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Old 09-12-2012, 09:48 PM   #1
ES059MTK's Avatar
Joined: Aug 2012
Location: Denver
Oddometer: 41
Manali-Leh Highway and then some

This is my first ride report. It's for posterity.
12 years ago I bought a plane ticket to travel around the world. Denver-Canada-Fuiji-New Zealand-Australia-Singapore-Malaysia-Thailand-Nepal-India-England-Denver. It took almost a year. When I started I left a 94' CBR1000F at home. I had no plans of riding motorcycles in any of the destinations I was traveling to. But as I traveled slowly they crept in. First it was a DR250 I rented for a day in New Zealand

then a 50cc moped in Malaysia,

a fj1200 in Thailand, 150cc four strokes in Nepal. Until at last I saw in Katmandu my first Enfield 350 Bullet! The sweet sound of that single 350cc cyclinder! The unmistakable English design, what's not to like? I had to have one!
So this is the story of me my Enfield and Larissa, a Dutch girl I picked up in Manali, India.
I recently bought this

which has led me to think about this

and this

and this

so I dug up the old photos, had them scan to disk (which I was going to get around to some day) and decided to post the experience on advrider. While digging up photos I found a journal I kept for this trip. It being 12 years ago I not only found it amusing but realized I had forgotten most of the details. So I will post this journal for posterity. Be warned that I was no avid motorcycle adventurer. Just a 25 year old seeking adventure. Here goes...

That's me, and yes I'm sporting a man purse. I'd been traveling for 7 months and drinking quite heavily until now. That's a
Ricshaw that I don't fit in. Which is standard for Taxi in India. This is in Manali roughly the end of May.

This is Larissa

My trusty Steed All loaded up with our gear.
This is a Journal of a trip that Larissa and I took. It's a Giant loop that started in Manali and ended in Manali. Involves: Keylong, Leh, Nubra Valley, Lamayura, Kargil, Srinagar, Jammu, Daramsala, and back to Manali. About 1,500 Miles.
WARNING: The content inside were not written by a professional author, nor have they been edited. Spelling is atrocious and grammer is pitiful! Sorry! Tyler

I’ve met a Dutch girl named Larissa. She’s 22, 5’10” or 11”, blonde hair and blue eyes and she’s fearless! She’s been in India for 5 months. She’s much more fearless than I. She’s convinced me to ride with her on my motorcycle into Leh, Ladahk, then into Kashmir. I am nervous, but not paranoid. I’ve heard great stories about people traveling through Kashmir, and I’ve heard bad stories.

They are mostly Muslim in Kashmir. Which means two things, they don’t like Americans and they don’t like Israelis’. Being an American this doesn’t really set my mind at ease. I hope to buy an authentic Kashmiri carpet there. Since the tourist industry is seriously stunted from war and terrorist attacks, the carpets should be cheap.
Larissa and I set off from Manali quite late. We had a big piss up with two English guys and found a party in the mountains the night before. About noon we gathered ourselves together and decided to head off. As usual things just take longer in India. We actually didn’t leave until 4 o’clock. This is stupid!
Our first objective was to cross the Rotang pass. The Rotang pass sits at about 15,000 ft. and Manali (our starting point) sits at about 3,000 ft. From Manali to the top of the pass is about 20km, or 10 miles. So, it’s straight up! Larissa is from Holland, so she doesn’t know any better, but I’m from Colorado I know this is just silly! You never, ever, go up a 15,000 ft. pass at 4 o’clock in the afternoon! It’s just dumb!

