Cycled: 14.4km / 8.9mi
Elevation: 97m / 318ft
Hiked: 9.5km / 5.9mi
Elevation: 791m / 2,595ft
With the odd exception, Dan and I have spent most of the last six-months as a lonesome twosome, having fleeting moments of communication with other humans in shops, hotels and restaurants. This week, however, we had a full-time friend and second visitor, Dan’s cousin, Tom (the guy whose wedding we went back for in June).
Tom arrived at the very end of last week. As he lives in Dubai, it was easy for him to pop over to Nepal for four nights. With only three full days, we thought we better make the most of it, cramming in a hike, river rafting, and lots of eating and drinking.
First up, we hiked a 9.5km loop in Nagarjun Forest Reserve, to Jamacho monastery. As we entered the park at the main entrance, a local guide was compulsory, despite us insisting we’d be okay going it alone. It fell on deaf ears and our threesome became a foursome, with the addition of Sojon. He turned out to be a lovely, chatty chap – with a cheeky side...
We asked Sojon if we could do the longer route to the monastery. Annoyingly, he said we didn’t have time. We strongly disagreed, but ultimately, we had to play by his rules. I think he wanted to teach us a lesson after that, as the walk to the monastery didn’t seem like the typical route.
After a relatively flat section, we began climbing some steep, stone steps – seemed legit. But suddenly, we veered off and began climbing almost vertically up a muddy mountain side, which was infested with leeches. We were all puffed, but we didn’t want to rest for more than ten seconds out of fear of attracting more blood suckers. Just when we thought we’d reached the top – we could see the clouds through the trees – we had one final push up through overgrown grass. Sweating profusely, we burst through the bushes onto a well-trodden path, which we suspected we should have been on. Lesson learned, Sojon. Lesson learned.
At the top, we had a quick de-leeching session, which turned into a blood bath. Those bites do not stop bleeding, I tell ya. We also shovelled some biscuits into our gobs for much needed energy for the descent, as we’d mistimed our hike and missed lunch. Then we headed down, via the perfectly groomed forest path.
Next up, river rafting. I decided to sit this one out and enjoy some ‘me’ time and a massage. But after hearing about their adventure on their return, I definitely got the feeling I’d missed out. It sounded ace. Here’s the lowdown I got:
After a 5.30am alarm and a bumpy four hour bus journey, they reached Trishuli River. This is the best river for rafting at this time of year, as it’s the end of monsoon season, so waters are high but rapids are manageable. Amazingly, the river starts in Tibet, splits into three rivers in Nepal, of which one of them runs on into Indian to join the Ganges.
They said they were a little worried at first, as when they arrived on the roadside, no one really knew what they were doing. But once they were on the water, their guide became a different person. Bossy and brutal, he yelled commands like a drill sergeant, keeping them moving, safe – and wet. I say safe, Dan did come back with a groin injury after they all jumped of the boat together. *Face palm*.
In between all the sporting action, we squeezed in plenty of beers and curries, then before we knew it, we were saying our goodbyes to Tom – and final goodbyes to Kathmandu.
Since we’ve left, I’ve tallied our time there and we spent a disgusting twenty-nine nights in that dustbowl. Most of that time was spent lounging in hotel rooms, recovering from the Russian mess and then the Everest mess. Once Tom had left, we were so ready to leave, too. Next up, Pokhara.
So we clearly haven’t learned our lesson from the Everest fiasco, as we’re now heading to Pokhara to tackle the Annapurna Range, which holds three of the World’s highest mountains; Annapurna being one of them. The region is very popular with hikers. The most popular route being The Annapurna Circuit, which we plan to do. This time, however, we’re doing things very differently. For a start, we’re not taking a guide and, more daringly, we’re going to cycling it. Yes, you read that right, I said cycle.
Cycling The Annapurna Circuit was actually a recommendation from fellow cycle tourist, The Touring Artist. She’s completing the circuit with her other half, Get Wild Matty, in a matter of weeks. We’re hoping to bump into them for a beer or two. We were dead-set on making our way to India after Kathmandu, but after reading about this challenge, we just had to do it.
We had initially talked about cycling the 204km to Pokhara, where we’ll start the APC, but after reading about Highway Two and Four, we changed out minds. It sounded like a death wish. Even by bus we’d read it’s terrifying. In our research, we did stumble across an alternative off-road route Pikes on Bikes had done, but that was an extra 100km, and we’re conscious of running out of time on our visa (we can’t make that mistake again). So we decided to catch the bus.
I was picturing a little minibus, but when we arrived, it was a bloody coach and they still insisted on sticking our bikes on the roof. Are you kidding me? Thankfully, Dan had foreseen this happening and had insisted we bought some climbing rope to fix them down. We’d also stolen some Styrofoam off a rubbish tip for cushioning. Dan popped up on top, to make sure the bikes were properly attached.
What a wonderful place Pokhara is. It’s instantly more calming than Kathmandu – and less polluted. Nestled on the edge of a giant lake – Lake Phewa – this little town is nothing like other Nepali towns we have visited. The buildings are fairly modern; the roads are all tarmacked; it’s so peaceful. The new buildings may have something do to with the fact that you could only access Pokhara by foot, until 1968 when the first road way completed. After that, tourists flocked here, and so did new infrastructure.
The plan was to head off into the mountains within a couple of days of arriving in Pokhara, but since Dan hurt his groin, we’ve had to postpone our departure. In the meantime, we’ll finalise our Annapurna plan and get prepared to start peddling again. We can’t wait for our cycling hiatus to end.