Motorcycle touring: Manual to Ride in Himalayas

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#1 Apr 1st, 2005, 03:57
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  • Hippie at Heart is offline
#1
Number of times I have seen motor bike riders stranded up there in Himalayas for want to many ideas about how they should go around doing things the right way there. That may result in a rather frustrating experience. So I am trying to put few thoughts forward or what little I have gained from experience. It may serve some good.

Precautions: When you want to check the road conditions, although chances might be bit difficult that they will gladly interact with a civilian but its worth a try and pay a friendly visit to the regional office of GREF (Border Roads Organization) and enquire for the latest update, remember they are army chaps and have latest input from remote and far flung roads. IMHO condition of roads is not a problem but landslides info is what you need to ask, till around 12,000 feet slides happen frequently.

Money: Plan your whole trip and do a proper budgeting beforehand, cut some slack towards miscellaneous unforeseen expenses and add some more as rain check. Never keep all money stashed in one place. Spend from one reservoir for like 2 days before you open the next stash. Think of unlikely places to hide money, like you can always find 4,000 Rs in 500 denominations in air filter box of my RD ;-) Even I got mugged at NH1 in Ambala on way to Manali-Leh last year but it still saved me as I was carrying only enough money to see me thru till hotel bills in Manali.

Interacting with locals: Never try and be a showman with them, although my experience is that hill people are gentlest of many races I have known but sometime a situation gets in places where ways of plain people have kind of rubbed off on hill people and they realize enterprising skills means more money then you should be gentle yet firm if you want to have your way. Make them understand being polite doesnít mean you are an idiot, once they know who is who, you will get out of any situation pretty undaunted.

Donít give in to the idea of suddenly being best of pals with them, because they are genuinely shy most of time and donít know how to react to your friendly gestures. Never eye their woman folk and pass even innocent comments on their woman folk. If they offer you something to eat, itís ok to accept. Donít offer them money in return unless agreed upon previously; offer to pay for food is frowned upon in almost whole of India and more particular by the simple country folks, instead offer some toffees or a chocolate bar to the kids or something that you can give as a small souvenir.

EVEN IF you are an atheist never, NEVER make fun of local gods just because you have never heard of them, down in plains or because their gods look funny or grotesque. Other thing is to forget for a while that you may have any political views weather on national or locals issues. Should some discussion veers off to politics, play by ear!

Although its personal but I have seen best biking happens in small groups, anything 4+ tend to become like a hooligan party and hooligans are not welcome anywhere. But like I said its personal idea. I mostly travel solo and find myself better organized, Prepared and in control of things around.

Clothing & Shoes: I have set a kind of parameter that excluding your foot pump, your whole baggage should wrap-up around 10 Kg mark including your spare parts and tool kit. I follow the idea of a hardy and light Ďtravellerí not rider. Only two basic pair of comfort fit jeans is enough for me and couple of tee shirts for change, rest are basically woollen for outerwear. Make it a point that you take along a good (long if possible) down jacket with you. Inner thermal if you can get the fleeced one are any day better. You can prolly live in just one pair of out clothes if you can change underwear everyday. So throw in about 7-8 pair always. If possible get a loose skier lower to wear on top of your thermal. This combination works better then thermal and jeans in high hill riding or very cold temperatures.

It doesnít matter what you wear but it make sense that you take only worn-in shoes that doesnít bite and pinch. A sturdy pair is always an asset and worth investment. Shoes with steel toes might be a nice idea but all gear shifters may not allow tall clearance for them without feeling very awkward. Avoid flat soles, as they tend to skid from foot pegs after being wet. Try and wear those shoes that have some kind of cut groove between toe and heel like those army DM boots or latest range sports shoes with deep curve in sole. Heavy woollen socks are always better and throw in extra pair as well. In addition you can have those army style lugs with spikes hammered on toe and heel if you are really going to drive rally style or you are going in early spring and likely to encounter lot of black ice. But you better blunt or sand file the spikes on the tips.

