It was the day to finally meet our Royal Enfield, the bike that would take us from Himalachan Pradesh to Ladakh.
We rented the bike from a reputable garage in Manali called Anu Autoworks. Anu, the owner, gets raved constantly on travel forums as a trustworthy, good mechanic with incomparable knowledge of the area.
We got a lift to the garage from Gudu, the owner of the guest house where we were staying in Old Manali (Orchard House). He insisted to come as he used to have and Enfield and wanted to make sure that what we got was a good bike.
The garage is just outside the village of Manali on a very steep slope with bad tarmac: the ideal place to get acquainted with a new bike with the pedal controls the wrong way around!! Yes, the brake on this bike is on the left and the gears are on the right, with first gear up and all other gears down (neutral between every gear!).
The guys at the garage were very good and they made sure that I was happy with the bike (which they fitted with a large tank and luggage rack for our journey) before I took off for a day of test riding.
The next day we went to test the bike and our gear on a small trip to Naggar, about an hour and a half away from Manali, down the Kullu valley, where there is a nice Gompa monastery (Kais). We got to experience the monsoon first hand with lots of rain but thanks to our gear we did not get too wet. The waterproofs we got from Tucano Urbano were superb.
The bike felt stable but it was not a lot of fun to ride. The amount of concentration required to dodge cows, dogs, people on the road, the manic traffic even on the mountain roads was very high. That combined with having to think constantly about where the gears were and the break, took a lot away from the joy of riding. Although I though it was just a matter of getting used to it...
The Gompa in Kais was very nice. The place was on a hill top and was arranged in a way where people lived all inside a complex of houses surrounding the temple.
We were welcomed in and allowed into the temple, which was not ancient but still very nice and had that character of a place of worship that gets used everyday.
On the altar a plaque read: "never commit any evil deeds, accumulate a wealth of merits, completely tame one's own mind, this is the teaching of Buddha"