Day 16 – Monday 21 April 2008 – Jomsom to Tatopani
This was a fairly easy day as we continued to lose altitude. The condition of the road was not too bad and at times we fairly flew along. Four of us missed the rather obscure turn off to Tatopani and rode on for another two kilometers before Suresh managed to catch up to us and turn us back.
Several stretches of the road from Jomsom were under construction and we had to carry the bikes over the bulldozed rocks. There were also incredibly spectacular gorges and at some places if we had wandered a metre off the track we would have tumbled several hundred metres into the valley below in consequence.
Day 17 – Tuesday 22 April 2008 – Tatopani to Pokhara
Another fairly tough day. We started off with 38 kilometres of single track and very rough jeep track; very rocky and tough on the hands and wrists. There were patches of soft, powdery sand at times that hid the rocks underneath. Keith-S took a spectacular tumble when his front wheel sank deeply into the sand and came to an abrupt stop against an immoveable object. Fortunately the powdery sand compensated by giving him a soft landing and no serious damage was done.
After reaching the tar we started a 10 kilometre climb and celebrated reaching the top by having lunch. We were well warned of the climb that was facing us after lunch and so there was a staggered start with folk leaving the lunch stop as it suited them, most of the slower riders trying to get away first. There were a few undulating kilometers before we reached “The Climb” – 22 unrelenting kilometers and quite steep. Long and tough, with many switchbacks as the road snaked up the mountain. I caught all the riders who had started ahead of me, but very soon after hitting the front I was caught and passed by Ivan and Keith-G. I couldn’t stay with them and they in turn split up before reaching the top. The three of us did not see the support vehicle during the climb and went up without a stop.
We had a drinks stop at the top and had to wait 65 minutes before the last rider arrived, such was the gap that grew during the climb. From the top of the hill it was an easy 30-odd kilometers of downhill and comparative flat before reaching Pokhara and returning to the Kantipur Hotel.
We were reunited with the luggage that we had left before the flight to Jomsom and after a hot shower (what a treat!) we all went out to supper,
Day 18 – Wednesday 23 April 2008 – Rest day in Pokhara
A welcome rest day in Pokhara, a lovely city which has the edge on Kathmandu when it comes to cleanliness and organization.
We crossed the lake in a canoe and then took a walk to the “World Peace Temple” that was located on the far side of the lake. Unfortunately it was quite misty in the Pokhara Valley and so there were no views to speak of from the top of the hill. Also, the temple was closed for repairs, making the trip largely an exercise in futility.
Day 19 – Thursday 24 April 2008 –Pokhara to Juli Besi
This was supposed to be another easy day of cycling, but somehow it didn’t turn out that way. Some of the group were quite tired even before we started out in the morning and there was definitely less enthusiasm for the road than there was a few days ago. When the route for the “Tour de Nepal” was presented to us in Kathmandu before the start, several of the group had words with Suresh about how short the days were, but now, with more than two weeks of cycling behind us, almost everyone was glad to see the end of the day’s journey.
We started the day with a genteel ride out of Pokhara on the tarred road, but this came to an abrupt end after about 16 kilometres and the climbing started. The climbing was not too strenuous, but was made more so by the condition of the terrain. Dot took a tumble when she was interfered with by a youngster playing with the traditional wheel and stick – surely an accident brought on by his enthusiasm to join in with us.
There was plenty of water on the road and we, and the bikes, were plastered with mud by the end. So much for the big clean up on the rest day yesterday.
The first choice campsite was abandoned as the service vehicle couldn’t reach the spot with the tents, and we rode on for several more kilometers. The bolt holding my saddle snapped during this stretch and I had to cycle the last three kilometers or so while standing, which was quite a strain on the legs.
We had a great campsite on the banks of the Maadi River with a thickly wooded hill opposite that emitted the echoing calls of two distinctive types of cuckoos.
Day 20 – Friday 25 April 2008 – Juli Besi to Damauli
An easy day! Very short, although the length of the stops along the way meant that we didn’t reach the campsite until 3:30pm. The route was much as it has been for the past two weeks, with lots of ups and downs and poor surface conditions. There were two incidents to liven up the day. One – some of the locals carry prodigious loads of branches on their backs, with so much foliage that from the back they look like walking trees and as Keith-G and I were overtaking one of these “trees” it heard us approaching from behind and swiveled to see what was happening. Our passage was suddenly blocked at head-height by the branches swinging across the path and we were quite lucky to get past safely. The second incident involved a panic-stricken chicken that flew into me in its haste to get away from the passing cyclists, hitting me firmly on the leg and then disappearing under my back wheel. I suffered no harm, but I don’t know about the chicken as it hardly paused in its getaway dash.
At Damauli we again had a wonderful campsite alongside a fast flowing river that was spanned by what must be the longest suspension bridge we’d seen in Nepal to date. It was a popular area and there were dozens of locals doing their washing, or bathing, or both. It had been a very hot day and we are all grateful for the cool water of the river, and also for the shortness of the cycle.
Day 21 – Saturday 26 April 2008 – Damauli to Bandipur
This was the worst day of the cycle for me. I seemed to have woken up tired and gone downhill from there. The cycling was not particularly difficult compared to previous days, but I caught myself walking several times where I could have ridden quite easily with a little more application. The gears on my bike were now really difficult as the teeth on the smaller sprockets were so badly worn that the chain either locked up, or just jumped from one ring to the next, making climbing the steep hills almost an impossibility. Added to that, it was very hot and humid and on one of the rocky descents I took quite a hard fall.
I was very pleased to reach the campsite at Bandipur!
It was not a great day for some of the others either. Keith-S climbed into the support vehicle mid-morning; Bobby abandoned his bike with 16-odd kilometers to go (he was having more trouble with his gears than I was) and walked the rest of the way and Steve did the same, but took a ride in the support vehicle after walking a few kilometers.
At Bandipur I lay down for a rest at about 5:30pm and the next thing I knew Suresh was checking to see if I wanted supper. I declined and slept through until morning.
The best part of the day? After skipping a stop – Paul had another puncture – I went ahead and stopped in a tiny village where I sat on the pavement and had an ice-cold coke! The rest of the day was endured rather than enjoyed.
Day 22 – Sunday 27 April 2008 – Bandipur to Kurintar
The last day of the tour, much to the relief of many in the group. It was an easy day to end with, starting with eight kilometers of downhill and then pleasant undulating terrain until Kurintar. All on tar and all covered at quite a gentle pace. Even the traffic seemed to be less of a threat than usual.
We arrived at the Riverside Resort in Kurintar at lunchtime and set up camp in a field about a kilometer from the resort itself. The campsite is perched atop a cliff overlooking the river – a fitting spot to end the tour.
All-in-all it had been a worthwhile experience, albeit very different from the one that had been planned. It was very tough cycling, but overall it wasn’t as tough as the trip across Australia in 2001. It was my first long cycle in a large group and although there are many pros and cons of cycling in the group, I enjoyed the novelty of the experience and enjoyed sharing the trip with so many others.