S.M. AAMIR speaks to some of the intrepid bikers on the Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey
Photo: S. Subramanium
Real Roadies Participants of the ‘Himalayan Odyssey’ on their way to Khardung La Pass
Khardung La is the ultimate challenge. It is about teaming up with a machine, throwing a challenge to the mountains as well as yourself. Being the highest motorable road, the journey is one of self-discovery. The mountains humble you. And you learn to respect nature and to understand your bike.
Flagged off a week ago, the Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey 2008 has reached Leh and is heading to Keylong, en route to Khardung La. Before leaving Delhi, the bikers, coming from different parts of the country, brightened up the dull cityscape as they converged at India Gate for the formal flag off.
With the sound of honking bikes and bikers trying to be ahead of the rest, it could have been an everyday scene at an historic place. Well not really, because this time nobody was rushing back from work or succumbing to road rage. In fact, all the smartly attired bikers with their trendy helmets and biking gadgets were at their disciplined best and taken up by team spirit. There were guys, young and enterprising, there were girls, intrepid and adventurous. Ranging from a stocky girl from Pune to a bearded maulana, all of them had a common goal — to reach Khardung La from Delhi by driving for about eight hours a day, touching a maximum speed of 100kms per hour in the plains and tapering to 50kms in the hills.
As one could see, the women did not lag behind their male counterparts in any department. Gauri Lokara, at nearly 5feet-10 inches with a very good build and a great personality, has come all the way from Pune on her Bullet. Incidentally, this is her first trip to Leh. Gauri smilingly declared , “I can go at a speed of 100 kms per hour on my bike.”
Snigdha from Chennai who also came biking from her hometown was quite calm and confident, as she had already covered more distance on her bike than she will to Leh. Snigdha is on her second trip to Leh. Her experience was very good and exciting and has also helped her to keep her nerves. Her husband Sachin Chavan is a veteran of four such trips. The experienced biker is also known as the best Bullet rider in the country. He is leading the rally. He could be seen sharing his experiences with newcomers and giving them tips.
Another biker, Ismail, a lanky 6-foot plus young man, for whom even the Royal Enfield looked small, came riding to Delhi from Pune in just four days. Going for the first time to Khardung La, he confidently started his bike and zoomed past in style. Siddhartha Lal, MD of Eicher Motors, while flagging off the expedition said, “The Himalayan Odyssey is not just about travelling to the highest motoring road in the world, it is more about testing motorcycling skill and endurance in a difficult terrain.” The Himalayan Odyssey is an annual event, which is in its fifth run this year. It is organised by the Royal Enfield company with 50 bikers. Only physically fit bikers are accepted. All along the way medical help is available and specialised motorcycle doctors (mechanics) are also a part of the entourage. In addition, a service truck also follows, carrying the bikers’ extra luggage. This year the culminating point will be in Delhi on 12th July.
Khardung La is at an altitude of 5,580 meters. The route is Delhi-Chandigarh-Manali-Keylong-Sarchu-Rumtse-Leh and finally Khardung La.
The riding has more to do with your mental attitude than your riding skills, because this is not a race, it’s a mountain adventure. The greatest test of man and machine against nature.
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