Lao Tzu famously said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” For travelling enthusiasts, any journey can turn into a memorable adventure. One amongst them is Sahil Kalloli, a software engineer by profession but a traveller by passion. Originally from Kolhapur and now living in Pune, he is a part of the Mountain Cyclist Group and also runs #biketowork campaign. Rest of the members in the group include Abhijeet Kupate, Kirtiraj Desai, Trusharth Magar, Shivraj More and Sanjay Metal. This year, they decided to ride from Shimla to Manali via Spiti Valley to spread the message of using bicycles instead of bikes or other vehicles in metro cities in order to reduce traffic congestion and fuel consumption.
Talking about the trip, Kalloli says, “Two years ago, my friends decided to go to Leh-Ladakh but for some reason I couldn’t join them. So this year, when my friend Abhijeet came up with the Spiti Trek idea, I immediately said ‘yes’. We watched the Spiti Valley videos on YouTube and then we just decided to go ahead. Going without motorised vehicle and not disturbing the environment in very remote areas is our motto. In fact, interaction with local folks, enjoying their food and harmony is very much possible and easier when you are travelling on a bicycle. It’s not about testing our stamina but to give a message to use cycles rather than motor vehicles for tourism and commute.”
Kalloli is also associated with a lot of NGOs who work in the education sector and a part of different political-cultural Pune-based groups like Chaukasha, Sadak Natak Mandali. He is also actively engaged in theatre activities with Pratyay in Kolhapur for the last 15 years.
Dos and don’ts
Kalloli and his friends started their trip from Shimla further taking the route through Narkanda-Rampur-Sangla-Pooh-Tabo-Dhankar-Kaza-Losar-KunzumLa-Chandratal-Chhatru-RohtangLa-Solang and then finally reaching their destination Manali. They decided not to carry any external backup vehicles. Kalloli says, “We had faith in our cycles and off course on ourselves. We went prepared. We carried all basic medicines and first aid kits for medical emergency. We also carried extra pairs of gear and brake cables, puncture kits, cycle tubes, brake pads. But we hardly used them. One reason could be that we had done thorough bicycle checkup before leaving Pune.”
But of course they faced major obstacles like extreme steep slopes, unpredictable and extreme climatic conditions, rain, heavy winds, muddy roads, dangerous routes and so on.
Talking about the journey, Kalloli shares, “It’s totally safe and thrilling to climb the passes and the treacherous roads. Just a few things you need to keep in mind — do not hurry, focus on your goal, take precaution and work in a team. Wearing safety equipment such as helmets and sunglasses is mandatory. Some of us also used knee caps. Avoid rushing in the steep valleys. There is no need for unnecessary speeding. Follow traffic rules and keep an eye on changing weather condition.
Have adequate water supply. Also, keep a good concentration on pedalling while enjoying each frame in front of you.”
Sharing a memorable incident from their trip, Kalloli says, “We were carrying our tents to sleep since we didn’t book any hotels, so everything was on-the-go kind of thing. The idea is not to stay at luxurious hotels but to stay raw, try to understand local habitat by staying with them and eating local food. Once we were looking for accommodation and due to heavy rains in the morning we needed some place to dry our clothes, so we asked one couple in Nichar village near Bhaba Nagar to allow us to stay in their backyard. We decided to cook food for all of us and got chicken and other edibles to prepare our meal. We stayed in their house, ate together and shared lots of stories while it rained cats and dogs outside.”
Kalloli who has Tibet, Hanza Valley, Europe in his list next, says that people who wish to travel like them, should keep simple dos and don’ts in mind. He adds, “Don’t hurry, live each and every frame. Respect natives, their privacy and culture. And stop once you are tired. Don’t try to push yourself beyond your limit especially if you don’t have any backup vehicle or medical team with you.”