FAUSTO DE POI
FROM SOSPIROLO (BL) TO NEPAL: 10,000 KM BY BICYCLE TO DO MY PART TO HELP A GREAT PEOPLE
My name is Fausto De Poi and I am a house painter. I was I was born and raised in a small town in the Province of Belluno called Sospirolo 39 years ago and now I feel the inevitable onset of middle age.
Last July 15th I set off from Sospirolo by bicycle to ride all the way to Nepal. It was just me, my Verdolina (the name I gave my bicycle) and a backpack weighing 50 Kg to keep me company over the 10,000 Km I intended to ride. You must be asking why someone would do all of this. Let me back up a bit.
It was Christmas in Lantang, Nepal.
It was my second big trip; the year before I had spent 10 months in South East Asia, honing my eyes, ears and nose to a new world: The Orient. I found religion barefoot in the streets, there was calm, there were rose petals, restaurants without walls, and lots to learn. Cambodia was still riddled with live mines and traces of horrific errors leftover by human evil. Vietnam offered museums bearing witness to the presence of an imperialistic America. There were plows, oxen and children, bowls of rice and architectural wonders. We spent a lot of time smiling and laughing outside temple gates, sharing stories of our visits. Suddenly, it felt as if my eyes had been reopened as I walked among Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims. All the preconceptions of the society in which I had grown up seemed to disappear here; perhaps they didn’t disappear completely, but they were certainly diminished. These places are also referred to as “the land of smiles” and now that I think about it, toothless kids were always barefoot and smelling like goat, yet they were always doubled over laughing. Their laughter was so wonderfully contagious…
Not even a year later, I packed my bag again and got another ticket; I had other months in which I could spend and give. This time I went to Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka: East. I got off the plane and there was Kathmandu. It was nothing like you would expect: there are too many people, car horns, pollution…you cannot see the mountains surrounding the city. Yet, there is something in the streets, an invisible dust that is good for the soul. I don’t know what it is, but it’s definitely there. This is a land of enormous valleys, elevated altitudes and epic mountains. They call it the “Top of the World”, but I left my heart at the foot of these mountains in 2011, in a small town I fell in love with called Lantang.
On April 25th, 2015, my phone rang. It was Marta, the woman who had accompanied me in these travels, and she was in tears: “Turn on the TV, it’s about Nepal,” she paused. “Langtang is gone.”
9000 people, their dreams, their fears…all were consumed in the second largest earthquake ever to hit the region, showing no mercy to anyone or anything, wiping out everything. There was only silence. And there was a tiny voice inside of me urging, “Do what little you can, but you have to do something to help.”
Therefore, a year later, on April 26th, 2016, I landed once again in Kathmandu. No doubt, the earth around here shakes. Every third night or so we would end up in the streets. Everyone was scared, but no one was crying about it; they’d roll up their sleeves and get ready to face the next day. This is what I also did for the next five months, from a tiny village called Waku. I’d never been there before, but it doesn’t matter.
We are needed up there; a school is being built; it will be an incubator for all sorts of opportunities.
There are no roads; there is no electricity; just hands, great men and plenty of smiles. I was the only non-Nepalese up there, and after a while I had a new nickname. I got invited to weddings, religious ceremonies; I learned a few words and my world was once again transformed. I learned about human kindness, strength and compassion in the finest possible way.
“We’re happy there was an earthquake because it brought you to us,” they told me. I WAS FLOORED.
So this is why I decided to make this journey by bicycle. I pondered some personal questions and it turns out that I don’t have an exceptionally brilliant mind (I don’t use it all that much), but my parents gave me a generous heart. Then I thought that even physically I’m in quite good shape. I am being sponsored in my efforts by ASSOCIAZIONE GIULIANO DE MARCHI PER IL NEPAL ONLUS. For many years this non-profit association from Belluno has dedicated itself to these people and their cause, and they will be able to manage any eventual donations better than I could.
It’s been 4 months since that fateful July 15th, and I can finally say that I’ve made it to….Nepal! It’s been an exciting and fantastic trip from every standpoint. Of course, along the way there have been plenty of hardships, some scares, surprises and tears…but most of all, it’s been exciting. And after all that, here I am!
I’ve crossed 13 countries (Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, China, Tibet and Nepal)
The way all these countries have welcomed me has been at once fantastic and surprising: I’ve received lots of gifts, help or even simple smiles of encouragement. I’ve met some incredible people, including a Colombian family I met in Georgia: they had set off from Spain by bicycle 6 months before and they still had no particular destination in mind. Then there was the Kazak oligarch who came across me on the road, dirty and tired as I was, and invited me to his villa so I could have a hot meal and get some rest before setting off again. It’s unbelievable how Verdolina has the power to break down any barrier.
My ride to Nepal has been a long journey in self-awareness. My “staff” for this enterprise was comprised of a group of young associates from where I live, to whom I will always be grateful for having supported me and followed me all the way from Italy. We had come up with a riding schedule with an average daily distance of 120-130 Km. In order to stick to the program, even when I was exhausted and spent at the end of the day, I still had to find the strength to cook for myself, shower and wash my clothes before passing out in my tent for a long night’s rest.
Nepal has welcomed me in spectacular fashion. There is a lot of work to do here, but the smiles from these people gives me extraordinary strength. Thanks to the funds we’ve accumulated during this trip and especially the donation made by the ASSOCIAZIONE GIULIANO DE MARCHI PER IL NEPAL ONLUS, in December we will be inaugurating a new school, which will become a small yet essential symbol of renewal for this area.
If you would like to retrace all the stages in my journey, you can visit the Facebook page my staff has set up, @pedalandoversoilnepal, where you will find all the stories I have to tell about the things that have happened to me along this 10,000-km adventure.
I’d especially like to thank all of my sponsors, and Selle San Marco for having supplied me with the Mantra Supercomfort model, which allowed me to spend all those hours a day on the saddle of my Verdolina.
However, my most heartfelt thanks goes out to my family, who have supported me in this journey, suffering my absence in silence, in the knowledge that this was a “wild hare” that was well worth pursuing.
Warm greetings to all of you and big hugs from Nepal,