It was around 11 am, surrounded by tall trees of pine forest on the way from Gudalur to Ooty. It was Day 5 of our trip and we had already ridden 570 km from home. As I cycled the elevation of Ooty mountain I looked to the sides of the roads and noted that I was just passing through the 33rd bend I had 56 more to cross. I looked back and realized that I had created a huge gap from my friend. He is falling behind, but I could not do anything about it. Each of us were fighting our own battles, after all he would have been only meters away from me, I thought.
My muscles were numb, I could feel my body temperature was higher than usual, I am struggling to climb this beast mountain. Who doesn’t. I convinced myself that I know the route for the next 15km and I wouldn’t get lost, I wanted to listen to songs badly in order to keep pushing myself forward. I switched off the GPS and put my earphone on.
Half an hour later I realized I hadn’t noticed the temple that I was suppose to pass by. I turned my GPS on again and found that I had missed a right and gotten stranded 5 km inside Mudhumalai forest. I was told by the locals to abscond that area as soon as possible, since it was mating season for the elephants and they would behave furious around that time. There aren’t electric fences to safeguard yourselves in that area. What am I going to do?
I hopped on to my saddle and started sprinting through the forest to get back on track. While pedaling hard through the ups and downs to flee that scene my tire hit a pothole and my back wheel got punctured. Cursing myself I quickly started carrying my 20 kg cycle and ran to the closest electric fence. It took me 5 minutes to change the spare tube and fix my flat tire. I told myself these two words “DON’T PANIC”.
Once I got back on track I kept cycling through the rural parts. I felt dead, my legs wont move anymore. Hunger had stricken. I only had 10 Rupees in my purse. We had spent all the cash at Wayanad for dinner and didn’t find any ATM to draw money. I found a small grocery store at Devarshola, smaller than the cabin in which I work. I explained my position in a language the store guy could only partially understand. He knew I needed food. He got that 10 rupees handed me a pack of biscuits worth 30 rupees. I thanked him, and tied the pack with a towel to my hip. I started eating those one by one, making slow progress in the distance. All I had to do is NOT PANIC. I kept pedaling for the rest of the day and reached Gudalur, where we had proper supper before we found ourselves a descent place to stay.
There were many instance as such during our 1200 km trip. And at these times where you loose your shit and start crapping your pants all that you require is to say yourself “DON’T PANIC”. I remember these instance very well and will not forget the learning I get. One learning I got from these experiences was that all the decisions that I took during this intense endeavors has attained a new level of significance. I had the need to decide properly where to eat, sleep, draw money, listen to songs etc.
On Day 7 when we were on the highway moving from Dharmapuri to Erode. I was stopped by a Police man. He asked me about my trip and why I was doing it. I told him my story and expected him to motivate. On contrary he told something that broke my confidence. He told that an old man with his grand son had been cycling on the highway. One of the huge trailers had loosened it’s side rivet and slipped off and crushed them. Both old man and the kid had died then and there. I didn’t know them personally, but the story shook me. It is when I realized that how much ever you precisely calculate and make decision, there are few things you can’t control. This uncertainty exists universally and cannot be manipulated. It was neither the old man’s mistake since he was trying to drop his grandson at school and taking only his regular route nor the driver’s mistake that the rusted rivet would break apart and topple the whole trailer. At this point I started strongly believing that all the decision that I take could only be the best. I am where I am supposed to be. Hence forth I never expect anything to be absolutely controlled in my life, and while facing situation that makes me crap my pant I don’t scream and cry for help I simply smile and say to my self “DON’T PANIC” !
Watch this: Learn to Travel. Travel to Learn