Sounds easy enough right? The words of the Himalayan Encounters brochure went like this:
Escape from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu. Experience the thrill of off-road mountain-biking. Visit the historic town of Kirtipur. Discover the richness and ingenuity of Newari cuisine.
So, with nothing better to do in our afternoon after arriving back in Kathmandu from Lukla, Mark and I decided to book this 4-5hr tour in for 8:00am the next morning… Yep, that’s right. After trekking to Base Camp, up Kala Patthar and back down, what did Mark and I decide to do the day after? A bike ride…
I’ll start up by saying, if you’re going to doing a 4-5hr mountain bike ride at 8:00am, don’t have a 800g steak the night before. Whilst it tasted good at the time, I was regretting it during the ride!
After meeting with our guide, our bike ride started with a 1.5hr journey out of Kathmandu, the first half hour riding the streets of Thamel zooming in between the city traffic. It was madness! Cars left and right, people crossing in front of you, animals, massive holes in the ground (not just potholes, actual holes), trucks, other bicycles, porters carrying massive loads on their backs… This one was of those moments where I really wished I had a Go-Pro…
After managing to survive our escape from the city, we started a 1.5hr climb up the Trishuli Highway. Our guide was pretty unrelenting on the way up – not that we could stop too often due to the number of trucks flying down and struggling up the mountain as well (have you ever seen a heavy-rigid understeer down a hill in front of you? I did…)
After that, it was a small section of single track, following by more undulating gravel and dirt roads in the hills above Kathmandu. I’ll have to admit that after 2 hours, I was feeling pretty wrecked. The steak in my stomach wasn’t sitting very well and after having been off the bike for a while (apart from 2 rides leading up to my trek), it started to get quite painful, especially riding the hard tail with tired legs… My shirt and hat was completely drenched in sweat and I was downing the Powerade like no tomorrow…
After 3.5hrs of riding up and down, up and down, up and down, we stopped in a quiet park for a quick lunch. With a storm brewing in my stomach, I managed to eat a chocolate bar, so Mark ate my roll as well as his (lunch and drinks along the way were including in the price of the ride).
Before we set off, I had to ask our guide the question… How long to go? He then pointed into the hills in the distance and said we can go as long as we want, with the loop up some hills and then back down to Thamel taking around 2hrs to complete. Otherwise, we could get back to Thamel in 25minutes.
Unfortunately, I had to throw in the towel here, so we all started our way back to the Kathmandu Guest House and it’s lucky we did! Instead of taking 25 minutes to get back, it actually took around 50 minutes of which the last 15 was an uphill battle through heavy traffic in Thamel!
All in all, our ride lasted just under 4.5hrs including lunch, and travelling around 38km. Though it was hard to get a lot of our questions answered along the way (our guide’s English wasn’t that good, but it was certainly better than our Nepalese), he was really friendly and helpful.
If you just get back from trekking in the mountains, it’s probably a better idea to let your glycogen levels get back to normal before doing something like this and again, it would have probably helped if I didn’t eat that 800g steak… Also, I wasn’t in the best of shape so I was kinda asking for it as well!
Either way, it was a way to kill off a morning (I was flying out at 9pm that evening) and guides and adventures like this can be easily booked from the many tour offices in Thamel (for some serious mtbiking, try a place called Himalayan Single Track).