Much earlier, we had been offered the opportunity to go biking in the KTM valley before we headed home. This seemed like a good chance to see more of Nepal.
Accordingly, we met our guide at 8 am, walked up the street to the bike rental store, selected our steeds, strapped on our helmets and were ready to go.
Our guide was a young looking fellow who claimed to be 30 years old. Having agreed that we were ready, there was only one choice when he took off, heading out of Thamel. Bat out of Hell would be only a slight exaggeration, but in the beginning, we knew where he was going, having walked some of those streets on our own. The best option seemed to involve sticking right to his tail.
Early in the morning, traffic outside Thamel was admittedly better than at 3:30 pm the previous day, but there was still a steady stream of cars, motorcycles and crossing pedestrians. And we were driving on the left. Intersections appeared almost immediately. Traffic lights don't work in KTM, leaving everyone to figure it out for themselves. The strategy was to pick a hole and go for it.
Following the guide, who to his credit, did glance around occasionally to see if we were still with him, we were quickly on streets unknown to us with road signs that were meaningless, just a very small part of a great flow of motorbikes, buses belching black diesel exhaust, cars, pedestrians crossing, buses stopping, pulling out, everyone changing lanes in random fashion, all honking and beeping around us.
Sometimes the flow slowed, so we moved between lanes, around cars, passing buses, avoiding the occasional motorbike that, for some reason, appeared on our side of the road, coming toward us. Avoiding the occasional hole where the manhole cover had disappeared. With one hand, I managed to pull my buff up over my nose in the hope it would filter out some of the dust and fumes.
On some of the road, to my surprise, there was what appeared to be a bike lane. Aside from stopped buses and the occasional motorbike, it was mostly ours.
Our hotel was a newly renovated facility, with a concierge at the entrance, an excellent Indian buffet for lunch and hot showers. We met all three, in that order. Our room looked out to those mountains and to the villages and crop terraces laid out below us.
By 4:30 pm, after having had a short nap, we could see the afternoon shadows extending over the valley below and the sun's light glowing on the peaks to the north. Awhile later sitting on our balcony watching the lights in the valley below and the moon rising over the Himalayas, bats swoop by chasing their dinner
Our guide tells us that tomorrow will be mostly downhill. This is Nepal. I am skeptical.
Watching sunrise over the Himalayan Range was nice this morning.
|Sunrise over the Himalaya|
Our days route took us on some rough roads and "trails" as we dropped in elevation down to the level of the main east west highway. We rode along that for maybe 20 minutes, along with all the trucks and buses until we reached Dhulikhel. That was our destination for the day. About 3.5 hours of riding.
I was very surprised to discover that the bike seats had not become more comfortable overnight. I had left specific instructions.....
Views were good, the trail was rough and my butt is definitely ready for a rest. It needs some extra padding too, but that's not gonna happen....
The hotel we're in has a great panoramic view of the peaks, arguably as good as Nagarkot. It also has an excellent rooftop patio from which to survey the view.
Sunrise wasn't as spectacular as yesterday, but I wasn't complaining.
We rode the usual Nepali flat. Some up. Some down. First stop was Namo Bhudda where there was one of the best kept monasteries I've seen on this trip. After a brief look, we headed down and more down on a dirt track towards Panauti. Lots of terraces, crops being harvested.
|Monsatery at Namo Bhudda|
The road from Panauti out to that main highway at Banepa started out so well. Smooth pavement, of all things. The guide had been talking to locals and they were telling him the road ahead was under construction. We found it. Technically, I don't think it was actually under construction. There was no evidence of any construction at all. Just a road torn up, muddy, dusty and rocky.
Back on the main road, we joined the melee of trucks, buses, cars, motorbikes, pedestrians and dogs, weaving to avoid stopped buses, crossing pedestrians and potholes.
We stopped for about an hour at Bhaktapur, just east of KTM. It too has an old temple square which is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. Some structures had sustained damage during the 2015 earthquake.
We rode on and the highway melee became worse, culminating in total gridlock once in Kathmandu itself. Throughout, it was pretty much a matter of riding wherever you wanted. One side, the other side, the middle. It seemed not to matter. Up on the sidewalk, squeezing between lanes of traffic. It was an experience and completely nuts.
I do have pictures but sadly no video. It was almost indescribable.
We turned in our bikes, said goodbye to our guide and walked back to our hotel, just a little bit shell shocked by the 130 km experience. Also with a sense of relief. All the "trips" are over. We have exactly 4 days left here and all we need to do is walk. Find some good food. Shop. Rest my sore butt. Whoever designed those bike seats should be flogged at dawn. Just sayin'.