Throw in some grocery plastic bags, as you may need to keep something you buy on way or store your smelly clothes till you get to wash them or give for laundry. Throw in some old newspapers, they will come handy with wet socks and if your shoes are not Gore-Tax type. All you have to do is make small paper balls and stuff them overnight and by the morning they will be somewhat wearable and dry.

On the Road: When in hills try to change your mind set from plain road driving. You will see other drivers will respect your driving as well. Be patient and learn to wait for pass, which may take a lot longer then plain roads. Not because the other guy is racing with you but because there has to be some EXTRA space around before he can side step without breaking his pep and loosing speed. Nobody is going to give you pass just because you hooted for it and come to grinding halt himself from this 3rd or 2nd gear and when you overtake, start raving all over again in 1st gear.

Truck drivers are the nicest lot in hills, try and be nice to them in return. It will pay someday if not on same trip. I had this trucker coming to me in morning when I woke up and realized that clutch plates on my RD350 are stuck because night was biting cold, it snowed a bit as well and that STP infused Motul engine oil went bricks. And he offered me whatever help he could gave. He was driving a coal truck up to Leh and he seemed like a messiah in that wilderness to me. My situation was all the more aggravated because my tool kit got pinched by some guy in Manali, who needed it more then I perhaps, the previous day and I noticed this fact only 10 mins ago that morning. He not only gave me some spares to open clutch cover but also heated a pan of coal to put under her belly and warm up engine oil.. And WHY did he was helping enough???? As he told me you are good guy I saw you two days back at ludhiana and then near manali and both times when I gave you pass, you waved me bye!!! Bottom line is BE NICE.

While Driving:
Everyone have own driving rhythms, so go on as much you can drive but taking rest whenever you feel tired will save you lot of bother, health wise. Idea is donít over strach yourself unless there is some impeding doom around. One very useful idea, is about cummerbunds to prevent kidney rattle even if it sound bit weird. I just have to say that riding in Himalayas is not riding in Western Ghats, you will understand what am saying when you realize your front fork did well for all those good 10 years for you but their seals leaked within 2 day of driving in Himalayas. Kidney rattle CAN ruin your general mood and no harm taking care of this aspect too. This is especially useful for those TV junkies with somewhat flabby tummy. Guys with six-pack tummy may ignore this.

Take a long cotton Ďdhotií and twist it softly that such dhoti rope feel soft yet supple, before wrapping around lower back, try and have around 4-5 rounds before tucking in. It works better then those plastic and stiff back support thingies they sell in market.

Always keep your extra jacket handy (tucked on top of luggage with some bungee net) because weather can change in minutes. From sunny warm enough sunshine this minute to freeze your nuts the next turn. A pair of insulated gloves works better, the kind of Spaldings skiers use, lightweight and effective because leather once will just pass on the cold drafts to your skin. Whenever you stop for a smoke or just stop, placing your gloves on the head fins is not a bad idea, you will drive off with much warmer hand.

Your seat might prove to be a spot of bother in about 3-4 days and you might feel like you are sitting on a bamboo and seat of a Honda Scooter might seem a dream sofa set. So go ahead and improve upon your bamboo.

Itís also imp or ride on correct tyre pressure. Allow some slack for hot air to expand and judge what psi you want to ride on cold tyres. Before starting off everyday you must do a physical eye inspection of your bike, check for loose Ďnutta boltaí as they call them in down south, check all the control cables and fuel lines, free play, breaks and tyre for any cuts or nails embedded in them from last day riding. Always check engine oil and 2T level if not using premix. It is not a bad idea to clean your spark plugs every second day. That will also keep you in touch with whatís happening inside cylinders as well. Do check drive chain tension everyday as well. If you heard me saying 2T somewhere here, yes four stocking isnít for me. Once I saw a huge TDM 850 nicely parked on road to Khardungla because she couldnít bugger up in that rarefied air.

