An India Bike Journey from Head to Toe

India Motorcycle Trip
Ullu rests at 14,482-foot Saach Move in Himalayan Pir Panjal vary.

It got here to me in the midst of the night time, as most nice concepts do: I might take an India motorbike journey, crossing from north to south. My route would take me from the mountains of Ladakh to the valleys of Kashmir, into bustling Rajasthan, over the Western Ghats, and thru the moist jungles of the South – a complete distance of greater than 4,500 miles. I might trip “Ullu,” my 2009 Royal Enfield Machismo 350 with an ongoing tappet challenge, and my funds can be solely 30,000 rupees (about $360).

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The Northern Portion of My India Bike Journey:

Manali – Leh – Jammu and Kashmir – Dharamshala

The trail to Ladakh is a playground of pure magnificence. It’s also huge, with no mechanics or petrol stations en route.


I waded by means of rivers that reached my waist in Nubra Valley and coasted down the 21‑­hairpin Gata Loops at breathtaking pace. I reached the moonscape‑­like peak of Wari La Move, was snowed on at Khardung La, and raced a herd of untamed horses as they thundered down Extra Plains. I rode by means of a canyon with a glowing river working by means of the middle and tackled the treacherous 17,586‑­foot Chang La Move. Ladakh was a dreamscape, and the environment modified drastically from recent landslides to icy lakes to the legendary dunes of Pang. So far as an India motorbike journey was involved, I used to be in paradise.

India Motorcycle Trip
In Ladakh, white-washed monasteries are perched excessive within the Himalayas.

The grime highway connecting Koksar to Kaza in Spiti Valley was a continuing sport of momentary fixes for Ullu: shoelaces by means of the wheel guard, a bungee wire across the exhaust pipe, and a snapped clutch lever repaired with duct tape. The terrain was a bone‑­shaking problem from begin to finish, and autos littered the boulder‑­strewn paths in numerous states of breakdown.

India Motorcycle Trip
Easy, winding tarmac on the Manali Leh freeway by means of Ladakh’s Nubra Valley. (Picture by Haven Lane Images – @Havensway on Instagram)

Close to the border of Pakistan, I steeled myself for 2 harmful passes on Nationwide Freeway 26 from Kashmir between Killar, Khajjiar, and Kishtwar. Each have been closing quickly resulting from forecasted snow, and I used to be decided to cross them off my record. The Cliffhanger was a tough and dramatic trip on a highway carved right into a sheer cliff that’s 2,000 ft above the Chenab River.

Associated Story from Ellie Cooper: Himalayan Cliffhanger | Using India’s Loss of life Highway

Saach Move, an endurance trip by means of deep forest to an ice‑­slicked desolate mesa, was a mixture of countless clutch management and exact dealing with on the downhills. With such tantalizing terrain to discover, it was troublesome to go away the North, however the remainder of India beckoned me.

India Motorcycle Trip
Between Killar and Kishtwar is the dreaded Cliffhanger, India’s “dying highway,” which is carved into the rockface 2,000 ft above the Chenab River. (Picture by John Gaisford)


Dharamshala – Amritsar – Pushkar – Jaisalmer – Jodhpur – Udaipur 

I detoured into Pushkar to learn to construct a bike from scratch at my buddy Mukesh’s storage. I spent every week consuming chai with a staff of mechanics by the roadside, sharing communal meals on the storage flooring, and studying how you can exchange clutch plates.

Each highway from Punjab to Rajasthan was lengthy and uneventful, however I used to be not so fortunate once I began the subsequent leg of my India motorbike journey.

India Motorcycle Trip
The staff of mechanics at Mukesh’s (not proven) storage in Pushkar, the place I spent every week studying how you can construct a bike from spare elements.

Nationwide Freeway 11 towards Jaisalmer was a highway of dying, and the scent of varied animals decomposing within the noon warmth carried on the breeze. I noticed mirages of nice lakes that vanished as shortly as they appeared, and burnt‑­out autos lay overturned within the sand. The desert is usually a unusual place.

India Motorcycle Trip
On the bustling streets of Amritsar, Punjab, a vendor sells panipuri: deep-fried balls of dough crammed with potatoes, onions, and spices.

The winter winds on the freeway toyed with everybody on the highway. I fought towards a aspect wind that buffeted me forwards and backwards with such velocity that I gasped for air underneath my helmet. Six excessive‑­pace lorries – huge vehicles in formation throughout two lanes – have been inches away from my tires. On that highway, it was suicidal to be so near the sting with pushy vehicles and a bullying wind, however I had no alternative. I slowed my pace however began to be sucked underneath the hole between their wheels as my handlebar toggled ferociously with the strain. I clipped the sting of the sand at 30 mph and went down.

I crawled on my palms and knees towards the bike just a few meters from the place I had landed on the concrete and hit the kill change. Ullu acquired solely a damaged horn and a buckled wheel. My driving gear saved me from a worse destiny, however I nonetheless had a dollop of whiplash and a gentle concussion.

