Day 12, 13 and 14 were a blur of hardships and endless riding hours. And at the magic hour of 12.19 am on day 14, our lady champ and her magnificent crew conquered the summit.
Total No. of kms travelled: 3955
Time taken: 13 days, 19 hours, 12 minutes
It is the darkest before dawn. Truer words have never been spoken.
Day 12 began at 5 am from Jorhat. Having rested well, the crew desired to reach Tezu by late evening and then proceed towards the summit the next day. However, the going wasn’t even remotely as doable as they had planned.
Our crew chief Mr. Ghanshyam drove ahead to Doom Dooma to meet the BRO Commander and inquire about the road and permit conditions further on. Preeti and the rest of crew reached the same place and requested a packed lunch as they were running late.
The BRO (Border Road Organisation) has provided enormous support to our crew. From Day 12, our crew has simply moved from one BRO unit to another and their food and stay arrangements are all provided for well in advance. Preeti has been an ambassador for the BRO. The crew carried their banner along with them and at every unit, they were welcomed, and their photos clicked. The BRO also provided guidance on the routes to be taken and pitfalls to be avoided.
Just before the Assam-Arunachal border, Preeti suffered a severe muscle cramp. Frustration and pain took over. However, as she took a break, her leg was massaged and a spray applied for pain relief, her iron will helped her push forward those last few kms before the halt. They crossed over the border which required line permits that Mr. Ghanshyam had arranged for earlier in the day.
That day ended at a halt in a BRO unit in Tezu.
Day 13, they were off again at 4 am. Assam onwards, the road has been one of their greatest challenges. No dhabas in sight, nightfall would land on the crew by 4-4.30 pm. As a result they could barely sight any people on the road. Amongst the massive trucks running at full speed, Preeti was a lone figure on these lonely roads. Since it was a mountainous region, the twists and turns were manifold. Sleep would overcome the crew early, as the nights lengthened, and days shortened. The collective exhaustion of 12 days did not help. This kept the general morale of our team low.
As the day progressed, our crew ploughed on navigating through treacherous roads. At one point in Tidding, the car got stuck. Water flowing onto the road had made some portions dangerous and undrivable. Our crew drove right into it. But for a BRO vehicle and a local tempo which came to their aid, they could have been sitting ducks in the gathering dark with no help in sight.
They finally reached Along at 2 am in the night. Some heated discussions ensued. Preeti wished to continue riding through the night with one crew member while the others rested. However the crew insisted that she rest as she had already traversed through some exacting territory.
“I did not wish to stop at all. I was feeling energetic and only had the summit in mind. The road ahead was an uphill, offroad and a single lane one, where every time a vehicle approached from the opposite side we would have to halt. Also falling stones from above were more visible in the vehicle lights than daylight. It was a long stretch of 56 kms which I wished to finish at night. But the crew did not give in which made me quite unhappy in that moment.” Narrates Preeti
Day 14, summit day dawned with Preeti still upset over the delay. Post breakfast they started at 7 am. It was a long, arduous and frightening climb. The lack of mobile network meant they couldn’t get in touch with anyone or check the route out. A lot could have gone wrong.
Some of the patches were good and Preeti could gain some ground. They met an army expedition on the way who thoroughly appreciated the crew’s cause and effort. After chatting some and clicking pictures with them, the team’s mood lightened up.
Ms. Nivedita recalls a scary incident. “About 10-15 kms before Kibithu, in pitch darkness, we reached a dead-end! We couldn’t sight any road ahead. There was no network and while the BRO units were aware we were to come, they had no idea what time we would reach. There was no signage as well as for Kibithu. Then we suddenly noticed a raw village path on the right-hand side which turned out to be our route! Hats off to our driver, he drove like a pro down that road.”
Preeti downed coffee packets to keep herself awake. The uphill and downhill ride was beyond exhausting. Gravelly roads, poor vision and not encountering a soul on the road was taking a further toll. About 18 kms before Kibithu she felt exceedingly sleepy and tried napping in the car. “Inspite of pedaling hard and long, the adverse conditions made the distance feel three times longer!” says Preeti. The crew gently urged her to continue and finally bone tired they reached the summit at 12.19 midnight.
“All our tiredness vanished in a second. It was a joyful celebratory moment for all of us. It was freezing cold, around 2 degrees Celsius. We weren’t adequately warmly clothed for it and I remember feeling the cold in my very bones till we bathed the next morning”. Laughs Ms. Nivedita.
Zero mobile network had ensured that no one was present to welcome them. So they quickly clicked some pictures and videos for the official records. Within half an hour they left for a BRO unit some kilometers away where hot dinner and warm beds awaited.
Preeti reminisces, “I did not feel anything when we reached. We could barely see and had to use the vehicle lights. It was only the next morning when we revisited the site with some BRO officials that reality set in. That I had finally accomplished my goal! In the morning light, we could see across 11 kilometers of land. We were amazed to see the China border and 1962 war memorials.
It has been my toughest ride so far with respect to the distance, time taken, crew and management. What kept me going for these 13 days through some impossible moments was my goal. Kibithu was entrenched in my mind and nothing could shake it off. As I travel back, I am astonished at what I have achieved. It’s difficult to comprehend that I managed it all. I sang songs, joked around, patted children’s heads on the way to keep my spirit going. My family had faith in my mission. They know how stubborn and dedicated I am. They simply exacted a promise that I wouldn’t ride in a manner that would endanger me in any way. My crew has been my greatest support and strength. None of them are friends or family and yet we travelled as one cohesive unit.”
Ms. Nivedita bursts forth with immense pride, “I consider myself so lucky to be the only lady who has witnessed this record live. Being a WUCA official, I feel like I am literally writing history down. Hopefully we have set a precedent, and Kibithu shall now become a milestone for many more riders.”
And what does our champion lady have to say to all her readers and followers.
“I dedicate this ride to all those women, who desire to achieve such momentous feats. Irrespective of headwind, bad roads, injuries, thanks to our will power we did it. They can achieve anything they put their minds too. That nothing is impossible. Put your entire being into it, be passionate and sincere about it. Irrespective of any obstacles, your target will be completed.
Our branding of organ donation awareness was so good that people themselves would come forward and ask us about it. Not many people are aware of this concept, so they scan the information and go through it. A lot of them would google my name seeing the photograph. The blogs that have been written have been spread in different states of India by our crew. They have gone viral as different people kept forwarding them. While we are feeling content and fulfilled, now we are missing the fun and excitement of the expedition.”
As Preeti and her crew slowly ride back to their homes for some much-deserved rest, they have kindled a fire within innumerable humans with their superhuman expedition and heartwarming efforts to create organ donation awareness. We hope a million hearts feel inspired and carry forward Preeti’s torch of making the impossible possible.
Blog by: Arohi Bhimajiani