As a young boy, Muhammed Aslam dreamed of travelling across India to experience the diversities of the country. However, he was 32 by the time Aslam could turn his wish into reality. Working in Qatar over the past 10 years, Aslam decided to set out on the trip when he came to Kerala on a holiday this year.
The adventure started on June 20 and lasted 24 days. Aslam bought a new Bullet motorcycle for the trip and travelled solo from his native place Chorode near Vadakara to Manali via Kashmir. The route covered the 18,380-feet high Khardung La pass in Ladakh which is near the northernmost borders of India.
Aslam, of Vadakke Parambath, Kurikkilakkad in Chorode panchayat, considers it was a blessing to have completed the trip. He met people of many cultures who spoke different languages and wore a variety of traditional costumes along the way. The only guides during the journey were Google Maps and the prayers of his dear ones. He also sought the support of UVC (Ulagam Chuttum Valibhan), a WhatsApp group of travel enthusiasts, at times.
But there was opposition from home when Aslam planned the trip. Only his paternal uncle T T Ibrahim backed the idea. UVC advised Aslam on the route and other details and he charted out a schedule based on YouTube.
Aslam learnt some basic bike repair skills before his trip to tackle any emergency. He also kept some spares, including tyre, tube and bulb. A fog lamp, carrier and Fego seat were attached to the bike. A full-face helmet, safety jacket and a 10-litre can with petrol too were readied.
The trip began at 3 pm on June 20 from Aslam's hometown. He headed to Mysuru via Tholpetty and Kutta. Continuing to Bengaluru and Hyderabad, Aslam took rest there. From Hyderabad, extreme heat made the ride to Nagpur torturous. He had to take rest at several places along the way.
However, Aslam managed to cover Agra, Brindavan, Mathura, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Chandigarh and reach Amritsar. He often lost his way on this route and had to travel between Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana.
The visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar was an eye-opener. “The hospitality there was amazing. They received my footwear with both hands. The kitchen that served food round the clock was a surprise. One also had to accept food served there with both hands,” says Aslam.
The tough stretch
He continued from Amritsar to the Wagah border and headed to Jammu and Srinagar. From there, the route covered Pahalgam and Gulmarg, considered a ‘Mini Switzerland’. Finally, Aslam reached Manali via Ladakh and Kargil. “The final stretch was the most difficult. The roads were rough. There were steep inclines and deep crevices on one side. A momentary lapse could lead to a plunge into chasms from where there could be little chances for survival,” he says.
Moreover, the weather was extremely cold. “I couldn't even move my fingers in the sub-zero temperatures. The Bullet often was stalled as there was not enough Oxygen. I placed my hand on the hot silencer to get some warmth to twist the accelerator,” reveals Aslam.
When he reached Khardung La, the highest motorable mountain pass in the world, Aslam took a photo of the ‘Man from Vadakara’ and continued his journey to Manali.
“The Ladakh – Manali road also posed several challenges. The Oxygen level was low here too. Making matters worse, there was neither mobile coverage nor petrol pumps along the way. I filled the fuel in cans for negotiating this stretch. Medicines were also taken to tackle the lack of enough Oxygen in the surroundings,” explains the young man from Chorode.
For his stay, Aslam had booked rooms via Oyo. “I wish to express my gratitude to the Armymen who were much helpful everywhere. When I told them I belonged to Kerala, they showed a special affection,” he says.
His childhood wish is now fulfilled but Aslam does not wish to end his travel plans. The next trip would be to places in Rajasthan that he had missed on his first journey and to West Bengal, Manipur and Nagaland.
An employee of a petroleum company in Qatar, Aslam is the only son of Vadakke Parambath Usman and the late Nafeesa. Sharmina is Aslam’s wife and Farhad their son.