Special report: how to fix a flat tire in semi-rural Pakistan

in Bike problems, KKH, Pakistan by on July 28th, 2010

About 1,500km in, we experienced our first flat tire in the village of Gulmet Nagar, about 45km north of Besham.  Luckily, the tire shop was only 2 mins away.

The AT without its back wheel

The local tire repairman removing the inner tube while a crowd looks on

The tiny nail which caused a huge problem

The machine which he used to patch the inner tube, must have been about 50 years old

We had a much smaller problem than these guys with the truck tire!

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Special Report: how to fix a broken bike rack in semi-rural Pakistan

in Bike problems, KKH, Pakistan by on July 28th, 2010

One piece of advice for other motorcycling travelers: make sure that you have a good system of panniers or at least a good system for securing luggage to the bike.  We had faced problems with the bike rack on the Enfield in India especially due to the bumpiness of the roads.  And we are having some problems now too, but we are better at spotting and fixing any breaks after our previous experience.

So here we give you some tips for how to get a broken bike rack fixed in rural areas (in this case Besham in Pakistan):

1)   Try to get new screws to secure the broken parts together.

2)   If there is no drill in the WHOLE village (as is the case in Besham), try to get the broken parts welded together.

3)   Always make sure you have enough fuel for the welding machine (which will probably be about 50 years old); if you run out, it will take about an hour to find enough fuel in the whole village (as is the case in Besham again).

Workman with 50-year-old welding machine, which amazingly enough, still worked!

4)    After you get it fixed, just in case, still secure your panniers and luggage with as many rubber straps as possible.

Being "kiasu" with lots of extra rubber straps to secure the pannier

5)    Lastly and most importantly, do not forget to take photos of the process and with the local worksmen to show friends and family back home.

MJo with the workman and the rest of the village

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Delhi to Leh: day 6

in Bike problems, India by on July 15th, 2010

Final day on the road!  We had to ride the 250km to Leh in one day because there was nowhere else to spend the night in between (and at an average speed of 20km/h this was again to be a loooooong day).

Our route for the day

We started well with the sun out in full force.  Along the way to our first pass of the day, we ran into Frank, an Australian biker doing a RTW ride with whom MJo had been corresponding with prior to the trip.  Even though we had never met him before, Sabby had a sixth sense that it was Frank when she saw all the kangaroo stickers on his BMW.

Shortly after we ran into Frank, we realised that our bike rack had broken apart on both sides (the heavy luggage, 2 people and the constant pounding of the road, had taken its toll).  We managed to offload one bag to an Indian biker that came along and continued on.

Did you really expect our bike woes to end at that????? given it was the last day of our journey?  Well, the throttle cable snapped yet again!  This time, we didn’t know how far we were from a town, so we unpacked all our stuff by the roadside and sat down for lunch.

Waiting, waiting, waiting...

Luckily help came soon.  We were able to flag down an army jeep.  The colonel was able to instruct his driver as to how to repair our broken throttle cable (which we now carried a spare one of).  And he was also kind enough to offer us to get our broken bike rack welded at the army camp half a click away.

All the soldiers fussing over our bike

After the welding a big group hug with the Colonel and his battalion

In the meantime, we decided that it would be too much for the bike to continue on with Sabby (no punt intended at her weight) and the luggage also onboard.  So MJo found a friendly group of German tourists and offloaded Sabby and the bags to their convoy.  Sabby was actually quite excited at the thought of travelling by luxury vehicle (comparatively) and playing rich spoilt tourist.

We passed through some amazing scenery around Moray Plains.

The rest of the afternoon was the usual schnick-schnack – road closures, mountain passes etc.  But the drama started again after we crossed Tanglangla pass (5300m).  Sabby started feeling the effects of the altitude and spent the rest of the afternoon/evening with a headache and nausea.  Note to others: always give yourself enough time to acclimatise to altitude, it makes for a better rest at night.

MJo, on the other hand…the bike rack completely disintegrated soon after the pass, in spite of the very recent welding job the army guys did.  Guess the bumpiness of the roads was too much for the rack.  The bike rack fell onto the back brake and broke it.  MJo had to ride the last 60km to Leh with only the front brake.  Luckily the roads were relatively smooth.

Our bike rack at the end of its life

We finally made it to Leh around 845pm, within 30 seconds of each other, despite having such different modes of transport.  The first hotel we went to was full, but we eventually found something across the street.

It had been a rough journey getting to Leh.  As Sabby put it, “two possible outcomes from this week: either we decide that we’ve faced the full range of problems that we would face on a two-month trip within one short week and so decide to spend the rest of our time on a tropical beach somewhere OR we would never need to get married after two months on the road together coz we would have dealt with more than most married couples face over their whole marriage.”

On reflection, it was almost a miracle that we made it to Leh safe and sound in spite of all the problems we faced along the way.  Yes we were challenged, but we also received a lot of help and luck along the way which made it easier for us to deal with the challenges. Thanks to all those that provided their help and assistance.

