If this tour has to be described in a simple way : First day we started from Ramakona village and after 90+ kms of cycling we were at the entrance of Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve which comprises of Satpura National park and adjoining Bori and Pachmarhi wildlife sanctuaries, combinely designated as biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2009. Second day we entered deeper into the reserve towards Pachmarhi cantonment and spent a day at the hill station.
Third day took us out of the biosphere reserve crossing through some towns and villages and got us again inside the reserve at Madhai near Tawa reservoir and final day again we come out of the greenery and entered towards the extreme left end of the Tawa Reservoir and in all this in-out-in game through the hilly-foresty biosphere we saw how balanced that ecosystem is where the relationship between environment and humans co-exist beautifully.
Day 3 : Pachmarhi to Madhai – Night Bicycle Mayor
On third day, we had to leave Pachmarhi cantonment, serving the Indian Army, I should mention that we were lucky to have Wing Commander Praveen Mishra and Col Jayaram from Indian Army, riding with us and sharing some of the interesting air and land war scenarios. So, Army Men are just not active on Borders but like this also!! As we left pachmarhi, we did that 21 kms of downhill which we climbed last day. It was a treat to start the day, it was scary, mind-blowing, thrilling what not with lot of photo shoots and drone video captures of all cyclists swarming down the hills in green-white TDS jerseys. Even the drone enjoyed much that it fell for once with minor injuries.
This evening, I was going to give a talk on my recent trip to The Netherlands for Global Bicycle Mayor & Leader Summit and Velo-City 2017(check video) conference, people had already started asking about it curiously. And I had already found the two same breed commuters from Nagpur, Anand Kasture (only journalist in India using cycle for all his commutes from 3 years) and Nikhil Kulkarni, who religiously uses cycle as a Mode of Tran(sport) other than Sport. Sharing each others commute patterns and best cycle to work practices was the most discussed topic followed by how this difficult and humongous but worth working vision of Cycling cities can be achieved for Indian cities.
The route till we were inside the biosphere was soothing only until it ended and then we headed to the Pipariya, Shobhapur and Sohagpur to reach Madhai. The most memorable part of the day was crossing Pipariya for two interesting reasons.
One, that people welcomed us in such an overwhelming way with garlands, placards having planet-saving slogans and some of them offered us tea at their dhabas. It was just not this, there were kids waiting for us out of their schools on our way further. Well, the excitement was not just for that day, they were so motivated by seeing all of us that they formed Pipariya Cycling Club what’s app group and shared pictures of the first ride with Amit Samarth, a super inspiration for everyone. What more do you need ??
Second interesting part was to ride in the dust and very unorganized traffic of Pipariya with lot of open street selling and activities going on due to an upcoming festival of farmers. Trust me, it was so difficult to ride in that traffic but we were riding non-stop to pass it fast. They should have kept CS (competitive segment) here was the joke of the day for all of us! 😀
After the day, came the night. In the evening, I was going to share my experience and thoughts at such a beautiful location that everyone was enjoying the location deeply and the WE, Working Elements team with Mrunalini, Sam (pyaar se Chika) & Saurabh were working on the audio-visual setup when the sky dramatically turned dark. We were able to see the stars so clear and close and strategically less lighting at the resort made this possible.
The night created the perfect situation to share the genesis of the Bicycle Mayor concept which was actually inspired by Night Mayor of Amsterdam who understands various problems during the night life of the city and becomes a good communicator between the city hall and people. Well, cycling also caters masses and has its own set of problems to be understood and worked upon and hence came the idea to elect Bicycle Mayors for each city.
Just as I shared in detail about Cycling Cities endeavours till now and what I am learning and going to implement because of Bicycle Mayor Network , I opened the space for others to share their suggestions and thoughts on how urban cycling can be part of lifestyle for many for short distance commutes. I got tremendous feedback and interest from many riders on how this can be achieved in various target segments. The day ended with lot of positivity when some of the endurance riders came and told me after the talk about how challenging and impactful it can become and one of the friend of Sachin who runs couple of schools in Hoshangabad said, ” First thing I will do after going from here is that I will buy a cycle and will also start programs in my schools to motivate children to cycle”. One convert and crusader added for the cycling movement. 🙂
Day 4 : Madhai to Tawa – The Final Day
This day started with no wish to leave such beautiful place in all the times of the day with such zealous bunch of people. But we had to leave for our final destination, Tawa.
