An adventure programme in Manipal Uni combines cycling with outdoor education

‘The Adventurer’ programme is organised by Ganesh Nayak, an assistant professor in Manipal, who found recognition after his 8000-km solo-cycling expedition in 2014.
An adventure programme in Manipal Uni combines cycling with outdoor education
An adventure programme in Manipal Uni combines cycling with outdoor education
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When the professor and adventure cyclist Ganesh Nayak started a cycling group in Manipal in 2015, it was according to him, an ‘informal’ group of people united by the love of cycling and adventure

Five years on, in January 2020, the informal group has turned into a full-fledged outdoor education programme which combines cycling with workshops on first-aid, bicycle repair, sustainable travel practices and conservation ecology in Manipal. 

‘The Adventurer’, as it is now known, programme is organised by Ganesh Nayak, an assistant professor in Manipal Institute of Technology, who found recognition after embarking on a solo-cycling expedition in 2014 that saw him travel 8,000 km through Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Nepal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka.

Ganesh Nayak, cyclist and author of 'Uncharted: My Journey into the Himalayas' 

He is also the author of the book 'Uncharted: My Journey into the Himalayas' which was based on his travels in the Himalayas. He began his first expedition in an attempt to quit smoking but it formed the basis for starting a cycling expedition programme in Manipal in 2015.

‘The Adventurer’ programme is held twice every year in January and August for six weeks. The programme, currently open to students of Manipal University, trains participants in cycling long distances. 

“Most students who took part in ‘The Adventurer’ had cycled less than 10 km before they started. We train them to climb the slopes around Manipal before increasing the intensity each week. In the 2019 programme, the cyclists climbed Agumbe Ghat (in the Western Ghats), which is a 100 km ride from Manipal. We teach the students braking techniques which help them effectively use the bicycle and cycle off-road,” Ganesh Nayak says.

Arushi Jain, a student of Manipal Institute of Technology took up the programme hoping to change the monotony of her academic life in 2019. “We had to wake up at 5 am and begin cycling. Gradually, the intensity of the expeditions increased and played a part in boosting my confidence and adding to my knowledge of what’s around us,” Arushi says.  

The latest programme started on January 7 while the previous programme was held in August 2019. Back then, the cyclists travelled 250 km and camped in Kudremukh, a popular hill range in Karnataka.  “It is important because students are going to venture out anyways. It is better when they are with safe and trained professionals and they learn how to handle themselves safely outdoors,” Ganesh says.  

But he is quick to point out that the programme sets out to do more than introduce students to adventure cycling. The cyclists are given training to ensure that they are self-sufficient, even if they are travelling solo. 

In the programme held in August 2019, there were workshops by professionals including the ecologist Madhushri Mudke on conservation ecology,  Dr. Fresten from Emergency Medicine on first-aid, CPR and snake bites, Rahul Narlanka, an engineering professor who is a bird watching enthusiast, and Regan D’Silva from St. Anthony’s Bicycle Works in Udupi who taught students the basics of fixing punctures and repairing bicycles.

Madhushri says that outdoor experiences make students environmentally sensitive and aware of their surroundings. She adds that the students can also help scientists by contributing to citizen science programmes. “Students were shown a presentation through which they are trained to identify different species of amphibians. They were also shown how they can report data on the India Biodiversity Portal. Now, they can upload information on their own,” says Madhushri. India Biodiversity Portal a citizen's initiative for the collation of biodiversity information.

Ganesh now has a team of people working with him to organise the programme. The latest programme started last week with 10 students including 4 girls signing up. This is an increase from the 8 students who signed up in the last programme held in August 2019. Ganesh says that four spots in the programme are reserved for girls and wants more girls to take up adventure cycling.

“There may be a thinking that because students are cycling up a hill, it is not feasible for girls. This is not true and we do not want to encourage a ‘bro culture’ through these programmes. We want to encourage girls to take up cycling,” Ganesh adds.

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