Somen Debnath has met prime ministers, presidents and dozens of ambassadors during his travels – and on Waiheke he was able to be introduced to local board chair Cath Handley.Photo Sophie Boladeras

Somen Debnath began travelling the world long before Covid-19 hit. He’s visited 157 countries by bike over the past 16 years, spreading awareness around HIV/Aids and promoting a message of peace, understanding and compassion. Sophie Boladeras sits down with him to learn about his inspirations, and the first time he learnt to ride a bike. 

“I feel like now, if someone comes to me with a gun, I will just smile and offer them my money and important documents,” Somen Debnath tells me as we sit outside Fenice in Oneroa.

“Fear comes when it has not happened to you.”

A lot has happened for Somen over the past 16 years during which he has visited 157 countries by bike. The HIV/Aids awareness activist left home in India with just $17. He says he would never have left if he believed he had to have a lot of money to travel. 

Since bidding his family, who live near Calcutta, goodbye, he’s been attacked by skinheads, kidnapped by the Taliban and robbed around 20 times. He’s also changed more than 280 tyres, gone through eight bikes and experienced thousands of kind gestures – offers of shelter, food, bikes and friendship. •Sophie Boladeras

Full story in this week’s Gulf News…. Out Now!!!

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