Kathmandu Kora 2017
Among the three challenges—50 km, 75 km, and 100 km—I chose the first. Now, never mind that I had never even ridden over 7 km, so I was unsure if I could complete this challenge. But did I complete it or did I not? You will find out eventually.
“Are you ready!” shouted the man.
Dynamic roars came from the 2500 participants of the Kathmandu Kora. Shivers ran down my spine as I felt the immense exuberance radiating from the people around me. Oh dear, I thought, it is about to start. I clenched my hands onto the handles and placed my foot on one of the pedals. I readied myself and waited for the countdown, as if I was an attentive soldier waiting for the general’s cue. As I waited, I could hear the sound of my heartbeat grow louder and louder, beating the reality into me that this was not going to be easy, and reminding me that this was a challenge. Yes, I was nervous, but more than that, I was excited.
“Three! Two! One! Go!”
I pressed down the pedals and strove myself forward. However, I was immediately met with a source of difficulty. It seemed like the joy of cycling had to wait, because it was nearly impossible to cycle properly in this overflowing crowd. Things got worse when we had to cram ourselves into a small alleyway. We were elbow to elbow, back wheel to front wheel. If I was not careful, I could have been drowned in this sea of people. I struggled to keep my balance on the two wheels with as much concentration as if I was on a tightrope, but kept on bumping onto other people’s cycles.
So, after a series of “sorry”s and “excuse me”s to the locals in my way, I finally made it out of the small alleyway out into a wider road. But, I couldn’t be satisfied yet, since it was just the beginning. I still had 49.85 km to go!
The 50 km challenge ride was from Mangal Bazaar to Chobar, Kirtipur, Budhanilkantha, Swayambu, and then finally, Bouddha.
I do not remember the whole route, but I do remember that there were way more uphills and downhills than flat routes. While uphills weren’t my favorite, surprisingly, downhills weren’t easy either. Maybe because my brake wasn’t good enough, but I had to hold my brakes hard, and my arms would hurt from holding them for so long when I was slowly going down. My forearms were the stiffest they have ever been, and the steeper the slope, the harder I pulled my brakes and tensed my arms. Sometimes, I would see other cyclists going down the rocky road smoothly, and I would be left with a bewildered expression. If only I had better control to cycle downhill like them! There were also routes that were really muddy, and we’d have to get off and walk on the side as if we were avoiding quicksand.
When I reached the second water stop, I thought I was half way through. I thought I had done a pretty good job, that is, until reality hit me when I saw a board that said “15 km”. 15 km! It felt like forever since I took off, and only 15 km? Oh, this was definitely challenging.
By the time it was noon, drops of sweat began to drip down my face. The merciless sun was shining brighter than usual, and fatigue hit me all the harder. A break. A break was what I needed most. I stopped by a shop and opened my bottle. Ahhh, nothing better than drinking cold water on a hot sunny day!
As I was cycling, I came across a man, around 20, who told me that my gear was not correct. He also taught me many other things about cycles, and how they work. Interacting with new people and learning new things like this was a new and valuable experience for me personally. Though I went alone, I felt like I had companions. People were super friendly and supportive, and sometimes, we would even have small chats as we cycled. I was never bored.
Finally, after all the struggles of cycling, I arrived in Bouddha. The finish point was in Samata School, Boudha, and it was a lunch spot for us participants. I have never felt so satisfied, as I gobbled down my bara and alu dum after the long ride. It was a prize.
However, it was too soon to celebrate. Why? Well, I didn’t know why, either, until I was told I had to go back to Patan to receive my medal. I was in disbelief. I had to go back all the way to the starting point, not the exact same way, but a shorter route instead. Still, my legs had already given up long ago, and disappointment filled my soul. Luckily, the route back was flat most of the time, but I realized how slow my speed was compared to that morning. I was too drained of energy.
After reaching back to the starting point, I was immediately congratulated by a group of women who were putting on medals on other cyclists.
“Congratulation and well done!” shouted a woman.
This lifted my spirit. Yes, I thought. I did it! I actually did it! I felt a surge of accomplishment pass through me. I felt relieved. Not because I was done with it, but because I did something way out of my comfort zone, and I did it with class!
“Thank you!” I replied.
The whole ride, if I have to say, was a long journey for me. It was definitely a challenge, and though I was dead tired, it was worth it. Can’t wait for KORA 2018!