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Tuesday , October 19 , 2010
 
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Bikers to discover hill thrill

Kalimpong, Oct. 18: A 14-member team of cyclists from the US and Europe will embark on a mountain biking-cum-trekking through the Darjeeling hills and Sikkim that the organisers hope will eventually help in promoting adventure sport in the region.

The 10-day expedition will begin from Kurseong on Wednesday and end at Gangtok on October 29. The team will traverse about 450km on bicycles, taking a circuitous route through Darjeeling, Peling, Yuksam, Borang, Gangtok, Ravangla, Lachung and then again back to the Sikkim capital.

“The team members are all medically fit to make the trip. It will be an arduous journey. We are doing this in collaboration with Bob Thompson, who promotes cycling tours throughout the world,” said Norden Pempa Hishey, a founding member of Help Desk Tourism, a Kalimpong-based organisation, which is looking after the field operations of the expedition.

The Darjeeling hills and neighbouring Sikkim with its rugged terrain are well suited for mountain-biking, which is a popular adventure sport in the west.

“The idea of hosting the expedition is to promote the adventure sport of mountain-biking in the region. We believe the mountain-biking can form part of the adventure tourism in the region,” said Hishey.

Apart from trekking and climbing, not much is happening by way of adventure tourism in the region, even though many believe Darjeeling and Sikkim are suitable for river-rafting, paragliding and, of course, mountain-biking.

“There has been no serious attempt on the part of different government agencies to exploit the immense potential of the region vis-à-vis adventure tourism. Whatever little is happening is entirely because of initiatives by individuals,” said Prasanna Rai, a tourism stake-holder.

The DGHC did try to promote rafting on the Teesta, but not in an organised manner. In fact, rafting on the Teesta has remained suspended for close to five months after four persons drowned during a water ride earlier this year.

“The DGHC introduced the rafting on the Teesta, but did precious little to sustain it in a structured manner. As a result, many private operators with their eyes only on profit and without proper equipment and trained personnel came in, impeding the prospects of its growth,” said a rafting operator based in Teesta Bazar.

There has been a recent development with regard to paragliding. The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation had, one month back, signed a memorandum of understanding to introduce paragliding in the hills.

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