Saturday, July 24, 2010

Himalayan Odyssey 2010

Guest Article:
By Satyan Ayyangar

Over the last few years Royal Enfield has come up with a novel idea (first time ever by a two wheeler manufacturer in India) to promote riding culture among their customers which is a success today with many more such tours like Southern Odyssey, Rann of Kutch tour , tour of NH17 (Mumbai –Goa), North east tour has got added up. They have become very aggressive can be known from the fact that they have a target of 100 days of touring in a year. I am sure that all of these routes are equally exciting as these routes are selected by experienced riders based on their years of riding experiences but HO has a special charm among all these rides and Royal Enfield will be known for this in the times to come.

What make this ride more special are the geographical diversity that one gets to see and an opportunity to appreciate Mother Nature. It is endurance test of your physical and mental stamina. It is an example for you to set for yourself that you are capable to achieve more than what you think you can. Trust me; this tour is for every one of us and not only for people owning bullets. What all required is continuous focus, determination, patience and you can easily overcome the high altitude sickness, headache, vomiting sensation, breathlessness, boulders, gravels, slush, water crossing. It is amazing to see our bodies getting acclimatized after 1-2 days and then you start enjoying the place.

Our trip was flagged off from Delhi on 19th June 2010 from India gate and the route was something like this DELHI – CHANDIGARH – MANALI – KEYLONG – SARCHU – LEH – KHARDUNGALA – HUNDER – KEYLONG – KAZA – KALPA – NARKANDA – PARWANOO – DELHI covering 2800kms.

The cost for registration for this trip was Rs22,500/- which we understand is quite less than what actually the company has to incur, almost 40.000/-. The cost of petrol, food, spare, riding gears is born by individuals. The accommodations were reasonably good as it were most of the places tourism of Himachal and J&K and not to forget Punjab (Chandigarh halt).
The daily routine being- Get up by 5.30am- breakfast by 6.30am-Luggage loading by 7-Look for bike issues, idling-Briefing about the road condition/riding tips- by 8 start- reunion point for lunch- break for tea- arrive at next destination-unload luggage-get inside hotel/camp

Day 1-This trip was exciting for me in more than one way, as I was traveling back to Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and riding on the route where I had been traveling during my childhood and higher studies. The good part of this journey was that we had a very good roads now with flyovers built up to give easy passes whenever you approach a town/city but the sad part was I could hardly connect it with the images I had in my memory about this road. Finally, we arrived at Chandigarh hotel in Sector-24 by 1.30pm.The traffic was the same what I remember it was ten years ago, roundabouts still exists and not given way for traffic lights, the same open space available all around. Simply Superb!!

Day2-The other interesting thing on this tour was the diversion towards Bilaspur deviating off the road to Nangal where I lived for 23 years; I never knew that we had such a beautiful road and scenery towards Bilaspur. The road up to Manali is great with picturesque sceneries. Manali, as expected was more commercial and congested. Temperature had dropped down considerably compared to what it was in Chandigarh.

Day 3-I had already made up my mind to wear all the 5 layers of clothing to protect myself from rain/cold wind rather than wearing it as and when required. Road after Manali is again quite decent as you gain altitude. Approach to Rohtang pass, you can see traffic jams as the roads are not wide enough to make way for two way traffic and loads of tourists. For most of the people road ends there but for us it started there. Rest of the road traffic hereafter is very sparse but the road condition becomes worse (or to say interesting) for the rest of the journey. The destination that we were heading was Keylong and we were to stay in a camp for the first time in this trip after filling our fuel tanks for the last time before next 365kms. We had lunch break in Koksar, a small village. The lunch was simple rice and dal with sabzi and was to become routine for the next few days during our rides. You have an alternate as Maggi and paranthas.

Day 4 -Keylong to Sarchu was the most crucial day for us as we were now going to climb 16000ft for the first time and need to prepare for the high altitude sickness. Baralachala was the pass which we had to overcome before finally settling at our mobile camps in Sarchu at around 3.30pm. It was all alright till we reached Sarch. There was a sensation of headache but I thought I could not get affected by high altitude sickness. I thought I was invincible but it was my mistake. The night was horrible with head ache and chilling cold. Sleeping in mobile camps you have to be ready to go for loo any time in the night. Just can’t avoid and believe me you just don’t like moving an inch but you loose the battle unless you have an empty bottle next to you!! Once I went out then I realized why it is called as nature call. Look at the sky above you and you never knew the night sky is so beautiful.

Day5-Just waiting for the sun to rise and get out. Iam knowing the day is going to be tough with constant headache. We had two passes namely Lachungla and Tanglala pass (17,500ft), Moore plains and finally Leh. A long and tough day was awaiting but at the same time most diverse in terms of geography.

