By Naomi Dixon
(Day 2) Dhaka City Bike Tour
Dhaka grabs you by the arm like a pushy father and forces you to look, look at all the people’s faces, feel the chaos and confront the odour. People on trucks, in coaches, in buses, in vans, in cars, on rickshaws, on bikes, on foot. Once Dhaka has finished with you it spits you out with a force and a breath of relieving fresh air. Bangladesh is so green.
(Day 3) Dhaka – Sylhet (Green Line bus)
Hold onto your seats, the Green Line Bus is the head honcho on the roads of Bangladesh. The UK team gets to know the Muntasir Mamun’s Kewkradong team as we bounce along the road catching a nap and some surroundings from Dhaka to Sylhet.
(Day 4) Sylhet – Moulvi Bazar – 46 miles
All the crew are excited about getting our teeth into this ride. We head for a media press conference chaired by the Mayor of Sylhet to kick off the trip, with the usual media in tow. After numerous puncture repairs to my bike and Jay’s, a token reminder of the debris in Dhaka, we finally set off.
The first day is fantastic, so many of us are on an adrenaline high. We whip through the country side through miles of acid green paddy fields and beautiful wetlands, with silhouettes of locals fishing.
We negotiate the roads with our fellow Kewkradong gang aka ‘the Dhaka boys’ and there is a positive buzz in the air. When we arrive in Moulvibazar we are penned in at a roundabout in the centre of town and there is an ever growing group of spectators. Jebi recognises family members in the crowd and it’s a great feeling to be in the Rahman’s home town.
The UK gang are totally over indulged at Jebi, Jelina and Zillur’s parents with mountains of mouth watering Bangla fish and meat dishes and discussions of the next leg of the trip 72 miles to Brahmanbaria.
(Day 5) Moulvi Bazar – Brahmanbaria – 77 miles
This started out as a cracking day, gliding through the rolling hills of the Finlay Tea Estate and stopping for a brew at a shady tea shack. The tea estates, a legacy of the Raj, are beautiful, deep green in colour and provide landscape of orderly rows of tea shrubs. Sylhet is also known as ‘Little Darjeeling’ and I could see why.
As the day grew on our group was thinning out and people were finding their own pace. The day was growing extremely hot with temperatures rising over 30°C degrees. We stop at Habiganj for some baji, rice and paratha, fuel up and we are all eager to get on with the rest of the day’s riding. Spirits are high and the UK and Kewkradong team are becoming friends.
The day was growing dark and again we were split up as a group, tiredness was slowing us down, but some how we all found a determination and steady pace and ploughed on. The scenery was rolling out to the immense wetlands; it was so peaceful out on the open road. At one point a local with his young boy accidentaly spilled their catch of the day onto the road. I will never forget picking my way through hundreds of nipping live crabs in the haze of Bangladeshi dusk scented with incense.
A motorcyclist told me and a fellow cyclist Jay that we only had 10 km left to go. I was delighted, it was getting dark we were tired and thirsty. We took a break at a small town called Sarail, drank coconut milk and chatted to some locals. Darkness was closing in, Jebi arrived at Sarail shortly after us, I was so delighted to see her and we were all fired up to finish the day together on our bikes. The 10 km turned into more like 20 km.
We were cycling through deep potholes and traffic in the pitch black. It was not funny or clever. Elated we arrived in Brahmanbaria about 40 minutes behind the rest of the crew. We were all filthy, tired and well and truly a cycling family. The beauty of a day like this was walking up to someone and embracing them as a friend, when a few days before they had been a stranger.