As a kid, Ravi Kishore Mallapragada used to climb small hills around his home in Visakhapatnam. This hobby only grew bigger with the passage of time and recently, this 61-year-old climbed Gilman’s Point in Kilimanjaro, the highest single free-standing mountain above sea level in the world. He was accompanied by his 57-year-old wife Sowdamini.
“Visakhapatnam has several mountains and hills. I was around six when I first climbed a hill. From then, whenever any friends or family members visited my place, I used to take them to Dolphin’s nose and other nearby hills. Even after moving to Saudi Arabia for work, I make use of the weekends to travel around the dunes and engage in adventure sports,” says the mathematics professor of Yanbu Industrial College, Saudi Arabia.
Sowdamini, on the other hand, was bit by the travel bug after her marriage to Ravi. “Even now, I am scared of certain adventures but my husband pushes me into it and I end up enjoying every bit of it,” says Sowdamini, an elementary teacher at a government school in Visakhapatnam.
Together, the couple has travelled to several countries including Jordan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Japan, UAE, Egypt, Singapore, Thailand and Cambodia. They adore performing adventure sports like skydiving, bungee jumping, scuba diving, paragliding, hot air balloon ride and submarine ride.
To climb a mountain & beyond
“In 2018, I began thinking of what to do after retirement. This was when I stumbled upon a YouTube video of a vlogger from Andhra Pradesh who shared his experience of climbing Mount Everest. The vlogger mentioned that if you eat and sleep well during the trek, it is an easy process,” reminisces Ravi.
But the professor knew that it wouldn’t be so simple given his age. He, along with his wife, started taking trekking classes at Rock Training Institute, Andhra Pradesh. He heard from some of the institute members that Kilimanjaro is tougher to climb than Mount Everest. If that can be achieved, the latter wouldn’t be a challenge at all.
Finally in 2020, when Ravi decided to go ahead with the Kilimanjaro trek, the pandemic hit. He was stuck in Saudi Arabia for the next two years. In mid-2022, he landed back in his homeland and prepared for the trek.
“I didn’t want my wife to accompany me on the climb,” he says, adding, “I was concerned about her health but she insisted on making the trip.”
But it was his wife’s encouragement that pushed him to complete the trek. “Her willpower took me to the top,” says the proud husband.
That being said, while the team took 6-7 hours to reach Gilman’s peak, the couple completed it in 11 hours. “While everyone was on cloud nine and was engaged in photo and videography we could hardly breathe,” remembers Sowdamini. “But despite the extreme mountain sickness including vomiting, headache and losing our appetite, we made it.”
According to the data from the Rock Climbing Institute, Sowdamini is the first woman from Andhra to reach the peak at the age of 57 and Ravi is the second man from the state to achieve this feat at 61. The couple couldn’t be prouder.
However, the duo dropped the idea to go ahead with the Mount Everest plan. “You might have heard everyone saying ‘get out of your comfort zone.’ But we would suggest not doing it if you are post 50 and if physical ailments are bothering you. Never put your life at stake to achieve something that’s beyond your body’s capacity,” Ravi advises.
Having said these, the travel freaks have no plans to retire from their favourite common interest. “We will keep on exploring more places and take part in easy treks. Our upcoming destinations are Gomukh and Badrinath. Zip lining and bungee jumping in Nepal are also on our bucket list,” shares Ravi in excitement.
He also says that travelling has only provided them with fond memories. Our most treasured trip was to Jordan. The people of that country were too kind and well-mannered. “We happened to chit-chat with a tea shop owner there and when he realised we had come from India to visit their country, he even offered us free chai. The adventure activities in the country were also too good,” gushes Ravi.
The duo’s inspiration to travel, they say, came from watching people use their hard-earned money for their dream vacations. “I have read the story of a tea-seller couple from Kerala who visited 26 countries using the income from their modest shop. That’s what we call passion,” he adds.
For those who don’t find time for their hobbies the couple believes that those people “don’t know what to do in life”.
Ravi adds, “Spare some time for your interests which will reward you with nothing but happiness. We all live for that feeling, right?”
We couldn’t agree more.
Edited by Yoshita Rao
All photo credits: Ravi Kishore Mallapragada