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Manali to Leh

Manali-Leh Highway

Distance — 450km

Height Elevation — 4,000m

High altitude endurance training, just my cycle and I on and off roads through The Himalayas.

Day 1

MARHI to KEYLONG

Distance – 75km

Time Taken – 6hrs (excluding rest)

Average Speed – 12.5km/hr

Top Speed – 56.2km/hr

Max Altitude Crossed – 3,979m

Minimum Temperature – 15 degrees Celsius

Touching speeds of around 55km/hr on downhills and taking hairpin bends at 30km/hr. Who said MTBs aren’t fast, but even then Day 1 wasn’t easy.

Day 2

KEYLONG to ZINGZINGBAR

Distance – 60km

Time Taken – 7hrs (excluding rest)

Avg Speed – 8.5km/hr

Top Speed – 53km/hr

Max Altitude – 4,280m

Min Temp – 16 degrees

People were taking my picture and were cheering me on…On the 40th km, I thought I’ll only do 50km but I pushed to 60. (Hoping the next day would be a shorter and easier ride)

Day 3

ZINGZINGBAR to SARCHU

Distance – 55km

Time Taken – 6hrs 50min (excluding rest)

Avg Speed – 8km/hr

Max Altitude – 4,850m

Min Temp – 12 degrees

I walked the last 5km while climbing up to Baralacha Pass as I was feeling dizzy and losing balance. Slight pain in the right knee had started and experienced a mild headache.

Day 4

REST at SARCHU

Cleaned the cycle, patched up a puncture, oiled the chain, checked the brakes. Pain in right knee had reduced, but a new pain on the lower left calf had started. (no more headache)

Altitude – 4,196m

Min Temp – 13 degrees

Day 5

SARCHU to PANG

Distance – 80km

Top Speed – 40km/hr

Max Altitude – 5,035m

Min Temp – 9 degrees

Slight headache, major leg pains…Still hoping to reach Leh under 10 days. The odometer got damaged while going fast on a downhill (bad road) so can’t record the speeds any more.

Day 6

PANG to TSOKAR LAKE

Distance – 50km

Max Altitude – 4,650m

I’ve been ignoring any sort of pain that I am experiencing.

Day 7

TSOKAR LAKE to UPSHI

Distance – 80km

Max Altitude – 5,359m

Min Temp – 10 degrees

I started playing a game while going downhill — how close and how fast i can cycle as close to the edge as possible…It got a little scary when I saw the gravel flying off the cliff.

Day 8

UPSHI to LEH

Distance – 50km

Target of under 10 days achieved…I did it

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Planning

Planning in progress…going through the route while sitting here at home. Finding so many interesting turns already. So the plan is like this

Start point manali –> cycle towards leh –> before reaching leh, divert towards Tso Kar lake –> after reaching Ladakh, cycle through khadungla towards Nubra valley –> Once done with the cycling, start the stok kangri trek –> and finally head back home

Planning about what to carry, how to carry, what I have, and what I need, what to wear, where to sleep, where to eat…etc etc.

There are times when I think planning isn’t very important, but for something like this…you need to be prepared. Planning just about the route or luggage is not the important part. The real task is to plan about everything that will go wrong (keeping the worst case situations in mind). Once you’re prepared for the worst then there are 80% chances that you won’t panic in an unexpected situation.

Now my safety is more important then anything, the one thing that doesn’t guide my decisions is ego. I will only go through with the next step keeping my physical fitness in mind, anything can go wrong. My body can give up too…but it’s the mind which should never give up and always make the right choices for a successful expedition. Success doesn’t mean reaching the peak or completing the journey faster then planned, or even going by plan. Success over here means, reaching back home safe and without any injuries.

Each person is different, you’re best effort might be someone else’s average…but it’s better not to compare with anyone but yourself (I need to keep reminding this to myself sometimes). The race to be the best is not an easy one, as the competition is your own past. Be better than yesterday is what CrossFit tells us, and that’s a great way to move forward.

I might not put up a detailed itinerary online, as of now. But I’ll let you know how and where I go once I start…its a big challenge to do this alone, but I always wanted to do a solo expedition…SoLoExP T12

What is it leading to?

