By Sougata Sinha Roy
It was Sep 2016 and I was weighing appx 105 kg with 186 cm height and always 30+ BMI. Durga puja was coming and I was expecting few more to add in Bellyline being a foodie.
I started growing the likes for cycling seeing my then colleague Abhishek Ravra- very health conscious, handsome teetotaller and he used to ride in the society post dinner 10-15 rounds quite regularly.
I bought an old Hero ranger almost as scrap and rebuilt it and started cycling in society periphery. After riding it for 2 months I sold it through a site to a person who was also struggling to get fit like me. I bought another Hero ranger 6 speed and started cycling 10-12 kms in Bhubaneswar.
I was a member of Youth Hostel Association of India and there was a post on Manali- Leh- Khardungla during Nov-Dec of 2016. I had seen people posing with cycles, bikes, Indian flag at Khardungla. It was always there in my mind for “some day”. There was a struggle for 10 odd days where brain said – ” a novice, doing 15 km stretch max and Khardungla! ” but mind said “there are still 7 months to prepare- Take a chance”.
I enrolled and my regime started weekly 4 days with exercises to improve on muscles. I was in touch of many cyclists who had pedalled in that terrain and started working on their guidance. During Jan 2017 I quit smoking for ever. Gradually improving to 3 weekly 50 km rides- Cosmopolis – Khandagiri -Chandaka- Nandankanan and back via same route on Hero Ranger 6S.
This continued till July and then on 7th July reported at base camp of YHAI at 15 miles along with another 100 odd participants. Like me there were handful who rode a 3X7 speed MTB in that Manali- Haripur- Naggar castle during practice rides of 2 days for first time!
Our field director and Ace cyclist Sumit Patil’s sentence I still remember for life – ” Pedal for the next 100m and continue. Don’t cheat yourself else you will not enjoy the tears when you are there at Khardungla “.
We crossed Marhi, Rohtang, Sissu, Jispa, Zing Zing bar, Sarchu, notorious Gata loop, Baralachala and brandy nala, Naqeela and then the wonderland Pang and then the grazing meadow of Debring via More plains. Debring to Tanglangla was tough day and I started crying crossing Tanglangla amid the beauty of snow clad mountains and saw green colour after almost 5 days at Rumtse.
I was learning every bit of lesson that our camp leader Mithun Das, Guru used to share during everyday briefing and I only used to follow their instructions blindly!
By now our group of 108 is reduced to 72 odd with people leaving at different stages due to AMS, high BP or low oxygen level in blood. Daily regime was to check BP and oxygen saturation in blood by Oxymeter.
We reached Leh and the next day the ordeal was there for which 6 month I prepared without paying heed to my brain and others discouraging thoughts. We reached at around 2 pm and Sumit’s words were reverberating in my mind while posing for the group photo at Khardungla!
Sumit had also told us to change lives of at least 5 persons by bringing them to cycling for a good health. The journey is on!
I came into contact with Bhuvaneshwar Cycling and Adventure Club (BCAC) in Sep 2017 through Ajay Nanda and then gradually I started riding to 100+ rides and gradually started BRM in Nov 2018 onwards.
Author : Sougata Sinha Roy (Sougata works as a Senior marketing manager in corporate. After returning from Manali-Leh-Khardungla trip, Cycling is a part of everyday life for him.)