• Column: Harsh Man Rai EP-17

Reflecting on my rides this year and the motorcycle I have been riding

These past few months have been dedicated to adventures, the kind I find by putting some distance between myself and my home. In fact, May-September/October is the only time of the year when mountain passes in the Himalayas are open, before winter sets in, making it the only time for these kind of ‘adventures’. We spend a lot of time celebrating the machines that move us, but it’s worth taking a moment or two to appreciate where my motorcycle brings me too. To those not really into motorcycles, what I can tell you is that it’s so much easier to get out and experience the world today than it was, say, less than a decade ago, thanks to the advancements in motorcycle technology and how motorcycles have evolved overall. And while I am at it, I also have to say, it’s a good time to go explore the world on a motorcycle right now, given everything we have access to.

This year, I have been able to go for some of my favourite rides — the famous and challenging Mustang Valley in Nepal, in time for the Tiji festival, besides traversing through the contrasting but equally mesmerising landscapes of Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh and also cruised through the cool, aromatic juniper and pine forests of the Kumaon region. Of course, this has been possible only after a while, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. I write this column from Padum, on what is a rest day for the body and soul both, after having ridden through the brutal beauty of Zanskar, all along the muddy Kurgiakh till its most beautiful confluence with the startling aquamarine waters of the Tsarap at Purne (go check it all out on YouTube if you don’t know about it). I must confess that the muchhyped Gonbo Rongon left me unimpressed though. Perhaps, there will be a day when I stand before this sacred peak and it will speak to me and pull me into its orbit. Oh, that might just be yet another good reason to come back to Zanskar, once again. There’s a plan being formed to do this ride already, in a more leisurely manner, with shorter days in the saddle and a little more time to explore the people, culture and the geography of this land, which is still very mystical and enchanting — certainly more than the many heavily commercialised villages in the region today.

Tomorrow I will ride along the Zanskar river to breach Ladakh on my Yezdi Adventure. From previous experiences, I know that it will be a tough ride, mostly off-road but this much-maligned motorcycle has been my companion for all my rides this year and I find it quite a capable performer on both, the highways of the plains and the different conditions I have been encountering on the mountain roads of the Himalayas. Now that I have ridden this motorcycle extensively, perhaps it’s time to customise the Yezdi Adventure to my liking. Watch this space…

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