Tools: Now dayís things are a lot better then they use to be say 15 yrs ago? I remember carrying those agonizing plastic cord balls, packing and unpacking at least 3 times a day until those bungee nets and cords arrived!! You can do away with those spanners and puncture kit instead if you carry those pressure canisters with liquid that turn foam in contact with air and seal the leak. One application is good for one puncture, cost about 350 Rs and has almost 40 psi air in it (but you still have to get the proper puncture fixed when you make it to some city).

if you are driving something very exotic then you needs some extra care about spares because you just wont get them anywhere else so you have to think real hard in advance about what all you might need. Consider carrying spare clutch plates in addition to regular spares and tool kit. Revise your bikeís weakest spot where she might trouble you, spend few bucks extra and nip the problem in bud itself. Also carry a spare lever set because it rains pretty regular in hills and when you have dashed inside that tea stall in hurry leaving her parked on main or side stand in soft mud, she is ought to fall, when, is just a matter of time and that might cost you a clutch lever.

Never give in the temptation to go for thicker oil just because it worked fine in plains. Mine almost froze to bricks in Pang. Even if you do have to have heavy-duty thick viscosity engine oil, when you hit the hills, drain some part of it and add regular oil or you can add some 2T as well which is stock 15 SAE.

Medicines: Prepare your medical kit keeping in mind your past medical records.

1. Take some anti puking tablets and anti loose motion ones as well,
2. Iodine gauze or solution,
3. Pudine Hara tablets are better then Diagine or gelusile,
4. Some mild anti allergy tablets,
5. A moisturiser
6. Diamox 250 mg
Drive and live sturdy an Insisting on too much hygiene will leave you frustrated or bed ridden for want of it. I mean donít try and be a staunch sticker for only packed food and mineral water. Because if you have to have local water and food, you have already pampered your stomach line a lot and it will fail at first test.

Even if you have taken ill, you still NEED TO eat something. Carry some hardy fruits as well from your shopping/city/civilization point. Curd and rice are always available everywhere. Rice is easy to digest and curd will help you with Ďfriendlyí bacteria that exist in it to help you recover from illness.

Unseen UV rays can wreck your skin as well. When you see those rosy cheek people in hill its not because they are in best of health but because thatís a very mild UV burn. They stay rosy because they just live there, bring them down in plain and see that rosy cheek turning into dark brown shade. So you can try and not look a Baywatch model with muscles rippling. Once burned those tissues will take from 3 to 5 months to heal and your skin colour to be back to normal self. Apply nothing less then 30+ sph factor sun cream. LíOreal makes 50+ but its very costly, Johnson & Johnson offer one with 40 sph and cost about 300 rupees. If you can get total sun block Zinc paste that you have seen those cricketers having, nothing like it.

Take some ointment for those baby rashes. You are going to need one application every night after 4-5 days. That will also serve as a bacteria-killing cream. Get some anti bacteria foot powder too.

Mountain Sickness:
There are already many posts on forum about this so I will jus breeze thru on it. This can be of two types but since the acute type is for mountaineers we will stick to first stage type, which can happen while riding. Itís a bit complex but I will try to explain. This is not some kind of sickness or indicates weak physical condition of yours. What happens is when you gain height your body is not able to adjust to the rarefied air with less oxygen. Genetically our body is conditioned to breath at a fixed rate and maintains pulse. Gain of height imbalance (donít ask me how) Ph factor (water level) in our blood, which triggers the brain and con it into thinking that this particular ph level means body is resting so brain in turn, without we noticing it, signals to slows down the breathing and bring down pulse rate slower the way it should be at the time of rest or sleeping. This upsets the whole system in real time sense. We are already not having enough oxygen and fully awake, in need of oxygen and extra calories but to make things worse we have automatically started breathing slower and reverse the needs. This less oxygen and demand supply situation being upset is what cause mountain sickness.

To overcome this mountaineers follow this cardinal rule of gaining aproxx 1000 feet a day and retreat down 300 feet for rest/night halt. But biking in hills itís not possible to do so because of your quicker pace. So what you can do it peer hard at your maps, know road conditions and estimate your Kms you can or going to cover. During the day reach at the top most height point stay there for 10/15 minutes and driving towards evening loose height and settle for night. This sickness will take about one full day and half before it sets in, thought its not fixed with some ppl it may set in within 6 hours as well. It will make you dizzy, giddy and temperamental and if allowed to be persisted at height attitude will turn into AMS (acute mountain sickness) and may cause AMS death in rare cases.

