Shimla : While training in the mountainous Nuwakot district in central Nepal, these cyclists witnessed the hills shake, the ground rumble and houses collapse as an 8.1 Richter temblor rocked the Himalayan nation on April 25, wreaking havoc and snuffing out more than 8,000 lives.
Since then, these 10-12 intrepid young men and women have been using their mountain biking skills to raise awareness and much needed funds for rehabilitation of the quake victims and restoration of destroyed property. Their initiative, 'Nepal Cyclists Ride to Rescue' (NCRR), has so far raised about $200,000 and they continue to race for more.
"We were training in Nuwakot for our national championship when the earthquake rocked Nepal. We saw all houses, roads, schools and other buildings crumble down to gravel, dust and pieces within a few minutes. Everything got destroyed, just about everything," Ajay Pandit Chettri, a four-time Nepalese mountain biking champion and president of NCRR, told IANS.
"We saw a mother and her child stuck in the rubble of a building. All of us got down from our bikes and rescued the two. That effort took us almost three to four hours as we had to remove bricks, cement, and rocks with our bare hands to take them out. They were later sent to the hospital and saved."
The 27-year-old Chettri, along with four other Nepalese cyclists, recently took part in the MTB Himalaya (motorbiking Himalaya) here. As a generous gesture, the organisers -- Himalayan Adventure Sports and Tourism Promotion Association (HASTPA) -- waived off the entry fees for all five as the riders decided to donate 25 percent of their earnings from the September 27 to October 4 cross country endurance race held in Himachal Pradesh.
The group was earlier focussed on raising funds to buy food, medicines, immediate shelter equipments for 950 houses that got demolished in the quake. But now they plan to rebuild seven schools that fell to the ground in Nuwakot.
"We intend to rebuild seven schools that were destroyed in the quake. We have already raised around $200,000. We race around the world and our friends in the United States and Europe have been generous and have helped us raise the money," Chettri, a two-time MTB Himalaya champion, added.
"We have also tried raising awareness via social media, creating our blog and Facebook pages too. Those who wish to donate can contact us via our NCRR Facebook page or can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org ."
This time around, Chettri took part in Team of Two with Bhuddhi Bahadur Tamang and together they clinched the top prize of Rs.150,000.
"My home was also in Nuwakot and that too got destroyed. My family is still living in temporary shelter. I have four siblings and my parents in the family. My house fell and got damaged beyond repair. Many people are still living in temporary centres there," the 21-year-old Tamang told IANS.
The other three Nepalese cyclists who took part in MTB Himalaya were Narayan Gopal Maharjan, Rajkumar Sreshtha and Laxmi Magar with the latter finishing third in Women's Solo to earn a prize cheque of Rs.30,000.