18000 km, 13 countries, 1 bike and a rider
It began with a dream to ride across the longest road on the Indian map, which was soon followed by a journey that stretched across 18,000 kms in 13 countries.
This is the story of Kedarnath GM, an engineer at JSW Steels. Kedarnath was 14 years old when his father bought a Kawaski HS. However, he wasn’t allowed to ride the bike. His only task was to clean and start the bikes on days his father was out of station. Nevertheless, in 2012 Kedar went ahead to ride from Vijayanagar to Khardunga La when he was 29 years old and he subsequently completed an expedition across 13 countries.
Kedar had never intended his first long journey on his bike to be a solo ride. But he was left with only two choices, either to ride alone or not ride at all. And he chose the former. “I got my Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 cc not for easy commutes within the city, but for long journeys,” says Kedar.
So in 2013, Kedar covered around 8300 km on his bike in 39 days and in 2014, he travelled 18,000 km covering 13 countries across Europe.
Kedar would reserve all his vacations for only one thing – travel. He has trekked the Western Ghats, the Himalayas and has rafted along the Beas, Varahi, Sita and Kali Rivers. It was during these exploratory journeys he realises that he needed a bike and thus Kedar got his prized possession- the Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350cc.
Vijayanagar to Khardungla on a bike
After I got my bike I simply knew that I had to head out on a long journey. When I saw the map, I looked for the longest road available, and picked the one from Vijayanagar to Khardung La,
However, when Kedar went to his friends with the idea, not only were they not interested, they also discouraged him from heading on such an arduous road trip. Kedar nevertheless was determined to make this journey, so he set out alone.
“I’ve always had this burning desire to ride as far as I possibly can and meet a lot of people from different walks of life,” adds Kedar. Biking was all about exploration and discovery. The adventure of riding alone in the remotest parts of the country is an experience that Kedar will never forget.
To prepare for this journey, Kedar learnt everything he could from the Royal Enfield mechanics, like changing the spark plug, tightening the chain, cleaning the spark plug, changing the gas cable. He believes that a solo bike journey is not only about you, it is a team effort between your bike and you. “If you understand your bike and work in tandem with it, she will definitely reciprocate,” adds Kedar.
Kedar describes his first long journey bike ride as a complete sensorial override. Whether it is the wind cutting across your face or the feel of the gear on your back, everything is just sensorial.
The life changing journey
Describing his first journey, Kedar says, “I remember exploring the landscape and world around me. It gave me a sense of liberation like never before, I began discovering aspects of my personality I never thought existed, whether it is spending the night in a dhabha, or pushing my bike to the nearest mechanic, or spending a night on meagre meal of milk and stale rotis.”
My first bike ride was a life changing experience. There were times when the cold winds cut through my bones, and my jacket just felt useless, but I still kept going on. At no point I felt that I need to stop or turn back. Once you are alone with nature and world around you nothing else matters.
It was after the successful completion of his first journey that Kedar planned his next ride -- Vijayanagar – Pakistan – Afghanistan – Iran- Turkey- Bulgaria- Serbia- Budapest_ Prague- Germany and back to Vijayanagar.
In 2014, Kedar realised this dream as well, but skipped Pakistan as he couldn’t get a visa. He decided on the following route: India-Iran-Turkey-Bulgaria-Romania-Hungary-Budapest-Austria-Czech Republic-Germany-Belgium-France-Spain-France-Italy-Greece-Turkey-Iran-India.
An excerpt of his reminiscence of the journey:
“Every day I would wake up to find myself in a new home, in a new city, in a new town or a new country. In my entire journey, only thrice did I spend the nights in a hotel, the rest of my nights were spent at gas stations, the sea shore, gardens, parking lots, homes and couch-surfing."
For six months, his bike was his home. Kedar says he lead the life of a nomad, he told and gathered stories. He further adds that this journey taught him everything, it taught him survival, the use of my body and senses, it even taught him language and intuition.
I have ridden around Paris all night, through buildings, narrow streets, and palaces. I have ridden with a handicapped girl who was kind enough to give me directions, there can be nothing more humbling than that.