For many people, age has no bar; it is just a number. Our small quaint town Dehradun has many such residents, who despite being old by their age are much young by heart to date. Today, we will be sharing the story of one such Doonite who will be entering the senior citizens’ phase, but is pretty much youthful when it comes to living life!
Vinod Saklani is a Dehradun-based postman who works at the General Post Office, Dehradun. He is an ardent cyclist who loves to undertake long solo/group cycling trips every weekend. He has done several lengthy cycling expeditions, the most recent one being Dehradun to Gangotri in October last year. But the trip which changed his life was cycling one of the highest motorable roads in the world – Leh to Khardungla Pass!
Sharing with us the experience of his dream cycling expedition, Saklani says, “I went for a group trekking trip to Leh last year. As my trip was about to conclude, I was informed by the operator of having one ‘extra’ or ’free’ day in the trip itinerary without any planned activities. Unlike other people in the group who wanted to utilize the free day for resting or exploring Leh, I had different plans. Being an avid cyclist, I’ve always dreamt of undertaking one of the highest motorable roads in the world – Leh to Khardungla Pass via bicycle. After digging some crucial information from natives regarding the Leh-Khardungla Route, I obtained the necessary passes and rented an MTB from the local market. I started my cycling expedition the following morning at wee hours, and surprisingly the first challenge that I faced was dodging loads of stray dogs while cycling in the outskirts of the city. Due to this, I couldn’t build my speed as I had to get down from the bicycle whenever a stray dog came barking towards me. After cycling for 8 km and leaving the stary dogs behind, I reached a police check post where my travel permits were checked and I finally got to kick-start my long-awaited expedition!”
Talking further about his experience, Vinod says, “The initial route of 14kms was extremely smooth and delightful; definitely a paradise for a cyclist. Post 14kms, it started to become a bit tough as the path was extremely muddy and rocky but thankfully the weather was brightly sunny, and pleasant. During the journey, I got to interact with a couple of interesting people including a cyclist from Amsterdam who, as a friendly gesture, kept on motivating me for the last 3kms of tough uphill distance. Another thing that kept me driven during the entire expedition was the Khardung La top which I constantly aimed for while on my way. It was an out-of-this-world feeling on finally reaching the Khardung La top; on completing the half-way journey of the expedition I’ve always dreamt of. After spending 45 minutes at the Khardung La top interacting with tourists, clicking pictures and buying souvenirs for myself, I went on with the 40kms downhill journey and completed in a jiffy in just 1 hour 10 minutes, a dangerous mistake which I realized afterward.”
“During my three-day stay at the Pangong Lake, it was disheartening to witness an abundance of plastic waste littered at such a visually appealing site. Wanting to contribute my bit, I along with two more friends, cleaned an 8km long lakeside patch and collected more than 10 kg of trash. If more people took such small initiatives as we did, this place could become a much cleaner and better place to live!”, Saklani adds.
Sharing with us a funny anecdote which he faces now and then, Vinod says, “While cycling in the villages and hills of Uttarakhand, I often get to hear comments like dekh buddha cycle chala raha hai or is buddhe ko jawani cha gyi hai in native Garhwali language. I being a Garhwali myself get to understand every comment by the locals and just love to give a reply to them in the same language and seeing the perplexed looks on their faces. On the other hand, such incidents motivate me as I feel younger and more rejuvenated!” (laughs)
Vinod Saklani started working with India Post just after completing his schooling. He has been a cycling enthusiast since his school days and has undertaken the Dehradun-Delhi route twice on his bicycle in the 80s. He has cycled all his way up to the neighboring hill stations of Dehradun like Mussoorie, Dhanaulti and Chakrata, and many more. He loves to do night cycling and his most favorite cycling spots in Dehradun are Maldevta and Thano. One of the most prized possessions of Saklani is a foldable cycle from the World War II-era which he acquired from his relative in Tehri and loves to use it for cycling quite often.