It always starts with an idea, just as the old plan (G2G) was just a thought I once had…now theres another. Since June 2011 when it all started, every day has been a bigger challenge then the previous one…every new idea made the old one look so simple. It started with just travelling, then it led to cycling, after that mountaineering…and if it wasn’t any of those then just the challenge of pushing the body to its limits.

But what next? Where is all this training leading to? I know I am getting stronger, but how to test it out?

The next challenge, the next plan, the next idea is to combine everything I’ve learnt till now and imply it on something new. Endurance, strength, speed…it’ll comprise of a total fitness to be successful. No more beating around the bush, I’ll explain it clearly.

1 month (a time limit, learnt this from CrossFit) to cycle almost a thousand kms in the Himalayas (will test my endurance, plus survival skill in high altitude, extreme cold weather and low oxygen) and finally, the most challenging task almost 100km expedition to climb the highest mountain in the Ladakh range of the Himalayas (here I test everything I already mentioned, plus the biggest test is when the mind starts thinking about giving up). I would be cycling up to the height of 5000m, carrying my own tent and sleeping bag…and the peak that I would summit is at the height of 6200m.

I know all this is easy to think about, but very very tough to complete. It scares me, to even think of cycling at such height or walking up in the freezing cold weather up the glacier. But i have prepared for all this, I know I can do it…nothing comes easy (and this is definitely not the easy way out). Just like you prepare for exams, or tests or even different competitions. This is another task to check my knowledge and abilities.

Let’s call this one Solo Expedition TwentyTwelve – for short –> SoLoExP T12

Enough talking, time to double up my training

PS – Do check out the other blog I had been writing, it’ll tell you how I have been training CrossFit Athlete

The Beach

I’ve been sitting at the beach for quite some time now. The sun isn’t out yet, but I do see the moon and its reflection in the ocean. If I look left I see the waves, if I look right I see some more waves. This is what I cycled 1900km for, this exact moment.

I had two major motivations which helped me complete this amazing journey. One I wanted to see if I am capable of accomplishing my dreams and two the feeling of spending time with no one but the ocean.

It’s only my first day in Goa, and it sure is going amazing. I was welcomed by a great local rock band and an amazing performance by them at night and then by the vast ocean this morning.

I left Gurgaon on a Sunday morning the 27th of November and I reached Goa on a Sunday evening the 11th of December. I am proud of what I’ve achieved in these 15 days, and it couldn’t  have been possible without the support of my parents and my friends.

G2G…it was all worth it

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G2G

Day 1–Gurgaon to Agra…204.87km

Day 2–Rest at Agra

Day 3–Agra to Gwalior…131.75km

Day 4–Gwalior to Shivpuri…111.03km

Day 5–Shivpuri to Guna…108.56km

Day 6–Guna to Biaora…101.98km

Day 7–Biaora to Makshi…113.17km

Day 8–Makshi to Mhow…105.93km

Day 9–Mhow to Sendhwa…130.73km

Day 10–Sendhwa to Dhule…111.91km

Day 11–Dhule to Shirdi…143.74km

Day 12–Shirdi to Ahmednagar…89.49km

Day 13–Ahmednagar to Satara…201.79km

Day 14–Satara to Kolhapur…129.79km

Day 15–Kolhapur to Goa…181.51km

Total Distance Covered–1866.26km…in a Fortnight

G2G

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Athlete

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I was never the athletic type back in school. I always gave it my best shot but I never made the team or the finals. I used to be on the other side cheering for my team, or for my school (always wishing to be a part of the team).

I have been cycling more that 100km everyday for the past 13 days, but today I decided to push myself and do 200km. I covered 202km today in about 11hr 30min. I started before the sunrise and ended with the sunset. By the end of my day when only 10km were left for my stopping point, I crossed a school. The students were just getting out of school and they saw me. I must have been cycling at a speed of 40km/hr as it was a slight downhill. They all started cheering and clapping. I tried not to smile and just concentrate on the road, but I couldn’t stop myself. I smiled, I waved and I felt a little like an athlete. I was tired, but there cheers and screams pushed me to go even faster.

