The Bicycle diary

Ahmed Shatil Alam talks to Yusuf Mohammed, a bicyclist, who has cycled through 64 districts in Bangladesh

The story of love between Yusuf Mohammed, a technology based company employee, and his bicycle began from the time he was a child. Later on, he often roamed on rented bicycles without the knowledge of his parents.

Kewkradong Peak, Bandarban - Jan 2015

The few times when he did get caught, he still remembers, getting severe admonishment from his father. ‘But that still did not keep me away from riding bicycles,’ he says to New Age Xtra.

He did not lose this connection after becoming a young adult, when he bought a bicycle in 2014. ‘I had bought it to move from my home to office, as it is the best and most economic transport mode,’ he says. ‘As a child, I was content with riding from one street to the other. Now I have broadened my scope,’ he adds.

Over the past one and half years, the cyclist has visited 64 districts in Bangladesh thus fulfilling his dream of cycling through the entire country.  Among the places, 48 districts were visited by Yusuf alone, while in others he was accompanied by his friends and relatives.

When asked, why he had such a dream, Yusuf shares that he loves to travel. ‘In order to get the essence of the districts it is best to go on a bicycle,’ he says.

During his journey, he at first went to the plain land districts. Later he ventured for the hill tracts and fell in love with these areas. ‘I had never visited Cox’s Bazaar before reaching there with my bicycle during this journey…it was a very extraordinary experience,’ he says.

Yusuf, later, planned to go to neighbouring countries like Bhutan and Nepal, that houses some of the adventurous hilly roads in the world, and thus are dream spots for cyclists to visit. He went to Bhutan, in 2016, but unfortunately his dream remained unsuccessful as Bhutan’s law barred him from cycling in Bhutan.

‘When I entered Bhutan with my bicycle through India, there was no problem. But once I tried to move from the bordering cities to inner areas, the Bhutanese police asked me to stop cycling,’ he says. According to Bhutanese law, foreigners can not travel on transports like bicycle as there are some security issues due to the high altitude and forest zone.

After the failed attempt in Bhutan, Yusuf then planned to ride on hilly roads of the Himalayan mountain range.  During the last week of December 2016, he travelled almost 500 kilometres from Dhaka to Tiger Hill in Darjeeling in India all by himself in a matter of nearly a week.

‘After that journey, I am now more confident and am now planning beyond South Asia,’ he says. He shares with New Age Xtra that riding uphill is extremely difficult for people from plain land. ‘As we are not used to the roads on mountains more than 2000 metres, coping with the altitude becomes the biggest challenge,’ he says. He also shares that while travelling through the Himalayan roads, he loved the breeze, the scenic beauty, snow, greenery, forest and the curvy roads.

He also says that many people from Bangladesh want to ride in other countries, but due to the lack of cooperation from customs department, their dreams never materialise. ‘Actually bicycle does not need any Carnet de Passages, but our customs department does not understand this detail,’ he claims.

Carnet de Passages is a customs document that identifies a traveller’s motor vehicle or other valuable equipment or baggage. It is required in order to take a motor vehicle into a significant but gradually decreasing number of countries around the world.