For those, who don’t know about me, I am a lawyer by profession, working as In-house counsel @ ExlService in Bangalore. Am 33 years old, married to Divya Balaji and we are blessed with a son Kavin Balaji, he will turn 5 years in December this year. Basically, am from Chennai but settled in Bangalore for 9 years now. Traveling/Photography/Cycling/Backpacking is my passion and riding motorcycle is my life.
Endurance/long distance rides and such extreme record attempts requires both physical and mental fitness, keeping the mind and body in sync matters a lot; understanding my limits and pushing my limits beyond the breaking point is an constant exercise, I keep experimenting with my body a lot, so that I can control my body with my mind, which what I learnt over the years, I gradually reduced my appetite few weeks before the ride from 100% to 20%, so that during the ride I would not feel hungry and weak. I strongly believe and practice strict diet control and consuming what is required to keep me fit during such endurance/extreme rides, learnt to survive with dry fruits/fresh fruits and ORS (with Eno) on the days when am on the saddle.
I would do basic stretches/warm ups so as to avoid muscle aches during and post rides and riding solo requires extreme focus and keeping the mind calm from any distractions too matters a lot, I started keeping my self away from all distraction including social media (WhatsApp, phone, FB and ….) few weeks prior to the ride, my wife she helped me a lot in giving me a much need space and taking care of my diet and the environment to plan for this extreme ride.
Also off late realized when I go for a regular walk I consciously make an effort to clear my thoughts and to just walk without any thoughts, initially it used to be difficult, but off late practiced it, this helps me to focus on the road constantly without any background thoughts in the mind. Also this help me to control my body through mind. So whatever your mind instructs that is what your body reacts to, this is something I practiced and trained myself. I don’t want to give any Gyan here but sharing what I do.
Further I always believed it’s doable in less than 68 hours, subject to favorable weather conditions during the ride, I always go with google timings,, even in Golden Quadrilateral I did the same, I took google timing as base and wanted to stay as much as within the timing. This draft plan was created 3 months before this attempt in July, 2016.
This machine (Honda CBR 250R) is part of me; I am for sure most of the bikers do feel the same. I see it as an extension of my personality; a super human extension which has a 250 cc heart, my bike is my freedom, which helps me to explore this world in two wheels. I would always call it as Mr. Unstoppable/Reliable, my best and reliable partner, we both have started hunting for fastest time, toughest terrain and in due course did crossed few mile stone/records including Limca and India Book of Records.
How do I practice to negate Risk?
I always recall the famous dialogue “Great power comes with great responsibility”. Riding a motorcycle is a power which needs to be handled with great responsibility. I express myself by doing extreme adventures rides but with safe riding techniques and minimizing the controllable risk in each ride. I see risk as two parts, one is something which is beyond our control, which we cannot do anything, but there is another part which are controllable risk and which is in our control, I keep constantly working on the later and keep the controllable risk to ZERO, these things comes out of practice and training and I strongly believe in the same. As a responsible Motorcycle Rider, I am very much aware that time bound endurance ride would require immense concentration, focus and disciple on the road, I always believe and act on few principle while riding,
As this North to South ride is considered as one of the most toughest expedition in India as it starts from Leh, the Himalayan range and riding through Thanglangla pass so called “worlds second highest” motorable road and many such high altitude pass, where the air is so thin and level of oxygen is very less and including the weather is too unpredictable in this region with bone chilling cold, landslides, water crossing, AMS and one has to cross all such difficulties to start with and reach Manali as the first leg of the trip, in addition to that the roads from Manali to Leh is open only from June to mid of October, which also makes this expedition more challenging, further riding across different terrains and places like MP, UP where there would be cattle crossing all over the roads and sense of traffic/rules is very less, further one has to ride through worst roads of Gwalior to Jhasi; Seoni ghat roads through Pench National Park and Nagpur to Adilabad where the roads are full of potholes and bad roads, and further one has to train himself to ride through all weather conditions before taking this challenge. All of these make this North to South Expedition; Leh to Kanyakumari (K to K) of 3850 kms as the toughest ride a rider could ever do in his life and it requires immense preparation, skill and will power to do a solo trip.
