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Old 24th November 2022, 15:50   #1
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How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir

In 2014, I walked from Kanyakumari to Kashmir.

I sacrificed my time. 18 months - a year and a half.

I sacrificed a regular every day income. I quit my job.

I sacrificed most of my material possessions. Since I didn't have a job, I had to sell everything I owned and clear out of my pad.

I sacrificed my comfort. I could only carry what i could fit into a 30 litre backpack.

Sometimes I had to sacrifice my mental well being. Sharing a hole in the ground with 60 other guys in the morning is not my idea of fun.

Many a times, I had to sacrifice my sleep. Sharing a dorm with 60 other guys, most of whom snore is also not my idea of fun.

Most of the time, I had to sacrifice 2 meals a day and only survive on 1.

It took me close to 4 pairs of brand new Nike Shoes to cover this journey.

Right from the peak summer of April and May, where I walked the entire Bangalore Pune highway and left my foot prints on the tar. I still giggle when I ride or drive down this highway.

To the monsoons of Madhya Pradesh. And how I walked into Gujarat over the border in rain.

And winter in UP and the beautiful Benares.

To finally finish in spring in beautiful Srinagar, Kashmir.

THIS was my journey.

How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-20200511.jpg

Last edited by Red Liner : 24th November 2022 at 16:44.
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Old 24th November 2022, 15:55   #2
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re: How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir

A few disclaimers.

1. I do not have very many photos. I did not document my journey with any intention of publishing a blog, or creating a vlog - like many people do today. I have corrected this approach and document my journeys today with far more discipline.

2. The photos that I do have are terribly rubbish quality, because the phone I had back in 2014 was rubbish.

3. Since I didn't take many photos, you and I will both have to rely on my vastly fading memory of this journey. Hence, instead of detailing what happened every single day, I will pick key moments in the journey and try and pepper them with photographs.

4. Though I undertook this journey in the company of 30 other people as part of a "yatra", the experiences were necessarily personal which is what I will be sharing with you.

5. Why am I writing this log now? As I said, memories fade, and it is probably good if these experiences are documented in written form somewhere. Maybe it will outlive the author.

Pictures are from www.walkofhope.in

Last edited by Red Liner : 24th November 2022 at 21:14.
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Old 24th November 2022, 16:27   #3
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re: How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir

Where does one start on a journey like this?

From the start ofcourse. Kanyakumari.

This yatra was conceived as a walk through India to spread harmony amongst the different people and religions we have in this country. Called the "Walk of Hope", the walk envisioned meeting, communing, and living with people across the vast length and breadth of this country. A journey that would cover 7,500 kms and would take us over 18 months.

How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-thewalkofhope201516bysrimroutemap.jpg

First, I will take you through the economics of this journey.

1. We were approximately 30 people full time. Sometimes the number would swell because we had folks join us on small "legs".

2. Since this was a walk to meet people, we couldn't stay in fancy places. Not that we could even afford it. Almost every one had quit their jobs and were living off their savings. So we stayed at dharamshalas, temples, churches, mosques, schools, abandoned hospitals, and campsites.

3. We had six vehicles that formed a support convoy for the group.

One was a large sleeper bus, which would come fetch us at the end of the day if we are in the middle of no where with no place to stay and head into the closest point of civilisation.

How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-4.padayatriscircumnambulatingsrisambhajimaharajchowkpunenakasolapurmaharashtra.jpg

Second was a bathroom van, which was helpful for women who were part of the group and needed to use the bathroom in the middle of no where. Or for men who have a serious bout of dysentry.

Third was a "luggage van" which carried our secondary bags, because walking 25 kms a day with a 20 kilo backpack strapped to your back is not going to work.

Fourth was a little van which just carried lots of water for refills. Remember, 25 kms a day.

Fifth was a kitchen truck, which was a mobile kitchen and crew. This crew unfailingly cooked breakfast, lunch AND dinner.

Six was an ambulance - a medical assist van which came in pretty useful every now and then.

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If you ask me, things were reasonably comfortable and well organised. With this kind of back up and support, the only thing that can fail any of us was - our mind or our body. There could be no other excuse.

Last edited by Red Liner : 26th November 2022 at 14:23.
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Old 24th November 2022, 16:44   #4
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re: How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir

How Everyday worked.

Phase 1

The day usually begins very early. About 3 am.

- We almost always stayed together in one big dorm which probably had access to 1-2 toilets at the most.

