We are road-tripping again. This time we explore Odisha with Kalyani Potekar and the Hero Xtreme 160R.
Story: Joshua Varghese
Photography: Nitin Suryavanshi and Tally Talwar
As you read this, some of you may still be at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. A microscopic, overly social germ managed to wreak havoc on our lives as we knew it and brought all travel plans to a grinding halt for the best part of the past five months. We were also similarly restricted to the confines of a desk and a screen and an air of monotony was just beginning to set in when, thankfully, the Odisha Tourism Department and Hero MotoCorp got together to get us back out on the road again. Armed with sanitizers, masks, and norms for the “new normal”, we set out to explore Odisha astride the Hero Xtreme 160R.
Our expedition began from the southern part of the state and the first stop on our list was Chandragiri. As I rode into the town, it became hard to believe that I was still in Odisha or even India for that matter. Shortly afterwards, I found out that Chandragiri is actually a tiny Tibet within Odisha. The first Tibetans had arrived there in 1963 and now have a colony, called the Buddha Vihar, which is also home to the Padmasambhava Mahavihara monastery. The five-storeyed monastery stands a little over 70 feet tall and was inaugurated by His Holiness Dalai Lama in 2010. Today, it houses over 200 Lamas and is the largest monastery in eastern India. As much as I was enamoured by the tranquillity of the Buddhist settlement, its residents were just as curious about the Hero Xtreme 160R. Its bright colour and modern styling stood out against the serene backdrop of the colony and turned almost every head as I rode past.
The following day, I intended to watch the sunrise from the Gopalpur Beach but cloudy skies robbed me of that chance, so, shelving that plan for later, I hit the road to Behrampur to meet some extremely skilled people. These men and women were weavers who create beautiful pieces of clothing with tussar silk. Their work is testimony to their talent and it was evident why weaving was once one of India’s greatest crafts. Even with today’s advancements in the fashion industry, these weavers’ products continue to retain a certain emotion that is beyond imitation.
With that done, all my attention was devoted to the Xtreme 160R because I had more than 300 kilometres to ride to reach Koraput. Odisha’s roads twisted through the countryside, sometimes with surfaces so smooth that Michael Jackson could have moonwalked across it. Sometimes there was barely any road to ride on, but the motorcycle took all of this in its stride without complaint.
The next day, some research revealed that the handicraft industry of Kotpad was worth visiting because there were artisans who used paddy husk to make intricate figurines and others who used leather to make regional percussion instruments. It was also particularly nice to see how whole families were involved in the weaving and dyeing industry. The cloth was spun, dyed, and stitched into a lovely sari (or other garments) by different members of the family. I asked some of the artisans how they liked the Xtreme’s design and the response was positive. Coming from them, that is high praise, isn’t it?
From there, it was straight to Daringbadi. Known for its ecological diversity and overall good weather, my stay there was nothing short of a vacation. For the leisure traveller who revels in admiring nature’s resplendence, Daringbadi has a lot to offer. If you are up for some off-road riding and a little walk afterwards, the carefully hidden Midubanda waterfall is also a great place to sit back and relax.
At the end of the first leg, I must say that while Odisha kept improving in terms of scenery and experiences, the Xtreme also just kept going from strength to strength. While I thoroughly enjoyed the trip from a traveller’s perspective, what I liked most about it as a motorcyclist was a ribbon of tarmac that snaked down a mountain, connecting Kotpad to Daringbadi. With freshly painted lines, no speed-breakers, and no traffic to speak of, it was every motorcyclist’s dream and astride the Xtreme 160R, it was so much fun that if I had the time, I may just have doubled back up the mountain for a few more runs. Maybe I will. Watch out as we explore more of this diverse state.
On this epic trip across Odisha, we are being joined by the popular biker and motorcycle racer, Kalyani Potekar. While my version of the ride is spread across these pages, Kalyani’s version is available on her Instagram page. Here is what she had to say when we quizzed her about the ride.
At the end of leg one, what do you think is the most unique thing about Odisha?
Odisha has an amazing road network that makes for a very rejuvenating riding experience.
Are you having fun astride the Hero Xtreme 160R?
Yes, absolutely. The Xtreme 160R is an enjoyable motorcycle that gives me the confidence to push it to its limits without being stressed about the outcome.
What is your favourite memory from leg one?
Daringbadi and its diversity was my favourite part of the trip. I got to experience a lot of pristine ecological hotspots.