What do you say to confidence rebooting event in your life… Well, I call it the Boomerang and the Kashmir to Kanyakumari Expedition was it for me and my team. It was a challenge which I had been looking forward to attempting since past few years. I had already hinted about this journey in my story… so here come the details. They were the tiring times for me after my collar bone fracture and I had to push myself hard under a strict training regime. We as a team had studied and planned the event thoroughly with each and every minute details.
Well on the philosophical side it was mesmerizing… one can imagine the beauty aspect of a journey from Kashmir to Kanyakumari... there are snow covered mountains, river running through valleys and then there are sun-soaked beaches of Kanyakumari. Talking about the route, it is one of the most dramatic routes any one can ever encounter. It was about 50% flat with rolling terrain for 30% and the balance 20% was mountainous.
Start Time: 0149hrs - 21 October 2019
Stats of the Expedition: The total expedition time was 201 hours 45 minutes whereas my riding time was 156 hours 10 minutes. My total off-saddle time was 45 hours 30 minutes in 08 days which included physiotherapy sessions, bath, nature`s call and sleep.
Gear used in Expedition: I had used SCOTT FOIL 20 for this expedition and it proved it`s prowess in helping me cruise through the 3605 km long journey. The terrain was mostly flat and the mean machine suited best for it. I faced no mechanical breakdown during the event except 02 punctures. I found the aero geometry with the positive angled stem best suited for my long pulls, as this combination provided me with utmost comfort along with good cruising speed. I used a single saddle (Physiosaddle by Edge Cycling Technologies) for the complete event and I was glad that I didn`t face any issues of chaffing/saddle sores.
We are now well equipped to go ahead with the detailed itinerary of this terrific voyage.
1) Day 1: Srinagar (Jammu & Kashmir) to Jalandhar (Punjab). The plan was to start the expedition at 0500hrs on 21 Oct 2019 but we actually started off at 0149hrs. This was done intentionally so as be the king of the mountainous terrain in negligible traffic. It was dark and valley looked breathtakingly dangerous. The weather was cloudy so glimpse of half-baked moon was seen sometimes. The temperatures were as low as 2 degree Celsius, so my complete warm cycling gear was correct to use at this time. Almost 03 hours from our start and we reached the Banihal Tunnel. Crossing it at 5am was just clean riding. Another 05 hours and we were at the mouth of Cheneni-Nashri Tunnel. By this time the usual traffic was on the road, hence we were not allowed to pass through the tunnel. The alternate route via Patni Top was long (additional 26 km with an extra elevation gain of 1500 m). Little bit hurdles like road construction work was met in certain section in between Ramban and Udhampur. It not only brought our cycling rhythm out of sync but also piled upon the rider and the bike with a thick dust bed. This called for multiple breaks for cleaning up and lubrication of the complete drive train. But then as challenger, our team was ready for any unforeseen circumstances and recovering from them in least time. Udhampur was touched at 1330hrs and from there we took the Dhar Road towards Samba. However, the road wasn’t in its best shape, but it was followed as a strategy to omit 50 km of extra journey via Jammu. Overall it was a satisfying first day and we could total the distance to 455 km.
2) Day 2 - (22nd Oct 2019) Jalandhar (Punjab) to Mathura (UP): We were off the mountains now moving towards plains. Obviously the terrain was smoother which facilitated swift ride on the good roads and pleasant weather can be given extra brownie points. We took the shortest path through the heart of New Delhi despite being the high traffic time (1800hrs). This helped us obviate about 50 km by not taking the peripheral highway. It was the onset of winters and the night temperatures were still below 10 degree Celsius, we had warm gears on. Day 2 closed at 504 km.
3) Day 3 - (23rd Oct 2019) Mathura (UP) to Lalitpur (UP): The environment was similar to Day 2 except for the bad road condition which deteriorated the riding experience especially between Dholpur and Gwalior. We were left with no choice but to reduce the speed and clean ourselves and the bike intermittently. The road construction work between Gwalior and Jhansi also increased the difficulty for us. The bike drivetrain had to be lubricated frequently throughout the day. We could manage to cover 423 km on this day.
