9th to 12th January

Thursday 9 January

We had not planned it, but we will spend one more day in Kathmandu. Following Sophie’s recommendation, today, we go for a ride in the hills in the East of Kathmandu. More precisely, we will go to Nagarkot tower, where we are supposed to have a great view on all the Himalayas, from Everest to Annapurna.

We have breakfast in the restaurant where we had dinner yesterday. Then we finally go for the ride. This morning, it’s very hard to start pedalling. We leave Kathmandu near the Pepsi Cola factory, and arrive soon after in Bhaktapur. Bhaktapur is also an imperial city, just like Kathmandu and Patan (southern part of Kathmandu). Soon after Bhaktapur, the road starts to rise. And we see the hill that we have to climb, it looks quite impressive. Unfortunately, the weather does not seem so good, with a lot of haze. Maybe it’ll be better at higher altitude.

In this road, we sometimes feel we are back in the Alps, with pinetrees on the road side. But then we see in the valley the rice plantations, and the square houses with flat roof. We are in Asia for sure.

low-1080164

It takes us one hour to climb this mountain. But on top, in the village of Nagarkot, we got a prize: we can try some typical food. This time it’s panipuri (like a cracker with pickles, pea inside) and chotpot (a kind of salad of dried blown rice). It’s interesting, but very spicy (although the vendor says no spicy, and in fact did not put any extra spice).

low-1080098
low-1080101

Then we have a hot ginger tea, and continue to the tower. The road is still going up, and more steeply. But it’s short. We pass by a military casern, and see the rangers run alongside the road, although without much discipline.

As we had expected, we cannot see any mountain on the horizon! it’s too hazy and cloudy. So we go down quite quickly. We follow Sophie’s idea to take another road to go back to Kathmandu. We take a dirt road towards Sakhu. This road would be wonderful by mountain bike, but as we have the trekking bikes, with the panniers, we have to go very slow in order not to destroy the straps.

low-1080145
low-1080140

low-1080167

low-1080125

We arrive in Kathmandu for sunset. We meet Sophie in Boudhanat, a giant stupa, with the eyes of enlightment. There are many persons turning around this stupa, in clockwise sense. We see a group of Dolpopa (the people from Dolpo), the Tibetan Nepalese that appear in the movie Himalaya.

low-1080181

low-1080186
low-1080188

We go with her to buy some woollen hat and shoes for Aconcagua, and then we go to a Tibetan restaurant to try the famous Momo, the Tibetan dumplings. Sophie knows one of the waiters over there, Foufoune, a Tibetan. We have a nice talk about his perception of Tibet. He tells us about his sadness to see Tibet gradually losing its identity under the Chinese occupation. He also explains that Tibet has never been part of China, that the history is complex. At the origin, Tibet was recognized an independent state from the Mongol kingdom, then it was under Chinese protectorate. It also happened that Tibet invaded part of China. And in 1950 it was invaded by China because, it has many minerals, water, and it’s an ideal balcony over India!

Back at home, we eat dinner with Sophie and Vishnu: rice with chicken curry and some vegetables. It’s very good.

Friday 10 January

Yesterday, we got the contact of Puskar Shah, a Nepalese who went around the world by bicycle during eleven years, and more than 100 countries! He told us to join his bicycle expedition to Gorkha, called Tour de Gorkha, the following day. It’s on our route, so we can make the beginning with him.

low-1080466

So here we are, leaving Sophie’s house at 6h30, before sunrise. We meet Puskar, and some other cyclists as set yesterday, and go to the meeting point at Basantapur, a beautiful historical place of the city. Here, we have a small breakfast, group picture, and explanation of the trip. We are around 50 cyclists starting today. It’s impressive to see everyone leaving the place, it looks like a race.

We have lunch quite soon, at a place called the Spicy Kitchen! and indeed, it was spicy. But at least, with the daal bat, we had enough rice to fuel us for this afternoon.

low-1080305
low-1080306

We soon ride again. The terrain is not as flat as we had thought: after crossing a pass shortly after Kathmandu, the road goes down the valley, following the river. However, the road sometimes climbs dozens of metres, so that, at the end of the day, we accumulated more than 1100m of ascent. The landscape is very nice, with a deep valley, and the mountain sides occupied by rice fields.

We make some breaks this afternoon, mainly to drink tea and eat tangerines, the only local fruit available (but delicious!).

low-1080321

We stop when the night comes, in order to wait for everyone. There are only 15-20 of us. The others went back earlier, or are in the bus following us. In the night, it’s impressive to see this train of a dozen of cyclists, having their small red lights behind. We reach the village where we sleep tonight soon after. We’ll spend the night in Abu Khaireni. We are in the room with a Japanese guy. After dinner (daal bat again), we go for a party of the cyclists: we are all in a circle around a small fire. Someone is playing the drums, and some people are singing and dancing. It’s very convivial, and you have to get animated to fight the cold night of Nepal.