Bike Loaded into Pallet on 17th September (VRL Logistics) which costed around INR 6500 in total from Bangalore to Delhi.
Sandeep my friend who helped me to take the bike from VRL logistics, with a quick check at nearby Honda service center and with quick chat on early CTC days continued my ride towards Manali, Deepak who connected with me just before the trip and conveyed his wishes to meet up before Panipat, I did realized that I missed to pack a nose plier in my tool kit, as soon as I landed in Delhi I requested Deepak whether he can get one for me, he was so kind he bought a nose plier and met him at 79th Mile “Food Garage” with refreshing chat continued my ride, I was just relaxed and getting a feel of my bike as by the time it was more than 2 weeks off the saddle, crossed Rupnagar and when nearing Swarghat (Before Bilaspur) it started raining heavily, called off for the day and rested in a hotel by 22:30pm, decided to sleep at-least 8 hours each day before the ride so that I can compromise on the sleep during the return journey.
2nd October (Sunday) – Started at 8 from the Swarghat and crossed the bad roads through Bilaspur, as usual the Chandigarh=Manali road is too busy during the day, thinking that SDM office will be off on Sunday and further it was National Holiday too, I reached Manali by 12:30 by then SDM office was closed for the day, but to my surprise they do work until 12 on Sundays which I came to know after reaching Manali, never the less I was in no hurry at all, took a room near to SDM office and rested for the day.
October 3rd (Monday) – I had a proper continues sleep that night and woke up early by 6:30, quickly refreshed and had a aloo paratha for break-fast (this was my last solid food until 8th October) and knowing the fact that there would long que for permit to Leh went to SDM office pretty early by 8:30 with filled up forms and documents (RC, DL and pollution certificate), I was the first person in the que but later by around 9:30 there was a long que. Got the permit for the same day and started from Manali by 11, plan was to reach Sarchu before the sunset and settle down for the day, I was also keeping tab on the timings to see in how much time I reach Sarchu, crossing Rothang was the first big task as it did took 2 hours 45 min to cross Rothang, reached Tandi and filled up the fuel tank, as in the previous ride in August (South to North Round Trip) I didn’t use the additional fuel for 350 kms from Tandi to Leh, the full tank did lasted until reaching Leh, so even this time I decided to ride without additional fuel from Tandi to Leh and further with few stops for photos and videos did reached Sarchu by 18:30 and decided to rest in one of the dhaba tents, there were few bikers already in that place thought to just catch up with them, but I was unwell (did vomited few time and had a mild headache), I am pretty much prepared for this as I didn’t give any time for my body to get acclimatization, but kept myself hydrated and slept for the day.
October 4th (Tuesday) Woke up at 7:30, as the other bikers too where getting ready, but one of the team decided to back up and head towards Manali as they were unprepared for LEH terrain and altitude, with quick chat with other bikers (Lakshay and his friend) started by around 9:30 from Sarchu with a tea and dry fruits for break-fast headed towards Pang, knowing that until Pang the roads were bad decided to reach Leh as early as possible will less stops in between, crossed the torturous roads from Sarchu to Pang and I was badly in need of a break, stopped in Pang and ordered for a tea in one of the shops, few Mercedes Benz along with Hyundai Creta crossed and stopped at the adjacent shop, the person (Halley Prabhakar) in the Hyundai Creta waved his hands looking at KA registered bike, joined with them for a tea and in due course came to know that it was the same team (Rana and team) that did North to South in four wheeler few years back in 78 hours, it was a pleasure meeting like-minded people after few minutes of interaction with the group and they wished me safe ride and bided away.
I continued my ride towards Leh crossed Moree plains with few stops for photos and crossed Thanglangla pass, it was cold even during afternoon, thinking that while returning I would have to be prepared to ride in freezing cold conditions as I would be crossing Thanklangla in early morning, with a deep breath headed towards Leh, as nearing to Leh my eyes started filled with tears, I don’t know the exact reason, but it’s a mixed feeling, a fulfillment, missing my son/wife, but I couldn’t stop myself I was in tears, it was pouring then I stopped in few minutes at Upshi and refreshed myself and had a tea, I felt better and continued towards Leh and reached by 16:00, filled fuel and found a water wash garage, did a quick water wash and cleaned by bike, adjusted the Chain and lubed it, as I wanted to keep it better condition for the return journey. Now Mr. Unstoppable is ready and back in shape.
