Edward Abbey, author and environmental issues advocate once said, “A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.”
Outdoor Travel Gear speaks to Shubham Dharmkstu, Design Student at NID and avid cyclist, who believes the same. Shubham recently completed one of his dream rides, the Great Himalayan Cycling Trip, where he cycled through over 6000 kms in the Himalayas, making it one of the toughest rides in the nation today.
Shubham is also one of the few people in India today taking baby steps towards creating sustainable tourism economies. We find out more.
One of our first questions for Shubham is about his choice of vehicle – why cycling as a means of travel? It’s a tough means to travel after all – unlike say a motorized vehicle.
Shubham says, “Cycling as a means of travelling gives me the perfect speed to observe things passing by when I travel. It keeps my mind alert. You won’t see someone who is cycling doze off, unlike someone travelling by car or bus! Also, what is the most delicious food you ever had? It’s probably not the last 5 star dinner you had, but the food you eat after you have been extremely hungry. And cycling does exactly that. It makes you hungry physically, but at the same time satiates the hunger for the beauty of the world, because you don’t miss a thing, you feel every meter when you cycle. It is the effort that enhances the experience”
He elaborates this with an example.
“For example, while going to Khardung La, I cycled from an elevation of 50 metres above sea level to 5600 metres above sea level, while cycling uphill.I felt every single inch of elevation and almost fainted twice (just few kms before K-top) but the hunger to see K-top kept me cycling.And when I reached the highest motorable road in the world, it became a more magical and beautiful place than any other place I have ever seen, even though it wasn’t the most visually beautiful place I had been to.”
Our next topic of discussion is obvious – the Great Himalayan Cycle Trip- and how to prepare for something like this. As we discuss this, something comes up that astounds us. It turns out that Shubham hasn’t even been to the gym a single time prior to the trip to prepare. He assures us it’s a mental game, “You need to be prepared to take on whatever comes your way. The biggest challenge in doing these rides is to be able to gather enough courage to start. Once the first step is taken, everything else after that will fall in place”. Another thing he cautions us about is that a traveller should have all the appropriate equipment for riding in the Himalayas since you can face snow, rain and storms all in the same day.
“It isn’t about completing a goal, or reaching the top, it’s about the journey. Travel has been the best teacher to me, and every journey I undertake has taught me new things about the vast world, and more importantly, taught memore about myself. Each river I cross, each mountain I ride over, each person I meet and each hardship I face builds me up as a person, and that is the most important thing for me”
For his trip, Outdoor Travel Gear had offered Shubham the use of some of the gear we promote. We were curious about how he made use of it all. So here’s the final list of things he carried and how he ended up using them.
AQUAPAC Wet & Dry Waterproof Backpack – 25L – The backpack was waterproof, which saved all my stuff, including the filming equipment and my clothes from the extreme Himalayan weather.
AQUAPAC Small Bike-Mounted Waterproof Phone Case – One of the most helpful products during the journey, because I could easily access my maps as compared to earlier when I had to hold my phone in my hand. I additionally kept my money in it, so that the phone and money were both right in front of my eyes and I didn’t need to worry about losing either!
GERBER Compact Multi-tool – This was also very helpful, I used it for cutting, tightening screws, fixing tire spokes. It was like a magic tool that solved all the mechanical problems I faced during the ride.
QUIPCO Dune Tube Future – This saved my face and head from freezing in the extremely cold himalayan weather)
QUIPCO Tundra Fleece Balaclava – Though I have used other Balaclavas, this one was much better because it dried quick, and didn’t hamper my breathing.Basically, I didn’t have to keep taking it off to breathe, which really simplified things.
Next, we ask Shubham about his sustainable tourism venture, something we had only heard of second-hand. Shubham is very keen to explain the principles. According to the World Tourism Organization, all tourism causes a certain amount of impact on the local environment. This of course, is offset by the revenue earned through the tourism industry by locals. However, in most cases, a large percentage of the revenue earned (between 70-85%) goes to MNC’s and other non-local organizations. Shubham and his partners dream of starting a company that reverses this scenario. Their sustainable tourism venture ECOTraveler will be launched this year, and will give back to the local community in a way never before envisaged.
“Tourism is one of the largest and fastest growing industry in the world and is the greatest form of love, capital and knowledge distribution that ever existed”
He also believes that cycling should be promoted as a means of commute and daily travel, not just as a means of exercise. “This will bring people around to the idea of travelling long distances on a cycle”, he says.
To round off our conversation, we ask him about his other dream rides. He says “Dreaming is like traveling, once you done exploring one, you need to keep dreaming and traveling. Yes, The great Himalayan bicycle trip was one of the biggest dreams and after experiencing every bit of it, it’s time for the next journey. I do have a long list of dream trips which include
- Cycle around the world,
- Climb all of the top 5 highest mountains in the world
- Travel in a kayak from country to country
- Travel every Indian road
And a lot more insane stuff. With time, I hope to achieve all of these!”
Well, at Outdoor Travel Gear we say “More Power to you Shubham!”
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