On May 29th, 2023, two young men set off on a journey that captured the attention and hearts of people all over India. Over the course of about 55 days, Sai Kaushik Reddy and Krishnan A. Nair cycled from Jakkur in Karnataka all the way to Kargil in Ladakh. We at Travel Secrets spoke to Kaushik about his expedition.
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Kaushik. I am a student of St Joseph’s University in Bengaluru. I was accompanied to Kargil by Krishnan, a senior of mine. He is pursuing his BBA in M.S Ramaiah College in Bangalore. We are both Cadets in the 1 Karnataka Air Squadron NCC.
Why did you decide to embark on this journey ?
The journey was planned completely by Krishnan. He was extremely disappointed when the people around him could name actors by the dozen, but not a single Param Vir Chakra awardee. His main aim for the trip was to spread awareness about NCC and our squadron, and more importantly, to honour the fallen soldiers of the 1999 Kargil War. The mission was named Mission Vijay Sagar after Captain Vijayant Thapar, a deceased war hero. We wanted to prove that it was possible to honour them without spending a lot of money, and that is when we decided on cycles.
What were some essentials you packed while on this trip? How did you both manage your sleep?
We pitched our tents anywhere we found space, places like petrol bunks, and police stations. Fortunately, we were able to sleep in the army quarters in some regions and are very grateful to the Indian Army for their assistance during this trip. We weren’t planning on it, but we ended up cycling quite a bit at night when it was cooler.
What distance did you cover in total?
We covered anywhere between 100 and 120 kilometers a day. The total distance we covered from Karnataka to Kargil was approximately 3,200 kilometers. We had the opportunity to pass through many states like Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad and Kashmir as well as many small villages. One of the trip’s best parts was meeting new people and their families everywhere we went.
What was the most scenic part of your journey?
I might sound a little biased, but the most beautiful place I cycled through was my hometown. The life and scenery of Puttaparthi, Andhra is somewhere I’ve always found solace in. Another place worth mentioning is Makalidurga in Karnataka. It has been a dream of mine to cycle on the road between the train track and the river. I wish I had the words to describe what I felt when I passed through the stretch.
Some of the troubles you faced along the way?
We definitely encountered a number of dangerous drivers along the way and Krishnan also got into an accident with three drunk people on a bike. Luckily, he escaped unscathed. At some point along the trip, I started feeling unwell and in Kangan, about 30 kilometers from Srinagar, I landed up in hospital with typhoid.
What was the most challenging stretch? What do you swear you’ll never do again?
Some of the most challenging stretches were definitely in Kashmir. It was extremely steep and difficult to navigate, but we made it out alive. Along the way, I lost a lot of my belongings, including my power bank and phone. That is for sure a careless mistake I hope never to repeat.
At any point, did you feel like giving up ?
Not at all. I was very dedicated to finishing this trip, despite the hospitalisation that set us back a few days. Krishnan stood by me through it all and I couldn’t have done it without him.
What was it like when you finally reached Kargil?
After an eventful two months, we finally reached our destination. The experience was surreal. We had the opportunity to interact with many officers here and got their insights and advice. We stayed here for about 5 days and visited the famous Kargil War Memorial to honour the fallen soldiers.
What advice would you give to someone planning to do a similar trip?
A never-give-up attitude is essential for completing a trip this strenuous. Other than that, I would say the best thing you can do is eat hygienically, take frequent breaks and hydrate as often as you can.
Kaushik spoke to Abigail Sylvester from Travel Secrets
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