Sumeet Paringe is a 25-year-old cyclist from Panvel who is the first Indian to conquer Siachen pass. Read on to know more about his inspiring journey.
Little did he know the Indian army would appreciate his efforts with whistles and applause as he stood with his bicycle with numbness shooting through his spine. Sumeet Paringe, a cycling enthusiast after completing his graduation in engineering was on a mission to conquer Siachen.
This tour includes cities like Udaipur, Amritsar, Jammu and several others. This 25-year-old had previously done Panvel to Kanyakumari i.e. 1700km in 15 days in December 2013. Except the high altitude going alone on cycling, the expedition wasn’t something new for him.
Sumeet is a true believer in living every moment to the fullest without worrying or thinking about tomorrow. When he decided to do Siachen he realized getting permission would be an issue as it’s a military base and he’s a civilian, so his original plan was to ride to the Panamik base and try his luck from there on.
A lover of nature he set the wheels rolling from Panvel to Siachen to meet the locals and experience their lifestyle, enjoy the minute variations in the weather and take a break from the daily grind and humidity. With the support of his close friends namely Ashish Agashe, Sachin Goankar, Sandip Saini and Appa’s (Dhananjay Madan) blessings he set off with no fear in his mind. Since childhood, Sumeet sort inspiration from his Appa and always looked up for answers not only related to cycling but also life issues from him.
His appa always said, “You have to be mentally strong and not allow anything to knock you down at any point. There’s risk in everything, but you got to do what you’re here for and not back down.’
With enough food to suffice his needs for two days, Sumeet started pedaling north to his destination Siachen from Mumbai. Since April 1984, the glacier’s region is the highest battleground on Earth, where Pakistan and India have fought intermittently. After pitting his route, convincing his family and collecting and purchasing accessories he rode with a fully loaded bicycle through heavy rains.
Soon after a few hours into his journey the carrier on his Cannondale snapped causing him to stop his journey to get a fix. After spending hours at Decathlon, Sumeet Paringe loaded his equipment which weighed 27kgs and resumed his journey in the unwelcoming showers.
Sumeet Paringe’s intention was to cover 125 km/day and enjoy the ‘too good to be true’ landscapes of the ride. Riding further with the pouring rain he headed to Ahmedabad rolling on the beautiful tarmac talking to himself, Sumeet was hit by punctures one after the other. Fed-up with the constant punctures he replaced the MTB tires with the road which increased his weight from 27kg’s to 30kg’s now but now he was equipped better.
This wasn’t the end of his hitches; they kept coming in trivial packages like excruciating heat, running out of the water, been shown the wrong way by the locals or hunting for shelter in pitch darkness and cold. “Nothing stopped him as he wrestled every obstacle alone on his one way trip to Siachen to appreciate the work of the India army”.
Sumeet Paringe goes ahead and tells us that,” except for Himachal, Jammu, and Kashmir you will always find shelter if you search and ask the right locals. And if your digestive system is robust enough, then food and water are present in abundance.”
Sumeet also says ‘If there are situations where you might get robbed, let them take whatever they want and not fight back, but if it’s a physical attack you should be prepared, carrying a good Swiss knife can be a good option and come in handy in such cases. “
Cycling got tougher as Sumeet rode north passing through Rajasthan and Haryana where temperature shot above a piercing 45 degrees. He was challenged by the cold in Sonmargh as his ordinary gloves failed to protect him from the cold triggering numbness and reducing his ability to brake or shift gears.
But that didn’t stop Sumeet, equipped with Vaude waterproof and snow proof panniers given by his close friend Sachin, he moved ahead. It takes a month for soldiers to walk up and reach the base camp carrying 35kgs on their back.
Once he reached Leh, Sumeet started cycling towards Khardungla top climbing from 10,000 feet to 18,000 feet where finding shelter seemed impossible with the night setting in. All he had was his dream to hand over the Indian flag to the officers at Siachen. He rode for a while in the dark when he soon realized that it was risky. As the snow started getting heavy, he thought of a solution with his tired mind and decided to look for a place and pitch his tent.
Sumeet Paringe rode further searching for the right spot suddenly a ray of light brought warmth to his tired eyes. The B.R.O.G – Border Road Organization who constructs roads in extreme conditions offered Sumeet shelter for the night in The North tullu at 15,000 feet.
Next morning he rode to Panamik village (army base) where he wasn’t given permission so he decided to wait a day more and carry on with his mission without asking for permission. He had to abandon his plan and ride back 75km (Pratapura place) as a cop told him that maybe the Major could help get permission. Agreeing to the cop’s instruction Sumeet pedaled back 75km and waiting for almost 6 hours outside the camp. There still seemed no hope as thoughts started sinking, making him swing between his past and present when suddenly the camp door opened. A tall buzzcut sporting army officer came to his rescue and escorted him to the mayor’s office. The office seemed like a small chamber where two majors seated inquired Sumeet to explain his journey. With hope escalating Sumeet explained his journey with great enthusiasm, but it wasn’t good enough to change the officer’s mind. They asked him to leave the flag with them and they’ll hand it over on his behalf. But God had different plans for this young lad who almost tasted victory, who at the moment tested his patience.
To be continued in Part 2 of this interview, so stay tuned for the story of Sumeet unimaginable victory…….
Courtesy: Sumeet Paringe
Editor: Kadambari Lobo