Odisha, what is it?
This mysterious region, which may be more familiar to you as Orissa, officially changed its name in 2011 to become Odisha. So where’s Odisha located? It’s a state on the east coast of India, between Calcutta and Chennai, at about the same latitude as Mumbai and the Maharastra region.
Johann and Odisha have a long history together, which began more than ten years ago. He first went there in 2005, for a photo project relating the impact of the mining industry on local communities. He returned there by motorcycle in 2012 and 2013, already with the idea of creating a trip for Vintage Rides. In December 2016 his dream came true - Johann went back to Odisha to finalize and validate an itinerary. Excited and determined, he’s now back from this adventure, more delighted than ever!
In the beginning it was a personal project then Vintage encouraged me to make this trip take shape.
Originally, Johann wanted to create two routes: a crossing that combines Madhya Pradesh with Odisha and a second circuit focused solely on Odisha. Finally it’s the latter trip which we’ll propose, with its optimized duration and logistics. There’s a lot of upstream work involved in preparing an effective trek. Hours spent on Google Map, observing the terrain, locating the road network, building meaningful stages of similar scope and complexity. Then it's a lot of researching, reading, contacting partners on site. The outcome is a first – nobody yet had ever organized a Royal Enfield trip through Odisha. To build a route that works well, you have to meet very precise specifications. Reconcile various stages, include tracks and roads away from main traffic routes, all whilst allowing scope for visits, hobbies, lunch breaks and meetings. Everything becomes more complicated when it comes to accommodation. Of course, above all, it must in the right place and offer a certain level of comfort and charm to the riders. In a region like Odisha which is not renowned for tourism, it’s a big challenge.
Johann left with a motorcycle from the garage, a standard 500cc in great condition, to get by without the need for any mechanical assistance. 25 days on the road with his wife, his Sat Nav, his cameras and their luggage. Equipped with saddlebags, a tool kit of a certain size and weight, some oil … and that's all. « We didn’t have too much choice, we had to travel very lightly, 2 tee-shirts, 2 pants each and ride on! ».
The authentic, rural India – beautifully preserved
Johann flew to Bhubaneshwar, capital of the region. The motorcycle made the journey by train from Delhi on its own. As soon as he arrives in town, he goes immediately to get it. "It's very easy to send your bike by train anywhere in India. Be ready with 1 liter of gasoline on arrival, as the tank of course is emptied before the motorcycle gets packed for the journey. Then you put the mirrors back, and you're off! ". Once on site, Johann quickly realizes that it’ll need twice as much effort, imagination and hard work than expected to create an ideal motorcycle itinerary!
In order to best judge the accommodation, he sleeps in the selected hotels. "There’s a great range across the run, from classical hotels to a royal palace, an Eco Camp with beautiful tents and a guest house run by a NGO ! My favorite is a place full of charm, on the banks of a river. Cozy and tastefully decorated, the accommodation is in a truly peaceful setting". His “reccy” trip involved a few necessary stages staying in hotels which wouldn’t make it past the demanding Vintage requirements. Even if our great adventurer is used to sleeping anywhere, he confesses: "I think I put up less and less with sleeping in rotten places, surely a side effect of my job!"
He tells us about an unexpected encounter in the nature reserve of Satkosia. "We slept one night in a government lodge, inside the park. I wanted to explore this place further to see if the road I had spotted to the East could prove fruitful. We had thoroughly prepared our trip, riding discreetly through a forbidden zone in the heart of the park. Clearly we shouldn’t have been there, but we understood why when we saw a huge wild elephant in our way! As the park rangers arrived around us, we made to leave as quickly as possible. We didn’t want to turn around, determined to check whether the road to the East lead anywhere. However the elephant didn’t flinch, and didn’t seem bothered about getting back into the forest. In fact, he seemed sure that the track belonged to him! We had to wait around an hour before he started to move. We were able to pass, but we can’t risk bringing a group into this kind of situation. A professional tour can’t deal with too many surprises and risks! One motorcycle can make it through alone in such a scenario, but a whole group is less safe! "
After several weeks of complete immersion in Odisha, Johann is convinced: "It’s absolutely magnificent and the roads were a pleasant surprise, being in excellent condition. The Odisha government has been investing for a number of years in the renewal of the entire road network, and they’re doing really well. The roads are in much better shape than in Rajasthan, for example. I’ve been able to include some really amazing spots in the itinerary."
Johann has prepared a beautiful motorcycle ramble, with bike stages of from 150 to 200 km per day, on an easy terrain, accessible to all. "Days here are magical, of a timeless quality, as we roll through the middle of gentle hills and cross picturesque villages, always with this unique Indian color!". When you’re not on your motorcycle, you’ll visit a local market of the Bondas tribe, have small picnics by the sides of rivers or waterfalls, bathing breaks known only to Johann. The spirit of the journey is an immersion in the simplicity of the authentic and untouched India. Be patient ... we'll tell you more about it soon!
KEY INFORMATION on our motorcycle tours Odisha
Season: from November to March
Next departures: from December 2017
Average temperature: 30°C
Distance: 1,400 kms / 869 miles