THE 30-SOME ATHLETES were all eccentrics in their own right. They came from breweries in the UK, adventure races in Canada, dairy farms in Wales, and cycling schools in East Germany. This ragtag group of internationals were up against the best of the home squad, a national champion, a kid off the streets, and a 16-year-old coca-cola-sipping ladies’ man.
Once the race was over, I got to find out why Aussie Paul Bolla was in Nepal, and why a guy who “doesn’t particularly like bikes” risked his well-being and the contents of his bank account to ride one — for the second time. Turns out, he’s in love with the country, its people, and his extended family — the orphans of Social Development Center and Mitrata Nepal, and a little spunky lady named Nanda.
Because it takes considerably longer to walk one of the world’s toughest races than to ride it on a bicycle, my work here also presents a wandering gaze on Nepal and the Nepalis — a country and people who’ll roast your expectations and serve up milk tea and dal bhat as remedy for anything. But it’s delicious and you’ll love it, and them, and everything else as well.
[Editor’s note: This article is one of Matador’s 2012 Projects. Matador Projects provide individual or select teams of writers, photographers, athletes, artists, musicians, and filmmakers with financial assistance and an exceptional publishing platform for realizing original, documentary-based work.]