After trying and giving all he had Sumeet Paringe sat on an old wooden chair trying to pull out a cure from the tornado of thoughts that swirled through his head. 15 days before Sumeet could reach Siachen, he was informed about the demise of three people from Uttar Pradesh who died at Siachen because of extreme cold. There was never a war that took place at Siachen that caused killing, but more deaths have been caused due to climatic conditions ranging between -50 to -70 degrees.
As he fought through the thoughts a senior officer walked in and asked Sumeet again about his expedition. As he again recited his journey Sumeet’s conscious hoped that this time the cloud has a silver lining. And that’s what happened when his story ended; the senior officer was delighted and granted Sumeet with a “special permission” which is not given to anyone. Within minutes arrangements were made and as it was late Sumeet stayed over at the army base.
As he took off the next morn, Sumeet had to ride 75km back from where he started and an additional 65km to base camp – Siachen. He spent the night at the army base and left the next morning where he had to cross a small army post – Sasoma. To his surprise when he reached the camp, the officers were already informed about his arrival.
With strong headwinds and chilly weather Sumeet reached the entrance of Siachen where he was escorted by a gypsy (vehicle). As he followed the gypsy which guided him to the head office around 25 to 30 senior officers and cornels stood to welcome this young boy. As all the officers started clapping, one of the senior officers walked with a wide smile and welcomed Sumeet with a handshake. Since then, everything was a haze. All he had in mind was to hand over the Indian flag to the army and here he was welcomed like a king which left him completely shaken. He had a nice chat with the officers over hot Gulab Jamun, Samosa, and Jalebis followed by handing over of the flag in the war memorial which successfully completed his dream.
Things were still unwinding in Sumeet’s mind as he stuffed some delicious lunch with some of the officers as he never expected such greetings from the Indian army. Post lunch he was taken to the office where he was shown pictures of “operation megdhdoot” and some of the huge glaciers which still exist. This mini trip was followed by a tour of the base camp which was inclusive of a shivling, the Nubra Nadi origin, O P baba temple (all religions) and the army’s training area.
Soon after this, he had to leave on his way back as no civilians are allowed to stay at the Siachen base camp. Offered again with juice and biscuits Sumeet pedaled his way back to Sasoma where he stayed and cherished the beauty for another two days and thus he ended his once in a lifetime journey.
We still weren’t done with this long interview as we had Kailas Patil and Hitisha Mehta who decided to throw in some questions at Sumeet. Take a look at them below as they’ll give you a brief idea about the happenings on his journey.
· Bad roads, rough traffic, nasty drivers?
o The roads are awesome up to Srinagar but, you have to be alert on the road and stick to the left side and can’t be careless at any point. Helmets are compulsory as the drivers on the highways are bad.
· Pitching the tent in the wild, how did you find the perfect place?
o I didn’t feel the need to pitch the tent anywhere. If you try perfectly you’ll always find a place to stay. Himachal and Jammu and Kashmir are the only places where getting a house is difficult.
· Did you face any difficulty in getting water and nutrition?
o If you are one of those who can drink water or eat anything then there won’t be any difficulty and also, food around is very unhygienic.
· One memory you cherish?
o I left from Leh to climb Khardungla just carrying a bottle of water. The terrain is more of a climb and one bottle of water wasn’t enough so I stopped on the road and waved at the drivers, but I had a hard time so I carried on with my journey and happen to bump into army conveyer.
· What food items where you carrying along with you from home?
o Soup packets, Everyone’s favourite Maggi, biscuits which could suffice my needs for a good two days.
· Tell us about your experience staying with the locals and their hospitality?
o Homestays definitely make you feel safe and loved, it doesn’t matter how far you are from your own family. The people are courteous and are always ready to offer a helping hand. Besides that, you get to experience their way of living, their way of life.
· Did you spot any wildlife on your expedition?
o Yes! With the mesmerizing weather and also excruciating at times, I enjoyed passing through different states spotting peacocks, herds of Deer’s and a variety of other animals.
· Did you happen to bump into any other cyclists?
o I happened to meet this foreigner at Srinagar who came from Austria and was headed towards Cambodia. We stayed at the same place for a day and had a good chat about cycling.
As we sat over a long conversation over Irani chai, Khari , bun maska followed by omelettes and bread. Sumeet with a smirk on his face gulped the last remainder in his mouth ”There is more of good than bad in this country as he recalls the Jammu and Kashmir cops who called him every evening to inquire about him.”
We all are surrounded by crazy folks, Sumeet Paringe happens to be one of them who believes in living the moment to the fullest. He believes in doing things now and not tomorrow, unsure off whether tomorrow will come.
- Sumeet Paringe
- Hitisha Mehta
- Kailas Patil
- Editor: Kadambari Lobo