17/04/2019 0 Comments
Biking from Darjeeling to Kathmandu: 2018 Eastern Himalayan Charity Bike Ride
After an exciting and successful bike ride in October 2018, cyclist and Broadleaf supporter Rebecca describes her once in a lifetime experience. Read about her adventure through India and Nepal that she embarked on with co-founder Mike and fellow cyclists Dan and Colin. Broadleaf hosted this bike ride as a fundraiser to raise awareness of our work in Darjeeling. If you're interested in participating in future bike rides, contact us for more information!
“One, two, three… BROADLEAF!” Hands together, our team chanted with excitement as we embarked on our 250 mile mountain bike journey from Darjeeling, India to Kathmandu, Nepal. I started my GPS and we were off, pedaling through the bustling streets of Darjeeling. As we hopped on our rental bikes, we immediately realized that quick reaction times would be key, as we weaved through cars, trains, pedestrians, and cows coming from unpredictable directions or sometimes, in the case of the cows, just sitting in the middle of the road.
Our initial few days in India were spent acclimating ourselves to Darjeeling and the surrounding areas. We met Sanjeeta, Priscilla, and Deana, members of the Broadleaf team, who introduced us to the incredible work that they do in the rural areas and tea farms surrounding Darjeeling. We shared some fabulous meals together, hiked some local trails, and laughed constantly (mostly at Mike, but sometimes with him). We also visited the Sunrise school, one of the sites where Broadleaf has implemented its school based health education initiatives. In order to get to the school, we traversed along small walking paths through tea fields and forests. The hour and a half hike was similar to the trip that most of the children and their parents do to get to and from school every day. The teachers and children organized a full day of activities for us, packed with musical performances, singing, and games. The day was full of excitement and laughter from both children and adults.
Following our incredible visit we spent some time in the city of Darjeeling, meeting up with various friends of Denna and Mike, and getting ready for our long Himalayan bike trek! Thanks toAdventures Unlimited, a local bike and adventure shop, we were equipped with some awesome cross country mountain bikes to take to the Nepal border and we made our way along the bumpy and winding streets of Darjeeling. We soon arrived in the town of Holdercoti, where Mike and Denna taught English their first time living in India. We rested at a homestay and could not have felt more welcome. The home cooked meals were some of the most extravagant and flavorful I had ever tasted, and the company was even better. As I colored and practiced the English language with one of the local children, our hosts told us stories about how Mike and Denna became part of their community. It was enjoyable watching mike catch up with teenagers who had grown up from the small children he and Denna had met while teaching English so many years ago. After a tea factory tour and a ride through gorgeous tea fields we were off to the border to cross into Nepal, sad to leave India, but excited for the next set of adventures.
At the Nepal border we met our bike guide, Rajan, and support vehicle driver, Binoud (booked through Himalayan Single Tracks). For the next 8 days we rode up and down through the mid hills adjacent to the Himalayan mountain range in Nepal. We often stopped at small shops on the side of the road for breaks, chatting with kids in the small villages, or eating a bowl of noodle soup. Fanta became our fuel source, and it happens to be an excellent glucose fix when you are riding your bike all day. One day, after crossing a long suspension bridge over a flowing river, we stopped at a shack on the side of the river, and spent some time eating fried fish (skull and all!), drinking Tuborg beer and playing a game called Carrom (It resembles a combination of pool and air hockey). The trip was full of spontaneous stops like this, which made the experience feel special and authentic. Despite the remote nature of the bike route, we ate well, mostly dal bhat, which usually consists of rice, lentil soup and a veggie and/or meat side mixed with various spices/sauces. The sleeping arrangements were a bit more variable. We slept anywhere from nice hotels to a shared room in a shack at the top of a mountain. However, it didn’t really matter where we slept, as we were always exhausted from a day of riding and were just happy to have beer to drink and a place to rest our heads.
The last day began with a grinding climb through rural fields until we reached the city of Kathmandu, where we once again found ourselves dodging cars, busses and cows. The end of the the trip was bittersweet, but mostly sweet, and filled with delicious food. We left the Himalayas with full bellies, great new friends, and love for a place across the world, so different from our home.