Inspired by the Iron Nun — the 86-year-old nun who has participated in 377 triathlons around the world and 45 Ironmans — mountaineering instructor Jyothi Rongala aims to get into the Guinness World Records with solo cycling expeditions across India and prove to the world that Indian roads are safe for women. “There are so many inspirations but the real inspiration is the Iron Nun. When she can do it at this age, I don’t see any excuse for not doing it at half her age,” says Hyderabad-based Jyothi.
Talking about this 30,000 kilometre-long journey in 300 days, Jyothi says, “I’ve always been interested in adventure sports. I wanted to do this as a multi-sports event as no one has ever done this before. Being a mountaineering instructor, her plan was to cycle from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, reach Kargil and from there climb the 7,000-meter peak. I couldn’t get the funds, that’s when I decided to go on a solo cycling expedition covering the entire country and neighbouring countries including Pakistan. But I applied to the Guinness World Records to attempt the title of longest distance covered within a single country. So I have limited myself to India.”
Ask Jyothi about the challenges she faced during such an arduous journey all alone and she admits, “I have not come across any challenges as such. It’s more physiological — getting up, riding 100 km, pitching my tent and eating what I get from locals, since I am riding without money.” It was in April that she decided to embark on the cycle tour. “I have covered close to 5,800 km, including Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. After reaching Delhi, I broke my shoulder; that’s why I’m on a break currently and will resume my ride next week.”
Shedding light on the journey experience, she says, wherever she goes, people are very supportive of her. “It was 48 degrees in April and after riding 98 km, I reached Jhansi. I took shelter under a truck on the highway. It had an AP number plate. The truck driver came to me and asked what I was doing. After listening to me, he cooked the meal for me and said, ‘I want my daughters to be like you’,” says Jyothi. Her next destination will be Rajasthan. “I will be covering extreme rural areas in Maharashtra, Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Telangana and then enter the North East,” says Jyothi.