I have cycled a total of 1555km till now in the last 13 days, 75% of G2G is complete. This journey is making me stronger not just physically, but mentally too. It’s teaching me how if I set my mind to achieve a target, then its definitely possible. This journey is also testing me and my abilities and I think I am about to clear the exam.

Goa is not very far from where I am right now, these last few days of G2G I want to push myself to the limits. My initial estimate was to reach Goa in 20 days, but I think I’ll be able to complete my journey much sooner than that.

People in touch with either through the internet or on the phone, everyone has been great help as it sure feels good to know that so many people support me.

I might not be an athlete, but I’ll never stop training like one.

Thoughts

I wake up at 4am, I take a shower, I get ready, I pack my stuff and I start cycling by 5am. I cycle continuously till the sun comes up and then I cycle some more. It’s cold till about 9.30am, after that I take my jacket off. My target distance is 100km for everyday, and till now I have covered 555km. It’s easier when I start, the last 20km gets tough. My arms and legs have become too skinny, and I am badly tanned.

People say that they wish they could be doing what I am doing, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. The person who inspired me to start cycling such long distances is also on his expedition from Darjeeling to Bangalore. He is at a city in West Bengal right now and has faced minor problems with his cycle rim. He managed to fix it with no worries, he still continues to inspire me.

I know I’ll be able to complete G2G, 25% is already complete. I cycle everyday till afternoon and then I spend the rest of the day either sleeping or eating. The internet is there to pass the time when I get a little bored. Till now I have enjoyed every kilometer that I have covered.

Today’s ride was from Shivpuri to Guna in Madhya Pradesh. The highway at this stretch isn’t very good, roads are bad and traffic is slow. The trucks drive on the wrong side of the road, or they overtake too close to me. I have to get off the road each time I hear a truck honking.

When I get tired, I get off the highway, I find some shade, I use my bag as a support and I lie down on the ground. I have dozed off couple of times and I wake up completely refreshed. I have been drinking more then 4 liters of water everyday, and I eat almost 4 meals in a day.

My plan is to reach Goa by 23rd of December, but at the pace I am going I would be there in another 2 weeks. I’ll take a few days off if I feel the need to and when my body asks me to. My cycle is doing great, she gets a little tired too but she’s stronger then I am. I keep the cycle with me in the room wherever I stay. Today I went to three different places and they didn’t let me take the cycle inside. So I finally found a place but I had to carry the cycle to the third floor. I think the most tiring part of the day was getting my cycle up three floors.

While cycling I usually have conversations with the sun, I ask him how it was on the otherside of the Earth. The Sun has some funny stories to share, he tells me how most cyclists are usually out there even before he rises. So I tell the sun to pass on a hello to every other cyclist he meets.

Traveling on the cycle is a great experience. I have cycled under the starts, the sun and moon. I have seen a lot of constalations while cycling, they remind me of the days in school when we were learning about the stars and space.

Tomorrows plan is to cycle another 100km to Biaora city, still in Madhya Pradesh. Sleep for now will be good for me, and I’ll post the rest of my random thoughts some other time.

Still Cycling

I still remember the day when my father taught me to ride a cycle. I was the last of all my friends to learn and that too I was in class 4 by then (very late). But the day I learnt, I went up to my friends place told him that I know how to cycle and went for a long ride all over Gurgaon. Gurgaon was a smaller more peaceful city back then, without the malls, the high rises and the crowds. Gurgaon was a much better place to live back then, but no matter how spoilt this city gets…I have grown up here and will always love my city.

I was talking about cycling, yes today I cycled from Agra, Uttar Pradesh to Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. It was one amazing ride, the highway changed its colours every 20km. I started from the farms of Uttar Pradesh, cycled over the Yamuna River through the sand dunes of Rajasthan and then found the forests of Madhya Pradesh.

Todays journey was not at all tiring until I touched the traffic of Gwalior city, that’s when it got tiring. But I went through the whole city and have stopped at a nice place next to NH3. I wanted to go on further, but I wasn’t sure if I would find a place to stay. I am carrying a tent, but I’ll keep that as a last resort.

