Aurangabad (Maharashtra), Jan 24 (IANS) Peddling on the theme of 'Cycling For Health' and 'Pollution-free Asia', a unique team of students-professors from the Deogiri Institute of Engineering & Management Studies (DIEMS) here furiously rode over 2,500-kms to complete a month-long Maharashtra-Bhutan cycling odyssey.
This was the second such initiative by the students-professors of the institution - with a 4,000-km long 45-day K2K or Kashmir To Kanyakumari journey successfully completed last year on the noble theme 'Beti Bachao', DIEMS Director Ulhas Shiurkar told IANS of the latest achievement.
The team, comprising three professors and an accounts chief - Mangesh Dasare, Deepak Magar, Changdeo Mane and Nithin Ghodke - and students Rituraj Tandle, Yash Chaundiye, Nitin Suryawanshi, Ajaysingh Pal and the youngest Prateek Arsule - had pedaled away from the college campus on December 21 and returned on January 21 (yesterday) to a tumultuous welcome.
The team leader, Professor Dasare, described it as a tough experience, a lot tougher than the previous K2K venture and done in trying and bone-chilling temperatures and other challenges en route, under the auspieces of Maharashtra Shikshan Prasarak Mandal (MSPM), which runs DIEMS and other educational institutions.
Taking off from the DIEMS campus in Aurangabad, they traversed through Indore-Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh) which at 975 kms was the longest stretch, Varanasi-Bodh Gaya (Bihar), Islampur-Jaigaon (West Bengal), and finally to Thimpu-Paro in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.
En route, the team delivered lectures and talks on their cycling theme at over two dozen schools and colleges to create awareness among the youngsters on the health benefits of cycling and the need to keep the nation pollution-free for future generations, Dasare added.
Shortly after they left Aurangabad district towards MP, three of the student cyclists suddenly fell ill with severe vomiting and dehydration, but they consulted local medicos and the expedition continued with them riding in the accompanying support-vehicle for three days.
"The support vehicle was decided this year as we had to carry lot of accessories, spares, plus our heavy woollens in view of the harsh winter temperatures. We never cooked food, but chose to savour the local cuisine in wayside dhabas to get a feel of their unique cultures," Dasare smiled.
On an average, the group clocked a staggering 125 km daily at a steady 20/23 kmph throughout the journey, often passing through rough-and-tough terrain, desolate areas and deep forests.
The group experienced major problems in entire Madhya Pradesh where bad roads played havoc with their professional Oroboros and Cosmic 21-30 gear high-speed bicycles.
"In fact, we had exhausted all our 10 spare tubes when we reached Bihar. These special tubes were not available anywhere except Aurangabad, New Delhi or Kolkata, and we couldn't afford to disturb our schedules by deviating from the route," Mane recalled.
However, in Bihar they met a Good Samaritan and local cycling champion Pavan Kumar, who learnt of their plight.
"Instead of sympathizing, he went a step ahead and directly helped us - by producing six sets of complimentary brand new cycle tubes for us! Since roads in Bihar, West Bengal and Bhutan were very good, we still have two unused sets with us. It was a memorable experience and we shall never forget Pavan Kumar," Dasare said.
Most of the expedition was uneventful, barring the occasional wild creatures sighted or snakes along the routes, though the 58 kms from Thimpu to Paro proved to be the most daunting challenge, a steep mountainous road with deep foggy valleys and punishing minus-4 degrees temperature.
After around 25 days on the road and completing the journey, it was finally time to crash inside the 17-seater Tempo Traveller for the 3-day return trip along the same route and reaching home on January 21 after an enriching and cherished tour.
Lauding the group for their achievements, Shiurkar said that the expedition expenses of around Rs.600,000 were largely sponsored by the MSPM, and the rest provided by four local companies.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)