Four bikers from Coimbatore and Tirupur recall their experiences in the ninth Himalayan Odyssey

Sardhaz Mohamed, Sibi Srinivas, S. Krishnamurthy and Manoj Vijayakumar have just returned from a 16-day motorcycle trip to the Himalayas.

These Coimbatoreans rode 2,800 km on their Bullets, through six passes and three mountain ranges, as part of the ninth ‘Himalayan Odyssey’ organised by Royal Enfield. “I would not have bought a Royal Enfield Bullet but for this,” says Krishnamurthy, who runs a dyeing factory in Tirupur.

Says Sibi: “I have wanted to ride in the Himalayas for the past two years. When I was looking up the Internet for tours, I came across this one.” Manoj’s story is similar. And Sardhaz came to know about the trip through Sibi. The four riders, who have toured many places in and around Coimbatore, promptly registered for the Odyssey in April.

After shipping their bikes to New Delhi, the four left from Coimbatore on June 30. Three days later, the Odyssey began. Equipped with their riding gear, they, along with 56 others from across the country and some from abroad, set out for Chandigarh from India Gate. “On the first day, the temperature was about 44 degree C. We had to cover 300 km on that day and were sweating profusely,” says Sardhaz. “Thankfully, the weather got better.”

Manoj says the “different and interesting” journey took them through Parwanoo, Narkanda, Kalpa, Kaza, Keylong, Sarchu and Leh. “There were hardly any paved roads. We had to ride on gravel, pebbles and sand. And once, even on a 40 km-long river bed.”

Every day, the bikers would set out at 8 a.m. and ride till 4 in the evening. “We would load our luggage in a truck, take part in a short briefing session, have our breakfast and set out,” says Sardhaz. “Our regrouping points were mostly dhabas. Our instructors would say the rest was more for the bikes than for us!”

Along with the bikers, there were doctors and mechanics who travelled in service vehicles to take care of the men and their machines.

The bikers rode through the Lower, Middle and a portion of the Greater Himalayas. Every day was unpredictable, in terms of the terrain and the weather. “On the third day, while travelling from Narkanda to Kalpa, the roads got narrower and the gorges, deeper. On one side was a 3000-foot slope. It was dangerously thrilling,” says Manoj. The toughest part of the journey, however, was the 150-km stretch from Kaza to Keylong. “It took us 10 hours to cover that. Normally, we get a briefing about the terrain. That day, we were not given one because the topography was unpredictable. When we were climbing to Keylong, the ice on the mountain started to melt and water flowed on the road,” says Sardhaz. “We had to deal with 30 such water crossings that day.”

After crossing Keylong and Leh, they took the world’s highest motorable road — the Khardung La — to reach Nubra Valley. The four say that riding through the pass was the most memorable moment of their journey. Fortunately for them, none of the travellers (but for the doctor!) suffered altitude sickness. Some of them nursed a few bruises. Nothing to hinder them during their ride back to Delhi. “This is the first year all 60 riders completed the entire Odyssey,” points out Sardhaz.

There were participants from Uruguay, Japan and Australia too. Sardhaz recalls the incident when one of the Uruguayan bikers got trapped in the Tso Kar Lake. “Though he was a seasoned rider, he was unable to cross the lake. A few of the participants rushed to his rescue, but it was impossible to pull out the bike. Later that night, a few locals managed to get the bike out. And, guess what? The engine revved up instantly!”