Today I read something very interesting, how the sub concious mind controls 90% of our decisions. If you set an idea in your sub concious mind, it is bound to happen. Same goes with cycling long distance, the body might want to give up much earlier…but its the mind that keeps it going.

I used to cycle to school from class 8 onwards, but back then I never knew I would be cycling all over India. India sure is a beautiful place to cycle, each and every corner. The mustard farms…the reflection of the sunrise while crossing the bridge over a river…the desert with its emptiness and the endless highway. I have run on NH1, back in college now I’ve cycled on NH2 and NH3 and there’s much more to come.

Cycling today felt more like a warm up, I could have gone further but I need the rest to cycle every day. Like one wise woman said “its long distance, not a sprint…take it slow”.

I stared cycling at 4.50am today, early as I wanted to cover most of the distance while there was no traffic. It was cold, it was dark…and the highway has no street lights. I didn’t understand why there were no street lights, but I had three different lights on my cycle so I kept going.

Goa is still far, but I’ll make it there…slow and steady wins the race.

The Mughal City

What better place to write today’s blog…sitting right under the white marble palace…The Taj Mahal, and it looks amazing with the early morning sun shining bright.

Yesterday’s ride was amazing, I managed to complete 205km in about 11 hours including all the rest time…It’s the most I’ve cycled in one go.

Today’s blog doesn’t really have a flow to it, just some thoughts put together. I should start from the beginning…

I was very nervous the whole week before I had to leave, I had to be prepared for every thing possible. I got my tools, cycle and everything in order. When I travel I usually pack at the last moment, but for G2G I started packing a week in advance. I always forget one thing no matter how much I prepare, and I didn’t want to forget anything big. Even this time I’ve forgotten one important thing, my rain coat.

The start for G2G was better then any start I could ask for…the night before I shared some single malt with my father, and early morning two of my best friends came over and had there own ceremonies (which involved beer and eggs) plus there was no fog even at 5am. First hic up was 50km from home when I had a puncture, fixed it in some time and carried on cycling.  Major stops included breakfast and lunch, and one fruit stall where I got bananas.

I started slow, but the moment I touched the Agra highway my speed just went up. Long distance cycling can get monotonous, but I found people to talk at one city or the other. A lot of different sort of people, most of them tried to cheer me on, some of them were very curious about what I was doing and a few weree the aggressive types…I knew how to handle each kind.

Some of my friends sent messages and some called, I replied whenever I took a break, every message encouraged me to go a little faster…but this one particular messages with a cheer was the besy, and luckily I saw it while cycling and my pace increased like crazy. I’ll be meeting the sender of that message in Goa to thank her.

The lasy 20km were the toughest, I had entered Agra but I had to go till the South to stop, the ride through the traffic was not at all enjoyable. I am staying close to the highway which will take me to Gwalior. I cycled double of what I should have, thus had some problem with my right knee at night. That is why I had kept today as the rest day, Agra is a great city and the Taj Mahal sure is beautiful.

I am a tourist today, clicking pictures and enjoying the local food, no cycling for today. My cycle rests in the room where I have been staying, she’s more tired then I am. Tomorrow onwards shorter distance but no major stops, loving my G2G journey…10% has been completed.

Weekend Getaway

First of all I want to thank Aman Sood for an amazing weekend, for a great stay at Chandigarh with his amazing family and for discovering a great route to cycle from Chandigarh all the way to Chail (Himachal Pradesh). Amazing does not even come close to describe our weekend…it was much more than just amazing.

Friday night I was at Gurgaon, waiting with my cycle at South City for Aman to come pick me up, he came at around 6pm and we managed to fit my cycle in his car. Now started our long drive through Delhi and all the way to Chandigarh, a total of 270km…it gets too tiring for us cyclists to sit at one place for such a great distance, we prefer to cover it pedalling all the way. But we couldn’t as we had to save our energy, we had planned to cycle from Chandigarh all the way up to Shimla (Shimla is at a height of 7200 feet above sea level). The distance from Chandigarh to Shimla is about 122km and is 90% uphill, so we needed a lot of energy for the following day.

