80-year-old from Kerala cycles 4,500 km to celebrate birthday in Ladakh
On Saturday, with the Himalayan sky darkening and the first snowflakes drifting down, Jose had reached a memorable milestone in his life. He had just turned 80, and completed cycling 4,500kms all the way from Thrissur to the rarefied heights of Ladakh. What better way for a man who is a plumber by profession and a cyclist by passion to celebrate his birthday.
Josettan, as he is fondly called by his friends, is from Athani in Thrissur. He told TOI over phone from Leh that he had cycled to a spot just 34 kms from Khardung La, which is located at 17,600 feet above sea level and is the highest motorable point allowed for civilians. He could not proceed further on Saturday from there because of unexpected snowfall.
In this cycle expedition, christened ‘Wheel of Life’, Jose is accompanied by Gokul P R from Ayyanthole in Thrissur, who, incidentally, had undertaken a cycling trip from Thrissur to Khardung La in 2013 via Manali. Gokul’s wife Dr Lekha Lakshmi and their 14-year old daughter joined them from Ladakh after reaching there by flight.
Jose, who retired from the Thrissur Medical College Hospital as a plumber, said he has had no major health issues during his cycling trip. “I encountered an oxygen problem when I reached Leh about nine days ago, but my fellow cyclists supported me by providing artificial supply of oxygen,” he said. “Oxygen shortage is a problem commonly encountered by all, including military personnel, on reaching Leh,” Dr Lakshmi said.
Jose said he started cycling when he in class V. “Cycling is my passion, and I used to cycle for long distances in the past. But this one is obviously the longest cycling trip I’ve undertaken,” he said. He is also a regular participant in swimming and marathon competitions. Jose has won accolades for excelling in triathlon competitions as well. Wheel of Life, which was flagged off by former Kerala education minister Prof C Raveendranath from Thrissur on July 15, is being supported by all the cycle clubs of Kerala, as well SAI, Thrissur district sports council, Thrissur district Olympic Association, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangatan and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.
Jose’s wife and three children are ecstatic about his achievement but also a little worried for his safety. Gokul’s cousin, Ajayan, is a brigadier in the Indian Army, and through him they got extensive support from the military to pass through high security areas and tough terrains.