Jaisalmer was a lovely place to get better. Decided to see deep desert, I rode out to catch the sundown, going till my wheels sank into countless sand. Later, as I lay again on Ullu’s seat and watched billions of stars within the inky‑­black sky, I mirrored on how India is just not a simple place to trip, however it was value each close to‑­miss.

India Motorcycle Trip
In Jaisalmer, Ullu and a fellow beast of burden get pleasure from a late-day respite.

Hoping for a bit of fine fortune for the rest of my India motorbike journey, I sought out the Bullet Baba shrine on Nationwide Freeway 65. It’s one in all 33 million Hindu deities and represents the legend of a neighborhood man who crashed right into a tree and died and whose motorbike discovered its means again to the crash web site alone with out keys or petrol. Locals flock to the positioning to ask for secure passage throughout India’s roads and supply whiskey in return. I visited the holy bike with a bottle stuffed into my backpack.

India Motorcycle Trip
The Bullet Baba shrine in Rajasthan.

The ultimate cease on my Rajasthan tour was Udaipur. I lazily wound by means of the undulating Aravalli hills of Kumbhalgarh in afternoon mild and rode across the well-known Rani Highway at dawn to see Rajasthan’s shining lakes. India was altering her look each few hundred miles, and I couldn’t wait to see what the Western Ghats needed to supply.

India Motorcycle Trip
Surrounding a small lake is Pushkar, one of many holiest cities in India and a pilgrimage web site for a lot of Hindus and Sikhs. This priest is on his approach to a Puja ceremony, a blessing that honors gods and deceased family members.

Udaipur – Mumbai – Pune – Goa – Ooty – Erivikulam – Munnar 

I entered Mumbai in Western India like a toddler pretending to be a racer. I used to be in a tide of a whole lot of bikes at rush hour, all revving their engines impatiently. With none warning, signaling, or mild change, true to their title, the Bullets sped ahead, each racing the subsequent. On wash day, the air smelled like a bucket of cleaning soap suds, and the entire metropolis was brightly adorned.

I headed instantly for Mahabaleshwar, a hill station with luxurious views of the beautiful Sahyadri vary. With lower than 2 liters of petrol after the hills, I bounced alongside the descent on badly damaged highway surfaces, glad that I had decreased the air in my tires. I sputtered into Goa on Christmas Day by means of a blanket of freezing sea mist. My current to my trusty steed was a full service and every week off.

India Motorcycle Trip
Enjoying within the snow at Khardung La, a 17,582-foot move.

The roads into Munnar are on each Indian traveler’s bucket record. I selected to trip by means of 5 nationwide parks, relishing the attractive blue Nilgiri hills on all sides. In stunning Ooty, I raced down 36 consecutive hairpins on the addictive downhills of the accident‑­susceptible Kalhatty Highway. At one time, vacationers weren’t permitted to trip it as a result of complexity and hazard of the epic turns.

I reached Munnar, the place the oscillating route was filled with seemingly countless tight corners and quick bends. It was a few of the most excellent motorbike driving I had ever skilled. Tea leaves have been draped over the hills in a lime inexperienced patchwork quilt, knitted with care by whichever gods had imagined such a spot.

Associated: Ellie Cooper | Ep. 67 Rider Journal Insider Podcast

The Western Ghats:

Munnar – Idukki – Kanyakumari

I dawdled by means of the coconut plantations of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, fingering the meager rupees left in my pocket and questioning if I might make it to the top. I used to be virtually there, and it was in all probability due to the warmth and fatigue at this level that I started to make errors. 

I took a incorrect flip and needed to clarify to a really confused ranger why I used to be driving illegally in a tiger reserve. Ullu’s ignition cable instantly got here unfastened in the midst of the jungle, however once more I used to be lucky; a neighborhood reattached it together with his tooth totally free. One other time, I finished to admire the view and carelessly knocked my bike keys right into a pile of garbage many ft down, and the entire village got here working to assist. Finally, a tiny man with a hooked stick 5 instances so long as he was tall got here working to the rescue, grinning from ear to ear.

India Motorcycle Trip
Close to the top of the journey, Ellie and Ullu rode by means of coconut plantations in Tamil Nadu, the southernmost state in India.

It hit me laborious once I acquired to Kerala and noticed the signal for Kanyakumari – the town on the southernmost tip of India – that my journey would quickly finish. Little moments of the journey replayed in my thoughts, from the icy dreamland of the Himalayas to brightly adorned Rajasthan to the chic colours of the South. 

On the finish of my India motorbike journey, I sat atop Ullu and patted her tank, watching the sight I had been ready for: the solar setting into the Arabian Sea. The following morning, sitting on the similar spot, I watched the solar rise over the Bay of Bengal to the east.

India Motorcycle Trip
The creator and “Ullu,” her Royal Enfield, at Kanyakumari on the southern tip of mainland India, the place the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, and Indian Ocean meet.

Indian roads are a posh machine that operates on braveness and belief, and I now perceive the absurdity of them of their confusion and chaos. I realized that each breakdown is an opportunity for a brand new reference to a stranger; that many bike points will be mounted with tin cans, rubber bands, or a mouthful of petrol; and that irrespective of how lengthy the journey would possibly take, there may be all the time time for an additional chai.

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