Monday, February 9, 2009

Ski Bum to Mountain Bike Bum

Last winter I was a ski bum working a lucrative job just for the money. This winter I am a mountain bike bum that daily works with orphans to improve their lives. While few of my previous blogs have mentioned mountain biking, the mountain biking here is half of my experience. Unlimited mountains to climb, the steepest slopes I have ever ridden, unbelievable views, and extremely remote villages make Nepal the best mountain bike country in the world (that I have seen so far). Check out the pictures to understand the full experience, but I have highlighted some of my rides and observations in words below:

Women Carrying 50+ pound Loads:
Wherever I go mountain biking, I always see old women with wrinkles all over their face walking up 40 degree slopes in flip flops. They usually have at least 50 pounds of wood on their backs, and their village is two hours uphill. They carry the wood by putting a strap over the top of their head and supporting the entire weight with their neck. I unfortunately have not been able to discretely take a picture.

Men advising me against biking:
On several occasions, I have been stopped by men as I have biked through small villages. They try to tell me through sign language and terrible English that it is IMPOSSIBLE to take a bike past this village, and that I should turn around immediately and go home. I always explain to them that I know what I am doing (yeah right! I usually have no idea what I am getting myself into) and try to bike away before they can physically restrain me. They are just trying to be nice, but Nepalis do not understand the concept of mountain biking. Fortunately, the bike is light enough to throw on my shoulders and carry, and I have had to use this option several times.

Swarmed by little kids:
I have been able to bike to some extremely remote villages on my rides. Sometimes I am not sure if these kids have seen a mountain bike in their life, and they are definitely not used to seeing white people. On one of my rides, I had 10 little kids running after me uphill for ten minutes! They were swarming around me and making it impossible to ride. I almost ran some of them over, but we fortunately all made it away without injuries. Other times kids try to block the road and jump out of the way at the last minute, or if I am stopped they will run up and touch me, my bike, my backpack, and anything else they can get their hands on. These kids have no problem running down a 60 degree slope to get to me. Check out some of the pictures.

Wild Monkeys!
I popped a tube on a downhill descent on a jeep road in the middle of nowhere. When I stopped to fix it, I heard birds and animal noises in the forest all around me. I looked up into the trees, and I saw monkeys jumping from tree to tree! I quickly got out my camera and spent the next 20 minutes running through the woods after the monkeys. I saw them flying through the air dozens of times, but they were just too quick for my camera.

World Peace Pagoda:
My quick ride when I just want some exercise. I bike 10 minutes to the start of a jeep rode, and then climb 1,000 feet in 35 minutes of nonstop pedaling to the World Peace Pagoda. The view is overlooking Phewa Lake at 2,500 feet. Behind Phewa Lake are some rolling hills, and behind that is a range of mountains that peak over 26,000 feet. In front of my eyes I am looking at 23,500 vertical feet of mountain! The downhill home takes less than 10 minutes.

A paved "road" to a jeep road that climbs 2,600 feet in less than 10 miles. I climb up past all of the paragliding launch spots to the best view of the Annapurna Mountain Range. 20 photos later (I take that many photos every time!), I bike down a single track trail back to the lake. The trail is so steep that 1/3 of the time I am carrying my bike on my shoulders and scrambling down! The entry to this single track is in the middle of a very remote village where the villagers always try to prevent me from riding down.

Mountain Bike Mountaineering:
When I am bored and don't want to plan out a ride on a map, I will look at a hill and try to get to the top of it. Summitting usually involves some combination of riding and carrying my bike up and down.

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