The front wheel skids to the left causing the motorbike to tip onto its' side. I don't have time to put my feet down as the full weight of the bike pins us to the planks of the bridge. I pull free while the back wheel is still spinning. No one is seriously injured, just a few scraps and bruises. We lift the bike back up to find the starter and air filter cover laying on the ground. In no time and with the help of a large stone, they are again attached to the bike. One kick and it roars back into life, only to die again 2 km later. Luck is with us as we are just outside a very run down guesthouse where we, after doing some major repairs on the bike, are forced to sleep the night snuggled up with some friendly bed bugs and curious flies.
My eyes become heavy to the sound of screaming babies, passing trucks and loud voices, the broken pane of glass providing little protection from the din outside. My thoughts wander back to the morning when we embarked on this adventure in Leh.
The roar of the Indian made 350 cc Royal Enfield filled the air. Its' tremendous weight requiring two people to pull it onto its' stand as we park it outside our current favourite breakfast spot. Swapping my bike for this poorly designed machine with a cool factor which can't be beaten in India. All walks of life straddle these metal beasts to cruise the wild roads of India in search of themselves (or, in many cases, others), and always to the most distinctive vroom which only an Enfield can make. At a rate of about 8 euros per day, you can't complain about much. No brake lights or indicators is no reason not to ride, so we're off, us and the open road.
It's not long before back brake locks up on one of the bikes, sending it skidding 30 m down the road. Two passing locals on a scooter lend a hand to get us back on the road. Soon after one bike skids on loose gravel and the other falls over while crossing a bridge. By now one is missing a foot pedal and the other has lost the starter lever and air filter cover, nothing that can stop us. But just a few k's later one of the bikes stops and refuses to start, petrol drips continuously from the engine. Locals are summoned but fail to solve the problem, luck has it that we are in front of a very run down guest house where we are forced to stay the night. Working in the dark I remove the carburetor to try to solve the engine problems, I clean it and replace it, still no luck, the engine is flooded. Waiting and hoping for the morning for it to have dried out is the only option.
I'm woken early by passing trucks, one after the other from 4 or 5 am. I drag myself up and head straight for the bike, with no key required (that surely broke off years ago), I kick the start (replaced with the help of a large rock) and Vvvvvroooooooom, it roars into life, yes! We're back in action. Not giving up easily we leave as quickly as possible, 3 out of 4 of us are left suffering from stomach problems from the dinner the night before, heading further to Lamayuru Monastery where we should have slept the night.
The road begs the nerves to remain calm as dozens of hairy switchbacks take us up up up to a cliff hugging road where each blind corner is made more exciting by the oncoming army convoys, with only the horn (working on just one bike) to warn them of your approach. With the rain starting we finally arrive to have a quick look at the monastery before heading back to Leh to re-acquaint myself with my far more reliable mode of transport. A two day adventure with more mishaps than 3.5 months on the bike. Lucky it wasn't for a week!