As kayaker Kaustubh Khade approached Manjeshwar harbour at Kasaragod in north Kerala, he waved to a couple of people travelling in other boats. But suddenly a fishing boat came from behind and a man tried to throw a rope across the kayak. “I was thinking, what is he trying to do?” Khade told him, “I’ll do whatever you want, but don’t tie my kayak.”
The fisherman called the marine police and passed the phone to Khade.
“When I told them why I was here, the officer told the fisherman to leave me alone,” says the 30-year-old kayaker. But to ensure that there would be no further problems, Khade went to the police station after reaching the shore. “The cops were really sweet,” he says. “We ended up taking photos. The police officer told me that a few fishermen have been asked to keep an eye on unusual visitors.”
Mumbai-based Khade had set sail from Lord Krishna’s home Dwarka in Gujarat on November 17. “The aim was to cover 3,000 kilometres along the western coastline in 100 days,” he says. He traversed through six states: Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Diu. The trip concluded at Kanyakumari.
On the journey named ‘Conquer The Coast’, Khade was accompanied by his partner, Shanjali Shahi, who rode a Schwinn Searcher bicycle along the coast in Khade’s wake. If there was an internal route to the next beach, she took that, or returned to the highway.
Both of them are also raising funds through corporate sponsorship for Mumbai-based NGO Magic Bus, which works with underprivileged children to make them realise self-worth through sports.
“I have attended a few sessions and they are fabulous,” says Khade. In one event at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park, the kayaker played football with the participants, which included girls and boys. “When kids play together, they learn gender equality, cooperation and fair play,” says Khade.
The duo, who took a break from their job with a mobile applications company, has another agenda. “India has a 7,500 kilometre-long coastline, and we need to protect it,” says Khade. “Very few people know about its beauty. More people need to come forward to explore the beaches and take care of them.”
While Shahi averaged 50 to 80 km a day, Khade did about 40 km. “For hours during the day, I would be out of Kaustubh’s sight,” says Shahi, who wants to inspire Indian women to go out, explore and live a life full of adventure. “But we were always in touch through cellphones.” For safety, a car and a driver followed Shahi. Interestingly, whenever she made an unscheduled stop, she was immediately surrounded by women.
“Most women, especially those in rural areas, are worried about their safety,” she says. “So I told them to be bold and venture out in a planned and careful manner, and have fun. There is no need to remain indoors. They gave me best wishes with their warm smiles.”
Kaushiq Kodithodi, who runs the Jellyfish Water Sports Club, at Kozhikode, says, “Both Kaustubh and Shanjali met local youngsters and encouraged them to try kayaking, cycling and other activities. Unfortunately, adventure tourism is yet to become popular in Kerala. But I am sure they will serve as an inspiration for people, especially children.”