Two Wheels to Leh

Aditya Mehta cycled from Manali to Khardung La

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic. It takes sweat, determination and hard work.”     – Colin Powell
Aditya Mehta is a living testament to that quote. As a para-athlete, Aditya understands the constraints such sportspersons face, and tries to raise funds for his fellow para-athletes. On his most recent trip, he cycled from Manali to Khardung La to raise funds. Read on for more about his challenging campaign.
I was lucky enough to be born into an affluent family that can afford all the expensive equipment I need to follow my athletic pursuits. The sad thing is that our country has no organisations that help other para-athletes raise money to do what they enjoy. I’ve met so many people who struggle to find sponsorship in order to participate in sports, and I really want to help them. The voyage before this one extended from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, and began as an effort to raise funds for para-athletes. That time, I could not do what I set out to, so this trip was to achieve my earlier goal. I’m proud to say that this time around, I was successful in finding sponsors for three para-athletes: an amputee swimmer, a badminton player who uses a wheelchair, and a fellow cyclist affected by polio.

Aditya Mehta with team 
My journey began in Delhi, where I kicked things off with solidarity ride that was flagged off by Social Justice Secretary Shruti Kakkar. From Delhi, I headed to Manali by car and stayed with the Indo-Tibetan Border Police in Kullu for a few days. During this time, I travelled between Kullu and Manali to acclimatise. One day, I visited Jana Falls, where I had what may have been the best meal of my life. I sat by the waterfall, enjoying the pakka desi food. It was here that I tried Flying Fox, where I was strapped onto a wire and zipped through the air faster than I could ever imagine! My staff and uncle were worried, but I was very keen on it. It was a thrilling experience!

Solang Valley 
From Manali, I travelled to Solang Valley, where I went paragliding. I had to jump off an 8,500-foot high cliff. I couldn’t run, so I had to take my leg off while people held and pushed me. This had been on my wish list for a while, so I was overjoyed! When I looked down, everyone appeared to be the size of ants! It was tough riding from Manali to Marhi, as I started late and reached at 6 pm. When cycling, I have to control two things: my breath and my pedalling. My first day there was tough! We had to stay in a hut as there are no star hotels, and I had never done anything like that before. That night was a bit rough.

Aditya Mehta 
On day two, we dedicated our journey to Sissu, with Rohtang Pass about halfway. Though I’d heard otherwise, I felt Rohtang was rather easy. Some beautiful women rode with me, helping me with motivation. I spoke to them, and before I knew it, I was at my destination! I did hit a small roadblock on the way when I had a headache due to altitude sickness. My guide refused to give me medicine, and instead asked me to sip water that had steeped overnight with a slit garlic pod. This worked wonders, and I felt much better! For anyone going to high-altitude areas, this trick really works! The climb up was easy, but going down was tough. It was incredibly cold, and I was wearing a lot of gear for warmth. The roads were bad, and I even slipped!

Aditya Mehta at Sissu 
At Sissu, I stayed at a nice hotel, and we started for Jispa early the next morning. You see the greenery disappear slowly as you ride out of Sissu. Keylong is on the way to Jispa, and this ride was a little difficult; my breathing was very heavy. There were mountains whose shadows are terribly cold, but the moment you’re out of their shade, the sun burns your skin. It was challenging, but we made it to Jispa and stayed at a beautiful hotel with a stunning river view. I was exhausted and thoroughly enjoyed dinner that night.

Aditya Mehta at Jispa 
From Jispa onwards, there was no phone network and little civilisation. I felt very low when I reached Zingzingbar, where I once again had to live in a tent. The cold was biting, and staying in a tent is especially challenging for me. I fell sick due to the altitude and decided to take some medicine. This wasn’t the best idea, and I do not recommend it. I hardly slept, feeling very ill throughout the night. I missed my family and had to really push myself.

Aditya Mehta at Sarchu 
From here, we went on to Sarchu, where I was thankful to have a luxury tent. But the weather was so very nippy that I was unable to enjoy the luxury aspect. In the morning, we set out for Pangnala, where I had to climb the Gata Loops. En route, I had a bad nosebleed. I continued with cotton to stop the bleeding and reached Nokila Pass, which was a very steep and difficult climb. Once at the top, I ate and then continued for another seven kilometres before we headed downhill to Pangnala. The road was so bad; we could see small landslides and had to be extremely cautious. At Pangnala, I had a very good dinner and comfortable accommodation at the army transit camp.

Aditya Mehta at Debring 
The next day, we left for Debring. I was able to ride very quickly, but there was no accommodation, so we had to go to Tso Kar to spend the night. We were off to Tanglangla the following morning. It is the second-highest motorable road, but was extremely dry and very tough. I was glad when we finally got there! Our next stop was Lato – completely downhill from where we were, and through the beautiful Thar road. Lato brought us back to civilisation for a bit. The homestay was lovely, and the best part was they made fresh momos for us!

Aditya Mehta at Leh 

We went on to Leh the next day. What was supposed to be an easy journey was a long, hot and windy one. The ITBP took good care of us, and I enjoyed some whitewater rafting before travelling to the breathtaking Pangong Lake. The most amazing part of my journey was spending Independence Day at Khardung La. The roads there were quite horrible, and I fell along the way, but I was ecstatic when I reached my destination.                                                                                                                               ..... as told to Saloni