Longest journey by bicycle in a single country

Abdur Rehman Palwa’s Guinness attempt at cycling through Pakistan revealed to him the extraordinary hospitality of his people

Palwa in Nowshera city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Around 170 days and 20,000 kilometres (kms) later, Pakistani cyclist Abdur Rehman Palwa is pedalling his way towards Guinness World Record of the longest journey by bicycle in a single country.

“I have already broken the previous Guinness World Record of 15,222 kms claimed by India’s Santosh Holi and will submit my record after completing the journey at the end of April” Abdur Rehman Palwa told Gulf News in an interview.

 When I share the updates online with the name of the city I would be soon arriving in, the people are so excited that they invite me to have homely food and offer comfortable stay at their home.”

 – Abdur Rehman Palwa | Cyclist 

The record is unofficial at the moment as Palwa would submit his cycling data to Guinness for verification to make this new record official. “You have to send the required evidence to prove you broke a record which is why I am recording my progress with bicycle activity tracking app and GPS,” said Palwa.

WPK-180420 Abdur Rehman being greeted in Sindh Many residents turned up to greet Palwa in Sindh.

The 30-year-old cyclist turned his passion of travelling on bicycle across Pakistan into a mission as he set his eyes on making it to the Guinness Book of World Records.

He kicked off the record-breaking journey on lightweight bike, a Cronus Belgium 510, from his home town Lahore on October 25, 2017. “I have nearly covered 20,414 km in 173 days and today (April 18, 2018) I am in Bahawalpur,” he said.

WPK-180420 Abdur Rehman in Gilgit Baltistan Palwa in in SharoteThingi in northern Gilgit Baltistan region.

Cycling around the country over the last few months, Palwa has cherished the hospitality of hundreds of newfound fans, friends and followers on social media. He regularly updates cycling progress on social media, especially the photos alongside city signboards which captivated the people.

“When I share the updates online with the name of the city I would be soon arriving in, the people are so excited that they invite me to have homely food and offer comfortable stay at their home.”

WPK-180420 Palwa at Taunsa barrage Palwa at Taunsa Barrage on the River Indus.

Such was the outpouring of love from his countrypeople that during 170 days of the journey, he stayed at only 12 hotels as people insisted he spend time with them.

Rehmat Ullah Khan, a resident from Bannu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said, “It takes an amazing amount of physical and mental strength to continuously cycle around the whole country. Abdur Rehman is simply an inspirational for all young people.”

WPK-180420 Palwa in Cholistan Palwa in Cholistan in Punjab.

Such encouraging words add vigour to Palwa’s solo journey. “The support from the people is amazing. Everywhere I go, they tell me I am an inspiration for them. This is just overwhelming,” he said.

He has cycled through all the regions of Pakistan – from the mountainous northern region of Gilgit Baltistan to rugged Balochistan, from lush cities of Punjab to the southern province of Sindh.

Discussing the challenges along the way, he explained that “each region brought different challenges including extreme climates but I quickly adjusted to it.”

Palwa receiving certificate of excellence from Gilgit Administration Palwa receiving certificate of excellence from Gilgit Administration.

Initially it seemed difficult to cross 15,000-feet high Deosai plains, known as the highest plateau in the world, but his self-motivation kept him going. Palwa has already broken a national record on his way as he became the first Pakistani to cycle across Deosai Planes on November 12. Abdur Rehman has been awarded a certificate of excellence for promoting peace and harmony by Deputy Commissioner and District Magistrate Gilgit as well as several other accolades.

He recalled that at some places, officials and travellers offered him to cross rough terrain on a bike or car. “But I politely refused as I have to stick to the rules defined by Guinness to set the world record.”

Transforming perceptions

WPK-180420 Palwa cyclist

The journey has also transformed his perception about Pakistan’s remote regions which are either overlooked or misrepresented by the media. When Abdur Rehman was cycling through the remote regions of Balochistan in south-western Pakistan, he had the typical security concern in mind but his experience there altered his perception. “The majestic rocky mountains, beautiful beaches, and especially the warmth and hospitality of the people of Balochistan completely changed my view. You have to be there to experience it,” Palwa said.

He was particularly impressed by a small town Dureji in Lasbela District at Balochistan. “This town known as the ‘Golden city of Balochistan’ is well-equipped with many facilities such as proper roads, library, school and college, NADRA office, Post office, fire brigade, hospital, 24 hours electricity, TV and internet, parks with fountains as well as two helipads” he said in awe. In Balochistan, he cycled nearly 5550 km in 40 days.

WPK-180420 Palwa in Tando soomro village

Travelling through the province of Sindh, he made a stop at Tando Soomro village, located in the district of Tando Allahyar district, which left him amazed. He described this village as “a model village where the residents enjoy all the basic amenities of city life while living in countryside.” The governance model of the village is an example for both the local government and people of Pakistan, he said. The village has a population of 8,000 including Hindus and Muslims.

WPK-180420 Palwa in Tando soomro village2

The development level in this village particularly stands out from the rest of the rural areas as the residents raise money on their own for annual budget to manage their affairs. “Last year, they generated a budget of Rs10.25 million for public services including waste disposal system, running water, school, a hospital and playground.” Palwa said he was surprised to see qualified teachers and proper computer labs at the school.

WPK-180420 Palwa's recent photo from Bahawalpur

“So far I have had interesting and enlightening experiences especially from remote regions of the country. I definitely encourage people to travel more and experience the beauty of different regions of Pakistan.”


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