LOOKING BACK

Early February 2015, Ganesh Nayak, the cyclist I met in Ranikhet (https://shyamgopan.wordpress.com/2014/11/28/the-story-in-a-message/), reached home.

At this blog’s request, he wrote the following brief account of his trip overall:

Surly, Ganesh and a day from the trip (Photo: courtesy Ganesh Nayak)

Surly, Ganesh and a day from the trip (Photo taken by Leonie Palmer; provided to this blog by Ganesh Nayak)

I recently got 250 pictures, out of thousands, printed.

Arranging and organizing them gave me a sense of the journey that I had just completed.

I am home after riding around 8000km on a bicycle.

The main trip therein lasted from July 7, 2014 to Feb 5, 2015.

That journey first took me from Srinagar to Kathmandu. A mountainous / hilly stretch that I cycled over four months, it took me through the back roads of Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and the Terai of Nepal. Then I returned to India from Kathmandu – riding through the villages and farmlands of Bihar, the Gangetic plains of Uttar Pradesh and the erstwhile badlands of Madhya Pradesh, eventually hitting the coast of Maharashtra before reaching home; Manipal in Karnataka.

Two years ago, I was an average engineer working a regular office job.

I was going through a personal crisis.

To this day I can’t reason why I decided to buy a bicycle.

I still remember those initial days, when a five minute-ride would leave me in so much pain that I loathed riding a bike again.

But I stuck to it and was soon cycling up the many hill roads around Manipal.

This gave tremendous boost to my confidence.

My self-esteem was slowly but surely recovering from the epic crash it had suffered.

Over the next six months, I rode that bicycle regularly come rain or shine.

In the evening, after work, I got myself involved in the technicalities of the bicycle by working alongside the mechanics at St.Antony bicycle works in Udupi.

By this time, I had three things working for me.

I had good aerobic fitness, sound working knowledge of a bicycle and enough money in the bank.

After quite a bit of research, I invested the money in a good touring bicycle – Surly Long Haul Trucker.

It opened up new avenues.

I was now planning and successfully executing three day solo-trips through the Western Ghats. These trips were not an end in themselves; rather, they were training for a ride of several months in the Himalaya that I was secretly planning.

I kept my grand plans low key.

My parents knew of it only three to four months before departure.

I’ve heard quitting one’s job is a difficult decision.

I’ve never heard of anyone quitting their job to ride a bicycle through the Himalaya.

For me however, after a year and a half of hard work this was one of the easiest decisions to make.

Once they heard me out, my boss and the CEO of the company I worked for, were very supportive.

Riding in the mountains has to be one of the most exhilarating experiences.

One day I am narrowly avoiding being wiped out by a landslide, the second day I am pushing my bike up a noodle width-trail to cross a 5000m-pass, the third day I am spotting a snow leopard in a gorge (this happened in Ladakh), the fourth day I am playing ` Jenga’ in the middle of nowhere with a couple of Sherpas, a beautiful Dutch girl and a couple of Australians.

The plains were no less exciting.

Here I was joined by Leonie (Leo) Palmer a British adventuress who I rode with from Varanasi to Goa. I first met Leo in October 2014, when we were part of the same first aid course (Wilderness First Responder) at NOLS India, Ranikhet. We did a short trek to Gaumukh thereafter and were thick as thieves by the end of it. She then went to Thailand and Laos to do some bike-touring before heading back to India.

Being partners in crime, we were able to suck the juice out of the many places we rode through – paan tasting in Allahabad, kite flying in Chitrakoot, trail walking in Mandu, scrambling and coasteering in Goa – it was a mad, mad, mad, mad ride all the way.

Along with her, I discovered a slice of India that I had never seen before.

But more importantly, I changed her view of India which had taken a bad hit following a brief visit 20 years ago.

It makes me happy.

The experiential learning that takes place on such journeys is inimitable.

My Hindi isn’t as appalling as it once was, my bargaining skills are polished and I revel in it now, my knots stay tied and I am proud to say that I can pack a bag well and complete a thorough bath using very little water. These are just some of my many super powers!

Lao Tzu says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

I am home after a long trip.

Yet in many ways, it feels like my journey has just begun and I have only taken a few steps.

And WOW, what steps they’ve been!

The world is a different place for me now and there are challenges all around.

My father summed it up best.

He said, “ the world hasn’t changed. It’s still the same. What has changed is the way you see yourself.’’

(This blog is managed by Shyam G Menon. He would like to thank Ganesh for sharing his experiences.)

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