In the Works

Apologies for not writing anything here. I have been very busy trying to set up a new 29″ MTB for mountain travel, but it seems that it’s too late for the Manali-Upshi or Manali-Leh trip. Winter has set in at the high altitude Manali-Leh road and most of the tented accommodation on the high passes will probably be winding up.

The new 29″ looked good for starters but as I started using it, there were probably dozens of tweaks and modifications required for a high altitude trek. First off, the rear hub was changed and a 9 gear cassette installed, then the triple chainwheel front gear system. A rear pannier was installed. It turned out that the handlebar had to be elevated for a comfortable ride, this was one by installing an adapter. It took me nearly 2 months to order all the parts and modify the bike. Everything else seems OK but transportation remains a major issue and I am not confident of boxing the bike and re-assembling it in Manali. Hence, I dropped that plan for now. Working on alternatives.

All-in-all, I will probably head for the Rishikesh-Gangotri section rather than Manali-Leh, as the road, there is open till October 27, 2019. The Manali-Leh road will close up by October 15, 2019 ( probable date ). Temperatures in the high passes on the Manali-Leh road are already below zero and will drop further, with rains on the lower segment. Most people have advised me to drop the Manali-Leh trek plan, and that is what I am probably going to do. If a good opportunity for hassle-free bike transfer to Manali does open up, with someone tagging along ( both seem impossible now ), I will reconsider my decision to drop the Manali-Leh route.

The Rishikesh-Gangotri road is OK after Chamba, and I am planning to take it up from Chamba with my bike. It will be quite cold but not anywhere near the cold in high passes of Manali-Leh road. On further inquiry, it turns out that the Uttarkashi-Gangotri stretch is under heavy repair/construction work. The stretch from Chamba to Uttarkashi via Mussourie road is in better shape.

I will be posting a pic of the modified 29’er soon.

Added Later: Here is my new beauty:

The bike is meant to carry weights up to 15 kg., and is geared for faster runs in mountains. It is a hardtail, has one shocker in the front. The tires are 29×2.1 which will hopefully tackle grit and dirt tracks on mountains too.

Update on 08/10/2019: Heavy snowfall (6 inches) reported in Rohtang Pass on 06/10/19 night and 07/10/19 morning which means the link between Manali and Keylong is broken. Snowfall was also reported in Marhi, Gramphu, and Darcha. HRTC has decided to suspend bus services between Manali and Keylong. Rescue operations to evacuate tourists trapped in Rohtang pass are on.

Update on 18/10/2019: Manali-Leh road has been officially closed as on 15/10/2019. Government picket at Darcha has been removed, the one in Sarchu had been removed earlier. Tourists can still travel on the road but at own risk.

Update on 05/11/2019: Air pollution levels in North India have reached unhealthy/hazardous levels and it doesn’t help to see the cavalier attitude of people in India, mainly the authorities, who are unable to stop this situation year-after-year. My city Kanpur is registering very unhealthy/hazardous levels for the past two-three weeks now. This is also taking a toll on my health as I am quite sensitive to air pollution. Trying to recover and escape this disaster by making a cycling trip somewhere else, as soon as I can.

Stay in touch!

 

 

Travel Plans

After a long bout of illness — more than a month, am back at the helm of my bicycle. Made a disastrous short trip to Prayagraj (a city about 200 km. from my place), just after coming back from my Jaislamer tour around 8 Feb, 2019 and fell very ill. Anyway, I have recovered sufficiently to start preparing for my next binge of bicycling tours. I did manage to punch out the remaining Jaisalmer trip blogs even through illness, but had little time for anything else.

With the advent of summers, most of my country is going to become a boiling cauldron. Temperatures at this stage exceed 35 degree Celsius in the afternoons. In about a month’s time, this will cross 40 degrees Celsius. This naturally restricts bike touring to the cooler Himalayan region, further North. Which is where I am headed to.

