On a hot lazy Sunday, the Yo! Vizag team bumped into 69-year-old Travis Dilworth, on a cycling expedition from Kolkata to Chennai. Intrigued, we got him to share his story.
Travis Dilworth is a New Zealander, living in Bangkok. A carpenter by trade, he headed a construction company which focussed on restoration and refurbishment of domestic dwellings and new houses. It was a client who introduced him to the joys of cycling and post-retirement, Travis decided to take up cycling seriously.
‘Keep the pedals turning!’
“My first real tour was a short ride, in NZ Upper North Island, following the East Coast to Mahinepua Bay nestled in between two glorious bays. I really was a novice tourer who knew nothing except how to keep the pedals turning!” he reveals. Since then he has worked out a formula that sustains and keeps him interested in touring. “Just keep it simple, listen to your body and cycle; keep both in sync as much as possible. Keep moving”, he advises. “I have cycled extensively through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand. Ten years on and approaching 69 years I’m still looking for other pastures to roam”, Travis says. When asked why, he smiles as he answers, “Because I can. You need passion and willingness to keep moving forward. When I’m on the bike it’s as though the world around me is standing still as I weave my way through it. I easily lose of track of time, my mind feeling empty, and I often do not remember what day it is. I just enjoy the moment.”
‘Navigating through the packed Howrah Market at 0630…’
Before leaving his host-family in Kolkata, and setting off on his 1,980 kms stretch from Kolkata to Chennai, Travis tried to find out a bit about the culture and history of India. Sharing his experiences, he says, “My host family in Kolkata gave me instructions of eating with my right-hand. After making a mess of the first plate, I soon got the idea. The day before, I did some last-minute shopping and rode the Kolkata Metro during peak rush hour, something I’d avoid in the future. The next day, I was up by 4:30 am and ready to leave by 5:00 am. The GPS route to leave Kolkata city was via the Howrah Bridge and railway complex. Crossing the bridge was fine, but navigating through the Howrah Market at 6:30 am was crazy. There were thousands of people, buses, trucks and whatnot. It was just crazy busy; never had I experienced such a rush of traffic and people together.”
Travis enjoyed the ride through the rural areas much more. “I like meeting and greeting people along the way, just a wave or a “hi”. It is mandatory for me, despite being alone on the bike. I use simple words, hand gestures, sometimes pictures do the trick. I am pretty much a vegetarian, and accordingly, milky tea, dosa, curd, bananas, tomato, onion were pretty much the food I ate on the way.”
Although NH16 was his primary route, he went off-route to cover Digha, Konark and Puri as well. “I enjoyed the coastlines, ocean views and the little villages I travelled through”, he shares. By the time Travis reached Vizag, on the course of his cycling expedition, he decided he needed a break and some well-deserved rest.
‘The Vizag beach looked amazing’
In Vizag, the cycling enthusiast was suggested a meal at Bake My Wish, where Travis enjoyed delightful grilled paneer and rice. He spent the rest of that day taking a long casual walk along the Beach Road. “Even though it was late in the evening, there were plenty of people enjoying a night out. The beach looked amazing. The next day I spent with friends who treated me to a delightful vegetarian lunch and the best lassi. Whilst my stay in Vizag was short, I will be back,” promises Travis who carried along with his cycling expedition.
‘So many selfies, I lost count’
Taking into consideration the weather, Travis had settled on a comfortable daily routine. “Start early and finish early. I avoided the afternoon sun and kept myself hydrated and properly fed. I love the people of India; generous hearts and souls, easy smiles, offerings of food and water. Kids and men trying to race me on the bike was a daily happening, and there were so many selfies I lost count. There was also the incredible noise and the changing faces of people I’d meet along the way. How can one forget? I thank India for changing my life. Unfortunately, I could not deal with the air pollution, from the sheer volume of traffic in each of the centres,” Travis sorrowfully adds as he bids adieu to India.
At the golden age of his life, this 69-year-old man is very youthful in his passion, always looking for the next stretch in a new country. We wish him all the very best while he pedals away.