Travel Bucket List Inspiration:
In an age when most of us are anxious of travelling long distances, where walking a kilometre to the bus stop seems like a task, here’s a trio who accomplished a 1200km journey on foot! Inspired by recurring dreams and a passion that refused to bow to circumstances, Harsha and his friends took on an epic journey and walked down the route followed by Lord Hanuman when he went south in search of Sita. They walked all the way from Hampi to Kanyakumari, crossed to Sri Lanka and toured the country on a bike!
He has also released a book recently penning down further details of the heroic adventure. In conversation here with the trio- they tell us their hilarious incidents, scary mishaps and fears that plagued them through out the long journey.
[And if this story inspired you to take a hike of your own, don’t forget to check out how Smriti hiked up an active volcano!]
The Long Walk
About the Monkeys
Harsha: I am a freelance writer and the author of ‘Monkeys, Motorcycles, and Misadventures’. Sri is a manager at one of those big IT firms. Sam is a world traveling, free spirit in search of the ultimate truth.
Sri: Actually he is an unemployed, good for nothing bum who mooches off his friends.
Sam: Oh, come on! I didn’t say a word when you both introduced yourselves so politely. Anyway, I live life, unlike you corporate stooges.
Sri: Sure you do. I’m just a poor undead zombie. Brainssss….
Harsha: Knock it off hobbits. Let’s get back to the questions.
Harsha: It all started with a dream I had. In the dream, I was travelling along the path Hanuman followed in search of Sita Devi, starting from Kishkinda (Hampi) through to Sri Lanka. I didn’t take the dream too seriously at first. I mean we all have strange dreams all the time, right?
Sam: Yup. Like the ones in which killer rabbits from space, armed with pulse rifles, invade earth.
Sri: Guys, focus. We all have strange dreams but we generally do not go out and follow all these dreams. I mean that would be crazy, right?
Harsha: Yes. That’s true. Initially, I ignored my dream. It was only when I started having the same dream regularly that I began to think about it seriously. Even so, I wasn’t sure if the dream signified anything. But that’s where it all started – a dream!
Sam: There was one instance where we were taking a nap near a lake, in a jungle in Sri Lanka, hoping to spot some wildlife. Suddenly, I heard a ‘Phiaowsss…’ from behind me. I figured it was Sri letting out another one of his loud farts. I turned around to abuse him, only to find a startled elephant right behind us. We quickly dived into a nearby bush; luckily the elephant was in a good mood and just walked away. Absolutely hilarious!
Sri: You psychotic idiot. We almost got killed! You want funny? How about the time when you decided to feed a banana to that one armed monkey, despite the forest guards warning you against it. As soon as the banana came out of your bag, hundreds of monkeys magically appeared and chased after you demanding more bananas. That was hilarious! You’re lucky they didn’t catch you.
Harsha: Remember that time when we found that abandoned hut near Nagercoil and decided to rest in it for a bit? It started raining and suddenly a herd of goats charged straight into the room to escape the rain. A minute later, I found myself face to face with a goat, watching as it coolly munched on our biscuits. Standing in that room, surrounded by goats with not an inch of space to move, and Sam desperately trying to shoo them away; that was funny!
[Hilarious instances corner every true traveller. For more such tales head to Pradnya’s encounter with the police and a lost passport in Canada]
Travel Solo or in a Group?
Harsha: I absolutely would love to travel alone but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen, thanks to these idiots.
Sri: Travelling solo is a very different trip and, to be honest, it’s quite fun. When you are traveling alone, you get time to contemplate, to figure yourself out, and connect with people. You also get to travel at your own pace and do the things you like, unlike our last trip where it was a majority vote.
Sam: It’s no fun. End of the day. Even if you do a solo trip you need someone to talk to about your experiences.
Harsha: Have you guys even answered one question in this interview properly? Seriously, all you do is talk in circles. This is what I had to deal with the entire trip. That had to be a test from God. Anyway, I digress. Personally, I prefer doing a trip with a few like-minded people; that way we can keep out of each other’s noses and yet have fun together at the end of the day.
Hardest thing to overcome in this adventure
Harsha: The first step. Just before we started walking, I had a panic attack. I could clearly feel my racing heart and the butterflies in my stomach. I attempted to take a step, but couldn’t move thanks to my trembling legs. A wave of nausea swept over me and I felt incredibly weak. My brain was screaming at me, “go home, back to safety and comfort.” I tried to calm down but just couldn’t manage it.
I stood there for a long time fighting my instincts and logic before I somehow managed to convince my brain that the walk wouldn’t kill me and that it was just a few steps. I told myself that at the first sign of trouble, I would quit and go home immediately. I gathered my resolve, steeled myself, and started walking. Taking that first step was probably the hardest thing I ever did in my life, but once I started walking, the nervousness faded away.