(Nothing like making an ass out of your self to forget how cold you are)
We made it to the top of the pass by about 6 o’clock. It was freezing. I don’t think Larissa had any idea it would be that cold up there. We stopped for Chi (tea) on the top of the pass as clouds flew overhead. We put on all of our cloths.
Coming down the other side was much faster, but no less cold and the sun was setting, quickly. Needless to say at about 9:30PM we were about 10 miles outside of Keylong (which is where we planned to stay) when I heard a sort of metallic clanking sound coming from the rear tire. The back end of the bike felt unusually loose as well. Sure enough around the next bend I almost lost it. We had a flat rear tire.
This is the point where you stop the bike, get off, light a cigarette, look at each other and laugh. As if this really isn’t happening, is it? It is happening and it needs to be dealt with. So then you start going over the options. I should have bought an extra tube in Manali or Delhi. But things are really hard to find in any Indian city. So I never really went to the trouble to get one. I also had the opportunity to buy a foot pump, but I didn’t want to spend the money, as usual ill prepared.
Funny though at this point I thought Larrissa would loose it on me. Tell me how irresponsible I am, not to travel without a spare tube and pump! But she didn’t. She might have wanted to, but she didn’t.
There we were flat tire about 10 miles outside Keylong and no one around in the pitch-black. We saw a few lights off in the distance, so Larissa decided to walk around the corner and see what she could see. As she left I pulled out another cigarette and lit it. I sat down on the bike and began to ask myself “Why do I put myself in these situations?” Never did find an answer.
Larissa came back and said there are two small huts with lights on not more than a mile away. We thought about knocking on one of the doors and just asking if we could sleep on the floor or something. Neither of us really wanted to do this because of the language barrier. I’m sure the people would be friendly and take us into their home, feed us and give us a place to sleep but, you have to sit and half talk and half sign to communicate. It’s a lot more tiring than it sounds.
Discussing this we noticed some lights coming towards us. The road that we were on, wound around a mountain side. So the car or truck coming towards us would only reflect its lights on another hill on the other side of the canyon when it went around certain bends. As we saw these reflections my hart would race with excitement and fear. This could mean a potential ride into Keylong, which meant warm dry beds and good food! It also meant that whoever turned that corner, well, we were at their mercy.
As it turned out 3 Tatas turned the corner. (A Tata is a Mack truck essentially.) In India there is only one kind of truck, Tata. They make everthing from busses to dump trucks.

The first Tata stopped and we tried to explain as simple as possible that we had a flat tire and we needed a ride into Keylong. The men only spoke Hindi. They said something in Hindi and drove off. The second stopped as well. We explained the same thing and this time they motioned for us to get in.
It was quite warm and comfortable inside. There was driver of about 35 or so and a young boy next to the window. The roads in India vary constantly from gravel to river crossings to fresh pavement. In Tatas they employ a young boy to make sure it can clear narrow parts in the road.
We were all quiet for they only spoke Hindi and we were tired. I think after 5 or 10 minutes in a truck like this you start to feel more comfortable. You no longer have the notion that these people are going to take all your money, kill you and leave you by the side of the road. After 20 minutes, we felt like we had an ordeal and dealt with it. Now we would be rewarded with nice cozy beds. We both spoke too soon.
About 5 miles outside of Keylong in a place called Tandi our blessed Tata stopped. The driver told us and signed with his hands that they would eat and sleep there and move in the morning. He clearly wanted us to stay too. They apparently sleep on the top of their Tatas. He pulled out a bottle of rum and offered it to us. I was inclined to drink some rum and sleep on top of this Tata. But Larrissa would have nothing to do with it. She decided for the both of us that we would walk on until a taxi or tata picked us up or until we eventually arrived in Keylong.
Although we got a late start we were completely exhausted. We each had at least 20-30 pounds of gear on our backs, not to mention 3 one gallon gas containers full of gas. I had absolutely no intention of walking 5 miles to keylong. We simply had to find a place to stay before that.
Luckily we passed a Chi shop in Tandi that was semi open. The door was open and the lights were on. There was one old man sitting at a table on a bench eating. I walked in and asked if he spoke English. He replied yes and I began asking him if there was any place in this town we could stay. He said “Not in Tandi” immediately I realized he was drunk.

He sat us down talked to us for 5 minutes. We told him our situation and he said we could sleep on the benches in his Chi shop. He gave us food and gave us some locally brewed wheat wine, which was terrible, but we drank it anyway out of politeness. This man was very kind but very drunk, and obviously in a state to tell a couple of westerners his philosophy on life.
His philosophy was simple. He was Hindu. And all people were under one god together, except Pakistanis and Israelis. They were both bad people. He kept repeating this. “One God…All of us under one God…Except Pakistanis…they ta-ta with their guns, they bad. And Israelis their attitude is bad.”
He eventually let us sleep with this comforting notion that I was his son, and Larissa his daughter.

