Work is no excuse to put on hold what you love doing the best. And three women bikers from the city are a testimony to this fact
Hyderabad to Leh in 19 days: Shilpa Balakrishnan, who has been riding around the country on her bike for the past 11 years, travelled to Ladakh this year for the second time around — from July 24 to August 12. “My first trip was in 2013,” says the 40-year-old. Shilpa, who works with software firm, moved to Hyderabad from Mumbai last year. “The mountains are ever so mesmerising that the slightest beckoning from it gets me ready to take the adventure again and again.”
When it comes to organising her solo and group travels, Shilpa depends on long weekends and her 20-day leave period from work. Making the best use of this weekend, Shilpa is currently in Vizag, where she rode all the way to Araku Valley. Shilpa’s adventures have inspired many people around her. During her second trip to Ladakh, 12 bikers and a family of three accompanied her.
“Compared to the last one, this trip was going to be a tough one, mainly due to uncertain weather — too many cloudbursts, landslides, road closures, unrest due to strikes called by the local taxi union in Ladakh, etc. I started from Hyderabad with a friend to reach Mumbai — the rest of the team met me there. Rains started as our trip began and accompanied us throughout the journey,” Shilpa says.
But with the weather acting up, there was little scope for the group to explore Ladakh. “There were landslides at Kargil and the family ahead of us got stuck in Drass. The riding was also dangerous as the roads were washed out and water was gushing from the mountains due to melting snow. We were stuck in a landslide, along with eight Israelites, whom we later helped to safety,” says Shilpa, adding, “But all in all, it was an incredible trip.”
Missing Bag Found after Weeks
True to every biker’s dream, reaching Khardung La isn’t just about riding. Right from the start, we had decided to conquer the world’s highest motorable pass (Khardung La, 18,380 ft) and we squeezed the programme into our busy schedule,” says Jai Bharathi, 33, who undertook the trip with her friend Smriti Gattu from July 10 to 30. Instead of riding from Hyderabad, they took a flight to Srinagar as they didn’t have enough time.
Bharathi is a freelance architect and has her own firm; she has been riding for the past 15 years, whereas 28-year-old Smriti, who recently quit her job with an IT company, has been riding since she was 15 years old. “Initially, it was Smriti and me. Knowing our plans, a few of our friends joined,” Bharathi says.
“Both of us have been riding together since a long time. Ladakh was on the list for long and I’m glad Bharathi gave me the much-needed push,” Smriti adds.
But when it came to riding in Ladakh, the things didn’t go exactly as planned. “We planned everything much in advance and got all our accommodation booked, either at Army guest houses or hotels. But right from Day 1, nothing went as per our schedule. However, we still managed to reach every destination irrespective of the roadblocks. We were lucky as the landslide-hit roads were just opened as we headed back,” she adds.
On their return journey, the group stopped by at a Sonamarg dhaba, where they had tea and were surprised that the dhaba guys actually remembered them. In a hurry, Bharathi had forgotten her sling bag which had her favourite watch gifted by her aunt 10 years ago, some cash, ATM and PAN card. “It was only when we were headed back to Srinagar did I realise I had lost my bag. After two days, I came to know that my biker friend Shilpa was heading towards Sonamarg and I got in touch with her. She spotted the dhaba and when she went there, the guys told her that they were waiting for someone to come and collect the bag,” says a grateful Bharathi, who found all her belongings intact.
Tips for solo woman riders
- Never stop at random places, but spots that are well-crowded. Petrol pumps are one of the best options.
- Never divulge personal information and tell people your final destination.
- “I always carry a small pen knife with me for personal safety,” says Shilpa, who fortunately has not faced any untoward incident, except the one that took place long ago at Bengaluru. “It was 2 am and I stopped at a petrol pump. My tank was nearly empty so I had to stop. There were two men at the location, one of whom was very drunk, started yelling at me and tried to take my bike keys. I held my ground and fought back. Thankfully, nothing like that has ever happened again,” she says.
- When planning a trip to Ladakh, plan around a budget of Rs 30,000 to Rs 35,000 (inclusive of flight tickets).