I'm an inveterate walker, and love nothing so much as a wander in the hills of this country nature has blessed and cursed in equal measure. Walking clears the mind: not so much to work through one's issues as to simply clear the mind of mental furniture, and luxuriate in the sensation of being, in an environment.
I bought the bike to commute, thinking I might venture out on longer trips when the occasion presented itself. But apart from one flying downhill ride from Dhulikhel, I was pretty much just shuttling from home to work, braving the mad micros and bastard buses, smug in the fact that I was only ingesting and not producing smoke, and smugger in the face of petrol queues.
Then the occasion presented itself, and I loaded my bike onto one of two pickups heading to Hetauda, not knowing quite what to expect. It was only when my travelling companions began pointing out what to me were the ubiquitous cattle and walking trails with cries of "Check out that single track!", and trading stories studded with a jargon wholly alien to me (pump track, free ride, bunny hop) that I realised I wasn't just going to be easing along country roads, stopping to admire the scenery every now and again.
Off-road cycling is not for the faint-hearted. Connoisseurs of the sport will take almost any trajectory to get where they want to go, and whether there is a track to follow or not is immaterial (though it might be quite material if you 'biff' or do a 'superman', also known as an 'involuntary dismount'). Of course, if you do feel faint-hearted, you simply walk or lug your bike up and down the impossible bits (to the amusement of village boys turned out to see you do stunts). But once you feel confident enough to look up and away from the ground beneath your feet, you can't help but begin to see the villages, their inhabitants, and their surroundings. In the relative ease of the Chure, mountain and Tarai come together most perfectly.
In the mornings, we beheld the glassy flats of watered fields dotted with farmerfolk looking up with a smile and a remark, as the morning mist cleared across the river. In the evening, as the huge orange disc of the sun sank below the treeline, we wound weary and sated through quiet sal forests. And in the heat of the day? We put the 'resort' into the owner's vision, and resorted to cold beer by the pool.
Nirakar Yakthumba has a vision beyond the celebrity afforded him by 1974AD, one of Nepal's most loved and durable rock bands. It involves transforming a few bighas of land into a resort, complete with rooms, tented camps, a fish farm, piggery and yes, a 'pump track', to attract cyclists keen to explore the countryside around Hetauda. "I just want people to cycle, to get out of the city, to exercise, to have fun," he says. "I want Nepalis to come here for the weekend, with their families." For now, it may well be 'kuires' who will heed his call. But soon, one hopes, the village boys will be compelled to change their tune.