With the after-effects of that dodgy high-altitude chicken masala still haunting me as I rolled out of Kathmandu, I could have been forgiven for taking it a bit easy on the way back down to the plains.
So I did.
There’s no point in hammering yourself when you’re not 100%, and I’d lost a lot of energy.
Nepal’s not the most difficult country if you want to slow down a bit and enjoy the scenery. After just a few kilometres of gentle climbing on the main drag out of Kathmandu on Monday, I tipped over the pass (above), and had about 1400 metres of altitude to drop off before flattening out on the approach to the Indian border.
It’s not quite as easy as it sounds. I was still in the Himalayas, after all. So although there was all that height to drop, there were still quite a few climbs to deal with as the road contoured around valley sides and gorges.
And, despite being foothills, these are not exactly small. Hopefully, you can get an idea of the scale from the size of the bike in the picture below.
Given their proximity, and close economic ties, Nepal and India don’t seem to have a great deal in common. Nepal loses on economic development (apparently, although it doesn’t feel any poorer than India), but wins on scenery, cleanliness, mobile internet access, traffic levels, chocolate availability, driving skills (marginally), the general level of English spoken, having bikes with gears, and having pavements to walk on in town.
But there is one area where both countries are on a par. Unannounced, unsignposted, major roadworks. As I headed down to Bharatpur on Tuesday, I suddenly hit a roadblock. Loads of irate locals, trucks, buses and all, piled up at a barrier. There’s only the one road to Bharatpur, so this was a bit of an issue.
It turns out that the highway is shut in both directions from 11 until three every day. At three, the traffic tsunami at each end is released to smash together somewhere in the middle. Probably right where the roadworks are. This didn’t seem like a great idea. Fortunately, after discussing with a few locals (and promising to carry a couple of them on the back of the bike – I think this was a joke), the fierce guardian of the gate agreed that it would be a tad dangerous to be caught up in the three o’clock stampede.
So I got to ride the valley road pretty much by myself. This was good, because it was a rather nice valley to ride:
After Bharatpur, it was more-or-less back to flat country. Yesterday (Wednesday) gave me a chance to see if I’d fully recovered from the stomach bug, as I put in the first 100 km ride for a while to bring me to the border. It went OK, although I still don’t think my energy levels are quite back to where they were.
Just one last big hill, which gave me one last Himalayan downhill to smile about as I headed onto the plain, in company with some of the many bicycle commuters of southern Nepal.
Today is another rest, and a chance to refuel and look forward to heading back to India. A few more decent roads and a little less dust than the eastern side of the country provided would be a good start. And I’m going to give them one more chance to sort me out with mobile internet.
With the Taj Mahal and Delhi on the route for the next section, there should be a good chance for India Part 2 to improve significantly on Part 1.
Assuming the border presents no more problems than it did on the way into Nepal, I’ll start to find that out tomorrow…