Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Around the world on a Yezdi with Deepak Kamath and Basavaraj

As we lead up to the 13th International Jawa Day celebrations across the globe, we would like to bring your attention to one of the legendary riders of yesteryear who has seen the world in record time.

Deepak Kamath and his companion G.H Basavaraj created history in 1994/95 by becoming the first Indian's to circumnavigate the globe in record time. They covered 42,038 km over six continents on their Yezdi Roadking (yes, an Indian bike) in an expedition called 'The Yezdi Castrol Continental Raid'. Their journey began on 8th October 1994 and ended on 3rd Feb 1995 with a total of 119 days with the actual riding time of 47 days. Limca Book of Records has honored them with the title as well.
Deepak and Basavaraj in front of the mighty Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

Notes from Deepak: (If you are too lazy to read, then watch this video where Deepak spoke about his experience at this year's Motorcycle Travellers' Meet)

The Yezdi-Castrol Continental Raid... an endeavor to cover the length of the equator, 24901 miles or 40075 kms across all 6 continents with a minimum of 1000 miles in each continent without using the same road twice. Mode of intercontinental transport was optional as long as the start to finish gave the desired miles in the shortest period of time. Log book and photographs would substantiate our claim.

Initially, the plan was to create a Guinness world record based on the car circumnavigation that was being done by Indians (Navin Kapila / Saluddin Choudhury) and the British army, but no talk of anyone even thinking about doing it on a two wheeler. I wanted to be the first. Though Ideal Jawa was in trying times since the onslaught of the 100 cc fast bikes, they decided to support this dream as the primary sponsors. Castrol agreed to be the secondary sponsors and then there was no looking back.  Here is a step by step progression on how this project materialized.

Ideal Jawa: Primary Sponsors: Cash support to a certain extent of the whole project + Totally altered/ as needed bike + breakdown support in any part of the world + express shipping of spare parts to any destination in the world.

Castrol: Cash Sponsorship to the tune of distance covered. We agreed, considering this was way too low, the brand association was enough to get attention.
CEAT Tyres: Specially designed lugs for a 18 inch wheel and tyre support as required + Cash sponsorship AFTER we returned back successfully + advertisement campaign.
- Crompton Batteries + Addon Horns + Yenkay (VDO) Instruments + Timex watches + Rolon Chains + Canara Bank + Friends / Well wishers from India and around the World...the list is exhaustive!!

Route: Asia > Africa > Europe > North America > South America > Australia. (All km is the nearest approximate)
Asia: India: Bangalore - Nagpur > New Delhi (Asia: 2500 Kms).  
Africa: Egypt: Cairo - Luxor - Alexandria - Cairo: 2000 km.  We had to circle within as Sudan refused us a Visa and Libya cancelled our Visa as we were on the motorcycle.
Europe: Landed in Rome, Italy > Austria > Republic of Czech > Germany > France > UK: 5000 odd km
North America: Landed in New York > Philadelphia > Chicago > Oklahoma > San Francisco > San Diego > Dallas > Miami: 21000 kms in 31 days
South America > Buenos Aires ( by the time we reached here, my Brazil visa lapsed and we were not able to get : 3000 kms
Australia: Brisbane > Sydney > Melbourne > Adelaide > Perth > 6000 odd km
Asia: India: Chennai > New Delhi > Jaipur > Mumbai > Bangalore: 3000 kms


That was a total of 42,038 Km in 47 riding days and 119 days in all... why?  We left India when plague hit us (Surat, Gujarat). We were quarantined in Bahrain and subsequently in Cairo. My bike did not get past customs as perishables were prioritized. Gulf Air tickets and cargo that was sponsored by a Rotarian in New Delhi was the only airline flying and by the time we could coordinate the airlift from Egypt, we had lost major number of days.... almost a month....and ALL our Visas had expired.

My thanks to:
Tehmton & Boman Irani: Ideal Jawa India Limited: Without their confidence, there was no project!

Dilnaz Anklesaria: Castrol: Who believed that we could and stuck with us with their sponsorship even though the initial sign off was in 1991 and project materialized only 1994.
Rohinton Commissariat: Ceat... helped us with the special compound tyres and ensured we got the required half page exposure in most of the major newspapers in the world.
P A Nazreth, His Excellency the then Indian Ambassador to Egypt...incidentally, brother of erstwhile Union Minister, Ms. Margaret Alva, from Mangalore, my hometown and the common language helped us in him speaking to his counterparts to get most, if not all the Visa's renewed.  This was one major help, without which we just could not have progressed.
Air India for having included our motorcycle in the passenger baggage compartment as accompanied baggage, and bike being rolled out on the conveyor belt in JFK, NYC. ONLY, we Indians could have done it!!
For the records:
We bought paper maps from the American Automobile Association (AAA), since there was no GPS / Sat phone or any technology around to assist in travel. Internet and mobile phone was yet to kick in and we used a 250 cc bikes and were a object of mockery to many countries.

I am proud, very proud of having accomplished this and it makes me hold my head in pride that I did it as an Indian when there were many countries with more luxuries than us, who did not dream of achieving this.

The total cost of this whole project then was not more than INR 12 lakhs. Can we do it now?? Maybe yes.. Maybe no. But, definitely no at that cost. However, with so much of technological aid available at your finger tips, this adventure then may not be an adventure now!, but certainly if we are to target tight scheduled days, it will be something that I would be keenly wanting to achieve, one more time.


Here is a collection of some articles and photos of their exciting journey through the 6 continents back in 1994/95. And if you are not satisfied, attend this year's Jawa Day on the 12th of July to meet the man himself at National College Grounds, Basavangudi, Bangalore between 8 - 10am.

Btw, we are also going to attempt to set our very own record.. so get your bikes up and running to be a part of yet another biking history.

Here are scans of Auto India magazine from May 1995 detailing out the entire journey:

This is what Deepak has to say to all biking enthusiasts, "I would like to highlight the fact that we did this in 1994... When India was just about opening up to technology. The fact that we did this circumnavigation purely with paper maps and what little communication connectivity we could muster up in those days, reinforces our commitment to the spirit of adventure in its true glory."

He adds, "The youth today is in a hurry. I see a lot of riders who don't care about fellow riders on the road. This should stop. My exposure to many countries has taught me abundance of discipline in using the road. Also, I noted that there are many forums now where enthusiastic youngsters and old alike share their commendable achievements. I feel proud. As Indians, when we accomplished this circumnavigation in those days, we felt very proud. The support and encouragement we received from many Indians living in the countries we visited is highly appreciated. I take this opportunity to thank one and all in this community for the support and interest in our project. Happy to share my experience and guide the youngsters to achieve historical milestones."

Sharing a few photographs and statistics from their journey and after...
Flight schedules and costs across sectors (Note: Air India carried their bike free of cost)
Total budget and expenses
Overall Statistics
In front of the Tower Bridge in London with another biker

At the Vatican, Rome
The team at Eiffel Towers, Paris
Deepak with his RK during the Leh ride

Update: Listen to Deepak speak at MTM 2015 on all his adventures - Youtube Link

Written with inputs from Mr Deepak Kamath
email: deekam_99@yahoo.com