KUALA LUMPUR: The first time Rajesh Khandekar rode a bicycle around his home in Mumbai, India, he knew he would one day travel great distances on those two wheels.
Khandekar, then 17, made his first cycling expedition, riding 120km between Thane and Vajreshwari in 1990, the same year he learnt to ride a bicycle.
He has picked up the pace ever since, clocking hundreds of kilometres across various destinations in India on his trusty, single gear bicycle.
"Apart from cycling, I also fell in love with camping, hiking, mountaineering and other nature-related activities, and I found myself becoming more passionate about the environment.
"I used my cycling expeditions as a means to reach out to people I meet and educate them about environmental issues, in particular global warming," said the grocery shop owner here yesterday.
He is on a journey across 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region to spread awareness on global warming, covering 21,000km on two wheels.
Khandekar, 42, began from his hometown of Thane, Mumbai, late last November, and cycled through Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand before crossing the border into Malaysia six days ago.
"In these countries, I noticed that people are not doing enough to save the environment. For instance, in Thailand and Vietnam, electricity is wasted regularly, unlike in Cambodia where electricity is only utilised at night.
"I want people to understand the importance of riding bicycles. It is a pollution-free mode of transport and it also keeps you fit. My message to the world is simple - start riding bicycles," he said, adding that he distributed flyer on global warming at each stop he made.
On the major barriers he encountered on his current trip, he said he faced issues with rainy weather, as it rained all year long in some of the countries on his list. "I've never faced problems with people, because everyone I've met is friendly," said Khandekar, who covers between 100km and 300km a day.
He has journeyed 8,682km, and will continue on to Singapore, Indonesia, Australia and hopes to end his journey in New Zealand by September.