Dr. Arnob Gupta popularly known as “The Flying Doc” has done it once again. He seems to have sworn to break every single land-speed record in the country by a humiliating margin. Only a few months back he covered the entire 6000km stretch of the Golden Quadrilateral in a little over 90 hours, storming into the Limca Book of records. This time, he has created a new record for the Leh to Kaniyakumari North-South run – covering the distance comprising some of the toughest terrains in the world in a mind bogglingly fast 78 hours.
We’d like to congratulate Arnob for his incredible feat on behalf of the Motoroids team and the entire biking fraternity. We’d also like to extend our gratitude to the individuals who helped him in achieving this milestone.
It’s an emotional victory for the Flying Doctor, who has on previous three occasions tried and failed to achieve the feat. Any other man would probably have given up after the very first failure, second at most – not Arnob though. With his steely resolve and an even steelier butt, Arnob went on to keep trying until he got this achievement ticked out of his bucket list. He is what we commonly term, an urban legend.
Arnob will be writing a detailed log of his adventure in the coming days. In the meantime, let us have the privilege of introducing to you the legendary machine that helped him set the trail ablaze. This will be followed by a story about his previous attempts at the record, and then a quick log of the journey by Arnob in Bullet points.
WE REQUEST ALL OF YOU WHO APPRECIATE HIS FEAT TO CONGRATULATE HIM VIA COMMENTS
Here’s the story of Arnob’s previous attempts at the record.
The score till date: K to K: 3 (including two knockdowns) Me: 0. Three rounds were over. It was time for the fourth round.
A LITTLE HISTORY.
Equipped with a Karizma fitted with extra lights and an auxillary tank strapped to the back, I overcame a round of AMS at Marhi to reach Jispa the next day where I had some more of the same (though milder), before finally reaching Leh the next night. A full days rest, no AMS and I was ready to roll at 4:30 am. About 3 hrs into the ride, climbing Tanglangla, it started to snow. Lightly at first, gently covering the landscape with a dusting of white, then heavily. The road disappeared under 3 inches of snow. It became uneven, and the rocks on the road had a coating of ice on them as I kept climbing. With all that snow on the road they were not visible any more. Crash! Skidded on an ice covered rock. Fall #1. I picked up the bike and carried on. Fall#2. Same response from me. I was now about 2 km from Tanglangla top, after which the descent begins. Fall #3. This was enormously energy sapping. Lifting up a fully loaded bike is no joke at the best of times. In the thin air at 16500 feet with slippery ice covered rocks beneath you and the bike, it is even less fun. I felt dizzy from the exertion. I decided that henceforth I would ride with my feet down, and walk the bike along as far as I needed to. No chance of falling again as I knew that lifting the bike was not going to happen again.
Another fall and I had no energy to lift the bike again. I was not in the least bit cold, and took stock of the situation. Today was not my day. Maybe I’d return to Leh and start again the next day once help arrived, as I was not in a position to go anywhere now. I sat at the side of the road, my bike fallen in the centre, and waited. 20 minutes later the lights of a taxi convoy became visible. A brief discussion followed pertaining to the merits of leaving the bike where it was as opposed to taking it with me – the driver finally agreed to take it along and it was lifted up onto the roof. I couldn’t help. I felt sick. The convoy tried to move on. It couldn’t. Out came the snow chains and finally we were on our way.
The rescue was good for me, but not for the bike. Bouncing along over the potholes, EVERYTHING on the left side of the bike was shattered. The extra lights, crash guard, air horn, even the footpeg hanger extrusions… these were junk now. My priority was repairing as much as I needed to ride and riding home on a minimum equipment list as it were, and doing proper repairs at home.
Attempt #1 was over. Floored by the mighty Himalayas
Same bike, same loadout, but there was a small change this time – the bike had been fitted with a R15 monoshock and linkages which meant it was much better in terms of road holding as well as shock absorption. The extra fuel tank was gone, as I figured I did not need so much, and could make do with 3 litres in bottles for emergencies. This time the trip till Manali was smooth – but unusually for June, Rohtang pass was closed for the previous 10 days. And it continued to stay that way with stories of waist deep slush in some of the other passes doing the rounds. 4 days of waiting and it became clear that it would be a minimum of another 5 days before the passes would open (subject to good weather!). Once open the vehicles stuck there would get priority. The “roads” would be icy bogs. All of which might shut down again due to the weather.
