22 Nov 2017
5 min read
I was a part of a team of more than 80 cyclists travelling to Sindhuli Gadhi for a tourism promotion campaign. Most of us, if not all, were experienced riders. I had been riding mountain bikes for roughly three years now, but this was my first trip to Sindhuli. I had heard great things about Sindhuli Fort and about the top-notch Sindhuli-Bardibas highway built by the Japanese. So when the opportunity for a visit came up, I had decided to go.
We took a shortcut to catch up with the riders ahead since it was getting pretty dark. The off-road, narrow trail diverged from the main highway, and snaked its way up into the darkness. Getting to the top required us to carry our bikes uphill. This required tremendous effort, and towards the end, we were just frantically pushing our bikes up. The ride, after we reached the top, was thankfully purely downhill all the way to Khurkot. I had come unprepared for the night ride, so I made sure to ride between two well-lit mountain bikes before whizzing downhill.
Now imagine a stream of 10 to 15 riders in the dark with faintly lit mountain bikes, cruising down the highway at top speed, breaching the silence of the highway with merely the whizz of chains and the occasional screech of brake pads. Those 10 minutes of pure downhill bliss till we reached Khurkot is something that I will never forget in my life. And when we finally got to Khurkot, the sense of relief that overcame my body was profound.
Within a few minutes upon our arrival, the mostly quiet town came to life. The local eateries brimmed with riders, fireplaces were lit, beer bottles were popped and snacks ordered. Others found solace in whisky or vodka, but my body desperately cried for a quarter of hot rum. Pushkar Shah, a very popular Nepali world-cyclist had also joined us on the ride. He took out his guitar and madal, and belted out some melodious folk numbers. Everyone came together for the performance and participated by clapping, singing or dancing. There was so much merry-making that even dinner was forgotten. It was a night to be cherished.
We left for Sindhuli Gadhi early the next day. And we knew we were up for a challenge—an uphill climb of nearly 20 kilometres—but we were ready. Although we normally travelled in a large group, we now bunched together into several groups. The most experienced riders went to the head of the packs to lead the rest who trailed behind.
We rode along the Bardibas-Sindhuli Gadhi highway, which featured great curves and lay in the midst of picturesque hilly surroundings. The undulating landscape and the thick forest that we could see while we rode on the highway was a perfect backdrop for the ride. I was surprised though, by the sheer traffic of vehicles that the highway saw, despite being only an alternate route to the Indian border. We swerved past the traffic and stopped every now and then for water, selfies and group photos. I stopped to purchase some junaar—sweet oranges that Sindhuli is renowned for—for my mom.
Balancing two bags of oranges on both sides of my mountain bike, I gradually joined the other riders ahead. We reached the entrance of Sindhuli Gadhi at around noon, after nearly five hours of uphill climb. Faint sounds of Panchey Baja, a traditional Nepali instrument, and drums echoed in the hills, and it kept getting louder as we rode uphill. We found ourselves among other people converging along the same route as us. There were marathon runners, students, politicians and locals, and all of us gathered at a ground where the Sindhuli Gadhi festival was being held.
The Sindhuli Gadhi festival is held every year at Sindhuli Fort to commemorate the victory of the Nepali troops, led by Kinloch in the year 1770 AD, over the East India Company Army. It was the first defeat the British troops suffered in South Asia. Next year completes 250 years of this victory, and we were at Sindhuli to promote the event this year and to ascertain its feasibility. All of us weary riders were welcomed with a filling buffet lunch, which featured lip-smacking local khasi ko masu, veggies and pulao. We then gathered at the viewpoint of the Sindhuli Fort, where a flag hoisting ceremony was conducted by the Nepal Army. The event eventually concluded with some local cultural performances, a group photo and a certificate-distribution event for the riders. After an hour, we lazily cycled back down to Khurkot, and a five-hour bus ride from there brought us back to Kathmandu.
Overall, it was a very well-coordinated trip. The entire fleet of cyclists was led by one lead vehicle in the front and one sweeper vehicle in the back. An ambulance and a mechanic were always on standby. Every now and then, the organisers would come up to check if we had enough water supplies. We were greeted by the locals of the area with garlands and drinks at all major stops, and there were good arrangements for food and accommodation. Out of all the major trips that I have been on so far, the ‘victory ride’ to Sindhuli Gadhi is one that will always remain close to my heart. And I will surely not miss the event next year.