Ahmedabad: Kailash Manasarovar: Cycle Rides Soul Journeys, by Anita Karwal and Anurita Rathore was released in Ahmedabad on Sunday. New Delhi-based Readomania published the book, a unique travelogue chronicling a bicycle ride from Nayalam to Manasarovar Lake that 14 members—nine cyclists and a support team of five—of the Ahmedabad Bicycling Club undertook in 2013.

According to the publicity material, the book is “a philosophical, but mostly graphical, tickled and peppy account of the trip” narrated by a “chatty bicycle”. It also features “24 coloured photographs that showcase the local terrain and the journey”.

“Most of the riders are from Ahmedabad, so we decided to launch here first,” said Dipankar Mukherjee, founder, Readomania. The title is also expected to be released at events in Mumbai and New Delhi later in the year.

Karwal, who currently heads the Central Board of Secondary Education, has previously co-authored two books with her husband Atul. Rathore is a former journalist who currently teaches writing and editing to school and college students.

Guests at the launch remarked on how inspirational it was that such a diverse group of cyclists came together to make such a trip possible. One elderly gentleman, however, said he would have preferred if the book had been published in Gujarati instead.

Interestingly, neither of the authors have any proficiency as cyclists, which is also why they decided to have a cycle narrate the book, they said. Karwal cannot ride at all, and Rathore gave up her pedals after an accident as a child.

Karwal and Rathore, along with Kuldeep Jadeja, Swati Shah and Supriya Shah, were part of the support team that accompanied the nine riders: Anand Dalal, Atul Karwal, Gaurav Shah, Haresh Mevada, Harsh Shah, Kumaril Patel, Rajiv Popli, Sanjeeta Singh and Satpal Singh Chhabada.

The team flew from Ahmedabad – Delhi – Kathmandu, where they met with their travel associate who was to provide them with the bikes, tents and other equipment they would require. They then set out by car to Nyalam, where they spent some time to acclimatize themselves before heading out on the first leg of their trip: from Nyalam Town at 3,750m above sea level to Nyalam Pass at 5,150m above mean sea level. In all, the team would cycle 300km, and trek 52km.

“What we (the authors) did, primarily, was eat up all the chocolates and nuts that we were carrying for (the cyclists),” Rathore said, during a Q&A session led by Readomania’s Mukherjee at Ahmedabad Management Association on Sunday.

So, while the cyclists prepared by training intensively for two months, with rides to Mount Abu and focused sessions up and down flyovers in Ahmedabad, the authors said they began preparing only 15 days in advance.

“Harsh did all the planning, he even introduced me to Google Drive,” Karwal said, of orthopaedic surgeon and team leader Dr Harsh Shah. “We just had to take it one day at a time... It was almost like a vacation, until we realized there wouldn’t be any toilets,” she added.

Despite their palpable sense of awe, the authors kept the discussion light. Amid anecdotes from the road, they kept coming back to two topics: the natural splendour that they witnessed, and the challenge that was personal hygiene.

“We learnt that China is not one the most ‘forward’ countries in terms of hygiene,” Karwal said, adding, “we had to dig holes”. Rathore chimed in with, “wet wipes and sanitizer became indispensable.”

The two women also concurred that toilets would have been one of the few things they would have changed about the trip.  

What they wouldn’t change, however, was almost everything else.

“It was very tough, but it was beautiful and very enjoyable,” Karwal said.

Rathore was more expansive. “‘Being one with nature’ is such a cliché, but this whole trip reminded me that nature can have so many implications... The landscape is so vast and beautiful, and you’re such a small speck in all of it. It helps you remember that there’s very little in life that you really need to take seriously. Knowing that I am capable of undertaking the trip on my own has boosted my self confidence. I really experienced a slice of life. If I were to do anything differently, I would probably have trained harder for those two–three months.” She now also plans to get back onto a bicycle, she also said.

Anandhalekshmi Nair contributed to this story. Marilyn Gore tweets at @RealMarilynGore

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Read an excerpt from the book here.