Amidst camels,sun and sand

Pune-based Sucheta Kadethankar became the first Indian woman to trek the Gobi Desert in 51 days.

Written by Swasti Chatterjee | Published: July 26, 2011 3:15:10 am

She walked through the Gobi Desert with an i-pod thrust in her ears, humming away to the tunes of Banjar hain sab banjar hain from Saathiya along with twelve others from Australia,Bangkok,Singapore and Scotland. Sucheta Kadethankar is a 33- year- old information developer at Symantec and a trekker who has also trekked in the Sahyadris and the Himalayas. She completed 1623 kilometers of trek in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia on July 15,which was the first group expedition of more than 1000 miles in the Gobi Desert.

“Mountain treks break the monotony with a treat for eyes every morning,but desert treks comprise of the same sight,” says Kadethankar, the only Indian woman who has achieved this feat.This was her first large scale trailing expedition in the deserts. The trek was scheduled for two months,but Kadethankar and her colleagues completed it nine days earlier. “It was challenging for me to cope with the climate and walk with the camels who are supposedly very fast in their gait,” reckons Kadethankar who spent around 7000 US$ for the expedition her travel being sponsored by Symantek. The trek called Gobi 2011 is a part of a charity feat to organise funds for Edu Relief,a Mongolian -based NGO,which would subsequently provide free education to young students. Gobi 2011 also organised ‘Own a Mile’ through the internet before their commencement and urged citizens all over the world to contribute 20US $ and virtually own a mile in the Mongolian desert. It was an effort to help the country.

Kadethankar started the expedition on May 25 along with thirteen other participants which included seven women. However,only three of them remained till the end ,Kadethankar being one. “Initially it was very difficult to cope with the extremes of temperature in the desert and the daily blisters on the feet. But as the finishing point approached,I was sad that it was all over,” says Kadethankar who had gone through a rigorous training session before the feat. Her training included swimming,cycling and trekking for four incessant months along with walking to office everyday which was 12 km away from her house,and to Mulshi on every Saturdays and Sundays. She even walked with car tyres tied on her hip to have a feel of the ten kg sack she had to carry during her trek.

“The last few days were grueling enough to make me fall sick and lose appetite,” adds Kadethankar,who survived on Mongolian styled noodles and pastas for two months with generous offerings of cheese and milk from the natives. Kadethankar lost six kilos in two months but regained three once she was back in Pune.

Satellite phones,laptops and cameras were carried in the journey along with solar panel chargers which were tied to the camel’s back with sunlight being the only source of energy in the whole trail. “It was the training of the body and the mind as well as with fitness giving up at times,” says Kadethankar for whom walking in deserts is but natural. “I felt tired but I never felt likequitting”.

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