For any biker, the thought of a 16-day bike trip from Delhi to barren and beautiful Leh and back, is sure to set the adrenaline rushing. So, having been an Enfield loyalist for many years, when I was given the opportunity to be part of the 10th Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey 2013, the feeling that I had was of extreme joy, layered with the underlying fear, ‘Will I be able to physically cope with the pressures of a 16-day, 8-hours-a-day ride through the rough mountains?’ Well, I got my answer, slowly, but surely.
Taking off from Delhi
The excitement in the air was palpable as 100-odd bikers were flaged-off for the race from India Gate. Our first stop was Chandigarh. The ride from Delhi to Chandigarh (240 kms) took about 7 hours through the busy highway traffic, but the road was smooth and so was the ride. With the wind in my face, and a 100 others rallying around me, I felt like a hero off on a mission. As we started biking up the hills, one thing became clear, there were two mantras to surviving this terrain — first you take care of your bike like your girl or else you’ve had it, and second, you put your fellow-bikers before you, because on this road, we were each other’s biggest support.
Riding through wallpapers
The best part of this trip is perhaps the ever-changing scenery that helps rid your mind of the road fatigue. Be it riding through a thick cover of fog with overgrown greens lining the road around Manali, or the spotless cover of ice from Rohtang Pass onwards — there was a fresh landscape to oogle at with every turn. And yet, the photographer in me stopped clicking after 17,000ft above sea level because up there, the only thought was to focus on the road and to keep riding on — to push the barriers of the mind and the body to reach Khardung La (39 kms from Leh), the highest motorable road in the world at 18,380ft. We rode through landslide-prone passages and cold deserted stretches, but the toughest stretch was possibly Sarchu in Leh, with our fatigued bodies negotiating not just the tough roads, but also a temperature of -11ºC. But every bit was worth it, when we finally reached Khardung La and were part of the first reunion (North) of Royal Enfield Bikers. Yummy food, booze and yes, even DJ music at 11,562ft above sea level — this was the best party of my life.
An emotional journey too
Enroute Manali, I fell from my bike for the first time. For a fraction of a second it was a free fall and I got my first riding souvenir — my bike’s broken front brake lever! But the
challenge was to get up again and move on, which I did, with help from my fellow-riders, who were stark strangers till about a few hours ago, and now my only support. And that is perhaps my biggest learning on this trip, that no matter what, you just have to keep moving on.