Experience bitterly cold nights in Leh, riding through difficult terrains and gorgeous views… Mahesh Prasanna recalls his Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey
Two young men from Buenos Aires — Ernesto Che Guevara and his friend Alberto Grando — set out to explore North America on the mighty Norton 500 in the 1950s. The Motorcycle Diaries, a compilation of their journey inspires the spirit of adventure in youngsters even today.
“I live with my bikes 24/7 and it’s my dream to go on an expedition like Che Guevara,” says Mahesh Prasanna, who is back from the 16-day Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey on his Royal Enfield 500 Classic. “We crossed Khardung La, and I felt like I was on top of the world. At 18,380 ft, it’s the world’s highest motorable road. Now, I am confident I can handle any terrain,” he beams. A team of 90 bike enthusiasts from across the country participated in the Odyssey that started in Delhi on June 22 and concluded on July 8.
Khardung La was a dream come true for Mahesh, who runs a manufacturing unit in Saravanampatti. He now plans to explore the Seven Sisters (North East) and later, other Asian countries. “I take off on my bike, be it Kashmir, Delhi or Hyderabad. Distance doesn’t matter,” he smiles.
Riding gives him immense joy. “You are exposed to Nature. You observe people and the environment closely. You make more friends too. And, riding on a difficult terrain and in extreme weather conditions adds to the experience,” he says.
He recounts the first leg of the adventure from Delhi to Parwanoo. “The sun was burning bright and we were bathed in sweat. On the second day, we got drenched in the rains. The terrain posed a challenge to our riding skills. In some places, there was snow, and in others, there was gravel, slush, and hardly any road. Crossing a river is tough; the water level increases suddenly as snow melts when the Sun shines,” he says.
From Narkhanda, it was a difficult ride as the roads were washed away, and damaged because of rains and landslides. At Jalori Pass, the rains added to their woes. After Manali, they rode to Keylong town, crossed the Rohtang Pass (where snow skating is a big draw among tourists), and stopped at Sarcho. At Sarcho and Tsokar in Leh, they experienced bitter, cold nights. “The days were cold, the nights colder. In some places, some riders developed high altitude sickness, but recovered. During our return, Rohtang Pass was so misty that we could hardly see the road,” he recalls.
During the journey, Mahesh also spotted the Himalayan Tahr at Gata Loops in Ladakh, double humped camels at Hunder (a cold desert full of sand dunes in Leh), and a number of birds such as hoopoe and ruddy shelduck.
He says the trip was an experience of a lifetime. “We learn so much about life and meet people who live in difficult conditions without complaint. It was a lesson on adjusting to difficult situations, physically and mentally. I made a lot of friends, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, and we enjoyed the team spirit and bonhomie. The trip was a self-assessment of my riding skills too.”