CONTINENTAL DRIFT – HIMALAYA REPORT
The Himalayan Mountain range stretches 2,400 kilometres along the Chinese border. It is the home of the world’s highest mountains and Darren and Dave of Continental Drift were determined to explore this region of China on their London to Sydney ride.
Two other riders from England on other brand bikes accompanied the boys, to cut down costs, as a guide is needed.
"We knew that we had to prepare for high altitudes as the Himalayan foothills sit between 4,000 (14,000 ft) and 5,400 metres (17,600 ft) and we spent time in Kyrgyzstan sleeping at altitude above 3,500 metres acclimatising. But what took us by surprise were poor road conditions caused by significant recent flooding and considerable road works."
A combination of altitude, reasonably challenging dirt conditions and long days in the saddle made for hard work and tested the boys and the bikes.
"We really didn't expect washed out deep water crossings, landslides cutting the roads, deep mud and truck ruts that went for kilometres that swallowed half the bike. Then later there was the bull dust, up to 40 cm thick in long stretches. Prior to this ride Darren hadn't had much dirt experience, well he has now, and it was good preparation for him for Australia."
Darren and Dave are impressed with the KTM 690 Enduro R’s when the going gets tough.
"The 690's handling in these conditions was outstanding and greatly appreciated. We had the ground clearance, the precise handling and long travel suspension. We didn't have to wrestle the bikes, and that meant we could do the job without getting exhausted in the altitude. The guys on the other bikes really struggled at times. We were on a good thing and both we and they knew it.
What surprised me was the ability of the fuel injection systems on the bikes to adapt to rapid changes in altitude and high altitude. The 690s remained responsive and powerful, even at 5,400 metres. The other brand bikes became very sluggish and slow in the extreme conditions."
Surprises for the boys were also found in the unique motorbike culture of the Xinjiang and Tibet provinces of China.
"In Kasghar, the Silk Road City, only electric bikes are allowed in the city centre. Bikes are everywhere and they perform really well, but it is so quiet. I can see other cities taking this step."
But the nomadic herders of Tibet were the boys favourite.
"The grassland people, as they are called by their city cousins, ride wonderfully decorated bikes and many have powerful sound systems and beat boxes. Catchy Tibetan melodies, punctuated with a modern dance beat, can be heard on the roads and in the paddocks as the shepherds tend their flock."
The Continental Drift boys are currently in Katmandu preparing for the second half of their journey, Bangkok to Sydney. A flight from Katmandu to Bangkok is necessary as Burma is closed to through traffic.
More info and pictures on their Facebook page: FB Continental Drift