Kolkata: A rickshaw ‘walla’ has set out on a daring 3,000-km expedition from Kolkata to the famous Khardung La pass in Ladakh, which has one of the world’s highest motorable road.
Forty-year-old Satyen Das, who ferries commuters at Naktala in south Kolkata, marshalled his personal savings and generous donations from local people, packed his luggage under the passenger’s seat of his refurbished rickshaw and started on his one-of-a-kind journey last month.
“I make a living on my rickshaw and spend my whole day with this, so I could not leave it behind when I started to dream about my trip to Ladakh,” Das told PTI.
He has already reached Uttar Pradesh from where he will go to Srinagar and reach Ladakh after crossing Kargil next month.
“I want to spread the message of world peace with this journey and also I want to promote rickshaw as a cheap and eco-friendly mode of transport,” he said.
Expecting to complete the expedition within five months, he is also eyeing an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records for his feat.
Bitten by travel bug, Das way back in 2008 had gone all the way to Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh in a rickshaw with his wife and daughter. But this time the target is higher and he is travelling alone.
At an elevation of 17,582 feet, Khardung La pass offers stunning views of the magnificent Himalayas.
The adventurer’s biggest challenge would be the rough mountainous terrain where he would have to get down from the rickshaw and pull it through.
“He has this addiction of travelling in the Himalayas and going to far-off places. And going to Khardung La in rickshaw would be just unbelievable,” said Partho Dey, secretary of Naktala Agrani Club, who helped him with funds.
He also modified his rickety old rickshaw by adding new tyres, additional brakes and new body made of light steel at a total cost of Rs 15, 000.
His luggage includes the basic requirements of clothes, medicines and tools to repair the vehicle in case of a breakdown.
Throughout the day he pedals to cover around 40-50 km every day and for night halt he looks for a religious place like temple or gurudwara where he can stay safely for free.
Having only elementary education, the rickshaw ‘walla’ said the unique road trip is also a great learning experience as he gets to understand the culture and diversity of India by criss-crossing different states, cities, towns and villages.
“My first task in the morning is to go to the local police station and take permission to move ahead. So far I have been getting it easily,” Das said.
He is armed with maps to find his way to his next stop and a digital camera to document his special journey.
The club members are taking care of his wife and daughter, whom he left back home.
“We estimate that the trip would cost around Rs 80,000 which we have raised it amongst ourselves after we saw his passion and determination to travel,” Dey said adding that they have have given him an ATM card to withdraw cash as and when required.
The poor rickshaw ‘walla’ earns around Rs 150-200 a day by ferrying passengers and had little savings to fulfill his dream.
On his return trip after crossing Khardung La pass, the rickshaw ‘walla’ plans to traverse through Rohtang Pass and Manali.