That's the first day of our Trip. More to come, but I type slow. Journal is written in a Shaktimaan (Indian Super Hero) note book. Have to type it in.

ES059MTK screwed with this post 09-13-2012 at 05:49 AM Reason: Messed up the pics
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Old 09-13-2012, 08:16 PM   #2
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Great post. Looking fwd to more. Confused on the chronology, is that you on the moped "then a 50cc moped in Malaysia". Can't be if 12 years have passed since the ricshaw pic.
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Old 09-13-2012, 09:38 PM   #3
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Joined: Aug 2012
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Sorry, I'm new at this, and I'm digging up old photos. I never intended to post any of this online, otherwise would have kept better records. That is Marco a swiss guy I met on the 50cc moped, we both spent a couple weeks or so riding around the Island of Georgetown in northern Malaysia. I rented a bike just like his.
Thanks for checking out the thread
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Old 09-13-2012, 09:39 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by ES059MTK View Post
Sorry, I'm new at this, and I'm digging up old photos.
No need to apologize. You're doing great so far.
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Old 09-13-2012, 09:51 PM   #5
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Being a n00b, I forgot to start with this.

In the morning we were woken at 6 o’clock. They threw the door open with a great bang and started to rustle around the shop. Wasn’t long before a much sobered old man told us he had a potato farm that needed tending. We thanked him and I set off for my bike to fix the tire.

I hitch hiked out to the bike which wasn’t a problem. And then, tire in hand, hitch hiked to a small town to get it fixed. All in all it only took me about 3 hours to dix the tire and ride it to where Larrissa was in Tandi.

We were still tired and dirty and not quite fed properly so we went in to Keylong checked into a posh hotel with a color T.V. and room service. We ate and watched T.V. from bed all day and night. On the T.V. we saw a Kashmiri news special in English about tourism there. It was very positive. They said there are 1000 Indian tourists arriving in Kashmir every day, and that it is a very safe place. Ahhh, what a wonderful nights sleep!
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Old 09-14-2012, 08:40 PM   #6
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Have you ever felt like something or someone somewhere is trying to tell you something? That all the odds are against you? My day has been like this and it’s not over yet.
We woke this morning to find the back tire of the bike flat again. After numerous curses, I took the tire back off and took it 2 blocks to a “Tire puncture repair place” The guy there took the tube out of the tire filled it up and submerged it in a tin tub of water. He found no hole. He put the tube back in the tire filled it up again, said some snide remark in Hindi and charged me 30 rupees. ($.90 U.S.) Feeling quite foolish, I paid the man and marched off back to the bike, and Larissa.
We loaded up our gear and quite cheerfully set out for Sachu. We made it about 9km before the rear tire literally exploded. Luckily we were going slow enough that it wasn’t a problem. This is when I decided the Gods were against us and it might be wise not to challenge them. I got off the bike and somehow (after a period of silence) decided not to give up

(No, I'm not wearing makeup, that is dirt and soot,
and yes that is how I look when I'm really pissed off,
and yes Larissa thought this was amusing enough to take a picture)

I took the tire off once again and hailed a jeep down that took me back into town. When it was all said and done, I’d spent 150 rupees. I had a new tube, new valve, spare patches and glue. I made it back to the bike and Larissa at about 2 o’clock and we set off.
I guess you could say that this is the true start of our trip. I think everything before this was just mishap.

Up and over two beautiful passes, the landscape changed dramatically.

Green grass on rolling hillsides turned to harsh rock and dust. This was what I’d been told was in Ladkh, “moonscape”. I don’t think that term really fits the landscape. To me it looked much more like mars.

After these two cold passes, we landed in a sort of plateau.

