During this time I was still working for the Government, but in September 2004, disillusioned with bureaucracy and paper pushing, I left to work in Nepal for 16 months. I lived and worked for the Nepalese development NGO, Rural Reconstruction Nepal (RRN – www.rrn.org.np) in the capital – Kathmandu. I was a jack of all trades, writing papers,editing books, preparing project proposals, eating curry, but mainly managed a Community, Water, Sanitation and Health Project in a conflict affected district (called Salyan) in the west of the country. I also raised money to pay for the health treatment of some local Nepali people, including a little girl with a spine deformity. I purchased a small cart for her mother and father to use to sell nuts, popcorn and seeds in the market, so that the family could support themselves; and also helped out at a local orphanage when I had time.

Kathmandu is only at 1500m, but it was here that I developed a love for mountain biking and cycled in the countryside around the city every morning before work. This gave me the opportunity to meet some fantastic people, including many nepali mountain bikers and through this I gained a much deeper insight into their lifestyles, views and culture. I also enjoyed running on the many (hilly) trails in the Kathmandu Valley, although getting chased and bitten by rabid dogs wasn’t quite as enjoyable!

During one of the religious festivals I had some time off work, and I spent two weeks cycling with my friends over the Himalayas from Lhasa (the capital of Tibet) back to Kathmandu. The journey was 1400km and we crossed mountain passes at over 5000m and even cycled to Everest Base Camp (5400m), through sand and snow storms. All of this gave me both mental and physical strength. You lose many of the physical benefits of being at altitude after a few weeks of returning to sea level, but I think the mental strength always stays with you.

After leaving Nepal at the end of 2005 I visited friends in New Zealand (where I got roped into doing the Coast to Coast Adventure race) and cycle toured around Tasmania (Australia) and some of Argentina.

‘Toilet Talk’: mobilising communities to find their own solutions to sanitation (pdf) – RRN Newsletter