Only a Comicist, in other words a comedian (pro) cum cyclist (amateur) like Paolo Franceschini, could have had such a crazy idea. He had hardly got back to Italy (clothes still in the drier) when we met him to find out all about this incredible unusual adventure of his.
Paolo, where do you want to start your story?
First of all, my thanks go to the bike Olympia F1 for its light weight, given that most of the time I had to carry it on my shoulders instead of it carrying me on its saddle… I think I might have actually pedalled only about 100 km of the 300 or so we covered. I would not have wanted any other light carbon bike in those moments.
As a comedian, how do you ride a bike?
Despite being an amateur cyclist and a pro comedian, I am actually very serious when I set out on a bike journey. I entered my first race in 2017 and do you know what the route was like? Not Ferrara-Nonantola obviously, just long… the Himalayan Mountain Chain.
This marked the start of my career as a Comicist and my love for that region and its people, who, dignified and proud, live almost in symbiosis with their environment.
Tell us about your challenge.
I marked this challenge with the hashtag—created by friend Daniele, who came with me on this adventure—#Sisipuòfare (we can do this), a claim that I have used several times during my life without even realising it.
The challenge consisted in reaching the Everest Base Camp by bike and doing my sustainable comedy show there. It was the highest show of its kind at 5270 metres asl. Now I am waiting for certification from the “Guinness World Records”.
Fantastic! So you succeeded…
Yes, I did and I can tell you it was no piece of cake. First of all because it is a route unsuitable for bikes and then, the higher up you go, the less oxygen there is and the harder it becomes. But we knew all this.
We slept in unheated lodges and at night it dropped to below zero. The weather kept changing unexpectedly and we also had plenty of rain. At times even snow. It was an amazing journey.
I would get super happy when there was a short stretch when I could pedal and I would whisper to my trusted Olympia to hang on in there because we were going to do this.
And what sort of a welcome did the locals give you?
It was fun to see the incredulous and confused expressions on the faces of everyone we met. They rubbed their eyes because they could not believe what they were seeing.
The best bit of the journey?
The extraordinary, priceless excitement of it all. And then giving a show up there, knowing that I was the first person in the world to do something similar. I did my thing right at the top before a mixed audience (Italians, Nepalese, Indians, Israelis and New Zealanders). They also included Kami Rita Sherpa, who holds the Guinness World Record for most ascents to the summit of Everest, and who, after my show, set off again for his 23rd ascent.
But the best bit was still to come…
That’s right! Because on the second part of our journey, from Everest to the capital Katmandu, we lost contact with the world and seriously risked getting lost. They had assured us that it would take 3 hours to get to the village of Khari Khola (2,070 m asl), a Sherpa and Tamang settlement where the jeeps were waiting for us. What they hadn’t mentioned was that instead of roads, certain areas in Nepal have these paths with sheer drops, all rocks, sharp stones, roots and mud that you can only cover on donkey or on foot.
How did you get through the hardest moments?
My spiritual background was fundamental in helping me to find the strength I needed and to keep calm. When I was dropping from tiredness, I would sing; I had to distract my mind in order to continue.
And then we finally got to the jeeps, but even here we encountered setbacks: a river in full spate to cross and there should have been three jeeps and then one disappeared. In a nutshell, a truly enriching experience.
What have you brought home with you from all this?
The idea that we can be what we want to be. I have matured my attitude to possibilism, how so many barriers dictated by non-awareness and non-wanting can hold us back. And finally I have learnt the power of meditation, centering yourself and using your forces intelligently.
After a few days at home to get his clothes dry, Paolo the Comicist is already back on his Olympia bike. Launched by the radio2 Caterpillar programme “M’illumino di meno” (I use less lighting), his sustainable show started this year on a stage lit only by bike lights to promote sustainable development.