For vegetarian India, veganism is not totally alien but still strange enough a concept to evoke strong curiosity, interest and quite a few conversions. So when the Vegan Cycle Tour through the heartland of north India was proposed, it was anticipated with a lot of excitement. On hindsight, we at Kalypso say, “Justified excitement.”
What is Veganism?
Veganism in simple words is “the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals.” The deep sense of caring and empathy that is at the core of this belief, sweeps everyone off in its wake.
Days of learning- the equipment, the requirements
As in anything else, concept is king in the planning of such a unique tour too. Kalypso’s highly resourceful back-end team worked at a frenetic pace to iron out the sometimes frayed edges of the challenging schedules and to visualise and thereby prepare to meet any and every eventuality.
In the midst of the constant back and forth with the clients about their various specific needs, understanding the geographies involved, packing, loading and trucking the bikes, seeing the support team off to Rajasthan, unloading and assembling of the bikes on the spot, and the recce of the route to assess its highlights and pitfalls, Kalypso tour guides themselves were totally enamoured by the places they visited and were thrilled about the wonderful challenges they knew they were about to face. The spirit of the tour was already upon them and the anticipation levels sky-rocketing.
From start to finish of the expedition
Having landed at Delhi the group was transferred to Agra where the elegant Taj Mahal awaited their gasps of wonder. After a morning spent at the Bharatpur National Park, it was time to re-group, re-orient and get back to the nitty-gritties of the odyssey ahead. And focus they did indeed, during the tour briefing and the cycle-fitting that followed.
The much-awaited tour began the next day with the group being transferred to Bayana, a small town from where the Vegan Cycle Tour was to ride out on their 252 mile grand tour. And so after a short blessing ceremony, our cyclists set out, flower garlands and bindis in place to urge the group on with their benedictions.
What followed was a series of colour, pageantry and sheer joy mixed in with some hard cycling, tough roads, determination, and a never-say-die attitude. The food, the sights along the way -of people, landscapes, buildings and wildlife- the weather, the company of fellow vegans, the bonhomie, all memories now, but the reality of every moment then. The cows and goats and monkeys ubiquitous on Indian roads and who accompanied the cyclists at times certainly kept this group of animal lovers engaged as much if not more than the palaces and forts they stayed in and visited. The exchange of vegan recipes with Kalypso cooks, the 100 guests who stayed spontaneously for lunch under a colourful tent, the school children who turned partners in fun, all point to a universality of human emotions and the triumph of the human spirit.
From Bayana to Karauli to Ranthambore, then Talabgaon, Dausa and finally to Ramgarh, the small towns they passed through, each had unique stories to tell and histories to share. The vegan cycle tour ended at Ramgarh. The celebration and the lunch that followed only reflected the sheer determination displayed throughout and the joy of completing the task. The extra day spent roaming the streets of Jaipur and visiting its palaces only carried forward the celebratory mood.
And the result? All smiles and happy faces and more…
The fact that our guests returned home happy with their experiences in India and having achieved what they set out to (they have been successful in raising enough funds for the conservation of 25000 land-farmed animals), the fact that we could facilitate this grand success with no hassles, the fact that it left everyone concerned feeling content are all motivating factors for us at Kalypso. We hope that our guests felt the same. We hope they have inspired more people around the world to be kind to animals and help conserve them. We hope India and its distinctive ethos will bring them back on more such tours.