How I failed miserably on the Great Himalayan Cycling Trip!

Monday, April 16, 2012

It will be almost a year to the tragedy this July, the Himalayan Cycling trip tragedy. If not a tragedy I can only call it a farce. Now when I look back and think of the things that I did, I was wondering what the hell I was thinking anyway.

That's my bike taking rest as I click, and fellow team member going ahead.

The power of a bored mind and a crazy idea is way too great than you and I can fathom. When I was done having all kinds of crazy adventures and the adrenaline wasn't rising high enough, I decided it was time to do something a notch above my usual crazy adventure scale. Out of all the things thrown at me through "The Wall" on facebook, I somehow managed to pickup cycling as my next adventure. Because a friend or two unwittingly posted a video or two on mountain biking, I assumed "The Universe" was telling me something, I was so glad I finally communicated with the Universe, under the guise of listening to my heart I was actually listening to Facebook! 

Well it could've been the funniest thing if not for the other things that went awry on the trip. Spirits were flying high, I put together an awesome team, printed T-shirts with a logo that I personally made, then we went shopping for the missing gear, learned how pack/unpack bikes, transport them and a lot of other things. Well it seems what I forgot in all this was that to bike in the Himalayas, you just don't need some branded imported bikes and stuff. You also need some stamina and strength. Before I fall flat on my nose, let me brag, even if it lasts just for a second.

I have taken pride in the fact that I have never ever entered a gym or went through any sort of physical training so far in my life. Only the treks that I have done are about as much training as I get. I am not even regular on those treks these days because I if I don't write on my blog or publish a photo, the world will end, no seriously! So I was so busy planning the routes, shopping, bragging everywhere of the Great Himalayan Cycling Trip, that I totally forgot to train for the trip, at all! Well this could've been the only funny thing, if not for the other things.

So when we assembled the bikes back and started cycling one evening, I felt the head wind to be far greater than expected, the weight of the backpack on the cycle to be pulling me back and the smallest gradient to be much more daunting. I thought I was just too tired today and I will get used to it. Either that or my body hadn’t acclimatized yet, we were cycling at an altitude of 3800meters directly. Next day when I was feeling terribly weak, the saner thing to do would’ve been to take a bus and go to the next camp, but no, I am the mighty Neelima, how can I give up already, so I went ahead cycling. Only to fall sick immediately, my body temperature was rising and my heart was beating so fast and loud it could be heard back in Bangalore. 

We took rest for a day alright then did some major offroading on a new route, which got me excited. I was still sick but was determined too, I fell, tumbled, got up, and went ahead for the next 12 kms. It was good fun. We continued the ride for another 40kms which was good fun too and I finished the day on the bike.

The next few days everything I did was just a trigger for something that could go horribly wrong. While still struggling with fever and a mild case of common cold, we sat one night to have chilled beer in the cold night. Only after I gulped down one entire bottle, the brilliant mind of mine shouted “Hey, shouldn’t you be having something warm for your cold?” But the damage was done already. Next day, the four of us were so hungover we couldn’t get out of the bed till evening! Days later when I was telling my story to a German, he stopped me and said “So you were planning on biking for two weeks in Himalayas and then summiting a 6000 meter peak and this is how you were keeping yourself fit?” Hmmm. Good question!

After advising everyone on the team a thousand times about the importance of taking care of your health in the Himalayas, to me it deemed fit to disregard my own advice. By now I was royally sick. Sick enough that I needed some support to walk long but I still managed. I hitchhiked my way to the subsequent camps while the boys rode and joined me every evening. 