My interaction with all the riders last night was very fruitful but more fruitful was this day as I interacted with many on the way and all of them shared different perspectives and ideas to achieve the goal of making cycling common for all. Nikhil while riding with me for an initial stretch told about the scenario in mining companies and how cycling can be transport mode inside the industries. He literally shared the execution strategy for this segment, which hopefully in future with be executed with his passion for commute and guidance. He has also documented this Tour in his travelogues, do check out here.
The Twin Brothers or Choudhrie brothers from Beitul,(they are actually not twins as I was guessing with few other people and they cleared on day 2) they are doctors working on surgeries for with low income group. They shared some interesting aspects to cycling for low income group and importance of spreading awareness in schools should be the priority as they are the future and they also hold some powers to influence the choices of their parents.
Also got good pointers from beginners like Arjun Mahatme, who finished it gracefully with his famous lines – Pappu pass ho gaya! and Awasthi ji, who is retired and recently completed half marathon and last cycled in 90’s. Inspirational Dr. Gughe from Parali in Maharashtra, who also manages a cycling club there. And look, how they bid adieu to Cycling Ganesha this time!
The route for today was around 94 kms with pretty much flat profile and we were about to enter Tawa Reserve which was going to be a bumpy ride. It was further 20 kms but after some 5 kms inside the forest I just got down, asked others to go ahead, sat flat on the grass and started enjoying the farm fresh pear given by Anubhav at the start of the reserve. As I finished savouring it, ambulance was passing and Doc. Shukla asked if I was ok? I didn’t want to repeat the Day 2 heavy rain incident so just explained that I am little bored now as the route ahead is going to be all same, so just a break. The eager response from the Doc. came, “ I can completely understand what you are trying to say about it being boring. If you don’t want to ride can I ride your bike? I was going to get one at the start of forest but an IAS officer of MP Tourism came and last bike was given to him..and….”
Well, looking hat his inner enthusiasm to ride, how can I say NO?? It was one of those opportunities which I usually get in my city to offer my bike or TRING cycles ( Try Cycling) for people to try-experience and start cycling. He was so excited, he changed to loose clothes in ambulance and he was already wearing shoes as he was prepared to ride on final day but didn’t get the bike. And I could see how refreshing it was for him to ride through the ups and downs of the route after sitting in the ambulance for 4 days.
I saw monkeys and peacocks from van for the last 15 kms and what I also saw was Aayan cycling with his father and continuously uttering – “No Pollution..No Pollution” while riding. It was like music to my ears coming from a 6-year-old who did 87 kms of total cycling in TDS! Kudos again for such awareness at this age!
Upon reaching resort, people again questioned that why I did not cycle final leg but when they saw sweating-happy Doc. bringing cycling inside the resort, they were like, “So, the Bicycle Mayor sacrificed her cycle for the Doc. who wanted to ride!” and I just explained that I was in my usual role and I didn’t want to lose the opportunity to introduce cycling to someone. Doc. then expressed, “I noticed that there are so many doctors like Ashwini, Amit, Twin brothers, Dr. Gughe on this tour and they get time for all this. I will also start some physical fitness routine. Which cycle should I buy?” Ahh!! Another convert on the tour!
Cool off at Tawa
As I was not happily leaving beautiful Madhai, I was told that Tawa is more beautiful that this. True to the heaven it was!
So much was there to cool us off, first the cruise ride then the TDS medals- certificates and souvenirs by MP Tourism and party with another musical evening by Jallosh band which was got etched in the memories.
Back to Reality!
The next morning was difficult to overcome from all kinds of hangovers but we had to go back to our routines. Goodbyes and gratitude to Cycle Safari Team- Sachin & Anil sir; MP Tourism Team; Amol and his CAC All Rounder Team; Ashish and his Working Elements Team for managing the event such flawlessly; Veloscope for lifetime memories ( check more pics on facebook ) , awaiting the final video of TDS which was shot from all possible angles by Sunny & his team from Propixel; all the other volunteers and riders who made this tour a huge success.
I came back by train and was coincidentally joined by Nikhil Soneji in same coach(in his helpful volunteer role till the end) but without my cycle as there had to be some special story of its return also in this special journey!
I usually don’t share and I don’t have many hard copies of articles about my journey but while coming back, spotted Femina on Nagpur Jn. and bought a copy as this issue covered my story with some other amazing women crusaders working on various issues. Women getting empowered..huh??