By LB THAPA FOR ONTOTHEROAD.COM
The recent fuel crisis, due to Indian embargo against Nepal, made many Nepali people to think about an alternative source of transport. In such a period of crisis, the convenient means of transport can be bicycles.
Doctors say regular cycling keeps people physically healthy and mentally alert. Cycling does have uncountable health benefits. This is the reason why nowadays more people have drawn towards cycling than ever before. The health benefits of the cycling are many and unbelievable.
The other day Cycling Dharan had organized a fortnight cycling tour from Dharan to Sikkim. To participate in the tour, many professional cyclists from different parts of the country had flocked in Dharan. The special attraction of the tour was Pushkar Shah, the only Nepali cyclist who has paddled over 120 countries. Today Pushkar Shah has attained a tall stature at home and abroad.
There were 16 cyclists in the team. Tirtha Awasthi, Jitendraman Shakya and Lok Thapa from Pokhara, Vijaya Ratna Shakya and Nischal Manandhar from Kathmandu, Sucheta Shakya from Kapilbastu, Birendra Shrestha from Gorkha, Pukar Thapa and Rajesh from Butwal, Ek Raj Adhikari and Gaushal Mahat from Itahari and Sujan Chaudhari, Rajesh Shakya, Pramod Shakya, Sanjana Chhetri and Krishna KC from Dharan.
The three senior Pokhareli cyclists Tirtha Awasthy, Jitendraman Shakya and Lok Thapa had left Pokhara on 18th March 2016 to Dharan. They were seen off by the members of Kaski District Cycling Association (KDCA) and Pokhara Tourism Board (PTB). Sucheta Shakya, who hailed from Taulihawa, Kapilbastu, was the only female cyclist in the squad.
A small press conference was held in Dharan, shortly before leaving for the cross border cycling. The first destination was Darjeeling. It was the first experience for all of the cyclists to paddling to India. The journey to Darjeeling had several steep uphill and downhill, despite those geographical challenges, Nepali cyclists paddled hard and finally they entered Darjeeling safely.
“Reaching to Darjeeling was more like dream come true for us. We were very happy to see those majestic hills around us. We realized that despite the years of alienation from Nepal, the people and their cultural practices of Darjeeling have not been much different than back at home. Tea gardens of Darjeeling were awesome indeed.
On top of that, I felt proud of our cycling team. We reached there as a strong cycling team, representing Nepal. In fact many cyclists in the team had no previous acquaintance, but the spirit of nationalism had cemented our love for each other. Meanwhile, riding our cycles across the streets of Darjeeling was a unique experience.
Every single person in the town welcomed us with broad smiles on their faces. Their smiles and acceptance was more than a trophy for us” said Tirtha Awasthy, who is also the president of Nepal Voluntary Blood Donors’ Society, Kaski.
“When I had received an invitation from Cycling Dharan for a tour to Siliguri, I immediately accepted the invitation, without giving a second thought. I did not want to let this opportunity go from my hand. And I was right. Throughout the way we had lots of fun and at the same time we learnt many things from the tour.
My special achievement from this tour is that I had the opportunity to ride alongside the veteran cyclist Pushkar Shah” said Jitendraman Shakya. Mr.Shakya is the vice president of Nepal Voluntary Blood Donors’ Society, Kaski and former president of Cycle City Pokhara.
“Though I have been cycling for the last four years, I had never crossed national frontiers with my bicycle. This time I had the opportunity to go as far as Darjeeling and Sikkim. When my two close friends did also acknowledge for the participation, I had no reason to say no” said Lok Thapa, an experienced cyclist of Pokhara.
In the meantime, quite recently he has achieved a new feat of success by successfully touring to Barpak, Gorkha. After spending a week in Barpak, Gorkha, he has returned to Pokhara. Mr. Thapa had been to Barpark on his bicycle.
“I had the opportunity to see Barpak, I mean the real Barpak. Before I visited Barpak, I had seen the village on television and pictures only. However, after having reached there, I was thoroughly shocked. The real victims of the village have yet not received any reliefs from the government.
The presence of the government in Barpak was almost negligible. More people of Barpark have received aide from individuals or some sorts of organizations, but they have received almost nothing from the government. It can be understood that how deep the roots of corruption has spread in Nepali political system” lamented Mr.Thapa.
Tirtha Awasthi is a popular name among the Pokhara cycling fraternity. His achievements in the cycling have put him in the frontline. He is a solo cyclist. Unless it is requested, he prefers to ride alone. He had already toured Mechi to Mahakali twice. When asked his recent cycling experience to Sikkim, he did not look much excited as I expected.
