Sunday morning we enjoyed a nice breakfast with Neelu, her husband, son and daughter. We talked about many things, including what it means to be Sikh , the (wonderful) customs and relationship with God. It was somewhat difficult to break away from the comfort of their home and great kindness that morning…
We approached the Nepal border around 10 a.m., it was raining and muddy dirt road. There was a line of cargo trucks probably more than 100 deep. We carefully pedaled around them, along with motorcycles, pedestrians and small cars, to get to Sunauli-the small town that is the border crossing. We stopped to have our India visas stamped for exit then located the Nepal customs office to acquire Nepal visa. The officers and locals were again very interested in our bikes and created conversation.
From there we rode about 20 km of flat, which even in the rain is relatively easy riding until Butwal, at the foot of the Himalaya. Cycling in Nepal we immediately noticed the less crowded streets and more considerate drivers.
We arrived in Butwal around 4 p.m. after pedaling all day in the rain. Butwal is a large city with many hotels which I (Pam) felt quite inviting, especially with the steep mountains looming in the distance. Nateon was anxious to get into the mountains, up and away from the flats and the people. So we did, and it proved worthwhile.
The climb is immediate on a much smaller version of the Siddhartha highway at this point. It became cooler, calmer, and gentler on us. The scenery changed completely.
After 2 weeks of flat riding, dense population, new traffic rules and crazy traffic, zero privacy and high temps of more than 100 degrees…. The cool air and peace was a timely transition.
About 10 km into the Himalaya we found the “River Site resort” with mud yurts and nice gardens and many sunflowers all around. It was the perfect place to spend our first night in the mountains. The water pump wasn’t working, so the staff brought a bucket of cold water for use and bathing — suitable for a yurt stay.
We set out the next morning, continuing North winding through the Himalaya. At our lunch stop it was recommended we spend the evening in Tansen, known for its high elevation and beauty like a little Darjeeling. We pedaled 7-8 hours uphill with the goal in mind. As we approached Tansen, exhausted, we realized it was set at the very top of a huge hill in the distance. The last hours of daylight we slowly made our way there, found a hotel. At 4,000 feet the views were spectacular.
The following day was characterized by long, long downhills and unbelievable views. We were aiming to arrive in Waling, however due to a late start (some may call it recovery), we were 20km short and landed in Galyang at sunset. From there we prepared for our final push, 80 km, Pokhara, which we knew from these few days on this terrain would not be easy–so we set out at 7am.
Our assumptions were correct, it was a very demanding day.
Climbing up 4,000 foot passes only to descend back down to 2,000 feet and do it all over again (thanks Suunto watch for the elevation info), was extremely difficult with our loaded bikes. Near the end of the day while rounding the crest of a mountain road we saw some thunder clouds rolling in and a light sprinkle quickly turned into a thunder/lighting storm. The loud thunder was already making us uncomfortable (read: freaking us out) so when lightning struck a few hundred feet away, followed by a downpour, we had to pull over to collect ourselves. We took it as a sign that we needed to get moving to lower ground and reach our destination.
But we had a long way to go.
As the sun set we approached the final 1,500 foot downhill, winding road that took us to Pokhara where we could recover by the Fewa Lake. We were excited to try Nepali versions of Western food that we haven’t had in a few weeks. We acquired permits for a brief trek on the Annapurna circuit, heading out today.