This holiday season, we are excited to bring our next Original Feature presentation titled “Chasing The Lights,” the story chronicling marine-engineer-cum-solo-biker Abhishek Iyer’s incredible 2,500 km journey across the coasts of Norway. Read on to find out more about the adventurer and his epic trip to witness the Northern Lights, and be inspired to pedal on!
DREAMS ARE MADE FOR THE ADVENTUROUS
Abhishek Iyer is an unassuming man. At 30-years, Abhishek, the marine engineer, has sailed the seven seas, docking from one port to the other. With almost 6-8 months spent on the high seas, Abhishek in his own words admits to being “lucky only to stop for a beer, during most of my seafaring stopovers.” As a marine engineer, the adventurer is the go-to person when the ship calls for high maintenance, and the work is typical of the high stress that comes with the job. Yet even as the wayfarer admits to loving it at the sea, his real fix remains to be solo riding.
TAMING THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT
Abhishek recollects, “I had discovered biking much later in life. I had first gone on a solo backpacking trip of Europe five years ago when the travel bug bit me.” Biking became a passion along the way, less by design, as he started to explore cities on his bicycle.
The biker who hails from Pune would soon graduate to making larger strides, as he undertook a bike journey to Nepal. The Annapurna Circuit, amongst the most trailed routes of the world, crosses through surreal valleys and gorges.
Abhishek recalls, “The Annapurna Circuit was the meat of my tour. My 40-day journey started in West Bengal and had me run through the Eastern Nepali Terai over to the foothills of the Himalayas, before making my way through Western Terai, and over to the Annapurna Circuit.” After biking across India and then Nepal, Abhishek found Norway to be fair play as a riding destination since the country fully blooms through the months of September and October. “I wanted to spend 60 days on road and camp my way through it,” the biker attests.
A DAY ON ROAD IN NORWAY
“My typical day started with morning coffee, as I’d set out on the road by mid-day, before finding a place to stop and camp out,” begins Iyer. Embarking on an expedition means making many micro-decisions that can decide the fate of the day. Being prepared is just the start. “I’d check the weather forecast and the distance to be covered every day. Inclement and changing weather conditions really tuned out to be the deciding factors when on move,” Abhishek adds.
WEATHERING THE WEATHER
As Abhishek got on track to riding through the North of Norway to the South, he explains exactly how the changing weather fluctuations impacted his journey. “During the expedition, I would cover snow-covered mountain terrains and unrelenting rains. On nights with clear skies, I would watch mesmerised as millions of stars shined down upon me. The view from my tent was unbeatable on those nights. On other days, I would wake to the sound of morning drizzles, making the mornings epic.”
In the world of biking, it is a well-known truism that wind is the enemy when biking uphill. And wind played an important role through the ascent. “There were days when the headwinds were too strong. Frustratingly enough, I would only be able to cover 20 km in a day, instead of the targeted 60 km.”
The bike itself would break down a few times, along the journey, and fixing it would need to be budgeted into the journey. Yet it is known that greater the challenge, more the glory.
ONE FOR THE ROAD
As Abhishek continues to describe his story, one thing stands out — the man lives for the experience of taking off on his bike. Solo travelling on bike offers a perspective quite unlike others. You interact with strangers, make easy friendships and are often witness to unbridled bonhomie of the locals.
“Through my trip of Norway, I would mostly avoid the cities, since the countryside would offer the best landscapes to view and camp out. You can easily get by with knowing English, and on those few occasions that tenting wasn’t feasible, I would easily couch-surf. Along the way, I found pitstops where I could shower and freshen up,” he explains.
One of the most significant takeaways from the trip was the wonderful friends that Abhishek made along the way. “The locals were very friendly. Cars would drive past me as I would be cycling, and they’d give me a thumbs up to acknowledge.”
Describing the last day of his expedition, Abhishek reveals how it was getting really cold on the higher altitudes. “I was 30 km into the mountains, and a random stranger stopped by to give me his gloves.” Humanity is never really defined by geography, and Abhishek’s experiences merit that testament.
THE AURORAS AND THE OTHER WONDERS
As he parts ways, he explains Norway is home to not just beautiful panoramas, and exquisite experiences, but also a lifetime of memories that he will forever treasure. For Abhishek, who goes chasing the beautiful aurora borealis across one of the best landscapes in the world to witness them in, the wonders are far too many to count on fingertips.
“I watched the Northern Lights for the first time following a ski jump. The phenomenon is one of the most elusive things to witness since the viewing is so dependent on the weather conditions. The sights were breathtaking,” he explains. “Natural beauty of Norway is one significant standout. The sights are truly dramatic.”
Looking back, Abhishek breaks it down, “You really need just the will to explore. Biking allows for you to catch the sights and sounds at your own pace. If you want to go exploring, all you really need is to just take off. The universe will conspire.”