Holi Ride – Ride Twelve, Kathmandu

Matt, Ryan, Brandon at our mountain-top tea stop
Matt, Ryan, Brandon at our mountain-top tea stop
Yesterday, six weeks to the day after I bailed from my bike and jacked up my back, I jumped on my new bike (Thanks for shipping it, Mom and Dad!!) and took to the trail again. Of course, it had to be on Holi

Me, "holi'd" up
Me, "holi'd" up
(STREAM OF CONCIOUSNESS) iPhone in waterproof case, check. Camelback full, check. Cycling glasses, new clip-in shoes, pump, cliff bars. Cycling to meet the folks at the Embassy. Watch the road for kids with colored water balloons. Traffic is light on ring road because it’s Saturday. Got to the Embassy unscathed. Matt is there with his ride. Ryan and Brandon show up. Matt has forgotten his helmet so we load my bike onto his ride and get back to my house to get my spare. We bike over to meet the guys at Naryangopal chowk. Where are they? Check my phone and peer through the waterproof case. They are here says their text….oh, over there! No water balloons or color yet. Cars honking, tuk tuks pulling over to drop off and pick up people, the police officers at the chowk ineffectively motioning for traffic to flow around the circle in some fashion no one can intuit. We head north on Bansbari. Shift down, down. push-shift, push-shift. My lungs suck in filtered air through my mask, belabored by the settings I’ve dialed in, but cleaner for the effort. My eyes tear from the diesel fumes of the gravel truck ahead of me. I avoid hitting the bumper as the rear gate asks for “Horn Please” in colorful south asian script. Buddha’s eyes implore me to be careful. Everywhere people are waking up, the older men, hung over from a Friday night of Roxy (local alcohol) and pre-Holi celebration, snooziing no doubt, as the young children wake as though westerners on Christmas morning, all loading their bags with color dye to throw, filling plastic baggies at local pokaris (ponds) or water taps, thinking about the curses they will throw and misbehavior to be done this day, the women going about their work as always, tireless, laborers still. My legs are weak, not having done real biking for weeks. We push onward and upward through town. Pop music blares from a shop to our left, and we pump our arms to the tune, rocking along with the Nepali teens waking up inside, they cheer. Building speed, click-shift, click-shift, higher gears. A pair of taxis can’t figure out how to drive in front of me, blocking the road, crap I lose all my momentum, brake BRAKE! Hill again, back down to the lower gears. Bansbari, buddhanilkantha. We reach the left turn and are ambushed by a team of kids with water balloons. Brandon sees a milky-white bag of water..”NOOO(slowmo)OOOOooooo”…come flying at his face from the left and his sunglasses go flying off his face, knocked them to the gound. I go back for them and rescue them. I avoid getting hit, but the others are not so lucky. They come from the roof, the balconies. It’s not over. He curses, and we move on fast. We’re almost out of the city. More sacks of water, this time one in the love handles. Ouch, and cold. I lead the way up the last of the switch-backs, past the tea shops and store-fronts festooned with Coca-cola signage and red paint. Shift-down, shift-down, slow going, which makes me an easy target. Oh crap, not again. A group of small children ambushes me as I creep past, several water sacks hitting me, including a BLACK one with what appears to be coal inside with the water. THAT HURTS. At least I keep my mouth closed to avoid Typhoid. My sunglasses lens falls out. Good thing I can just pop it in. We’re finally past all civilization, cycling up the switchbacks to Shivapuri. No mask, sunglasses off, I trail by a large margin. Lock out my shocks to give me maximum climbing potential. It’s a beautiful day, real actual fog and not smog covering our ascent. The sun peeks through. Matt circles back to keep me company and test his legs. We enter the park and pay our ticket fee. “Han Solo”, nationality USA has entered the park. We push on up, getting into shady jungle with occasional sunlight, the pavement still underneath our wheels, but increasingly less maintained. Do I really have 27 gears on this bike? I feel like I have only one, at this point as I’m in 1st gear all the time. We cycle past the military outposts, officer’s mess, barracks, as we pass through the military compound. Onward, upward, slowly. Definitely at least a green or maybe blue if this were a ski slope. Finally the pavement gives out, dusty clay dust slipping beneath our tires. We stop for tea at the village off the side of this “foothill”. The “house”, a concrete box, has a shop on top, which we reach by walking over the make-shift wooden bridge. The kid, who speaks a fair bit of english, takes our order for milk tea. He explains he’s seen a yellow and black snake on our intended trail and can show us where it lives if we like. He shows us the “gaja” (Cannabis) growing nearby and explains that they sell it fresh or dried for smoking. We take our tea, beaten rice and curried potatoes. Onward and upward. I fall over, locked in my clips, as I’m about to summit from the trail back to the road. Ugh. We meet a pair of Australian tourists who will be walking the same trail we are. Unlock my shocks. We go off into the jungle single track, rocky and grassy, and still up. Difficult, switchy, rocky climbing. Finally reaching the top. I can shift up again! The majesty of the south asian sub-tropical foothills swell through the mist, sun and shadows of early morning.
The group and kids with Holi colors
The group and kids with Holi colors
We start “30 minutes of heaven” with my seat down…as far down as it will go. Zoomy! Shift to 1-4 and clip in, down slippery rocks, around corners. A stream! Hit it straight and pop up, around the corner and pedal through the mud! Dodge that bamboo. Avoid those rocks! Turn left fast, avoid the 500′ drop-off! Feather my brakes, right brake (rear), right brake to slow me, but avoid fish-tailing so I have to add a little left-brake (front) too. Man, these are like sports car brakes (they are disc as opposed to shoe or whatever). Down, down, down, the grass swishing by my legs, avoid the nettles. Matt takes a souvenir branch in his frame and shakes it off, expertly. Then less than five minutes later I find him, having fish-tailed and flopped, but none the worse for wear. I’m almost to it, my big ENDO. There it is. A silent puja to the pair of rocks that did me in last time. Man, they are big, no wonder I launched. Around the corner and they are but a memory. It’s hard to stand up for so long, my quads are jelly. Finally the split off to either the east gate or the nasty climb. I’m bailing early today. A group of kids with flowers and colors festoons us with both. My cheeks are awash with green, red, a flower in my helmet. I leave the others behind, back down bansbari. I make it home, more balloons and color on me even then. Good ride.




Ed, post ride, Holi'd in 2011
Ed, post ride, Holi'd in 2011