Team Esplora takes stock of their Nepalese adventure, supported by Briko

Land of wisdom, land of peace, plains, hills, mountains. Thus quotes one of the central verses of the Nepalese national anthem, composed by the poet Byakul Maila. It is echoed in the thoughts of Marco Ricci and Davide Ciarletta, the two members of Team Esplora who have just returned from a long cycling journey in this mystical eastern country. This voyage among mountainous giants,  earthquake-stricken lands and enlightened individuals cannot be summarized through mere statistical data. Instead, such joyful and complex experiences must be communicated through images and sensations, gestures and epiphanies. As we reached the finish line of the return from this experiential itinerary, fully supported by Briko, Marco and Davide shared the most significant snapshots of these last few weeks, helping us understand the tangible and intangible value of their criss-crossing journey inti the heart of Nepal. We have taken their content and decided to treat it like a thematic gallery, as a stream of consciousness constantly inspired by the five elements that embrace us and the infinite people that surround us.

ENCOUNTERS

“Watching the sun rise a short distance from Thorong La is an unforgettable image. We woke up at 2 in the morning in a camp at 4,800 meters and had to reach a pass at 5,416 meters. We wanted to get there in time for sunrise. For hours we pedaled in the dark at 15 below. We were in the middle of Nepal, under a blanket of stars: we had dreamed of that moment all throughout the months of organization. Now, experiencing it was incredible. Another special moment was coming into sight of the Himalayas; we had come from a couple of weeks of hilly or jungle riding, where everything was green…. All of a sudden, this white giant peaked through. It was our goal, it was an important moment of realization, of awareness, and a crucial junction in the journey.”

“The children in the kindergartens, the Sherpas and the porters, those mythological legends who carry basic necessities to high altitude shelters, were all special encounters. We also explored the spiritual side of it all, thanks to the Tibetan monks: extraordinary figures who convey a state of continuous peace with a simple smile. We were hosted by very poor families, all of whom let us sleep and eat as if we were long-lost friends. In many cases, we were actually the first Westerners they had ever met. We even accompanied one child to the bathroom. He was 2-3 years old, and the youngest of an extremely poor family, who came with us without hesitation. We took him along an outside path, which he usually walked alone, even at night, and assisted him. It sounds like a simple act, a basic exchange of humanity, but for us it was not.”

FEARS

“Going to Nepal is like stepping into another dimension. Everyone lives in a community and goes out of their way to make you feel welcome. This, in fact, washed away all our fears: we knew that no matter what happened, we would find someone willing to help us. Their is a sense of harmony that pervades this country that made us feel safe, risk-free…. Then again, the religious concept of karma is very important in Nepal, essentially discouraging one from committing immoral actions. We were greeted by rituals and blessings, we always left our bikes unlocked, and most importantly, we embraced uncertainty. The only real fear was of earthquakes: there was a calamity at the beginning of the trip that, unfortunately, claimed nearly 200 lives…. In the following days, we always tried to sleep in tents and places that could give us some extra security, but that is something we will carry with us for a long time. “

“That’s not to say there wasn’t fatigue and pain, but coping with them in such a picturesque setting was easier. Our surroundings distracted us, and the locals always managed to understand our needs, giving us hot water, food and beds…. The worst, or best, part of our itinerary was the Annapurna tour. The roads were not paved, in fact, they had been destroyed, and it was very tough to ride both uphill and downhill. There were gale-force winds. Pushing bikes is extremely tiring: after days of pushing, you can’t wait to get back on the saddle.”

RELATIONSHIPS

“When we are on the road we know we have a common purpose. We are well aware that, in the end, discomfort does not affect our ultimate goal…. That being said, being in such close contact means that certain personal quirks and characteristics come to the fore. We decided to welcome and accept them: they certainly allowed us to move our friendship forward. We went deeper in our knowledge of one another, in our relationship. We’re already started planning to go again and have jotted down some ideas for our next trips.”

We feel like we planned this trip together with Briko. It was a gamble for us and for them, and everyone brought something to the table. The technical support, which allowed us to travel warm and dry, was as essential as the human support and closeness, the creation of ad hoc events, and the mutual exchange of opinions and visions. Thanks to Briko, we understood that the Esplora project, in which we have invested significantly in recent years, has real meaning and a concrete future.”

DISSEMINATION

“Creating visual content was a limitation on one hand, but on the other, it helped us overcome fatigue, feel comfortable, and keep our minds on what the ideal pieces were to complete the documentary puzzle. We started with a concept related to the five elements, which along the way turned out to be very apt. Water flowing and giving lifeblood to the earth, the earth creating raw material to create fire, which in turn is fueled by air, all gathered from the immense container of the sky… In Nepal these images are clear and very powerful, and we have tried to translate them into our video-photographic productions.”

“In the coming months, we will be working on a documentary dedicated to this experience. In the meantime, we’ve already started sharing some shots, and we will continue to do so through a  publication, and an exhibition at the Médiathèque in Chamonix, where we will exhibit photos from our travels. We are also organizing a series of talks to tell the story of Nepal. And we want to remind you that our fundraiser for this wonderful country is still open; you can give a helping hand at this link.

Photo credits:

Esplora

Text by

Gianmarco Pacione