From there went to Leh Police Station told them that I am attempting North to South Expedition in Motorcycle and requested them whether they would attest in few form before the start of the ride, they were so supportive and appreciated it and they asked me to come whenever I would start the attempt from Leh, Thanking them I went in search of a Hotel and found one near to the police station, dropped all the language and went out to get few fruits and chocolates and also filled fuel, returned back to the room that’s when Lakshay and his friend, whom I met in Sarchu in the morning called up and said they wanted to stay along with me, and they did reached at 20:30, we three settled in the same room and exchanged few words on our passion, eventually Lakshay is also an lawyer works in Delhi, they were so kind knowing my attempt and I require good sleep they also went to sleep early, as per my initial plan I wanted to take rest for day but due to delay in getting the permit in Manali I was behind a day with my schedule. just before I slept that night, I told to myself that If my body and mind is fit enough by tomorrow morning I will start, otherwise I would take rest for a day and start by 6th October, I couldn’t sleep properly that day with few bad dreams and I felt restless throughout the night.
October 5th (Wednesday) –I didn’t had a continues sleep that night and woke up at 5:00 and changed the alarm to October 6th 5:00 and slept again, decided to take complete rest and sleep as much as I can before the ride, I woke up just two time in the entire day and that too for 15 min each had few Pear fruits and slept again, I knew all I want is sleep and rest and told to myself that I am not going to do anything other than this.
October 6th (Thursday) – I slept for almost 32 hours from 4th October 21:30 to 6th October 5:00, that the longest I ever slept in my life too, I felt so refreshing, both my mind and body were in sync for the toughest ride of the life, took a quick shower and had few Pear fruits knowing that I need to survive with it for the day, wore 2 thermal layers and jacket and ridding pant, further another rain layer to avoid the cold breeze and loaded saddle and tank bag to the Bike and said good bye to Lakshay and his friend and got all the formalities done in Leh police station and proceeded to get the electronic receipt from ATM.
Reached the PNB ATM and called up my wife and told her that if I cross Manali before sunset today and reach Delhi before sunrise tomorrow, will go for a movie at Trivandrum on Sunday, she laughed for a few seconds and said “ride safe, I would be waiting for you” it might look silly for the people who reads this but it means a lot for both of us, that’s the bonding we both have. With an everlasting smile in my face, the longest journey to watch a movie began.
Started from PNB ATM at Leh (Highest PNB ATM) at 6.27 on 6th October, (Odometer – 42389) – checked SPOTwalla link and my Garmin 64S GPSMap and started from there, it was bone chilling cold in the morning, early October that’s when the weather changes in this region and it becomes too colds and fresh snow starts, once I crossed Upshi its all barren cold desert the temperature was as close to subzero, to avoid my fingers and toes getting numb, deliberately kept moving my toes and fingers, I could hardly see people in the roads, with a focus on the road and with a smile on the face I pushed the first phase crossing Thanglangla pass at 8:20 (5328 meters)( 2nd highest motorable pass) in freezing cold, the two layers of thermals weren’t sufficient, but still I knew only way to overcome this is to cross this stretch as soon as possible and keep riding. Even the Meroo plains were freezing cold and I am in no mood to stop either pushed and crossed Pang and Gata Loops by the time Sun is out and felt better crossed the rough patches of roads and reached Sarchu at 11:30, by then I was done with 250 kms in 5 hours, this was my first stop from Leh, had a quick 10 minutes tea break and continued further towards Tandi.
