The Himalayan Challenge

21 September - 11 October 2018


SEPTEMBER 25, 2018

Manali - Late Extra

All together now

The weather eased this morning so the ERA team swiftly put plan A into action. Under a blue sky with fluffy white clouds, the evacuation of the Manu Allaya hotel began.

Those crews who had been billeted in this, the original rally HQ hotel on the Old Leh Manali Road, were ferried down the mountain in a fleet of open backed pickup trucks to the impasse, a yawning chasm some 10 metres across, where the road used to be. Luckily, a narrow strip of tarmac remained, strewn with rocks and rubble, along one side of the void, and it was just wide enough to carefully walk along. With John Spiller on the lookout for any more falling boulders, and Rikki Proffit acting as a baggage carrier, everyone made it safely across.

  The road to Manali

On the way over, there was barely any time to take in the magnificent views, but those who did manage to steal a glance upwards saw the most impressive snow-capped peaks on all sides of the valley. This is what we’ve been missing for the last three days and sadly what we’ll probably miss tomorrow now that very same snow has blocked the Rohtang Pass to the north.

Another bumpy ride in another open backed pickup took the crews to the only bridge left standing in Manali and thence across into the town centre where we’d left the cars on that very wet night.

In the, by now, steaming school carpark, the sweeps were hard at it already. They’d found themselves on the right side of the landslide when we first arrived so they had a head start on matters and they were very busy.

Ludovic Bois and Julia Coleman’s Volvo was only firing on three cylinders on the way into Manali and today was the first opportunity they’d had to look under the bonnet. Fuel problems, electrical gremlins and even a blown head gasket all fell under suspicion.

Graham and Marina Goodwin’s Bentley - Horace to its friends - badly needed his electrical equipment drying out. Those wet nights parked in the open had taken their toll and Graham had every wire and plug out of the engine and into the sun.

Similarly Jonathon and Freddie Turner were looking at rectifying some minor electrical issues, as were Philip Lunnon and Michael Draper - again with a Bentley.

Jamie Turner was deep into Roland Singer and Hans Maus’s Saab which had suffered what they thought was a recurring fuel pump problem on the way into Manali but, on closer examination, the trouble was more likely to have been caused by some dirt which had worked its way into the carburettor.

Away from the school yard, Keith and Norah Ashworth had used their rest day wisely and had managed to get their cracked Mercedes manifold welded. They’ll have a much quieter ride from now on.

David and Jo Roberts unfortunately are now back in Delhi. They lost their transmission before they got to Manjeev’s Ridge and have had to truck their Triumph to the capital for either repairs or repatriation. With the hold ups we’ve had and the likelihood of a re-route there’s a chance that they’ll be able to affect a repair and catch up.

We’re pretty much now gruppo compatto, settled in the White Mist Hotel, south of Manali, on the east bank of the Beas River which, thankfully has calmed down a lot. It has however left quite a trail of destruction and, John and Gill Cotton, along with Guy Woodcock and Sarah Ormerod who had been sent out to look at route options had to return to base, because another road had vanished.

The 48 hour crew, comprising Dick Appleton and Chris Mills, fared a little better though. On reaching another failed bridge, they strapped their packs to their backs, clambered across a suspension bridge and hiked to a village to rendezvous with another hire car so as to carry on down to Shimla.

The mood in camp is very good and the crews are doing their best to live up to that famous rally maxim “when the going gets tough, the tough go to the bar”.

Syd Stelvio



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