B side days 9 &10: Glamorous Giu

Day 9: To Kalpa – 140 km. 
The road to Kalpa is laughingly called National Highway 5, the Hindustan Tibet Highway – the word ‘highway’ suggests something… Tarmac at least. But this road must be one of the worst roads I’ve ever ridden (Albania, all is forgiven), huge lengths of it resemble the surface of the moon – dust, rocks and craters – Tarmac is a scarce commodity on this road. There are photos of some stretches of road in the write ups for days 13 and 14 (hotel wifi doesn’t like this many photos…) 
Kalpa is said to have been the place where Shiva spent her winters, so there are a few temples and shrines in town. Early evening I spend some time on my own walking around the town, visiting temples and sneaking into the school grounds. 

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B side Days 7 & 8: On the Streets Chai Ran

I haven’t had any internet connection for a week, so Expect a spurt of blog posts / post cards that cover a 9 day ride through the Spitti / Kinnaur Loop in Himachel Pradesh – except that I’m doing it in reverse (Kinnaur Valley then Spitti Valley) and I’m not doing the full loop because the last section is off limits as the final pass, Khunzum La, is still closed, so, 3/4 of a loop then I have to reverse my steps. 

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B side days 5 & 6: This Charming Man

Back packers, thrill seekers and honeymooning couples flock to Manali in their thousands every year to soak up the hippy vibe, go trekking, paragliding, rafting, skiing, or enjoy the 4 and 5 star romantic hotels. Not being a back packer, thrill seeker or honeymooner I originally wanted to give the town a wide berth and avoid the crowds, but in my revised trip, it is the place I pick up my hire bike and guide for the next few weeks. 
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B Side – days 1 & 2: Golden Lights

My first couple of days in India have been spent as a pedestrian tourist in Amritsar. I have been here before, but it was 13 years ago – a ridiculous amount of time between visits for a country that both me and Eejay love (it won’t be 13 years before I’m back again, it might not even be 13 months). Amritsar has its own feeling – not like the rest of the country – it is the capital of the Punjab region and the world capital of Sikhism, the language and religion is different to most of the country. 
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Side B: I Left the North, Again


It’s Saturday 30th May and I’m  currently sat in Birmingham airport waiting to catch a flight to India… Let the adventure begin. Again. 

Let’s call the UK to Turkey leg of this trip Side A and the Indian leg Side B. Sometimes Side B throws up a few surprises and can astound fans and critics. 

I’ve been home for two and a half weeks and, to be honest, it’s not been great. I’ve been grumpy, grumpy, grumpy. Whenever anyone has asked ‘are you ok?’ Or ‘what’s wrong?’ My reply has been something like ‘I should be in Tehran right now’ or ‘I should be close to the Pakistan border by now’. I’ve spent two weeks generally moping about (I’m sure Eejay and India will be glad to see the back of me for a few weeks). 

My bike is still at the garage. Looks like the damage might not be as bad as first thought – unbelievably, the forks might be ok, the wheel also looks ok. I might get away with just needing brake discs, fork clamps, bar mounts, wheel spindle and some plastics. The garage are trying to source as many parts second hand as possible and hopefully it will all be fixed when I return at the end of the month. I will worry about the bill when I get home. 

On the positive side I’ve been emailing and messaging people in India and I’ve lined up what I hope will be an amazing 3 weeks or so riding in the Himalayas. 

I plan to spend a couple of days in Amritsar (Golden  Temple, Jallianwala Bagh and the elaborate border closing ceremony between India and Pakistan)  and then move onto Dharamsala (home of the Dalai Lama – although he’s currently on holiday in Australia, the nerve of the man) for another couple before moving on to Manali to pick up a bike and a guide. 

The route we will take has changed a lot this last week and will no doubt continue to change. Landslides have apparently blocked key roads in the Spiti Valley. And winter is unseasonably long in the region (despite the pre Monsoon heatwave that is covering other parts of India) meaning that some of the mountain passes that should be open aren’t, yet.  At present there are options for a 17, 20 or 21 day trip.

I am determined to ride the Khardungla Pass as this was the whole point of the trip. They claim (others dispute it) that it is the highest motorable road in the world.  On the way there will be lots of mountain passes and lots of Buddist Ghompas (shrines / temples). 

If the weather and the roads improve I hope we will be able to ride into Tibet. One of the reasons for having a guide (apart from making my partner and my mum a bit more relaxed about the trip) is to make the paperwork in these remote areas easier – they frown on solo riders going up Khardungla and into Tibet. 
I have promised my daughter I will bring her back a snow leopard as I will be riding through areas where they live – although I’m not sure I will be able to get it through customs…