As a child the place I first dreamed of traveling too was Nepal. Arriving here 20 years later was unreal as I stepped off a 20 hour flight from Canada and into a dream world. Nepal is the home to the highest place on earth, the birth of Buddhism and over 25 million Nepalese people. It is a gorgeous country, with tourism on the rise as people come from around the World to trek through the Himalayans, check out the rich cultural history, raft down rivers and go on jungle safaris. It’s a very diverse country with a lot more to offer then just Mt Everest!
Driving through Kathmandu in the middle of the night up to my hotel perched on the Northern edge of the city was like driving through a warzone as people were wandering everywhere, street fires were blazing and the road looked like it had just been bombed. There’s something about travelling through 3rd world countries which sparks an interest in my head. The chaos, the endless action and the unknowns of these countries keeps life interesting and the best part is the people are real. No obsessions with being someone there not, no hiding behind fancy cars or clothes, just pure souls, people making what they can with whatever they have and doing it with a smile on there face. This is something which never gets old.
Waking up at first light to start the Nepal adventures was like Christmas morning. My travel partner, Yuki Ikeda from Japan, and I headed down for a buffet breakfast then waited for our Nepalese trail guide, Aayman to show up for a ride around the city. Once he arrived we took off up the side of the city to the surrounding hills. It was a normal 3rd world ride with sketchy roads, yappy dogs, downed electrical lines, barb wire fences crossing the path and the odd sight of seeing a cow tied up on a condo patio. Heading up to a viewpoint over the city was pretty average as a foggy smog loomed over the city.
Next up we hit some dusty Nepalese single-track, zipping by an ancient buddhist temple, through a military checkpoint and down some steps through a slummy neighbourhood. Once back into the city it was like a video game trying to maneuver around the traffic consisting of walkers, drivers, motorbikes, more wandering dogs, busses pumping out black plumes of smoke and the odd policeman trying to contain the chaos. Gaps would open up in the traffic which we would have to fully commit to making before it got pinched off. At times the hole would get pinched off and we’d jump up on the sidewalk or skid into the gutter. Sketchier then it sounds and a good way to add some excitement to the normal training routine.
Eventually we hit the tourist central of Kathmandu, the district of Thamel. A network of narrow streets full of Trekking Guides, Cafes, a variety of touristy goods and countless North Face replica stores. We rolled into the Nepalese Singletrack bike shop to fix some bikes and met up with a bunch of the Nepalese riders getting ready for the Yak Attack. It’s pretty cool to see the desire and motivation these guys have to rip there bikes around there Himalayans. There is a deep respect for the Yak Attack and the challenges it has provided its riders in the past. We really can’t wait to get out there and see what it’s all about!
After a couple hours being a tourist in Thamel it was back on the bikes to head up to the hotel for some R&R. Feeling a little zealous I took off up into the mountains for another hour of riding before being turned around at a police gate guarding a national park. From here it was back to the hotel for a shower and to put the feet up to end the first day out in Nepal. I have a feeling 4 weeks here isn’t going to be long enough to fulfill what this stunning country has to offer.
Day 2 was spent riding up to Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park on the northern edge of Kathmandu city. Locals pay 10 cents to enter, tourists pay $ 2.5. That’s normal for 3rd World Countries and alright in my mind. Cars cost 75 cents to enter, motorbikes 15 cents, and mountain bike 7 dollars.. That’s not normal and a perfect example of monkey business. Some things in this world aren’t worth the effort trying to figure out, this is one of them. Anyways, it was a wicked ride as it traversed a terrace at 1800 meters overlooking the city. Unreal were the only words to come to mind. After the traverse I road 15 minutes into the middle of the slums to find the depths of Nepals urban culture, bought some Bananas then headed back to the hotel to spend the rest of the day getting over the last of this jet lag and topping off the energy stores for Stage 1 of the Yak! Over and out, time to roll the dice with some local cuisine..
PS During the race results will be updated here, http://theyakattack.com/live/