A mo­tor­bik­ing ad­ven­ture in In­dia

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

Five Toko­roa cou­ples have re­cently re­turned home af­ter a trip of a life­time rid­ing the foothills of the Hi­malayas.

Fran and John Stevens, Greg and Alexis Fitz­patrick, Jo and Stu Crockart, Ma­ree Ash­ton and Theo Duyvestyn, and Tim and Sue Ni­chol­son all eagerly signed on to the sec­ond and last Hi­malayan trip or­gan­ised by the New Zealand com­pany In­dian Mo­tor­cy­cle Ad­ven­tures, based in Auck­land. Many of the roads they tra­versed have re­cently been fea­tured in a tele­vi­sion se­ries called The Most Dan­ger­ous Roads in the World.

Start­ing from the Delhi Plains, the bik­ers worked their way north­ward to the high­est mo­torable road in the world, the Khardang La, with its sum­mit higher than Ever­est Base Camp, at 5600 me­tres.

Part of a group of 25 rid­ing 15 bikes, they trav­elled over 1500 kilo­me­tres on Royal En­field Mo­tor­cy­cles, which are locally made, English styled bikes that look and sound like they are straight out of the 1950s.

All cou­ples rode ‘‘two-up’’ with all five women tak­ing a leap of faith as they let the men drive the pre­car­i­ous roads that of­ten ran out of seal, grew huge pot-holes, be­came mud or sand traps or even dis­ap­peared com­pletely down 300-me­tre sheer drops.

They found that the scenery changed con­stantly in colour, ter- rain and al­ti­tude. Rocks of rich green blended with red, and gave way to scree slopes hun­dreds of me­tres high and run­ning straight onto the road. Mas­sive rivers fed by the Hi­malayan moun­tains of­ten ran along­side or high above roads that led to rice pad­dies, or­chards and deserts.

The trip be­gan in sti­fling 45 de­gree heat. It was no fun putting on the ar­moured biking gear and hel­met and they took ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to stop and drench them­selves in a river.

But by the time they made it to Leh – the north­ern­most town – the tem­per­a­tures were down to the 20s and when in the high moun­tain passes and un­der can­vas at night, be­low zero was the norm!

When try­ing to walk in the thin air of the high moun­tains they be­came in­creas­ingly glad that they were on mo­tor­bikes and not trekking.

Even 10 me­tres of walk­ing up an in­cline could of­ten take 10 min­utes of air-gasp­ing ef­fort.

Cul­tur­ally, the mainly Hindu pop­u­la­tion of Delhi and the plains gave way to an in­creas­ing Bud­dhist influence be­cause this is an area where many Ti­betans have es­caped to af­ter the Chi­nese in­va­sion of Ti­bet more than 20 years ago. Greet­ings of ‘‘Na­maste’’ quickly changed to ‘‘ Ju­ley’’ as Hindu tem­ples gave way to the many Bud­dhist Gumpas that were dot­ted along­side the road and high on moun­tain tops.

One of the most chal­leng­ing as­pects of the trip was the other driv­ers on the roads.

In In­dia, seem­ingly the only road rule is that there are no rules. Cars pass each other on blind cor­ners and ‘‘might is right’’.

Many times the bikes were dwarfed by the gaily dec­o­rated trucks, over­loaded buses and many army ve­hi­cles that filled the roads.

Of­ten though, the mo­tor­bikes were able to get through where many cars could not. On the first moun­tain pass – the Rhotang La – the bikes made the 52 km jour­ney in only 11⁄ hours, whereas the sup­port ve­hi­cle took over four!

The group of riders that fi­nally pulled into the ho­tel at Leh were greatly re­lieved and ex­hausted as they said good­bye to their dusty, trusty bikes.

Ev­ery­one sur­vived the trip with min­i­mal bumps or bruises – glad to have had the ex­pe­ri­ence but happy to have sur­vived as well.

They flew out of Leh air­port the next morn­ing. Planes can take off only in the cool, slightly less rar­efied air of the early morn­ing, and the take-off run is more than 2 km long due to the thin air at this al­ti­tude.

Many of the riders now headed for home or other coun­tries at the end of the trip. One cou­ple, Tim and Sue Ni­chol­son stayed for a cou­ple more weeks and re­turned to a town in the north called Manali.

Sue, a phys­io­ther­a­pist who works at Toko­roa Physio, worked at the hospi­tal there two years ago. She re­turned to visit old friends and to work an­other week as a vol­un­teer.

This time she took with her a treat­ment ma­chine, to be do­nated to the Physio Clinic at the Lady Willing­don Hospi­tal by her col­league Clare Fan­non. Sue spent her time at the hospi­tal work­ing with the phys­io­ther­a­pist there, Jo­hanah Hardy, and tak­ing inser­vice ed­u­ca­tion on new treat­ment con­cepts.

This re­mote hospi­tal is one of the most north­ern in In­dia. Jo­hanah of­ten re­lies on vis­it­ing ther­a­pists to help her learn new tech­niques.

So now it’s back home and back to work for the “Toko­roa Tight Five” af­ter an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

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