Day 5 – Thursday 10 April 2008 –Mulkharka to Nagarkot
Although this turned out to be a very tough day, it was probably my most enjoyable day of the tour thus far. It started with a steep 12 km uphill and I skipped one of the drinks stops to ride on my own for a while. This was very peaceful and I thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful views offered of the valleys below as we rode to the top. On the way down there were some completely unrideable sections with steps where we were forced to carry our bikes down. We passed through some small villages that were crowded with pedestrians because of the elections and it was somewhat disconcerting to wend our way through these milling crowds.
After lunch the riding became easier. I found it very difficult to ride on the rocky and rough single tracks in the group and preferred to be on my own up ahead or behind. This, understandably, did not suit the guides who had the task of keeping the group reasonably close together.
The Nagarkot Country Hotel, our overnight stopping place, was quite up-market for this part of the world, with 180 degree views of the mountains, including Mt Everest. As luck would have it, it was quite misty and our views were severely restricted.
Day 6 – Friday 11 April 2008 – Nagarkot to Nagarkot
We woke up early in the hope that the mist had cleared, but it hadn’t. It was amazing to see the sun rising well up in an apparently empty sky, with the mountains being obscured by the mist. Today had been designated as a rest day and I was able to do some washing at last. I didn’t think that my white riding shorts would ever be white again and would be consigned to the trash when this ride was over.
Although it was a rest day, we all opted to go for a ride, and left well after 10:00am, late as usual. It was very difficult to get everyone moving on time. A few kilometers down the road from the hotel a video was being made of a song for which Suresh had written the lyrics and we stopped to take part as extras. There were lots of male and female dancers performing, and our job was just to ride around them in a circle. It seemed totally chaotic, but I suppose it made sense to someone.
We went on until we were about 10 km from the hotel and then had lunch before heading back. The ride after lunch was fast and steadily uphill. I reached the top with Keith-G and Managal (one of the guides), and – unbeknown to me – they had arranged to ride on a bit further. This took us up to a lookout tower and included a very steep stretch of road that we would ride again tomorrow.
After the return to the hotel several of us went for a walk and had tea at a roadside teahouse. We were caught in a hail shower on the way back and got quite wet.
All in all a great day, but not much of a rest day!
Day 7 – Saturday 12 April 2008 – Nagarkot to Balthali Village Resort
The day started with a long photo session as the mountains were revealed in patches by the shifting mist. At times we could see quite impressive stretched of the Langtan Range, but Mt Everest itself remained hidden.
The ride to the lookout tower was a killer first thing in the morning. I really didn’t feel up to it and walked twice in the first four kilometers, whereas yesterday I flew up the same section of road without too much bother. After we left the lookout tower I felt a lot better in spite of the fact that there was a lot of off-road that was rough and difficult to ride. Just before lunch there was a long section of tarred road that was really fun to ride. After lunch it rained a little, but all in all it was a good day. The approach to the hotel was unusual in that it was inaccessible to vehicles and porters were employed to carry our bags for the last two kilometers. We had to carry our bikes up a long and twisting flight of stairs to get to the hotel. This caused some complaints from the group, but these quickly quietened when we saw the weight of the bags that the porters, mostly women, were carrying up the same steps with smiles on their faces.
After supper we had a song and dance session with the porters as it was the Nepalese New Year today.
Day 8 – Sunday 13 April 2008 – Balthali Village Resort to Godawari
The day started out well, but quickly got out of kilter. Bobby and Paul were too ill to ride, brought down by the dreaded tummy bug that is a constant threat to Westerners in this part of the world. So for the first time the group was two short. Keith-G and Ivan were also not well, but managed to ride through the day, and in fact both rode extremely well.
The day was supposed to be an easy one, but turned out to have two climbs that were quite extreme. The pace was subdued, which seemed to suit everyone and we cruised through many small villages at a quite sedate speed. The off road sections were rough and steep, as we were now growing accustomed to, with many pools of water to add to the fun. Just before lunch there was a very long climb, requiring quite low gears, and I was in the front when my chain locked up. The sprocket was becoming worn so that the chain would not release properly; this was to become worse and worse, until eventually I could not use the lower gears at all. When I stopped Keith-G caught up to me and while we spoke about the problem he noticed that he had a flat tyre, that had to be repaired quickly.
At lunch time I was bitten by a leech! I was relaxing on a sleeping mat under a tree when the chief cook, Deepak, brought me a biscuit and pointed out the leech on my leg. He removed it quite easily but the little wound bled on for several minutes.
The ride to the end after lunch was steeply down and then up. There seemed to be no flats in Nepal! The campsite was quite chaotic when we arrived with hundreds of people milling about. While we were having our customary tea, the driver took off with our kit and it wasn’t until very much later that we were able to have a wash – basin of hot water supplied courtesy of the backup team. Keith-S, Ivan, Paul and Bobby were all not feeling well and Steve left supper in a rush as he had also succumbed to the tummy bug.
Day 9 – Monday 14 April 2008 – Godawari to Hattiban
Today was designated as an “easy day” as many of the group were feeling tired. Bobby and Paul were back on their bikes, but Keith-S, Ivan and Steve skipped the day. Keith-S opted to stay in an hotel in Kathmandu last night as he was really not well, and Ivan and Steve joined him first thing this morning.
It was a relatively easy day, as planned, with quite a bit of excitement as we passed through some of the villages, as the Maoists had won the election by a landslide and there were many groups celebrating.
The last few kilometers were very steep uphill and so some walking was required. We hadn’t seen the three ill members of the squad, but everyone else seemed fit and well. It was Chris’s birthday today (his 30th) and so he was given the privilege of finishing the ride ahead of everyone else.
Chris, courtesy of his birthday, selected vegetarian pizza for supper and Deepak baked a banana pie and arranged a chocolate cake for the occasion. A few Tuborg beers were supplied and a good time was had by all.