This landscape was inspiring. It’s the sort of landscape that is so sublime it looks more like a painting than real. Off in the distance to both sides were huge rock mountains jutting up from the ground. In the shadows of the mountains the color had a hint of blue from the distance. The weather was warm, and the road was smooth, flat and straight. I finally felt like I had arrived. This is what I had come for. And this was why it was so hard to get here.

As we arrived in Sachu, we were stopped at the police check post so they could write down our information. These halfwits obviously were not liked at home. I’m not quite sure how things work in India but, I believe you would have to do something terribly wrong to be stationed way the fuck out here! Sachu (as we were told by the police) existed of their police camp (5 tents) and an army base 5km down the road. (10 tents) It was about 6 when we arrived. The sun was setting, so we were left with the wonderful choice of sleeping with the police. (A no, no in India, Cops usually are worse than crooks in India) Or sleeping with the Army. (no thanks)
We actually really never had to decide because 4 young Indian college students pulled up before we could work out a deal. One of them spoke better Hindi than us and he also spoke better English than the police so he negotiated for us.
This is where it gets tricky. The college kid told us he was our friend and he would help us. He told us not to worry. He would negotiate with the police for one of their police tents for a small fee. And if they would have nothing to do with it then we could sleep with them in their truck. Well the price came down to 150 rupees each, but we only got one bed in a police tent and the police in two other beds with us. This was unacceptable because Larissa was probably the only girl they’d seen in 6 months. And I don’t trust Cops, especially not in India! So the deal then became, 2 of the college kids would sleep in on bed and me and Larissa in another, and a Cop in the third. No sooner did we agree to this when the police decided they wanted more money. Quite frankly this pissed me off and scared the shit out of me, because in the process of telling us this, the young man also explained how the police have been drinking the local whiskey for a few hours, and commenting on Larissa’s good looks. This is the deal. Larissa and I were the only westerners for 100 miles in any direction. It’s getting below freezing outside, and you can never tell when an Indian is telling the truth. So essentially we were at their mercy. This is when adventure traveling becomes no fun! A little danger here and there is O.K., but I don’t like being at the mercy of total strangers that don’t really speak English.
Needless to say everything turned out fine. Larissa and I slept in the same bed, in a tent with 2 Indian college kids and one Police Officer. Nothing happened all night. The shady thing is since this Indian kid was talking for us we never knew if the cops were drunk or sober, good or bad or anything. The 2 college kids got a bed I think for free. They could have lied to us to stay in the same tent. Anyway the moral of the story is, “Don’t get yourself into a jam you can’t get out of!”
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Old 09-15-2012, 04:07 PM   #7
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Today we were woken at 5 AM and told that if we didn’t go through the army camp by 7 AM they wouldn’t let us through. Reluctantly we rose and gathered our gear. It was cold, very cold. It took me a half hour to start my bike.

Riding that early in these parts is ungodly. In fact it’s just crazy. I was wearing just about everything I owned. My body was alright but my hands and face were numb. In fact for most of this day I couldn’t feel my hands.

We road over 2 more passes without hardly seeing a soul. In fact the only people we did see were at the occasional bridge. At every bridge the Indian army places 2 armed soldiers. I believe it’s so nobody can sabotage the bridge. They, being board, cold, lonely and alone, more often than not would ask us a few questions, check out our passports and send us on our way.
We made it into Leh without too many hassles. It was a long hard rid that day. From 5 o’clock in the morning to about 6 o’clock at night. By time we got to Leh we were ready to kill each other. We immediately got a guesthouse and went to sleep.
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Old 09-16-2012, 08:35 PM   #8
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Leh is the Capital of Ladahk. Which is a region of India that boarders on Tibet. It has a population of 15,000 people. Most of these people are Buddhist. They look Tibetan.
They are quite well organized up here. It’s one of the cleanest and most organized towns I’ve seen in India. I believe the most shocking thing about this town is the fact that they have side walks down the Main Bazaar. (Main Street in India)
You get the feeling that this town has been set up as a trading post for most of the surrounding areas. Trade probably runs all year, but I think it really thrives in the summer, which doesn’t last very long.

