[CTC Inspiring Stories] A Solo Cyclist- Hema L Mani

Wednesday, May 11, 2016
The journey on a bicycle began for Hema L Mani as it does for everyone else -  a fun mode of transport for a school goer. Hema is basically from Kerala, but identifies Chennai as her hometown as she grew up here in West Mambalam. Tracking down the starting point of mountain biking in Hema’s timeline leads us to one fine day, three years ago, when she was looking to buy a bicycle. She came to know about CTC through a friend. One thing led to another, and she bought her bicycle and also signed up for her first cycling event – Guindy to Cholavaram trip. The 150 km ride was overwhelming for Hema, but she held on to the next event – hill cycling to Javadhu, and since then, there has been no looking back. The initial phase in mountain biking was testing and intimidating – having to encounter steep terrains, ride up and down on obstacles etc… As she grew familiar with the technicalities and learnt to adapt, she discovered that excitement of the sport was worth all the efforts put in

       Hema has travelled far and wide on her trusted partner – the bicycle. She goes on frequent cycling trips whenever she manages to get a break from work. She has been on short trips to Palani, Munnar, Javadhu, Kalrayan, Idukki, Meghamalai, Kolli. Her first long distance trip spanned three states -  Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Following this, she took a long trip along Shimla – Ladakh highway. The next long trip was from Kashmir to Manali . During these trips, they cover 50-60 kms on average per day and continue to pedal through rain or shine, until the sun goes down and they can settle down for some food and rest.  Treading on paths not visited often by people, facing risks like landslide and torrential rain, going on for days on end without electricity or communication signals, with only the sound of ferocious river to keep them company sounds like a really great adventure. The beauty of the pristine mountains is so breathtaking and adds to the rewarding experience.  

      To top it all, is Hema’s solo trip along Western ghats,  through  Munnar – Kumuli – Idukki – Udumalapet – Palani.  Doing everything on her own – picking the trail, managing food and accommodation, navigation -  was enlightening. She has seen a mixture of responses from people she has encountered – some have been appreciative, some have been concerned, some have even been angry about what is the need to take up such risky trips. The highlight of the solo trip has been a brief encounter with a pack of elephants while crossing Udumalapet reserved forest she elaborates. 

        The major difficulty as a woman travelling alone is finding accommodation. But some locals go out of their way to help and so that is not really a concern, she mentions. And Hema’s next trip would be to Vietnam by May 2016. When asked about her dream trip, Hema says, she would like to travel to all the beautiful mountains on the planet.          

Hema has a really tight work schedule, as she works for six days a week, but manages to go on a trip at least once a month, apart from occasional rides alone or with friends. There is no particular regimen that she follows in terms of diet or exercise. She keeps herself active, and eats healthy whenever and wherever she can. Keeping the body active and toned with some kind of physical activity right from childhood goes a long way in maintaining the stamina, she adds.  Her family is fairly supportive of her interest. She is also a part of other CTC activities like plantation, conservation, recycling.

And what would she suggest for beginners – Just buy a bicycle and start cycling along local trails.

About the Author:
Akshaya hails from chennai and is currenty  Working in Microchip Technology Pvt Ltd. Her interests  spans across reading books , gardening, Outdoor and Blogging.



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