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

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
      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.          
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.
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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