Destination: Marsimik La, Kashmir
Altitude: 18,314 ft (5,582m)
Distance: 3,310km (2,070m)
Vehicle: Royal Enfield 500cc
Extra pepperoni and supplementary oxygen please
In this 3rd instalment of the “Wrong Way Round” series we rode Royal Enfields across the Indian Himalayas to attempt the world’s highest pizza delivery. With mechanical unreliability as sky high as the landscape we spent as much time under the bikes as on them. And who knew pizzas taste funny at 18,000ft.
Would you rather have brakes or a horn? Because evidently on a Royal Enfield you can’t have both. It is technically impossible for more than 40% of an Enfield’s parts to be working at any one time. And that’s assuming they are still attached to the bike.
When the bike rental company gives you six bikes and a box containing six spare clutches it doesn’t inspire confidence. To add to the drama it was good odds that at least one of the group would forget that on an Enfield the gear lever and rear brake lever are reversed. It’s easy to envisage an intended emergency stop being an unintended 4,000ft freefall to the valley floor. In the wrong gear. Welcome to Wrong Way Round Himalaya.
Touching the cloth
In mountaineering circles “Touching the Void” is the stuff of legend. A story of man versus mountain and triumph over adversity. Inspired by this epic achievement, Extreme Trifle took on the Himalayas in their own style. A bit more “Touching the Cloth”.
Unlike the original Wrong Way Round and its sequel, Wrong Way Round Sahara, this was a controversial move away from our tried and trusted Yamaha Townmates. Due to Indian bureaucracy by the time we’d have shipped our bikes to India and had them clear customs plate tectonics would have shifted the Himalayas to just north of Birmingham. So local rent-a-heap it was.
On this occasion the team used Royal Enfields sourced in Kashmir. These machines are a fine example of British engineering, unfortunately from a time when the finest examples of British engineering were Morris Minors and Mousetrap.
As with all our trips, the plan did not go to plan. This was the planned plan:
From base camp in Manali we would head north to start an ascent to 13,050ft up the Rohtang La pass. Translated from Tibetan it means “Pile of Corpses”, which is nice. The realisiation that we should have spent more time acclimatising would dawn on us, as one by one, we all experienced the sort of headaches you only get when drinking a Slush Puppie too fast.
A road death every five minutes
According to the History Channel series “Ice Road Truckers: Deadliest Roads” someone dies (and presumably gets reincarnated) every 5 minutes on these roads. Extreme Trifle logic dictated that so long as we stopped every 4 minutes and 59 seconds we’d manage to avoid avalanches, landslides, hypothermia, and ALL Indian drivers.
Having conquered our first mountain pass, the journey would then meander up and down Bara Lacha La (16,040 ft), Lachulung La (16,600 ft) and Tanglang La (17,582 ft). We would then take on the world’s highest motorable pass, Khardung La. At a whopping 18,380 ft, that’s almost 1,000ft higher than Everest Base camp. And then we’d be doing the difficult bit.
Although Khardung La gets all the plaudits for being the highest, Marsimik La is actually higher. However, it doesn’t get a lot of mentions because it is not considered “motorable”. We don’t know what the Tibetan transalation is but it’s probably something like “considerably higher pile of corpses than Rohtang La”.
Rumour has it that there is an even higher pass (Ooh La La) but this has yet to be backed up by scientific data.
A new world record
Once reaching the summit we’d plant the Union Jack and take in the breathtaking views. That’s apt since actually taking a breath at that altitude is an achievement in itself. We also planned to set a new world record for the highest ever pizza delivery. This required several things.
- Someone to order a pizza
- That person to be located in a spot higher than any person who’d ordered a pizza before
- Us to deliver a pizza to that person
So off we set knowing that if we got lost and turned too far left we’d end up on the front line between India and Pakistan. Or, if we got lost and turned too far right we’d end up in China sentenced to ten years hard labour for spying. Either scenario was at best inconvenient and guaranteed to mean we’d miss our flight home. But hey, world records don’t come easy.
To find out how the actual plan compared watch this space. But not for too long, or it will make your eyes go funny.