It was a small family gathering on a humid Saturday morning at the riverside in Panaji, opposite the grand place of Adil Shah. There the anxious parents of Iyron D’Silva and Sasha Saldanha waited impatiently to greet the young pair to arrive at dot 10 am after a historical bike ride from Australia to Goa covering almost 25,000 odd kilometres crossing eight countries. It was after a YouTube video that the couple, Iyron and Sasha, planned this international bike ride two-and-a-half years ago while the document preparations took them eight months. Surmounting problems of visas, accidents, natural calamities etc finally they accomplished this (ad)venture and arrived safely in Goa.
“We didn’t expect such a welcome in our home state. It was a pleasant surprise,” exclaimed pillion rider Sasha, whose parents Bede and Lorna Saldanha travelled all the way from New Zealand to greet her in Goa. “In our eight month’s journey that began on August 21, 2016 from Brisbane in Australia, we met hundreds of people wherever we rode but this little gathering is so very special, it makes us feel at home,” she says.
The biker couple travelled through Timor Leste, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Bhutan and finally arrived in India - biking through Manipur, Nagaland, Assam, Siligudi and Karnataka before they crossed the border to enter Goa.
Though it was not pre-planned to reach Goa on April 15, the couple just missed to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary with family which was a day before. Sasha who is quite thrilled at breaking stereotypes, quips, “Yes, it was a tiring journey but unlike driving, riding offers you altogether a different experience. You can feel the environment, get to know the people in person and experience their cultures.” Having got her licence from Australia a year ago, Sasha, an administrator in Australia and a pillion rider until now, has set her next two goals - to ride solo from London to India and whole of South America.
Riding pillion has its own perks, feels Sasha, 29. “You don’t experience the stress that the rider goes through. But is has few disadvantages too. You can’t judge the roads. You don’t know if there are bumps and you have to be careful or try to avoid them. You have to feel them to know their existence. But I am for riding and want to do it solo. Once you decide you want to do it then just do it. No blocks can stop you. Trust your instinct, get set and go.”
For Sasha’s 32-year-old boat-builder and aluminium welder husband, it was an experiential journey. Travelling 150-200 km a day depending on roads that sometimes allowed only 60-80 km a day, Iyron carried around 250 kilos in weight, with the bike weighing 180 kilos (without fuel) and the luggage they carried, apart from their own body weight which was another 130 kilos, together. “We faced really bad roads, rain, and low visibility in Assam. We were in Bhutan for 4-5 days. It was cold and raining and I had a fall there.” shares Iyron, lucky to have inherited the adventurous spirit from his father. “It’s in his DNA,” confirms his mother Iva D’Silva, adding, “As youth, Iyron’s father Inacio and uncle Valerio, both would ride a bicycle across India and often cycled from Goa to Mumbai or Chennai,” shares Iva.
Was there any special message that they carried while they travelled? “No. It was just for the sheer joy of riding through countries. But yes, there’s something I want to tell the youth. We had 15 crashes in this trip and every time it was my head that bumped but my helmet saved me each time. Having experienced that, take my word - use helmets, travel safe.”