Avinash Noronha (31) recently returned to his hometown Kanpur after a three month, 3000 km long cyclathon in Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal and Uttarakhand. Even while cycling at a height of 18000 ft. and braving night temperatures of -10 degrees Centigrade, he was wearing just a tee-shirt and shorts. He travelled to Kargil, the Pakistan and China borders, and the highest Indian space observatory at Hanle, besides the highest motorable road in the world at Khardung La.
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He cycled on the now abandoned Old Hindustan-Tibet road and the Zanskar Valley over Shinku La, that was fraught with danger. A small misstep meant certain death. During this odyssey he sometimes slept in the tent that he was carrying, or in small wayside dhabas and occasionally in military camps. He experienced the warm hearted hospitality of remote villages, and also the crass commercial tourism in more inhabited areas.
His steed for the journey was a high specification light aluminium alloy mountain bike (MTB) with 30 gears that is specially designed for off-road and trail riding. Many of the areas that he visited had no electricity, internet or phone facilities. The small solar panel fitted on to his backpack helped him to keep his electronic equipment charged.
Avinash, better known as “The Monk” in both cycling and biking circles, had previously cycled for a month in the uninhabited steppes of Mongolia, where they even had to carry their own drinking water cans. He had also taken part in the first ever 200 km road race from the Lion Safari Park in Etawah to Agra, on the special cycling track built by the former Chief Minister of U.P., Shri Akhilesh Yadav. He has also participated in the gruelling MTB Shimla race held every year in the mountains.
Earlier Avinash had worked for six years handling the website and content of a Delhi based motorcycling magazine, with which he had circumnavigated the country several times. However, his first major motorcycle ride was a solo one from Kanpur to Kanyakumari and back in 2009.
Avinash had always cycled to school, but the cycling bug really bit him when, ironically, he was on a motorcycle ride with his cousins in the Spiti Valley in Himanchal Pradesh in 2011. That is when he saw a number of foreigners cycling there, forcing a re-think on which two wheels to travel on!
As a child at home he encountered two young Dutch women who were cycling from Indonesia back to Holland, to raise awareness for differently abled children. His family had once again hosted two other European cyclists, one from erstwhile Yugoslavia and the other from England, in 1997. On a family holiday in the Kumaon hills he had come across a lone cyclist from Delhi on a steep incline where the car was struggling. All these encounters must have left an indelible mark on an impressionable young mind.
– Chote Bhai Noronha