Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Biking the Valley

Here are some snippets from a bike ride a couple of weeks ago. (Up and along the northern rim of the Kathmandu Valley.)

View from halfway up

Today was a pinch-myself day.

A 7:10 wakeup.

I stock my bag with chocolate covered lemon peel (yum) and pesto/cheese/tomato sandwiches (double yum) and drag myself out the door. Drag is an exaggeration. I feel remarkably awake for pre-8 on a Saturday.

I meet Jarrod (American neighbor) and Amra (friendly Australian) at Epic Bikes, the bike shop around the corner from my house.

We zoom through town to meet the others. Through the pollution, we zig zag past taxis and cows and children in the streets, past papaya hawkers and ladies on their way to the temple.

We meet Rob (another friendly Australian) and two Austrians (Ulie "like Julie without the J" and her scrawny/fit fiance, Flo). We say our hellos (I'd met everyone but the Austrians before) and zoom off towards the road out of town.

The pollution and traffic thins. Lone buses and motorbikes pass every few minutes. For the first time in Kathmandu I breath air that is crisp, fall-like.

The road tilts upwards.

Early view from the road

The climb is steady but manageable.

30 minutes into the ride, views emerges on either side. We're balancing on a ridge - on either side of us, valleys down below - GREEN, GREEN, GREEN. All green, rice paddies. Pea-sized brown dots (homes) punctuate the green.

Now the road is mostly ours. Every few minutes a bus passes. Glazed faces, perturbed chickens and sleeping babies press up against the windows. A pack of men sit on the roof. They shout to us, "Helloooo!" "Good biking!!"

The buses whoosh past us, leaving a puff of sooty smoke in our face. The horn - a 3-second ear-deafening jingle - plays before it turns the next corner.

We pass moss-covered walls, kilometers of stepped rice paddies and the occasional cluster of mud houses. Groups of bouncy, snotty-nosed, half-naked children outside most settlements. Playing jump rope in the street. Untangling a kite rope. (Lots of kites up here.) Braiding each other's hair. When they see us coming, they jump, scream, temples pop out of their faces, snot pours out of their noses.

"NAMASTEE NAMASTE NAMASTE NAMASTE" chime the little voices.

Giggle, giggle, giggle, giggle.

A favorite game.

At the top, we dance.

And eat...

And pose...

And envy the kite kid....

Then we zoom down.

I sleep like a bug that night.

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