Would You Walk For 26 Days Straight? Meet Aanchal Dhara. She Just Did. | HolidayIQ Blog

Would You Walk For 26 Days Straight? Meet Aanchal Dhara. She Just Did.

Aanchal Dhara @The Audacious Project Aanchal Dhara @The Audacious Project
Last year, Mumbai-based wedding photographer and HolidayIQ Traveller Aanchal Dhara Madan, walked 583 Km from Mumbai to Goa. She went with her spouse as a part of “The Audacious Project”. The project was an initiative set up by the couple to help them (and others) chase their dreams and passions. Nothing unusual, except she walked all the 583 km over 26 days. In a candid conversation with HolidayIQ.com, she shares how her walk was a life-changing journey.

Would You Walk For 26 Days Straight? Meet Aanchal Dhara. She Just Did.:

  1. Goa

1. We Planned The Trip That Needed Me To Walk 30 Km Everyday

We Planned The Trip That Needed Me To Walk 30 Km Everydaysource: Aanchal Dhara @The Audacious Project

"We’d done a recce earlier and identified all the important places to stay and eat along our route," says Dhara. There were no pre-booking because they had no idea of knowing if they would stay on schedule or not. So every evening, after the walking was done, the couple would book the hotel/lodge closest to them.

"Our route was the NH4 mainly. I walked Mumbai to Pune via the old highway…then on NH4 to Satara and Kolhapur." Dhara left the highway just after Nipani and made her way through Amboli Ghat to Sawantwadi and finally on to Goa via NH 17. The couple had planned an itinerary that required Aanchal to cover 30 km everyday. So, on a daily basis, she walked 8 hours, an hour and half of breaks and some stops that included her time for shooting.  They would start daily at 6am till about 1pm and take a longish lunch break from 1 to 3 pm. This was to avoid walking when the sun is at its peak. Then they continued till 6.30 or 7 every evening.

2. Dhara Walked As Her Support Team Followed In A Car

Dhara Walked As Her Support Team Followed In A Carsource: Aanchal Dhara @The Audacious Project

Aanchal's husband along with the cameraman was with her most of the time. The idea behind the support car was not just logistical but also road safety. "With a car driving 8-10 feet behind me, any large vehicle which needed to overtake us would have to do so by going around the car. As a result it would also go around me and pass me by at a safe distance." This helped AanchaI focus on the road ahead irrespective of the traffic coming from behind.

3. I Walked Through EVERYTHING!

I Walked Through EVERYTHING!source: Aanchal Dhara @The Audacious Project

The biggest challenge Aanchal faced was the heat. "It really affected both my performance and mood," she complaints. "Unfortunately, it was the hottest October in more than 4 decades. But there was no way out, so we decided to alter the walking plan through the day." Instead of starting after breakfast, they decided to start early morning at 6 am and use the relatively cooler temperature to their advantage. She then took a break between 12 and 2 pm and walk in the evening again. This allowed her to avoid some of the peak heat hours.

Climbing the Ghats at Lonavala and then again beyond Pune were physically the toughest for Aanchal especially during afternoon when it was the hottest.

"My feet were suffering a little as was expected, small boils and painful nails had become an everyday affair." She started to experience pain in her left knee on Day 12 and had to wear a knee guard for the rest of her walk. Also walking during her period was unpleasant but she did not want to drop behind schedule and pushed right on.

The team lost 2 drone cameras in a span of 3 days. The first one crashed into a tree and fell on a concrete road to meet its end. The second crashed and got lost in the jungles of Amboli Ghat. Besides the monetary loss, the couple continue the shoot.  Aanchal was very exasperated by the constant honking. "I always thought it was a city phenomenon, but I was decidedly wrong." With wide roads and visibility for miles on the highway drivers still resort to honking.

