Saturday, August 24, 2013

Reasons to Ride Pangi Valley...

"We need sometimes to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what." - GEORGE SANTAYANA in The Philosophy of Travel

The HelmetStories Pangi Valley Ride was perhaps what Mr Santayana had in mind... starts 29 September, 2013


Thursday, August 22, 2013

PANGI VALLEY 2013: The mother of all rides

When you ride a motorcycle, and you crave adventure, you are always looking for that special road trip that challenges you and your bike to the core - a ride that resonates within you long after the ignition has been switched off and your battle-scarred bike finally silent. The champion of all adventure road trips is the Helmet Stories ride through the Pangi Valley in Himachal Pradesh. This gem of a little-travelled route — first pioneered by Helmet Stories in 2012 — is book-ended by Rohtang Pass on one side and the almost mythical Sach Pass on the other as we ride along the ever narrowing valley of the Chandra-Bhaga river through some of the most naturally beautiful locales in India. 

The roads are unpaved and narrow, hewed out of living rock, sometimes so high that the river looks like a shimmering silver ribbon below. The ride includes forays into abutting valleys and meadows, a route of seemingly endless twists, turns and elevation changes turning each day into a most excellent adventure on two wheels. 

There are no fast food chains or 5-star hotels on this route and it is so much so better for that. We camp below a thick canopy of stars, sometimes next to the river, or high up in the mountains with a scented mattress of pine needles below our sleeping bags. Before dark, the bonfire is lit, the grill fired up, the bar is open and it's time to exchange irreverent banter about the day well spent. 

The toughest day is the ride from the idyllic meadow of Sural Bhatori that crests Sach Pass, a road that crosses over the Chandra Bhaga and ascends through forests of bhojpatra, pine and deodhar before the terrifying switchbacks that take you to the summit. Beyond lies civilisation and the idyllic hamlet of McLeodGanj, an easy two days ride away. 
Only riders with a lust for extreme mountain roads, thin air and great food need apply!

Day 01 (29th September 2013): Manali - Tandi
Day 02 (30th September 2013): Tandi - Urgos
Day 03 (1st October 2013): Urgos  - Raoli
Day 04 (2nd October 2013): Raoli - Tindi
Day 05 (3rd October 2013): Tindi -  Sural
Day 06 (4th October 2013): Sural - Satrundi
Day 07 (5th October 2013): Satrundi - Khajjiar
Day 08 (6th October 2013): Khajjiar - McLeodganj
Day 09 (7th October 2013): McLeodganj - Chandigarh

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Check out AutocarIndia's report on the Helmetstories Pangi Valley Ride last year

Friday, August 16, 2013

RIDING ON THE ROOF OF LADAKH: A Helmet Stories short film

My son, Surya, has been messing around with my computers and as a surprise for me, he cobbled together a small clip of the vids we shot on GoPros on our July 2013 trip to Ladakh. I think we may have just unearthed Helmet Stories new film editor!
On the other hand, this vid sort of touches on the reasons why we love riding in Ladakh so much and why it touches us in that special way no matter how many times we ride there. We are still figuring out how to shoot on our clutch of GoPro cams and hopefully we'll figure out how to bring out some quality films soon. Meantime, keep watching this space... Cogito, Ergo Zoom!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Bid Adieu

We bid Adieu to the lake and start our ride back to Leh bringing to an end yet another awesome Helmet Stories ride.

Ill take the low road

Our camp at Pangong Tso was in Spagmik village by the banks of the lake. At some point the road forks out into two the high road is brand new with fresh Tarmac that hugs the mountain side and takes you to the village. The lower road more to our liking is a barely visible path that runs by the bank of the lake over mud, sand, rock and through pools of water.

Pangong Tso

The best part of Pangong Tso is when you get that first glimpse of the blue water between these brown mountains peeking at you a few kilometres away. As you get closer the lake gets larger and once you are on the bank you can't believe that only one third of this 130 km long lake is in India.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Our Royal Enfield Classic 500s take a brutal beating as the road deteriorates, just 5km from the summit, into an torture bed of rocks, mud and water crossings with the suspension working like jackhammers. How I wish I was riding Bumblebee! Finally, atop ChangLa it's time for a complimentary chai from the army before renewing the battle with the road.

Seerthi overlook, en route ChangLa

The road from Karu to ChangLa starts rising along a mountain stream that turns the ochre landscape into a narrow sward of lush green fields and willows sighing alongside its banks. This is a brief respite before the road keeps turning on itself to reach even greater heights.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Fort TsoKar

Just before the climb to TanglangLa, a small road heads towards the village of Phuga 18 km away close to TsoKar lake. Our night halt - TsoKar Eco Resort - looks like a battlement against wind and rain and we are glad to have some respite. Dinner was excellent too-- pasta and vegetables sautéed to perfection.

Thunder Road

As we topped the rise from Pang to the Moré Plains, we were confronted with a spectacular sight of thunder clouds barring our way. We stopped for an hour for the storm to pass before heading to Tso Kar. Even then, half an hour down the road we were pelted by a stinging hailstorm that hurt even through our protective gear.

Canyon Run

The ride down from LachungLa to Pang offers some spectacular views of ice and wind carved rock as we follow the Pang Nala all the way down.

Good morning Tso Kar

Waking up to Tso Kar to this view is a super start to the day.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Water crossing fun

Harsh and I are riding stock Classic 500s for a change and its been fun specially through the water crossings.

The sunny road to Darcha

In the last two years every time I have ridden down this stretch it has poured down so I was really kicked that the sun was out and not a cloud in the sky.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Cloudy with a chance of rain

As usual it looked like rain as we left Manali but fortunately the weather got better as we climbed up Rohtang.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Photo op at Gulaba

Wet in Paradise

Woke up this morning to the sight of dark clouds scudding over and into the mountains. Hopefully in a couple of hours, when we ride up to Rohtang Jot, the sun would have come out and made things more cheerier. Otherwise, we're in for a wet, wet ride to Tandi...