Travel City youth Sriharsha Majety recounts the joy of a solo backpack cycle expedition that gave him a fresh perspective on life. P. Sujatha Varma listens in

The wilderness holds answers to more questions than we have ever learned to ask. Not many will disagree with American novelist Richard Yates who said that if you wanted to do something absolutely honest, something true, it always turned out to be a thing that had to be done alone.

City-bred youth Srisharsha Majety was perhaps driven by Yates, when he chose to backpack and set out on a cycling expedition to see the world at a slower pace.

After schooling in the city and higher education in BITS Pilani and IIM Calcutta, the youngster went to work in a bank in London thinking that after a year he would return to India and a start his own business. “I was switching between careers. In 2008, I embarked on my first bag-packing and went on a two month-long vacation in South East Asia and met a friend in Germany who had just completed his travel by bicycle in Eastern Europe. The idea seemed as crazy as exhilarating and I was already planning my own cycling tour,” he says.

The first leg of the six-month long trip was to be taken up on a bicycle and the rest by public transport. The plan was to go from Portugal to Greece by bicycle. “There was no route per se and in between, I took many de tours while visiting Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Greece, ultimately pedalling through a distance of 3400 kms.”

Equipped with a bag with a few clothes, a cycle repair kit, basic toiletry and food items like pasta, noodles, coffee and biscuits, he set out to be alone to taste inner peace.

Sriharsha bought a cycle in London and flew with it to Faros, a village in the northeast end of the Island of Ikaria, Greece. Among several other things, he discovered how big Indian cinema is “In Morocco and Turkey everybody knows Shah Rukh Khan and Raj Kapoor and Mithun are still a rage in all the former Soviet nations,” he says rolling his large eyes.

Help poured in from all directions as he smiled his way through different terrains. “When you are cycling, it is easy to befriend strangers. People smile at you knowing you are harmless.”

The bicycle trip, he says, gave him complete freedom. Confessing initial hiccups since he was cycling after a gap of 15 years, he says soon it got better. “What was initially a distance of 20-30 km a day, increased to 140 km a day by the end of it.”

“I would have slept in 60 different homes in these six months,” he informs.

Only son of an established businessman and a practising medical doctor, Sriharsha was not used to doing menial work. But his cycle trip taught him hard work. A 65-year-old German man who lived in a tiny hut in the middle of a forest, taught him how to pick beans from trees in the jungle.

He downplays the physical effort that went into cycling. “It was hard work outside. But inside, it was a holiday, a blissful state of mind. It was like a crash course on humanity and on international relations wherein you are an ambassador of your country meeting people and learning from them. It gave me a fresh perspective.”

In the second leg, he opted for public transport and hitchhiking. From Greece, he put the cycle in a bus and went to Istanbul and visited Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhastan.

Iran emerged as his favourite country and he spent three weeks there. “People are warm and affectionate. My family came to see how I was doing and it was treated very well by a local host,” he recounts.

Still reeling under the ecstasy, Sriharsha is already planning his next trip, a longer one this time. He also has plans to set up a chain of backpacker’s hostels to provide budget accommodation to foreign travellers visiting tourist destinations. “I want them to return home with a slice of India,” he says letting out that familiar smile.

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