Day 6-Was rest day. Going around Leh or getting your bike serviced. Leh is also very beautiful place with wonderful roads laid and maintained by armed forces. The scenic beauty can not be explained by words. You get a feeling of tranquility, a place for meditation.

Day 7 -It was the day to reach Khardung La pass which is at 18380ft and considered highest motor able road in India. It was hardly 40kms from Leh but in terms of altitude gain it was from 11000ft at Leh to 18380 ft. The gradient was too high and covered in 2 hours. It was not only gradient which was posed as a challenge by nature but also we had snow storm while climbing which resulted in frost bite for all of us. We even had to stop in between as the army who has various checks on the way did not allow us to go due to anticipation of road blocks. After waiting for almost one hour we were allowed to go ahead but it still raining and temperature dropping to -4. It was all forgotten when we finally reached Khardung la as there was no moment to think about frost bites but the thrill of making it up to the pass. The best part of HO10 is about the 100% completion of the trip as there were no dropouts this time.
Further from Khardung la we traveled to Hunder which is a plain area having sand dunes. It was surprising to see sand dunes and double humped camels at this altitude. We had a group snap as well at sand dunes of Nubra Valley

Day 8 &9&10-Travel back from Hunder was quite comfortable in a way that there were no rain and snow storm anymore but it also meant that we had more ice melting and trouble water crossing at many places. By now we were also used to the weather and we were more relaxed and enjoying our rides in the known path. Most of the people who were not confident initially in this new terrain had gained substantial confidence and driving comfortably and carefully in the loose soil, slush & potholes.
The first ten days of trouble free bike riding was sufficient for me to convince once again that the amount of time and money I have spent in maintaining my bike is worth each single rupee. I did not get even a single puncture till the end leave alone any other problems which made me to strand on the road waiting for maintenance jeep. We were just ripping the bike and enjoying our rides. We stayed in Rumtse, sarchu and Keylong.

Day 11-For the first time in HO we took another route after Keylong towards Kaza, instead of Rohtang, which is located in Spiti valley of Himachal which is also considered as pilgrimage for bikers. In a way, it gave us more energy for the next 5 days as we had to explore new routes and the unexpected. If we had taken Rohtang pass, probably we had got exhausted completely by the same route half the way.
The most interesting thing about this route was that there was never a tar road laid on this route and we knew what was ready to welcome us after experiencing all these days. At the end of the road we were all of the same opinion that “this was the best ride”.

Day 12-The roads were getting better and better now and our adrenalin for driving reducing. Smooth roads are boring had become the mindset. The traffic was increasing now and roads becoming too curvy and tempting to drive fast. Finally we reached Kalpa, another beautiful town of Himachal and unexplored. You do not see the level of commercialization as you see in Manali or Shimla. We could also have a look at Kailash peak from this town. This part of Himachal is also knows as Kinnaur valley leaving behind Spiti valley.

Day 13-15-We finally reluctantly made our way to Delhi on day 15 after satying in Narkanda and Parwanoo. I had my first shave in Parwanoo in those two weeks time at this place. We stayed in a lush green resort in Gurgaon that day where we packed off our bikes to respective destinations. Later in the evening there was a closing party arranged by Royal Enfield.

Photos can be viewed at the following link-

( Satyan Ayyangar works for VOLVO Company at Bangalore and can be contacted for  other details at )


  1. Thanks for sharing this!

    I have driven all the way up to Manali in the car. The Manali drive and the subsequent drive to Rohtang Pass was very exciting! So, I can gauge the fun Satyan had! :)

  2. Wonderful post Sir! For me, it did bring back memories of my own journey to Rohtang, way back in 2006!

  3. You have rocketed me down the memory lane. I miss the area dearly. But your adventure on a two wheeler? I am impressed. I also love bikes and have one , but alas not fit for Khardungla.

    Nice trip and keep it up.

  4. Lovely post sir.

    I too am a bike enthusiast.

  5. Wonderfully described... Never been to leh, ladakh and many other places described here... Really got a nice feel of these places by reading your post....

  6. Enjoyed the ride Mr.Ayyangar. I had once braved hyderabad to goa - 933 kms covered 650kms in one day...and the rest the next morning....some trips stay etched in the mind forever.

  7. Wow, Satyan! Heartiest congratulations for making a successful Himalayan Odyssey! Bravo!!! I also watched a small program on the HO in Zee Business. It helped along with your write-up to understand how thrilling, difficult and enjoyable the tour must have been for you. Really, hats off to you and all the riders!

    The BRO symbols and boards also brought back memories of our childhood days in the Himalayas….have lived in Manali but never went to Leh. Leh visit will be in my “trips to make before I die” list :-).