truck whose front wheels almost fell off the valley. The driver should thank himself for being so alert. Being just a single lane road, our option was to either wait for the truck to be cleared (which was likely to be done next day) or head to a new destination – Manali. If it’s the latter, I would end up staying in Manali for two and half days as we were supposed to rest one day in Kalpa.

One of the river crossing on the way to Kaza

After few hours of figuring out the plan, we took a U-turn and headed to Manali. I wasn’t quite happy about it but you can’t play with nature. If she wants us to go back, there is always a reason for it. But I had something to cheer about. I have been hearing about Rohtang pass since many years, and now I finally get to see it. 


Day 4

After going through some nice corners and bends, I reached the place which was filled with tourists.  I also realised that after crossing this place, the true Himalayan journey will come to an end as the majestic Himalayan ranges are limited till Rohtang.

The road ahead me was going to be filled with stupid tourists and crowded markets, so I decided to spend some time at Rohtang pass, thinking if I have missed anything.  The Himalayas are so mighty and marvelous that even if you have managed to see the place completely (which is quite impossible) it attracts you to come back. I closed my eyes and promised myself to visit this Holy Grail again whenever I get a chance and twisted the throttle for Manali. 

The journey continues


My Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 being washed at the RE dealership in Manali

The last 3 days I spent my time at Manali, Narkanda and Parwanoo which are special in its own way. But my heart still wants me to go back to my starting point in Leh to do the trip all over again. During these 8 days of my ride, I experienced some real tough adventure; I passed through some incredibly marvelous places, crossed freezing rivers and some real dangerous roads. But at the end of the day, what counted the most was my experience which was truly amazing.


Many people dream about riding to Himalayas but usually, they have to skip the idea due to lack of knowledge, lack of funds, don’t want to ride solo and many other acceptable reasons. So if own a Royal Enfield motorcycle and has the thirst to complete this expedition, wait for the next edition of the Himalayan Odyssey. Just register to this Holy Grail and you don’t have to worry about a single thing during this expedition.


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