The drive through Delhi was a little rough due to the traffic conditions in the evening, but once we reached NH1 it was a smooth pleasant ride all the way to Chandigarh. We stopped at Karnal in the middle for a heavy dinner, it turned out to be a little too heavy and it ended up making us too sleepy. We still had to cover a distance of 125km by car, I tried to keep myself awake while Aman was driving. After 25km I dozed off, I would blame the heavy Amritsari Paranthas that I had for dinner…and later Aman told me that I was snoring sitting right next to him. We finally reached Chandigarh by 1am and the first thing we did was assemble my cycle back into proper condition as we had to be completely ready for the early morning ride. There were a little problems with putting the brakes back on properly but that was due to our sleepy minds.

We were up early the next morning, did a final check of our cycles, fastened the luggage properly to the carrier and we started our long ride to Shimla. Saturday morning I was scared of the uphill I was about to face, but I kept pedalling right behind Aman. We kept a slow pace to warm up our legs, our first stop was at Kalka that too cause the luggage had come a little lose and was touching the tyre. From Kalka onwards I could feel the slight uphill, gear ratio came down to 1:1 or 1:2 and we kept climbing. Next stop was Parwanoo for breakfast, we found a great shack to eat…had amazing Paranthas and omelette for breakfast with tea, waited 5 minutes for the food to settle and started the climb again. It was a tough climb, but even the grind turned out to be great fun for both of us. We took constant short breaks whenever any one of us felt a little tired, but next major stop was at Bijnoi…the famous Himachal juice place. We felt each meter of the road while cycling up, from every slight increase in the gradient to every small pot hole on the road. The climb continued all the way to Dharampur then a mix of flat and uphill till Kumarhatti.

From Kumarhatti to Solan we got a slight taste of downhill, and it was a great change from the constant uphill. Our next stop was for lunch at Solan, another heavy meal at a good eating joint…we needed the energy. After lunch we took out the map and were wondering if we should go all the way to Shimla or take a turn for Chail at Kandaghat, we didn’t reach a final conclusion and just started cycling towards Kandaghat. There was a slight uphill on the way to Kandaghat, but it was manageable. On the way to Kandaghat we even thought of pitching our tent some place near the roadside after climbing a little off road trail. I am happy we didn’t choose to do that, we kept cycling further towards Kandaghat. At Kandaghat we saw a fork in the road, left was going towards Shimla and right was towards Chail. Shimla was 31km more and Chail was 29km, when your on a cycle every km matters…hence we turned right towards Chail which turned out to be a great decision.

We were off the highway now, so the road was comparatively narrow. At Solan while we were going through the map, we had noticed a small river stream right before Chail and we decided to cycle towards that stream. Our next stop point was going to be at Sadhupull which is a small bridge going over the stream flowing down the mountain. Sadhupull was located in the middle of a valley with a stream of river flowing right in the middle…it was a great sight. We were 15km away from Chail, and we decided to pitch a tent some place close to the river and rest for the night. Luckily we found a camping ground near by which was run by some people. They already had tents set up, so we preferred to stay at there tents as they were bigger and we could park our cycles with us inside the tent.

We were quite tired by now and just needed some food and sleep, but we got much more. A bonfire, a barbecue, mouth watering food and alcohol…we deserved it all after that long ride from Chandigarh a total of 100km. Even after the amazing set up at the camp site, we were done with our meal early and slept off by 8.30pm.

Sunday morning, when all do you get to wake up to the sound of the river flowing on one side and the birds chirping on the other. We were up by 6.30am and started our ride back to Chandigarh by 7am. I found the ride back a little easier as compared to the previous day, we faced our slight problems but nothing too serious. We had our constant stops for breakfast and lunch plus the water breaks too. The traffic was a little rowdy on the way back and I kept my speed low on the downhill, riding right next to the cliff on one side seemed a little scary at that time. We were back in Chandigarh by 4.30pm, and all we needed was a long bath.

Chandigarh is a clean and nice city, had a good time with Aman and his friends plus even met my cousin over there. Dinner was at Aman’s place, great home food exactly like the food at my place. Mothers somehow always make the best sort of food, another early night for us cause of the early morning dive back to Gurgaon still stored for Monday morning.

Cycling on the roads of Himachal has given me more confidence for my G2G journey coming up next week.

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