September 2007
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  • Archive for September, 2007

    Equipment review

    Sunday, September 30th, 2007

    Since we stayed in Srinagar for a few days, we manged to have to bike gear washed (first time since we left home).
    My jacket was so full of sand and dirt that the ventilation zippers didn’t work anymore.

    I thought it would be a good time to make a short review of our gear.

    Helmets:

    Ioana’s helmet is an Arai Condor that we bought just before we left. After 2 months and 12.000km, the helmet is still ok, comfortable and silent. We had a small problem with the visor. It seems that Araihelmets are made for less dusty roads. The visor mechanism became clogged up with dirt to the point where it would hardly move at all. A bit of cleaning and lubing solved the problem (for now at least). In the Arai owners manual they show how to remove the visor but not the side covers, they probably assume that you always take the helmet to the dealer.

    My helmet is a Schubert C2. I bought the helmet this spring, some 17.000km ago. This helmet had a hard life, from a few thousands km in snow and rain on our way back from Germany (see here), to desert crossings and a couple of pretty hard falls.
    At the beginning I had a couple of problems with it, I even returned to the dealer because the visor would not close properly. After a while, I’ve become accustomed to it and now I really like it.
    My main gripes are: the stupid side lock release (I’ve had the mechanism almost seize because of dirt), the top vent which is awkward to use, and the fact that is more noisy that I expected (although less noisy than my Shoei XR1000).

    Jackets:

    Both jackets are about 6 months old (about 15.000km). Ioana has a Rev’it Angel women jacket. There is a weird discoloration of the material on the shoulders.Otherwise the jacket is comfortable and seem reasonably waterproof although we had too little rain to be sure).
    I have a Rev’it Off-Track jacket which is much more solid and better made. It has separate waterproof and thermal liners and it’s comfortable from 5 degrees to 35 degrees with just a t-shirt underneath. One issue with it is that with both liners the jacket is very bulky (this is the reason why we didn’t bought one for Ioana).

    Pants:

    We both have Rev’it Zip pants. They are light and comfortable, with hard knee protectors and soft hip and ankle protectors.
    The main problem with them is that they have very poor ventilation and the waterproof liner is non-detachable. In Iran an Pakistan they were quite hot but we still managed to wear them.

    Boots:

    I have some 2 year old Alpine Star MX-S boots. I know they are a strange option for a touring boot, but I am comfortable in them and they are pretty bulletproof. I removed the toe sliders to make them look less aggressive. I am comfortable wearing them all day long.

    Ioana has Rev’it boots (can’t remember the name right now). They are a light touring boot. While comfortable and waterproof, there seem to be a little misunderstanding. We thought that the “light” part refers to the boot while apparently Rev’it thought it refers to touring. The boots don’t seem to be very resistant, their soles already starting to come off.

    equip1.jpg   equip2.jpg  equip3.jpg

    12.000km check-up

    Saturday, September 29th, 2007

    In Srinagar we reached the 12.000km mark since we left total bike mileage 54.500km), more or less half way through our original route.
    So I did a check-up of the bike.

    We found an nice house boat on Nageen Lake, near a park. The owner “persuaded” the gardeners to let me park the bike inside the garden 🙂 , so I had a nice spot for working.

    check1.jpg   check2.jpg   check3.jpg

    I replaced the spark plugs, since the very rich condition caused by the altitude was bound to foul them. At 5000m there is roughly half the sea-level air pressure.

    check6.jpg

    I checked the valves, well five of them since the front cylinder exhaust valve is so difficult to reach. They were all
    within the specs, the rear cylinder exhaust valve was at the tighter end of the spec so I’ve loosened it by a hair.
    they
    The read brake pads were badly worn (on the road from Kargil, I only used the front brake), so I’ve replaced them.

    The Africa Twin air filter is quite large so I could not bring a spare. I clean it regularly with compressed air (and hope it will last).
    After all the unsealed roads it was quite dirty 🙂 . 

    Here is a nice story that illustrates the differences between india and the other countries we’ve been in (Pakistan, Iran).  I usually go to a tire shop and ask for some compressed air. The owner comes out, watches in amazement as I extract the air filter, cleans it, and gives it back to me (this was the same everywhere), now I ask how much should I pay. In all the countries except India the owner would smile and say “nothing, have a good trip”, in india he said “special price for you sir, 10 rupees” 🙂 .

    The chain and tyres (Metzeler Tourance and D.I.D.) seem to have plenty of life left in them. The tyres have developed
    some micro-cracks since about half-way through Turkey but seem ok.

    check4.jpg   check5.jpg   check7.jpg

    Back home I usually change the oil every 5.000km. During this trip my strategy regarding the oil is as follows: I started with fresh oil
    and filter and took 3 more filters with me. I kept the first oil for 6000km. The subsequent oil changes have been changed
    every 3000km (since the local oils are of unknown quality), I change the filter every two oil changes.So far I’ve been able to find Castrol and Shell
    20W50 oils, which seem to be ok( the changes were in Kashan-Iran, Quetta-Pakistan and Srinagar-India).

