Kashmir to Kanyakumari – Nisha Rao’s solo ride
3912 kms | 130 hours | Gearless Scooter | Kashmir to Kanyakumari
In the August of 2017, Nisha Rao attempted an adventure that no other woman had tried before. She rode her Honda Activa, gearless scooter from Kashmir to Kanyakumari in 130 hours.
“What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” ― Napolean Hill
Nisha proved this true.
Her fastest North-South solo expedition was one of its kind. Not a new adventure but never by a woman riding a gearless scooter. Nisha rode her scooter from one end of India to the other covering 11 states and a union territory and via one of the toughest motorable terrains. As she kept on driving, the altitudes changed from 18,000 feet to a mere 1000 feet. The temperature varied from single digits to hot and sultry. On roads or the lack of it, her journey had begun to end only in Kanyakumari, her destination.
Nisha was in the same hotel as us in Leh and that’s when I had a chance to talk to her about her upcoming adventure. Before I narrate her story and the experience, I want to share that very seldom in life we get a chance to meet and talk to someone so courageous and inspiring.
Nisha comes from Pune and the first step for her was shipping to Chandigarh.
The scooter, of course.
At Chandigarh started the prelude to this adventure. She drove her scooter to Leh in Jammu & Kashmir which became the starting point of this journey. This stretch was a practice session and as expected prepped Nisha for the trip.
Day 1 – August 17 | 364 kms | 14 hours 34 minutes | Leh to Keylong: The day was here. It was time to put to execution all the prior planning. Nisha knew that the first day was going to be the toughest. A good day meant driving with minimal breaks and to keep herself going, she kept small targets in her mind. Breaking down her big goal into small milestones was Nisha’s strategy to succeed.
For those who understand two-wheelers, also know that motorcycles start giving lags as one climbs up higher altitudes. It was important to stay cautious while ascending Tanglang La. Keeping the speed between 15- 60 kmph, she kept on cruising without letting her scooter stop.
The rough roads were the real test of mettle. Managing on a broken road with minimal speed was hard and something that city dwellers do not experience. A flat tire was her biggest worry and hence extra caution was more than necessary. The Gata Loops were again part good and part rough with loose rocks. If you haven’t heard, Sarchu is hell on the Earth. It’s cold, the air is thinner and the terrain is scarier. With small streams that get on the road and hide rocks and boulders underneath, Nisha too had to get past these water streams. Imagine chilled water in your shoes as you try to balance on the scooter and navigate your way. A miss here and you could be flat on your face. Or worst get hit by another vehicle to fall in the valley. It was a good start and she was on track.
As she started descending, the scooter picked up pace and depending on the road conditions, Nisha was able to hit 50+ kmph. It was cold and windy at Darcha and crossing Rohtang was not the right thing to do at night so Keylong was the first logical night halt.
Day 2 – August 18 | 460 kms | 16 hours 33 minutes | Keylong to Chandigarh: When plans spill to next day, it gets hard to convince the mind. Nisha had wanted to reach Manali on Day 1 so the stretch from Keylong to Manali made her restless. The sooner she could do this one, the rest of the drive would get easier.
Ascending Rohtang was hard and road conditions as usual added to the woes. As the day began, the truck traffic piled up and Nisha felt the pressure of losing time riding behind these trucks. On steep ascents, she had to push the scooter to keep moving. She knew that if the engine turns off, she would need double the time to start it again.
Crossing Manali was the first relief. As Nisha descended towards Chandigarh, she was dehydrated. She took a few breaks to keep up her energy level. Reaching Chandigarh was an accomplishment and knowing that from here on, her friend ‘plains’ would need some love and care. Day 2 halt at Chandigarh was intentional so that Nisha could get a good night sleep for the long days ahead.
Day 3 – August 19 | 922 kms | 19 hours 37 minutes | Chandigarh to Sagar: This part of the journey was all about endurance. Nisha started with a fresh mind on a new terrain. It was time to don the raincoat and shun the thermals.
She started early and zipped past Ambala, Kurukshetra, Karnal, and Panipat to reach Delhi at a reasonable time. The idea of having to ride on the Yamuna Expressway kept her going. However, as she entered the Yamuna Expressway (YEW) it had started raining heavily. That did not deter Nisha from cruising over 80 kmph and in her own words, “It was a sheer bliss!”
Traffic slowed Nisha down at Agra. Though the roads were okay, the diversions and local through fare was a bit time-consuming. As Nisha crossed Jhansi, the roads became wide and smooth.
With the Sun down, an army of insects and flies kept hitting Nisha’s helmet. It was hard to drive with low visibility. Madhya Pradesh also had cattle on the roads and she had to drive very carefully. As you can guess by now, the speed took a hit.
19+ hours of driving made her giddy. The hallucinations and mind talk had to be cut off with a sleep. At around midnight at Sagar, she called it a day.
Day 4 – August 20 | 802 kms | 20 hours 48 minutes | Sagar to Kamareddy: Nisha started at around 3 am on day 4. She was ready to bring on a long day. Even at that time, there were people with cattle on the roads which was risky. She had to exercise a lot of caution as she maneuvered between cattle and the crowd.
By dawn, it started getting misty and visibility was low. She took breaks as necessary , sipped ORS and sang songs to herself to stay alert. After all, she was her own company.
The forest of Pench had bad roads and multiple diversions. She had to stay patient until Nagpur. At Nagpur, the scooter needed a check -up and post a quick service, she continued her journey. What excited her that there were now milestones to Kanyakumari. It felt she was inching closer to her dream.
Late that evening, it started raining and the highways were dark. Hallucinations kept lingering on. With now over 20 hours of the riding in a day, she needed rest. Kamareddy in the southern state of Telangana was her next halt.
Day 5 – August 21 | 750 kms | 18 hours 33 minutes | Kamareddy to Kamandoddi: It was close now. Nisha reached Hyderabad just in time to beat the early office hours. Since the Outer Ring Road was not available for two-wheelers, she had to navigate via the city to hit Bangalore highway. Fortunately, the traffic was well-managed and worked in her favor.
However, her luck did not last long. It poured so heavily that Nisha had to stop to let the rain settle down. By this time, the distance to Kanyakumari appeared within range and was enough to encourage her to reach Bengaluru. Late nights in Bengaluru are calm and that was a good thing. By 1:30 am, she had entered Tamil Nadu. It was then time to break the journey at Kamandoddi, Tamil Nadu.
Day 6 – August 22 | 614 kms | 11 hours 10 minutes | Kamandoddi to Kanyakumari: This was it. A dream was about to come true. This was the beginning of a lifetime of stories of her experience and achievement. The ride through Tamil Nadu was smooth. As Nisha crossed Madurai, it was so windy that she had to tilt her scooter to ride. This cut down her speed.
But what can come between determination and the will to finish what was started. At this point, nothing mattered but the countdown to the southern most tip of India.
‘Welcome to Kanyakumari’ was the cherry on the cake.
This was it. She had done it.
Nisha’s feat is an amazing story of dedication, perseverance and passion.
“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” ― Leonardo da Vinci
Nisha Rao is a resident of Pune and you can contact her via Facebook account or Tripoto profile. You can also leave a comment here to directly get in touch with her. For those interested, she has a GPS log of the above journey that validates all the information provided above. She is currently in the process of filing this achievement in various national and international records.
Good luck, Nisha and thank you for choosing this blog to share your amazing experience! May you be blessed with happiness and food.