Kolkata: A rickshaw-puller from the city pedalled for two months and covered a 3,000-km arduous journey to reach distant Ladakh valley to become the first man to achieve the feat.
After riding his rickshaw for 68 days through Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Srinagar and Kargil, 44-year-old Satyen Das said he had crossed the famous Khardung La pass in Ladakh on August 17.
He returned home a few days ago and is now eyeing an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records for plying rickshaw at an altitude above of 5000 metres. His trip was financed by the Naktala Agrani Club in south Kolkata.
The secretary of the club, Patho Dey, said, “We estimated that the trip would cost around Rs 80,000 which we raised from among club members. We were impressed by his passion and determination to undertake the adventure.” “After I crossed Pathankot in Jammu and Kashmir, locals told me that they had never seen a rickshaw in their village,” Das said.
He said his journey was meant to promote rickshaw as a means of eco-friendly transport as well as to spread the message of world peace.
To record the feat, a documentary filmmaker from Kolkata accompanied him. He was also armed with maps to help him pick his way through.
This is not the first time Das undertook such a journey. Way back in 2008 he had gone all the way to Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh in a rickshaw with his wife and daughter.
The best and the most challenging part of his journey was passing through an elevation of 17,582 feet at Khardung La pass which offers stunning views of the magnificent Himalayas.
As the road sloped upward, he had to get down from the rickshaw and pull it with hands through the rough mountainous terrain.
“It was very tiring and it took lot of time. But the view of natural beauty you get there makes you forget everything else in life,” Das said.
Proud moments during his journey were when locals and travellers stopped to click selfies with him and his rickshaw.
Das has many adventurous tales to recount on encountering wildlife during his trip including how he escaped a herd of wild elephants in Jhilmil forest near Haridwar and how he was petrified after seeing an Asian black bear standing near him while he was resting at night in his sleeping bag near Sonmarg.
Another scary moment was when he came face to face with the elusive snow leopard in Leh.
“Fortunately none of the animals attacked me,” the rickshaw ‘wallah' said.
Marshalling his personal savings and generous donations from the local Naktala Agrani Club, he packed his luggage under the passenger's seat and set off from his house on June 11.
He refurbished his rickshaw with an enhanced braking system, new tyres and a new body made of light steel. Throughout his journey he pedalled to cover around 40-50 km every day and the night halts were in a religious place like temple or Gurudwara where he stayed safely for free of cost.
There were times when he couldn't find any shelter and had to sleep under the open sky.
Having only elementary education, Das said the unique road trip was also a great learning experience as he got to understand the culture and diversity of India by criss-crossing different states, cities, towns and villages.