FUJAIRAH // Five friends are seeking another three adventurers to join them on a 900-kilometre bike journey across the mountains of Tibet and Nepal this summer in the hope of raising money to rebuild an orphanage.
The trek may raise as much as 20 per cent of the US$155,000 (Dh570,000) cost in support of the Nepalese charity Mission Himalayan, the Kathmandu-based organisation said. The existing orphanage has been moved into two buildings because of overcrowding.
"They're sort of getting bumped around into one building after another and it was all becoming a bit ridiculous," said Carol Hyland, a Fujairah-based graphics designer who has lived in the Emirates for decades. "There are 43 children and they've lost their home. It's taking some of them an hour-and-a-half to walk to school."
The cyclists, who have dubbed themselves Trekking for Nepal, have had their own personal challenges. Ms Hyland broke her leg two months ago, but she refuses to let a little thing like that stop her from taking part in the trip.
It is that sort of determination that will push the group to make the journey from Lhasa, the administrative capital of Tibet, to the base of Mount Everest and thence to Kathmandu. The trip, scheduled to begin on July 29, will include a vertical rise of more than 5,000 metres.
The New Youth Children Development Society orphanage has moved twice in three years and suffers from chronic water shortages and electricity cuts. Mission Himalaya wants to rebuild it from the ground up. Its new orphanage will have solar panels, a well, a water treatment plant and a farm, if all goes according to plan.
"We make sure we know exactly where the money is going and that it's going where we want it to be used," said Mita Ray, a public relations consultant from India who has lived in Dubai since 1989. "We're not raising huge amounts of money, but we want to make sure it works."
Ms Hyland and Ms Ray hiked to the top of Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro for Mita's 50th birthday in 2007. Colin Holloway, another member of the group, joined them in April 2009 on a trek with 10 others to the Mount Everest base camp, which raised about Dh75,000 for the orphanage.
"He said 'if I never see another mountain again it will be too soon', and guess what? He was one of the first to sign up," Ms Ray said of Mr Holloway.
The group's other members at present are Jane and Andrian Teirney, two Fujairah residents who joined the two-wheeled trek after a quick conversation and a bit of trepidation.
"Andrian said 'Yeah, I'll come for a bicycle ride'," said Ms Hyland. "I think he was a bit taken aback that we might be going over the Himalayas and not looking at them."
The cyclists are no spring chicks - the youngest is 48 years old - and they do not profess to be professional athletes. However, Ms Hyland is optimistic about their quest. She has been looking for a new challenge since her return from the Everest base camp. An overland bike journey offered by a tour company caught her eye on a trip to Nepal last year.
"Somehow this cycling trip came up and they just sort of glossed over it," said Ms Hyland. "They said 'yes, well, you need to be a cyclist to do it'. I said, 'well, I might be'. So we're going to do it because they didn't think we could. Our insurance covers all eventualities including getting a helicopter if we need it."
The cyclists will cross the Friendship Highway, lodge with yak herders under a vista of glaciers, camp on barren stone plateaus and plunge to the Kathmandu valley on a day-and-a-half downhill bike ride. They will be led by Responsible Travellers, a non-profit company run by an English woman and her Nepalese husband who invest all profit into charitable projects in Nepal and ensure the trip is carbon neutral.
"Basically we're all going because Carol and I fell in love with a whole bunch of kids in Nepal," said Ms Ray.