I have undertaken some bike upgrades in order to head to the Himalayan mountain region. This includes switching from a 7-speed freewheel to a 8-speed cassette on a new Shimano Deore hub and, changing the cotter pin crank to a lighter square taper one. I will also be carrying a lighter load. My plan is to ship the bike on a bus to a launch point that will help me start off from the base of the Himalayan region — called Terai over here. 

Currently, the higher Himalayan passes and regions are snowbound, but regions below 10000 feet are OK. The options are to either head for Nepal or a tour through the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, in my own country. Later on, when the mountain passes become snow free I will be touring through the high altitude Manali-Leh highway, which averages over 14000 feet, reaching almost 18000 feet on it’s highest elevation.

In case I do choose to tour Nepal, a pre-tour bus trip through various regions of Nepal is on the cards in order to select the best possible bike routes over there.

The touring will start once the bike upgrades have been done and I have coasted through with some needling injuries and physical weakness resulting from the long bout of illness. So, stay connected, and keep visiting this blog!

Yoga — No Pretzels Here

Yoga is an ancient Indian form of physical practice. The common man’s definition — yoga involves physical postures and poses that help relax the body, stretch rigid muscles and improve blood circulation. Worse come to worst you end up being a pretzel with limbs winding around your torso. Ok, that was a joke.

To aspiring sports enthusiasts like me yoga is a tremendous exercise to loosen up those taut rigid muscles and improve breathing techniques. I remember starting off yoga in a rush and ending up with discomfort. Yoga is not meant to be played around with. This was a few years back. Down the tunnel of time, I have learned a few things about yoga. Just wanted to share this with the reader. By the way, this article is not going to be a compendium on yoga as I am no yoga instructor or expert. It’s just a few tips on how to go about yoga in a better fashion.

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                     Yoga is all about getting your breathing and your posture right.*

That’s lesson number one. Yoga is not meant to be an activity where you do your split leg stance at the first go or happen to have your legs snaking up your torso and the feet jutting out next to your head. Start off with the easiest yogic postures and be relaxed while going about it. It’s more like giving your body a break that it desires. The man in the pic up there has the right cross legged sitting posture, including the arms and fingers. That is a pranayama posture and is a good way to start off on your yoga trail.

The first thing your body needs is slow relaxed breathing and the pranayama posture helps you attain this. Breathe in slowly using your expanding belly to fill in air and then give out a slow relaxed exhale, while contracting your belly. Several variations of pranayama exist. But, your focus should be on easy relaxed breathing. This is important. People start off by breathing fast or holding their breath too long and this can result in complications for some people, like those having high blood pressure.

Lesson number two; if your body is groaning while going into a yogic posture, you are overdoing it and should stop it. Don’t do it even if a yoga instructor is trying to make you take up that posture, have seen this resulting in injury. People with a prior history of joint or spinal injuries are particularly susceptible. Even if you were injury free, it takes years of practice and diet control to get to the point of being a pretzel. Yes, you heard it right, diet control leading to a slimmer physique helps with yogic flexibility.

Which brings me to lesson number three; yoga and simple living are closely tied. Simple living and yoga complement each other tremendously. The simple living principle entails good food and sleep habits. It means checking back with your body almost continuously. Am I sitting at the computer too long ? Maybe that is why my neck is complaining ? Time to take a break and some neck, arm flexibility exercises. There is no gain if you are abusing your body several hours a day, gorge on fatty and sugary stuff, have poor sleep patterns and then hope that yoga would sort all that out.

That wraps up this article on how to go about yoga. You don’t even have to be formal about yoga, just do it where ever you can. Follow this up with more exercises, slowly increasing the tempo and listening to your body all the while. There is a wealth of information on the internet. In addition I will be starting off a video series on ‘simple yoga’ shortly. If you do have pre-existing medical conditions or a history of serious injury, then, you would require a certified yoga instructor and would also need to consult a qualified physician from time to time.

Do keep checking back for more on this !

