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The Lone Cyclist


Photo: Courtesy Nirwan Moktan


KATHMANDU: Any person who knows how to ride a bicycle will tell you the thrill of having the wind comb through your hair as you whoosh by, or exhilaration one feels as you pedal through a heavy rain when the water droplets almost feel like pin pricks on your face. There is no worry about fuel. You are independent and yet dependent on your own physical and mental stamina to push on. And that is exactly what Nirwan Moktan is doing — cycling on his own from Hong Kong to Nepal via China, Pakistan and India — just for the sheer pleasure of travelling.

Is he trying to set a record? No. Is he supporting some cause? No. Says Moktan on a telephonic interview from Guiding, China, “I feel that this is the right time to travel as I am unmarried and I have no responsibility of a wife and children and I am healthy to go on such trips.

In addition, travelling is a better way to know people and landscapes.” Born to Nepali parents in Hong Kong, 31-year-old Moktan, who is an advertising director for a media firm in Hong Kong, was “never” a keen cyclist. However, he was always interested on taking “a big trip” and felt that now was an ideal time for such a trip.

So, he bought a Trek 520 model cycle and started on his journey on April 1 from Hong Kong. He has already covered a distance of 1,400 km and intends to cover 8,000 km by the end of his journey. At present he is travelling across China through the old Silk Road trading route. From Western China, he is planning to head south into Pakistan via the Karakoram Highway. He will be heading to India and finally will be back in Nepal for good to help his father with his hotel in Pokhara.

“I am travelling through these routes as that’s the shortest legal route. A shorter route however, would be through Tibet but it is illegal to travel alone there, or through Burma, but India-Burma land border is closed,” reveals Moktan.

Undertaking anything alone is challenging and for Moktan communication is difficult while travelling in foreign lands. He says, “I haven’t had a fluent conversation in English in about two weeks now. Majority of my journey is in China but language has been a barrier to communicate, as I don’t speak Mandarin.”

So, “computer, phone and camera have become my travelling partners”.

However, he says the trip is becoming richer in terms of cultural discoveries, landscapes and people. The tour is giving him a chance to meet new people, know their cultures, religions, customs, languages and problems.

He came to know about human sentiments and bonding when he wanted to get rid of his spare notebook and presented it to a young girl who was passing by. After about two minutes, she came back to him with a flower.

“The trip is offering me unforgettable moments. One evening I didn’t reach the town I wanted to and it got dark. I asked a farmer of the ethnic Dong minority if I could camp out in his field. He invited me to his house instead to sleep and gave me a bed, food and local rice wine,” shares Moktan.

Travelling through China has set an impression on Moktan. He feels that China is vast in terms of both landscape and wealth. But there are problems as well. “I’m going from town to town, each with obvious wealth and industry. I see hundreds of small villages where farmers are left behind, where development is far behind. I understand this disparity of wealth to be a reason for growing tension in China. Since this is my first month in China, I’ll have to see more to make deeper observations,” he adds.

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