orbiting Kathmandu

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If you imagine it as a representation of the fabric of space time, the Kathmandu valley is a lot like a black hole.  A more or less perfect ring of mountains, and a mysterious force inexorably pulling you toward the unimaginably dense (and crowded) core.  Some how l’ve been in this general vicinity for 3 weeks! I don’t especially like it, the city that is — it has goods and services, a maze of unplanned alley ways and narrow streets, hundreds of temples, a tourist quarter packed full of shops all selling the same trinkets scarves and north fake outdoor gear — so it’s been entertaining and useful, I guess l just don’t like cities all that much.

In a (futile) attempt to break the unexplained attraction l undertook a mini tour around the kathmandu valley with two new friends, Wayne and Simon, both of whom are cyclists at home and intrigued with the idea of cycle touring.  To accommodate their various time constraints we proposed to ride the ridge around the city.  Despite being a bustling metropolis, the capital of Nepal gives way rather quickly to rural farmlands and national parks. The mountains which surround it are fairly wild — forested and relatively unpopulated. Our plan was to leave the city headed north west and ride the fire roads, and single-track trails across Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park (which lies to the north of the city) then turn south and continue the orbit, following the crest, till we made it all the way around. Continue reading…

trekking towards mt. Everest

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many thanks to matt for all the lovely photos

Everest bound

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pocket computer update

After a few days of rest and bike repair in the company of our new friend Mads of Himilayan Trails; we are off the bikes(!) and headed towards the tallest mountain in the world.  Our steeds are waiting in the town of Ringmou, which was as close to basecamp as we could reasonably ride them.  We’re the talk (laughing stock?) of the crowded trail; what with my bare feet, and Matt’s hobo-pole (rather than back pack).  Proper update to follow, when I can find a real keyboard to compose on….

Annapurna the wrong way round

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bike touring in Nepal

 

Leery of traveling alone among the highest mountains in the world, l had, once committed to going, invited my friend Matt to join me for some bike touring adventures. An Australian by birth and citizen-of the world by avocation, he is a coastal creature (passionate about surfing, and the water in general) but figured he could handle two months away from the ocean , especially if most of that was spent in Nepal, a condition to which l readily agreed. It’s hard to find someone with a similar travel style/willing to put up with mine.  Matt and l have traveled together before, fat-biking the coast of Baja California, so despite being less enthusiastic  than l about dragging his bike over mountains,  he knew  exactly what sort of absurdity we would be getting into. Continue reading…

Hubris (part 2)

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(bike canyoneering)

Two thousand meters of elevation drop sounds like a dream come true for downhill mtn biking, but not when the trail is so steep and loose and exposed that you can barely walk down parts of it. The first thousand meters or so of drop was scree of mixed sizes, some of which l could ‘ski’ down with both wheels locked up, sliding on the edge of complete loss of control. l was rather excited when l slid my way to a halt at the gradient change l had been slowly approaching, but my misguided enthusiasm quickly gave way to something akin to despair: a lot of it would have been rideable for short sections, but bashing over miles of densely scattered loose rocks the size of your head was just too much effort to sustain. Not to mention that the relatively flat sections were interspersed with switchbacks barely a horse long and 6-inch-wide outward sloping traverses carved into mud and sand. Needless to say l walked, or rather pushed, or rather struggled to keep my bike from barreling off the “trail” and into the abyss. Continue reading…

Zanscar – India bound

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The strangest thing about being in India is not speaking the language.  While English is one of the country’s official languages, the common person’s grasp of it is crude at best – Hindi being the real ‘lingua-franca’ in this decidedly large and polyglot nation. Having spent rather a lot of time in Latin America, the sights/sounds/smells of the poverty and improvisation of the so called ‘developing world’ l find familiar, even comforting.  So while l felt welcomed by the din and squalor of the seething mass of humanity that is New Dehli, l was (and still am put off) by my inability to communicate.

My Spanish language skills honed by years of playing small town 20 questions, wherein the questions were always the same.  Order and phrasing varied regionally and individually, accustoming me to the nuances of what’s going on around me.  Even when people are speaking Portuguese l can understand about half of what they say – and certainly get the gist.  But here l’m continually at a loss, this being my first time in India and indeed out of the Western hemisphere. Continue reading…