Riding the Mountains

— Written by Saraswati

Kinga_wangchuk

Five years ago, when he got on a Gary Fisher mountain bike for the first time at Kuenselphodrang in Thimphu, he fell. But he got up and tried again. With every fall, his passion to conquer got the better of him. Today, Kinga Wangchuk, 27, is an expert mountain biker and a tourist guide, leading biking groups to hotspots as far as Bumthang, 265 km from Thimphu.

In the absence of bike repair outlets in the country, his experience with bikes has taught him to repair his ride which he has mastered over the years.

He came to Thimphu six years ago after his dream of going to college didn’t realize after his high school. In the capital, he became a member of the Voluntary Artists’ Stuidio, Thimphu (VAST) in 2004 when his mentor, Asha Karma, introduced him to a tour company, Yu-Druk Tours and Treks, and became a tourist guide.

The proprietor of Yu-Druk Tours and Treks, Rinzin Ongdra, also the founder of Bhutan Mountain Biking Club (BMBC) who was trained in biking from Colorado Springs in the United States, introduced Kinga Wangchuk to the world of biking.

His maiden long trip on a bike was from Thimphu to Tsang Tse in Tsirang which he recalls as the “most cramp filled outing.” He said “I finished a basket full of fruits and three bowls of rice after the trip.” The trip molded him in pursuing a career for which he has not lost love even after five years.

Kinga Wangchuk says a biker has to maintain a healthy diet and chocolates and water are an important part of his diet. He maintains his physique by playing basketball and football. He is busy during the tourist season in March, April and September. He earns about Nu 10,000 when he escorts tourists for about two weeks. The records of the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO) show that of the 23,480 tourists who visited Bhutan last year, 863 were trekkers and bikers. Most of the bikers are from Australia and America. Tourist bikers hire the bikes from tour operators in the country. Over the year, Kinga Wangchuk has learnt to perform aerial tricks on his Giant Trance bike when his adrenaline rush is high. He aims to become a freelance biker once his five year contract with the company is over and wants to train young bikers.

Described by friends as a talented singer, Kinga’s love for biking is unending. “Once the interests get into your muscles, you will realize how cool it is,” he says adding “It is environment friendly and everyone should try it out.”

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