By Adnan M.S. Fakir
Life is pretty much always dragging on in its usual slow pace, and to accelerate out of this boredom zone, on one utterly mundane exam day, four of us decided to make a cycle trip from Dhaka to Cox's Bazar. That should be something new… right?
Such trips are usually common abroad where the roads are pretty safe and you don't have trucks and buses moving at 140 km/h trying to squeeze you into a pancake. In Bangladesh, however, such tours are usually limited to the army and a few foreigners, still over small distances. The main inspiring figure in front of our adventure was my friend Nawaf's father, A. B. M. Naser, who had made a World Cycle Tour from Bangladesh to Iran in 1979! Compared to that, our one was nothing. Nonetheless, it would be a start and certainly such a trip would not be a very normal one and hence we had to make some elaborate planning. When we were talking about the plan to others, most thought that we were just joking around or thought it to be impossible; a few thought it to be a piece of cake, and another few wanted to go along with us. Nonetheless, what we were initially hoping would be a team of eight, ended to be a team of four: Nawaf, Shabab, Rufi and Me.
With all of these things sorted out, and with our bicycles repaired as much as possible, we had but a few other things to settle. Firstly we needed a possible cause for our bike hike and its better still if the cause can get us some sponsorship. Therefore we decided to make the motto of our tour to be “Drive against Corruption” which was printed (or rather painted, due to lack of time) on our T-shirts. We were supposed to start on the 11th and if we did accordingly we would have gotten the sponsorship, but instead we decided to head off early on the 3rd due to certain problems. The second and most major problem was our parents… and amazingly Nawaf's and Shabab's parents actually liked our plan and aided us all throughout the trip. Rufi is Nawaf's cousin so Nawaf's dad covered for him. As for my parents… well, I did tell them the truth. I told them I would be going to Cox's Bazaar with my friends… I just forgot to mention the bicycle part.
The so-called “Drive against Corruption” Cycle Tour 2006
Day 1 (3rd July 2006)
Target: Dhaka to Comilla
Distance: 96 km
We started off later than planned, at around 6:30 am from Malibagh, Dhaka. Before heading off, Nawaf's father gave us a lot of tips for safety during our journey. This included keeping our cash at different places (shoes, any inside pocket, undies etc.), to say 'courtesy lies' along the road, for eg. “Ai, OC shaheb ki phone korsilo” and stuff like that so that no local people dare to try anything. He also mentioned that the last time for safe cycling was at maximum 6 pm before dark. Therefore, we had to plan ahead accordingly.
Heading off, we realized our two main opponents would be the wind and the sun. We were heading south and the wind was coming from the south, and the sun was literally burning our skin showering us with unwanted Vitamin D. We reached Kachpur Bridge after around one and a half hour of paddling, having our breakfast with lip-smacking parata and bhaji at one of the road-side hotels near Naryanganj. It was during the first few hours of cycling that we realized we would be drinking gargantuan amounts of water along the trip, refilling from any passing by hotels or tube-oils we find.
We reached the Meghna Bridge past noon, and it took us almost half an hour just to cross this. Two of us did not have any gears in our bicycles, and the bridge being extremely steep; it was very difficult for them to paddle up. Nonetheless, we all tried and it resulted in the chain being displaced several times causing the main delay. In the end we decided to walk through the bridge, at least to the top. Going downhill, however, was a sensation.
Onto the bishwaroad connecting the entire Bangladesh, the buses and trucks zoomed passed us at over 100 km/h. When a bus or truck whizzed just right past, barely touching us, it displaced the air right behind it, causing surrounding air to be sucked in; thus each time this happened, we felt a slight pull towards the side of the truck and we had to hold on tight to correctly balance the bicycle. The feeling is hard to describe, yet kind of incredible.
The wind by now was causing a lot of trouble, as slight drizzles started playing with us at around the afternoon. The wind speed caused the raindrops to feel like tiny stones piercing into our skin; and whenever we stopped to wear our raincoats, the rain immediately stopped, as if mocking us! This happened several times, till we decided not to bother about the raincoat at all.
Shabab's father, Brig. General (retd.) M. Mofizur Rahman, had arranged our stay in Comilla BARD and had also taken permission for us to go through Comilla Cantonment. We reached Comilla Cantonment at around 6 pm, exhausted and sweaty, and as we cycled Through the place, we spotted several deer (aka horin) lurking around! That was very surprising and finally we reached BARD at around 6:30 pm where we made our night stay.
Excluding breaks we cycled for over 6 hours with an average speed of 13.8 km/h. I drank over 16 liters of water that day… and still my urine was yellowish.
Day 2 (4th July 2006)
Target: Comilla to Feni
Distance: 71 km
Nothing interesting really happened so I will not write much about the day, but that we started off with seriously aching butts… spending the entire day on the small seats of bicycles isn't really comfy you know. We reached Feni quite early at around 4 pm and thus we had sometime to make a short visit of Feni.
