– by Arushi Jain
You think biking in the undulating terrain of the Himalayas is a tedious task? Well, try adding to it the relentless chill of the winters, a thick covering of snow and biking miles without a soul in sight. Crazy? Impossible? Nah, not really. Rishab, Pankaj and Naveed just completed this monumental task.
To get you a glimpse of their perseverance and planning, we asked them a series of questions. If you’re daring enough to take such a trip, these tips might come in quite handy.
What kind of clothing is required for a trip to the Himalayas during winters?
To keep yourself warm you need atleast four layers of clothing – thermal, t-shirt, insulated jacket and waterproof pants. Everything you wear needs to be waterproof as there would be snow all around. Staying dry is extremely important.
Highly insulated boots along with gaiters are a must. The boots should have a good grip on ice. Numb toes are a nightmare on such a trip. A face mask is also important to save your face from the absolutely chilly air. Another thing you need to keep in mind is to wear sunglasses to avoid snow-blindness, eye damage caused by snow reflecting the UV light.
Key: Make sure you’re covered properly. No part of your body should be left exposed.
How much food did you carry with you?
For every trip, you need to carry emergency ration with you. You have to be prepared for the worst scenario. We stopped at villages and other places to refill our food supply. This required a lot of forethought, since during winters most of the villages are desolated and very few villagers stay back. Maggi and tea were available in a lot of tea stalls. We also packed a lot of dried fruits. When you have nothing else to rely on, dried fruits are your saviour. They are perfect for such a trip as they are high in calorie, easy to carry and also keep you warm.
Key: Plan ahead. Stop at villages to refill. Carry dried fruits.
How did you find shelter and keep yourself warm at nights?
One of our main intention while taking this trip was to interact with the locals and learn from them. We picked up a lot of indigenous ways of keeping ourselves warm. Locals were very welcoming and opened their homes to us. In Kalpa, we stayed at a villager’s house for two nights.
\What we observed was that the locals kept a fire burning throughout the day to keep the house warm. They only put it out at night. Their houses were made of mud and had really thick walls to provide proper insulation. They also had a diet which included a lot of butter and ghee.
Key: Interact with locals. Learn from them. They have a lot to teach.
How would the dynamics of the trip change if you took the same trip during Summers?
Season has a big role to play in any trip. Even though the altitude remains the same during summers, the external conditions vary significantly. In summers, the villages are more populated. It becomes easier to keep yourself warm. You don’t even need to pitch a tent as a number of local guest houses and summer camps are there along the way.
In winters, the villages are desolated. Most of the villagers go to warmer areas and very few villagers stay back. The ones who stay back have a very limited supply of food and other essential commodities. The journey becomes a lot more difficult and good planning becomes mandatory.
Key: External factors come into play. Winters are more challenging.
If you had to take only 5 things with you on such a trip, what would those things be?
Footwear is a lot more important than we think. Since you have to cycle a lot, you cannot risk taking inappropriate footwear with you. Numbness in the toes can be very uncomfortable.
Every trip is special in its own way and you want to capture everything you see and everything you do. Explaining that experience is words is not possible. In fact, even the camera cannot do justice to what you experience. However, the photographs and videos do give you a glimpse of it and you can treasure it for life.
Luckily, in Himachal the connectivity is much better than places like Ladakh. It is important to have your devices charged. You need backup of all the photographs and videos.
It’s strange, but during such trips you crave for your favourite food and you feel like going back home and eating it. So, make sure you eat all your favourite things before the trip and probably take some with you.
I feel that it’s all meaningless if you don’t have anyone to share this experience with. You can’t go ahead on your own. There were times when we didn’t see a single person for hours. We also saw bear tracks along the way. Completing such a journey alone becomes a near-impossible task. It gets lonely and having someone with you helps. You watch out for each other.
Key: There is no substitute to having a person to share the experience with.
How did you manage to charge all your electronic devices and gadgets?
We used to find government guest houses along the way. They are empty during winters and allowed you to use their ports. However, electricity is not available 24*7. So, you have to plan ahead and make sure you take back up of all your pictures, video recordings and other files.
Some locals also allow us to charge our devices. Some of them had generators installed in their homes. In such villages, electricity is available for only 1-2 hours a day. So, you need to know how much your device will charge in that much time.
Key: Sometimes, less is more.
What advice would you give to other cyclists who are daring enough to take such a challenging trip?
We were told that it is not possible in winters. We challenged ourselves and said maybe nobody has tried it before. Maybe it’s doable. So, we planned it all out. Prepared for it, mentally and physically. We realised that it is doable. It’s absolutely doable. A lot of planning and precision is needed.
The key to such trips is having the right equipment. Faulty equipment will definitely put you in trouble in one way or the other.
Key: Determination will take you a long way. Right equipment will get you out of the worst situation.
Is there anything special you want to share about this journey?
We’ve cycled from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and we are no strangers to the Himalayas. During this trip, we realised that the exact same place can offer you multiple experiences. We’d visited the same places 6 months back, but this time when we saw them, we couldn’t recognize them at all! The lush green apple orchids were dry and covered in snow. The rivers we had seen were now in a semi-frozen state. It was a completely fresh experience.
Key: The same place can offer you multiple experiences.
To read more about this adventure, do check out http://www.untold.in/insearchofthestorm/ . We promise, the photos will leave you breathless!