But its easy to tackle, you just have to be alert. Mountain sickness is mostly seen to be active after 10,000 feet. As a preventive measure you can start with 250mg Diamox tablets, twice a day, 24 hours before you hit big heights. You should be 3 dozes down before you hit 10 thousand and beyond. Maintain good water level in body. Because of cold we donít feel thirsty and let the fluid level drop in body. Drink water regularly even if you are not thirsty. I would say finish off at least 3 litre of pure water in addition to your usual milk/tea stuff. If on Diamox then donít drink soft drinks, Diamox usually donít have any side effects but some people may experience tingling sensation at the nerve ending points like finger tips and toes and soft drinks will taste flat. Diamox is prescription drug in USA and canada but its avilable in most hill stations OTC. Those who are allergic to sulpha drugs please consult your Doctor for alternative. DO NOT use in pregnancy. Diamox is a diuretic drug, so keep drinking lot of water as well.

Inner line permits: There might be some areas even for Indian nationals where they restrict your movements with permits to enter and travel. You donít need to get them from plains or from state capitals only. Anywhere you are going just see what district that area you intend to go, falls in and make sure that you travel through the district administration office, usually SDM office. Per application you will need some proof of being Indian citizen like ration card/voter card or passport and two recent photographs, but foreign nationals will require to submit passport photocopies and wont be given permits to a group of less then four. When you make application think ahead where all you might want to go within that particular district and mention all those places and ask for permission in single application itself. Leh is going to be the base and you might want to go three different places that need permits, spanning like 180 degree. So make one application and mention all places and ask nearly 12-15 days permit to travel. That way you still have to come Leh and touch base but wont have to scramble up to DC office for fresh permission. Get plenty photo copies of permission because army check post at entry and exit point will ask for a photo copy of permit to retain for records.

When in Leh, your hotel guy can fix your permit for 50 Rs service charge and deliver the next day but if you are applying single then it make sense to appear before the issuing authority in person because they usually donít give to single people. I guess they fear what if he is a total idiot and going to die in some remote valley, costing us whole damned rescue or body recovery operation at the expense of national exchequer.

I am leaving the stuff about filming equipment and cameras to your budget and style since I feel thatís altogether a different field. Except one little tip about shooting with a camera when you cant carry a tripod on bike and travelling with the idea of not shooting professionally. Take a washer about twice the size of one rupee coin and tie a plastic cord in the hole, adjust the length to your eye level standing straight, leaving the margin enough to tie other end to some notch on your camera. When you shoot a panoramic long shot with a slow film you need to be still, place that washer on ground and press your toe firmly on it, pull the camera gently to eye level and feel the cord going tout, you are ready to shoot without shake.

I guess thatís about it and I have summed up most of the stuff that I knew. But still there could be many things that we know either by instinct and experience that I may have forgot to mention. Happy Riding!!
The above expressed views have been gained and weaned from personal experience and I cannot claim them to be absolute fit or recommended for others, please exercise your own discretion
Last edited by Hippie at Heart; May 5th, 2005 at 14:31..
#2 Apr 1st, 2005, 11:44
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#2

Thumbs up Thank you

Nice post!!!! Thank you Hippie at Heart
#3 Apr 1st, 2005, 18:20
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#3
Quote:
Originally Posted by somnath Nice post!!!! Thank you Hippie at Heart
Welcome Som, though i doubted if anyone is going to read thru such a long spiel.
#4 Apr 1st, 2005, 20:47
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  • soulfood is offline
#4
Awesome, awesome, awesome!

I cannot believe the wealth of wisdom you've put into that marathon post, H. You've covered everything one could need to prepare for a great trip.

The only thing I'd like to see added would be perhaps tips on packing luggage. How do you do it. Is it important to have a carriage on your bike. What kind. Any pictures would be nice as well.

This is invaluable! Thank you so much.

ps: I read every word! And this post is getting my five stars
#5 Apr 1st, 2005, 21:12
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Hey Hippie at Heart,

That's a source of great info. Glad to find a biker here. I guess for packing nothing like a Ladakh carrier and some bungee cords to tie up stuff with.

