By Vishnu Makhijani
New Delhi, May 22 (IANS) He took up the extreme version of cycling only in his early 40s. Now, after a gruelling 15,000 km ride from Alaska to the Andes, gaining "elevation" of 22,000 feet and writing an inspiring book on the journey, adventure-hungry Dhruv Bogra is eyeing Iceland, Siberia and Mongolia for a reprise.
"In June 2016, I plunged into the unknown when I began my long cycling journey from the northernmost and remotest part of Alaska aiming to cycle across the North and South American continents. This was a journey that one can never really train for," Bogra told IANS of the journey that ended earlier this year.
"There were far too many factors such as the remote wilderness, the scarce food and water, wild animals, challenging terrain and grim weather, not to forget the traffic on some busy highways and gun violence in Central America. I cycled over 15,000 km from the sparse and barren Arctic tundra with the bear, caribou and glacial rivers to lush and dense boreal forests of fir and aspen in the pristine wilderness of the Yukon in Canada.
"I was spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian Rockies in Jasper and Banff, as I was stunned by the charm of the islands in British Columbia near Victoria. After cycling for over 4 months and 6,000 km I reached the shores of the Pacific Northwest of the US and cycled down past incredible vistas of the ocean and ancient redwood forests, national parks and gorgeous vineyards of the Napa valley," he said.
Thereafter, he crossed over to Mexico at Tijuana and cycled down the length of the Baja Peninsula, a barren, arid desert which had a sprinkling of small towns and the most treasured cacti on the planet. He rode in Mexico for almost 4 months and 3,500 km, cycling through many historical and heritage lands and cities like Mazatlan, Toluca, Morelia, Guadalajara, Tequila, Oaxaca and San Cristobal.
"I crossed into Central America and explored the fascinating land of rainforests and volcanoes. Guatemala is particularly rich in culture and I was fortunate to go to Tikal to witness the glory of the ancient Maya civilisation. I covered Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama and finally went directly to Peru. I spent two months cycling the highest plateaus and mountains of the Peruvian Andes and ended my journey in the Sacred Valley and the ancient capital of the Inca Empire in Cusco," Bogra explained.
The outcome is "Grit, Gravel and Gear" (The Write Place), with 22 stories and numerous poems and peppered with detailed maps, illustrations and vibrant pictures depicting the landscapes of the Americas, the people and their cultures.
"The incredible adventure had to be documented and shared with the world and since I always had a dream of writing a book, I felt this would make a great story that would be enjoyed by all. It is not just an adventure cycling book, it is a metaphor for life and growing out of one's comfort areas," Bogra said.
Quite appropriately, he named his bike "Quest" as "one of the missions of my journey was my quest for the meaning and purpose of our existence and explore distant lands. It was a quest for adventure, culture, ways of life and the wilderness".
What of the planning that went into the effort?
"The planning was extensive and intensive and stretched over almost a year. Not only did I have to train physically and psychologically for the journey but also plan each and every mile over two continents on multiple country-specific maps. Gear and clothing was selected carefully keeping in mind the terrain, weather and weight as that is of paramount importance.
"Since the expedition was self-supported I had to plan for gear that could be used over varied terrain and weather conditions such as the type of tent, sleeping bag and cycling clothing. In all there were over 80-90 items in my four panniers weighing over 40 kg. These ranged between bike tools to waterproof match boxes to bear protection spray," Bogra said.
What of the "elevation" he gained?
"In cycling and running parlance, the distance traversed is also measured for elevation gained. This refers to the sum of every gain in elevation throughout an entire trip. So in this journey the total elevation gain or the sum of the altitude 'gained' over 15,000 km was over 220,000 ft which is identical to climbing Mt. Everest many times over," Bogra explained.
What of the future?
"Cycling adventures in Iceland, Siberia and Mongolia," Bogra said without batting an eyelid.
(Vishnu Makhijani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)