- Everyday, the start time was strict to ensure we finished on time.

- Therefore, The bathrooms were ofcourse the hottest commodity first thing in the morning. To get to the start line on time, you had to get out of the bathroom on time.

- So everyone built their own schedules to be up as early as possible to get through the bathroom chores and get to the start. EVERY DAY.

How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-walkofhope15january20152.jpg

How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-walkofhope15january20151.jpg

Phase 2

Once we were done, and the stragglers were finished we had to pack our bags and load them into the luggage vans. This took place every single day. We had our mats and sleeping bags which would come out every night and had to be packed in again.

The nomadic life is hard and I was getting a very good taste of it.

After loading the van with our bags, we were finally free of baggage. With just a little backpack on our backs for snacks and some water.

Phase 3

Every morning started with an oath, that for good or for worse I hardly participated in. I was either late or I wasn't interested in crowing some prayer. But that's just me, the other 30 usually had daggers in their eyes when they watched me step away from it. Luckily, I wasn't the only one after a while.

The walk for the day usually begins with about 7-10 kms in the morning before breakfast. So everyone was on an empty stomach unless they had a liking for extremely sweet chai. I didn't and walked on water. Pun intended.

How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-walkofhope201530january201511.jpg

Breakfast is usually a simple affair. Everyone carried their own little plates and spoons to limit plastic waste. People stood in a line and food on the plates. 30 minutes later a whistle would be heard and that meant we were restarting the walk again.

Phase 4

Probably the toughest, because its about 10 or 11 am and the sun is climbing up into the sky. If we're not on some monotonous highway with cars and buses screaming away at over 100 kph, we were walking through some tier 2 town with horns screaming away at our poor ears.

This was also around the time when we would meet and greet people who would want to meet us and share experiences. We had many such groups everywhere who would welcome us, and we had to spend time with them.

How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-walkofhope17january20155.jpg

How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-walkofhope17january20151.jpg

How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-walkofhope17january20152.jpg
Phase 5

Lunch is done by now, and we continue trudging our weary feet through the hot afternoon sun, but we probably end the day by about 15.00. Either we have reached our stay for the night, or the bus comes to fetch us. The next morning the bus would drop us back at the exact spot from where we were picked up to continue with the walking.

The luggage would come off the van again, so would our mats and sleeping bags. We didn't have a laundry van with us, so everyone did their own by hand. This had to be done almost every day - I was even carrying rope and a few clips. Clothes into a bucket of shampoo and water, rinse, out to drip dry, and ready to go the next morning. I carried two sets of walking clothes which would switch every day. A couple of pairs of underwear, a few tee's for the evening and a pair of shorts.

Nights usually fell early, but I would spend most evenings walking around and exploring where we stopped to camp. This was fun, and I daresay was when my love for walking alone began.

Last edited by Red Liner : 24th November 2022 at 17:12.
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Old 24th November 2022, 16:51   #5
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re: How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir

Walking through Kerala was fun and interesting. This was early Jan 2014, and the weather was already turning humid, hot, and unpleasant.

Luckily, almost every place we stayed had a temple pond or tank. So off would come the clothes, and in we would jump into the water.

The people of Kerala were also very extremely welcoming and generous. Breakfast was catered for at someone's home, and lunch was an extravagant Sadhya, the tradition Kerala luncheon. I couldn't even think of dinner after this.

These were also the early days of "walking" every single day. Blisters were common, and so were various aches and pains all over the body.

For me, blisters were the bane. I had rolls of surgical tape with me now, and every day would be taping a portion of my feet to protect against the crazy rubbing inside the shoes. At one point, I remember that there was more tape than skin on my toes.

Kerala is also a vastly green state with agriculture as a mainstay. It was deeply refreshing to be walking the little highways with farms for company.

How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-img_8408.jpg

How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-img_8422.jpg

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How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-walkofhope201516february1620154.jpg

Since the roads were small, and we occupied a good deal of it, we needed policing as well. And the kids always had fun joining us - who wouldn't want to bunk school for a day and just hang out!

How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-walkofhope25january20152.jpg

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How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-walkofhope201530january201510.jpg

We had a few people from other countries on this journey as well. It must have been doubly tough for them too.

How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-walkofhope2015167february20159.jpg


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Last edited by Red Liner : 24th November 2022 at 17:27.
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Old 24th November 2022, 17:53   #6
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re: How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir

We entered Karnataka through Coorg. We had climbed into the jungles that make up Kodagu and were happy to leave the sweltering humidity of Kerala behind. Walking in the thick forests was a quiet affair, more so that we don't disturb the animals that are lurking behind the tree cover.

