Road trips are fun, be it on a motorcycle or in a four-wheeler. But where fun is lost is when no planning is done before the trip.
These happen a lot when there is an individual or a group planning a road trip to the Himalayas on a two-wheeler and have no idea where to start or end and have no clue as in what are the things to take or not take along.
All this comes down to improper planning and this could not only spoil your fun and adventure, but could end up endangering one's life itself.
One needs to know how to stay safe and a few important life saving tips that will make riding or a road trip to the Himalayas or to Leh fun.
So, what do you need to know when you are planning such a trip on a motorcycle? Here are a few important things to keep in mind while planning a trip to Leh, or simply to the Himalayas:
First and foremost thing is the route. Plan the route and decide where you want to start and end the trip. Also, decide the route you want to take and stick to it. There may be times when diversions have to be taken so be prepared for that too.
2. The Motorcycle:
The motorcycle itself is as important as the trip. Get it checked thoroughly by a trustworthy mechanic. If he says anything has to be changed, change it since the motorcycle is going to take a solid beating on the trip and every part needs to last. The motorcycle has to very sound mechanically.
Safety gear is essential. Gloves, jacket, trousers and boots is a must, along with a helmet. Do not buy waterproof gear apart from boots because you would only sweat in it. Carry separate waterproof overalls which can be worn on top of your riding gear. Keep them safe and dry when not in use because even a tiny tear will start letting water in, which is bad.
4. Warm Clothing:
Carry warm clothing because the nights get really cold. While riding however, wear light clothing in layers and take them off one by one. A big heavy warm jacket is of no use since it may be too hot with the jacket on and too cold with the jacket off.
5. Pillion Rider:
Try not carrying a pillion rider as much as possible. The roads are best enjoyed when riding single and when the road gets rough, it is easier to handle the motorcycle. Also, there will be more room for your luggage and the motorcycle strains less.
If most of your days are spent riding, don't carry a lot of clothes since you will be in your riding gear most of the time. Pack light and ensure they are protected against the rain since wet clothes are the last thing one will want to get into after a tiring day of riding.
7. Tools And Spares:
Carry essential tools with you like a wheel spanner, screwdriver and a cutting plyer in case you need to carry out essential work on the motorcycle. Take along a few spares as well like tyre tubes and cables. Mechanics are available at most of the places but being prepared saves time.
8. Riding Each Day:
Try to keep each day's riding distance below 200 km. It is easy to cover 1000 km on a highway, but roads up there might take you a whole day to cover 100 km. Start early and finish early before sun down because it is not just difficult to ride during the night, there will be no one to help at that time in case of an emergency.
9. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
This is something so important that your very life depends on this. Acute Mountain Sickness can affect anybody. The symptom is a headache, followed by dizziness and puking. It happens as you climb higher and if you experience it, stop and spent a day at that altitude. Carry on only if you are fine. The best remedy for a person with AMS is to take them to a lower altitude as soon as possible. Consult your doctor before heading for the trip and speak to him about medications available as well. Do not take it light since people have lost their lives because of AMS!
Try booking as much of your accommodation as possible before leaving. There are very few hotels and some places don't even have them. Remember, you are not the only traveller and every traveller is looking for rooms to stay. A good night's sleep is very important.
11. Paper Work:
Carry original paperwork such as your driver's licence, vehicle registration certificate, insurance, taxes, pollution certificate, etc. Keep it safe and dry. Carry a few photocopies of them as well. Do not hand it over to anyone and if handed over, ensure it is returned.
12. Getting To Know The Day's Route:
Every morning, before setting off, ask the locals or the hotel people about the day's route. Ask them details like if the road is open or has there been any blocks of recent or if you are likely to encounter rain and the general condition of the route itself.
13. Avoid Getting Wet:
Avoid getting wet while riding. Keep wet weather gear in a place that is easily accessible and the moment it even looks like rain will come down, get into the wet gear. Riding gear takes a long time to dry and they don't dry over night. Getting into wet riding gear is the last thing one will want in the morning. Also remember, boots need to be dry as well.
14. Stay Well Hydrated:
Dehydration is a big problem and there is one good way to stay well hydrated and that is by drinking a lot of water. Carry water bottles and drink only bottled water. Carry a hydro backpack if possible. This allows you to drink water on the go, saving time. Avoid energy drinks.
15. Ride At A Safe Speed:
Ride safe, that is the whole point. To do that, ride at a nominal speed that is safe and you know you can react to the worst situation. Overspeeding ‘KILLS' a person on these mountains. Offa cliff and nobody is going to even come down to fetch your remains!
16. Water Crossings:
Tackling water crossings is tricky. Rocks under the flowing ice cold water will not be visible. Stick to one side of the road and go slow! Try not stalling the motorcycle too, because if you are trying to restart it, your foot has to go down and that's when water enters your boots. Riding too fast has a risk of you dropping the motorcycle and if water gets in, help may not be around the corner.
17. Be Nice To People:
Smile at them, greet them. People are very good at heart and will help you. They are not corrupt like city dwellers and will not cheat you no matter what. Also, help other riders who need help. The odds are that they will help you when you need it.
18. Phone Network:
There might not be phone network throughout the trip. At places where network is available, call family and friends and keep them posted about your present location, hotel's name and the plan for the next two or three days. In an emergency, this could be a life saver. Many people go missing because rescuers don't know where to look for people.
19. Fuel Stations:
The Himalayas is not a city. Fuel stations are not available every 500 meters. Keep yourself well updated and carry extra fuel if necessary. There is a stretch of over 300 kilometers without fuel stations. Keep that in mind and plan accordingly.
20. Medical Emergencies:
There are not many hospitals on the way. Ask localites about where hospitals are located and which is the closest from where you are and what is available en route.
21. Enjoy The Adventure!
Keep in mind the tips above and do not forget to enjoy the adventure! This is one of the toughest things a person can do on earth.