Imagine cycling for 12 kilometres at a stretch. Tough right Now imagine covering a distance of 5647 kms on the humble bicycle This astonishing feat was achieved by Nidhin Maliyekkal, who cycled from his hometown Thrissur in Kerala to Kashmir this year. What&rsquos more, he sold tea to make ends meet while on his journey.
Currently on an expedition to discover more about his own state, he was somewhere between Beemapally and Varkala, when OT spoke to Maliyekkal about what got him hooked on cycling.
&ldquoI love to travel. What started with short journeys grew into a passion. I learnt how to make tea while working at a restaurant in Thrissur, but amid the pandemic, I lost my job. While at home, I decided that I needed to do something more worthwhile and fulfill one of my dreams of cycling to Kashmir. So I set out to achieve that dream.&rdquo
Strapped for money, Maliyekkal sold his camera to fund the repair of his younger brother&rsquos cycle - their only vehicle - to go on the trip. &ldquoI set out with Rs 170 in my pocket and decided to sell tea to fund my journey,&rdquo he says.
The 24-year-old set out for Kashmir on January 1 this year with bare essentials - a tent, a kerosene stove, a flask, tea, and two pairs of clothing to his name. &ldquoI did not know the route but people have been incredibly kind to me throughout my journey. Petrol pumps, gurudwaras and small dharamshalas were my home. But I have met many incredible people while cycling. Being on the bicycle has always allowed me to connect to people. Someone sent a water bottle for me, another gave me a helmet and a shop owner also made a placard that I hung on my cycle to describe my journey. I would cover a certain distance, then find a good location to sell tea."
From Gulmarg to Baramulla, Dal Lake and tulip gardens, Maliyekkal said the trip was a dream. Sadly, he had to forego his desire to make the entire journey back by cycle. &ldquoAfter I reached Delhi, a lockdown was imposed in the city. So someone I had met on the trip arranged a lorry to drive me back to Thrissur on April 30, wrapping up my 120-day journey."
Nidhin hopes to travel abroad on his cycle too. But before he sets out to make that dream a reality, he wants to highlight the many attractions of his own state. &ldquoKerala has so much to offer to all travelers. Before I go abroad, I thought I should ideally see where I am from. So I decided to undertake this ride to Kasargod on cycle, selling tea along the way, once again,&rdquo he laughs.
Having lived a life of penury and experienced depression, cycling, Maliyekkal says, gives him a sense of confidence. &ldquoEach ride is daunting there is so much that can go wrong, but I just wanted to do this for myself. Achieving something doesn&rsquot depend on what you have, but how far you are willing to go for your dreams. You don&rsquot need a fancy car or bike to travel, even a cycle is enough for one who really wants to do it. If I can, anyone can,&rdquo says the Keralite.
On his trip around Kerala, his third mega trip on his bicycle, the youngster is selling tea, once again, but this time, for a greater purpose. &ldquoIt is the first time that I am selling tea to raise money for a cause, and I will be donating the money to NGO Solace Charitable Trust."