14 pedal on hill adventure route

The Telegraph

Kalimpong, Oct. 21: A 14-member international team of cyclists began a 10-day mountain-biking expedition yesterday with a tea-tasting tour of the famous Makaibari garden near Kurseong before pedalling up their way to Darjeeling through the potholed NH55.

After spending their night at the Queen of the Hills, the cyclists again hit the road today on the longest leg of the sub-Himalayan tour before touching base at Peling in Sikkim, which is about 70km from Darjeeling.

By the end of the expedition on October 29, the team will have covered about 450km, taking a circuitous route through Darjeeling, Peling, Yuksam, Borang, Gangtok, Ravangla, Lachung and again back to the Sikkim capital.

The cyclists seem to have thoroughly enjoyed the first day of the ride along NH55.

“It was fantastic. We went down to the tea plantation (Makaibari) and back up to Kurseong (town), which was extremely steep. We saw some interesting sights and the people were very friendly,” said John Fleming from Melbourne in Australia.

Speaking to The Telegraph on the phone from Darjeeling, Fleming said he had been on cycling tours in Laos, Corsica and Spain, and the current ride was the best so far. “It has been a very good ride so far,” agreed 65-year-old Graeme Watkins, also from Melbourne and a veteran of 15 cycling tours across the globe.

Watkins said he was hoping the Sikkim leg of the tour would also be as interesting.

Grace McNally, who is from Washington, said the tour would help promote the adventure sport of mountain-biking in the region.

The cycling is being organised jointly by American national Bob Thompson, who is an ardent promoter of mountain-biking throughout the world, and the Kalimpong-based Help Desk Tourism.

Mountain-biking is yet to be developed as an adventure sport in the region even though experts believe the Darjeeling hills and neighbouring Sikkim with their rugged mountainous terrain are ideal for cycling, which is popular in the west.

Norden Pempa Hishey, a member of Help Desk Tourism, had said the idea behind hosting the expedition was to promote the adventure sport of mountain-biking in the region.


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