The Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey is known to be an annual pilgrimage for bikers to the land of mountain passes, Ladakh. The Himalayas have been the Mecca for motorcyclists since time immemorial, and the Odyssey has been their chosen journey to ride through the mighty mountains. Every year Royal Enfield riders from across the world gather to thump all the way to 18,000 feet to Khardung-La, the highest motorable road in the world to experience one of the most gratifying motorcycling journeys in the world.

The Chennai based bike maker, the oldest in the world with continuous production organises the Odyssey to make it easier for bikers who would otherwise dread to undertake the challenging journey on their own. A set itinerary, service & medical back up and luggage free riding are some of the highlights that attract Enfield owners to experience the Himalayas as a part of this sojourn. And of course riding and staying for two weeks with a group of like-minded travellers is an added bonus. The 13th edition of the event was flagged off on Saturday morning from India gate in New Delhi, taking the bikers on a 17 day ride that will traverse through some of the roughest terrains and highest mountain passes covering a distance of more than 2500 kms.

Normally the company takes around 50 participants every year, but this year is special. This time Royal Enfield has also organised a women’s only Himalayan Odyssey powered by STRE (She Travels on a Royal Enfield). STRE is a community of women motorcyclists who ride a Royal Enfield across the globe. In its maiden edition, Himalayan Odyssey – Women (HO-W) will see lady riders’ride on the ‘holy grail’ of motorcycling. And it’s not just restricted to female riders, the entire contingent comprises of women who include service staff, technicians, doctors and crew.Both contingents will ride on different routes before finally converging at Leh. The annual ride is an opportunity for these men and women who seek to look beyond the obvious and venture into the unchartered territories of one of the most challenging terrains in the world. A journey of self-discovery for many, the Himalayan Odyssey has been inspiring stories that become a part of motorcycling folklore.

This time Royal Enfield has also organised a women’s only Himalayan Odyssey powered by STRE (She Travels on a Royal Enfield). STRE is a community of women motorcyclists who ride a Royal Enfield across the globe.

While some of these 20 odd women have been to Ladakh before on motorcycles, it was lot who was heading there for the first time who sounded most excited for the journey. Asmita Misra, a rider fromHyderabad said, “The Himalayas have always been a part of my life goals. Every year I hear people taking their motorcycles to the mecca of riding. This is how I have always pictured my journey, me on a Royal Enfield looking at the mountains, riding on the twists and turns of the roads and breathing their clean and chilly fresh air. I know these two weeks are going to be tough and nothing like riding on city roads but I am working hard, training, practicing and preparing and I feel ready to face the elements of nature.”

Another rider from the group is Sharada Sastry from Mysore. This mechanical engineer by profession and an avid trekker by passion said, “Riding was always meant to be. Especially the Himalayas, back then my mother used to discuss a lot of spiritual scriptures about the mountain passes and Lord Shiva! So riding my family pedigree up the legendary mountains is truly my childhood fable coming to life”

In fact just like Sastry, a lot of other riders owe their good riding skills to their family members. Allahabad girl Prerna Goswami has been riding over 100 kms everyday to gear up for her maiden journey to the Himalayas. She says, “I took to riding my brother’s Royal Enfield in class XII and since then nothing has caught my fancy except bikes! I want more girls to ride and have been introducing women to motorcycling, off-roading for some time now. I hope seeing me complete this ride, more girls from my city will take up this passion.”

The period between the months of May and August is the ideal time when hundreds of Royal Enfield motorcyclists ride up to the Himalayas. On the journey, the riders will be mapping diverse terrains ranging from plains of Delhi to snow clad valleys of Ladakh. The weather would shift remarkably, from scorching hot to icy cold as riders will make their way to the picturesque regions of the Himalayas, which house within themselves one of the most hostile environments for motorcycling. Each turn exposes the riders to a new landscape like no other, eventually getting them surrounded by the overwhelming beauty of the great Himalayan peaks.

The lure of the mountains and going there on a Royal Enfield has brought Jilmil from Guwahati to explore Ladakh once again. “I owe my escapades to my family, for all the encouragement and unwavering support. I think the family belief is crucial for any of us to realise our dreams! During a ride, we ride as a family. We have disagreements but we also help in overcoming hurdles on every step. Mountains can be unnerving but if you have 10 more people with you, there is less to worry about.”

Meghana Wavhal from Pune is a teacher, a Cricket & Kho Kho player, Gymnast and the first lady who registered for the Himalayan Odyssey this year. She has not ridden to Himalayas but rode up to the highest peak of South India – Doddabetta. “I’m totally looking forward to riding in the Himalayas and it’s an absolute privilege to be part of the maiden Himalayan Odyssey spearheaded by Women. Inspiration is self-driven, you either pursue your dream or you dunk it in cold storage.” she said.

At a time when most lives have come to be defined by our professional selves, Himalayan Odyssey appeals to the free spirited traveller in oneself and quintessential seeker of life beyond concrete jungles. A journey that began in 2003, the ride emphasizes on harmony with the terrain while at the same time encouraging one to overcome their personal barriers and realize the potential that lies within them. Over the past decade, scores of riders have had the pleasure of riding their motorcycles through the picturesque landscape of Ladakh to Leh and then beyond to Khardung La. With so many women on wheels, this year will truly rate high, as high as the mighty Himalayas.

Shams Naqvi  is an anchor/producer  for the News X motor show Living  Cars.

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