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Twenty bicycle adventurists from Pune who are on a 750-km trip of four Northeastern states for the past eight days negotiating steep gradients and zig-zag mountain highways have found the region to be a paradise for cycling tourism.
“We have traveled from Kanyakumari to Kashmir as also from Manali to Khardungla Pass on bicycles. But riding bicycles on National Highway 29 from Imphal to Kaziranga through Maram, Mao, Kohima, Dimapur and Numaligarh was just different. Properly packaged and promoted, the Northeastern region can become a paradise for cyclying tourism,” said Sanjeev Shah (52), a Pune-based industrialist, who is leader of the 20-member team.
The cycling expedition, aptly named “Call of the Brahmaputra” has been organized by two Pune-based NGOs – Sarhad and Swanand Adventures- with the team comprising of one woman chartered accountant and two high school students, of whom Rishab Shah is just 13 years old.
“Some people had initially tried to dissuade us from undertaking the cycling expedition, especially through Manipur and Nagaland, saying those are trouble-prone states. But on the contrary we found hundreds of people greeting us, giving us local hospitality and gifts and telling us to come back again,” Shah said as the group halted in Guwahati on Friday for the last lap of two days uphill to Shillong.
“I was particularly thrilled because I am the only woman member of the team. I talked to so many women on the roadside whenever we stopped for tea or food, and in some places, groups of village women in Assam too joined us on their bicycles which they use for going to work,” said Shruti Shah (34), a CA by profession.
Thirteen-year old Rishab Shah on the other hand said he was happy to have had a stop-over in Kaziranga National Park where he spotted several rhinos, elephants, deer and bufallos apart from several species of birds.
“Crossing the Brahmaputra twice, first at Kaliabhomora from Kaliabor to Tezpur, and then at Saraighat in Guwahati was a divine experience. Next time I want to go on a cycling expedition along the Brahmaputra,” said 38-year old Prasad Shaligram who is into the business of importing bicycles from different countries.
The cycling expedition, which was flagged off by Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh on March 13, will culminate in Shillong on Sunday. “We will come back later this year to travel through Mizoram, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh. In fact we want to go up to Tawang through the challenging Sela Pass,” said Dashrath Jadhav (57), a businessman who is also the eldest member of the group.