Time to pack up and head for home. The first attempt had lasted less than 200 km, and this one… I had not even made it to the start point. I think it might hold the record for the shortest Limca endurance attempt ever. Start point minus 495, having spent 4 days in the vicinity.
Attempt #2 was over.
The bike was fully prepped and there was another small time envelope to do the run – late September. Monsoon practically over, and minimal slush on the passes. All the same for the slush, I was going to use dual sport tyres, much better in the slush than the street tyres which the bike would be shod with, ex Manali, for the rest of the run on tarmac. The trip to Manali was fine, as was the climb up Rohtang, almost to the end. As there was traffic, I was riding on the edge of the cliff, but due to some obstruction in front, I slowed down and came to a halt, and put my foot down. Into space.
The next thing I was aware of was a panoramic view of the sky and the feeling of landing on my back and beginning to roll after parting company with the bike. I came to rest on a narrow ledge, the bike near me, more than 30 feet below the road. Miraculously, I had no injuries except for a minor scratch on my palm (which was only because I had taken my gloves off to take photographs). The bike however was not so lucky – the front end was smashed, but that had protected the chassis. How I got out of there is a long story, but eventually I did. The bike had to be couriered back and the courier (GATI) delivered my luggage including the bike after pilfering some items and then altering the shipment logs to try cover up the theft.
www.gaticourierhorrorstory.com is the site to go to if you ever have the urge to ship your bike using GATI Attempt# 3 was over. Almost knocked out be the mighty Himalayas. Almost but not quite. K to K had built up a good lead. It were winning the fight, which had already cost an average of 40K/trip if bike prep was included. But for the ZMA, it was a knockout punch. Apart from one trip out of town, it was used henceforth as a commuter.
Read about the previous attempts here:
There would be a gap of two full years before I would take on K to K again. And it would be on a rather more capable bike, a CBR250 R fully modified for fast, long range touring. By itself, the CBR250 is a very sweet bike, but not a tourer. A hard seat, little weather protection, a tiny tank, very poor headlight…..these things need improvement.
Finally, the winning run
At the outset, I’d like to thank Mr HV Kumar, Arpan Diwanjee, Mr Piran doctor and Mr Dorje and his travel agency partner, Mr Atish for the help provided during the run
- The trip started with a route reconnaissance. Riding in the opposite direction as the start point, I first went to Hyderabad after an early morning start, and got some idea as to the bad roads there from Mr Purshottam.
- A snack later, he saw me off via the inner ring road onto NH7, just as it began to rain. It rained all the way till my first night halt at Adilabad. A morning start saw me run into bad roads within 10km after which progress was very slow.
- Just before the pathetic road ended I had a low speed head on collision with another bike, which was being ridden 3 up, and had climbed suddenly onto the embankment, and in panic turned onto my side of the road. Fortunately, little damage, no injuries, and after a brief tete a tete with the local constabulary, both of us were free to go. Wasted an hour there though, at Badner.
- Good roads after that till the end of the Nagpur bypass, and then some of the most atrocious collection of potholes till Seoni and beyond. Ditto after Narsimhapur, and between Jhansi and Gwalior. This made the whole recon worth it as I now knew how much time I had to make allowance for on the actual trip.
- The rest of the road was 4 lane, but due to a wrongly marked GPS point, I was ted 2 hrs on a to and fro trip to Manikaran instead of Manali.
- All the same, after about 45 hrs of riding with brief stops oat roadside dhabas to catch a nap, I was in Vashist (rates much cheaper than Manali) by early morning.
- One day ‘s rest later, and the tyre changed to a dual sport one (carried on the bike all the way from Mumbai), it was onwards to Keylong to acclimatize. Rohtang was kind that day. No slush, no problems, just bad roads. I was at Keylong by 1:30pm, and settled in to acclimatize – had a mild attack of AMS the next day.
- One more day’s rest later, it was off to Leh, non stop. Usual crappy non roads till Pang, the surprise was that More plains had fresh tarmac, as well as the descent from Tanglang la. I was in Leh by 8 pm, and joined up with friends at a very nice little hotel called the Millenium, from where we pushed off for dinner. Bike was absolutely fine, and as a matter of act needed no maintenance whatsoever.
- Another rest day, this time at Leh, and I was fully charged for the record attempt.
