Jared failed to complete the 2015 RE Himalayan Odyssey, but survived to tell the epic tale of the few brave souls who did.
I’ve had the distinct pleasure of taking part in, and completing, the Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey in 2013 and 2014. This year, I was invited again and without hesitation I agreed to take part in this challenging adventure with 50 other riders. I’ve been to Ladakh on many occasions, and have seen just how unpredictable and dangerous Ladakh can be. But this year was unlike anything I had ever witnessed before.
When I arrived in Leh, on a dull and gloomy morning, I met with a few familiar faces at the Namgyal Palace Hotel. Odyssey stalwart Captain Mehra was still in his riding gear, because he was just too tired to take it off. The riders had arrived the night before, as they completed the first leg of the journey. I was going to ride back to Delhi with them. The Captain explained how intense and difficult the ride was up from Delhi and through Spiti Valley. Apparently there hadn’t been a single day of sunshine, and for 10 days the riders rode through heavy rainfall. This caused the many streams to swell, and he explained to me how one water crossing near Kaza took the group 6 hours to cross. Not only that but there had been many landslides, and the road conditions were at their worst in Spiti. There had been a couple of accidents, and a few riders were already immobilized and wouldn’t be able to complete the Odyssey.
But I was still in high spirits and very excited to saddle up and ride through anything that came our way. However, that excitement was short-lived because it seemed that there was trouble looming in Leh itself. The Taxi Union had called for a strike, and the entire city was on lockdown for 3 days. We couldn’t leave, because the roads had been blocked. We made attempts to leave the city late at night, but were forced to return each time. Finally, when the roads opened we made our way for Tso Kar, but just 80 kilometres down the road were forced to turn around because of a massive landslide that had blocked the road. People were now getting frustrated, as they were now 5 days behind schedule and the weather was relentless. Many riders wanted to change routes, but the RE team rightfully insisted that they wait it out. So we headed back for Leh again, but this time I met with a serious accident. I won’t go into details, except to say that I was unfortunately sideswiped by a clueless truck driver and I sustained a serious injury to my left leg – which meant that I couldn’t ride for the next month. I was devastated.
When I got back to the hotel from the hospital, there was a lot of commotion. A handful of riders decided to ship their bikes back and fly to Delhi, another group wanted to ride through Kargil. One group even stayed back at the landslide waiting for it to clear. I was flown back the following day, but I kept in touch with my friends to see if the situation had improved. It turned out that, of the 50 riders that started, less than half had completed the Odyssey – and the only two female riders on the Odyssey were a part of the group that finished.
It was the lowest completion rate of any RE Himalayan Odyssey. But the RE team did a fantastic job of handling the situation. Ladakh can be a nightmare, but only the few that brave out the storm will emerge as victors. But even they will know that the mighty Himalayas can never be conquered, only respected.