Fully-loaded Bicycle Touring for Beginners

(bandana = pollution scarf)

We woke up at 6-something AM, finished packing, had a hearty Nepali breakfast courtesy of Nabin and Nabina (his sister), then it was down to business! When I walked outside with my first 2 of 5 heavy packs to attach to the bike, I noticed only one bike was there, and it wasn’t mine. “Where’s my bike?!” I looked down the street and Nabin, Nabina, and Vinod were all riding happily around. “Git back here, Nabin!” With the help of many (including everyone in the neighborhood quietly cheering us on from their balconies) we loaded up our bikes with all of our massive, heavy panniers. I really couldn’t imagine how we were going to pull this off. So much weight, precariously balanced. Cara mounted her bike to be the first crash test dummy, and within moments she was kissing the wall of the nearest apartment building. “I’m Ok!” 16 hugs later we were waving goodbye and cruising away.

I’ve never rode with “clipless” cycling shoes before (the kind that attaches your foot to the pedal), which is kind of an oxymoron because they seem like a damn clip if I’ve ever seen one before. “Oh, you’ll fall a few times, EVERYbody does. [Big smile].” Normally you would topple because you can’t un-clip in time before stopping, or you forget you’re clipped-in and allofasudden you need to stop. But not me! It’s SO much better, so powerful, as you make use of the up-swing in your pedaling. I could geek-on about my hot new ride but damn, I’m officially now a cycling machine.

Today there was a strike/protest in Kathmandu, and while I don’t fully understand exactly what the whole story is I know it was inspired by the untimely deaths of two students, and as a result there was no school for my hosts, protests were happening right in our street, and somewhat selfishly it worked out in our benefit as there was NO traffic in Kathmandu. Again, I’m not sure why this affected there being cars on the road, but we rode out of the bustliest town I’ve ever seen without cars to worry about, only peds in the streets. It was kinda freaky though when we saw a mob attacking an official-looking vehicle, throwing rocks and smashing windows. (The rock throwing was definitely scary, but we rode right through and it wasn’t that kind of angry mob. But we got TF out of there quick!) The crowds thinned out until we were speeding through the urban sprawl, and eventually the urban vanished completely and we were climbing.

Oh, the hills! The miracle of this bike is that there’s always a gear that still feels easy to pedal despite the weight of the rig. It takes time, patience and a little endurance, but soon we were cruising down after our first big ascent and the view completely took me away. Layers of mountains covered in stepped farms extended endlessly, and that’s exactly where we were headed, and where I am now.

If I stopped to take a snapshot even one tenth of the times I was inspired to do so we’d only be halfway as far as we’ve come after our long, full day of pedaling. (One must consider the group when it comes to slowing down the tour.) We probably went about 60km today, which wouldn’t be much if we weren’t climbing mountains, and we have 140 to go until Pokhara, so 2 more days of we don’t have any problems. I really could ramble on and on about today’s ride, what I saw, how I felt, but I won’t. I’m a wordy journalist, and I’m impressed you’ve made it this far. And there’s always tomorrow!

Fast-forward a thousand smiles and Namastes (often with hands pressed together, esp. from the little ones!), hundreds of farms and dogs and tiny houses, also goats and chickens and pigs with their scurrying piglets along steep cliffs, all the while riding along the winding river through the valley between the mountains with the real snow-capped rock giants visible beyond…. I can say with certainty it was the most beautiful day I’ve ever known, and not even in sleep could I dream of such beauty.

We ended up staying at a Water Park Resort in its off-season. Besides the four of us there are only 2 other guests, whom we ate dinner with in the cavernous empty dining room in candlelight with the men’s and women’s changing rooms on either end. The hotel inn-keeper took us on a walk through the park and down to the river, where we walked and talked and waded-in to our freezing knees. It’s just so damn rich. Everyone we meet is just so kind, and gracious, and I’m convinced actually happy. It’s kind of contagious.

My friends have gone to sleep hours ago, and now so will I. Thanks for reading! Namaste!

And in case you’re wondering, I AM thinking about you, and missing you. I have all day to meditate on my loves and loved ones. Thank you again for reading. Good night!


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