"What makes a woman most happy?" asked Sabareesh before answering himself. "As far as I know, she is most happy when she realizes a dream she had long abandoned."
The youngster from Kayamkulam in Kerala learned it when he saw the smile of victory and tears of joy on his mother's face as she conquered the 5,359-metre Khardung La pass in Leh. "I felt like I had done something worthwhile," he said.
Sabareesh and mother Vrindha traversed 17,500 km across India, Nepal and Bhutan over 58 days. "Why take your mother with you when you should be chilling with friends? Well, my mother used to wait for me after each of my trips, both solo and with friends. She would sit through my accounts of my travel with the wonder of a child. Once she asked me if I would take her along on my next trip. I promised her then and there. I was only half-serious but she started planning," Sabareesh said.
Age is just a number
"You can be a traveller at any age. Age is just a number," said Vrindha. "You just need a mindset to enjoy the travels. I always loved travelling but could never make it because of several circumstances," she said.
Vrindha said that Sabareesh had been a travel enthusiast all along. The 23-year-old used to go riding alone or with friends since he learned how to ride. "It is fun to listen to his stories. I dreamed of travelling with him. I told him about it once, half-jokingly. He responded positively. I was excited. I started planning about the destination. He had no idea. Then I thought big. Anyway it was a rare opportunity. We decided to go across India. His friends encouraged us to stretch the plan to Nepal and Bhutan.
"I had to prepare mentally and physically for the long ride. I had to get my husband and older son agree to my plan. They wholeheartedly supported me. I am nearing 50 years. I run a physical training centre near my house at Kayamkulam. Maybe because of my job as a physical trainer I keep good health. That is why everyone agreed to let me travel," she said.
The mother and son set off on their journey on September 1 on a Bajaj Dominar.
How to prepare
"She is like a cool dude," Sabareesh talked about the initial anxieties. "I went through a lot of anxious moments at every stage because I was travelling with mother. We started the ride on September 1 and returned to the starting point 58 days later.
The route map went something like this. They started from Kayamkulam and went to Kanyakumari, Puthucherry, Chennai, Vijayawada, Hyderabad, Lonavala, Mumbai, Surat, Ahmedabad, Rann of Kutch, Jaisalmar, Jaipur, Agra, Delhi, Shimla, Kaza, Spiti, Rohtang Pass, Keylong, Pang, Leh, Khardung La, Nubra Valley, Pongong Lake, Kargil, Srinagar, Jammu, Punjab, Haryana, Dehra Dun and Hardwar.
They then crossed over to Nepal, going to Lumbini and Kathmandu, before returning to India to go to Siliguri and Darjeeling. From Sikkim, they went to Bhutan. After riding up to Thimphu and Paro, they continued their journey through Bihar and Jharkhand to Kolkata. Then Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. The duo touched Hyderabad again and proceeded to Hampi in Karnataka. They also managed to squeeze in Goa, Murdeswar and Bengaluru before returning to Kerala.
In other words, they went to all states except in the Northeastern states. "I had bought an air cushion seat online and fitted it on my motorbike. That kept us from getting a back pain. Bug I goofed on luggage. Mother was fully energetic even when I was down. We kept on riding through the day and rested at night. The terrain changed as we left south India behind," Sabareesh said.
"We rode through a drizzle at Lonavala. The raindrops and the greenery around us presented a memorable moment," Vrindha recounted her adventure. "The bike ride to the heights of the Himalayan foothills was an unforgettable experience. After a risky ride, I felt like crying when we reached Khardung La. I hugged Sabareesh and thanked him for saying yes to my wish. The climb to Khardung was not as dangerous as we expected. They were laying asphalt on the road. The oxygen level was low at that height. I was short of breath when we reached Pang on the way from Manali to Leh.
"Snowfall had just started by the time we reached Khardung La. The road became tougher as we went to the Spiti Valley, Kaza and the Pangong Lake. It was a thrilling ride. All around us were tall mountains. There was no one around except for an occasional rider or an army vehicle. When you see a long winding road ahead of you, you feel like overcoming it. As we proceeded to the Pangong Lake, somebody had scribbled welcome in Malayalam on a huge boulder. It was nice to see our language," Vrindha said.
Sabareesh said that they were warmly welcomed all over their route. "You can understand the culture of India only when you travel. We were a bit afraid to go to Jammu and Kashmir. But our concerns were unfounded. The people were very loving. Almost all shops were shut. The streets were full of military men. That is not a sight familiar to us Malayalis."
The Wagah border experience stumped the travellers. "We felt proud to be Indians."
Crossing the border
"From Wagah, we crossed Uttarkhand towards Nepal. We reached Nepal one fine evening. We received the permit without any hassle. We had to pay a small amount as road tax. The roads were very bad in Nepal. There were no clear traffic rules or traffic signals. There were very few petrol pumps. They would charge you double when they know you are a traveller.
"Kathmandu is a big city. The city was a big change of experience. We went to the Swayambhu Temple, which is familiar to Malayalis who have watched ‘Yodha’ movie. Another important site in Nepal is Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. We went to Siliguri in West Bengal and to Sikkim.
"After two days in Sikkim we went to Bhutan. You need a permit to enter Bhutan. There are lots of agents to help travellers obtain permits. The Bhutanese people are always smiling and loving. The traffic culture was a far cry from Nepal. You can’t honk for no reason. You have to obey traffic rules. You can't overtake hazardously. You have to stop your vehicles for pedestrians at zebra crossings.
"There is a new rule for tourists riding motorbikes to Bhutan. You have to hire a local car as escort. It will cost you Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 per day. You can keep all your luggage in that car and follow it. The rule is intended to cut down on the accidents caused by tourists. We spent three days in Bhutan. One noteworthy site is the Tiger Nest. The climb is steep. Mother could only go halfway.
"Bhutan's culture is fascinating. Their behaviour, clothes and food were very different."
Sabareesh said he had just started travelling. "I want to travel with mother more often. Our next target is a journey that covers all Northeastern states. Then we would explore other countries."