*Photo by Ruslan Alekso from Pexels

A Vegan Streak

I don’t know how to put this in words, but for the best part of my life I was a prolific meat eater. Meat to me was a wholesome diet and going to vegetarian food invites was something to be avoided. However, I couldn’t help noticing that my digestion took a hit with all that meaty protein intake and my body felt ‘heavy’ after ingesting such stuff. There were some other effects too, like the formation of phlegm and feeling of rigidity in my joints. To add insult to injury body weight was off the charts and my belly …. well, .. it was so bad that I couldn’t see my feet looking down. 

I was also becoming asthmatic and had trouble walking up staircases. All that weight lumbered down on my knee joints and soon they were creaking too. In desperation, I searched for answers in modern medicine. There were none. One of my cousins who is a qualified medical doctor advised me to try Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a system of herbal medicine in my country. It is actually a lifestyle oriented system, with particular emphasis on diet. I started off into Ayurveda and after a month or so, noticed that my weight was trimming down and my digestion had improved dramatically.

Ayurveda had helped me cut down weight drastically. However, my belly and hips still carried a lot of flab. Ayurvedic doctors advised me to cut down on sugar and on … MEAT ! That was like a punch to my solar plexus. Oooof ! They also told me that I had to avoid dairy milk that was coming off the departmental stores. According to them it was too thick and had chemicals in it. The native aka indigenous cow variety milk was supposed to be the best thing for me.

Needless to say I did not follow the advise for quite some time. This went on till I started taking part in duathlons and half marathons. In case you didn’t know duathlons are races which involve both running and cycling. On the race track I was too flabby compared to most athletes, who were lean and muscular. Most of the top performers had almost no belly flab. Compared to my friends and acquaintances I  appeared quite fit, but this turned out to be a mirage when it came to the athletic track. This was the same story in scuba and free diving. The instructors and regular divers were like chiselled up to the last shred, with almost no body fat, excluding the odd exceptions. Which meant that yours truly had no option but to take the plunge into the seemingly drab and dreary world of vegetarians or worse — the vegan world.

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Greens and the wonders of a light feeling !!

However, once I tested the vegetarian waters, things turned out to be a breeze. Cutting down on my sugar intake and chopping out meat transformed my rigid and heavy body feel to a fluid and light one. The change was noticeable once I took to long distance bike touring. 100 kilometres a day on my bike was like no sweat. Meanwhile dairy products continued to bug me. I noticed that my body was not comfortable with commercial dairy products and there were no other options available to me regarding native cow milk. That meant that dairy was off my menu too. This didn’t hurt me in any way and my athletic activity continued unabated.

Once I went down the vegan oriented trail, other things came to my notice too i.e. animal abuse in the meat and dairy industry. Thanks mostly to information from my social accounts like Twitter, I have come across articles on unimaginable cruelty being inflicted on animals to sustain the ever burgeoning demand for meat and dairy products. Now, am not going to start a full blown venting on this issue here, but it does rankle me. 

To be honest I am not very strict about my vegan streak. This has to do with the fact that there are hundreds of people groups in my country, each following their own culture and dialect. In some tribal groups it is customary to serve the guests with meat dishes ( the menu can be downright weird ) and it is considered a great dishonour to turn down the menu. Since my bike and adventure journeys often take me to the remote regions of my Indian peninsula, I do not have the luxury of following the vegan lifestyle to it’s full extent. 

This article is in no way an evangelical effort to convert meat and dairy consuming people to a vegan lifestyle. It’s just a description of how things worked out for me. I would however like people to switch from a meat and dairy hogging lifestyle to one where the intake of such is lessened to a great degree. As far as athletics is concerned there is no data to confirm that a vegan lifestyle is superior when it comes to performance. Changing one’s dietary habits is also governed by so many other factors which includes pre-existing medical conditions. In such cases, professional advise from medical practitioners should be sought.  

P.S.: Edited article replacing biathlon with duathlon, duathlon is the correct terminology.