Even though the weather was cold in the mornings, it did turn reasonably warm by the mid afternoon. Which meant we had to "stick" to schedule and begin our journeys by 5 am come what may.

The food changed considerably too. Gone were the ubiquitous Kerala breakfast affairs, in with the minimalist Karnataka grains.

Not long before, we had reached Mysore. And spring was in the air.

From Mysore, we would take the highway down through Channapatna, Toy city, to Bangalore.

Through this journey, I was already beginning to get introduced to people from many religions.

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We were already about a 100 days in. The next leg would take us from Bangalore to Pune.

Last edited by Red Liner : 24th November 2022 at 17:56.
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Old 24th November 2022, 18:10   #7
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re: How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir

Walking the Bangalore Pune highway in April was absolute insanity. We had to begin starting our days at 4 am which meant wake up calls at 2 am to make the bathroom runs. The sun was out blazing by 9 am and I remember my shoes leaving prints on the tar on this highway. I wonder if those are retarred now. The day would close by lunch because it was next to impossible to keep on the road. We made full use of the service lanes to keep away from the fast flowing traffic.

Occasional rains began making their appearance, but that meant the mornings turned from just hot to hot and humid.

We would cross Davanagere, Hubli, Dharwad, and Belgaum. That would mark the end of our sojourn in Karnataka and we would step over into Maharastra. At Belgaum, we were at day 120 or so into this. That's about 4 months in already.

What the people looked like began changing too. Since I was "slow traveling" things like these became very distinct.

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Old 24th November 2022, 18:21   #8
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re: How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir

We would now walk across Maharastra.

The walking would take us through Kolhapur, Pune, Shirdi, and Nasik.

But the highlight for me was walking through the many little villages that dot this state away from the hustle and bustle of these mega cities or religious destinations. Food changed yet again. Slow travel through this country means its not just one or two days that you get to experience the culinary delights of a region. We were walking through a state, which would take us a month or even longer. The food even from district to district changed in spice, preparation, and what went into it.


Last edited by Red Liner : 24th November 2022 at 18:54.
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Old 24th November 2022, 18:56   #9
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re: How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir

The people. I don't think anyone would want to go to war with them. Hardened by the sun and toughened by the land.

The heat was still oppressive, and if we found shade, we took cover under the kind trees. Trust me when I say this, it was only now that I wondered why the hell our highways are devoid of trees on either side?!

But this was already late June now, and we were closing in on Pune. The clouds were hanging over us, ominous and threatening.

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Old 24th November 2022, 19:18   #10
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re: How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir

Valsad is where we would cross into Gujarat. Through the mountains in pouring rain.

The first thing that greeted us in Gujarat was the smell. Not any smell. Pollutant smell. From the insane number of factories that dot the place. In fact we even spent a few nights at these factories, sleeping around machines and such for the night!

We are at Day 212 now. A little over 6 months into this journey. Everyone had hardened up, things were pretty much clock work. Differences that needed to be ironed out were done. Snoring that needed to get used to was done. The circadian clocks were tuned to waking with the sun and going to bed a little after sunset.

The food in Gujarat was something I enjoyed tremendously. We were now well and truly into the monsoons of August.

It was now that I was truly getting an idea of how the rest of the people in many forgotten parts of the country were living. Cocooned in our cities, in our apartments, in our mansions we hardly have an idea how others live. We zip around in our ever expensive cars, and fly to destinations quickly escaping the realities that face a majority of our population.

This walk now became less about my problems, my troubles.

Still, I got my first affliction here. In Godhra, I made the cardinal mistake of drinking unfiltered water from a filtering station. Oxymoron much? Yes, because the damn filtering station wasn't working! A temperature check later, I headed straight to the doctor, got my blood work done and yes it was Typhoid. Since I had caught it early, a few rounds of medicines, and some time off got me back on the road again.

So others weren't so lucky. They had to fly back home and never returned to complete the journey.

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Last edited by Red Liner : 24th November 2022 at 19:27.
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Old 24th November 2022, 20:05   #11
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re: How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir

The walk through Madhya Pradesh was interesting.

1. We cut right across Madhya Pradesh. Like into half. No criss crossing and such.

2. The crowds were everywhere we went. Partly because the media had now caught onto this crazy bunch of fools walking across the country.