Just before Zing Zing Bar, fuel indicator started blinking, though I knew my bike will reach Tandi, I didn’t took any chances checked with couple of bikers who were heading towards Sarchu, they were from Kochi (Kerala) (Aneesh Ajaykumar and Naveen Mohan), they gave me a half a liter fuel without even a second thought, that was indeed a timely help, thanked them and crossed Jispa and Keylong in no time and reached Tandi by 14:50 and filled fuel by then am done with 366 km in 8 hours 20 minutes (Odometer – 42757)
My next target was to cross Rohtang and reach Manali before the sunset, usually it would become foggy after the sunset, I didn’t stop from there on and crossed Sissu, Khoksar and crossed Rohtang in no time, just before Manali near Palchan there were some traffic due to cattle crossing in the road, didn’t had any other option did crawled for few kilometers and reached Manali by 18:05 (Odometer – 42862), a sense of relief after riding through tortures roads in freezing cold and in thin air (less Oxygen), filled fuel again and continued towards Mandi.
The Roads from Manali to Chandigarh are usually busy, heavy traffic and with few bad stretches, where the roads are worst just before Bilaspur. I was very much prepared to take this up, started from Manali towards Mandi, where couple of bikers in Pulsar, without even helmets were constantly around me and didn’t let me to ride until Mandi and were doing some stunts in the road and in due course they were disturbing other vehicles in the road, I have seen many such idiots in the road over the years so I didn’t reacted to it, just ignored and continued my ride knowing these idiots would not continue more than few kilometers.
Crossed Mandi by 21:00, it took 3 hours for a distance of 110km from Manali as the roads were busy, I always go with merits of the road, I knew and I was prepared for this, crossed Bilaspur (bad stretch ) and just after Rupnagar started to feel the heat, stopped in a fuel station, filled fuel and removed all the thermal and rain layer and packed in to the saddle bag, removing the thermal and rain layers was a big relief, had some dry fruits and crossed Ambala by 1:40 on 7th October, from there its 4 lane to Delhi and with less traffic around was heading towards Delhi near Sonipat there was one Maruthi Swift was in parallel with me and was waving hands, I just pointed at my helmet sticker and indicated them I am on a purpose and allow me to ride, and those people nodded their head and showed a cover, then I realized may be someone tracking me online wanted to convey something, then I stopped by the side of the road and then got to know that it was Rohit Mishra and Rohit Chopra with whom I interacted few days ago on FB messenger, it was so nice of them to track me live and waited in mid nigh at around 3:30 on 7th October to give me some refreshments, knowing that I would not have had anything from morning, actually it was indeed a much need refreshment at that time of hour, as I ran out of water and was looking to get a water bottle somewhere, I took a water bottle, few Sneakers and a bite of sandwich, I thanked them for the timely help and proceeded towards Delhi, were I took a wrong turn before the Noida Expy, when I was looking at the GPS and finding the connecting roads Rohit & Rohit followed me and showed the way out and connecting road towards Yamuna Expy, such a wonderful kind people, thanked them again and reached Yamuna Expy by 4:45.
Reached Mathura by 6:05 on 7th October, due to dead straight road felt little tired, I stopped in the Yamuna Expy fuel station and refreshed myself and called up my wife and informed her that I have reached Mathura and everything is fine at my end and also told her that I will call back tomorrow morning from Hyderabad. I know from there on its doable but considering the bad roads and weather conditions it’s going to be equally tougher as the first 24 hours. By then I was done with 1166 kms in 23 hours 30 minutes from Leh to Mathura (Odometer 43561)
The Yamuna Expy was too foggy in the morning, I made sure I was visible for the vehicles behind me. Knowing that Agra would be crowded and there would be cattle crossing all over from here on, I was very much prepared for another toughest day and crossed Agra by 7:20, the roads from Agra to Gwalior are good, but people crossing, speed breakers and cattle crossing made me to focus more, the Gwalior to Jhansi roads are bad with potholes and it’s in under construction for years now there were dead cattle’s all over this stretch, which also made me to concentrate more on the roads.
Reached Jhansi by 11:00 and whenever I stopped for fuel I had few dry fruits and ORS which gave me the much need energy and kept my fluid level intact, I would usually have the dry fruits in the tank bag, so that by the time they fill fuel I will be done with my refreshment, further I always used to offer dry fruits to person who fills the fuel in the fuel station few would take it and few would hesitate, but what I get back from them is a smile which fuels my mind until the next fuel station and followed by the photo of electronic fuel receipts with odometer and GPS, which in total usually takes 10 to 12 min in each fuel station. There are numerous people who I passed by from kids playing around to people in fuel station to people who passed by, many of them did wished me good luck and with a smile which itself a positive energy that kept me going on and on.
