On the road less travelled

Ronald Shalo with his red Bajaj Chetak scooter parked at Saint Louis Street in Puducherry.   | Photo Credit: T_Singaravelou

On a humid afternoon, a shabbily clad youth parked his 1991 model red Bajaj Chetak scooter with TN registration on Saint Louis Street in Puducherry. While Ronald Shalo put the vehicle on centre stand, the front of the vehicle fixed with a water bottle and a yoga mat moved awkwardly upwards weighed down by three bundles of utensils and clothes tied to the rear. With a smile, he points to the vehicle explaining it has been his home for the past nine months.

The 25-year-old solo traveller, who left Coimbatore on his scooter on August 20, 2017, reached Puducherry last week after covering a distance of 44,000 km across four countries. Avoiding the highways and tourist destinations, Mr.Shalo hit the rustic roads travelling 700 to 800 km a day, meeting farmers and workers along the way in search of simplicity. “I did not have a plan or direction when I started my journey. I wanted to move away from the regular chores, in search of simplicity. I wanted to experience every moment of my travel with an open mind," he says, adding that it was the reason why he chose the less travelled roads.

With the materials he carries on his scooter, he pitches a tent wherever he finds the place conducive and cooks his own food. If invited by the locals, he does not shy away from tasting the local cuisine. “At several places, the local people have welcomed me home. There were several motorbike clubs who invited me to stay with them after reading about my travel on Facebook. They heard my stories and shared theirs. It was a rich learning experience,” he says.

From Coimbatore, he went to Karnataka, Goa, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and northeastern states. It was in the seven northeastern states that he spent the longest time — up to five months, meeting several tribal families, volunteering to teach science to their children and learning organic farming from them.

All smiles

“I knew only Tamil and English. I managed to communicate with smiles. Only a smile is enough to take you places. People in every place I travelled showed a lot of gratitude and kindness,” he says.

Leo Fernandez of Open Throttle Jawa Club in Puducherry, who welcomed him to stay in the coastal town for three days, says that he is one of the very few solo travellers on scooter.

After collecting his last salary from his job, Mr. Shalo sold his refrigerator, air-conditioner, microwave oven and started the journey with ₹85,000. “I spent all the money by the time I reached Nepal. But, I have earned a lot of people who encouraged me to continue my journey," he says.

Travelling across India, he went to Nepal, Myanmar and Bhutan. This journey, he says, has changed him a lot. “I would want to move away from the urban cities, set up a home in a rural area and volunteer to teach the children there and do farming,”

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 10:00:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/on-the-road-less-travelled/article23954018.ece

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