3. The people in villages in MP were building their houses more of earth and mud than what I saw in Gujarat and Maharashtra.

4. I had now effectively already lived nights in Hindu temples, ashrams, Churches, and Hospitals. Bring it on!

5. We had begun taking part in various community support activities in addition to the walking, like cleaning up an area of garbage, planting trees.

6. I think my diet changed from the delicacies of Gujarat to an exclusive Daal Bhati meal system in MP.

7.Guns began making an imperious appearance everywhere. Almost everyone carried a gun.

8. I had finally gotten a closer look at Sufism multiple times now and understood how different it is from mainstream islam.

9.The houses were getting more colourful. Some aspects of MP seemed quite similar to Rajasthan.

10. This was November now. The weather had cooled considerably - we were well and truly into the Winters of Indian hinterland.

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Old 24th November 2022, 20:28   #12
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re: How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir

We were inching closer to Benares.

In the heartlands of UP, my breakfast changed dramatically. Jalebis and tea in the morning! I had never imagined having this much sugar this early in the morning, but apparently thats how it was done here, so participant I was once or twice.

UP and Benares was a riot of colour, culture, and traditional couture if I may say so. But now as I was walking, I felt the distinctness of each of these states melt away in my brain. I was hardly able to comprehend that I had already walked through Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh.

Yet here I was, my head all fuzzy and unable to comprehend what was going on in front of me. This constant travel didn't allow me the time to sit back and reflect on what I had just passed. Instead, it felt like I was scrolling through Instagram, tapping from one image to the next. Only this time, it was the real world and not a screen.

Somewhere after Benares, it was January. I had completed close to a year on the road now. Literally.

Did I feel different? I wasn't so sure.

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Old 24th November 2022, 20:58   #13
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re: How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir

Winter was biting, and we were heading straight for Delhi. Most of us had lost a ton of weight.

Mathura was a highlight for me. Watching everyone sing Hare Krshna out loud in gay abandon felt refreshing. I joined in too, after a bit of reluctance.

The advantage of walking to all these places was, I could see things up close. And it gave me further time to head to vantage points in town and explore further.

I am now beginning to realise that my words are not able to keep pace with the time and distance we are covering. 400 days and 5,000 kms.

We were gradually entering the Punjab heartland. Food changed again. Clothing changed again. The people changed, yet again. I was dizzy, and my tummy followed.

In Punjab, as we visited gurudwara after gurudwara, I was introduced to the multitude ways in which the Sikhs were murdered by the Mughals in the name of religion. I couldn't bear the trauma.

This was also the first time in my life I was seeing women with beards and swords walking the streets. I had to rub my eyes in disbelief. And made sure I never looked in their direction.

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Old 24th November 2022, 21:10   #14
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re: How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir

We were tantalisingly close to Srinagar, which would mark the end of this walk across India. The month was March eating into April of 2016.

We got reports from the Government, asking us to be careful heading into Kashmir. At the time, things were still simmering and we were told we would be unwelcome. We received an Army escort all the way in after Jammu.

But we didn't feel any of this unwelcomeness and that's when I realised that what you're told through mainstream media is utterly different from what you will experience on the ground. Always.

And before you know it, we had reached the land of the Shikharas.

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How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-5.onredalert24x7jammujk.jpg

How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-5.todeweedthedalistheasksrinagarjk.jpg

How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-6.brunchisonitswayballinallahudhampurjk.jpg

How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-6.ifonlythisparadisewasnotmarredbyterrorismjk.jpg

How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-6.surprisedlooksfromsofarabovekaminijammujk.jpg

How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-7.apinelinedboulevardsrinagarjk.jpg

How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-9.acommercialcomplexofsortshatlimorhkathuajk.jpg

How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir-10.manybridgesdryrivuletsandheightstoldinallahudhampurjk.jpg

And thus ended my journey across India. 550 days and 7500 kms. I had walked on average 14 kms every day for the past year and a half. I had worn through almost 4 pairs of Nike's. And I looked very different on the outside from when I had started.

But do I feel different on the inside after this journey? Or has this entire thing been one infinite scroll through an Instagram of life?

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

~Robert Frost.

Last edited by Red Liner : 24th November 2022 at 21:12.
Red Liner is offline   (224) Thanks
Old 28th November 2022, 18:24   #15
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re: How I walked 7500 km in a year and a half | A Real Bharat Yatra | Kanyakumari to Kashmir

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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