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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Going solo: In 3 months and over 20,000 km, 77-yr-old visits 48 pilgrimage sites on two-wheeler

The septuagenarian, while talking to The Indian Express over a video call, said he had been an avid traveller since childhood.

Written by Ruchika Goswamy | Pune |
June 10, 2021 10:54:45 pm
This is not the first time Vishwas Govind Kulkarni has planned a trip on his two-wheeler.

VISHWAS GOVIND Kulkarni was welcomed with applause and garlands by family and close friends at his society gates on June 6. The 77-year-old had just completed his expedition of shakti peeth darshan of 48 pilgrimage sites in three months and three days, travelling over 20,000 km across states on his bright blue Activa, alone.

The septuagenarian, while talking to The Indian Express over a video call, said he had been an avid traveller since childhood. “Even as a child, I just took my cycle and went out and about. I was 17 when I escaped from home to join the Air Force. I had several postings and I visited many villages during my road trips. I was a corporal for 15 years and, thereafter, I worked with Tata Motors for 23 years. Even then, I travelled,” he said.

This is not the first time Kulkarni has planned a trip on his two-wheeler. In fact, he said he preferred to travel this way as you could halt anywhere and appreciate the scenes around you. “My first such trip was in 1992, with my wife. We covered 8,000 km of the coastline of India in a month, starting from Mumbai to Kanyakumari, then to Kolkata and returning to Pune on our Kinetic Honda,” he added.

To date, he has visited Sikkim, Northeast India, Ladakh, Panipat, Kokan Darshan and Uttarakhand (for Char Dham Yatra), and even Bhutan and Nepal, riding on his M-80, Kinetic Honda and Honda Activa, over the years. “I have travelled with friends, relatives, travel groups, but I prefer travelling solo,” he said.

Kulkarni planned the journey earlier this year with the help of his daughter-in-law Mrunal. She designed his route as well as a GPS system to facilitate live tracking.

He was in Tamil Nadu when the second wave hit India. “My family was worried, but even travelling back home seemed like a risk,” he said.

Covid restrictions, poor roads and unpredictable weather were his companions. “I was drenched in Leh; I met a man named Abdul Shaikh, who took me home and offered me warm clothes and food. While returning from Kargil, at Zojila, I fell into a pond in which the water was freezing. Some good samaritans helped me reach the Srinagar Honda showroom. The owner, Mr Kaisa, took me home and repaired my vehicle so I could continue with my journey,” he added.

Kulkarni also said while he could enter some temples, others were shut due to strict lockdowns. “At state borders, I had to undergo rapid antigen testing to enter,” he added.

All this while, Mrunal sat next to her phone, checking on him. “His live location was updated every 15 minutes. In certain states, there were technical glitches due to poor network. We had to divert his routes due to state rules as well. We kept an average of 250 km of daytime riding, so he could find a place to stay and avoid traffic at night,” she said.

Kulkarni has already planned his next trip — Narmada Pradakshina. “After the situation gets better, I plan to go on this trip with my younger sister on foot. I am in good health and I believe our country is full of exceptional places to visit,” he said.

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