The Valley Leh sits in, is called the Indus Valley. As I remember this valley is responsible for the beginning of the Hindi religion. It sits at about 13,000ft. so small chores, such as walking become incredibly hard. The climate is boarder line desert, except for the mountains that surround it. There is a river that runs through the center of Leh. It provides enough water, and irrigation for the people to subsist.

After relaxing in Leh for a day, Larissa told me about a pass that we could ride over into the Nubra Valley. This valley is meant to have some of the craziest contrasts on earth. The mountains that surround the Nubra Valley are all red, grey and brown rock, very harsh. There is a river in the middle creating a nice humid climate, also between the mountains and river, are sand dunes. In these sand dunes are supposed wild camels, sounded interesting to me. To top this all off, the pass to get to this valley is the highest motorable road in the world. The top of the pass stands at 18,000 some feet. This would be the highest I’d ever been in my life. The only problem with getting to this valley was the fact that you need a permit from the local magistrate. Since we arrived on Thursday and Saturday and Sunday the magistrate wasn’t in. We had to wait until Monday to get this permit and leave Tuesday for the valley. This is typical Leh. Everyone gets stuck for at least a week.

(Larissa, Grant and Monocheck)
We were patient and even found a couple of people to ride with us. A guy from New Zealand named Grant is going to rent an Enfield like mine. Grant is one of the nicest people I think I’ve ever met. (That goes for most Kiwis’) He’s 29 recently broken up with his wife so he decided to spend 6 months in India to sort himself out. Nothing, but kind bones in his body. He’s a builder in New Zealand. A girl from Finland, Monocheck, worked her way onto the back of his bike. I think he was a bit reluctant.
The four of us set out on Tuesday afternoon after a late start as usual. The late start was due to a few problems with Grant’s bike, which is flat out a piece of shit! We made it to the top of the pass by about 2 o’clock.

We were given Chi by 7 army men stationed at the top of the pass. It’s quite amazing to imagine 15 men live at 18,000ft for 6 months out of the year. Their camp resembles nothing modern.

They put us in a tent with a makeshift kerosene stove in the middle that heated the room, and stared at us in awe. One of them spoke decent English and asked us simple questions and made simple jokes. They offered us rum but we declined. I thought for a while they weren’t going to let us leave without a drink but they let us go with no problems. I think us showing up in their tent is like seeing a new movie for them. And when we try and leave it’s like the movie is ending. They don’t ever want the movie to end so they never want you to go. We sucked down our Chi, thanked them and rode off. It took Grant 15 minutes to get his bike started which is never a good sign. We made it down the pass without any problems, and passed threw a town called Kardong. About 15km outside of Kardong Grant’s bike took a shit. Basically the transmission blew up.
So there we were once again in the middle of nowhere, 4 of us and one bike that runs. I am a gluten for punishment and I think I like hard times. You can say it’s not my fault, but I chose to ride with Grant when I knew his bike was not worthy of the task. Feeling friendship and that common bond among westerners in Asia, I decided we definitely had to help him. Larissa and I rode back to Kardong to try and find a mechanic or a place for them to sleep for the night so they could work it out in the morning. There is nothing in Kardong but an old Rest House, that isn’t used anymore. (a Rest House is a Government built Guesthouse for public works people. You cannot pay money and stay there, you have to work for the government to stay there) We rode back and told them the bad news. Both Grant and Monocheck decided, that they would be able to stay regardless. They thought that they could talk the people into letting them stay in the Rest House. (it is possible, I’ve done it before) Or stay with a local family.

So I left Larissa once again by the side of the road and all three of us piled onto my bike. I drove them into Kardong and they found some people to let them stay in the Rest House for very cheap. Grant and Monocheck were alright, Larissa and I saw no reason to hang about. Our destination was Hunder which is at the top of the valley and it was still a long way off. Besides Grant was going to spend the whole next day dealing with his rented bike and we’d “Been there, done that!”
So we drove on. We arrived in Khalsar and found a wonderful little Guesthouse. They served me a beer and the food was excellent and cheap! We ate and drank happily because we’d found a nice warm place with really friendly people.
The only catch was, (as you’ve probably gathered, traveling in India by Enfields in the Himalayas always involves catches. No matter how sound something seems, almost always there is a catch.) We asked for a room and in broken English we gathered that they had a room available. When we decided to go to bed we found the “catch”. They didn’t have a room they had 2 spare beds out of 5 in one room, and there were already 6 Indians sharing 3 beds in this room. I have never heard such a chorus of snoring. We tried to be quiet and got tour beds and slept the best we could. Morning came soon and with it brought fresh hot tea, which was wonderful.