    There were some other checks: fuel filter, sprockets, front suspension. Everything seems to be in excellent condition 🙂

    Tour of Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir

    Friday, September 28th, 2007

    We were very lucky to manage to squeeze this tour just before the winter.

    We only did the basic tour  Dharamsala-Manali-Leh-Kargil-Srinagar. We had to postpone the other parts like
    Nubra Valley, Suru Valley, Zanskar  for some other visit.

    It is really worth your time and money to come and visit these unbelievable mountains.

    I will just make a short overview of the conditions to help others plan the own trip.

    As we arrived in late september, we were not sure if the high passes from Manali to Leh were still snow-free.
    We tried to find out the road condition before going to Manali, the horizonsunlimited.com forum was very
    helpful (as always) but, just as Graham predicted, you can’t really know until you are in Manali.

    In Manali we found out that the buses stopped but the jeeps are still going, so I started asking
    every jeep ticket reservation shop about the road conditions. The answers ranged from TanglangLa being snowed in,
     to the road being opened but with the Sarchu tent camp closed to everything perfect.
    Finally we spotted a luggage laden Enfield coming down from RothangLa, it was coming from Leh.
    Finnaly a source we could trust, we find out that  the road is open, Sarchu camp is still there but is also very cold.

    As we were in a hurry, we only stayed in Manali (actually Vashisht) for 1 day, skipping over the acclimatization.
     It’s better to stay in Manali for a few days, going to RothangLa during the day and sleeping at the lower altitude.
    Ioana had no problems with the altitude sickness, I had a strange gastric acidity crisis (strange because I never had
    such problems before). This started in a night that we slept in Sarchu (4200m) and continued until we reached Srinagar.
    It wasn’t serious but it was a bit of a nuisance.

    The road from Manali to Leh has all kinds of surfaces: about 30% is very good asphalt, another 40% is badly potholed asphalt, 20% is gravel and the rest is sand, river-crossings, etc etc. This is probably changing all the time due to the frequent land-slides and very harsh winters, so don’t rely too much on this information. We didn’t had any really difficult parts (for a 2-up Africa Twin, with 60kg of luggage and Tourance tyres). There is a lot of heavy traffic so any muddy section is usually thorn up pretty bad.

    We managed an average of about 30km/h (including stops), you could go significantly faster, but I was trying to protect the overloaded panniers racks. This speed also conveniently divides the trip in two days, Manali to Sarchu and Sarchu-Leh.
    You can hurry a bit and go all the way in one long day, but I don’t think is worth passing-on the wonderful night sky in Sarchu.

    We managed to cross the mountains just in time, the next day there was heavy rain in Leh and the mountains were all white.

    The road from Leh to Kargil is better than Manali-Leh, with a long unsealed section on the descent from FotuLa. Kargil
    is probably the most expensive town in India (we were quoted 1300 rupees for a grubby room by one delusional hotel manager).
    Leh-Kargil took us about 5 hours.

    Kargil-Srinagar is even better apart from the truly spectacular ZojiLa, which is a bit difficult but it’s well worth it. Here
    we had the deepest stream crossing (a good 50cm deep) which wasn’t very difficult but a bit… refreshing in the 9 degrees ambient.
    It also took us 5 hours to reach Srinagar. Here I recommend to stay on Nageen Lake rather than the much more crowded Dal Lake.

    Some pictures from the mountains:

    kashmir01.jpg   kashmir02.jpg   kashmir03.jpg

    kashmir04.jpg   kashmir05.jpg   kashmir06.jpg

    kashmir07.jpg   kashmir08.jpg   kashmir09.jpg

    kashmir10.jpg  kashmir11.jpg   kashmir12.jpg

    kashmir13.jpg   kashmir14.jpg   kashmir15.jpg

    and a picture with the tent camp in sarchu:

    kashmir16.jpg

    manali – leh

    Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

    cind am hotarit sa plecam pe 1 august, unul dintre motive a fost reusim sa urcam pe karakoram highway sau pe drumul manali-leh.

    cum visa de pakistan a fost prea scurta si situatia de acolo nu era chiar ok, am hotarit sa incercam turul kashmir-ului (oricum preferam varianta asta).

    de la amritsar am mers repede la dharamsala de acolo la manali pe un drum superb.

    in manali (vashist ca sa fim exacti), am stat o zi sa ne pregatim de drum (caciuli de lina, ciorapi de lina, o citirica) am intrebat la toate agentiile de voiaj daca drumul mai e deschis si pe 21 aug am sters-o.

