A mountaineer has embarked on a 5,500-km trans-Himalayan cycle ride to create awareness about child education
THE EDUCATION system in India is fraught with challenges. Even though there has been some progress, a sizeable number of children in the country still don’t have access to basic education. Several initiatives and organisations across the country work tirelessly to further the cause. And now, joining their ranks is a 30-year-old mountaineer and long-distance cyclist from Kolkata, who has embarked on a solo 5,500-km trans-Himalayan cycle ride, starting from Kishtwar in Jammu & Kashmir.
During his four-month-long journey, which will culminate at Walong in Arunachal Pradesh, Sudipto Pal will be communicating with the communities, especially children, living in the rocky terrains to create awareness about child education. Pal’s trip is part of the ‘School the Spark’ campaign by Child Rights and You (CRY), a non-profit organisation that supports and works for the rights of underprivileged children. The pan-India campaign will reach out to more than 2.5 lakh children in the age group of 6-18 years in CRY-supported projects.
“In the mountains, people are much fitter than city people, but they still lag behind because of lack of education. It is the only ingredient required for them to succeed,” he says, adding, “As an individual, I might be able to help 50 people, but this way, I can reach out to more children. Fifty could become five lakh.”
Pal started trekking in class VIII and has been involved in professional mountaineering in the Himalayas for the past 10 years, but a trans-Himalayan trip had always been his dream. “The more I went to the mountains, the more I got soaked into it… I had been thinking of going on a trans-Himalayan ride for the past eight-nine years now,” he says.
His only companion on the journey, so to speak, will be a hardtail mountain terrain bike from Scott Sports India, which manufactures bicycles and motorsports gear. He will be carrying a small stove, camping and climbing gear, with some medical supplies, making pit stops to rest and service his equipment. As far as food is concerned, Pal says he has ‘trained’ his tongue to eat food that has no salt or spices.
His journey started from Kishtwar on July 15. From there, Pal will ride to Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand, and then on to Shimla. The next part of the trip will take him to Surting—a small village in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh—the last motorable point. From there, he will start trekking in an attempt to scale Mt Phawararang (6,349 m). He also plans to climb another unnamed peak (6,137 m), leading seven-eight climbers on the expedition.
Pal will then return to Pithoragarh and start cycling again, crossing areas like Pokhra and Kathmandu in Nepal. He will also travel to Darjeeling, entering Bhutan from the border town of Phuentsholing. “I will be going to Thimphu and, if I get the requisite permits, I will traverse the whole of Bhutan. Otherwise, I will exit from the border at Gelephu,” he says. After exiting Bhutan, he will end his journey at Walong.