Cycled: 60.3km / 37.5mi
Elevation: 1,060m / 3,478ft
As you know, we’ve had some time off the bikes due to recent scandals and scams. We’ve been slowly easing ourselves back into cycling with some flat, easy rides around Kathmandu Valley. This week, we had our first fully-loaded hill climb in about six weeks – since we were in Europe. Wow. It was tough.
After leaving the lovely Radhika in Bhaktapur – the homestay host who snuck us into the city last week – we headed to Nagarkot. This is a popular stop with travellers for its panoramic view of the Everest Region and Kathmandu Valley.
After last week’s unexpected entrance fee for Bhaktapur, we thought we best check if you have to pay to enter Nagarkot. You do. Luckily, it’s a more reasonable $2.50 per head, as apposed to $15. In our research, however, we read that it’s actually illegal to charge tourists to enter hilltop villages. Charges only apply for World Heritage Sites, like Bhaktapur. A helpful local had posted a government letter explaining this online, which he said should be shown to guards who demand a fee.
We have no idea what the letter says, but when a Nagarkot guard asked for money, we give it a go. What’s the worse that could happen? I pulled the letter up on my phone and handed it over. His reply? ‘That letter is from 2017. Now it’s 2018, so you have to pay.’ How could we argue with that logic? So we paid. It was worth a shot, I guess.
$5 poorer, on we cycled to Nagarkot. I say cycled, of the 10km climb, I reckon we only cycled 3km of it, pushing our heavy 60kg bikes up the rest. The guard had suggested we take the smaller road to the left of the main Nagarkot Road, as apparently it was a much shorter and quieter route. That may have been so, but the alternative gravel road proved mostly impossible to cycle on. Nevertheless, we got there in the end and downed a few beers to celebrate.
We spent four days in Nagarkot, mostly recovering from that 10km push. We ate lots, drank a little and played endless rounds of Dhumbal, an easy, fast-paced Nepali card game. We did manage a 9km hike to Nagarkot View Tower. On a clear day, this is where you can spot Everest in the far distance.
The next stop on our Kathmandu Valley Tour was Shivapuri National Park. This time, we chose to follow Nagarkot Road. The tarmac made for a smooth ride to the bottom. As we passed Bhaktapur again, we decided to stay with Radhika for one more night, as we’d had such a great time staying with her and her family last week. Then we headed to Shivapuri National Park.
Now here’s where things get interesting.
Dan tried to find somewhere to stay that was close to Shivapuri National Park, which didn’t break the bank. Booking.com, our usual booking tool, only offered up expensive digs, so Dan turned to Air BNB. That’s where he found Steve’s place, which was right on the edge of the national park – perfect. At £15 per night, it was at the top end of our accommodation budget, but we decided it’d be worth it, to be so close to the walking trails we planned to do. Dan messaged Steve to see if his place was available. As soon as he said yes, we booked up.
Steve sent over some very detailed instructions of how to find him. He also said that the road up to his house was currently closed due to a landslide and that we’d have to take a ‘hiking route’. No problem. How hard could it be? Very apparently.
We bumped into Steve on the hiking trail and he kindly sent for some extra pairs of hands to help lug both of our bikes and our twelve pannier bags. We were glad of the help, as the hiking trail was not the end of the challenge to Steve’s house. Immediately after, we had to contend with 200+ steps. Jeez, Steve, you never mentioned you lived on top of a mountain.
Soaked with sweat and gagging for a drink, we made it – bikes and all. It was the view that hit us first: a panoramic of Kathmandu Valley. Then Ramita, the hotel manager, welcomed us with a chilled lemon and coriander juice – oh my god, give me more – as Steve went on to explain exactly where we were...
Steve’s place turned out to be Shivapuri Heights Cottage, a 4* hotel that’s been reviewed by The Telegraph. Holy moly. Repeat that again, Steve. We’d booked through Air BNB, we thought we’d be staying in your backroom!
Steve – a lovely chap from The Channel Islands, who’s lived with his wife in Nepal for over thirty years – told us that they’ve only just signed up to Air BNB, and that the automatic pricing feature had set it at a fraction of what it usually costs. It typically costs upwards of £70 per night. That’s half a week’s budget for us. We are their first booking on Air BNB – what lucky ducks we are.
It really does feel like we’ve hiked our bikes to heaven. It’s pure luxury. We had our first hot shower in two weeks. Two weeks. Our bums are enjoying four ply toilet roll. None of that tracing paper stuff that your fingers always manage to poke a hole in. There’s a mini bar. A jacuzzi. And possibly the best view of Kathmandu Valley.
Isn’t that a turn up for the books? I think Dan has peaked with his accommodation finds of the trip. Who’d of thought that we’d end our week sat on our own private terrace, sipping gin and tonics (we found some) and scoffing complimentary popcorn, while watching a thunderstorm over the valley. Can we stay here forever? I suppose not for £70 per night…