Alternatively, saddle bags are a great option, I use them and have travelled all over with the saddle bags, they take up all personal items. But a carrier will still be useful for lugging extra fuel and the like...

In India, great saddlebags are available at www.cramster.biz

Thanks again for the info. Ladakh and Lahaul/Spiti are on my list next year. (Can't take an extended holiday this year, due to other pressing commitments)

Could you possibly share some experiences with the RD at high altitude? If not here, offline maybe?

#6 Apr 1st, 2005, 23:59
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#6
Excellent post, Hippie at Heart!

I have moved the thread over to the 'Planes, Trains and Automobile' forum, as threads in the Yak Yak forum disappear quickly; I've also added 'Motorcycle touring' to the title in order that the search engine can find it more easily.

There are a number of avid motorcyclists amongst our members (myself included) as well as interest from visitors looking for information on touring in India so your efforts will be appreciated by many!

m2
#7 Apr 2nd, 2005, 02:50
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#7
Thanks M2, I hope to see more bikers drop in for a Dekho J
Soulfood, finally I manage to get the promised write-up, hope it holds as good as it did for me. As for packing tips, I have asked M2ís permission to edit, since the post is already way to long, or else I will post separately.
Welcome Bora, good to see another biker here. Even my trip seems pretty unsure now. I was working on a 135 cc in spare time and thinking I could use her for this yearís trip but on a test run I managed to broke my con rod and partially holed piston. I was trying to be too radical with head compression and chambers I guess. So am sitting quiet waiting for something to happen unless some angel is dropping in India from US with TZ big end bearings and wiesco rod. Ok not to highjack the main topic, the saddlebags are good option but the same stuff can be hauled in army disposal saddlebags, Rs 100 apiece. Another 50 bucks worth tarpaulin and you are water proofed too. I am just a poor Hippie
#8 Apr 2nd, 2005, 02:57
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  • vinayverma is offline
#8
Nice post Hippie,

All the best for your trip.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bora Hey Hippie at Heart,

That's a source of great info. Glad to find a biker here. I guess for packing nothing like a Ladakh carrier and some bungee cords to tie up stuff with.

Alternatively, saddle bags are a great option, I use them and have travelled all over with the saddle bags, they take up all personal items. But a carrier will still be useful for lugging extra fuel and the like...

In India, great saddlebags are available at www.cramster.biz

Thanks again for the info. Ladakh and Lahaul/Spiti are on my list next year. (Can't take an extended holiday this year, due to other pressing commitments)

Could you possibly share some experiences with the RD at high altitude? If not here, offline maybe?

Bora: Just curious, are you the guy who rides a Thurderbird and get it serviced at the John's ?
I found Cramster saddle bags very practical and can carry most of the essential stuff.
If Life is a journey....travel on...and on..on..on.....
#9 Apr 2nd, 2005, 18:01
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vinayverma


Bora: Just curious, are you the guy who rides a Thurderbird and get it serviced at the John's ?
I found Cramster saddle bags very practical and can carry most of the essential stuff.

You hit the nail on the head! Man, talk about a small world!! Have we met, in person?
#10 Apr 3rd, 2005, 01:01
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#10
Okay..indeed a small world.
Yes, we have met in person few times at John's (the biker's Mecca).
just to give you a hint, I'm the guy who asked YOU, 'how could you manage to get out so often?' and you replied " we normally just do it over the weekends and holidays'
This was when your bike had lot of mud and Vijay(papu's junior) was washing your bike...I guess this was our last meeting in person..almost 6-8 weeks back.
Haven't been to John's from last few weeks due to heavy load of work and planning for our annual holiday.
I was planning a bike and Jeep trip to Spiti in the first week of June..you game?
#11 Apr 3rd, 2005, 21:35
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#11
Has anyone tried the Himalayan Bike Tour? Seems like fun but pricey

http://www.hbt.se/
#12 Apr 5th, 2005, 17:26
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#12
For a change those bullets look like rideable atleast. You can still pull it off all by yourself or with a small group too.
#13 Apr 5th, 2005, 17:35
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  • sushmit ghosh is offline
#13

