Contributor: Karthi Pillai

Why I really travel…

Believe it or not, I did my first international trip18 years ago, since then I have travelled to 43 countries (some of them more than once) and over 150 cities around the world (I need to double check the city count, could be more :-).

For those that know me, they know that I have a few things in life that I love to do (and I don’t mean passion, that word it used to commonly and loosely

I love to travel, cycling, marathon running and good coffee

Just to clarity there is a huge difference between being a tourist and travelling (no disrespect intended to anyone reading this) and I like to think of myself as the latter…a real traveller, who embraces travel to its true essence, learning something from every day that you are on the road that will help you with your daily life choices along the way.

To be a traveller you need to embrace and respect the differences in humanity, cultures, social standings, religion, material status in societies etc. and that is what I truly love about travel…you can learn something from the most unexpected place or person.

In 2015 I discovered that I could actually combine my love for travel and cycling into one trip (with abit of running in-between and tasting the coffees of the world of course) …I had stumbled across an adventure company called Earth Wanderer (local partner to Adventure company Exodus) who do cycling and hiking trips across the globe. You have the option to choose the level of effort you wanted on your holiday (i.e. from easy to really difficult)…

2015 was when I did my first cycle holiday, to the Northern regions of India (cycling from Manali to Leh).

This was one of the more intense trips as you really required a decent level of fitness to climb the mountains in the Himalayas by bicycle. The trip was 14 days, of which 12 days were cycling, and 8 of those days were camping, no electricity or showers for 8 nights, but trust me this was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had travelling. (and I am not really one for camping).

We climbed to an altitude of +/- 5200 meters above sea level, and I did suffer mild altitude sickness along with a few others, but nothing too serious or that the trip needed to be stopped and no one had to be airlifted to safety.

We would ride during the day, anywhere from 35kms up to 80kms on mountain bikes through some really rough terrain but also some of the most scenic views I have ever seen, remote yet beautiful.

The only traffic you would see is groups of motorbikes (old school Royal Enfield motorbikes) doing the same trip we were on bicycles (in a much shorter time) and trucks transporting fuel to the town of Leh and bringing back apples to Manali before winter really set in and the roads were snowed in.

I clearly remember one day cycling up a 10km climb (total cycling for that day was 40kms mostly uphill) with 21 switchbacks, and gaining 600 meters over the climb, starting at about 3200 meters, and when we got to the top, it really was not the top, we had another 8km to go until lunch.

Along the way we would stop at these small tea tents for a break with the locals and then heading onto the campsite for the night.

The Exodus crews were amazing, and they really took care of us, and still think back to how they setup camp near a fresh water stream, setup a dining tent, prepared an array of great meals (all without electricity) and even baked a cake on our last night camping.

I really have fond memories of this trip, and would recommend it to anyone who is up to the challenge.

It was then I was sold on the idea of including a cycling in most of my travels going forward, as if Earth Wanderer and Exodus could deliver on such great service in such a remote part of the world, then surely their other trips would be brilliant as well.

Since them I have not looked back, and included cycling in all my international trips.

Cycling India (Manali to Leh) September 2015

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