Vilma Carvalho is hailed as ‘India’s oldest rider’ to reach Khardungla Pass by bicycle
Mrs Vilma Crasto Carvalho, 54, from Kundapur, has been hailed as India’s ‘oldest horsewoman’ to reach the 17,982 ‘Khardungla Pass’ in Ladakh, the second highest motorized pass in the world, on a motorcycle
Mangaluru: Going on a solo or group trip on a motorbike and exploring the colorful heartland of India is a trend these days. Meanwhile, 54-year-old Vilma Crasto Carvalho from Kundapur has achieved the feat by cycling to the top of the 17,982ft Khardungla Pass in Ladakh, the 2nd highest motorable pass in the world. On a motorcycle, she traveled a total of nearly 900 km in six days. Last year, Vilma also wanted to reach the end of the Khardungla pass road, but could not. This year was a tough trip, where trekking through Khardungla pass is very difficult and the temperature is almost 40 degrees Celsius. Even the acid levels are very low due to the altitude, and you can’t stay there for long. Most of the people who cross the Khardungla pass are under 40 and in this respect Vilma has done an amazing job at the age of 54.
And as they say, age is just a number, here is Vilma fulfilling her dream of a motorbike expedition on the second highest motorable road in the world, the oldest in India to have accomplished this feat . She covered a Himalayan expedition on her motorbike from ‘Leh to Leh via Khardungla, Nubra, Hunder, Pangong Lake, Tso Moriri and reached Leh. According to her, she covered 900 kilometers in 6 days on the second highest motorable road in the world, and over 900 kilometers of her trip, 500 kilometers seemed quite a difficult and difficult task considering the low level of oxygen, the conditions roads and land. . Without internet or electricity in this terrain, a motorcycle expedition seemed quite a challenge, but she did it with courage. During this trip, Vilma was accompanied by her daughter on a four-wheeled vehicle, and Vilma says that her daughter is her biggest motivation, and also her son.
As the patriarchy widened its eyes at this revolution, our brave Indian Vilma sprang forward, shoulders straight and head held high, taking her place back in this populous country. As an Indian female biker once said, “Your gender doesn’t matter on a bike. All that matters is your confidence” and Vilma proved it through her daring mission to ride a solo on a motorbike and achieve her dreams. Even though there are thousands of female cyclists in India today who inspire girls and women across the country, their presence has also encouraged feminist campaigns. And in this regard, Vilma is a proud director and a role model for young and old bikers.
VILMA was seen with her mother, Mrs. Leonala Crasto
Currently residing in Bengaluru, Vilma was born and raised in Kundapur, where she received her BA from Bhandarkar’s Arts and Science College and then pursued her Masters in Political Science. In college, she was a volleyball player, having played for the Mangalore University team and the Karnataka team, representing the state in national events. She practiced riding a motorcycle on the Yezdi Roadking with the help of her brother. In Bangalore, she started her career as a physical trainer and later became a fitness consultant for many multinational companies. Currently, she works as a corporate trainer, specializing in soft skills. She is a proud mother of two – Nathan, who is an engineer working for MNR groups as a communications consultant; and her daughter Cherish, working for Meru Data as a technical writer.
Vilma Carvalho was congratulated at the Mercy Beauty Academy & Ladies Salon 12th Anniversary Celebration held at Maya International Hotel, Mangaluru with her family and friends. The owner of the Salon, Mrs. Mercy Veena D’souza praised Vilma’s efforts and determination in carrying out her bold mission. Here are excerpts from the exclusive interview with Vilma Carvalho:
What really inspired you to be out there on the road? Who was your inspiration behind this adventure?
I have always been an adventure lover, I did scuba diving a few years ago and also a tiger’s nest trek in Bhutan, which is considered the hardest trek. A few years ago I came across an article about a Bollywood actress and also a former Miss India who was going to Rohtang Pass with her father. Then I started researching the Himalayas and wanted to know more about the passes. But by the time I was ready for a tour of the Himalayas, BRO (Border Roads Organization, a Department of Defence, which once operated on India’s borders) had developed roads over high passes, all at above 15,000 feet above sea level. Thus, in 2021, the Khardungla Pass was the highest motorable road in the world.
