I remember the time I was planning my first ever motorbiking trip in the Himalayas, I was scared more than ever in my life. I’d never done something like that before and I’d no idea what to expect. And to make it worse, I’d decided to go solo, and that too on world’s most isolated and treacherous roads. (Yes, I am talking about Spiti Valley, in higher Himalayas!)
But where on one side I was scared and confused, with no past experiences of riding in the Himalayas, on the other side, I knew I was ready for it – at least if technically speaking. I had researched about the entire route map well enough, equipped myself properly, and was not carried away by the romanticism of riding only a Royal Enfield (the most loved motorbike among Indians for off-roading).
For a total of 9 days, I drove an average of 200 kilometres per day, covering a total of 2200 kilometre distance from my home (in Delhi) and back, and it was a whirlwind experience.
At times I was scared, at times I was thrilled, but mostly I was taken aback by the beauty of nature. It felt like a drug. I mean driving on world’s most isolated roads, with no one around you, but an eerie silence, is an addictive adventure. So if you too are planning your first motorcycle tour in Himalayas, but aren’t sure from where to start, read ahead…
Tips For First Solo Motorbiking Trip In Himalayas
Packing Your Motorbike Essentials
When you’re riding on your own, it’s most important for you to carry a few spare motorbike parts. Parts like puncture kit, clutch wire, break-wire, chain lock, gear oil, engine oil, spark plugs etc are a must pack in your bag – definitely more necessary than your camera and other personal things. Because if you’re stuck somewhere on the way, with a broken clutch wire after 5 in the evening, with no one around you, but pure wilderness, you’re going to regret not carrying a few spare parts, more than anything other decision in your life.
Moreover, it’s always a good idea to get a knack of a bit of repair, but even if not, you can always ask other passing-by riders/drivers for help. And they’ll only be able to help you, at least in many parts around the Himalayas, if you’ve spare parts – for in Himalayas accessibility of things has always been a question!
Leave Early. Always!
As much riding in the Himalayas is about hardship and pushing your limits, a part of it is also about leaving early. If you haven’t already learned to do so in your life.
I remember while I was riding in Spiti Valley, there were days when I started at first light of dawn, drove all day with a few to no stops, and I still only reached my next destination after dark. And riding in dark, in the Himalayas is no fun. It’s scary.
Because even a 100km stretch in the Himalayas can take hours, it’s always a good idea to leave as early as you can. There are moreover times when you drive for hours only to end up at a broken trail, or a blocked road due to a landslide, and the next thing you know is that you need to head back from where you started, and that point is still 6 hours away. Though it’s a rarity, it’ still possible, almost every day of your riding.
Weather Can Always Change
There’s an old running joke that on any motorcycle trip, and at any point you can end up hot, cold, and wet all at same time. And when you’re in the Himalayas, at 10,000 feet above sea level, the joke becomes even truer. And harsher.
During my solo motorcycle tour, despite the fact that I was only driving in a very dry season, it was crazy how that joke ended up being true a few time. Even though the temperature never got excessively hot, my safety gear conspired to roast me like a Christmas ham. When it inevitably started raining, it was a relief for the first few minutes, but before long, being soaking wet started to get cold. By the time the rain stopped, I was absolutely freezing and desperate for some sun again. When the rain stopped, and the sun returned, it was only a matter of time before it felt like I was being steamed alive. Well, that’s life as a rider, in a nutshell.
So make sure you’re prepared for the weather. Well-ventilated, waterproof equipment will make the hot parts cooler, the wet parts dryer, and the cold parts warmer! So invest in good equipment, and still, be ready to change clothes a few times.
You Will Have To Rest More Than You Imagined
During my entire solo trip, my original plan was to take a break every couple of hours. And since I’d to cover a long distance (even if you drive day and night, you need 3 or 4 days to cover 800 km long stretch of Spiti Valley), it sounded like a good plan to me.
But it was not! Because after the second or third day, I had to stop much more often than every 2 hours. Taking time to drink some water, stretch my legs, and my back became a necessity. And with increasing fatigue, the need became more crucial.
And last, but not the least, stay motivated! The challenge about riding a motorcycle, and riding it alone is that once you start your journey, with every passing minute, it becomes tougher to look back.
During my Solo ride to Spiti Valley, I rode for 9 days across Spiti Valley, while camping along the way, in the wilderness. And one day, I did not reach the town I’d initially planned to stay at, before dusk. The night came quickly. Now picture this: Feeling homeless in the middle of nowhere, with your phone already having no life. You also don’t know if the next village will have a place for you to stay, or not… and that was my situation. All I knew was two things… 1) I cannot afford to lose hope, and 2) this road will take me to a village called ‘Nako’, where if I found nothing, I’ll at least find a monastery!
So, always stay motivated & excited, even if you fall, skid or have a flat tire. Getting panicky & scared isn’t really useful, from what I’ve realized on my solo rides. Because in the Himalayas, even the most skilled riders make mistakes, but losing hope means losing your chances!