Life had bottomed out for Dagara Ranjith Kumar. A TikToker with more than four lakh followers from Warangal District in Telangana, Ranjith had faced misery just a few months ago after his work at a farming business stopped paying off due to the pandemic. The Covid-19 had already claimed his father, a lawyer who has dedicated his life to providing for the needs of the family. Most people would sink into despair in the face of such adversity, but the 30-year-old has instead given in to the urge to travel and some soul-searching.
Today, Ranjith has found her calling in travel and has cycled over 8,000 km, covering most of the country in two trips in just six months. On September 10, he returned to Hyderabad after a trip to Leh, Ladakh by bicycle. What started as a tribute to his father has now given him a bunch of memories and life-changing experiences.
“I had seen my father’s difficulties. He has spent his whole life for the family. He loved to travel but could never go anywhere. When he passed away in July 2020, I knew I had nothing more to lose and had to live his dreams. It was now or never, ”says Ranjith, a pharmacist by training and organic farming expert by profession.
In April 2021, he shared a story on Instagram expressing his urge to cycle to various destinations. Not only was a motorbike trip expensive, but he thought it wouldn’t help connect with nature or people throughout the trip.
Having no experience in hiking or professional driving, Ranjith bought a bike with the help of a few friends. “As children, we all rode bikes, but I didn’t know that cycling was an expensive business. I learned how to use the gears on the 18 km return trip after purchasing the bike. On the fifth day, I left for Kanyakumari. Thirty-eight days later, I came back, having driven about 3,000 km, ”he says.
His investment for the trip was around Rs 1.5 lakh and included a bicycle, accessories including mounts and spare parts, a GoPro camera, memory cards and hard drives, a portable solar panel and batteries, camping gear, hiking gear and a new phone to edit videos. for social networks.
“I started my race with Rs 5,000 in hand. The rest is a loan, but during this race my YouTube subscribers have grown to 24,000. My channel ‘RanjithonWheels’ is doing well, ”he adds. The channel has so far uploaded 110 videos and has 69,200 subscribers. His Instagram account of the same name has 82,300 followers.
Ranjith says his trip to Kanyakumari was very inspiring, barring an incident near the Goa-Karnataka border when three young people fled with his bike and belongings. “I was in a deserted forest with a flat tire. Three boys in a van offered to help me and made me believe them. That night was memorable because at the police station, the cops refused to believe I was on a bike tour in May 2021 as the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic was at its peak. My YouTube videos turned out to be documentary evidence and before dawn the three boys were taken to the police station and my things were returned, ”he recalls.
The episode did not prevent him from embarking on his next trip to Ladakh, eager to experience more. After purchasing a new round of touring, which cost him a lakh, Ranjith left Manali on July 20. What followed was a near-death experience when he was caught in a landslide near the Baralacha Pass in Himachal Pradesh.
He was riding a 13kg bike down a steep incline with almost 40kg of luggage all day when this happened. “By the time the debris was cleared, it was 7:30 pm and the nearest village was four kilometers upstream. Exhausted, I decided to erect my tent there. It was pitch black with no human around. The temperature had dropped to minus two degrees and the rain continued to fall, triggering another landslide in the same spot at 2 a.m. With no help expected until the morning, I shot a video testimony of my last words at 3 a.m. I was sure I wouldn’t survive, “he recalls. With the heat from a gas stove and hot water from a kettle, Ranjith had no choice but to wait.
Ranjith also remembers with gratitude the bikers who helped her when her hands and face went numb from the winter cold, offered her food and water in different places, and provided medical help when her nose started to bleed from the drought.
His most memorable experience, perhaps, was when a family from the village of Nimmu in Ladakh took care of him like a son. “I walked into a hotel as a guest, but by the time I left the next day, I was their son. We were all in tears. They introduced me to all the family members and I was even able to work on their farm. They didn’t take a rupee from me and instead packed dried fruit from their farm for my trip. All of this during a pandemic where people were trying to stay away from strangers, ”he sighs. He had other such warm experiences throughout the journey in Bhatinda, Jodhpur, Lonavla and in the small villages along the way.
The icing on the cake, the meeting with his idol Sonu Sood in the latter’s residence in Mumbai. Throughout his trip, Ranjith carried a sign with the photo of the actor-activist on the back of his cycle as a tribute. “When my dad was in the hospital for Covid treatment I felt helpless. It was inspiring to see how Sood was there to help everyone possible. One of the followers tagged him on Twitter with the photo It was a special moment when he met me for half an hour, ”says Ranjith, whose mother resides in Warangal with her sister.
The trip from Manali to Hyderabad via Ladakh and the West Indian States cost him just over Rs 60,000 in food, accommodation and miscellaneous expenses.
After 53 days, he’s back home in Hyderabad with his pharmacist wife and has already set his sights on a Nepal cycling expedition covering the eastern and northeastern states. This time he also had a trailer attached to the bike so he could carry his new pet dog.
“I have a loan of Rs 2.3 lakh to repay although I made about $ 800 on YouTube. If I stay here until I clear all my commitments, I will lose the meaning of life. I just want to live the moment without worrying about the next day, “he says. Since he already has the touring gear, Ranjith isn’t too worried.” Nothing can replace the feeling of accomplishment after hiking 50 km uphill to find another 100 km to go and a gentle breeze hitting your face. “