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Aug 01, 2017 at 13:24

There is no better way to see India than on a bicycle. A teenager decides to precisely do that. Bitten by the wanderlust bug at an early age, he bicycled his way across the country to experience the hidden treasure of nature. That’s the story of Mohit Kapoor, in his own words.

Hi, I am Mohit Kapoor, a cycle enthusiast and a traveller at heart. After pestering my father enough for him to get me a bicycle, I decided to travel from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, but the only problem was, that I had no money. Nonetheless, I set off on a journey that took me from the Rohtang Pass near Manali in Himachal Pradesh, to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial at the Southernmost point of India, hitchhiking my way towards my dream.

I was inspired to leave home and do something unique at the age of 16 — a solo trip across India, that too on a bicycle. Alone, without money or a sponsor, to fund the trip, I sold my cell phone to arrange equipment for this tour, including a travel bag, tickets and a bicycle. Finding food and shelters at Gurudwaras and Temples during this ride, I conquered the challenge that I had set for myself and lived a dream that had I chased all alone.

Pedalling from Manali to Kanyakumari in less than a month and then sitting on the last rock on India, touching the sea green water of the Indian Ocean, I encountered the good, the bad, and the beautiful of India.

Self-Inspired, that I was, so I decided to venture on my second cycle expedition all alone, (yes again!!), to map the region of Leh-Ladakh on one saddle and two pedals. I lived this dream too, with the same fervour. After having pedalled through the length and breadth of the country, I felt I had to learn a lot from the roads that I had travelled on. So I decided to take a break after high school to meet people from different places.

It started with a dream to be a chef. I had grown up watching food shows on TV and had always wanted to visit the

Middle East. But sadly, that was out as it meant having to cycle through Pakistan and Afghanistan. Not only was it dangerous, my parents would have scuttled my plans even before I could take off. I then decided to plan my ride to South East Asia via the Great Himalayas. That would kill two birds with one stone – not only would the ride be great, taking me through some of the most amazing places on Earth, alongside, I would be able to immerse myself in culinary cultures, peculiarly different to a Rajasthani lad as chalk and cheese. My South East Asia expedition was to be realised in two phases. In the first phase, I would travel across the Himalayan Passes and take in the mesmerising beauty of the snow capped mountain peaks, while in the second phase, I would venture out of the country to explore the exotic South East Asia.

It was hard to explain to my parents; my decision: to take a break before I join college and ride on a bicycle for a year. It took me five months to satisfactorily answer their queries, and convince them that my journey would inherently be a learning process, essential for a young man on the cusp of adulthood.

Having planned my dream ride to the last detail, I hit my first pothole – Where would the money come from? I started to look for sponsors. I still remember, I met many people from different companies for help. I used to hitch-hike as I did not have enough money to buy tickets. And most of the time I thought people would loosen their purse strings to support a noble venture – I earnestly thought so – but was politely declined; fortunately, no one told me to take a hike! Again, I cruised back home with disappointment written all over on my face. Somehow, goodwill worked and I got sponsors for my trip, but no cash. I decided to set out anyway and see how I could manage and make my way on the road.

The next morning, I had a lovely breakfast prepared by my mom, with lots of love and blessings, for my continental adventure. After all, how many kids can be crazy enough to venture on a bicycle to unknown lands, into the world of diverse beauty and raw culinary art?  There was only a vague plan to see the world and learn to cook Nom hua chuoi or the banana-flower salad in Vietnam. It helped me, when some friends decided to ride along for the whole day; their camaraderie and good wishes gave me strength to reach Delhi where I was surprised to see a big welcome planned for me. There were around a 100 pedal pushers from the cycling community, who had assembled to cheer me on with Godspeed. There, my jersey pocket became unexpectedly heavy – someone had slipped in an envelope containing Rs 3000, with a note that simply read: ‘Happy Journey!’ and thus began my journey to the Himalayan passes.

Next day, with my heart full of emotions, I left Delhi and reached the Karnal toll by night. People would stop me and ask where I was heading. After a long conversation and delicious dinner, which one of them served, I camped there and slept. The next day I crossed Ambala, decided to leave the highway and take the back roads. The ride was more interesting than I expected. A lady stopped me and asked me to spend sometime with her family – she was the wife of the ‘mukhiya’ of that village. I was lucky to witness a ‘gram panchayat’ meeting and taste some local delicacies she had prepared for me. Upon reaching, I stayed in a backpacker hostel of a small village called ‘Jagatshukh’, where I met people from different countries.

We all stayed up to sail through the starry nights, having fun, sharing stories of our travels. My breakfast was not as I was used to having, back at home, but I relished some fresh apples from the tree nearby. I trekked by the waterfall and visited a village next door to learn an interesting way to cook one of the local cuisines. Unfortunately, I met with an accident and broke my ankle, so I left for Manali, to work in a hostel, for then I would get the much needed rest and would also earn some money for my tour! Rejuvenated,  I left for Nepal, marking the beginning of the second phase of my expedition. However, having encountered some visa issues, I had to head home, in the midst of my journey.

I stayed in Nepal for a month before returning to India, just in time to celebrate Diwali with my family.

I will hop on my bicycle again, with fresh vigour to explore unexplored lands and taste dishes, unheard of. In search of the horizon yonder, I will continue to partner with my bicycle.