Nearing Lalitpur around by 12:00 the sky has become darker, with thick dark clouds, it started raining heavily for few kilometers, I wore the rain layer again and made sure all the bills, phone and electronic gadgets are covered and packed in dry sack, from there on the rain started continuously pouring but I didn’t stop, I was very much prepared for this and crossed Sagar by 13:30, by then the rain stopped and the sky become clear. I wanted to reach Nagpur before sunset as the roads in Seoni ghat sections are too bad and with on and off rain, it would be difficult crossing in night, with these thoughts running behind crossed Narsinghpur by 15:00, and with bad roads ahead, the chain too had gotten bit loose, crossed Seoni by 16:50 and entered Pench National park.
The roads where completely washed away and there were huge potholes and with rain it become difficult to judge how deep it would be, it’s one of the worst roads you can ride through in India, I still remember in 2013 when I first rode in this section of the road we faced lots of challenges and the potholes in the roads which created dents in the bike rims, which I don’t want to happen now, so I was very much focused on to the roads and made sure I cross this stretch tactically, I found a puncture shop, where I got the bike chain adjusted and lubricated with Motul chain lube, which I carried with me, by the time it has already become dark and crossed Nagpur by 19:50 rain did stopped finally and reached Jamb by 20:40 (near Hinganghat) (Odometer – 44538), filled fuel and packed my mobile back in the dry sack and prepared for the last tortures bad roads of the journey Hinganghat to Adilabad, by then again rain started and there were huge potholes all over this stretch, negated each one of them with caution and reached Adilabad by 23:00.
From Adilabad the roads have become better but the rain started pouring heavily, I knew am well ahead of the planned timing, but I don’t want to stop unless my body/mind would need rest, continued in pouring rain and reached Hyderabad by 3:00 on 8th October, due to Durga Pooja, there were few diversions in Hyderabad city, instead of rerouting in GPS I did asked for a help with a bunch of boys in bikes (Mayur Dudhrejia and his friends), they did helped me to take few right diversions and connected Bangalore highway.
Noticed that my phone got switched off as I didn’t connect to power source due to rain, as the rain stopped after reaching Hyderabad I connected the phone to charger and continued towards Bangalore, within few kilometers did noticed that the Spot light and rear view mirror loosed in negating the bad roads the entire day, stopped and tightened it but within few kilometers it again got loose, with no other option twisted the SPOT light and tightened it again, all of these did took few minutes, it was around 5:00 on 8th October, that’s when I decided to take a power nap in a fuel station at Kanimetta (before Kurnool), the continues rain and bad roads made me to focus more and kept my concentration multiple time more than usual, all of these kept me awake for continues 47 hours from Leh to Kanimetta (near Karnool) for 2700 kms, went to rest room and refreshed myself and came back and parked my bike at one corner and leaned on the wall and was about to sleep, that’s when one of the fuel station guy gave a foldable metal cot to sleep, people are awesome/helpful, it was so nice of him, it was a luxury at that time of the hour. Slept for 1 hour 20 minutes and woke up at 6:30 on 8th October, washed my face and thanked the fuel station guy for the help and sat on the saddle. By then I was done with 1540km on day 2 from Mathura to Kanimetta (near Karnool) and overall 2700 kms in 48 hours.
After the much needed power nap, I felt refreshing and was ready to take the last leg of the journey, knowing that Hyderabad to Kanyakumari roads are good 4 lane roads and also I know each section of this road pretty well. Started from Kanimetta at 6:30 and reached Kurnool by 7:55.
