October 2009 – the first female rode a mountain bike in Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan. One year later I returned to be the first to attempt to ride the entire Panjshir Valley, from the gates of Panjshir that mark the entrance to the province, straight through to the imposing 14,000 foot Anjuman Pass. I wanted to break stereotypes of what Afghanistan really is beyond the ongoing conflict. We videoed to show the incredible beauty of Afghanistan and the reaction of those we met along the way – Panjshiris that were surprised, excited, and gracious. Click here to see the video!
2 days, 132km, and 14 hours of steady uphill riding passed through breathtaking mountains surrounding a land where time has stood still. Security issues in the form of neighboring provincial gun runners, made it impossible to push on for the third and final day of climbing up to the top of the pass. But that was hardly the point. Along the way, boys and men raced me on their bikes as we shared the road with cars, motorcycles, sheep, and the occasional camel. Old men with large turbans stopped in every village to smile, wave, and shout greetings and often offers of tea at their home. Road construction workers took my bike for a spin after I had walked it across a dodgy looking bridge. All of this in a country known as a dangerous war zone where women are not allowed to ride bikes anymore. Every face I encountered was one of smiles, encouragement, and curiosity.
This Sunday, a mere 6 days later, 8 communities in the United States will be riding their bikes in support of Mountain2Mountain’s projects in Afghanistan. Dubbed the Panjshir Tour, each ride raises money through the power of the pedal to support projects with the deaf community, rural midwife training, and girls education.
SO! Get your bike lubed up and join us THIS Sunday, October 3rd – be part of this inaugural series of grassroots rides and help us grow it for next year!
Rides are on in California, Colorado, Washington DC, Oregon, and New York! We need your help, we need your muscles, and we need your sweat equity to change the lives of women and girls and the future of Afghanistan for generations to come!
Want to learn more and find out where you can ride and how to register? Click here!!
photo credit: Travis Beard