The seven adventure loving women from the colourful state of Maharashtra geared themselves to go on an arduous bike expedition to Mana Pass lying on the India-China border in the beauteous Uttarakhand.
These seven daring ladies are self-independent who belong to different work fields. Sheetal Bidaye one of the biker woman of this group is a professional rider, Kachan K. Tamhankar is a software design strategist, Trupti Sarmalkar is a fitness expert, Shubhangi Manjrekar is an advertising professional, Shalaka Zad is an interior designer, Bhavana Issar is a business consultant and Sneh Joshi is an insurance agent. These stupendous seven rode on their bikes and blazed off from Dehradun heading towards Mana Pass, the highest motorable pass perched at an astounding elevation of 18,399 feet above sea level.
Sheetal Bidaye’s awesome gang of seven was formed in 2011. Since then they have mapped the lengths and breadths of the entire topography of India, including the far off areas of Leh-Ladakh-Manali and Spiti regions. They have crossed the thick woodlands, the steep mountains and even the emblazing deserts.
These adventure buffs survived in the extreme conditions, drove through the rigid terrains, bare the icy cold winds and endured the bitter cold for the sake of adventure and it was worth the pain
They were also frightened by the local wild dogs that they encountered from a distance and managed to have a narrow escape. “We had been warned of these dogs by the ITBP personnel and this was one of the main reasons why we made sure we reached a village before nightfall. The problem was particularly acute in Nelong Valley as we were going to Harsil on our way back. The wild dogs are bigger than our largest domesticated Alsatian dogs and their hairy appearance and big size is quite intimidating. Fortunately, we only saw them from far and managed to reach our shelter for the night safely,” says Bidaye.
When they reached the border, the ITBP jawans and officers were delighted to welcome the daring ladies to the sub-zero climes. “They couldn’t believe that we had made the journey within a day and without any major breakdowns!” says Issar. Add the others in excited tones, “It was so cold that day and the cook graciously fried up some crisp ‘pakoras’ (vegetable fritters) for us! Imagine eating piping hot pakoras at Mana Pass in the barracks. We spent the night there in sleeping bags although even that couldn’t really save us from the freezing cold!”
The next morning was full of surprises for them as the police escorted them to the ravishing Lake Deo Tal, the source of River Saraswati where the women bikers halted for quenching their thirst with the fresh water of the glacial lake. “The water was unbelievably clean and tasty, not like anything we’ve ever had in the cities. That feeling of being near the source of the sacred river, so close to nature is indescribable,” say the women.
Mana Pass connects India with Tibet within the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve in the Zanskar mountain range. It is located at a favourable distance of 27 km from the holy Badrinath shrine. Mana Pass also referred to as Mana La, Chirbitya and Dungri La is an ancient trade route between Uttarakhand and Tibet Pass which remained a minor trade route for years until it was shut down in 1951 by the Chinese. However, on April 29, 1954, India and China signed a treatise that the pilgrims and the aboriginal travellers can make advances between the two countries through Mana Pass.
Bidaye informs, “Even now we need permission from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Indian Army to visit the Pass.” The Mana Pass can be accessible from the south by following NH 58, connecting Delhi to Badrinath.
“In a sense, it’s just you and the narrow winding path, with stone mountain walls on one side and the steep valley on the other. One slip can be dangerous. But then that’s the challenge, isn’t it?” remarks Bidaye, who clearly enjoys a good dare.
The enthralling only women bike expedition was sponsored by DRIVOL, a leading German manufacturer of premium lubricating oils and greases, and powered by the Bluechem group. The necessary riding gear and accessories were supplied by Wrangler Denims. The ride was organised and supported by The Vagabond Travel Ideas and Sambhaavna group.
Sheetal Bidaye, 39 from Mumbai who rode on a Hero Impulse shares, “Absolute focus, supreme determination and an utmost desire to beat the odds and reach our destination was what kept us all going.”
These seven female daredevils travelled across the Nelong Valley and Jhadung Valley before reaching Uttarkashi from where they headed to Tilwara, Badrinath and finally to Mana Village, the last village in the Indian territory.
The 41-year-old Issar who rode the Thunderbird 500 CC tells, “No one is allowed to go alone from this point as the road is both incredible and terrifying. One not only needs the group but also the expert guidance of the army.”
Of course, no amount of dangers – be it from the weather or wildlife – could erase the wonder and excitement of seeing Jadhung, a small hamlet that was completely destroyed in the bombing during the 1961 India-China war. “It was an incredulous feeling to see the dilapidated buildings and the then chieftain’s home. Obviously, no one stays there at present,” says Bidaye.
With a beaming smile on their faces, the women proudly said: “Our feat shall be featured in the Limca Books of Records”.
Inputs from: thebetterindia.com