Jerin J. Podipara, the only person from Thiruvananthapuram who participated in the Himalayan Odyssey conducted by Royal Enfield, talks about his memorable road trip

Jerin J. Podipara is on a high! The only rider from the city to participate in the 17-day Himalayan Odyssey 2012 organised by Royal Enfield, the engineer-turned-banker admits with a smile that it was an unmatched adventure on wheels, one with thrills and spills. They began their journey from India Gate in New Delhi on June 23.

“Royal Enfield has been conducting the Himalayan Odyssey for the past eight years. I have been watching and following every edition. Announcements for such events usually appear on their website. I could not participate in previous editions due to various reasons. So I was eagerly waiting for the announcement and I registered on the opening day of registration itself,” says Jerin, who owns a Royal Enfield - Standard 350 (Bullet).

In all there were 60 biking enthusiasts, including those from Japan, Uruguay and Australia. Jerin says there were three other Malayalis in the group and one of them was Jagadeesh Krishnan, his friend from his College of Engineering days. The other two were Krishnan J., an income tax officer from Mumbai, and Madhu George from Malaysia. Accompanied by a support team consisting of doctors and mechanics, the group set out every day at 7.30 a.m. “Two of the riders were from the company and you could call them the leaders of this endurance trip. Daily briefings by them would include the route to be taken, expected weather conditions and so on. The route was such that it covered different terrain. At some places, we had to ride through water, while at certain other places we had to navigate over pebbles, gravel or sand. At a certain place we would regroup and then if one rider was missing, the two company reps would go back and trace them out. An accident or a mechanical problem might have delayed them,” recalls Jerin who returned from his trip just a few days ago.

He says the most memorable moment was when the group reached Kardung-La – the world’s highest motorable road. According to him, the road from Kaza to Keylong was the toughest part of the journey, where they had to cross many rivers. “The rocks were very slippery and I had to use the clutch for a long time. This caused my clutch plates to burn and it had to be changed. By that time, it started raining and temperature was coming down to negative. I got a little scared at that time,” he admits.

He also recalls another incident when Mauro Pisano from Uruguay who was riding near a lake in Debring got trapped in the slush. One of the riders saw him drowning when he was trying to zoom in with his camera. “Immediately we rushed to his rescue. But it was impossible for us to recover the bike without proper equipment. The temperature then was around minus 10 degree Celsius. Later in the night, labourers from that camp managed to extricate the bike. Luckily, the bike started in the first instant itself!”

The challenge, he says, is in tackling the terrain and the ever-changing climate. “Most of the routes did not include even a patch of tarred road. It is very difficult to balance, ride and reach the destination on time. River crossings are the most difficult part. The water level in rivers keeps on increasing as the day goes on,” he explains.

Accommodation and food were taken care of by the company. They had to stay in camps in places like Debring and Sarchu where there are no hotels. “High altitude riding might cause breathing troubles. Fortunately, I did not face any health problem. The temperature and biting cold wind were quite difficult to tackle. But we were all equipped with proper riding gear.”

Jerin, who works as assistant manager (finance) at State Bank of Travancore, is all praise for his colleagues and seniors, who, he says, were enthusiastic about the trip and extended all support to him. The Himalayan Odyssey was his dream trip, but he is already planning an all-India trip on his bike with his wife, Ann Mary.