Akash Das in Jamshedpur on Wednesday. Picture by Animesh Sengupta
Code grit. That’s all it took for 24-year-old Jamshedpur systems engineer to vroom over 7,000km through Leh-Ladakh, Khardung La and back on his bike in 18 days.
Akash Das, who works with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and lives in Sonari, left Jamshedpur on June 7 and returned on Tuesday late evening. “I have lived to tell the tale,” he grinned. “I biked in terrains where the temperature was as low as –10°C or as high as over 52°C. From tan to frostbite to fainting thanks to low oxygen on high altitudes, I have been there, done that,” he said.
Akash made the bike trip on his 1,500cc Hero Hunk to promote adventure tourism and safe driving. “Protection is a must. I donned a riding jacket with spine, shoulder and knee guards, safety boots, knuckle-protected riding gloves, padded helmet and pollution mask,” he listed.
There was adventure in plenty too.
“Challenges posed by heat, snowstorm and near frostbite apart, a trip to a monastery turned out to be near-fatal. A monastery’s head lama near Leh saved me on June 14. At a height of 12,000ft, I fainted due to thin oxygen level, when a lama arrived and took me to a hospital in Leh. I got free treatment and became well. I wouldn’t have survived without the lama’s timely help. I am grateful to the noble soul,” Akash said.
He added that a bike trip to Leh was not for the faint-hearted.
“You ride in extreme conditions, learn to fight fatigue and stress, keep your head cool and think on your feet or wheels, actually. It’s not a joyful trip, it is a test of your will,” he said.
Akash rode 11-12 hours a day and spent nights at new places.
“I touched Ranchi, Barhi, Varanasi, Agra, New Delhi, Ludhiana, Pathankot, Udhampur, Srinagar, Sonmarg, Dras, Kargil, Lamayru, Khardung La, (the highest motorable road), Nubra before halting in Leh. I criss-crossed Chang La, Karu, Talang La, Sarchu, Baralacha La, Jispa, Rohtang, Manali, Chandigarh, Delhi and Varanasi to reach Jamshedpur,” he said.
“La, which means pass in Tibetan, seems to be my favourite word now,” he grinned.
The passionate rider experienced extreme heat (over 52°C at Etawah in Uttar Pradesh) and was stuck in a snowstorm at Talang La (-10°C). “A lifetime achievement!” he gushed. “The beauty and magnificence of the experiences, including Kashmir, had me spellbound.”
On his bike, he took luggage, a saddlebag on the rear and a tank bag in front, sponsored by Via Terra Gear. He managed fuel, food and lodging expenses on his own. “I spent over Rs 70,000 for the trip,” he said, adding that it was worth it.
“Managing my personal stuff, negotiating the roads on my bike and acclimatising to weather extremes, all at once, was a huge learning experience. I also came to know how vast and diverse India is,” he said.
Making friends along the way was also great fun, Akash said. “Most were motorcyclists from across India. I also met a photojournalists from the US and Europe,” he said.
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