Like most adventurers, Furtemba Sherpa embodies fortitude and endurance.
Less than a third of the way through his cycling trip around the world which began on December 26, 2003, he has already encountered such difficulties as would have easily discouraged less ambitious bikers.
No stranger to pain, he has been beaten and stabbed at while in Malaysia and involved in a traffic accident and mugged by hooligans in Bangladesh. He has had his skill tested on all manner of terrain, in all types of weather.
He prefers the heat to cold, which he says causes ache in his joints. Every place he visits presents a fresh set of trials to be overcome.
Three flags always adorn the front of his bikes: the Nepalese flag, the flag of Lumbini Buddhism, and the flag of whatever country he happens to be in.
At 27, the Nepalese national is in the middle of a cycling world tour. He arrived in Beijing on February 6, having first entered the Chinese mainland on October 21 last year through Hong Kong.
He has already visited 20 nations and regions and cycled more than 23,000 kilometers. His huge trip comprises six rounds, each lasting three years. In between the rounds, the Sherpa will return to Nepal for anywhere from one to three months to share what he has learnt with his people.
He hopes to be able to complete the entire journey, which will take him to five continents and 150 nations, by 2020.
Furtemba Sherpa's love affair with cycling began early. Born to an impoverished family on the Nepalese border with China, he owned a business in Nepal, selling the expensive cashmere called Pashmina, with 10 employees.
In the late 1990s, the Sherpa began thinking about what he could do for his country.
Although he came from an ethnic group known for being the greatest mountaineers in the world, he wanted to do something other than climbing tall peaks. In 1999, he came up with the idea of cycling around the world.
Undaunted by the sheer scale of the undertaking, the Sherpa was initially worried about the finances.
He had US$2,000 in savings but realized that far more would be required for the trip. To his surprise, Nepalese people both at home and abroad came out in strong support of his dream. Donations poured in.
"They saw me as a brother and as a countryman," the adventurer told China Daily in Beijing.
When he is not on tour, the Sherpa keeps busy with social work. He is involved with a literacy program for villagers as well as a program aimed at providing clean drinking water to Nepal's poor. He is especially responsive to the plight of disadvantaged children and currently sponsors seven children, taking care of all their educational needs.
Furtemba Sherpa is married with two daughters. His younger daughter, now 2, was born when he was away. "I was in Thailand then," he said.
After the tour, he said, he will continue his important social work in Nepal.
Having visited China once before in 2000, the Sherpa listed China as one of his favorite destinations so far. One of the things that continue to impress him about the country is the widespread use of his preferred mode of transportation, the bicycle. For someone who lives and dies by the bicycle, he said, it was heart-warming to see an entire nation tied to this environmental friendly way of transportation.
He praised Beijing's relics, counting the Summer Palace and the Yonghegong Lama Temple among his favorites. Nothing in China impressed the globe-trotter more, however, than the Great Wall. "I think it is a great achievement that should be preserved for future generations."
After China, he originally planned to visit Mongolia, but extreme weather conditions in this season have forced him to postpone the trip.
He said he would go to New Delhi instead, to seek treatment for a severe toothache.
Furtemba Sherpa in front of the Nepali Embassy in Beijing in early February.
Later, he will travel to Australia, a country he has already passed through and use it as a springboard to visit the Pacific nations of Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, as well as Papua New Guinea.
(China Daily February 22, 2006)