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From Mountain Tops to Depths of the Ocean, One Woman’s Adventure Story!

Still a Mumbaikar at heart and a Gurgaon resident now, Nandini has pushed herself to unimaginable physical limits with high altitude trekking, cycling and more! Read more to know how this certified scuba diver and half-marathon runner continues to fulfil her adventure goals!

14 dives to be a certified advanced scuba diver, 26 high altitude treks including the toughest and most interesting ‘Pin Parvati’ trek, two treks to Kang Yatse peak in Ladakh, and the Annapurna circuit in Nepal, 10 half-marathons, 5 cycling trips, 3 skiing trips to Auli and Pahalgam, the longest cycle ride of 178 kms from Sariska to outskirts of Gurgaon, cycling from Panchkula to Shimla in two days…..these are just a few of her achievements!

Meet Mumbai girl, now in Gurgaon for many years, Nandini Bhupat, whose extrovert personality, she owes to her trip to Kashmir during her college days. An advertising and communications professional, she found her true calling with the adrenaline rush one gets at high altitudes, and quit her job to trek up a mountain in the Himalayas. Settled in a condominium in cosmopolitan Gurgaon, with her husband who is an avid sportsman himself, this interesting couple have travel running in their blood. Nandini prefers to explore new destinations each time. However, there are certain exceptions like Thailand, Mcleod Ganj, Auli which is her skiing sanctuary, and Pahalgam in Kashmir, which she can go to again and again. While an annual international trip or any of the Himalayan peaks, is always on the charts with her husband, Nandini also does many trekking and cycling trips with her group of fellow adventurers. Her strong tenacity and experimentative nature are what keep the travel bug in her alive and yearning for more thrill and excitement with every trip.

Since the last three years, Nandini has been busy skiing, scuba diving, cycling, trekking regularly and running half marathons. She has also been cross-training regularly to develop the required levels of fitness for such activities. “I was first exposed to trekking while in college and to cycling when I moved to Gurgaon and became part of Pedal Yatri (based in Delhi NCR), one of the biggest cycling groups in India”, shares Nandini. “My good sense of balance comes from my climbing and skiing, and my flexibility comes from yoga”, she shares. Nandini and her husband went for their first trek together in 2001 at a place called Dzongri top, starting from a small village Yuksom in Sikkim. “With every passing year, we have learnt from our mistakes and evolved as trekkers,” mentions Nandini.

2017 was the highlight for her, as she completed seven consecutive treks to summits/ passes, each month soaring to higher altitudes, followed by six half-marathons in consecutive months. This year, she pushed trekking aside for some time and focussed on cycling and cross-training. Having completed two high altitude cycle rides – one to Kunzum La in Spiti Valley, and the other from Manali to Leh and Khardungla, she finds it difficult to choose what she enjoys the most. She is equally in love with high altitude trekking, skiing and cycling. Running helps her train for her other cardio activities.

In preparing for the arduous cycle ride to Kunzum La in Spiti, Nandini cycled almost 80-100 kms over weekends and 40-60 kms on weekdays, all through June and July. Nandini’s speed machine is her Cannondale SL3 cycle.

“Spiti is defined by its people. A beautiful place with its untouched persona, its people are most warm and hospitable”, says Nandini.  She continues, “We were a group of 12 cyclists who had stopped by the roadside to grab a quick sip of water from a roadside tap. A lady came out from her house and offered to make us tea. Her hospitality left us spellbound.”

Continuing to share her most memorable experiences during the cycling trip to Spiti, Nandini mentions that on their way to Komic, the highest motorable road, the ride was super challenging as the elevation towards Demul is crazy. Demul is a small village which has only 13 houses with the most innocent and friendly people. She recollects the small villages which are like green pockets in the Spiti landscape. Close to Kaza is the village of Rangrik which is very beautiful with a river flowing nearby and people cultivating potatoes and peas. Another interesting place is Kibber at 4300m above sea level. Enroute to Kibber and Komic, the climb is very steep and crazy. “We used to cycle a max of 60 kms each day. We cycled seven days with only a day’s break.” Other memorable cycle trips have been on smaller routes such as Panchkula to Shimla, and Almoda. She also recollects the unforgettable warmth of the friendly Lamas she experienced inside the Key monastery between Kaza to Kibber.

“The most challenging part of our ride was on the last day on our way to Kunzum La, where 1.5 kms away from the pass, there was a very difficult patch with three huge craters. The elevation was crazy and I fell twice – once over a stone and then because my woollen cap was entangled in the cycle chain. In spite of the fall, I was adamant and determined to climb the cycle there itself and cycle the rest of the way. I had enough stamina but was frustrated as I just wasn’t getting the momentum to get onto the cycle due to the craters. I finally managed to cycle the rest of the way. It was only later that the local guide told me that I had taken a short cut which was the wrong route and thus more difficult and tough.”

Speaking about her future goals, Nandini shares that she is mentally very strong and never gives up. She would like to cycle to ‘Umling La’, situated at 19,000 ft above sea level. This pass was constructed last year by the Armed forces. Another location is Dhankar, which Nandini believes is India’s answer to Tiger’s Nest, the mountainside monastery in Bhutan. “The mountains are a very humbling experience and the sense of achievement on climbing them cannot be described in words.”

“There is a lot of training that goes into climbing a peak. The day when I need to be pulled up to trek and need other people’s support, I will give up high altitude trekking. The wind in my face as I ski, cycle and run or trek are the rewards that keep me going.”

Just recovering from a bout of dengue, Nandini looks forward to gaining her strength back and move from mountain bikes to road bikes. Brevets are her next goal where long distance rides need to be achieved within a particular time frame.

Her concluding advice to all girls and women out there is – “You live only once. Go out and experiment at least once. Don’t hold back. There, of course has to be training before any such high intensity activity but the resultant ‘High’ you get is very different. It makes you very proud of yourself. These are your own medals.”

Vaishali Heblekar November 15, 2018