HYDERABAD: 4 women. 6 countries. 17,000 km. Yes, it was a tremendous feat that city-based Jai Bharathi, Piya Bahadur, Shilpa Balakrishnan and ASD Shanthi pulled off in just two months on motorcycles. They reached the city from Nagpur on Sunday to a hearty welcome from friends, family and well wishers.
Evidently tired from the expedition and star-struck from the gala meted out to them by the Telangana Tourism department who also sponsored the trip, the four recounted their experiences to an eager audience which, besides friends and family, also comprised of many school students.
Piya Bahadur, who earlier worked with the US Consulate General in Hyderabad, said to the New Indian Express, “The expedition was really wonderful. It was everything that we hoped for. We met many interesting people and had many amazing conversations. There would be times when we travelled 400-500 km each day. But we rode safe, and since the bike is economically designed there used to be no discomfort,” said Bahadur.
For SHE Teams constable ASD Shanti, who has been chasing away men harassing women, this was an opportunity to chase her dreams. “It was not just an expedition to promote tourism in India. We also wanted to show people that it’s safe to travel in India for women.” says Shanthi, who has travelled extensively, but never went on bike trips because of her “economical background.”
Accompanying the four bikers were a team of eight including two bus drivers, a four-member video production crew, a logistics manager, and Piya Bahadur’s father, Naresh Bahadur — who interestingly is also an avid biker and who went on a motorcycle trip from Mumbai to Paris in 1979 with six other friends.
Shilpa Balakrishnan, a freelance tour consultant, told TNIE, “I have always been an avid traveller. When I first learn biking, I started going to offbeat places and exploring smaller places. Gradually, I started going out of the city. Then it progressed to week-long journeys to neighbouring states. I have now completed Ladakh treks four times, travelled down the eastern coast, and did an-all India tour alone."
Jai Bharathi, who has numerous accolades to her name including the first female to win GoUnesco Challenge in 2012, told Express, “I have been riding a bike for 20 years now. As a kid I used to like cycling. So when my father first got Luna ( a moped ) he taught me as well as my brother. Although my legs wouldn’t even reach the ground, it did instill within me a deep interest for motorcycles.”
Apart from the felicitation of the bikers, the eight supporting crew members were also lauded by the Telangana government. Teaser videos of the crew's expedition were also shown to an eager audience.