Saturday 11 January

We get up and have a first breakfast in our hostel. Then we all gather, in the entrance of the village of Abu Khareini, to enjoy a welcome ceremony: they put red colorant on our forehead and the right temp. And offer us egg, some alcohol, and a kata (a kind of silk scarf, of yellowish colour, to bring benediction). After a small visit to a stupa on the other side of the river, we start our ascension to Gorkha.

low-1080384
low-1080410
low-1080473
low-1080457

Today is the celebration of the birthday of Prithvi Narayan Shah, the king of Gorkha, who started the unification of Nepal. So there are a lot of people going to his castle to Gorkha, and the locals celebrate this king. As we pass by some houses, all the families are outside, along the road, looking at the cyclists climbing. And they cheer us up. Here contrary to Cambodia, the little children don’t shout “Hello”, but “Bye”. It’s so nice to see the smile and the excitation of the children when we answer their waving. A simple “Namaste” brings a lot of smiles from the locals.

low-1080505
low-1080517

We do many breaks while climbing, to eat some tangerines, take pictures with the local, or receive some more benedictions. Puskar is from Gorkha, so he is seen as a hero here. Every time, there is literally all the village in the street supporting us. The weather is not so good, we don’t see the Sun for much of the route. A traditional orchestra accompanies us for the last kilometres.

When we arrive in Gorkha, it’s totally crazy. There are hundreds of people waiting for us. We are welcome by many people giving us food (egg, tangerine, yogourt), katas, a flower collar, but also they bless us by putting red colorant on our forehead, cheeks, nose.

low-1080520
low-1080565

low-1080615

After lunch, it’s time to go to visit the city. The full group takes the bikes, and move to the view point over the valley, and then the castle. Now, it’s really mountain bike, on narrowdirt trails. This castle is the emblem of the city: it was built by the king Primtivi, some 250 years ago. After conquering Kathmandu, he had this palace designed by Kathmandu architects. That’s why the architecture is so similar to Kathmandu’s.

low-1080681
low-1080699

low-1080734

In the evening, there is a small party at our hotel. First, there is a traditional bonfire, where all the participants of this adventure have a candle. Each one has to say some words, about the two days, and then blow the candle off. After this, they sing some Nepalese songs, start to dance, and we soon eat the much awaited dinner.

low-1080749

Sunday 12 January

We get up around 7, and take breakfast with everyone. After a group photo, and exchanging our contact with them, we leave for Pokhara.Today, they go back to Kathmandu by bus, while we cycle to Pokhara. First, we go back on the highway that we had left yesterday. We go down the road we had climbed yesterday. There are still many villagers saluting us. We are in the fog most of the descent. We reach the highway in Abu Khaireni. In fact the “highway” is just the main road between Kathmandu and Pokhara. It has one lane for each direction, and the speed of the cars and trucks is around 40km/h. And of course, the road is full of potholes.

low-1080756

low-1080765
low-1080773

On the way to Pokhara, the road becomes a little smaller, and with somehow less traffic and the landscape look wilder. The profile of the road is very hilly: we climb 50m to go down 30m just after. We cross a few passes. After three difficult days of riding (more than 1000m climbing everyday), today it’s hard. And we also climb more than 1000m today.

low-1080823

We arrive in Pokhara around 19h, way after the sunset. The last part, some 20km, all in straight line before Pokhara, and in a gentle climb was interminable. We did not have the strength to go very fast, and anyway, the road was so bad that we had go slowly. It has been already some time that we have problems with our front panniers: every little jump on the road, the tie system opens, and the bag is about to fall from the bike. So here, in Nepal, with quite bad maintained roads, we have a lot of troubles. For sure next time, we won’t buy Vaude panniers again. And if you look for panniers for a long expedition, go for the reference, Ortlieb, instead of Vaude, that are also quite expensive, but giving us a lot of problems.

Pokhara is a very touristic city. In fact, it’s the closest city to the Annapurna region, so all the trekkers of this area spend some days in Pokhara. Near the Phewa lake, the road is full of hotels and restaurants for Western type tourists. We go to one of these hotels, the Sampada inn (http://sampadainn.com/), where Nirwan, the manager, is a fan of touring by bicycle, and gets us an important discount. We had learnt about this hotel through the website https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/. The room is very comfortable, with finally hot water, and internet (although quite slow). After a divine hot shower, we go to eat dinner, invited by Nirwan, in a pizzeria. Here too, some Western comfort is very much appreciated.

And here is the video of these days, with many cycles, mountains, flowers, …