Day 1 : 15th June, 2011
The D Day had arrived. The day we had all be preparing, planning and looking for ward to . Well actually, only Shubra and Satvik did most of the preparing and planning. Rest of us were just looking forward to it. The Himalayan Sojourn.
A vague idea grew into a full fledged tour of 15 amateur riders on 10 Royal Enfields covering about 3500 kms of some of the most extreme geography, climate and roads. The details of the planning is something that is hard to believe. Let me try to document my recollection of the last few months.
Me, Shubra, Namitha, Pops and Satvik were very keen to ride to Leh from Delhi. Initially, we thought of joining the official Royal Enfield trip that goes to Leh every year. But somehow about 100 bikes going on a schedule planned by someone else did not seem like adventure. Shubra decided to cook up our own itinerary. So, the research began with us (always remember: us means Shubra and sometimes Satvik) going through every blog there was about riding to Leh, reading every book there was about riding and about Leh, meeting anybody who had ridden to Leh. The result was a jumble of of information and advise from almost everybody – people who had been to Leh, people who knew people who had been to Leh, people who wished they had been to Leh and people who had no idea about Leh. What’s the use of an MBA if you can’t make sense of non-sense. I don’t know how much use Shubra will put her degree to in the future, but in this case she developed a fantastic plan replete with all possible information, maps, images, brochures that would put project managers and travel agents to shame. More people showed interest and before we knew it we were 15 riders. There was one concern: all of us were amateur riders and everyone who knew about riding to such extreme conditions seemed to be pros. But we told ourselves that every king was once a crying baby and continued “looking forward” to the trip with unabated enthusiasm.
Shubra who was more or less the undisputed gang leader was one of the youngest and also one of the most energetic and with more or less maximum riding experience. She had covered more that 10,000 kms in a span of about 6 months and was probably the only girl in India to have ridden so much on a 500cc bike.
Satvik, Shubra’s very close friend owned his RE 350 standard for about a year and had reasonable riding experience and a lot of spirit for adventure.
Pops was the oldest in the group. But at 62 he was the youngest in spirit and strength. To him age was just a number.
Me and Nam have always enjoyed travelling, but we did most of it on four wheels. The only time we did it on two wheels was on bicycles from Bangalore to Mysore and back and another 2000 kms trip Mumbai- Ganapatiphule- Goa- Maravanthe- Mangalore- Hassan- Bangalore on Shubra’s RE classic 500.
Chetan Ponnappa, fondly called Ponni is the gentle giant who has also had only a modest amount of long riding experience. He used his standard on a daily basis though.
Harsha, an Engineer is also a splendid photographer and a wildlife enthusiast.
Anand and Deepthi Baliga had never travelled as a couple on bikes before. But Deepthi’s connection with Royal enfield was that here brother owned one and she occasionally pillion rode on it. Anand was one of those guys who does not pass a day without regretting having sold his RE.
The last minute additions to the group were:
Mohan was a professional photographer, whom I met at a business conference. We were talking about common interests and adventure turned out to be one of them. When I told him about our Leh trip, he jumped on the wagon. He had a RE when he was 16 years old, but hadn’t ridden one in a long time.
Vatsala, Mohan’s wife was the Head of the Kannada Department in Surana College and also a popular actor in Kannada serials. In a way, she was the celebrity of our group.
Manju and Somesh were Mohan’s friends who couldn’t resist the thought of the adventure that was lying ahead.
Varun was a surprise entrant. He was a far cousin of ours who came to know about this trip through Facebook and hopped in along with his friend Pat (Nope not Patrick its Prateek). So Varun was the youngest in the gang.
The greatest surprise element in the group was Moms. I have never known here to be a great travel enthusiast. She has probably never ridden more than 25-30kms on a two wheeler. We did not want to miss her out of this trip, but we were never able to persuade her. About 15 days before, she read Shubra’s blogs about all her earlier trips and that did the trick.
So that is about the 16 riders, riding 10 Royal Enfields. The initial plan was that we will take 6 of our bikes by train to Delhi and hire 4 in Delhi.
What finally happened was that Pops and Satvik couldn’t hold on to their excitement for a few more days and decided to ride to Delhi from Bangalore. That’s right. So they hit the road on 8th June, leaving all of us green with envy. They reached Delhi on 15th June via Hyderabad, Tadoba, Bhopal and Gwalior. They had a phenomenal ride, with the highlight being their stay at Tadoba where they sighted 2 tigers amidst a host of other wildlife.
So, on 15th June, 2011 while Pops and Satvik were already in Delhi, Me, Nam, Shubra, Moms, Ponni, Varun and Harsha boarded the Karnataka Express and Mohan, Vatsala, Somesh and Manju took the Nizamuddin Rajdhani Express. Anand and Deepti could not get a couple of days’ leave and were flying to Delhi on 17th morning. Pat was already in Manali and would be joining us there.
We had 4 Royal Enfields loaded on the trains and the Himalayan Sojourn had begun.
Day 2 : 16th June, 2011
Travelling by train is always a very unique and identical experience. Walk through the different bogies of the train and you will encounter people of all shapes, sizes, ages, colours, ethnicity, statuses and each one with a unique story, different cuisines, different philosophies, different aromas. This train journey was no different; and that made it a unique experience.
Continue reading the story here: The Himalayan Sojourn 1.0- Part 2- New Delhi to Sundarnagar