JO­HAN BADENHORST

The man from Voet­spore Rid­ing through the clouds

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

The high­est motorable moun­tain pass in the world: Khardung La. 5 603 me­tres above sea level. This was our aim as we headed for the Hi­malayas in north­ern In­dia. There was a win­dow of about three months of the year when it is pos­si­ble to drive this pass in Jammu and Kash­mir.

By now our jour­ney had taken us from Mum­bai to Kanyaku­mari in the south. We trav­elled along the east coast past Chen­nai and Kolkata. We vis­ited Dar­jeel­ing in the southern Hi­malayas and from there trav­elled to Bodh Gaya, Varanasi, Kha­ju­raho, Agra and Delhi. Our big­gest chal­lenge was the heat of the In­dian sum­mer, and the driv­ing skills of the lo­cal driv­ers. (No place on Earth, not even Cairo or Nairobi, chal­lenged us as driv­ers as much as In­dia)

By the time we reached Manali on the foothills of the Hi­malayas, we had cov­ered 8 000 kilo­me­tres with the Royal En­fields and two Toy­ota Land Cruis­ers.

Two more riders joined us. Fran­cois Marais has been part of the Voet­spore team since 2001. Be­cause of his du­ties at our shop and fit­ment cen­tre in Pre­to­ria, it is not al­ways pos­si­ble for him to join a full Voet­spore ex­pe­di­tion. But he man­aged to set two weeks of his busy sched­ule aside for this spe­cial chal­lenge.

Edrique Botha has slowly but surely been getting more and more in­volved with Voet­spore. I once helped him and a few friends plan a Cape to Cairo jour­ney on their BMW 1200 GSs. Since then, we have had a few joint ven­tures. He was keen to do the Leh/Ladakh route with us on a Royal En­field.

Stre­icher and I were is­sued with two new Hi­malayans. This is the lat­est ad­di­tion to the Royal En­field range of mo­tor­bikes. The Hi­malayan was de­signed with the route we were about to tackle in mind. It is a bit of an of­froader. A baby GS. One with­out the frills.

Most riders still pre­fer to use the trusted Clas­sic (either 350 or 500cc), or the Bul­let. The rental agen­cies in Manali have few Hi­malayans avail­able. They still need to be con­vinced about the re­li­a­bil­ity of the bike. So we rented a Bul­let for Fran­cois and a Clas­sic for Edrique.

On a Sun­day af­ter­noon, just af­ter lunch, we set off from Manali. Our first chal­lenge was one of the most dan­ger­ous moun­tain passes in the world. With its top at 3 978 me­tres, the Ro­htang Pass does not sound too much of a chal­lenge, but the name lit­er­ally trans­lates to “pile of dead bod­ies”, re­fer­ring to

Left: The Khardung La Pass – the high­est motorable pass in the world – is an in­tim­i­dat­ing moun­tain road with­out any bar­ri­ers. The dropoffs are scary. Top right: Camp­ing in the icy moun­tains wasn’t pleas­ant. Tem­per­a­tures were freez­ing. Be­low: The team reach the top of the Khardung La Pass at 5 603m.

Jo­han Badenhorst is prob­a­bly South Africa’s best-known over­lan­der, with his amaz­ing ad­ven­tures tele­vised on SABC2. He also knows a lot about pa­tience – prob­a­bly the best at­tribute if you plan on trav­el­ling the African con­ti­nent.

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