Srinagar: To create awareness among the youth about drug menace in Kashmir, two youths from Mahyan Tangmarg in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district carried a cycling expedition from Gulmarg to Pangong Lake.
Despite many challenges, be it uneven terrain or the hot weather, the duo accomplished the expedition in eight days by covering 676 kilometers on the cycle.
Post graduate in Public Administration, 29-year-old Suhail Rehman Lone is currently pursuing Ph.D. from Desh bhagat University, Punjab while as 30-year-old Fayaz Ahmad Lone is running a mobile repairing shop at Tangmarg.
The expedition was not easy journey for the duo as they cycled for around 14 hours a day for eight consecutive days despite hot weather and rough terrains. They started the expedition on August 20 and completed it by August 28.
“We cycled around 75-80 kilometers per day passing through the toughest terrains and high altitude passes that include Zoji la, Namikala, Fotu la, Chang la (world’s second-highest motorable pass which is 1768 feet above the sea level) and Khardung la,” Suhail told the Rising Kashmir.
He said that during this expedition, they faced immense hardships be it the scorching heat during the day or low temperature at the night. In some places the duo experience snowfall in the upper reaches and hot weather at the low-lying places.
“Unavailability of eatables at various places made the voyage more difficult which forced us to continue our journey for many hours without having food. We were not able to find café or restaurants at many places for long distances,” Suhail said.
The difficult part of their expedition was to cool down the tires of their bicycles as after heating up, the rim brakes would not apply, they said.
While travelling through various areas towards Pongong, the duo experienced various cultural practices and traditional values while meeting many friendly and cordial people.
Fayaz said, the people with whom they shared the idea of cycling expedition were of the view that this would prove dangerous as the way ahead was never easy.
“But we kept ourselves calm and set out for this expedition with enthusiasm and full of zest,” he said, adding they were already used to adventurous sports and tracking, thus knew the tricks to survive in such situations.
“We carried tents, sleeping bags, night gear kit, cycle repairing kits, survival kits, first aid kit, hydration kit, rucksacks and other necessary things with us, weighing around 40 Kilograms,” Fayaz said.
The idea behind the expedition was to create awareness among the youth about the prevalence of drug menace in the society. “With change in lifestyle and tremendous pressure, the youth try to find calm in spending time on social media or get addicted in drug and substance abuse,” he said.
Through this expedition, the duo wanted to give message to the youth that there are other alternatives which can help in coping with day-to-day anxieties and stresses and cycling is one of them.
Youth need to look for positive things rather than falling prey to drugs, Fayaz said, adding “It has been proved that the use of drugs and social media provides no peace but the adventure sports and similar activities can provide peace of mind and also helps in overall physical fitness,” he said.
This expedition had an emotional aspect for Suhail as it reminds him of old days when his grandfather would travel by old model Hero cycle. Nowadays, the old model of cycles has been replaced by the modern and sophisticated cycles, Sahil said.
"Those cycles connect me to the struggles of my elders, especially my grandfather whom I remember riding bicycle for traveling long distances and carrying heavy things on it," he recalls.