Week Twenty-Four: An Accidental 4* Hotel

13/09/18-19/09/18 

Country: Nepal

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.  

 We found this on a TripAdvisor thread. We have no idea what it says.

We found this on a TripAdvisor thread. We have no idea what it says.

$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.

 Locals found it hilarious that we were pushing our bikes. Most stopped, starred and laughed. We were at the same pace as this woman for a while. We kept resting together and laughing about it. Then she gave me a quick push, before we stopped for another rest and a giggle.

Locals found it hilarious that we were pushing our bikes. Most stopped, starred and laughed. We were at the same pace as this woman for a while. We kept resting together and laughing about it. Then she gave me a quick push, before we stopped for another rest and a giggle.

 It was a solid climb to Nagarkot.

It was a solid climb to Nagarkot.

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. 

 Beer is relatively expensive in Nepal. A 650ml bottle is around £3.80. We’ve switched to gin, as it’s pretty much the same price. Tonic is hard to find, but soda isn’t so bad. It’s all about the teeny-tiny limes.

Beer is relatively expensive in Nepal. A 650ml bottle is around £3.80. We’ve switched to gin, as it’s pretty much the same price. Tonic is hard to find, but soda isn’t so bad. It’s all about the teeny-tiny limes.

 A butchers in Nagarkot. This is the reason why Dan has become 100% vegetarian and I’ve become 96% vegetarian (I’m a sucker for a kebab). Raw meat is just left out in the elements. No fridge. No cover. No hygiene. We’ll likely be 100% & 96% vegetarian in India, too.

A butchers in Nagarkot. This is the reason why Dan has become 100% vegetarian and I’ve become 96% vegetarian (I’m a sucker for a kebab). Raw meat is just left out in the elements. No fridge. No cover. No hygiene. We’ll likely be 100% & 96% vegetarian in India, too.

 View from Nagarkot View Tower. Everest and the other 8000m snowy giants are behind those clouds.

View from Nagarkot View Tower. Everest and the other 8000m snowy giants are behind those clouds.

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. 

 While we were at Radhika’s, we saw a posse of men pulling an insanely large tree trunk down the street. She explained that they’re pulling it all the way to Kathmandu, in preparation for a festival in a week or so. It looked like a lot of fun…not so much for the traffic, however. The log got stuck under that bus and the men moved the bus not the log!

While we were at Radhika’s, we saw a posse of men pulling an insanely large tree trunk down the street. She explained that they’re pulling it all the way to Kathmandu, in preparation for a festival in a week or so. It looked like a lot of fun…not so much for the traffic, however. The log got stuck under that bus and the men moved the bus not the log!

 Radhika makes the most delicious spicy dipping sauce. Quickly pan fry a couple of halved tomatoes and whole chillies, then smashed them together in a mortar and pestle. Easy.

Radhika makes the most delicious spicy dipping sauce. Quickly pan fry a couple of halved tomatoes and whole chillies, then smashed them together in a mortar and pestle. Easy.

 It was great to see Radhika again. She is definitely someone we’d like to keep in contact with. What a gem of a human being – and fantastic cook. If you visit Bhaktapur, look her up ( booking.com ).

It was great to see Radhika again. She is definitely someone we’d like to keep in contact with. What a gem of a human being – and fantastic cook. If you visit Bhaktapur, look her up (booking.com).

 On the way to Shivapuri, we were flagged down at the side of the road by an inspiring Argentinian family. The Lopez’s are half way through a four year round the world trip in their camper van. Starting in Spain, they’ve drove to Nepal, via Iran and Pakistan. Follow their adventures  here .

On the way to Shivapuri, we were flagged down at the side of the road by an inspiring Argentinian family. The Lopez’s are half way through a four year round the world trip in their camper van. Starting in Spain, they’ve drove to Nepal, via Iran and Pakistan. Follow their adventures here.

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. 

 Up to Steve’s, our GPS reckoned we hit 46% gradient. Two were pushing one bike by that point.

Up to Steve’s, our GPS reckoned we hit 46% gradient. Two were pushing one bike by that point.

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! 

 View of Kathmandu Valley from our cottage.

View of Kathmandu Valley from our cottage.

 Biggest. Bed. Ever.

Biggest. Bed. Ever.

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…  

 Best seats in the house.

Best seats in the house.

 Cheers to our accidental 4* hotel.

Cheers to our accidental 4* hotel.