Conquering the mountains on a bicycle

Conquering the mountains on a bicycle


A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it has sweat, determination and hard work.”  -  Colin Powell, an American statesman.

“Pedalling her way through the rugged Himalayan terrain for 15 days over 600 kilometres on a bicycle, city lass Sowmya Urs would probably vouch for this statement.

The final year, civil engineering student at Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering, Sowmya was among 108 girls from all over the country, who registered for the 15-day treacherous bicycle ride starting from Kullu to Ladakh district. The ride was spread across five mountain passes including the highest motorable road - Khardung La.
The treacherous road

The road leads riders through Rohtang Pass located at an altitude of 13,051 feet, Baralacha La (16,049 feet), Laculung La (16,466 feet) and Tanglang La (17483 feet).
Tanglang La also happens to be the second highest motorable road in the world.
However,  the ultimate test is for riders to be able to bicycle through the mountains to reach Khardung La (18380 feet).

Recounting her experiences during the journey with City Herald, Sowmya said the toughest stretch of road was pedalling through the RohtangPass. Slushy roads and facing the first mountain pass was the most difficult challenge, she says. “Even a lot of four-wheelers were struggling to move in the muddy roads,” she recollects.

‘Weather was with us’
However, Sowmya quickly recollects that the weather was with them during the journey. The difficulty of the bicycle ride can be seen from the number of people who were unable to make it till the end. Off the 108 cyclists, only 86 were able to complete the ride, which was being organised by Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI). “This was my first tour to North India. I was really waiting for it to come true,” gushes Sowmya.

The first test
The first test came in the form of two acclimatisation rides organised by YHAI near Kullu.  “We were taken to Bijli Mahadev Hill for the acclimatisation ride and we were told by the organisers that if we could pedal to the top of the hill, we could make it all the way through to Khardung La,” said Sowmya reminiscing about the initial cycle rides during her journey.

The roads from Manali to Leh are often devoid of people. The scariest experience for Sowmya was when she faced the Morey Plains. The Morey Plains spread across more than 30 kilometres is a flat barren land, where humans are rarely found. Even, animals and insects are rarely found in this region.

Scariest moment
“I stopped for nearly 20 minutes when I reached the Morey Plains. I couldn’t believe the sight in front of me,” says Sowmya.

Describing the efforts that went into the bicycle ride, Sowmya said that she had gone on trips to Charmadi and Shiradi Ghats on the Western Ghats. Also she regularly cycled to Chamundi Hill and Srirangapatna. Her father Mallaraje Urs, a businessman, and mother Leela Urs, a homemaker, provided constant support in her endeavour, she adds.
Apart from cycling, Sowmya said that she had participated as a volunteer in the tiger and elephant census.