Monday, December 24, 2018

Around the world in 159 days on Bicycle


PUNE: On Sunday morning, when Vedangi Kulkarni cycled into Kolkata, she probably became the fastest Asian woman to cycle around the globe.

Having spent 159 days on her bicycle — covering 300 km every day — Kulkarni, who is from the Nigdi area in Pune, completed the mandatory 29,000 km required to qualify for bicycling across the globe. In the evening, she left for Perth — the Australian city from where her record-setting cycling trip officially started in June.

The certificate confirming her status as the “fastest woman in Asia to cycle across the globe” will come only on submission of documents to the authority concerned. That process can take a while, sometimes 8-9 months — more than it took her to pedal around continents. But Kulkarni is patient and resilient — qualities that served her well in achieving this momentous feat.

It has not been all smooth riding for this student of sports management at the University of Bournemouth, in the UK. Earlier, she had to fight a head injury and get decent grades to bag a 50% scholarship to the university of her choice. She then took up cycling. “During that time, I dreamt of cycling around the world and breaking the current record. The more I trained, the more I fell in love with the idea,” said Kulkarni, who had completed her school education at the Jnana Prabodhini Prashala in Nigdi.

And two years on, she is all but confirmed as the fastest Asian woman to cycle around the world. Kulkarni started the bicycle trip as a 19-year-old but turned 20 midway. And the journey has been eventful — Kulkarni was mugged at knifepoint, rode through forest fires and thick smoke, had close encounters with wildlife and did not let even thunderstorms stop her progress. “I wanted to promote the message of being brave, facing fears and conquering them. In essence, this trip was to encourage a new generation of adventurers who push their limits,” she said.

Starting off from Perth, she cycled through the outback to reach Brisbane. From there she flew over to Wellington, New Zealand, to cycle the entire length of the country. She then flew to Vancouver in western Canada and continued her eastward cycle journey till Halifax. Europe beckoned next. She chose Iceland to start and later went through Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Finland to enter Russia. From Russia, she flew to India for the last 4,000 km. She had to carry her own luggage which included tools and equipment.

“Most of the journey was solo. My parents accompanied me on some stretches. They also funded the trip,” she said. About the future, Kulkarni said she had thought of more expeditions but the plans were not concrete yet. She will be reaching Pune by end of the month.


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