Briefly describe your cycling route.
My cycling journey started when I bought a bike for my son at the age of 18. Cycling has become a passion and a feeling of freedom for me. I started the walks early in the morning with some former colleagues. To complete my passion for cycling, I decided to do the one and only solo Himalayan tour in 2021.
When did you take your first dose of wanderlust?
My first dose of wanderlust started when I read about the Bollywood actress, and also when I started doing more and more research on the Himalayan passes.
What was it like to ride solo through India as a woman?
Riding alone as a woman in India can be very difficult. But it also depends on who we are traveling with (as I traveled with a team). I was lucky last year and this year I had very good teams. I feel like I traveled with like-minded people. And as the oldest rider in the team, I got a lot of respect and attention from the younger riders. There are instances where I stay last in the team while I ride, and a rider will always ride with me to make sure I don’t have a problem.
But when I ride within the city limits, I run into trouble, especially when other riders or drivers know a lady is on her bike. So I always make sure to cover myself well and no one will know my gender. We always follow all road rules and regulations, carry all vehicle documents and also carry all riding protections so that we are not at fault in any way.
One of the biggest concerns with women’s solo cycling is safety. What precautions did you take on the road?
The most emotionally painful experience I had was on the Leh tour.
a. When we see BRO clearing the roads for the vehicles to move forward, they hire local laborers to work on the spot, who sit their cute little kids by the side of the road in the hot sun or cold weather without any shelter. But these children are so excited when every vehicle passes that they greet the traveler by saying “Juley” (a way of greeting Ladakhee) without any inhibition. I have always wished that I could do something for these children, especially for their education.
What is the most emotionally painful thing you have seen or experienced on the road?
Another emotional experience that I would like to share concerns the abandoned dogs on the high passes. (I am an animal lover). These dogs run behind us for miles hoping they will find water and food.
If you had to write an autobituary entitled “Her life, according to Vilma”, what would it be?
“Her life, according to Vilma,” would be like following her dream and living her life to the fullest. (I should have no regrets on our deathbed.)
What was it like being a mother taking care of two children, and simultaneously riding a bike and doing adventures as a hobby?
Being a mother of two and riding a bike and going on adventures isn’t that hard. I consider myself a very organized person. I start my day very early and this is one of the seven habits of successful people. Any person’s productivity is greatest during the early hours of the day. I always have a to-do list for the day and work accordingly, whether it’s my profession or my hobby.
I try to keep myself busy in some activity or other, it can be cycling, baking or even gardening or grooming my pet. When the children were small and when they needed me, I was always there for them.
What are the three “essentials” of a solo bike trip?
The three essentials for solo cycling are: a) Appropriate riding gadgets like riding jacket, knee pads, elbow pads, gloves, helmet, Balaklava and riding goggles; b) carry smaller backpacks with water and dried fruit, and c) vehicle documents and insurance.
What was your most interesting experience during this trip?
An interesting experience during my tour was the respect I gained from my fellow riders and also from defense personnel.
What was the scariest moment in your journey and how did you overcome it?
The scariest moment was on the way up to Pangong Lake and I was left behind with no one to follow and no one to rely on and no network to make sure I was on the right track. Deep valley next to me and a narrow road. Here, just focus on the road in front of you. Only my meditation helped me here. But whenever we see our Indian national flag, we know we are on the right track.
In your experience, which is the best route to take in India?
Best route for bikers: a) For a smooth and winding route, NH 1 – Srinagar to Manali; and b) for off-road, Nubra Valley to Pangong Lake and Pangong Lake to Tso Moriri.
How did you prepare for this ride and do you have any advice for people considering a ride like yours?
The first and main preparation is to stay in shape with any type of fitness. And also do pranayama when traveling in low oxygen terrain. Practice well with the vehicle 1 you plan to drive there; Follow the proper diet as we asked to eat very light; Bring water because you get dehydrated easily; Acclimatize well before starting your trip to the high passes because if you are affected by acute mountain sickness, you cannot continue the trip.
Finally, for all women, especially girls, what advice do you have for them?
For all women and especially young girls to have hobbies and a passion to do something outside of their career and profession that makes them happy. Spending less time on social media gets you nowhere. Have a dream and follow your dream