Ramya, Shruthi R, Jinsy, Shruthi Sreekumar, Shilka – women born in different places, doing different jobs but thrown together because of a common passion for bikes and travelling. Recently they got together for 12 days in March to quench their wanderlust. They fulfilled their big dream of travelling by road on a bike to Spiti Valley, often dubbed the Himalayan desert. Today they are the first Malayali women bikers to conquer the Spiti Valley.
A shared passion
It was their love for bikes and travelling that connected them. Remya R. Pillai is an Assistant Manager at PCBL Ltd. Jincy is a Dental Hygienist at Kozhikode Medical College. Shilka is a Freelance Teacher and Research Student. R Shruthi is a MiG E-Commerce Executive and Shruthi Sreekumar is the Senior Audit Assistant at Deloitte AERS. The five of them set out on a journey to Spiti called the 'Bike Odyssey 2022'.
They took three bikes to Spiti. Remya, Shruthi R, Shruthi Sreekumar, and Jincy rode the bikes. Shilka was the pillion rider. And this was a trip they had planned fastidiously and very much in advance. Six months prior to the ride, they started going to the gym and followed a strict diet plan. They were aware that this road trip to the bitingly cold Spiti will be a mighty challenge physically and mentally. Out of the 2000 km stretch, they had to cover 50/60 km off-road. It was the preparations that helped them in undertaking this journey without any glitches.
A dream called Spiti
In October 2019, Remy and Shruthi R had gone on a bike riding trip from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. They had gone as far as the Khardungla Pass at an altitude of 18,380 feet above sea level. It was after this ride that Remya first expressed her desire to go to Spiti. And her dream to reach Spiti, known as the Himalayan desert, on a bullet in winter, finally came to fruition thanks to the gang of five.
The bikes were sent by train to Chandigarh on March 18. The train reached Chandigarh on March 20 and they started their journey on March 21 and returned to Chandigarh on March 30. Of these, three days were spent entirely in the Spiti Valley.
Riding through such unfamiliar terrain is challenging. Especially off-roading on Himalayan roads. Knowing this, the bikes were tested and precautionary measures were taken. Extra clutch cable and accelerator cable were added to prevent any breakage. They replaced tires as needed, carriers were attached. All these were precautions to be taken not to miss the journey except due to serious problems. As riders, all five already had enough safety gear and clothing.
Spiti is a vibe
They travelled by bike from Chandigarh to Spiti and back. In the meantime, they covered a distance of about 2,000 km. Spiti is a plateau between the Himalayan Ranges at an elevation of 14,000 ft above sea level. The word Spiti means intermediate. The name derives from the geographical location between Tibet and India.
The Spiti Valley is home to Vajrayana Buddhists from Tibet and Ladakh. They refer to the natives of Spiti as those who love peace and tranquillity and behave without hypocrisy. It is one of the least densely populated areas in India. Even from one village to another you have to cross kilometers of steep paths.
What makes Spiti unique is its stunning natural beauty as well as its warm and welcoming people. Spiti takes you to the heart of nature and helps you experience peace and tranquillity. The large-heartedness of its people who assures you that no one will steal your belongings even if you leave them unattended is reflected in its tranquil landscape too.
They reached Spiti during the last leg of winter. But even then the night temperature was -17 degrees. They recall feeling breathless while sleeping and awakening to catch their breath. But the people of Spiti will still wonder how you are living in that sweltering heat. That’s how much they love the climate and landscape of their land.
Quintessential Himalayan villages
They visited Hikkim, known for housing the world’s highest post office and a quintessential Himalayan village called Kibber. Hikkim is what connects most of these snow-capped villages to the outside world.
They send several postcards from Hikkim to their friends and family. By the time they reached home, the postcards had reached their destinations, thereby underlying the efficiency of the post office department.
No gender. Just bikers
There is no gender discrimination between riders. If you like to ride and see places, go ahead. And these women are proof of that. Thankfully they didn’t encounter any safety hassles because of their gender.
Of course, it is important to take safety precautions and pack the right travel kits before embarking on such a journey. You can get tips from riders who have done this before. Riders from Hyderabad and Kasaragod have assisted in the Spiti Yatra and the earlier K2K Yatra. Since they could not use GPS, they received a lot of help from their Jammu friend Sumit throughout the journey, including navigating the route.
They only have one piece of advice for those who are postponing their dreams. If you pursue your dreams, the world will conspire in helping you fulfil them. Their next dream is a similar trip to the North-Eastern states of India.