4) Day 4 - (24th Oct 2019) Malthone (MP) to Pench Tiger Reserve (Maharashtra): Good roads were in picture again and the night temperatures were conducive enough to ride without warm gear. However close to Pench tiger reserve on NH-44 we had to ride on a route where road construction was in progress. To make things worse, it was raining and those 16kms seemed to be never ending. October rains??? yes it happened as Cyclone Kyarr hit the Western coast of India at that time…so may be the rain God found our tread awe inspiring. However, a more realistic approach was to take it as concern for us for the coming days. Day 4 closed at 398 km.
5) Day 5 - (25th Oct 2019) Pench Tiger Reserve (Maharashtra) to Armoor (Telangana): Rains were still pouring in all glory till we reached Nagpur. Relief sign was a far-fetched idea, we had to continue under the same conditions and somehow we managed nice pace to cover 418 km by the end of the day.
6) Day 6 - (26th Oct 2019) Armoor (Telangana) to Kurnool (AP): The weather seemed to ease in the raining department but headwinds were strong, blocking our pace. We crossed Hyderabad at around 1100hrs through the heart of the city. On a brighter note, roads were smooth. The effect of Cyclone Kyarr was notably visible as our movement at night was severely hampered due to the heavy rains. The worst was yet to come. We covered 385 km on Day 6.
7) Day 7 - (27th Oct 2019) Kurnool (AP) to Bangalore (Karnataka): I was hoping to meet my parents at Bangalore, but the heavy rains still played spoil sport in the route. It was 2100hrs and we were still in the outskirts of the city. The roads were flooded with water and zero visibility was making our going really tough. It was even difficult to follow the solid white line on the highway, despite my follow vehicle just behind me. Time was running out of our hands and we decided to bypass Bangalore city to avoid the traffic. The village roads were all worn out due to the frequent lashing of rain in the past month. The alternate route for Bangalore was done by me before the K2K attempt and the village route was in good condition but frequent lashing of rain in the past month had changed the road conditions to very bad. We covered only 339 km on Day 7.
8) Day 8 - (28th Oct 2019) Bangalore (Karnataka) to Virudhunagar (Tamil Nadu): On a positive note, we had clear skies, and soothing weather. Our mental and physical postures were geared up and this boosted our mileage. We had aced through all the adversities in our path and as we were approaching towards the finish point, our spirits got even more elevated. We scaled 508 Km by the end of Day 8.
9) Day 9 - (29th Oct 2019) Virudhunagar (Tamil Nadu) to Kanyakumari (Tamil Nadu): Words are no match for the high spirits and vibrancy we had inside us that day. Fingers crossed and our expedition was paced as fast as possible and the reasons were obvious. The game was not only to complete the ride but also to complete it in record time. Every nature supported us with a bit of tailwind. The last day trail was 185 km.
End Time: 29th October 2019 1134hrs.
Other salient aspects of the expedition: I had slept in a hotel only once (Ludhiana), otherwise, all my sleep breaks were in our follow vehicle. The bike was getting its routine maintenance checks whenever I was off-saddle. Every time I used to stop, the crew used to be ready beforehand with all the requirements to minimize the off-saddle time. Our navigation was immaculate and as a result, we never went off-route avoiding any additional distance. I had used a Garmin device to record the ride from start point to end point without any omission; it included my heart rate, cadence and speed data along with the route and the same in available on my Strava profile. The event was well documented on paper as well as on camera by the team.
I, along with my team had worked hard for this event for 05 months. Everyone was actively involved even in shouldering tasks other than own routine responsibilities. The support crew had been supportive and encouraging in all aspects. I am in awe of their dedication and my deepest gratitude is towards them. They had worked night and day until the last inch of this success and lived up to their credo- “Full Power - 24 Hour”.
Giving back to nature was an important task along with this event. Our team has been associated with tree plantation events and followed with ZERO waste policy during the event. Throughout the trail, we had run the campaign `GO GREEN’ and even showed our resolve for the campaign by planting 5000 trees in Wasali Shivar, Nashik in Aug 2019 in association with the Forest Department, Nashik and M/s Samsonite.
Of course, the Guinness Record was cherry on the cake, but I must admit the most cherishing part is the moment and memories throughout the Kashmir to Kanyakumari expedition which will stay with us for a lifetime… and for the records - “they are made to be broken”.