Two Teenagers Set Out From Jaipur to Ladakh for a Cause. On their Bicycles! No Money To Spare, Just Their Passion and Courage.

RISHABH & KUNAL: ADVENTURERS WITH A HEART

How far will you go to pursue your passion? A question that most of us strive to answer. Don’t we all harbour dreams of achieving that one goal that is close to our heart but seems impossible, risky or scary even? We want to embark upon that epic adventure but then with the ifs and buts that float in our mind, most of us just give up and lean back on our comfortable lives.

But some actually set their minds to it and when ‘just do it’ comes from within, they do it!

Kunal Sharma and Rishabh Kumawat at the young age of just 17 and 18 respectively, set out to achieve a daunting task of traversing a journey from their home town Jaipur to Ladakh. On their bicycles!

How I got in touch with Kunal and Rishabh was pure luck. My brother was on a bike trip from Delhi to Ladakh in 2017 with his friends, when he happened to meet them on the way at Rohtang Pass ahead of Manali. He had no recollection of their names, no number, just a memory of two fearless college boys on this daring quest and a picture with them.

So I took my chance and posted that picture on Facebook for public viewing and guess what, I found them! The world indeed is small, isn’t it?

And these young boys want to conquer this world in their own way, not just for thrill but for noble causes too. Here’s my chat with Kunal;

“We have always wanted to do something worthy for the world, something that we ardently believe in. Two in particular are wildlife conservation and spreading awareness on cerebral palsy.”

Kunal and Rishabh’s first bicycle ride took them from Jaipur to Udaipur in November 2016 to create awareness on leopard conservation after they gained insights about it from the NGO ‘Hope and Beyond’.

Both sports enthusiasts, they realised through an NGO that children with cerebral palsy also stand a chance to excel in sports but lack opportunity.

“I wanted to do something to bust the myth that children with cerebral palsy cannot play. This is when Kunal and I decided to embark on this long journey to create awareness.”

Kunal on extreme right and Rishabh next to him in Delhi en route to Ladakh in 2017 raising awareness on children with cerebral palsy.

In the wee hours of a rainy night on 29th May 2017, Rishabh and Kunal set in motion their 1200 plus kilometre journey from Jaipur. Their next 22 days across Delhi, Manali, Spiti and en route to Leh was going to be an experience like no other.

“It was 4am and I remember it was raining cats and dogs. But we left nonetheless.”

And if you thought the actual journey was audacious enough, the preparation leading up to it was no less.

“We used to go to Nahargarh fort which is at a steep height of 700 meters every alternate day for more than a month. As we got better, we started going on longer journeys from Jaipur to places like Dausa and Pushkar.”

“My mentor and football coach Sarthak Mishra also inspired us and helped set our plan in motion. Our families were also a source encouragement to us.”

“Air pumps, oxygen cylinder, stove, tyre tubes, basic tool set for cycle repair, minimal clothing among other essentials were part of our backpack which weighed 30–40 Kgs. We even learnt how to repair our cycles.”

“Budget was tight considering we didn’t have any savings as we were just under-graduate students. Our friends lent us various things we needed. And we’re really grateful to the amazing people we met on the way who helped us with our accommodation.”

“We are from Rajasthan, land of humility and that’s what we witnessed in other parts of the country too all through our journey. Various villages and people taught us that while we may have different ethnic backgrounds, we were all deeply rooted with a profound bond of humanity. Everyone we met were really concerned for us and amazed at the same time. They all wished us well and applauded us for the awareness campaign.”

“We saved money by resting at different dhabas, roadside, near tolls, mountains and putting up tents along the way. We travelled in three shifts. On an average, we used to travel 120–140 Kilometres per day on highways, slightly lesser on uphill terrains.”

“There was this one really scary night. Kunal and I had left Keylong (Spiti) at 5pm and it was raining heavily that night. So we decided to stop and take shelter in our tent. Nothing and no-one was to be seen for at least in 20 Kilometres range. It was on a mountain with danger looming large, a deep pitfall on one side and a narrow road deep down on the other. Had we slipped even a few inches, it would have been catastrophic! We were exposed to extreme climatic conditions, wild animals and a landslide. We couldn’t sleep and prayed to get through that night safe and sound. Next morning, we saw our tent was covered in snow.”

That wasn’t the only scary situation Kunal and Rishabh came face to face with, there were challenges galore!

“It got difficult when we started moving uphill. Our speed reduced naturally. We had to put in more strength than ever to pedal. Once on our journey, Kunal’s cycle broke down. We travelled for another 18 Kilometres to a repair shop to get it fixed.”

“But the most tragic part was when we couldn’t make it to Ladakh just 30 Kilometres short. I suffered a sinusitis attack due to constant physical motion and less oxygen level. I collapsed on the road. Luckily Border Roads Organisation (BRO) spotted us. They took care of my immediate medical need and arranged our way back home.”

“We were disheartened but were elated too, that we made it that far. It was a wholesome feeling. It felt totally worthwhile for having taken up such an effort to contribute to the cause. We will cherish it forever.”

“May be if we had practiced more including appropriate climatic acclimatisation, we might have finished those last 30 Kilometres.”

Learning from their experience therefore, the two daredevils have some valuable advice for those seeking such adventures in unforgiving terrains.

“Be fully prepared. Be it your courage, finances, practice, health and even home sickness. When you’re peddling, there is no room for any negative thoughts.”

It has been 3 years since those exhilarating 3 weeks but their story is not over yet. Kunal and Rishabh are determined to complete what was left and finish their target of riding to Leh and further up till Khardung La.

“Just believe nothing is impossible!”

Both Rishabh and Kunal are natives of Jaipur and graduated from Rajasthan University. Currently, Rishabh 21, is planning a start-up in organic farming and Kunal 22, is preparing to appear in exams for the Staff Selection Commission. However they will continue to pursue their passion for animal welfare and sports.

Published by Geetanjali Prasad

For a decade or so, I worked as a television news reporter, producer and anchor and dabbled in genres like entertainment, business, real estate, sports and travel for different television channels. Currently since the last five years, I am taking care of the subject of climate change and green buildings by visual storytelling through digital platforms for an American organisation. I have started this blog purely for love of writing and pursuit of extraordinary stories (as the name suggests) by looking for people who have done immensely inspiring work or overcame situations that demanded exceptional grit and determination. I want to document and share these stories with the world in the hope that it motivates more people including me to be just a little kinder to everything and everyone (including animals & environment) around us, a bit more fearless to fight for what is right and the endurance to achieve what we envision.

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