What do most travellers do when they visit Srinagar? They go to Dal Lake, click a photo of themselves there, post it on social media and head home.
Not this young man from Dehradun. Abhinav Singh went to Srinagar, bought a cycle there and then rode down to Kanyakumari. With a few hiccups along the way as it should be in a good travel tale!
After completing his masters in Travel & Tourism from Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi, 24-year-old Abhinav, set out to put his theory into practice.
Cycling from Kashmir to Kanyakumari was a perfect combination of his loves. His love for nature, sports and travel, all rolled into one. He wanted to get it done as soon as possible, because he believes as you get older, job, life and responsibilities will weigh you down and not allow you to chase your dreams.
His love for nature has made him an environmentalist over the years and he set out to spread the message of caring for the environment. His idea was to visit schools and talk to kids about climate change and the environment, but something bigger was about to happen.
The global pandemic shook up the world and Abhinav’s ride as well. He started from Srinagar on the 1st of March and found himself stuck in Hyderabad on the 22nd of the month. With a lockdown looming, he caught the first flight home, after leaving his bike with a friend.
He was lucky to reach home by flight, because soon after everything came to a grinding halt. He eventually restarted his journey from Hyderabad on the 1st of December. Not completing it was not an option and 8 days later he found himself in Kanyakumari.
Even though he couldn’t visit schools along the way, he did put up a placard at the front of his cycle, with the message he wanted to share. He spoke to people he met along the way, an organic way of spreading the message and also shared it to the maximum extent on social media as well.
Preparing for this arduous journey was a bit of a leap of faith for Abhinav. He didn’t own a cycle; he didn’t even pedal around regularly. At best, he was a regular footballer and that was the extent of his fitness.
Having the full support of his travel loving family helped make life easier for him. Solo has always been his preferred modus operandi and he feels that when alone you better connect with the strangers you meet along the way. Also, he feels it is highly unlikely that anyone would join him on something so mad!
His month-long bike ride from Kashmir to Kanyakumari was all smooth sailing. The only difficulty Abhinav faced was a language barrier in Tamil Nadu. But that aside, life was good on the bike.
The language problem exacerbated because of the post-lockdown situation. With people extra wary because of COVID.
Another hiccup was that he wasn’t carrying any tools. Not that carrying would have helped, because he didn’t know how to repair anything on his bike either!
The only thing Abhinav would change in his ride, would be to be better prepared. At least knowing basic maintenance of his bicycle. And probably a better bike too!
On the positive side, he wasn’t bogged down by excess luggage. Travelling light, his bags only had a tent, mat and sleeping bag. The second bag was full of clothes. Only two pairs for cycling and one for the night. Besides this he only had a pair of slippers and toiletries.
Life is always better when your bags are lighter. It takes less of a toll on man and machine.
The beauty of bicycle touring is that it is welcoming to everyone. You just need to a set of wheels and a desire to travel. And the country is yours to have on a platter…