Raid de Himalaya – As a kid, the adventurous me always wanted to travel to the mountains. Not just any mountains, I wanted to explore the upper reaches of the Himalayas. The mystical names of the passes, valleys and places always sent a rush down the spine without fail. Last year during the month of August, I was in-between jobs and had enough free time on my hands. I planned an elaborate trip to Ladakh, which later, had to be shelved due to an extremely unfortunate natural calamity in Leh. Most of Leh was inundated with flash floods and mudslides. I was extremely sad and disappointed at that time but little did I know that the universe had different plans for me.
Come January, when I was contacted by Team Bikerzden. A rally racing team, which wanted me to be the photographer for their team at an event. The event was Raid de Himalaya. One small problem, the event was still ten months away, in October 2011. A lot could have gone wrong within that period, but fortunately everything remained on track and here I am, 11 months later writing a blog post about my incredible 12 day journey. Raid de Himalaya, the world’s highest motor-sport battle arena. This was going to be the 13th Raid. Was I superstitious? A little, but it didn’t really matter. What really mattered was that my adventure dream was to become a reality soon and I was going to Raid The Himalayas and not just Explore The Himalayas.
The excitement build up started two days before leaving. The race bikes were being serviced in a Chandigarh motor market and I was there to capture those moments as well. The servicing and repairing which had started in morning went on throughout the first night. The same process continued throughout the second day as well. As night drew closer on the second day, each twist and turn of nuts and bolts was bringing the bike closer to being ready and regular doses of adrenaline to our tired bodies. The 450 cc engine finally came to life at 3 A.M in the morning, waking up the entire neighbourhood with it’s roar! The night was coming to an end and all of us were supposed to leave for Shimla at 7:00 A.M in the morning!
If everything went according to the plan, two hired vehicles were supposed to pick us up at 7 A.M and drive us to Shimla and then basically stay with us for the next 8 days of Raid de Himalaya event. What’s the fun if everything goes according to plan? At 5 A.M we came to know that the taxi company has backed out and is not sending any vehicles, leaving us in a complete fix! We had to reach Shimla by 1:00 P.M to cover the “Scrutiny”. Scrutiny during Raid de Himalaya is where all vehicles that are taking part in the race are checked thoroughly for safety. Any vehicle which fails to meet the safety standards is barred from taking part. We finally came up with an alternate plan whereby;
a. The biker (Ashish Moudghil) left for Shimla on his bike, a Yamaha WR-450;
b. A friend picked up two photographers (myself and Rajat Gupta) from Kalka and drove them to Shimla. (Interesting Part).
c. One photographer and our manager joined us later in the evening after hiring another vehicle.
Coming back to the “Interesting Part”. The friend who picked up two photographers (including me) from Kalka to drive us to Shimla is a rally driver. You guessed it, I had not slept the night before and was hoping to catch some sleep during the journey. The journey which normally takes a little more than 2 hours to complete was completed in 1 hour and 20 minutes. Now, how could have I slept? . Having never experienced sitting in a rally car before, IT WAS AN EXPERIENCE TO REMEMBER. Thanks Diwakar Kalia for providing an explosive start to our 10 day journey ahead. You are an exceptional driver. Thanks to his driving skills we were just in time to cover our team during Raid de Himalaya scrutiny process.
Our incredible adventure in the Himalayas was just getting started… [Next Part]
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