I dropped into the hostel owners grocery shop to pay for my room and set off, for the final time, up past the Bullet Basecamp. It was a clear hot day and the snowcapped Annapurna range stood in stark contrast against the crisp blue sky. I said my farewells at my favourite cafe by the Ganesh Mandir and did a little round of the old town. My route took me over the Seti river, down past the Western regional hospital on the Eastern side of Pokhara, and joined Highway 04 heading towards the Nepali capital.
I estimated to take three days to travel the 120 miles to reach Kathmandu. As I cycled East out of Pokhara the road gradually dropped downwards. This worried me as it almost invariably means more of a climb later. I took a diversion at Lekhmath towards lakes Begnas and Rupa. I had been personally recommended to see lake Begnas and is a popular trip for tourists to make from Pokhara. Past a bridge and into a small town square, the road splits and one path leads up a steep hill towards lake Rupa. I took the left fork to lake Begnas. The lake was very beautiful. Local musicians played traditional folk songs to visitors by the shore. There are horses and rowing boats for hire. It is a great recreational spot for people from the city, towns and surrounding countryside.
Ram, the lead musician of three, played me a short ditty and I in turn played him one of my own recorded compositions.
Returning to the Prithvi highway I wound my way around the hills. It was pleasant with pretty painted cottages and paddy fields alongside. I had seen a fair bit, if often unrecognisable, of road kill but for the first time had to steer my bike around a dead snake.
Camping the first night provided a good view of the valley along which I had travelled. A local farming family appeared early in the morning to work the fields. I offered a little money to a chap for ‘camping’ but he politely refused. So I offered it to his young son and he took it without hesitation. We all laughed.
Another hot day cycling. I had two ‘milk teas’ and ring ‘doughnuts’ in the morning to boost my energy reserves. I stopped in Damauli to buy supplies. The road itself was in good condition and ran high alongside a wide river. It provided amazing views. I cycled beyond an hydroelectric station and eventually found a fantastic spot to camp on the bank of the river.
The views were beautiful and the ride itself was not too taxing. I had been warned about excessive traffic but I did not find it too bad. However and increasingly, the roadside became less attractive. Proposed widening to the Prithvi highway has resulted in huge numbers of traditional cottages to be demolished. Some have lost their entire front sections presumably to a set distance from the road. This makes the houses look as if they have been bombed out with beds and furniture intact but the building entirely open at the front to the outside world.
New construction work provided ugly multi storey concrete boxes many with the obvious intention of adding extra floors later. The scenery became less exciting and I passed through several small modern towns which appear to be poor satellite towns of the capital.
I looked to camp by the river again but was pestered by street children several of whom decided it would be fun to throw rocks down at me from a road above. I was not terribly amused and moved on.
I found a ‘motorists’ hotel on the main road which overlooked the river and a field of cabbages to the rear. ‘Highway Heaven’ was, like so many, an incomplete building project. The room was okay though. In a cage on the landing of the stairs to nowhere above my room was a cockerel. I had no problem waking up very early the next morning.
I was now within a short distance from the village of Naubise. To the East of Naubise is the slow climb up to the rim of the Kathmandu valley. To the South another road leads to Birgunj and the border with India.
I had read about this section of the Prithvi Highway. It is avoided. The road is in a poor condition and susceptible to rockfalls. It is steep and twists sharply. Traffic often becomes stuck and for passengers looking down into the abyss below it can be a traumatic experience. Cyclists will wait to load their bikes onto vehicles at Naubise and remount them at the top to ride down into Kathmandu. These are cyclists on lightweight bicycles carrying minimal weight.
I had two glasses of tea and with my fully loaded steel bike, in the heat of the day, began to ride up. Of course only a fool would attempt such a task..
..and this mad fool did it. I bloody did. Quite possibly this was most arduous task that I have undertaken during my cycling ‘career’. I felt on top of the world. I stopped to have tea at the top and gratefully received a salute from the children there. A little further and the Kathmandu valley was spread out before me.