Text by Jayati Talapatra, Images by Angom Ronald
Angom Ronald feels that travelling makes him humble. He has been travelling in Manipur, his home state and Meghalaya, on a bicycle, for the past three weeks. “I carry a tent and sleeping bag so I can sleep anywhere but sleeping in a very secluded area or jungles that I passed was a little scary. So I tend to look for places near people at night. I always ask if I can camp around the locality. If they don’t want me to then I move to other places. But will I say that I have been lucky or people are good everywhere, I was always invited to homes during most of my journey. I hardly got to pitch my tent. What I would like to say is I don’t want to rely on the people but I have to trust a complete stranger.”
He trusts them to guide him to a camping site, and at times, feed and shelter him.
“If they don’t seem like they want to give from their heart, I do not accept. I thank them and move on.” Biking makes him thankful for things that he otherwise took for granted.
“For me, night is the only time I am not on the move so if I can camp near the people I consider that very lucky as I can chat and have a little view on their life. Instead of staying and just sleeping off at night alone I prefer that, who won’t..”
Angom lives to travel. He studied Tourism and Hospitality management and worked for a travel agency for some time. Ironically, he had to leave the travel business in order to travel. Now he runs a medical equipment business and is his own boss. Whenever he gets time, he sets off on his bike. His travels have been restricted to North East as of now. He has explored Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. His last trip was the longest. He crossed four states in three weeks.
His reasons for biking are simple. First, it is cheap. As he travels alone, transport and accommodation tend to get expensive. A bicycle and camping gear are a good solution. Second, biking allows him to stop anywhere, go anywhere and explore areas that he could never have done if he were travelling any other way. “I get to go to remote areas, out of city limits, I absorb more”, says Angom. Third, travelling on bike allows him to make friends with locals more easily. “Many of them see that I don’t have a place to stay, they offer their own homes and give me food”. Fourth, and an important one, is that he leaves minimal carbon footprint.
Angom doesn’t worry when he is cycling. “When I am peddling, I don’t think of anything – not about my business or anything else”. But he does start getting worried as the sun goes down. “As it starts getting dark, I start getting scared. I don’t know where I will sleep. I start looking for people so that I can stay near them”. Another challenge he faces is when he is cycling on the hills. He finds it’s tough to find a flat place to camp – while in his hometown Manipur, there are many paddy fields, where he can camp.
Angom doesn’t have a long list of guidelines for those who want to holiday on a bicycle. A few points that he does share are : 1) carry spare parts. It may appear unnecessary and extra burden, but punctures are very common on cycling trips and there aren’t any workshops in remote areas. A spare tyre and pump should be carried. 2) Carry cash for 3-4 days and an ATM card. You are sure to find an ATM atleast once every 3 days so it doesn’t make sense to carry a lot of cash.
But the most important prerequisite is to prepare your mind, he says. It is difficult to take that first step (or rotation!). To get out of your comfort zone, being aware that you don’t know where you will sleep that night. It gets easier with each passing day ( and night). In a densely populated country like ours, people and houses are everywhere, most of who are helpful.
‘Haujik’ means ‘Now’ in Manipuri and Angom Ronald lives by the ‘Just do it’ tagline. “If you don’t do it now, you may never get to do it ever”, he says, wiser for all his travels. So all who wish to start seeing the world, in an inexpensive and carbon-free manner, just get onto your bicycle and ride away.