Now it would’ve still been fine if I was continuing what I was doing, hitchhiking my way out of Spiti but how can the adventure end already. I had to make matters worse, so I took my cycle and headed towards Chandratal, on a trail that hasn’t been cleared yet, for yet another true off-roading experience. But my condition was so pathetic, every small stone that got under the tire was giving me a headache and if I fall, I’d fall straight into the valley, tumbling like Jill! So I thought devil may care, I’ll leave my cycle unattended here and walk to the lake. I walked 16kms and then I dropped dead the moment I saw a huge 2km climb to the lake. It was here that my condition took a turn for worse. Since I couldn’t move a group of bikers agreed to take me back to base camp the next day after an agonizing 24 hour wait. During which time I wondered if I should have made that call to home when I had the chance. Later I started coughing so bad I scared myself to death with thoughts of pulmonary edema! Thankfully a group who had been touring in Spiti through BNHS offered to take me back to Manali. 

Sitting alone in Manali, I was still coughing blood and the doctor’s medicines weren’t working either. It was only then that I decided that the adventure was over. I flew back home, rested, cried, recovered, screamed and then packed my bags again for another adventure with a week, which is why I call myself the wandering soul. ;) 

It may sound like it was a ruined trip but to tell you the truth, it wasn’t. Until about the last few days where I fell life threateningly sick, it was great fun all along, the views, the company and the experience. Without all the helpful folks in Spiti, BNHS people, the bikers and my dear friends, it could’ve been a real tragedy, but thanks to them, it is just a story now. 

I have learnt a thing or two about planning an expedition and preparing for it. Next time I will plan another crazy trip and this time I will finish it, or so we hope! And I write this because, this blog is not just about all the sugar coated sweet moments of travel. Half the times when I travel or go for an adventure, I keep thinking why did I ever get into this! I want you to know it is perfectly alright to doubt your sanity when crazy things are happening around you, but I also want to tell you that these crazy things is what makes for a great story years later! Imagine if someone wants to write a book about you, give him some material, won't you? 

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  1. Imagine if someone wants to write a book about you, give him some material, won't you?

    Man !!!

    1. he he, that's how I always think. What if someone wants to write my biography! :P

      And yes, I know the pull of Himalayas, which is why I've went back almost 8 times now. ;)

  2. And better luck next time. The mighty Himalaya is a bloody Romeo who will call to you every now and then and i am sure you can't resist :)

  3. the last two sentences are the most beautiful :) this doesnt sound like a failure at all - instead it sounds like a lot of fun!

  4. Mistakes are proof that you are still trying.. :) So keep committing mistakes.. Very nice write up Neelima.. Loved it..

  5. Awesome spirit! :) You are a wandering soul :)

  6. Neelima : you got it bang on : its all the pits and falls which test the true spirit of travel and which also separate the wheat from the chaff of "adventure lovers".
    Have lost count of treks where I looked with new respect at people I did not even talk to earlier ...
    As for you : Salute Mademoiselle : Keep Going Strong !!

  7. Glad you're fine. Push your boundaries but know them first.
    Don't spoil your book by blogging :P

    1. ha ha, Thanks! But going by your logic, I should've never gone to Sikkim either, according to my doctor and everyone else's recommendations. The assumption is there is no boundary! :P

      And regarding the book, no fun if someone succeeded the first time. It will be much more dramatic this way. ;)

  8. The crazy things we do is what makes for a great story years later. So much true....
    keep going...
    And a heartfull thanks for all your efforts for organising this crazy trip.. which we will remember for the entire life...

  9. Great Going..I too believe that crazy thing will always be remembered and make stories latter...
    keep travelling, bloging...expecting ur book in coming time...

    1. Ha ha, thanks! I am also expecting that book to be out sometime.

  10. What a muppet! You should not be allowed to travel. Complete liability to anyone.

  11. I saw this photo on facebook:

  12. Yes i can understand the situation. Now i am going to face a challenge. I am planning a 3-4 weeks bicycle trip to the Himalayas. in April this year. Yamnotri / Gangotri / Badrinath and Kedarnath.
    All the places situated above 3000 meters.

  13. It's a great way to get around. It's also pretty fun if you like tinkering. mongoose mens mountain bike


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