Goan bikers on ride of a lifetime, to Ladakh
Vaibhav Vaingankar, Wolfgang Furtado and Neeraj Buccam, three bikers of Khaji Boys and Goan Enthusiast And Riders (GEARS),left Goa on their KTM Duke 390 with only one set goal – to conquer the World’s highest motorable road. On their return to Goa, Café caught up with them to learn about their ride and the fond memories it created
Vaibhav Vaingankar from Siolim, Wolfgang Furtado from Aldona and Neeraj Buccam from Quepem are all 25-year-old bike enthusiasts. All three are software developers by profession, with Vaibhav and Neeraj working for Persistent Systems, Verna, while Wolfgang works for Vacation Labs, Porvorim. They met as students of Masters in Computer Application in 2013 at Goa University. They redefined friendship goals recently when they went on a 21-day bike trip from Goa to Leh-Ladakh.
“We all are members of Khaji Boys, which we formed during our hostel days; we also belong to the Goan biking group Goan Enthusiasts and RiderS (GEARS). Plans for such a trip took root in our hostel days but we were dependants then and such trips need lots of preparation. So after graduation, we all got jobs and from day one we started saving towards this trip. Our first task was to buy bikes because you can’t have a ‘bike trip’ without one. Secondly, proper riding gear is important because safety is our priority. We invested some time and money in gathering all the riding gear. Third came the route plan. I did a lot of research on the route, like learning about the challenges we could face during the ride and choosing the right time to travel so we could ride smooth and enjoy every moment,” says Vaibhav. Getting to Khardung La, which is 18,398 feet above sea level,was not an easy task for the boys, who live almost at sea level. The KTM Duke 390 was the beast of choice for the three of them, torque bikes in mid segment to climb such high altitudes. They travelled almost 7,000 km covering 11 states in 21 days in extremes of nature, right from 45°C in Madhya Pradesh to -4°C in Ladakh. “Ladakh region is part of the Great Himalayas. There are two main routes that connect to Ladakh by road: Srinagar-Leh highway and Manali-Leh highway. The region experiences heavy snowfall and routes tend to remain closed due to heavy snowfall. The routes are open only between June to mid-October. This is the only time Ladakh is connected by road,” explains Wolfgang, about travelling during this time of the year. How safe was the journey for these boys braving the climate and terrain? “With luggage, the journey became more challenging. The places we travelled were completely new to us and as the sun set, the dangers of getting robbed on the way increased. There were times when we had to do late night travelling to reach safe places to take halts for the day. As we reached Jammu and Kashmir, the risks surged due to strikes happening on the border areas; the narrow road conditions didn’t help. We climbed up to Khardung La, where the oxygen levels in the atmosphere are very less. Due to rains, we faced landslides that forced us to halt till the roads opened up. Road conditions after a little rain were challenging, to say the least. We are grateful to the Indian Army for their help in difficult situations,” recounts Neeraj. He adds, “We were living our dream. Khardung La, the world’s highest motorable pass, lies at an altitude of 18,380 feet. It is the dream destination for every biker. We travelled till the top, facing the coldest wind breeze with sub zero temperature. It was not just us who were struggling to reach the top, our bikes too started underperforming due to lack of oxygen required to fire up the engine piston. It was not at all easy to climb up to the top; we had to stop on the way just before reaching the top due to some big stones that had rolled onto the road; that’s where the Army people cleared them for us. The place was full of snow. As we reached there, other people visiting the place kept starring at us, seeing us fully suited up in our riding gear, with our luggage on our bikes. Some people even approached us out of curiosity, seeing the Goa vehicleregistration plates. They actually clapped for us after knowing that we had travelled on bikes all the way from Goa. We all felt so proud.” The boys also followed a strict schedule while riding to cover the distance within a time frame. Vaibhav says, “When the ride was planned, we had decided we will not ride after sunset. As we started heading north, the heat started affecting our ride. We took halts just after covering 300 kilometres by afternoon. The heat was so unbearable that we decided to halt in Indore. Later, we started riding before sunrise and sometimes we continued to ride even in the night just to avoid the Sun. On two occasions, we had to ride for more than 18 hours just because we wanted to avoid the heat. In Amritsar, they were joined by four Goan bikers, Amit Chiplunkar, Akshay Govekar, Girish Faldessai and Akshay Naik. Two of them were supposed to meet them as the part of their plan. They all were part of the journey till they returned to Delhi. Two boys flew back to Goa from Delhi while the other two joined Vaibhav, Wolfgang and Neeraj till they returned to Goa. “During our journey, we met many people with similar mindsets. On our way to Ladakh, we met fellow Goan Riders who joined us on our journey. Best thing about this journey is we made good new friends,” says Wolfang. Speaking about their next trip, Neeraj says, “Let it remain a surprise. Nothing is decided as of now. We haven’t even come out of our journey to the heaven. Now that we conquered the North, we might plan for smaller rides in India.”
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