Words: Jehan Adil Darukhanawala with Maral Yazarloo
Images: Pankaj Trivedi
Riding around the world has been a dream for many a biker and we do live the dream but in very minuscule proportions. It’s a dream that most bike enthusiasts take to bed every day. Maral Yazarloo and Pankaj Trivedi however decided to take things up a notch with an around-the-world expedition on their two motorcycles under the ‘Ride to be One’ banner.
Maral is the retail head of realty company Panchshil Realty and is also the founding member of India’s first ladies’ superbike club – ‘Lady Riders of India’. She became the Vice President of the Ducati club in 2016 and was the first lady to own a Ducati and a BMW GS in the country. In the span of six years, she has clocked over 1,00,000km on her superbikes.
Riding alongside is her long-time confidante and friend Pankaj who has held the Limca book of Indian record for riding from Kanyakumari to Leh in five days, five hours and 45 minutes. He has also handled a digital marketing campaign for Tata Capital titled ‘Half Stories’ that portrayed his journey from Dharamshala to Guwahati, receiving 18 awards for it. Pankaj has led several Himalayan expeditions and has ridden his motorcycle down to India from the United Kingdom.
To undertake such a daunting task, you need to have a concrete plan and so they have divided their journey into four legs. They began their first leg on the ides of March and while it may not have been the most ideal day for Caesar, Maral and Pankaj were ploughing through to Baroda. Maral recollects in her blog, “After an awesome sunset, we found a hotel and parked our bikes for the first day. Our responsibilities were clear. While Pankaj worked on the bikes, I washed the clothes and ordered the food. It was then that the realisation hit me. When was the last time I looked at the sky? Counted the stars? Talked to the moon? Watched the sun go down? All the things I was addicted to when I was a little small-town girl!”
Riding on, the duo reached their first border crossing at Bhutan after being on the road for over ten days. That’s when Maral met with her first test of faith. On the way back from Bhutan, the chilling temperatures had got the better of her and at the first given opportunity, she opted to take a halt for some hot tea and noodles. They inquired whether the stopping point had rooms available for the night. They were met with a negative response. Maral felt her emotions getting the better of her and that’s when Pankaj chimed in, “Is this how you want to conquer the world on your bike?” This jolted her spirits right back up. They soldiered on for a further 30 kilometres before they halted for the night. With the wind howling through the mountains, they rolled into their sleeping bags with their riding gear on (extra layers of clothing added, mind you) and called it a night.
“I guess it took all of these hardships for me to realise and appreciate that it is a blessing if you have a little room, with a pillow to rest your head at night! After a while I felt warm. A smile returned to my dry face. Beautiful sunshine! Now I understand why people worship the sun. Now so do I.”
Pankaj’s motorcycle, which had been ailing for a while, finally gave way the next morning. A few phone calls were made and they had the bike transported to the decided destination. The bike was transported from Thimphu to Siliguri in the back of a Mahindra Bolero. Things took a turn for the worse as they were greeted with the disappointing news of their Myanmar visas getting rejected. Joshua Castro, a friend of the two and a known figure in the motorcycling scene in Mumbai, flew down to Siliguri with the necessary parts and fixed the bike and gave the other one a thorough check up. A small trip to Delhi and they were granted access into Myanmar, however there still was the whole of North-East India left to be covered. Inclement weather prevailed for the better part through the Seven Sisters, and they had to tackle harsh terrain including muck and slush. They proceeded to Moreh (not to be confused with the plains on the Leh-Manali route), the gateway into Myanmar.
Pankaj was a little gloomy heading into Myanmar. “Perhaps the thought of not setting foot in the country for over a year and a half was hitting him harder than ever,” Maral remarks. It was at their first food stop that she was reassured of her partner’s resolve as she saw him joyful and snapping away while having a delightful conversation with the restaurant owner. After gorging on the sumptuous Burmese food, their ride restarted but only for a further 50 kilometres as this time round Maral’s bike had developed overheating issues. The muck and dirt through Nagaland had lodged stones and dirt in the radiator and this had damaged the fan. They had another serious matter to contend with – the problem of fading brake pads. Myanmar is still relatively unequipped to handle large capacity motorcycles and hence sourcing parts were a major problem for them. The crafty Pankaj did manage to cut and paste the pads available to them onto their existing ones and get the brakes back to working condition. As for the broken fan, the only solution was to take frequent stops and cool down the engine along the way.
As they made their way into Thailand, they were greeted with familiar faces in the form of Surakrit and Monster. They had met up in Bhutan and were going to be accompanying them throughout the course of Thailand, as the Thai government had passed a new law stating that any visitors travelling through the country on motorcycles or in a car would have to have a local person along with them for the entire duration of their stay in Thailand. Lucky for them, they had entered Thailand on the first day of the Thai New Year and were able to join in the festivities. Here’s where Maral was able to get her bike’s fan fixed before making her way to the famed Chiang Mai roads which are a rider’s delight. Maral states in her blog that they would have wanted to stay over for a few more days had they been allowed to roam around the country freely, without their escorts tagging along.
Moving to some lush green countryside, Laos welcomed the two with open arms. They could have been mesmerised by the countryside but a small setback meant they had to be extra cautious. Maral had a fall from her bike and her right leg was trapped under it. Thankfully though, she escaped without any serious injuries to herself or damage to her motorcycle.
Language was beginning to become an issue as well – at one point, despite their best attempts at sign language, they couldn’t get the locals to understand that they wanted a place to halt for the night. As fate would have it, after a set of small villages they came upon a guesthouse of sorts. Here they were spoilt for choice when it came to food as it was either frog legs, pig stomach or chicken. A few days more in the country and Pankaj got food poisoning. They had to put their ride off for two days until he recovered enough to jump back into the saddle and ride into Cambodia.
Cambodia was familiar to Pankaj as he had ridden through the country earlier and he recollected visiting exquisite temples en route to Siem Reap. Passing through dense forests, Pankaj led the way and upon reaching a point he led them down a stray path. Confused Maral followed her partner only to come upon old temples, with no one in sight. The place was calm, peaceful and resonated with positive energy. They had an easier time finding accommodation here, and to their delight also found Indian restaurants!
The tropical climate meant their afternoon riding sessions were curtailed. At this point Maral decided to stop chickening out on eating anything other than chicken and tried out frog legs. According to her, they tasted just like chicken. Another thing checked off the bucket list for her as they finally made it to the Cambodia-Thailand border before entering Malaysia.