Sri: That’s how it is in life. It’s always the first step, the one that will change your life, that’s the hardest. Once you get into the mud, rolling in it is fun!
Sam: Thank you, Robin Sharma! We definitely needed your deep insight there.
Harsha: There were all sorts of reactions. There were a lot of people who wondered why I was doing something so ‘insane’. A few of them went so far as demonstrating the ‘screw loose’ sign! They figured I was stark raving mad. Ah well, one man’s dream is another man’s madness.
Sri: Most of them were supportive though and offered us food and shelter. There were a couple of instances that stood out. For instance, there was this goatherd we ran into near Chitradurga. We were tired of walking in the hot sun and were resting under a tree. The goatherd approached us, saw that we were hungry, and offered to share his lunch with us. We could see that he barely had enough for himself, yet he offered it to us. It was an unexpected act of selflessness. He refused to accept any money we offered as well, so we thanked him and gave him some chocolate bars. Also, in Sri Lanka, the locals were very welcoming. Every single place that we visited, we met people who invited us home for food. They were curious about our journey and enthusiastically offered information on places and routes.
Harsha: I don’t think there was any way to find a sponsor for a journey like this. Even if we did, it would have been troublesome. Sponsors expect things in return – reports, photos, updates and so on. Considering the nature of my journey, I was happier doing my own thing and spending time thinking.
Sri: Would have certainly helped, though. Per person, we spent around 200 Rs per day on food, 500 Rs per day on lodging (during those nights when we weren’t camping out), 100 Rs per day at temples, entry tickets at tourist sites, or biscuits for dogs and the like. So around 800 Rs per day for 50 days = 40000 Rs while walking in India. In Sri Lanka, add bike rental and fuel expenses bringing it to another 60000 Rs. About a lakh in total for two and a half months. Not cheap. Sigh.
Sam: I told you guys we should have camped out every day.
Harsha: Would have been a hassle considering all the temples we were visiting. Anyway, we had some money saved up while we were working. After spending it all on the trip and bringing ourselves to bankruptcy, Sri and I are saving up again to continue the cycle. We wouldn’t mind if freeloader Sam pitched in too for a change.
Sam: I am helping. I drink more than my share every day! You’re welcome.
Writing down the Travelogue
Harsha: I never intended to write a travelogue in the first place. The pieces sort of fell together. As I set out on the journey, my friend Ram handed me a notebook and asked me to write down my daily experiences, thoughts, and places visited. He thought that it would help me organize my thoughts and maintain my sanity. That notebook turned out to be the first draft of MMM.
I’ve written about the entire experience of writing here.
Sri: I wonder, though. Was that just another coincidence? Like one of the many coincidences that we had on the journey.
“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”- Albert Einstein
Their Itch List
Harsha: Right now, a couple of short trips – treks to Agastyamalai and Mahendragiri; motorcycle trips around Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
Sam: I’m hashing out the details for a climbing trip in Nepal
Sri: Me, am thinking of a bike trip around South East Asia. Done with the walking for now!
Advice to those anxious to follow their Dreams
Harsha: Some dreams may seem impossible but it is only the first step that is. Always…
Sam: Seriously! Shut up. We’ve heard enough people saying, “Follow your dreams, however impossible they might seem!” That’s just bad advice. Let’s say you had a dream about becoming a world class boxer at the age of 70. Would you follow it just like that? No, you wouldn’t.
Sri: Yes, you would. You know why? Because the pursuit of a dream also provides happiness, not its achievement alone. That is why people follow dreams. Stop looking at dreams so objectively.
Sam: I would still say take everything into account. Don’t pursue dreams randomly. We need to do what we did with Harsha’s dream. Look at it logically. Ask the basic questions – Is this dream meant to be pursued? Am I capable of achieving this mentally, physically, financially, and socially? Is it worth pursuing? What does it offer us? What do I have to sacrifice? It’s just another logical decision to make.
Sri: You should write that down, “Sam’s guide to Practical dreaming – for dummies.” Runaway hit, I’m sure. You just forgot one small detail. Passion. By making it a logical choice, you destroy the nature of dreaming itself. Half the people who changed the world wouldn’t have done it if they sat down and did a logical analysis. Imagine what we would have lost if Einstein or Picasso or Livingstone did that. What do you say kiddo?
Harsha: Follow your dreams! Write that story, do that trip, but have a bloody plan in place. You can start pursuing it on the spur of the moment, but at some point, you have got to slow down and make a plan on how to achieve it. That’s how it works. Look at anyone that pursued their dreams and succeeded. The thing they all have in common is a plan. So my advice – dream big and plan on how to achieve it!
I leave you with this quote by T.E. Lawrence, “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”
Harsha is the author of Monkeys, Motorcycles, and Misadventures. For maps, photographs, and additional details about the journey, please visit MMM’s Facebook page . You can purchase a copy of MMM to get more inside details and surprises about this legendary journey!