“I have always wanted to travel. New surroundings keep me going in the search to soak up more of what there is to experience in life. So, I made up my mind to follow my heart’s desire and travel to Kashmir in 2021,” Nidhin M R tells The Better India.
Nidhin is on a 100-day mission from his hometown in Kerala’s Thrissur to Jammu and Kashmir on his bicycle. The 23-year-old tea maker is covering his expenses by selling tea along the way.
He further adds, “It was during the lockdown that I took this decision to embark on the journey. Travelling teaches me about the way societies function in different regions and what they offer in terms of culture.”
Where there is a will to cycle, there is a way
Before commencing his over 3,300 km journey, Nidhin made a plan. The first and most important was the need for a vehicle. As he didn’t have enough money to rent a bike for the journey, he ended up in repairing his younger brother’s bicycle.
“As the trend of taking cycles to schools vanished, my brother, who is in Class 12, stopped using his bicycle years ago. So I thought — why not give it a makeover and make it my travel buddy to Kashmir,” he says.
In order to repair the cycle, the tea vendor used the money he got from selling his favourite camera Sony DSC-H300, which he had bought with his savings. He got Rs 13,000 from its sale and repaired the cycle chain and the cycle brakes within one week.
“I travelled to Kozhikode to sell my camera. While heading back home, I was tired and slept on the bus. When I woke up, I realised how tiring the journey was. I was concerned about how I would manage travelling to Kashmir on a cycle if I couldn’t even handle a shorter round trip on a bus. But, I had made up my mind for the trip,” he says.
Apart from repairing the cycle, he bought a portable fuel stove, which he carries on his bicycle. “As I worked as a tea maker for almost two years, I was confident enough that I will get customers for my tea,” he says.
On 1 January 2021, Nidhin began his journey with just Rs 170 in his pocket. In just 30 days, he has reached Rajasthan.
Guided by Google Maps and the locals
With a laminated poster on a plain white sheet of paper that reads ‘Kerala to Kashmir’ attached to his cycle, Nidhin stops to pose along the way to bookmark his journey.
Everyday, at around 5.30 am, Nidhin begins his journey. He cycles till around 4pm, making his way north with the help of Google Maps and then finds a comfy location to prepare and sell tea. “I usually end the journey in the evening near a shop where water and milk is available. This helps me prepare the tea easily. The other ingredients such as sugar and tea powder are stocked in my bag. I also have a tea vessel and a flask which can carry 35 cups of tea,” he says.
By selling the 35 cups of tea, Nidhin makes around Rs 350 a day. With this money, he buys food and other essentials for the journey. He also adds that there are many people who give him money even without buying his tea.
After selling tea, he moves to the nearest petrol station. From there, he prepares his tent for the night.
But when Google Maps fails to show him the right path, it’s the locals that come to his rescue and help him find the right direction to his next destination.
“During the beginning of my journey, I didn’t have a good helmet or gloves to wear. But learning about my travels and my final destination, many have helped by buying me these necessary items for my safety,” he says.
On some days, Nidhin says his legs get swollen from all the pedalling, but even still, this young lad is not willing to give up until he sees the mountainous terrain of Kashmir.