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Story: When you think of India, what images conjure in your mind’s eye? Perhaps it is the faith of a million souls or the taste exotic spices; the perfumed smell of white jasmine laced through thick black hair.

Our journey began in the deep south of India. By train and rickshaw, we carved a pathway through the crowds, passing women adorned in a kaleidoscope of colours and men with chestnut skin, unfazed by the desert sun. And then it was time to take the road alone. Our transport was a Royal Enfield and we followed the sole route that takes you to Ladakh, the furthest tip of India. Our route is mapped out but by no means pedestrian; passing lush valleys, deep-scoop crevices sink into the depths of the earth, offset the highest of mountains which appear to surpass the sky.

Over the course of a few hours, the landscape changes drastically. Drier and more open, the mountains bare faces carved out by the wind. With each incline you feel the air thinning and steep, rocky roads grow increasingly narrow. At the top of each pass we are rewarded with a small hot chai in a small, weathered tent – our shelter for the evening.

The climb to world’s highest driveable pass is the toughest. Only one of us can sit on the bike as we lift it over boulders. Watching on as landslides happen just metres ahead, is unsettling to be understated about things. One day we took our eyes off the road for a matter of seconds and collided with a pile of rocks; a lucky escape that forced us back into the here and now.

More present than ever before, enduring a difficult but exquisitely beautiful world, our fascination with those who work and live in the Himalayas has become increasingly profound. Memories such as India’s gentle people and the sunlight shape shifting over mountains are imprinted in our minds and frequently reflected on with both astonishment and awe.

www.chloemasseyphotography.com, www.talibsaleh.com

@chloe_massey, @talibjsaleh, @asouljournal

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