At the outset, let me tell you a very clichéd desire I have harboured since a long time. A ride to Leh is like those pilgrimages every biker hopes to undertake at least once in his lifetime and I wasn’t any different. So when my name was called out for the 2013 Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey, my happiness knew no bounds…of course, as expected there was a catch! The crazy schedule in office meant that bossman allowed me only a half trip, which I gleefully accepted. After all, even the half trip was a full 11-day affair, which was more than I could have even dreamt for.
In the run up to the ride, I consciously began avoiding reading about earlier Odysseys or looking up their photos in a bid to maintain the excitement. On my flight to Delhi – the originating point of the ride – a plethora of thoughts ran through my mind ranging from concerns about the terrain, weather, altitude, etc. At one point I even began having doubts on whether I will be to make this journey at all. My biggest concern was that prior to this ride, the most I had ever clocked on a bike in a day was 150km and now I had signed up for a 1,300km journey in one of the most testing conditions a biker could ever face!
The perfect harmony of a typical Delhi morning was broken with the thump generated from over 100 Royal Enfield motorcycles lined-up for the Odyssey bursting to life. Even before I could ride from the hotel to the flag-off point at India Gate, there was trouble. The fuel tank of the Thunderbird 500 given to me by Royal Enfield for the Odyssey began leaking. Luckily, the Himalayan Odyssey mechanics were on hand and they fixed the problem in a jiffy. So after this not-so-perfect start, I set off for the first re-group point in the outskirts of Delhi where we were divided in groups of two with 50 riders each. As we made our way to Chandigarh, the second group left for Parwanoo. The roads were arrow straight (read boring) and by afternoon we were in ‘the city beautiful’.
The ride from Chandigarh to Manali provided us with some beautiful winding roads through the mountains and was just the dose we needed to kill the boredom we faced enroute to Chandigarh. At the halfway mark, I rode into yet another hitch with the rear disc falling off its bracket! The ride from Chandigarh to Manali provided us with some beautiful winding roads through the mountains and was just the dose we needed to kill the boredom we faced enroute to Chandigarh. At the halfway mark, I rode into yet another hitch with the rear disc falling off its bracket! But as they say ‘everything in life happens for a reason’ and while waiting for the mechanics to arrive and fix my bike, I met Martin and Raghav who hanged around me till help arrived and from then on became my riding buddies for the trip. The fact that I had covered more than 250km without much strain further boosted my confidence for the journey.
The next day all of us gathered for the early morning briefing ahead of the ride to Keylong. “The ride here on won’t be so straightforward,” said group leader Sachin Chavan from Royal Enfield to the pack much to everyone’s glee. However, little did we realise at that point how taxing every ride from then on was going to get. The first re-group point for us was Rohtang pass and as we made our way up to the pass, the roads were covered in dense fog and visibility was hardly 10 feet. It was scary negotiating our way past the tight twisties with hardly any visibility. Once past Rohtang, bad and broken roads became our ally as our machines hopped and skipped over them till Tandi.
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