Birmingham recruiter scales new heights on epic Himalayas adventure
As if the prospect of a 700-mile journey along some of the world’s most dangerous roads were not daunting enough, imagine doing it in a tiny rickshaw, at altitudes where the air is so thin it’s difficult to breathe and all with a co-driver you’ve never met before the start of the journey.
This is exactly the scenario that faced Birmingham recruitment consultant Reena Nathwani when she agreed to participate in a unique event for charity.
However, the intrepid explorer is no stranger to danger and as a veteran of the annual Rickshaw Run in her Indian homeland, she was eager to test her mettle under slightly different conditions.
Earlier in the summer she was contacted by the organisers of the Rickshaw Run to say they were mounting another expedition, this time travelling through the foothills of the Himalayas.
The 700-mile journey stretched from Shimla to Leh in Kashmir, via Manali where the charity CAREducation Trust is funding a new school.
“They said they had had someone drop out and as I had done the Rickshaw Run last year, would I be interested in doing this one,” said Reena, who works for Parna Group.
“It’s a journey that’s never been tried before and they needed some pioneers to try it out. I thought for a bit and said to myself ‘How hard could it be’ and then said yes.
“Only afterwards did it sink in on what I’d agreed to do.”
Maybe if Bear Grylls had agreed to be her co-driver then things might have been different, but the adventurer was otherwise occupied.
“Firstly, I contacted my friend Ben (King) who did the Rickshaw Run with me last year but he couldn’t make it. So, I called around other friends and people I know to ask if they’d be interested but no one offered,” she said.
“Eventually, through a friend of a friend, I was put in touch with a guy named Felix from London who I’d never met before. But he said he was game so off we went.”
They arrived and fortunately hit it off from the start. Things looked even better when she saw that this time, instead of the rickety two-stroke tut tut she was presented with for the last year’s event – a vehicle she described as a “seven horsepower glorified lawnmower” – this time it was a much more dynamic four-stroke machine.
However, that’s where her luck ran out
Pretty soon after she started she realised the full horror of what she had let herself in for.
“We were beset by mishaps almost from the start,” she said. “The roads – if you can call them that – were narrow and often nothing more than tracks so progress was very difficult.
“In addition, we were at risk of rock and mud slides, some of the cliffside roads had sheer drops on the other side and when you saw lorries coming towards you, your heart was really in your mouth because there was barely enough room to cross.
“On several occasions, I thought we were going to fall off down one of these cliffs – it was terrifying.”
Then they were confronted by major waterfalls that would suddenly emerge after heavy rain.
“We got stuck more than a few times, I have to say – it was really difficult. But just like last year, the people were really helpful and they would help us out so we could carry on.”
Then there was the altitude.
“The scenery is absolutely spectacular but we were reaching altitudes of around 5,600 metres (18,000 ft) and the air was so thin it was really difficult to breathe at times,” she adds.
Plans to keep a daily blog of the adventure were also beset with problems as she kept losing her mobile signal.
But near the end of the week-long adventure she visited the purpose of the event.
The school funded in Manali by CAREducation.
Set in the foothills of the mountains, the charity has helped to fund the construction of a brand new school and hostel accommodating more than 300 children.
It is raising aspirations in an area where opportunities were previously very limited.
Children attending the school speak of their ambitions of becoming doctors, entrepreneurs, software engineers – even famous cricketers.
“It was wonderful to visit the school and to see the good work the charity is doing. The children were lovely and really pleased to see us,” said Reena.
“What has been achieved is significant but there is a lot more to do and that’s why I got involved.
“I’m hoping that people will support me in my efforts and help to raise money for this wonderful – and very deserving – project.”
For more details on the expedition and how to support Reena visit https://www.facebook.com/RickshawRunHimalayas/
You can see more of the work being done at the school by visiting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZD4jEtOm7Gc&feature=youtu.be
The work of CAREducation is outlined further at http://careducation.org/