- Mr Dorje and his friend Mr Atish (who runs a travel agency there) helped with the start point formalities by introducing me to the local police station from where I’d need the start point signature.
- I had a scare the previous day when I started feeling somewhat feverish in the evening – the fever went away, but I decided I’d take a call on it the next morning.
- Felt perfect the next morning, was at the police station at 5 past 4 in the morning and on my way soon after.
- The good roads (mostly) till Pang meant I was there (across Tanglang la and More Plains) in just 4 hrs but at a cost. The temperatures and the speed induced wind chill meant that was near freezing, in spite of my gear. Nothing a cup of hot tea could not cure.
- I then proceeded to bounce along towards Sarchu trying hard not to enjoy the scenery and keeping my eyes on the road instead.
- It had snowed, there was slush in places, but I was almost an hour ahead of my projections by the time I reached Rohtang. Where I wasted an hour over two episodes of sitting and watching as blasting was in progress followed by debris removal.
- All the same, I did not lose too much time as I stopped for a splash of fuel at Vashist. I deliberately took the major district road instead of NH21 as I knew how badly cratered that road was for some distance out of Manali, getting onto the NH only at Patlikuhl.
- The road till just after Kullu was good and then only potholes all the way till Bilaspur. The Good road started at Kiratpur, and I took a short nap once I got onto the 4 lane even though I was not too tired as I knew that I’d be driving much faster after that.
- I filled up at Karnal around 4 in the morning and decided to take another short nap. Was in Delhi before 7 am, and took the YEW to reach Agra by 10.15 am.
- Fortunately, did not lose many tomes through Agra or Dholpur, and was on the Gwalior Jhansi road in short time.
- The craters here are the biggest you’ll get to see with perhaps the exception of Baharagora. Wrestling the bike in the heat, by the time I reached Jhansi, I realized I had mild heatstroke, not helped by the fact that my body had to adjust to a 30-degree difference in ambient temperatures in the space of 30 hrs.
- A long stop later, to fill fuel + cool down, I was on the way again, and after Babina, the road was a 4 lane dream with no traffic, and I covered the distance till somewhere before Narsimhapur @ almost 100 kph.
- Before Narshimhapur I stopped at a roadside hotel to rest for an hour and to rehydrate before moving on. The bad roads before Seoni notwithstanding, I was at my rest halt by 10.30 pm. I had 8 hrs of sleep in a very comfortable room, before starting out the next morning at 8.45 am.
- Again, atrocious roads, but the recon helped me a lot, and by noon I was clear of Nagpur. As it got hotter, a couple of thunderstorms came up and cooled me down.
- Similarly, it was raining through the whole of Hyderabad as I passed through.
- Till then the rain was a godsend as it had cooled me, reducing the need to rehydrate, which I did only after Hyderabad. Unfortunately, it also wound up wetting the bills, something I discovered later, but most remained legible to a large degree.
- I managed to outrun the cloud after that and fortunately, it is the 10th day of the immersion, there were no roadblocks or protests due to the Telangana issue.
- Saw a gruesome accident where an Ertiga had driven under a stationary truck. Till the B pillar, everything was at the level of the bonnet. There was a hand sticking out of the passenger cabin. The police were clearing the mess.
- Bangalore came up at midnight and there was a sleep halt in my friends’ car at the Shoolagiri pump near Hosur, where I filled up. Arpan Diwanjee had driven from Bl to make the car available as a makeshift hotel room. I needed that 1 hr of sleep as I had very fast miles ahead of me.
- The balance 600 odd km over what I can only describe as fabulous roads took a little over 6 hrs before I was in KK hunting for a pump which would give me a CC receipt
- The first pump had a machine that was not working, the second had no card facility, it was the third that accepted plastic. Finally, the card was swiped at Cape petroleum, and the ride was over.
- Actually no, it was not over, the day’s ride. I wanted to sample the famous Biryani at Dindigul, so instead of holing up in KK, I rode back all the way to Dindigul at 70kph or less and can certify that at those speeds the CBR 250R actually returns better than 50kpl.
- Having had the biryani (twice), I left the hotel at 2 the subsequent afternoon and then rode non stop all the way to Mumbai, meeting Navendu Singh on the way in Pune
- Some stats for the run proper: Distance: 3850 km, less than 78 hrs, Bike maintenance – only chain lube, total sleep, about 16 hrs, off-roading almost 500km
Congrats, and salute to the living legend!