The Times of India
Jayanta Gupta, TNN, 31 January 2010, 02:39am IST
KOLKATA: It’s an ascent from the mundane to the exhilarating. A group of journeymen from Scotland plan to cycle from Kolkata to Kalimpong a 665 km journey from sea level to 4,600 feet above with adrenaline in their blood and charity on their lips.
The expedition, which will kick off from Kolkata on Valentine’s Day, is aimed at raising funds for Dr Graham’s Homes School, a Kalimpong institution for over a century.
Most of the 11 members of the group, including two women, are above 50 years old. “The 11-member team will arrive in Kolkata by February 13 with their bicycles. These are packed in cases and have to be carefully re-assembled. They have plans to leave for Kalimpong at 8 am on February 14 from near the Baptist Mission Church on AJC Bose Road. They hope to reach Kalimpong on February 20,” said Farokh Sabawalla, who is making arrangements for the team in Kolkata.
Dr Graham’s Homes School, which stands on a 500-acre estate, was founded by Rev Dr John Anderson Graham in 1900 for poor children. Till 2008, nearly 8,000 students had passed out from here. For many years now, the UK Committee for Dr Graham’s Homes a charity registered in Scotland has been raising funds for the establishment’s upkeep and maintenance of the children.
This is not the first time that the committee has organised such a ride. In February 2006, nine cyclists successfully completed the journey. They passed through towns and villages and succeeded in collecting over ?20,000 for the school. In 2008, 10 cyclists repeated the feat and raised ?40,000.
The committee selects a team of up to 20 members for the ride. Members have to own a mountain bicycle and possess a reasonable degree of fitness, which means they have to be able to cycle between 70-130 km per day. The members have paid ? 1,500 each for expenses. Each member will also have to express his or her willingness to raise at least ?1,000 for Dr Graham’s Homes either through collections of ?100 each or by organising a charity event. The purpose of the organisation is to help a child Walk this Earth with Dignity’.
The organisers have made it clear that the membership fees or any other expense will not be subsidised by making use of charity funds. Though the ride is bound to be gruelling, the team has been told that it is not a race and members may choose to put their bikes into the back-up vehicle and travel in comfort. Till date, few have actually done that.
After starting from the Kolkata, the team will stop at Krishnagar (63 miles). On Day 2, they will cover 55 miles up to Behrampore. The next stop will be at Kaliachak (53 miles from Behrampore). On Day 4, they will halt for the night at Gajole after a 54-mile ride. On Day 6, they will cover 82 miles between Dalkhola and Siliguri. On the final day, they will make the 44 mile climb to Kalimpong.