I was in no mood to stop until I reach Kanyamumari, crossed Anantapur by 9:20 and stopped for fuel, filled fuel and went for loo break and took the photo of the fuel receipt along with the Odometer and GPS, eat few dry fruits and after a 10 min break I started the engine, the bike didn’t start, then noticed that all the lights were on, someone did switched it on, when I went for a loo break , turned all the lights & charger off and tried after couple of minutes, it did started, a sense of relief as the battery had become weak by then. Didn’t took any chances after that, disconnected the mobile charger from the bike and continued towards Bangalore reached Hebbal circle by 11:20, as it was a long weekend there was huge traffic, managed to negate it and crossed Electronic City by 12:30,
Continued towards Salem as there were flyover construction around in Salem, I was in center lane and that’s when couple of Scorpio which was to my right took a sudden extreme left turn and took the service lane to avoid the signal, it took me with a surprise I applied full break and stopped at a safe distance, the ABS powered Mr. Unstoppable was so stable and made the difference here. I told to myself that until the last foot I am not done, with more vigilant sight continued and stopped near Namakkal at 15:20 for fuel, that’s when I noticed that the chain slider got cut and was hanging between the chain, took a small knife and pulled out the portion of the chain slider, by then chain had also loosed a bit, hopping that it should survive until the end, continued further and reached Madurai by 17:00, knowing that I am so near to the finish line, I don’t want to take any chances, Sun has gone down and I was near to Tirunelveli and people where crossing randomly across the highway after the sunset and further the SPOT light too was twisted so I couldn’t get proper vison of the road, so I road pretty slow and reached Kanyakumari by 19:50, I looked out for an ATM to pull out my last and final receipt to mark the finishing time, but there were people in que in all of the ATM’s, stopped at State Bank of Travancore and took my final receipt at 20:05 on 8th October, 2016, Just after that I notice my mobile phone was switched off, connect to a charger and took few photos of the Odometer (46251)
Called up my wife and said I am at Kanyakumari, and will finish all the other paperwork/attestation and will reach back home as soon as possible, went to Police Station, Hospital but there wasn’t any response, then went to Kanyakumari Railway station and took attestation from Station Master Mr. Bhagat Oraon, he was so kind enough to hear all of it and appreciated the effort.
Slept with great satisfaction of completing the ride and next day morning took few photos in Kanyakumari and headed towards Trivandrum to see my wife and son.
The satisfaction of completing Leh to Kanyakumari of 3862 kms in 61 Hours 38 minutes, was unexplainable, all the effort behind
A New National Record was made Fastest North to South Expedition in Motorcycle (Leh to Kanyakumari) 3862 kms 61 hours 38 minutes
“Success and failures are part of life, seeing failures as experience is what I learnt over the years”
I would dedicate this accomplishment to my family & friends who has been supportive throughout my journey of life.
My Family – Divya Balaji and Kavin Balaji without you this wouldn’t have been possible, am blessed to have you both in my life; My Mom and Dad supports me in all that I do, My Dad he is my first inspiration towards motorcycle/bi-cycle and mom she takes care of me at all times; Prabhu Mohan (brother) the person who taught me how to ride a motorcycle.
Honda Two Wheelers India – For sponsoring for this Ride
My inspiration towards endurance and motorcycling world Peter Van Geit, Arun Prabahar, Vinodh KB & Ram Ps
My all time best CTC buddies, Dhinu Karthik, Vishwanathan Balasubramanian, Saba Nayagam, Manoharan Rajasekaran, Bharanidharan Ravi, Anu Kool, Ankit Mathur, Praveen Kumar, Balaji G, Kovendhan, Masanamuthu, Mohan Babu, Vinoth Y, Kamal Kay, Kirubhakaran, Masanamuthu without you guys I wouldn’t have entered the world of motorcycling/traveling.
Peter Van Geit & Chennai Trekking Club and CTC Biking Team for the support over the years.
Tansi Honda Staff – Karthik the man behind the machine, thanks for keeping the Honda CBR 250 R in top condition always & Chandrasekhar Sir you have been such a support since the day we meet, looking forward to get associated with Honda in forthcoming events and a big thanks to all the support staffs at Tansi Honda.
Sunder Kwatra and my colleagues at office – Thanks for the support and providing me a space to achieve my personal goals apart from professional goals.
Special thanks to Sandeep Bharat, Deepak Jangra, Rohit Mishra, Rohit Chopra, Aneesh Ajaykumar, Naveen Mohan, Mayur Dudhrejia and his friends for the timely help during the ride.
Originally published at http://live-ride-explore.blogspot.in/2016/11/fastest-north-to-south-leh-to.html