4. NH4 Is Beautiful. I Witnessed The Most Spectacular Sunrises From The Highway

NH4 Is Beautiful. I Witnessed The Most Spectacular Sunrises From The Highwaysource: Aanchal Dhara @The Audacious Project

We had taken the NH4 intentionally as the roads are wide, the highways are relatively cleaner and the view is spectacular. The service lane made it comfortable to walk. The little patch when you enter Karnataka is really beautiful. Of all the places she has travelled to, she has never seen a sunset more captivating than the one on Day 19 at the Maharashtra-Karnataka border near Kolhapur. "It was so beautiful that I sat down for a while to adore it."

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5. It Is Safe For Women

It Is Safe For Womensource: Aanchal Dhara @The Audacious Project

Aanchal shares that she only had pleasant experiences with locals. Inspite of a lot of curious glances and questions, Aanchal never felt unsafe. It’s been a life changing experience to witness the generosity of people and the support they give inspite of not speaking the same language. She shares that there have been funny moments too, when people in 2-wheelers were surprised to see a bald girl dressed in fluorescent clothes walking on the highway.

The biggest gift you’ll give yourself is to step out of your comfort zone to discover your full potential. This is especially true for women who are at least considering leaving behind traditional roles defined by society to do something that makes them feel alive, something that ignites the fire of achievement inside them. When we explore our audacious side, we gain a sense of confidence that’s truly genuine. "I shaved my hair a few years back and was absolutely amazed with the support I got from close friends and relatives. I’ve been doing it ever since, not because I’d like to make a statement, but because it makes me feel beautiful and free." The walk started as just a random, thought one rainy monsoon day in Mumbai. In a year and a half, Aanchal had trained enough to realize that dream. 

6. Sharing Lunch With Farmers Even When They Had 2 Rotis & A Bulb Of Onion

Sharing Lunch With Farmers Even When They Had 2 Rotis & A Bulb Of Onionsource: Aanchal Dhara @The Audacious Project

The most amazing experiences on the road have been with people we’ve met along the way. Going into their homes and workplaces and hearing their stories has been both enlightening and in some cases life-changing.

Apart from celebrating diwali at Vadarge Village and sharing glasses of juice with farmers, Aanchal shares other experiences she had with the locals. "I also discovered how the striped lines that divide the road actually get there. There's a rickety, heavy machine that is manually dragged by guys, aligned perfectly along a tape on the road. And then they release the paint for exactly the required time for one stripe to make an appearance," smiles Aanchal. She says that she discovered happiness in these small things. She felt most inspired by this man who happily works under the hot sun for hours together painting the highway. Aanchal shares that on asking him his reason for happiness, the man told her that he was really looking forward to spending Diwali with his family back in Rajasthan. She enthusiastically shares, "I painted one stripe. So there's now a stripe somewhere between Pune and Satara with my name on it."

Aanchal remembers climbing up hills and meeting farmers who offered to share their lunch with her even when all they had were 2 rotis and a bulb of onion. "I met a truck driver who had actually decided to work through Diwali to ensure his kids continue their education – his daughter is a PhD and his son is an MBA student." She says that the value that small town families are seeing in education and the progress of women is amazing.

7. Expect The Unexpected

Expect The Unexpectedsource: Aanchal Dhara @The Audacious Project

The best way to make a good plan is to pay lots of attention to details and to try and visualize in advance all that could transpire along the way. Once that’s done, it’s time to leave the rest to the universe, to just give in to the flow that will carry you above and beyond all the planning. The walk project taught her so much about leaving space for all kinds of surprises."I’m impatient as a person. The walk being the slowest sport has taught me to be patient as to reach my destination, I could do nothing but walk and no matter how fast I walked, I still couldn’t reach my destination before time. So, patience and loving the journey is one of the most precious things that I learnt from my walk."


Megha Goel

Check out Aanchal’s profile on HolidayIQ

Read more women traveller stories here and here.

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The views above are collated from opinions expressed by travellers on www.holidayiq.com

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