    manali-leh e un drum legendar printre motociclisti, puteti gasi nenumarate descrieri pe net. Drumul e un fel de transfagarasan al indienilor dar cu citeva diferente:

    • e mai lung, avind 470 de km
    • are 4 trecatori in loc de una
    • e mai inalt, cea mai joasa trecatoare are cam 3900m si cea mai inalta are 5300m. dupa ce se trece de rothang la care e prima trecatoare, altitudinea scade rareori sub 4000m

    drumul este deschis oficial pina la 15 septembrie, dupa aia muncitorii nu il repara, autobuzele nu mai merg. drumul mai ramine deschis pina la prima ninsoare.

    mal01.jpg

    prima trecatoare, rothang la a fost destul de dificil de trecut, urcusul e destul de consistent (de la 2000 la 3900), in noaptea de dinainte plouase destul de tare acolo si era mult noroi. destul de multe piriuri de trecut prin vad, uneori drumul si riul se confundau 🙂

    mal02.jpg

    a doua trecatoare baracha la a fost ceva mai usor de trecut, drumul e mai bun. aici deja peisajul incepe sa fie din alta lume, cerul e de un albastru absolut ireal iar muntii te lasa cu gura cascata.

    mal03.jpg   mal04.jpg   mal05.jpg

    Dupa Baracha La mai sint cam 30 de km pina la sarchu. Sarchu este tabara traditionala pentru noapte si consta intr-o tabara de corturi unde poti dormi si bea un ceai cald. Nu exista apa, curent sau alte prostii.

    mal06.jpg   mal07.jpg   mal08.jpg

    In sarchu ne-am mai intilnit cu 2 englezi pe enfield, un elvetian cu un ktm 950 cu cutia de viteze blocata in treapta a doua si 4 belgieni tot cu motociclete indiene. Toata lumea se grabea sa treaca inainte de venirea zapezii.

    Sarchu e 4200m si noaptea este relativ racoare (dimineata termometrul de pe moto arata 1 grad) si evident totul e neincalzit. Din fericire sacii de dormit si hainele groase si-au facut datoria si am reusit sa dormim rezonabil.  Din cauza altitudinii si lipsei de orice lumina cerul arata absolut incredibil.

    Am scapat si de rau de munte desi am dormit un pic cam sus (in mod normal ar fi trebuit sa ne aclimatizam). Eu m-am simtit un pic rau dimineata si am fost destul de deshidratat dar nimic grav.

    mal09.jpg   mal10.jpg  mal11.jpg

    In sarchu a fost un episod haios cu aparatul foto. Din intimplare am uitat sa reincarcam acumulatorul in manali si ni s-a terminat chiar cind am ajuns in sarchu. Am incercat sa gasesc un generator ca sa reusesc sa reincarc bateria dar fara succes. Singurele surse de electricitate erau niste baterii solare legate la niste lampi cu acumulatori. Din intimplare am descoperit un cort unde bateria solara era legata la un acumulator de tractor, tot din intimplare am descoperit ca alimentatorul de la charger era de 12 volti. Evident am taiat cablul alimentatorului l-am legat la acumulatorul de tractor si in amuzamentul general am incarcat acumulatorul de la aparat.

    mal12.jpg   mal13.jpg   mal16.jpg

    Dupa ce in prima zi a fost cald (20 de grade), in ziua a doua vremea s-a racit. Cind am plecat erau cam 4 grade si pina la leh temperatura nu a urcat peste 12 grade. Manusile de ski si minerele incalzite au fost salvatoare. Francezul cu enfield nu avea echipament de iarna si a cam suferit.

    Deja la 4000m orice efort te lasa fara respiratie imediat, e un pic deconcerant sa simti ca nu poti respira.

    Am ajuns in Tanglang La le la ora 13, aici e punctul cel mai inalt al calatoriei noastre 5300m (a doua trecatoare ca inaltime din lume deschisa traficului auto). Saracul Grasu’ ne-a injurat copios pt ca l-am adus asa de sus fara sa ii modificam carburatia. Peste 4000m puterea scade drastic iar ultimele pante (peste 5000m) am reusit sa le urc doar cu treapta 1.

    Poza obligatorie cu tablita:

    mal151.jpg

    Din Tanglang La am coborit in Leh (la ses, doar 3500m), unde am ajuns destul de obositi dar foarte incintati.

    mal17.jpg   mal18.jpg   mal19.jpg

    In concluzie: daca aveti posibilitatea treceti neaparat pe drumul asta, daca aveti posibilitatea sa veniti cu moto (puteti inchiria in manali) este si mai bine. Nu aveti cum sa va dati seama din poze cum arata de fapt muntii astia.

    leh

    Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

    dupa 2 zile, o noapte dormita in cort la 4200m, am ajuns la leh.

    acum sintem prea obositi sa va povestim ce si cum, dar promitem sa punem miine poze si alte cele.