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Delhi to Leh: day 5

in Bike problems, India by on July 15th, 2010

Feeling refreshed after our rest day in Manali and more importantly, feeling encouraged by the sun’s appearance, we decided to get a very early start (5am) to ride the whole distance from Manali to Sarchu in a day (about 12-13 hours).  Even though it was only 225km, today’s route would take us through two mountain passes and some pretty tough roads.

Our first challenge: getting over Rohtangla pass (3984m) which had been closed due to a landslide.

You can see in the bottom left corner of the picture, all the cars which were stuck and unable to pass the landslide section of the road

Again, MJo’s determination and persistence got us through the landslide section (with the truck drivers stuck there for the past three days looking on in disbelief but also with some hope).  In fact, we were the first ones to make it over the pass around 8ish.  We heard later from other travellers that they were only allowed to cross the pass around noon when the major boulders had been removed by the army.

The ride from there got better as the sun appeared and stayed with us for the rest of the day.  It made all the scenery that had looked so ominous and drab in the rain, look green and fresh.  Our mood also lifted as the clouds went away.

Our bike with the bright blue tarpulin protecting our luggage against a beautiful backdrop of green valleys and sunshine

After 6 hours of riding, we stopped in Keylong for lunch.  Sabby decided to order a sumptuous lunch since, to quote MJo, we didn’t know “when or where we would get our next meal, so better eat while we can!” His primal survival instincts had taken over….

It would not have been right for the day to pass without some problem with the bike though.  Sure enough, the exhaust muffler fell off as MJo was riding to fill up gas.  Luckily this was a rather minor repair which the local mechanic could fix quickly.  And soon we were off again.

We headed up our second pass of the day – Barlachala pass (4912m) – without a hitch.  We were very fortunate as we later heard from other travellers that there had been two avalanches the day before.

Yeay, we made it!!

We spent the night in Sarchu – a semi-permanent settlement of tents.  Basically tented accommodation pops up during the summer months to accommodate travellers otherwise there is nothing else between Manali and Leh.  We were pleasantly surprised at the quality of our tented accommodation; in Sabby’s language she called it the Aman of tents.  We crashed at 830pm, the earliest we have been to sleep so far.

Our camp with its tents against the beautiful mountain landscape

One last thing about the day.  MJo had warned about the inevitability of falling off the bike on such roads and mud yet Sabby had not believed him. But the muddy road conditions today meant that it was difficult to maneuver the weight of the bike (plus all the luggage) at times, while dodging passing trucks.  We fell a couple of times today, not always gracefully, but we always managed to pick ourselves up and get back onto the road quickly.

Sabby covered in mud after one of our wipeouts

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Delhi to Leh: day 3

in Bike problems, India by on July 15th, 2010

We had planned to start the day early to make up for the time lost yesterday.  Although the monsoon season had started in earnest, we managed to get the bike all packed up and ready to go by 7am.  But guess what?  We had a flat tire!!

In a stroke of genius, we decided to look for the mechanic from yesterday.  After driving around town we found Manu’s place again.  Sabby went into the house he shared with several other families, in full motorcycle garb including helmet, yelling his name at the top of her voice.  Manu’s poor neighbours!!  When we found him, the poor guy was still in bed.  It was too early for the repair shops to be open so we spent the next two hours waiting in his dad’s room watching Bollywood TV while all the neighbourhood kids came by to marvel at the strange sight of a white man and a chinese lady in motorcycle gear.  The kids loved MJo and he played with them while waiting.

MJo with the neighbors kids

We eventually got the tire fixed and got on our way.  It was a nice ride up to Mandi where we stopped for lunch.

After lunch, the fun and games started again.  About 10km from Mandi, we ran into Sunny (who’d given us a ride to Bilaspur the day before) who told us that the road between Mandi and Kullu was closed but that there was apparently an alternate route we could take.  The alternate route started off as a scenic road through the mountains until we hit the “big jam”!  The road was a narrow one-lane road not designed for accommodating same amount of traffic as a highway, so surprise surprise, it got jammed when cars came from both directions.

You think the traffic looks bad?

Throw in some BIG army trucks on a narrow mountain road and you get gridlock!

We managed to push our way through, thanks to us being on a bike rather than being in a car and especially due to MJo’s off road riding skills.  We eventually made our way past the gridlock and were the only people to get through.  By that time it was getting dark.  We had no choice though but to carry on as we were in the middle of nowwhere.

Then we realised that all this detouring the past 10 hours must had eaten up a lot of fuel and we were now running out of that very thing! It was us, the dark, the mountain pass and the rain and no gas station was likely to be found in these areas for a while.  On the way down from the pass, MJo put the bike into neutral and let gravity take us the rest of the way out of the woods.  Fortunately we found a gas station about 3 km after we turned onto the main road (by then it was 9pm).

Fuelled up, MJo stepped on the accelerator and we sped our way towards Naggar where we received a warm welcome from Ajay, a paragliding instructor MJo had met in Nepal while skiing there a couple of months earlier.  Ajay offered us much needed comfort in the form of hot food, warm whiskey and chai (tea) and most importantly a bed for our weary bodies to crash into.  It had been a long day and we were just thankful that we made it safe and sound in spite of everything.

Our kind host in Naggar - Ajay

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