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Indian Coastal Cycling Expedition – Chasing Dreams!

As I take to pen this article, I remember the words of Langston Hughes “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly”.

When I swallowed the anchor after 15 Years of Naval Service, way back in early 1998, I had a dream!

Having sailed around the Indian Subcontinent and having seen many a shore from the seas, having braved the occasional stormy seas and the cyclones, having enjoyed rounds of Rum along with fellow sailors along the docks; having seen many a sunrises and sunsets from the seas, it was my dream to walk along the entire coast of Indian Peninsula – about 7500 kilometres of it, including the Islands of Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar, and see every kilometre of it and watch the sea from the shores! Such a wonderful dream it was!

“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly”

 

As any young 30 something would do, I set off to work towards my dream. I was working hard to make enough money to put food on the table and partially support a family of 5 then. Times were good,  luck was on my side…I was working longer and longer hours.

As any aspiring and hardworking young man, I was climbing the rungs of the so called “Corporate Ladder”. Success of one assignment leading to another challenging assignment. From being an Assistant to someone, to managing a SBU of the firm I worked for paycheck …. to setting up my own little enterprise….saw me gain ‘Social Status’.

A house of my own, then another one, then an office premises of my own. A Scooter that was switched for a hatch back car – then a sedan and  a SUV, countless personal possessions, dining at the best of the restaurants. Realising small materialistic dreams…

Being honoured and felicitated at the best of the Institutions….

Maslow’s Theory of Hierarchy of Needs was working perfect!

And I suddenly realised I could not hide the salt and pepper beard. The hourglass was turned, and I was close to start the Second Inning of life.

2020 started with a bang on a personal front … and then COVID happened. Depressing news all over of people succumbing to COVID. With a hospital opposite my home, the low-pressure alarms of the Medical Oxygen Bank, were a constant reminder that more and more people were having a tough time, who did not manage to be fit and immune enough.

That was a ‘Warning Bell’.

I was not going to be a part of the game called COVID. I needed to work on my overall fitness levels and be as agile and fit as possible (not that I was not fit … but just that I needed to work on going a notch higher). As an avid trekker I opted for a winter trek along with three of my friends to a Himalayan high-altitude lake –  Bramhatal. That required me to undergo a workout regime to give an objective evidence of my fitness.

I turned all my focus on that and started to jog and cycle and ensuring I improve my fitness levels than earlier set benchmarks. The trek went off fantastic, and there strolling by the frozen Bramhatal lake, my dream of walking all along the coast of Indian Peninsula flashed back…though I had not forgotten it ,,, but it certainly had taken a back seat. Not anymore!

I started to flip the document with route plans and places I would want to stop by during the walk that I had been silently compiling. I realised 7500 Kilometres was a long distance to cover on foot, and specially in these trying times.  A little thought and it dawned upon me why not pedal along the entire coast… it is always better to realign plans than to abandon them totally!

I was anyways riding my son’s MTB for my fitness regime for the trek. Why not continue and practice a little more for the ride? I would have loved to do that on the recumbent trike that I had built myself, but considering that I would be riding off-road on several stretches, the trike would have been a bad choice…she was built primarily to ride on paved roads, and not off-roads.

Thus started the preparation to realign and remap routes for the bicycle to hug the coast for most of the journey, keeping in mind to circumvent steep ascents at the cost of distance and time. But that was fine, at least I was getting closer to my dream…..

Having my Marine Consultancy business to manage, I decided to break the 7500 Km long journey in 4 stages, the first being from Mumbai to Goa, the second from Goa to Kanyakumari, the Third from Kanyakumari to Kolkata and the fourth from Koteshwar to Mumbai. The islands would be reserved for some time later once I could complete these four stages.

I had not done any long cycle rides earlier. The longest I had done were 40 kilometers rides when I was in High school. I did some longer rides, gradually increasing the distance and saddle time. I started to practice being on the saddle riding for hours…only to notice getting off the bicycle with a sore butt and stiff thighs, making me uncomfortable for the rest part of the day. There were instances when I felt like quitting, but then I realized that I was just experiencing discomfort and not pain. I had to manage my discomfort to ensure it does not become a pain. I needed to do the same thing differently to reduce the discomfort… I started to read about bike fit and tweaked my bike to suit my physiology. And within the next few days the discomfort was gone. I did a 87 kilometers long ride on 31st Dec 2020, as a 2020 farewell ride. A 100 kilometers ride followed soon.

I was lucky to have four friends all younger than me, willing to share my dream and pedal along. Thus started the Indian Coastal Cycling Expedition on the 13th of February 2021, of which we completed the Stage 1 at Dabolim on 21st Feb 2021.

Seven days on the road on my first ever Cycling Expedition; every day taught me some lessons of life afresh, which I shall share in this series of articles along with images that were shot during the ride…

Keep a look out for the next learning…..

Milind

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