Saturday, August 06, 2005

Kathmandu to Gonda: Pt.1 - Out of the Valley!

A ride through the Nepali Terrai into India.

Part 1: Out of the Kathmandu Valley!
Kathmandu to Mugling Bazaar – 110 km

KTM to Nepalgung (Indian border) – 508 km
KTM to Gonda (India) – 635 km

It’s an easy 7 kilometres up out of the Kathmandu Valley to the small village of Thangkot. I stop for a tea and then work my way another kilometre up the hill to the police checkpoint perched on the top of the mountain, and look down the other side.

Check out the road!

It rolls straight off the mountain and plunges almost vertically down the other side; a contorted, looping ribbon, flipping left and right, going down, down, down until it disappears into the valley mist three thousand feet below.

This should be fun!

I check the brakes, jostle the panniers, pull my cap down hard on my head, and roll forward.

Go down, go down, pick up speed, tighten your hand grip, focus, lean left, lean right, go down, down, down, pick up speed, feel the fear, focus, easy on the brakes, listen to the tyres, shift in the seat, pedal one two, lean left, lean right and down you go again.

Cycling is good.

You go past wooden teashops, across a bridge and straighten out beside a line of trucks parked by the roadside. The guys standing around shout and give you the thumbs up, and the road falls away again to the right, and you follow it down and the cold mountain air cuts at your cheeks.

How long can this go on?

On both sides of the valley the mountains vault straight up into the sky, vertical and deep green. To the left and right, up above, there’s small brown and yellow mud-brick cottages perched on the cliffs, alone and in small groups, with wisps of silver smoke swirling around their thatched roofs.

Keep riding.

Thin white footpaths lead away from the road and wriggle painfully up the mountainside beside snapping, rushing creeks of silver water, and terraced fields sweep impossibly up the slopes, one horizontal cut after the next, and Jesus, I don’t want that job.

A thousand feet below the Trisuli River is thumping white water over boulders the size of two story houses, and I can see the road up ahead, cut into sheer vertical rock, twisting and turning, following the river and disappearing through a tight gap in the mountains some ten kilometres away. Oh, happy day!

I make it into Malekhu (70 km) for lunch, just as the clouds roll in, and with it the rain. This is the monsoon season, and a bad time to be riding, but what to do, and who cares?

This is riding as God intended it, and I am but a humble servant of the Lord, on a bike. However, if you were going the other way, east up the mountain into Kathmandu, you may need to know where you can stop and curse the Lord for his all-knowing perfidy.

There’s a guesthouse at the small village of Baireni, 49 km from Kathmandu, one at Adamghat, 56 km from Kathmandu and four at Malekhu, where I am now, 70 km from Kathmandu.

From Malekhu you’d be cycling pretty much 70 kilometres uphill to Kathmandu, with the last 15 or so kilometres before the start of the valley extremely steep.

Best of luck, but you really are going the wrong way.

I eat some dhal bhat (standard Nepali food, consisting of curry, dhal and a small mountain of rice), chat to the girl and push on.

I ride for an hour through drizzling rain.

Mercifully the road’s paved and in great shape, but it’s greasy and I’m on full alert. Trucks and buses pass in bursts, and I’m forced to the side of the road at times, holding my line, waiting for clear road, praying for deliverance.

Toot! Too-wooot! Another painful air-horn blast to the ear, a wave from the smiling jockey, 'the finger' from me and the truck is past, and I'm going downhill along with my mood.

Mugling Bazaar (110 km from Kathmandu) is a regional sized, non-descript town straddling the highway. By the time I arrive I’m wet and drained and just give me a tea, Raja, and don’t ask questions.

“Hey, you there, in the shorts! Leave the bike alone!”

I check into a hotel (Mugling has numerous hotels), take a cold shower and go in search of food. Dinner will take about forty five minutes if I stretch it out, lean back in my chair and look cool, and then it's a four walls and six (maybe seven) demons for company until morning.

Yeah, cycling, it's a trip.


technobohemian said...

Happy Birthday Felix!

Mr Felix said...

Cheers, Nico! I hope all is well!
All is well as can be expected this side of the Perimeter!

Stay cool! :)