Again thanks, to Shabab's father, we had the Feni Bidyut house to stay at. From there we visited the Raam Shagor Dighi, the artificially dug pond during the Mughul times which now cannot be drenched due to an underground water connection. We also visited the abandoned house of Mr. Joynal Abedin Hajari. Being abandoned for over five years now, the house was kind of spooky with moss growing all over. No one is allowed to enter the house.
Day 3 (5th July 2006)
Target: Feni to Chittagong
Distance: 107 km
By now, we were into the local Comilla and Feni newspapers and we were known as “The Cycloteers.” Each day we were also throwing away our used clothes so as to make our backpacks lighter. The third day was the toughest of all days as we had to cross over a 100 km and hence, pumping and treating our bicycles, we headed off early. We were supposed to have a look at the first established Bio-gas plant in Bangladesh near Feni, but to save time we didn't.
We had two major problems during the trip that day. First of all, Shabab's cycle's gear got tangled and almost came off (which our official mechanic, Rufi mended to) and second, I had an accident (the first aid kit came in good use), as a truck attempting to overtake another, squeezed me onto the side of the road in the process, causing me to literally somersault from the bicycle (luckily, thanks to Allah, I had a few bruises, which I guess I'll be having marks of for the rest of my life to remember the trip, and a clinic was also just nearby to mend to the bruises).
Nonetheless after relentless cycling, dying stamina and dripping T-shirts, we crossed Sitakundo at around 3 pm and had a look at the stunningly elegant Eco Park (with lots and lots of monkeys), and finally reached the Chittagong gate at exactly 6 pm!
Our entry to Chittagong brought about the sudden appearance of jam and pollution from all the transparent blue waters and different shaded greens in our journey; something we seriously loathed. Nevertheless, after running a few errands, while searching for our rest house we found ourselves lost at the foresty Tiger Pass at 12 pm… and trust me with all the silence and blackness, it was kind of spooky; and here we met our ghost friends. As we separated into two groups to search for the rest house, our stories are as such:
1. Nawaf & Shabab: They found a rickshaw and were going up a very steep road. The rickshaw puller alone was amazingly pulling both Nawaf and Shabab and the rickshaw all by himself; until halfway through both of them got down from the rickshaw. They did not look behind immediately and after around a mere 10 seconds Nawaf turned to ask the rickshaw puller a few questions, finding both the rickshaw and the rickshaw puller to have disappeared! Putting the situation in hub, disappearing in so little time without making any sounds from such a steep road was impossible. Also the puller did not take any money from the two.
2. Rufi: There were slight drizzles but lots of wind and Rufi claims to have seen, in a distant, a lot of trees completely still even among the heavy wind. Among the trees, only one was moving with the wind but unusually much more than normal. No other trees were moving at all.
3. Me: Well… no ghostyness from me.
At around 1 am, we were finally found by the caretaker of the rest house we were staying at; and amazingly, the rest house was exactly in the same path as the rickshaw puller had taken Nawaf and Shabab through. That night, we slept like somebody had mixed sleeping potion with our food… I am sure we wouldn't even have noticed if a horde of elephants had run amok through our rest house.
Day 4 (6th July 2006)
Target: Chittagong to Chenuria
Distance: approx. 80 km
It was sort of like a resting day for us and the parting day for me. I had my chachi's chollisha ritual the next day, on the 7th, and hence I had to leave. The other's mended their bicycles, and as it was quite late by the time they had started, they went some distance cycling and some distance by bus, reaching Chenuria by evening. I, on the other hand, took the midnight bus and went back home.
Day 5 (7th July 2006)
Target: Chenuria to Cox's Bazar
Distance: approx. 40 km
After getting bombarded by my mother's 'flowery' speech (my dad actually liked the idea… other than the bruises), while I was in the milad, the others reached Cox's Bazaar at around afternoon and were bathing in the salty waters and dipping under the sultry sun. The bicycles, finally got their much deserved wash (I washed my one at home) and they set back home the next day via bus.
Wrapping it all Up
The article is getting kinda huge and boring, so I better stop here. I seriously don't know how much our “Drive against Corruption” was a success, but I do know this that all four of us learned a lot, especially about the importance of teamwork and about the lives of the people of Bangladesh; but most importantly we all learned how important the fat in our butts are… especially when you are cycling for such long distances. It still hurts!
The Plot & the Planning
The following is a basic list of the tools and thingies we took for our adventure:
Tools & Thingies:
1. 4 bicycles (like duh!)
2. Portable Pumper
3. Leak Sticker (to mend tube leaks)
4. Extra Tube
6. Set of Screw Drivers
7. Alenki Set
8. Pliers & Range
1. Paracetamols, Pain Killers, Anti Biotics and etc.
2. Savlon (both liquid and cream)
3. Bandages & Crepé Bandages
5. Deep Heat / Moov (we like to moov it, moov it!)
6. Ambulance phone number! (in case… you know)
1. Ovaltine and Glusose (the secret of our energy!)
2. T-shirts, shorts, cap, hand gloves, socks, undies and etc.
4. Bangladesh Map
5. Torch Light