Larissa made friends with the owners’ daughter, and even though I’m not into kids, I’d have admit, she was really cute. I snapped a couple of pictures and we promised to send them some and we set off for Hunder.
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Old 09-16-2012, 09:51 PM   #9
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Old 09-17-2012, 08:36 PM   #10
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Hunder is a beautiful hidden rural town. The highway runs right by it without a single sign. You have to find this tiny little dirt track off the side of the road which you follow for about 10 minutes until your smack in the middle of Hunder.
We found a Guesthouse with no problem. It is a quaint little thing with a yard full of lawn furniture and a sitting room with great big bay windows. It was cheap so we took it. After settling and eating we decided to go for a walk and see just what was in this town.

It consists of a small farming community which is the center. It’s not like the States where you have large farms that surround a town, it is the opposite. The farms are in the center, “farms” really is the wrong word. These really are more like oversized gardens. At the largest you probably have 2 acres. I have no idea what they grow but somehow they have ingeniously irrigated the river all over this land. The town itself must cover 30 acres all together. Quite small, but I think most of it is for subsistence not for profit.
The town’s folk are amazing. The Ladahki word for hello is “Chulay” and everywhere you go this is the only word you hear. “Chulay, chulay, chulay” with bright white smiles. People seem happy to see you and eager to find out what it is you exactly are. These people are quite shy though. They will gather around you, in fact just about surround you and stare at you. Until one gets the courage to try out his or her English and ask you where you are from. Or as they say “From where are you?” or “From where do you come?” or better yet, “What country you belong?”
We walked and talked for a while and gathered western goodies as if they were precious stones. Chocolate, cookies, cigarettes, soda. All these products are made in India but they aren’t that popular, because most of the people up here can’t afford them.

(Had to add this one, I can't remember whose idea it was, but it's pretty funny now!)
Back at the Guest house we ate Dal rice and spinach. This food is the staple in these parts. There aren’t any menus. Where ever you stay they ask you if you want to eat and this is what they bring you. The vegetable varies and dal is a sort of lentil or bean soup over rice.

(I'm sorry for the bad photo, think it was last on the roll. This is the Indian Business man, I think that is Larissa's knee to the left of him)
We met an Indian Business man that spoke English very well. He works for a construction company that has a contract with the army. He was really kind and we sort of used him as an encyclopedia. We talked all into the night about Indian culture and Indian politics, specifically Indian-Pakistani relations. This was of course, all over a bottle of rum he brought out early in the evening. He told us not more that 100km from where we are there is a war going on between Pakistan and India. I understand that it’s not full on, but shots are fired every day.
We managed to finish the rum between 3 of us and electricity goes out at 11pm. So we ended up singing bad English songs together by candle light.
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Old 09-17-2012, 08:56 PM   #11
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Excellent story and well worth the telling even after the passage of time. "The end of the roll" reminds me of the bad old days before digital photography!

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Old 09-18-2012, 11:04 AM   #12
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Thanks for reading! I think we were using disposable cameras we bought along the way. I can't really remember. I do remember that when a roll was done we would get them developed and split up the pics. I kept all my negatives which is what I used to scan to disk, but I have some pictures I have no negatives to and some negatives I have no pictures of.
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Old 09-18-2012, 11:40 AM   #13
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Love the RR.......subscribed!!!
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Old 09-18-2012, 11:55 AM   #14
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Your pictures gave me goosebumps! Subscribed for sure!
Noah 08 KTM 690 ADV. 125,000 km. 42 countries. 5 continents and counting.
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Old 09-18-2012, 12:25 PM   #15
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This is great stuff. Looking forward to the rest of it.
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