Question hey guys (gender neutral address!!)

so u guys planning a hitch to the hills on your bullets? there's something being planned by RE but it seems to be a bit pricey at 15k. for those of you still living in the dark about this one just check out www.royalenfield.com

i recently got a bull and need to run it in a bit. usually cram about delhi trying to rediscover it...wondering if any of you ppl want to join me. usually leave early in the mron with moi camera and bike it out...then grab some grub and head back home before eve...

also...a trip to the hills sound tasty...any plans on?????
#14 Apr 5th, 2005, 22:10
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#14

Hey

where do u plan to go and for how long, i have a bull and just been to Chail with roaring 40 bull together.
#15 Apr 6th, 2005, 03:12
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#15

bull on the run!!

Hey guys,
awesome pleasure to finally see a biker post on the forum....I'm a biker...ride a royal enfield thunderbird...love doing long rides....hippy at heart.....your nickname is my personality man!!.......ok somebody had posted bout packing tips...I think soulfood....you can pack all your stuff into saddlebags or get yourself panniers attached to your bike...a pannier would extra weight coz most of them are metal....but saddlebags would be a great idea...a friend of mine makes great saddlebags right here in india...you might wanna check out.....www.cramster.biz.....its his official site.......he is also into making tank bags....you guys can check it out

for all guys who are planning on biking in the himalayas or anywhere else...heres an exhaustive list of stuff you might need to carry with you!!

Suggested Things to Carry on a Tour

BIKE CHECKLIST

Extra Tool Kit
Bungee Cords 3 (To Tie Luggage to the Bike)
Fuel Can 1
Cello / Electrician Tape
Spare Oil for Bike
IFTEX for fuel (Available at BP Petrol Pumps. Add to fuel 2ml per liter-Good Pickup & Mileage)
Tank Bag
Cable Lock for Luggage + Wheel
Helmet
Duplicate Bike Keys (Keep Separately)
Bike Papers (Registration, PUC & Insurance) [Xerox + Original - Keep Separately]
Valid Driving Licence
Spares (Condensor Point, Spark Plug, Clutch/Accelarator Cable, Headlight Bulbs etc)



PERSONAL CHECKLIST


Flashlight
Waist Pouch (Handy for change, small and misc items)
Camera + Rolls
Swiss Knife
Books to Read
Gloves / Monkey Cap
Credit Cards
Rechargeable Batteries & Charger
WalkMan / Cassettes
Shaving Kit
Towel, Napkin
Slippers, Sandals
Calculator
Pen, Notepad
Sweaters / Jackets
Tshirts
Swimming Trunks
Casual Shirts
Jeans
Trousers
Socks
Toothpaste, Toothbrush
Hair Brush
Medicines / Face Wash
Shampoo
First Aid Kit
Soaps
Soap Strips (keep in wallet)
Deodrants
Cigarettes + Lighter
Cap
Sunglasses + Night Riding Glasses (White/Plain)
Hotel Numbers
Maps + Lonely Planet
Water Bottles (Keep Close not in Luggage)+ Snacks
Track Pants
Travel Journal + Pens
Toilet Paper Roll
Paper Napkins
Plastic Bags (Believe me, you'll need them)
Binoculars
Thermo Long Johns
Sleeping Bag
Tent & Camping Gear
Your Visiting Cards


FIRST AID LIST

Antiseptic Cream - Neosporin/Soframycin
Gauze - Sterile Pads
Dettol
Band Aids
Cotton Wool
Crocin (Fever, colds etc)
Brufen (Anti Inflammatory)
Moov (Sprains etc)
Biquinol (Upset Stomach)
Perinorm (Anti Vommiting)
Autan or Odomos (Mosquito Repellent)
Eno (Acidity)
Small Scissors
Safety Pins
Tweezers
Avomine (Travel Sickness)
Caladryl (Mosquito bites or Skin Rashes)
Thermometer
Benadryl (Cough Syrup)
Purofil Drops (Water Purification-Available at any Chemist- Rs.20/-)

Any other personal medication you take
One world, One man, One plan....Travel...unfortunately just one life!
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