First published in Times of India on October 29, 2010. Nice to be featured in the ‘Just4Her’ section of ‘What’s Hot’ ;-).
If you can afford to ride a motorcycle or a car, then why ride a cycle. Its a question that often gets thrown at me, though not always explicitly. More often than not, when I ride, locals mistake me to be a foreigner. Despite the colour of my skin, kids will shout out ‘angrez’ and adults will try to start a conversation in English.
But, of course, that is not the reason why I cycle. While doing wonders for my health, saving money and making a green statement are all worthy causes, they are not why I cycle. For me, each time I take a side lane and a detour from the serious journey of life, I find that my life is more embellished, more fulfilling.
As I get older I find that the pace of the cycle is just right. I think of myself as a traveller and not a tourist. For me it is not so important to get to the most photographed spot. I am quite comfortable not getting there ever, as long as I can keep travelling and seeing places, and meeting people along the way.
The other important thing for me is the ability to experience the world around me without the frame of the windscreen, which reminds me of the glass tube facing my couch at home. On my cycle I can’t only be panoramically immersed in the surroundings, I can also smell, feel and hear the world around me. Sometimes, and only sometimes, after a long day of cycling when you just about set up the tent, and it is too cold to cook, and too windy to do anything else, and all you can do is shrivel up in your sleeping bag, you ask yourself, as your loved ones often do, what the hell is wrong with me. But more often than not, the sun rises the next day and warms your bones. You decide on a late start and sit there in the warm sun with a hot cup of lemon tea, reviewing the sights and sounds of the day before, surveying the landscape as if there was no tomorrow. And realise that there is no other pleasure that can rival being out there in the wilderness all by yourself with your faithful cycle.
Some rides I recommend:
- Manali to Leh:
Cyclists around the world rate this as one of the toughest cycling trips
- Nako to Manali:
One of the most scenic cycling routes in the country. Runs through the high altitude desert of Spiti in Himachal Pradesh
- Cycling across the Jalori pass (Aut to Luhri):
Jalori is not among the highest passes in the region but it surely is the steepest. A real test of cycling prowess!
- Dharamshala to Manali (via Sach pass):
A spectacular journey through a road less travelled
You may also be interested in these related posts:
Musings on self-supported cycle travel
Manali to Leh — Self-supported cycling trip
Cycling trip across the Jalori Pass, Himachal Pradesh
Packing suggestion for multi-day self-supported cycling trip [1.0]
Going to Ziro!