28/6 We leave early, cross two passes, stop at Lamayuru for lunch and make it as far as Alchi. On the road we meet Mr Singh, on a mission two visit all the places where the founder of the Sikh religion has been. We also meet Manfred and Imelda on a small Indian bike. They live on a yacht, currently anchored in Malaysia. In the guesthouse in Alchi another biking couple turn up, Finn from Germany and his American girlfriend Tessa on an Enfield 535, an unusual model. The evening is horribly windy and finally it rains a tiny little bit.
This mandala is made from coloured Sand! Normally, these are created for certain festivals and at the end they are destroyed, to symbolise impermanence. I guess this one has been preserved for the tourists and is obviously kept behind glass.
30/6 A quiet ride to Leh over good roads. We check into the hotel for which Lars gave me a waypoint. Thanks again, Lars!
1/7 A computer work day. We meet Cecilia from Switzerland on a world tour. As she rides a BMW we are soon working on her bike, which has a problem with the front brake. She is very resourceful and so does most of the work herself. Our attempt to find a shop to get one brake pad relined is unsuccessful and so she orders parts from home. Having had some problems with DHL she always uses TNT. However, once her parts have landed in Delhi they stay there: TNT doesn't have an office in Leh and so they simply don't deliver! Bravo, for that privilege you have to pay lots of money.
Cecilia's front brake disc gets straightened with the aid of some BMW special tools
I catch a very nasty cold that makes me feel very weak and breathless. I'm having a couple of things sent myself, medicines from KH to Leh and a new carnet for my bike to Shimla, where I intend to pick it up on my way to Nepal. I'm keeping my fngers crossed.
Who can guess what this is?
Our first attempt to go to Nubra Valley ends about half way up the Khardung-La pass, when it starts to snow heavily. They say it never rains in Ladakh, but it does on the way down and the day remains wet. (The Rain Man rides again.) The next day Gilles and I ride up in beautifull weather. There is snow on the road. The Khardung-La is touted by the authorities as the highest motorable road in the world, but this is not true. The Marsimek-La, not far from here, is higher and we just read in a guide book that the highest pass is in Bolivia, at 5900m. As Gilles thinks he is now running a little short on time we don't ride down the other side. There is also more snow on the road.
Cecilia originally wanted to ride through Tibet to Hongkong, then ship her bike from there to South America. It is not normally possible to drive your own vehicle into China; a whole lot of paperwork and money is required for a govt. minder, his driver and support vehicle and the whole thing has to be organised months in advance. She has a rather expensive offer of 5000 Euro/person, but the itinerary states that once she leaves Tibet there is no guide. This I can't believe and unfortunately I get her to ask about it. Big mistake: when you ask a question of the authorities in China the answer is invariably NO. The other problem is that by adding more bikes the agency simply multiplies the price, something we find unacceptable.
You see some interesting characters in Leh
11/7 We have been told there is a Buddhist festival held at a monastery in Spangmik on the shores of Pagong-Tso. Every three years they roll out a thanka and that happens this year. We get our rather expensive inner line permits and we are off. In blue sky weather we reach the Shangla pass, but a few m below the top Gilles bike doesn't want to run any more and we have to help by pushing. I find this odd, as his is the only bike with fuel injection and it should therefor be immune against the altitude. We reach the beautiful lake and the tiny village of Spangmik, but we are told by the locals that there is no festival: the lama didn't come. Bummer. We camp on the lake shore of the slightly salty lake. Gilles removes his spark plugs and we find that the gap is significantly too large, so he replaces them. The next morning there is a slight misunderstanding and I loose the others for a while. I head off towards Marsimek-La until the tar seal runs out, but I can't be sure which of the dirt tracks is the right one. In any case, knowing that this isn't the highest road on the planet any more the others give it a miss and it's too difficult to attempt on your own. On the way back Gilles' bike runs normally at the top of the pass, so the plugs must have been the problem.
16/7 Cecilia and I make a short excursion to Phyang Gompa, where this time there IS a festival. The costumes and masks are quite interesting, but quite frankly, without knowing the stories the dancing quickly becomes monotonous. But, of course, I'm not a Tibetan Buddhist. There are more tourists than locals.
21/7 As Gilles' visa is running out he has left for Nepal. Literally at the last minute Cecilia manages to organise a trip for the three of us plus her German friend Rainer through Tibet and Yunnan to Laos. Then we are off on a 9-day trek. In preparation for the trek I climb a small hill behind Leh from where there is a great panorama.