A Himalayan trip is considered to be the mother of all trekking adventures. Even ardent backpackers would like to call this a ‘once-in-a-lifetime trip’. Recently, 500 Indian pilgrims were reportedly stranded in the Himalayas due to heavy rainfall, proving that it is a tough terrain, even in July. But Shivayogi Parthasarathy Namboothiri isn’t like other people. For him, Himalayan trips are just like walks in the park. In the last 26 years, he has visited the Himalayas almost 30 times! Though he has travelled in all the ways possible — on a bike, on a moped, in his beloved Marshall SUV, and other public transport vehicles. This year he wanted to do something different. So he and his two companions prepared for an adventure on an autorickshaw. Why an autorickshaw? “I wanted to stick out like a sore thumb so that people would take notice and think ‘wow, that’s is unique’. We didn’t have to spend money on extravagant motorbikes or 4x4 high-end SUVs. Basically, this is to prove that anything is possible if you have the will,” he says.
Finding a private autorickshaw was the first task. As it would cost him thousands of rupees on state permits to cross each state, he opted to buy a private rickshaw. From Mannarkkad in Palakkad district, he bought a rear engine auto-rickshaw and altered it with facilities like GPS, some mobile charging points and sticker works. On May 20, they started from Ernakulam Siva Temple grounds. They decided to take the Nagpur–Jhansi– Agra–Delhi–Roorkee-Haridwar– Rishikesh–Kedarnath route. “It took us 100 hours to reach Rudraprayag,” he says, adding, “The ride was pretty good. It was very adventurous as we were in an auto-rickshaw. I had carried the stepney to avoid risks. We rode almost all the time. After reaching Uttarakhand, there were roads on which you could only drive on first or second gears. Sometimes, we rode at a snail’s pace.”
“Though there isn’t permission to drive the autorickshaw beyond Rishikesh, we managed to go beyond it and reached Kedarnath, our destination. It was funny. People there were seeing an auto-rickshaw for the first time. Against all odds, we reached our destination,” says Parthasarathy. It was not an easy journey for companions. Parthasarathy ensured that they did special breathing exercises and had a well-planned diet to adjust to the extreme weather. After visiting temples and other tourist spots, they headed back. On June 6, 17-day trip ended. Parthasarathy has already contacted the Limca Book of Records and is sure that his ‘Himalayan auto expedition’ would gain an entry to the Book.
“The mountains have been calling me,” he says on travelling each year. “For me, this is not just a leisure trip or a break from the mundane. This is something inexplicable,” he adds. Since his Himalayan trips became ‘regular’, he started to get questions on why he chooses this destination every year. He says the mountain changes its nature and look in seconds, so in a year’s time, there can be a lot of difference. The mammoth mountain range is said to be moving approximately 20 mm every year! For Parthasarathy, each visit is his first. “You won’t be ready for everything. There will be challenges around the corner and you have to face them,” he says.
Apart from travelling, this 45-year-old Angamaly native loves participating in rallies. “I have participated in many off-road rallies and won prizes. It has helped me a lot and I can easily ride through dangerous roads. One just has be careful,” he says. As a person who's been to the mountains for many years, I would suggest a complete medical check-up before the trek to ease the chances of risks. If you skip the security measures, you may not come back in the same shape. Follow the advice of your instructor and carry enough safety gears with you,” he says. Next year, he is planning to go on an expedition with his wife and three daughters. “But not in an autorickshaw,” smiles Parthasarathy, who also runs a yoga and Kalari healing centre.