article by Tito Tomasi
Thinking about Nepal has always given me goosebumps, and now I’ve been there I get even more excited when I think about this amazing country. I was buzzing on the plane to Katmandou, so happy to finally get the chance to visit Nepal. But as soon as we landed I knew I had to stop the daydreaming and instantly get into it. Nepal was experiencing a serious fuel crisis and the place was chaos. Hundreds of people had spent days waiting for their luggage without any information. Thankfully we were I was much luckier and after two hours I saw my red bike case appear. The trip was on!
I joined the crew, Antonin and Sophie, in town. We spent a couple of days working out our plan and organizing the mission. The idea was to start at the Langtang National Park. I chose the Park because it was one of the worst hit areas in April‘s earthquake. But we needed to put together a crew who could get us there. In the end we found Sheer and Lila to act as guide and porter – even though they admitted they’d never actually been there before!
We made the right choice though. Lila spent the next six hours on the roof of an over-crowded bus looking after all our kit. The connection never came and we ended hiring a jeep to finally reach the Langtang National Park and the end of the road.
From there it was time to start walking. The terrain was tough and after a few hours of hiking the steep stairs, passing Buddhist stupas and fields, we finally reached the first village.
The farmers were pretty happy to see tourists coming back to their village, especially as the road, which had been destroyed in the earthquake, used to take hikers away on a different route.
Our guides asked everyone we met if we’d be able to find a place to sleep and eat further along our route. We got mixed responses – the whole area was still being rebuilt after the earthquake – so we couldn’t do a lot of planning. The only thing we could do was trust each other, stay flexible and enjoy the sense of adventure that was growing stronger by the day.
For the next few days we continued through the valley, meeting people, putting on small painting workshops for kids and learning about their culture. Buddhism fascinates me so I was more than happy to be able to discuss their philosophy and rituals. But unfortunately the earthquake had left nothing more than rubble where there had previously been stupas and temples – a sad situation. Even more seriously, houses and schools had been destroyed leaving many people in temporary accommodation. Through all of these meetings and the more miles we covered, my desire to help the people of Nepal was growing. It’s something that had been on my mind for a while, but now a clear idea was starting to form.
By now the trails were changing every day and I was loving the riding. In fact, we were all loving it. The crew were enjoying the challenge of filming in different environments and working out how to tell the story of our journey. Even the porters got a kick out of seeing me riding their trails. And with the religious symbols like stupas, temples and prayer flags all around us it was sometimes harder trying to decide what to leave out. Everywhere we looked we found beautiful pieces of Hindu or Buddhist culture that brought our film and our experience to life.
After six days we were hiking and riding above 3500 meters, fighting the cold and a lack of oxygen. We were now in rocky terrain with a fantastic view of the glaciers in the distance. And as we passed the high altitude refugio we met other hikers and shared our mountain stories around a cup of Tibetan tea. Every afternoon, as the sun set, the sky looked like it was on fire with the glaciers reflecting its pinks and oranges. We learnt about the peaks and ranges around us, taking in the Annapurnas, the Ganesh Himal, Manaslu and Langtang. But also, not far away, was the Tibetan border and mountain ranges with giants of ice and rock over 7500 meters high.
Eventually we crossed the highest pass of the trek, and then started the long downhill to Dunche in the valley. Now this trail, across the ridge and down into the forest, was serious fun! But it also meant a lot of waiting around for the hikers to catch up… Finally we were back in civilization and as cars and scooters buzzed around us, it hit home just how peaceful the last eight days in the mountains had been. However, travel is about embracing all aspects of a country, so that night we celebrated the trek and our time together in full.
Despite our adventures I hadn’t forgotten my aim to help the Langtang people. Ideas had been forming as I rode and the project was becoming real. This is how « Vive La Vie » was born: a small, focused humanitarian project with its first goal being to help the people of this region in Nepal.
While I sat next to my bike on the top of the bus back to Katmandou, I thought back over the whole adventure. I remembered every moment of our trip and the incredible lessons we learned from the people we met. Their peaceful state of mind and their philosophy, which is a model for the way I want to live. But also the great time I had on the bike, riding the awesome trails through breath-taking landscapes. I only experienced a tiny piece of Nepal, and there is so much more to see and ride, but it will stay with me forever. I know I’ll be back there soon.
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