“If you ask me about the tour then it was really wonderful. We got opportunity to meet with new cyclists who were from different cities of the country. For this I am obliged to the organizer. With every paddle a new vista of nature unfolded before our eyes and that was a heavenly experience. And, how I can miss the opportunity to cycle alongside the legendary cyclist Pushkar Shah! I am the great devotee of Pushkar Dai. Yes, I don’t use the word fan. I think ‘a fan’ is a very cheap word to express my love and respect for Pushkar Dai.
Paddling alongside Pushkar Dai was an unforgettable moment of my life. However, the management of Cycling Dharan was awful. They reneged on the words they had made right before the tour. For instance, in Darjeeling we were not put on a hotel or lodge. It was a Dharmalsala. We had no experience of sleeping in that condition.
All the clothes were dirty and they were reeking hard. On top, bloody bucks were biting us whole night. The next morning all of us looked sick. When we complained about the poor management with the organizer, they paid no heed. Their attitude was extremely selfish. We have taken a vow never to join any program which is conducted by Cycling Dharan” Tirtha Awasthy vented his rage.
Vijaya Ratna Shakya, a cyclist
from Kathmandu was also not happy with the organizer.
“I was shocked at seeing such a mean behavior of the organizer. They even stopped us from taking photographs from our mobiles. This was ridiculous. Their behavior and attitude were tyrannical. I had never gone through such an awful experience in my life before. I don’t know about other cyclists but I will never attend any program organized by Cycling Dharan” said Vijaya Ratna Shakya.
Pukar Thapa was yet another cyclist from Butwal. He was also not happy with the organizer. “It was my first cross border cycling experience. I want to give my sincere thanks to Cycling Dharan for organizing cross border cycling. This cycling expedition could provide us an opportunity to make such a wonderful tour.
However, as far as management is concerned, it was extremely poor. In the name of facility there was nothing at all. Even the organizer never tried to know whether we ate or not. I think Cycling Dharan must improve their behavior. If not then that day is not far when they will find not a single participant to join their programme”.
“There were several co-sponsors to support the cycling tour to India. Cycling Dharan had taken money from them. So, I am sure they had collected enough money to meet the expenditure for the cycling tour to India.
However, Cycling Dharan had also taken Rs.5000 from each participant. It seems that the main purpose of Cycling Dharan, by organizing the cycling tour to India, was only to keep the profit into their pockets…at least their activities have proved their intention. I may be wrong but how the rest of the group can be wrong at the same time. You cannot find a single participant who is happy with the organizer” criticized Tirtha Awasthy.
MEETING WITH PUSHKAR SHAH, A GREAT MOMENT FOR THE CYCLISTS
When all the cyclists had started the tour from Dharan, they were curious to meet Pushkar Shah, a legendry cyclist of Nepal. Today, Pushkar Shah has become larger than life. Due to his achievements, his name has become synonymous with cycling. Every single participant wanted to meet Pushkar Shah, because many of them had never met Pushkar Shah before.
Perhaps Tirtha Awasthy was the only cyclist from Pokhara who had more intimacy with Pushkar Shah. While speaking with Food & Wine, Tirtha Awasthy said “Had I not been inspired by Pushkar Shah, I could never have enough courage to make Mechi to Mahakali tour. He was the driving force behind me”.
Mr.Awasthy had dedicated his first Mechi to Mahakali tour to Pushkar Shah. Encouraged by the first success, Mr.Awasthy had undertaken the second Mechi to Mahakali tour in 2015. To express his love and respect to Pushkar Shah, Mr. Awasthy has made a tattoo of Pushkar’s autograph in his foreleg.
All the cyclists’ happiness knew no bound when they met Pushkar Shah at Singtam near Sikkim. Meeting with Pushkar Shah was like dream come true for all the cyclists. After meeting with Pushkar Shah, all the cyclists forgot the exhaustion and fatigue they had after days of regular cycling.
Pushkar Shah’s kind words worked like tonic for the cyclists. While staying in Sikkim, Sikkim Travel Agents Association of Sikkim (TAAS) had welcomed the cyclists. The cyclists did also receive a similar type of warm welcome in Gangtok.
The cycling team left Gangtok on 26 March 2016 for Siliguri, 120km away from Gangtok. All the cyclists vociferously said that cycling from Siliguri to Gangtok was awesome. Good quality road did make cycling lot more comfortable and much easier. The people on the road did also cheer the cyclists with their open hearts. The cyclists stayed in Siliguri for one day and the next morning they left for Kakadbhitta, 70km away from Siliguri.
Throughout the cycling tour Ramesh Chandra Chhetri from Butwal entertained the cyclists by showing his stunt on bicycle. He was the only unicyclist in the team.
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