When Roei Sadan told me of his plan to cycle around the world for the second time, I thought he was crazy. In a tour de force of epic proportions, he had already clocked 66,000 kilometers, in 42 countries across 6 continents. He cycled over mountains, glaciers and deserts; was mugged in Mexico, hit by cars (in California and Bolivia), and fell terribly sick in desolate Alaska. The four-and-a-half year journey made him the first Israeli to have gone around the world on a bicycle, - aptly named Emuna (faith in Hebrew). But nothing could prepare him for The Fall.
Two years ago, while he was climbing down the Stok Kangri peak in India, well-known amongst the climbing community for its treacherous descent, Sadan slipped and fell 500 metres in to a gorge. Though the Indian Air Force came to his rescue within minutes, the accident left him in a coma for three months. It took him two years of intense rehabilitation to start walking again. He returned to India last month and not only did he visit the site of the accident, he also cycled across the frozen Zanskar river!
Q: What made you decide to come back to India?
Roei Sadan: Before going on my world tour I wanted to make a thank-you trip to India. It is because of the Indian people and the Indian Air Force that I’m am still alive.
This is my third time in this country. Everything started here for me. I did a couple of extreme treks in India including Darcha Lamayuru in Sikkim. After a year, I went to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling for a three-month course. It was around this time that the idea of being the first Israeli to cycle around the world crept in to my head. I never cycled before that. Even fixing a flat tire was a challenge to me then.
A few months ago I realized I could get back to cycling. My aim is to cycle around the world again, but this time with a message. Just the fact that I’m talking to you right now is a miracle in itself.
Q: What inspired you to go on this journey all over again, especially after the accident?
Roei Sadan: When I was on a wheelchair, people gave me all kinds of advice, but I always knew I had to come back to ‘Faith’ again.
Q: You got mugged in Mexico at gunpoint and you got hit by a car twice! Tell me about some other challenging experiences during your first world tour.
Roei Sadan: I crossed a 1000 km stretch of desert in Uzbekistan all alone. In South of Alaska I saw more bears than people. I lost 15kgs in ten days! Even the road to Laguna in Bolivia was tough because it’s at a very high altitude. There is no food or water available on the way. You have to carry everything. My bag weighed 100 kgs.
Q: What were some of the thoughts that would cross your mind while you were cycling alone in unknown places where everything was new and strange?
Roei Sadan: Everyday was meditation. The moment my mind would get muddled up, I would think of why I was there, doing what I was doing. I was alone but I felt the urge to finish something.
Q: What are some of the other regions that you have visited in India and which are the ones on your wishlist?
Roei Sadan: I have been to Sikkim, Varanasi, Kolkata, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Goa, Andamans and some parts of South India. Every time I explore different places but I still feel like I’ve not seen enough. There is so much that this country has to offer. Yaha sab kuch milega. Next, I want to visit the Siachen Glacier and meet the Indian Army there.
Q: After witnessing so many cultures first-hand, do you feel like you have a deeper understanding of the spirit that binds all of us in spite of our differences?
Roei Sadan: For me the most exciting part of traveling around the world was my interaction with people. Traveling is not just about deserts, glaciers, mountains and seas. I realized people have the same questions about life everywhere. For example wherever I went, most women asked me about when I was going to get married and most men asked me about how many women I had been with (laughs). People helped me. With people supporting you in whatever way they can, nothing is impossible.
Q: How many times did you change your bicycle during the entire trip?
Roei Sadan: I used the same bicycle for the whole journey. The name of my bicycle is Faith and you don’t change your faith. I made sure I bought the best bicycle available.
Q: Tell me a little about your documentary. When will it be released?
Roei Sadan: It will be out sometime in April. The main message of the documentary is that in life one needs to face their fears. Who could have imagined that a man could survive a 500 meter fall? But I did. The real challenge is in your head.
Q: When will you start your second trip around the world?
Roei Sadan: This summer and I will start with North America. It’s going to be way more challenging than my first trip because the world has changed so much in the past few years. People are glued to their phones all the time. Everything has to be posted on social media. Every time I experience something unique, I will have to think about taking a selfie now!
On being asked if he was planning to climb the Everest, Roei vigorously shook his head, ‘No, no no!’ he said. ‘I have no plans of becoming a mountaineer. But if there is one mountain I’d like to climb again, it is the Stok Kangri. I am going to stay loyal to my bicycle and inspire people, especially who are disabled, to overcome challenges. My aim is to make people stronger and remind them to work on it every day.’
Even through a computer screen, his energy was infectious. All I can say about the man is that he is a force of nature.
Here are some of Roei's pictures from his instagram. Follow him @roeisadan for more updates