A Bike Ride

Thamel during Dashain

 

It’s Dashain, which is one of the big festivals of the year here, maybe the biggest. The festival is ten days long and the city for the most part completely shuts down. Businesses are closed except for a few stalls here and there.  Most people leave the city to return to their home village and celebrate with their family.  The Kathmandu post reported that on Wednesday 2.5 million people left the city of Kathmandu!   I was reading that workers are supposed to, by law, get the entire holiday off and a one month Dashain bonus equal to their salary.  Wouldn’t that be nice to have around Christmas time! So, what is this holiday all about? According to Wikipedia, the holiday symbolizes the victory of good over evil. On of the important days of the festival, there is a huge animal sacrifice and the meat is distributed to everyone in the family.  I only have a vague idea how it works, hopefully in time I will begin to understand the culture here more and more!  Even though I eat almost entirely vegetarian here, I did eat a little meat to celebrate 😊

Climbing Dragontail Peak around 2011

I’ve done various things throughout my life to get an adrenaline fix.  Mostly it’s been pretty benign, like long distance running, biking, hiking, etc. which gives a nice shot of endorphins at the end and an expansive and happy mood. I also grew up snow skiing and doing water sports, so I played a little in short-term adrenaline rush activities.  In my twenties, my big fix was mountaineering which is essentially a combination of 1. extremely long distance hiking (18+ hour days were not uncommon for me) with a heavy pack, and much of the hike on snow wearing crampons (iron spikes for grip) 2. short bouts of adrenaline activity, in the form of exposed rock or ice climbing, or just plain exposure from being on the side of a mountain and looking down a few thousand feet to the crevasse you will land in if something goes wrong.  I love mountaineering! The last five years for me has been a lot more benign, running a little, biking and doing yoga from time to time. But from time to time I really miss the rush and when I get out and take a long run, I wonder why I haven’t been doing that every day.

Empty Streets of Kathmandu during Dashain

So, all of that is a set up for my first bike ride in Kathmandu.  To start, since it’s Dashain, the roads are virtually deserted, at least comparatively. Most of the time, the roads are completely insane (though not as insane as India) and it’s really amazing to me that anyone survives.  I think the determining factor is that no one can go more than 15 to 20 miles an hour, so everything happens at an extremely slow pace. Anyway, the point is my first ride was on a day where the traffic conditions are as easy as they will ever get in Kathmandu. So, I got on a bike and rode to the main tourist part of Kathmandu – thamel – which is about 6 km from where I live. I grew up biking all of the time and as an adult spent a lot of time commuting on bike in Seattle in all kinds of traffic and weather conditions. Just to say I’m familiar with city bike riding.

a glimpse of a kathmandu intersection

 

Riding in Kathmandu is like ratcheting up the level from beginner intermediate to expert/insane.  Even on this day when there were hardly any cars, it was still super intense for me.  Riding into an intersection is a great rush – there are no stop lights.  Everyone plows into the middle of the intersection, going in any and every direction, and then through some kind of magic eventually everyone gets through.  On a bike you’re completely exposed and at the mercy of everyone else.  Here the bigger vehicles have the greatest right of way. The pedestrians the least.  So you’re on your own. The roads were quite nice otherwise, as the central part of Kathmandu has a fair amount of paved roads and the traffic was super light. It’s really fun to see a city from bike, a completely different experience than riding in a car.  You see everything at a slower pace, you smell the place and take in the activity of the people. The colors are more vivid and no doubt the endorphins are helping make the experience that much better!

video was taken while riding my bike from boudha to thamel

 

I want to take a longer bike ride tomorrow to Nagarkot, which is the local trekking place to Kathmandu.  It is about 26 km away and the closest place to hangout in the foothills and get mountain views. If I’m able to do that, I’ll update this post with some pictures and dialogue!

Some monkeys I saw playing on the way home

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