Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Thunder Lightning Strike: Three Days from Kathmandu to Pokhara

Two hundred kilometres. That's two days, right? Unless it's extremely hilly, of course. I met a couple of Nepali cyclists while finding my way out of Kathmandu, and they assured me that it was flat, apart from a couple of big hills.

Nepali cyclist in Kathmandu

Good job I didn't believe them. I doubt there's enough flat in the whole route to make a passable cricket square. It probably is flat for Nepal.

I would have cleared it in two days, but I was still recovering from the chesty cold which plagued my time in Kathmandu. I felt increasingly spaced out as the days wound on and I found myself unable and unwilling to ride any further.

Maybe I should have had an extra day in Kathmandu, but there was a strike on, which was fabulous. The road was almost deserted, and I took advantage of that. I still saw half a dozen wagons and buses which had tipped over or come off the road. It's a notoriously dangerous run - I was pleased that I hit it when it was so quiet. The strikes are incredibly disruptive to travel as the roads are blocked and most bus services are cancelled. I'm lucky to have a bike, on which I can skirt around the roadblocks, smiling and waving at the protestors, who smile and wave back.

protest for the Nepali strikes

Not that I really appreciated it, but it was a beautiful route. After the climb over the lip of the bowl of the Kathmandu Valley, it followed the widening river, tending down through a valley surrounded by green hills and impromptu waterfalls flowing down the hillsides, fed by the overnight rains. The monsoons seem to be developing a little earlier this year - a day's weather follows a similar pattern, clear in the morning, clouds developing on the peaks through the day and heavy, thundery showers descending by four o'clock.

the Kathmandu-Pokhara Highway

I didn't fancy riding on slick roads in those conditions so I only rode forty miles on the first day and stopped when I heard the rumbles of thunder. It was a convenient excuse to stop, which I'd wanted to anyway.

I cooked some noodles in my cheap guest house, just as the rain and thunder were at their fiercest. I heard a huge crash outside, and realised that it wasn't another thunderclap. I looked outside to the highway, and there was a wagon on its side, and people were rushing out to help. I've no idea how the driver managed that, on a straight road, but it confirmed my decision to get off the road in the wet, and a few minutes later the driver was lifted out of his cab, looking shaken but unhurt. It was still there when I left in the morning.

another crash on the Kathmandu-Pokhara highwaycrash on the Kathmandu-Pokhara highwaybus in a ditch on the road from Kathmandu to Pokhahracrash off the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway

The road continued to follow the river valley down to Mugling, sweeping up the hillsides often enough to make me remember the "flat" description with a wry smile. The sun beat down. It was hot. I was quite bad tempered, especially after the second night where I stayed at the fourth guest house I checked, having rejected the others for reasons varying from horribly overpriced to death trap stairs. Shame I didn't realise the place where I did stay was mosquito hell. I hardly slept for scratching at the lumps which developed on my arms until they relented at dawn.

I didn't notice the second big hill, or it blended too much into the up-down pattern to register as a hill. There was a five-mile climb out of Dumre followed by a delicious descent. Maybe that's the one they meant.

I went on a quest for second breakfast, having started the day with coffee and porridge. I was unsuccessful. The first place I stopped, I waited twenty minutes before they had the courtesy to tell me they couldn't make two-thirds of my order, and at the second place it was thirty minutes before they brought out my alleged meal. I'd ordered a cheese and ham toastie. What they gave me was a paneer burger, which I refused to pay for. Hungry and frustrated, I left, and bought some cheese puffs and muesli bars at the next town. It was only twenty miles to Pokhara so I was happy enough to escape from the midday sun for a couple of hours and chat with a couple of Austrian cyclists heading the other way.

The clouds started to form again, and serious rain to fall. This took the edge off the heat, and I thought I may as well carry on. "Soft as shite, soft as shite, soft as shite", I sang at the motorbikers who were ducking into the bus shelters. Riding through heavy rain is a great experience. I was quickly soaked to the skin and wonderfully cool, my shorts and jersey were clinging to me and still the rain fell.

I found an optician's in Pokhara and bought some lens solution, my bottle having spilled in my bag the previous day. This coincided with me leaving my glasses in a guest house, and followed on from losing my wallet. There was a huge tear in the rear pocket on my shorts, and I was so out of it that I simply forgot, and my wallet probably ended up down the highway somewhere. It only had about a tenner and my Stockton Borough Council library card in it, but I was still annoyed at myself.

I found a guest house near the Lakeside in Pokhara, which was even more of a mozzie-infested fleapit than the previous night's place. But by the time I'd got in and checked the room, I was too cold and shivery and tired to go anywhere else. The shower was wonderfully warm.

Of course, the next morning I realised I was only a mile from the heart of the tourist district at Lakeside. I had a very welcome not-entirely-unlike-a-full-English-breakfast and found a much nicer guest house, where I slept the day away. There are times to be moving, and times to do nothing. These days in Pokhara, I've really enjoyed doing nothing.


  1. Hi Dean, just wanted to say how much I'm enjoying your posts. I download them to my kindle and read on the way to work and then daydream about setting off somewhere far away...

    Cheers and good luck!


  2. You know, you may have entitled a post "Grumpy touring" but your descriptions of Nepal still make me want to go there. It sounds fabulous, and less annoying than India. Fair?

    Thanks for the card.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Thank u so much for having such a nice and entertaing stuff for us. I really enjoy your blog and the way you have describe your content.I also have some amazing and wonderful stuff and i wana to share it with you.
    Stories Tellers