November 19, 2013
The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page – St Augustine
One evening, while I was reading Alastair Humphreys, “The Boy who Biked the World’, in which he narrates his 4 year cycling trip across the world, my friend Kieron entered the reading room, and I asked him, how did Alastair even do such a thing. Kieron, who is an ultra marathoner (100 km), told me, “Nothing is impossible.” Then I suddenly said, “Let’s do something like that.” Kieron then said that we could cycle from Bangalore to Delhi. I thought about it and wondered if it was ever possible. Slowly we kept discussing on the idea and with the help of our warden, Brother Philip Noronha, we bought cycles for the trip. My parents agreed to the trip, but I never told my grandma in Kemmannu.
As time passed we started buying all the equipment we required like tubes, pump, lights, tent, sleeping bags, helmets, repair kit and so on. As we discussed we shortened the trip to Nagpur, we did not have enough time to get back to the college, and we would still do 1050 kilometers. Everyone laughed at us and I started having doubts myself if we would actually end up reaching Hyderabad, let alone Nagpur.
We kept 6 days to reach Hyderabad and 5 days to reach Nagpur. We planned to carry glucose, Gatorade, milk powder for energy but did not buy any of them.
In the end, we reached Hyderabad in 4 days and took a day's rest to tour the city, going through the Golconda Fort and Char Minar. The route to Hyderabad was pretty easy, but from Hyderabad to Nagpur, which we completed in three and a half days, we would experience bad hill climbs. The weather to Hyderabad was around 20’s and we had showers, but to Nagpur was hot and dry.
What I had dreamt of how the trip would be and what we went through was so different. For instance, the idea of flyovers never even popped in my head, and we passed so many of them. The climb up would be slow on a low gear, and then you would be eagerly waiting for the drop so that you would race down without having to peddle. We would pass so many villages and we would see kids waving, women sorting maize on the road sides, and men wearing white shirts and dhoti that made me wonder, don’t their clothes get dirty?
As we passed villages, people's dressing, speech and most of all their food habits changed. In Karnataka we got ragi ball, then later on in Andhra we got corn roti, then rice, and in Maharashtra we got missal pav and at dhabas we would get Punjabi food. But in the end, I’d still prefer my Rosy mai’s fish curry and rice. Something peculiar during the trip that you would not feel while in a car or in a bus was the smell of the cow dung, the little butterflies on the road, people asking you so many questions, actually calling you to their village to feed you and it was these experiences that actually made the trip memorable. You won’t believe, we even got an invitation for a guy’s wedding!
We would find a place to stay at 5 pm as the sun would set. We would never cycle after that, except one night when we were 20 kilometers away from Dichpally where we planned to camp, and we cycled in complete darkness. Luckily we got only slopes and we went at 30 km per hour seeing only that white line on the road and we clipped our flashing lights on our helmets so trucks behind us would see us. One night we stayed in a dhaba, one night in a rice godown, one night in the fields, and we would take dumps on the side of the road, and only had toilet paper. The villagers were doing it too so we were not breaking social norms. The only thing that gave us stares was our tight cycling shorts. We had a shower only once when we stayed in the Air Force station in Hyderabad. As we passed through fields of groundnuts, sugarcane, oranges and bananas and we plucked them and ate them along the way.
The wild end to the trip was when we went to the station where I had to catch a train to Bombay. We reached the station at 8:40 pm and the train was leaving. So we ran, up the over bridge and I could see my Duronto train leaving, we were carrying my cycle in a TV box, and finally when we got down, we tried to first throw my cycle into the moving train door thrice, finally some savior pulled the chain, and the train stopped. I had missed my train in Haridwar in April and I prayed that I would not miss it again. Once in the train, the TTE came and just warned me and let me off. A crazy end to a crazy trip.
Kieron D’Souza is studying in third year BSc and Joshua Fernandes is in second year BA at St Joseph’s College of Arts and Science, Bangalore.