A teenage girl who was born blind has become the youngest in India to cycle 500km through the Himalayas on a tandem bicycle with her father, with her doing the hard cycling.
Manasvi Baheti, 15, from Pune, in Maharashtra, northern India, was born blind in both eyes but it has never stopped her dreaming of adventures or affected her passion for life.
Her father Kailash Baheti, 52, has always known his daughter was tough and courageous but now he said he has proof.
‘She is one tough girl,’ he said. ‘She did this cycle expedition with so much energy and commitment. Even when I was struggling she would be encouraging me.’
The father-daughter duo travelled the tough 500km terrain in only nine days. They cycled from Manali, a small town in Himachal Pradesh, to the Khardung-La mountain pass in Jammu and Kashmir, which is world-famous for being the highest motorable road in the world.
Kailash, who works as a businessman, decided to help his daughter fulfil her dream soon after she started talking about it many months ago.
He said: ‘Manasvi has loved cycling since childhood. Even though she was blind I still taught her to cycle and she has always loved it. But when she started dreaming of doing this challenge I just couldn’t let her down. It was a challenge to find a tandem bike but when we finally managed to get one she was really excited. It was a very special moment.’
The school student who is never afraid of trying new adventures and experiences said: ‘I have been on several trips with my family but this has been the best experience so far. I never imagined that I would ever do something like this.
The training was a trailer for the excitement that was to come but nothing matched the real thing
‘I was really scared initially but my parents supported me throughout the training until my confidence built up. My father took me out for 4km training sessions everyday during the one month before we actually started the expedition. The training was a trailer for the excitement that was to come but nothing matched the real thing.
‘I am so thankful to my family and organizers of the expedition for giving me the opportunity to travel and explore and to have accomplished such an adventure. I obviously could not see anything but I felt every pulse of it and it was the most amazing thing in the world.’
Kailash added that tandem cycling is a difficult sport, especially on hills, as the person sitting behind needs to work ever harder.
Kailash is now a very proud father and feels no other person of Manasvi’s age could have pulled it off so well. He added: ‘We had to ride approximately 50 kms every day and she had to peddle constantly. We used to start early at night and there was no fixed end to the journey as it totally depended on the weather and roads. It was very tough to ride on these roads. We used to stay in very small tents and the temperature was low all the time. We had our sleeping bags with us but it was testing. I’m generally not a sporty person and I’d often get tired but she never gave up. She’d always encourage me to keep going saying ‘yes, we can do it’.’
She’d always encourage me to keep going saying ‘yes, we can do it’
Manasvi and Kailash were one of ten pairs that participated in the initiative, labeled as India’s first blind and sighted tandem expedition in the Himalayas, organized by Adventure Beyond Barriers Foundation (ABBF) that aims to enable people with disabilities and those without to participate in adventure sports together.
Divyanshu Ganatra, 40, founder of ABBF, confirmed Manasvi was everyone’s favourite. He said: ‘Manasvi is extremely energetic, confident and a very intelligent child. She helped people in every way possible and everyone just loved her. She faced all challenges bravely and completed this expedition in a positive way.’
Divyanshu, who is also visually impaired, started ABBF in 2014 in order to create a sporting platform for people with disabilities covering trekking, scuba diving, paragliding and mountaineering.
‘We initiated this expedition to make people aware that disability is not a stigma and every individual is equal. It was intended to allow people to share feelings and emotions with each other and offer the ability to understand every challenge together.’
Manasvi is now believed to be the youngest visually impaired teenager to have completed such an expedition across the Himalayas on a tandem bicycle.
Manasvi added: ‘It was an amazing experience. I had the best time of my life. I also learnt to be patient amid such huge challenges, help others and learn to feel confident about myself.’
It was an amazing experience. I had the best time of my life.
Kailash now believes he and his daughter have become even closer after sharing such an experience.
He added: ‘She was always a ‘mummy’s girl’ as her mother does everything for her. But this expedition has brought us really close as we were together all the time and shared a lot of things. The expedition has given us a new bond and memories to cherish for a lifetime.’