Friday, August 27, 2010

Manali-Leh; The Story (Part 1)

Waiting for cab at the airport

The Manali-Leh Highway is a classic route in the Indian Himalaya that has been the 'dream ride' to countless cyclists and motorcyclists. In fact, I have planned to do it over a year after reading about it from a magazine.

On July 25, my friend and I arrived in the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport in New Delhi at 9.30pm (local time) and immediately proceed to collect our bike from the Baggage Claim. Our bikes were nicely parked near the conveyor belt as we did not box-up our bike when check-in in Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). This is the advantage of traveling with Malaysia Airlines (MAS). We were quite at the center of attention because only both of us were pushing fully loaded bicycles at that time. In fact, the Security personnel at the arrival gate smile and gave us green light to go out without the need to check out luggage tag whatsoever. Suddenly we feel so macho.

Without wasting any more time, we got a cab to take us to our Hotel about 45km from the airport. The ride on the cab introduced us to the culture of Indian driving. It was horrifying and fun at the same time! The most obvious about the drivers in India is they really like to honk. And their honks are of various sounds and they really melodious. My only regret is that I should have recorded my experience using my hand phone video camera and post it in YouTube or Facebook.

The next morning, we had our first taste of riding in New Delhi . It was made in hell! The honking, the trucks, buses, autos rickshaws, it was just havoc! But I would not elaborate on this because it was just too messy and some of our experience were really disgusting! By 6.00pm, we rode to Janpath Road to take our bus to Manali. Here is where we first met Ron & Annette from Scotland who are riding Manali-Leh too.

The bus ride took about 15 hours to reach Manali. When we arrived there, it was raining. We knew that we are going to experience wet days in the Himalaya. Luckily, waterproof gear is on top of our list. We checked-in the same hotel with Ron & Annette. At the same time we met other fellow 'unsupported' cyclist; Dave & Colleen from Australia. In the afternoon, we rode around New & Old Manali to purchase our supplies and acclimatize with the weather and the altitude. And I realized that I was not feeling well.

Actually, it's all started on the plane to Delhi, where at times I had nausea and some times felt difficult to breathe. This is not normal because for the last 3 years I have been a frequent fliers and I have never experience any air sickness before. So, while other people were sleeping I used the airsickness bag to breathe in and out and it made me feeling better. And while eating peanuts, my tooth filling came out. And I know this is not a good sign! In Delhi, while riding around, we fail to find a dentist. Even though, we have asked the hotel staff but we didn't manage to get the right answer on the location of any dentist from them. So, when we reached Manali, we quickly search for the Altitude Sickness Meds (acetazolamide) and a dentist. Luckily, the pharmacy is just beside the hotel and the dentist is just above it. And after talking to the dentist about my problem, he treated me by giving a new tooth filling immediately. I thought everything is settled then, but I was wrong!

The Old Manali

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