New Delhi: Sowmya Narayanan's fondness for bikes and riding began when she was gifted at scooty while she was in school. Today, Sowmya, who hails from Kerala is among 20 women who are all set to traverse approximately 2200 kilometres through some of the roughest terrains and highest mountain passes in the majestic locations across Himalayas.
Sowmya, along with a team of riders from all walks of life will be led by Sara Kashyap and biker Urvashi Patole to lead the 13th edition of the Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey, which has an all women's component this year.
In its maiden voyage the HO-W flagged off here took off with 20 women for a 17 day adventure ride through the roughest terrains. The ride will end on July 23.
"Be it man or woman irrespective of gender, negotiating the terrain of the mountain is very difficult. It is not like riding 100 km on a straight road. On a mountain it is more extreme," says Kashyap, who now lives in Chennai.
She was also the first girl from India to finish the coveted Raid-de-Himalaya, one of the country's oldest international motorsport events. Kashyap's fellow biker Patole is from Pune and began biking as a 14-year-old. After having been on numerous rides she particularly remembers her first all woman ride.
"In 2011, I went on a journey with Royal Enfield and 9 other women to Leh-Ladakh which was a feat that was a turning point in my life... We scaled the passes together and opened our eyes to many other things we could achieve and overcome. It really was a big moment of our lives," says Patole. Patole had undertaken the trip as part of 'The Bikerni' an association of woman riders she formed in 2011.
Hailing from different parts of the country, the women riders in the Odyssey come from varied backgrounds and objectives. Jilmil Kakoti Alimmyan from Guwahati has her eyes set on cross country riding, after securing motoring highpoints around the North East territory, Indo-China border and a solo ride to Bhutan amongst others.
A mother of two, Alimmyan took to riding motorcycles at a very young age and was taken by surprise recently as her husband gifted her a Standard 500, her second motorcycle!
Sowmya Narayanan is an instructional designer by profession. And it was her husband who gifted her a bullet. Sowmya has big dreams too 'I want to ride solo from Kanyakumari to Khardung la,' she says. "I hold a spiritual connection with the holy Himalayas, it's been so since childhood," says Narayanan. Then there are those like 27-year old Chantal Simons who has been riding various motorcyles and is currently in India en route her ride from Australia to the Netherlands.
Sharvari Manakwad, who dropped out of the maiden women's ride due to another prior riding commitment says the entire ride is quite challenging. "I did a similar ride for a reality show some years ago. That time I was the youngest and Urvashi who is the lead rider here was also part of it. We were an all women's team who rode from Delhi to Khardung la. Today it is a complete circle and there are a bunch of new girls and Urvashi is leading the team!" she says.
Manakwad says that preparing for any long distance ride also involves being fit. "The ride is quite challenging and terrain in the Himalayan region has around 11 to 12 passes. Some of the highest passes like the Khardung La adjusting to the atmosphere is difficult and if people are not fit then it is not easy," she says.
Meanwhile Shaji Koshy, Senior Vice President, Sales, Services and Spares, Royal Enfield who flagged off the riders at India Gate says, "...The Himalayan Odyssey has championed leisure motorcycling in the way it has initiated scores of people to ride to Ladakh. With each passing year, a new set of riders are initiated into this extraordinary expedition.
This year, we have introduced the Himalayan Odyssey- Women, an exclusive all women's ride that promises to be the ultimate motorcycling adventure for all women who ride a Royal Enfield." The contingent will pass through Solan, Narkanda, Manali, Jispa, Sarchu, Leh, Khardung La, Tso Moriri, Tso Kar, Jispa and Gushaini.
The event is being organised in collaboration with STRE (She Travels on a Royal Enfield), a community of women motorcyclists who ride a Royal Enfield across the globe. Apart from the participants, the entire HO-W team will comprise of women, that is, the service staff, technicians, doctors and crew are all women.
(With input from agencies)